Let’s Talk. Let’s Not.

First, two quotations.

“There’s simply no polite way to tell people they’ve dedicated their lives to an illusion.” ~ Daniel Dennett

“Non ridere, non lugere, neque detestari, sed intelligere,” (not to laugh, not to lament, not to curse, but to understand) ~ Baruch Spinoza

My point

People talk about whether a god exists and what they do and do not believe. They may debate the efficacy of prayer or correctness of a religion or religious practice. It happens. Peaceful argument can be done. Probably no one will change their mind, but maybe some understanding will come from hearing another’s point of view. Ideally, if that outcome ended every such discussion, what a fine thing it would be (sans argumentum ad hominem).

Even experts in debating issues of a god or religion have their moments of anger (i.e., Chopra in this blog last week). It does not take me long to let someone know that I do not believe what they do. I wish they wouldn’t ask me why not. That is often when the trouble starts.

However, I am willing to ask why people believe as they do. Since most believers accepted what they were told as the truth, I understand that reasoning. But that is seldom the response we get. It is not like they saw a waterfall or read the gospel of John and suddenly believed. Belief in a god is taught. All religion is learned behavior.

I decided on my own that I do not believe any gods exist. To be fair, at this point, I’m not sure that I could believe. No one ever told me there is no god or convinced me or won the god/no god argument. There is no proof and never will be.

What are the chances that a believer had a real moment of enlightenment like Saint Paul? Has anyone decided some god must exist because they had an epiphany? Often enough, scripture is their reasoning, but I bet they were already believers, if they ever read scripture at all.

Ultimately, I am willing to discuss

I don’t have a burning desire to have that talk, but I will if asked. However, I am more in Dennett’s court than Spinoza’s. The odds are that I will manage to piss them off, rock their boat, or hurt their feelings (not my goal); and subsequently I will be informed of my still pending eternity of spiritual pain and suffering because Oden is pissed that I seriously doubt his ultimate reality.

But I kind of get it

Truthfully though, it’s more likely that an agnostic or atheist will try to help me understand, but none of them has ever threatened me with eternal damnation. In fact, the worst outcome in arguments with agnostics or atheists is usually that we disagree on just how the hair splits.

I think I understand why people believe in a god. It’s usually several reasons. In no case is it ever because they asked for and were given proof. I even understand why most people cherry pick religious beliefs and scripture. It is not only what they are taught and have read. Belief in a god and the practice of a religion reflects how they want life to be, how their life-long sacrifice of no unmarried sex and meatless pizza on Fridays is juxtaposed with when you’re dead, you are just that. Nevermore. Nothing more.


I like this question. I also like ‘what do you want’ and ‘how do you want things to be.’

This youtube from “The Atheist Experience” is almost 30 minutes long. But watching any part of it makes the point and is a good example how hard it is to keep everyone calm, aware, and listening during the discussion. You may want to try a few minutes. Both sides have to work.


21 thoughts on “Let’s Talk. Let’s Not.

  1. A fascinating aspect of human SPP( superior pattern processing) is the ability to fabricate mental entities that do not exist in the real world, including magical thinking. Magical thinking can be defined as “beliefs that defy culturally accepted laws of causality. In Western culture magical thinking refers to beliefs in, among other things, clairvoyance, astrology, spirit influences, and telepathy.” (Einstein and Menzies, 2004). Superstitions and rituals are examples of types of magical thinking. The cognitive fabrication of imaginary patterns is prominently illustrated in religious beliefs which have presumably provided an adaptive advantage to many societies.

    Magical thinking is at the core of all major religions wherein specific life events are believed to be controlled by “God,” and the “believers” behavior is designed to please “God” and avoid “his” wrath (Bloom, 2012).
    This shows how a type of SPP, magical thinking, has had a major influence on cultural evolution. A recent functional MRI study suggests that religious belief involves neural networks that process information regarding intent and emotion, abstract semantics and imagery (Kapogiannis et al., 2009a). Transcranial magnetic stimulation focused on the left lateral temporal lobe, but not the right lateral temporal lobe or vertex, reduced magical thinking (Bell et al., 2007) providing further insight into the neural networks involved in magical thinking.

    Interestingly, structural differences between religious and non-religious subjects have been demonstrated including increased volume of right middle temporal cortex and reduced volumes of left precuneus and orbitofrontal cortex in religious subjects (Kapogiannis et al., 2009b). These findings are consistent with psychological theories of the evolution of religious belief which posit adaptive cognitive functions of such magical thinking (Culotta, 2009).
    It’s in the brain, folks…all an interior belief ….not real in the outside world..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Mary.
      Indeed, imagination is a mental function.

