Oh, whatever shall we do?

Believe it or not, this is by request. Also, lots of words (3,135 of them). Also, it’s my opinion . . . which means I meander in thought. I put this together rather quickly so if you find fault with it . . . well, I won’t be surprised.

Anyway, coming from a friend, the request carried weight.

I was asked to answer this question:
How do you get purpose and meaning without God?

Mind you, he already has answers but was curious to read what I had to say. Well, now, you know I won’t offer up the answer without many words leading up to it.

A number of my previous posts address this question either directly or indirectly, but I thought I would revisit the issue. In this piece, I’ll speak primarily about Christians. Other religions might be more or less descriptive in such matters but if there’s a god involved, that’s who believers say gives their lives meaning and purpose.

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The Claim

Perhaps the most popular single source summarizing all the arguments for finding purpose and meaning through god might be “The Purpose Driven Life”, by Rick Warren. If you ever discuss the topic with a Christian, it’s probable they’ll quote many of the cherry-picked Bible passages mentioned in the book.

Warren lists the purposes as follows:

  • to bring enjoyment to God (p. 63)
  • to learn to love others (P. 125)
  • to become like Jesus Christ (p. 171)
  • to serve God (p. 231)
  • to fulfill one’s mission (p. 281)

Notable non-believers and even believers criticized his approach and conclusions for applying eisegesis. (Believers criticisms HERE and HERE).

Despite some Christians criticizing the book, most believers were looking for easily digestible pablum confirming the legitimacy of their commitment. And thus, the book became a best-seller.

It may seem strange that Christians criticized the book . . . but don’t be fooled. They criticized the particulars and not the overall belief that our purpose here (humanity’s purpose) is to glorify God. The main message remains that only in God can one find a purpose for one’s life. Oh, yeah . . . and salvation.

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What do it all mean, really?

Well, this is interesting in itself. I’ll speculate on how we got to this notion, but it should track somewhat with what others have postulated. If you know all this, skip ahead to the part where I answer the main question.

Quick side trip:
Do you remember the movie The Lion King? There was an explanation given involving the concept of the Circle of Life. It was neat; it was inspiring; but if you weren’t a top carnivore, it sucked, didn’t it? Even as a top carnivore, after you died scavenger munched on your rotting carcass and the way you make it back to the soil is, essentially, by being turned into shit.

We call this a hypothesis based on observation.

That’s one flaw but here’s another; let’s go back to the gazelles bowing to the future king . . . they know their fate is to be hunted down and feasted on while still alive, futilely struggling even as their flesh is torn from their bones.

. . . but that’s OK because they get to eat the grass. We don’t know how the grass feels about that.

And here’s a third flaw with the idea . . . basically, the purpose of all living things is to become food and return to the earth as shit. I don’t know how others feel about this, but were I a part of the Circle of Life, the notion would be underwhelming at best. There has to be a better purpose to existence.

A bit of history.

As humans developed and gradually became aware of ourselves as distinct individuals and — especially — mortal individuals, I’m thinking a few individuals began contemplating the notion of a purpose. It’s important to stress this . . . only once we had the capacity for thought — and time for thought — did humans have the luxury to contemplate if we had a purpose.

Before that, our main purpose was to find water and food (number one purpose) and to find safe shelter (number two purpose) and survive so that we might reproduce (number three purpose). The reproducing part wasn’t so much a purpose as a biological drive, meaning, it wasn’t even our purpose; it was our genes’s purpose; we’re just the mechanism for reproduction.

By the way, in times of crises and disasters, we readily revert to the first two purposes. Not as amazing as serving a god but, on the other hand, it keeps us alive.

Still with me? OK, let me backtrack just a tiny bit.

Long before we developed self-awareness, we were social animals. And not social as in everyone gets a trophy; nope! We lived in groups, and within the group, there was a hierarchy. Back then, the top honcho wasn’t a nerd who sold a computer program for a gazillion dollars; nope. It was someone with a combination of smarts and strength; everyone else was happy to defer to them or they didn’t have the smarts and strength to challenge them, or they waited until they died before vying for a leadership role.

If the group was lucky, the leader cared about the lesser beings comprising the social group. If not . . . well, we got Trump, so you know the score.

