Well, I can understand your proposition, but I can't simply accede to something as if this was 'two farmers trading a hog'. Because there is the issue of truth involved, which is bigger than either you or me. I am also sure you yourself is more interested in getting to the bottom of this, than settle for superficial, and unsatisfactory, answers.
I mean, it would be corrupt if I did that, if we did that. Is that really what you want?
if youre searching for truth you wont get it here unless you extend some trust to those you talk to i mean i make an offer which of course you can be suspicious of or make a show of trust and you have chosen to express mistrust because it is easier to do that than have to concede any points in your side of the debate i mean you ask for me to show respect and i offer you some and you reject it in case you lose a little ground
No, it is about something else than that. I HAVE been an atheist, and all the things you propose, HAVE been my points of view. But they have failed me, because ultimately, I have discovered that what matters is, that what goes around comes around. This truth I have found in religion, and nowhere in atheism. If something like it has been described, it has not been stated that one as an atheist, SHOULD TRY and PRACTICE this, only that it is possible. Which is too weak to inspire.
The point is, I have been BOTH an atheist and a believer. But the Truths and attitudes I need to live, I have found in religion, not in atheism. So you see, there is the issue of what ACTUALLY WORKS in real life. For example, I could say I disbelieve the Law of Gravity, and go jump off a cliff. But that wouldn't work. Then, when my legs had been reset, and healed, I could come back and say to others that have that point of view, Well that is all very well and good, but I choose to believe that gravity exists, because I have experienced that, and I am not going to break my legs again. That also means I respect your reasoning, make no mistake about that, but question if it is an attitude that works in the long term, since it so emphatically hasn't for me. Do you understand what I mean here? I am not calling you stupid, I just think you lack certain real-life experience, and that makes you say things, that are way-out there, in relation to my experiences.
In a sense, that is what you are telling me to do, when you are asking me to concede to your points. You are asking me to break my legs again. Implicitly, because that was what happened when I was an atheist. In the form of a massive mental breakdown, going on 7-8 years now, which I am finding my way out of, thanks to religion. So I am not going back. I am not going to break my legs again, simply because you don't share my experiences, or perhaps because you have wandered into a more positive way of being an atheist, and so don't have a problem with it. But if you are in a bad way morally, atheism doesn't help you mend it. And that was what I needed. And still need. And which I am trying to work on, as best I can.
Does that explain my perspective? It is not because I don't respect you, because if I didn't, I wouldn't be discussing here. It is because I have been there, and been emphatically hurt in being there, for lack of guidance. And I can only say, the torment in my mind is real, I would compare it with getting a nasty burn, one that stings. You can relate to that I'm sure. That's what being an atheist has been like for me. Religion has been like a cool balm on that burning sore. And I have TRIED to make it work, for twenty years, and while I was still in the breakdown. But only religion works, brings soothing to the pain in my mind, my life, pieces it back together.
So I am not going back, however much I respect you. I don't want to hurt myself. As you wouldn't, I'm sure. And I am not asking you to either, by the way.
this suggests that there is little to be gained from talking with committed atheists who have expressed their intolerance quite clearly and maybe not much point talking here at all with even mild sceptics because what you are looking for is not god or truth but healing and talking to people who dont think like you is like asking them to come and pick at your scabs and then complaining when they do
No, what I am trying to make you realize is, that if you are hurting, maybe religion can help, and what is more, if you are not hurting, it is probably because you are making enough good karma to make it a non-issue, and that you can improve your life, your happiness, your succes, by making even MORE good karma, improving your character beyond what it is right now, even.
I am trying to make you see the fundamental truth expressed in all religion, so you can use it. Which I don't believe you see as truth, as atheists, right? Which is why I consider it a dangerous doctrine. Because it doesn't give the vital answers to life's questions. It doesn't tel you what happiness is, wherein health and prosperity lies. This lies solely in righteousness, in good karma, in good deeds, which is the message of all (substantial, truth-oriented) religions, at their core.
Why won't you deal with Mata Hari's offer? You assume that everyone who opposes your point of view is an atheist and are instantly mistrustful. Perhaps some posters here just want to deal with one point at a time, and not 'spin off' (thanks for the expression JAF) into the rough (golfing analogy).