      Interesting to me is that my own personal morality is basically unchanged regardless of belief in God, religious practice, or age.

      Regarding your last sentence, I would go a step further and say, “it is all about how we feel.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bill, I think you and I are pretty much on the same page about our (non) belief in God. For me, really important thing you talk about is the importance of listening to what other people have to say, even if I’m in disagreement with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think every believer has some level of enlightenment, yet may have trouble explaining. Could be embarrassment. Or confusion- is this light internal or external? Perhaps a skeptic’s biggest hurdle is explaining his belief.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cannot believe you said that, Arnold. (Just kidding).

      “Enlightenment” is the word you used. Fair enough. But logical conclusion is good too. Right? (I’ve logically concluded there is a god and Christianity is the right religion.)

      The skeptic’s hurdle of what? I simply do not believe god is real. What is to explain? I do not believe what you do. We both know that. Right?

      Let’s say half of the people on Earth are believers. It may be more. But that would be 3.5 billion people. And you think every one of them has “some level of enlightenment”? Please, if you would, show your work.

      In the mean time, I shall look up the meaning of enlightenment so I am not ignorant of what you are talking about. And what is “some level”? Could that level be very low?

      I do accept the confusion and embarrassment part, but I’m confused as to why that is okay with believers, but not so with “skeptics” (I prefer atheist).

      I hope you are doing well. Good to hear from you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Bill, I appreciate the greeting.
        For one example of low-end enlightenment, Jesus told the disciple Thomas, ‘Stop doubting and believe- that I’m alive.’
        For whatever reason, perhaps not even logically concluded, Thomas followed Christ 3 years, believing on some level that he was the Messiah.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Maybe.

        If the Thomas story is true. I am not sure where you get 3 years, but no matter. I am familiar with scripture.

        Do you question any of that? Why didn’t old Tom know who he was taking to? Did he really sick his filthy hand in JC’s side? Lots of questions here. But that is no epiphany. I say that the story of old Tom is a contrived lie to make people believe without a shred of evidence.
        “Blessed are those…” and all of that crap.

        Show your work. How do you account for 3.5 Billion believers (not all are Christians, or do they not count?).

        If there is not any god, scripture (all written by men) is pointless, as is all religion.

        Start with evidence for god existing and then we can decide witch religion you want to prove is the right one. 🙂


      3. I’m not an accountant, have no work to show and question everything except the resurrection. The bible’s full of figure of speech, exaggeration, etc. And if the resurrection’s not true then I’m believing in vain. In the meantime, I’m living that Christ arose and intends personal relationship via himself.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Well enough.

        But I disagree that you do not show your work. When one’s default is “the bible” (and yours is) that’s showing your work.

        You must not question the teachings of Jesus, his birth and death, if you accept the resurrection.

        I agree that if one is Christian, that event is critical. However, it is one of the least supported of New Testament events.

        As for the “personal relationship” part, that is your choice. But it is just more religion (woo-woo) with no justification or rationale.

        What I am saying is that if you make claims, then support them. Otherwise you’re just another knucklehead making random claims based on totally random hypotheses.

        You have no reason to believe what you claim to believe other than that is what you want to say about yourself.

        Glad to see your view of the bible is at least partly realistic.


        Liked by 1 person

      5. You’re right, the Bible is my go-to source, which makes me just another knucklehead making claims on written hearsay. 😉

        Personal relationship is to me walking, talking and thinking in plain view of God. A 24/7 open line.

        I believe because I’ve been enlightened on some level; I can’t NOT believe. That plus indoctrination, which of course we’re all exposed to.

        Thanks for your personable chat Bill, again. Thanks for listening.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed listening/watching this video (shhh. I’m at work). I really appreciate how they each listened (though at times she got stuck on certain things – proof that when we have an idea that’s been hammered into us over the years, we will jump on the part that we feel attacks us). The guys have nice, calm voices that one would be drawn into actually listening. I think they gave Manda something to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always enjoys these and I know what you mean. I’m more Dennett,, too.
    I started watching the vide and realised I had to go to work! I’m coming back to it later. The first few minutes were interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the guy on the right, right? I could tell. Still, he did manage to not be overly obvious, with this lady.
        And thank you. I am discouraged to see it is only 10:30. The 2.5 hours I’ve been here have felt like 10.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I thought his arguments on point.

        They (my work days) almost never do. I am a square peg trying (not really, but yanno) to fit into a round hole.

        Liked by 1 person

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