Occasionally, someone else with more smarts and strength successfully challenged the top honcho and replaced them. Again, this was either good or bad.

This went on as we continued evolving and as we become more aware, we noticed the correlation between action and reaction, cause and effect.

If you hit someone’s head with a rock, you’d leave a dent or even crack the skull open, and the person would die or — if they survived — not be the same afterward; they’d be more Trumpish (although they didn’t have a word for it back then).

We thus learned to be more purposeful with our actions; meaning, we did things to achieve the desired result, be they with good or bad intentions.

Other things also came along like shared memories and communication and oral history and passing hard-won knowledge from generation to generation.

Humans slowly gained quite an advantage over other animals because of our developing brains and the ability to build on previous knowledge. We could innovate and plan complicated strategies and make long-term plans.

We planned for the future because we hated uncertainty. It was OK for a lion not to know where its next Circle of Life meal was coming from, but humans sought to control the supply chain.

Unfortunately, Nature — and the weather — was as annoying then as it is now. Cold waves, heat waves, droughts, floods, fires, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, damaging winds, game animals moving or dying off, . . . you know the drill.

Did I mention humans planned and learned and sought to control their environment? We learned when it was the best time to plant stuff and where, where we could find plenty of game and when, and so on.

But, despite all our best effort, stuff sometimes often went wrong. Perhaps someone fell ill or a particularly heavy rain wiped out the crops or animals herds fell ill and died; all events that were poorly understood. Times were tough then.

Couple the notion of the intent of actions with the notion of hierarchy and it’s not difficult imagining humans began to see Nature and the elements as powerful and aware and acting with intent. Humans thus attributed human-like qualities to natural phenomena; for example, storms were aware, had emotions, and showed intent.

Remember, above all, humans want to control their future to remove anxiety about said future.

Progress?

The situation was ripe for some asshole — or multiple assholes — to make claims about how humans might appease these capricious demons or gods or spirits or whatnots.

You know the rest . . . but, forward closer to the present.

Long before modern religions, other religions worked the same scam; some shaman would claim communion with some god or other and act as an intermediary between “regular people” and the gods by rolling bits of bones or smoking hallucinogenic herbs.

However, the model was all wrong, you see, as it was rightly recognized the gods were . . . well, they called them capricious but I prefer the term assholes.

It seemed most gods went out of their way to screw with humans. Some even made it their pastime. Some favored certain humans over other humans. It didn’t matter if you prayed or sacrificed all your goats, the gods would still mess with you, especially if someone else sacrificed more goats than what you could afford to sacrifice.

. . . because you still had this hierarchy system and if you were born down, you stayed down. Even the afterlife was segmented with those favored by the gods living it up (so to speak) whereas regular citizens drifted in shadows.

The time was ripe for a new model; one with the same basic idea but different trimmings.

An appealing message.

The appeal of the new model was simple . . . everyone has a chance for the better afterlife, and everyone is equal in the eyes of god in this life. Also, this god didn’t try to screw you over; nope! It was our own failings that brought us misery because we were born cursed but god was kind enough to offer a path for your eventual salvation.

These new ideas offered membership in a community here on Earth without a hierarchy (except for priests and shamans and the likes) and of an idyllic afterlife also devoid of a hierarchy (if you excluded god and angels and saints and other privileged individuals).

All you had to do is pledge your life to god or one of its — if you’ll pardon the pun — incarnations.

The Purpose Angle — where do it come from?

This is where it gets tricky. Go read Genesis (all the books) and then keep reading . . . tell me where it explains god’s purpose for creating the Universe and Adam and Eve.

I’m sure you’ve heard things like:

“God created families as a vehicle to advance the gospel and fulfill the Great Commission!”

For the uninitiated, the Great Commission refers to Jesus telling his disciples to indoctrinate the world . . . but that’s in the New Testament.

You might hear Deuteronomy 6 mentioned as giving a purpose but that’s not how one would read it without preconception. It just says to teach your children and remember where you came from. It’s more like advice than a purpose. Actually, more like a threat. No, not “like” a threat; exactly a threat (Deut. 6:15).

Even then, it’s not a purpose but rather a warning not to follow other gods (Whoa! There are other gods? . . . do tell!)

Any way you slice it, Genesis is clear: god wanted a nice garden and was too lazy to tend it so he made himself a gardener.