"what I am trying to make you realize is, that if you are hurting, maybe religion can help"
Speaking for myself, I am not hurting - though some of the current debate is quite painful.
Keep in mind the Buddha's parable of the raft. Once you get to the other side you throw the raft away. Sounds like you are still making the crossing. For the atheists safely on the other shore we will be pleased when you make it to solid ground but, as things stand, you shouldn't be 'picking at the scabs.'
[Note for Mata Hari : this is my entry in the best mixed metaphor competition]
"Keep in mind the Buddha's parable of the raft. Once you get to the other side you throw the raft away. Sounds like you are still making the crossing. For the atheists safely on the other shore we will be pleased when you make it to solid ground but, as things stand, you shouldn't be 'picking at the scabs.'"
True, and that is just the way it is. However, your cool assurance that you are on the other side, maybe you are right, I am not one to judge here. But both Christianity and Buddhism agree that these people number in the few. Again, I can't judge here. However, I would say, then you are there because you have used a boat, which is described in religion and NOT in atheism, and so if somebody needs to get there, he might find the help he needs in religion, not atheism? Seems religion can be a good thing, if it provides that boat huh.?
I have a question. How do atheists prevent themselves from backsliding, morally? This seems to be a big problem in religious history, for example King David had a thing for the foreign women, as did his son, King Solomon, which cost them dearly. Uhmm, this seems to be an issue of human nature, not because of religion, they simply saw some hot women and wanted them. Eh so how do atheists guard themselves against that (assuming it is needed) ?
"Again, aren't you seeing atheism as needing to act as some form of pseudo-religion?"
Hmm, in as much as morality is a religion.. I thought your predominant issue with religion was belief in something (which you believe) is supernatural, not with morality as such. But my personal experience tells me, that often disdain of God is really disdain of morality, more precisely, it's full expression, in holiness. So I am not saying you are fully immoral, only that you are in RELATION to the Christian exhortation to full-blown holiness. It IS a pretty high standard. Put another way, if belief in God didn't come with so many moral demands, would you have a problem with it? Anyway, disliking God and disliking morality seems to go hand-in-hand, in my personal experience (narrow as it is), so I can't and am not speaking for everyone. Just try present what I see as the Truth, which we can debate, and hopefully reach some clarity upon.
"Can we assume that the original question has been answered - particularly because the current discussion seems to have no bearing upon it?"
No, I have to remain adamant here. Neither Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or Stephen Girard (with the weird eye) can be seen as people motivated purely by atheism and intellect to engage in charity. Warren Buffett was married to Susan Buffett, whose father was a preacher, and she gave away of Warren's considerable wealth when he himself didn't. Inspired by his wife (which traces back to Christianity), he gave Bill Gates a book called 'The Gospel of Wealth', written by a man named Carnegie, another incredibly wealthy philanthropist. The name itself implies a foundation in Christianity (the GOSPEL of wealth, gospel being shorthand for God Spell, or 'news from God'). Bill Gates, having read this (christian) document, became intrigued. Later, he got involved with charity WITH his wife, Melinda, who is a Catholic. Here is a paragraph from a Times piece on Bill Gates:
"Melinda is Catholic, goes to church and wants to raise Jennifer that way. "But she offered me a deal," Gates says. "If I start going to church--my family was Congregationalist--then Jennifer could be raised in whatever religion I choose." Gates admits that he is tempted, because he would prefer she have a religion that "has less theology and all" than Catholicism, but he has not yet taken up the offer. "Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient," he explains. "There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning." -- http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1120657-8,00.html
See how his wife is adamant on religion? Their daughter has to be raised that way. Also, Bill doesn't mention particularly atheistic reasons for staying away, merely that there are more efficient things that could be done, Sunday morning. Which gives the impression of a lukewarm atheist, rather than a balls-to-the-walls .. type. Anyway, I think it is fair to say that it has in fact been Christian influences that have led Bill and Warren to give to charity, and that at the very least, they are not clear-cut examples.