Side note: why the heck create an immense Universe if the idea was to have Adam and Eve live in Eden? Could it be this psychotic god intended all along for humans to fall from grace? I mean, it sure sounds like it. I wouldn’t build a nice home for my kids and at the same time create a separate dump lacking basic sanitation unless I planned to have them end up there. Don’t even contemplate why the Universe is as big as it is. 

Want to know what I think? All this purpose stuff was a con from day one.

Think about it? Who benefits? Why, priests, ministers, shamans, mystics, and televangelists.

Let’s remember the premise we’re operating under (as told by our priests or equivalent):

  • we are told we’re all sinners because we’ve inherited sin
  • we are told the only salvation is to accept Jesus as your savior
  • to accept Jesus you must follow his teachings
  • you must pay us to teach you (in negotiable currency or goods)
  • you will be repaid in the afterlife (in eternal bliss or virgins or both)

Side note: HERE‘s a wonderful and succinct look at vicarious redemption.

Like all tyrannical dictatorships, religion acts like any self-respecting mobster and asks you kindly for protection money . . . and then proceeds to break knees if you don’t obey. They’ll also go to war if competing mobsters try to intrude on their territory.

Not convinced? Think Inquisition and Religious Wars.

The problem for religion is that progress never stops. Once the enlightenment started rolling in earnest, religion had to change its tune. (Side note: only by necessity; the basic precepts and tendencies for oppression are still there.)

OK, enough history.

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Purpose as expressed in today’s world.

I had a boss at my last job . . . he introduced himself the following way:

“I’m a dangerous idiot and this is what is important to me and in this order: God, Country, and family.”

He didn’t call himself a dangerous idiot (he said his name) but the rest is verbatim; he literally believed god intervened in his life and gave him success so he could be an asshole to his employees and cheat his way to even more wealth.

Look at the hierarchy . . . All-Powerful God; powerful by size and might; and, oh yeah, also family.

But, it was OK because he used his wealth and power to help spread the word of god.

It’s OK to persecute people as you spread the word of god.

It’s OK to deny them rights.

It’s OK to oppress others in the name of one’s god.

It’s called doing the Lord’s work.

If you’re religious, you either accept all of that, or you go against the teachings of god (as interpreted by self-serving, greedy toads).

Some people (many people but not nearly enough) see this as a major moral failing but can’t bring themselves to let go of religion . . . so they come up with their versions of what’s right, wrong, what purpose one has, what god wants. In short, they get rid of the middlemen and find an acceptable version of god’s teaching by supposedly dealing directly with The Boss.

Unfortunately, they still fear death and thus retain the message from The Man: put god above all else in your life and you shall live forever.

It’s interesting so many religious people maintain you cannot have morality and purpose without god even as they edit, pick and choose, and basically come to a decision regarding what to believe based solely on their own desires and needs. That’s why, by the way, there are thousands of different sects, all purporting to know the “true” message.

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What happens if you tell god to “shove it”? What purpose then?

Let me answer this way . . .

I love my wife. I put her well-being ahead of my own. I want my wife to be serene, secure, and as happy as possible within the reality of life. A purpose of mine is to do what I can toward that end. Had we chosen to have kids, that would also apply to them.

That’s the first answer I would give to someone asking for a purpose if they give up god.

I say that’s a grand purpose, no?

But, what if you have a massive ego and don’t think your wife is worthy of all this attention. I mean, it reflects badly on you if you’re seen attending to just a regular person.

Truly, the only way to feed your ego is to champion an all-powerful being and make yourself be a servant to its bidding . . . now you’re cooking! You’re serving a god, I tell you what!

I mean your wife is nice and all, but when did she ever create a Universe? Never! Sometimes, she’s even late with dinner!

I mean, how is serving such a god a purpose to begin with?

Why the heck would god even ask that of you, to put god ahead of your family? (Jesus demands it – Matthew 10:34-36, 37; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 14:26, 33, 18:29-30; and more.)

How is that a satisfying purpose? Again, what kind of god would demand such a thing? Does god even understand the definition of “god”?

“But, I don’t have a wife and family. I don’t even have a dog.”

Well, Bob, say you’re not married and have no intention of getting married. What purpose could you find in this life other than to serve god?