Stephen Girard only became involved in charity after he landed in the most Christian town in the US - Philadelphia, founded by Quakers, who were and are intensely Christian. I think getting a copy of his journals or diary might be quite revealing, as it is, we don't know what happened in that town. It is very open-ended. But the fact that it was the only town, where his atheism wasn't considered a problem, and the town itself was Christian, goes to show JUST HOW Christian that town really was. How many places do you know, where Christians tolerate atheists, today? Imagine back then. I think the tolerance he met there must have blown him away, and it was most certainly a strongly Christian town, where Christians treated atheists like that.
Anyway, without having read his Journal or diary, it is too open-ended. But I suspect we will find he met some intensely Christian people there. And that these are mentioned in his Journal. Anybody saying that isn't the case will have to document it. It is impossibly to make a categorical statement without knowing it (or, dishonest, if one does).
Also, I am aware that bad things have happened in the name of Christianity, or religion. But likewise, bad things have happened without religion. The question then is, are the bad things done in the name of religion worse than the things done without it? And, are the good things done with religion BETTER or GREATER than those done without it (atheism)? Only when compared that way, will we know. Seems a lot of the issue has been getting at how to formulate the question correctly.
"Also, I am aware that bad things have happened in the name of Christianity"
Once you admit that 'bad things have happened in the name of Christianity' I don't know whether you have to make the detailed assessment which you seem to be suggesting. If religion could bring about a moral transformation of individuals then we could argue a case for it. We just have to look at history to see that, often, any degree of moral sensitivity was sadly lacking. If Christianity had consistently condemned atrocities it would be praiseworthy. That it has actively perpetrated its own atrocities leaves us suspecting that it has very little impact upon the moral sensibilities of mankind.
of course since many of the settlers in the US were non-conformist of one kind or another, it would be difficult not to live somewhere without coming into contact with one kind of group or another, but that still doesn't mean that Girard was influenced by them, you seem to want to believe that just because his diary might make interesting reading it will contain the proof you want
"you seem to want to believe that just because his diary might make interesting reading it will contain the proof you want"
How do you know it won't? What I fail to understand is that you want to make claims without having looked carefully at the evidence. That is not part of atheism, rationalism, science. I don't understand what you consider .. expedient about it, then..!?
"If religion could bring about a moral transformation of individuals then we could argue a case for it."
It can, in some (perhaps even many) cases, just look at people like Gandhi, or the Saints. Another question is, have Christians been more moral compared to any a-religious tribes or peoples of the same era? If they have, then that shows that Christianity can bring about at least a partial improvement of character and morals, which is to be preferred to no improvement what so ever. That is only common sense (if slightly pessimistic..)
Basically what you are doing is taking a few well-known bad examples, and extrapolate that to the lot. But I have given you examples to the contrary, so you know they exist. Now, in the case of atheism, we should be able to see something similar, so where are the great examples of what has happened in the name of atheism?? Or under its name?
For instance, name me one major charity founded purely by atheists? Name me a small one? Name one atheist who is a clear-cut example of being an atheist and very charitable. Can you give me an example of anything REALLY GOOD that has happened in the name of atheism (barring removing religion, because that presupposes atheism to be the better alternative, which is what you have to prove first see??) All is relative! Making a comparison seems to be the only logical extension of that, finding out where they are, relatively speaking, in relation to each other, relatively speaking of course! :)
What do you think about this bit (from the book of Deuteronomy)?
15 So I (Moses) took outstanding men of your tribes, wise and experienced, and made them your leaders as officials over thousands, over hundreds, over fifties and over tens, and other tribal officers. 16 I charged your judges at that time, 'Listen to complaints among your kinsmen, and administer true justice to both parties even if one of them is an alien (foreigner). 17 In rendering judgment, do not consider who a person is; give ear to the lowly and to the great alike, fearing no man, for judgment is God's. Refer to me any case that is too hard for you and I will hear it.'
? (I think it is really good, and describes something very important, which is real justice, true justice, that can't be 'bought' - it is what justice should be, ideally - and perhaps why the Bible is called Holy, imo - bottom line, it is really important, justice, because without that, nobody is safe, and there can be no peace - what do you make of this) ?