Don’t look to Catholic priests, bishops, and Popes for answers; they have a mighty lurid and dismal record.

Look to yourself, to those around you, to the world around you.

Call them purposes or just responsibilities or meaning or whatever you want, but here’s where I find a broader purpose and what gives meaning to my life in the absence of an imaginary psychotic, cruel, unjust, lying, and capricious god.

Be the best person you can be. What does that mean? Well, you first have to decide what makes a good person good. If you don’t know, here are a few suggestions aside what I mentioned about wife and children.

You should be someone who cares about the environment . . . not because god said to (it didn’t) but because you recognize the benefit to both yourself and others.

You should be someone who cares about the wellbeing of others . . . not because god said so (it didn’t) but because you recognize the value of shared purpose and the benefit to society if we prop each other up.

You should care about learning, knowledge, wisdom, and reason . . . not because god said so (it didn’t) but because you recognize that’s where all progress stems from.

You should be curious and question things . . . not because god said so (it damn well didn’t) but because you recognize it as a path to learning, knowledge, and wisdom.

Can we encompass that in an overarching purpose? Call it a Grand Unified Purpose?

I think so . . .

In recognition of the amazing sequences of events that resulted in you existing, strive to make the most of this one life because it is a gift. There never was another you before now and there will not be another you after you’re gone.

Whether grand or minuscule, strive for your footprints to aid the advancement of humanity toward a better shared future and not to hinder it.  

. . . so, to help pave the way to a better future, be a loving person who values this life and wants to make it the best it can be for both yourself and others.

. . . or, you can be religious.

Choose wisely.

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That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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55 Responses to Oh, whatever shall we do?

  1. I have a good friend who is convinced that he has a relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t share his views. He doesn’t try to impose his beliefs on me and neither do I to him. Live and Let Live I say , no need to try and challenge or dismantle people’s genuine beliefs!

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    • even white supremacists?

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      • That is a completely pointless comment unless you are prepared to add some intelligent content. What on earth do you mean?

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        • Andrew, you said this “I have a good friend who is convinced that he has a relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t share his views. He doesn’t try to impose his beliefs on me and neither do I to him. Live and Let Live I say , no need to try and challenge or dismantle people’s genuine beliefs!”

          Now does this mean that no one should ever have their beliefs challenged, including white supremacists? You offered no exceptions so I am wondering if you are okay not challenging anyone’s beliefs. If you are not okay with challenging beliefs that are demonstrably wrong, why not? Is it just because they are genuinely held by a person and you feel this makes them sacrosanct? Are the extremes as okay as positions you find acceptable, because in your words, there doesn’t seem to be any difference?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Now you make a good point. I would challenge extremist views e.g. anti-Semitism but would not challenge views on religion or, take an another example – vegetarianism!

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        • Yes, and anyone would do exactly as you, not challenge something that they agree with or don’t find bothersome. This is why I always wonder about people who say that they’ll accept anything. It sounds good and liberal and all that, but when it comes down to it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have no conditions on what you will and won’t accept.

          as for not challenging religion, religions have many disgusting ideas, including genocide, that anyone who doesn’t agree with them deserves death/should be killed, etc. This is why I’m not sure why you would exempt religion from your challenges. And these aren’t extremist views, they are right in black and white in most supposed holy books that theists claim to get their ideas from. That some theists don’t keep to these views just means that they are cherry picking since most of the nastier views will get them arrested if acted upon.

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        • As I said it is a question of scale. I won’t question ordinary people going about their own lives but then these people are not Jihadi Warriors. Does that make sense?

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        • It makes sense to a point but it’s not what you initially said. That’s why I questioned it. IMO, wth religion, there is no good way of knowing what unpleasantness that will arise since there is no truth to it and people make it up to suit them and their personal hatreds and desires.

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        • Some people are happy believing, let them enjoy their belief and their happiness!

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        • This comes off as a common excuse used by Christians “But we aren’t doing anything bad so let us alone.” However, that isn’t true. Belief in nonsense doesn’t help anyone, and when that nonsense does nothing but encourage division and hatred, based on the supposed morals and words of a imaginary being, it’s worse. Their happiness exists at the misery of others.

          Think for a moment. I can say I’m happy believing that someone who doesn’t share my particular skin tone is not human. Now, would you contest that I can’t “really” be happy thinking this, or that you would stand against this particular “happy thought” but not others? You seem to want to say, like other humans, that what you want is okay and what someone else wants isn’t if you don’t agree. You have indicated that you would stand against the “extreme” but what is that? Only those who disagree with you? Is this what you mean by “some people”?

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        • I disagree with your use of the word ‘nonsense’, people believe all sorts of weird stuff. Visitors from another planet, the Flat Earth Society, The Virgin Birth, Ouija Board contacts from beyond the grave. I believe one day that I will be a scratch golfer! You might disagree and scoff but no need to be dismissive or aggressive.

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        • I said this “Belief in nonsense doesn’t help anyone, and when that nonsense does nothing but encourage division and hatred, based on the supposed morals and words of a imaginary being, it’s worse. Their happiness exists at the misery of others.”

          It seems you have a vested interest in defending false claims by religions, Andrew. Any reason why? And nonsense fits the claims of religion as well as the claims of being abducted by space aliens, a flat earth, magical gods, Ouija boards, etc. None have any evidence, and people can act very stupid on bad information. Disperser has some good points, I’ll be interested if you answer his questions or mine.

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        • Simple. If someone really believes (in anything) then it is real. A belief might make people good, happy or bad but belief is important. Their is no nonsense, there is no reality, life is life however we choose to interpret it and live it. I choose to tend my own garden!

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        • so, if someone believes that people are less than human because of skin color it’s real?

          Your statements seem to indicate that you want to ignore any problems that people’s beliefs cause and “tend your own garden”, standing for nothing except yourself. is this correct?

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        • The sharp stick that you are poking me with is losing its edge. I move on!

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        • Moving on is easier than standing up. Bye

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        • disperser says:

          I’m following this argument and it seems there’s a disconnect here.

          There is a difference between challenging individuals (there is a time and place for that as well) and attacking ideas.

          Andrew, you don’t agree with calling beliefs “nonsense” versus it just being “weird stuff”. It would be interesting asking a religious person how they feel about the two especially when they’re being compared to flat-earthers or UFO believers. I dare say maintaining one is “better” than the other and less aggressive is probably not what a believer might think.

          There’s also a difference between ideas and action based on those ideas.Here in the US there are people (some of them quite influential) who want the government to research and investigate those claims (UFOs, ESP). I think they should be challenged especially since we’ve already done that and they don’t accept the findings. In Africa, the Catholic church preaches against using condoms because it’s a sin . . . in an area with AIDs epidemics where children are born with the disease. I think they should be challenged, individually and as a group because they are imposing their ideas on others to a detrimental effect.

          Religious beliefs are fine when they are personal but when they directly affect how we treat others (and they do; negatively and in spades) then the gloves come off. We’re still fighting those things here; the rights of gays to marry (or to even exist) and the right of atheists to hold office (a de facto ban but also still codified in law in some states) are just two examples.

          Now, you can still hold your faith but if your faith is institutionalized and it’s doing real harm, then, by golly, you hold some responsibility. Also, I then have the right to argue, quite vociferously at times, that just by the use of the word “faith” you have no right to expect anyone to value or even accept your beliefs.

          Every argument you’ve made is based on respect for the individual . . . let me explore that a bit then tell me what you think:

          • you being a scratch golfer. All fine and good, but what if you act on that belief? What if you want to be included in the playing of The Open based on your (unproven) belief? Or ask to participate in a tournament as a member of a team of actual scratch golfers? Also, should your friends go along with you, basically lying to you as they agree about your golfing prowess? Again, personal belief is fine; delusional, but fine. It’s when that belief intrudes in the lives of others that it becomes an issue. If it doesn’t, that’s fine, but make no mistake . . . your friend who believes in Jesus? They vote; they have opinions about things affecting others. If, however, they are hermits, well, then, that’s fine.
          • another example dealing with a more realistic example. Say you know a couple and you know one of them is cheating on the other. What should you do? If you are friends with the person doing the cheating, do you respect your friendship and avoid mentioning it? Do you still see your friend in the same light? Should they still be your friend?

          What if you are friend with the person being cheated on? Do you tell them and possibly shatter their illusion of happiness? Do you keep quiet knowing they are living a lie?

          What if they announce they plan to have a baby and you now know a third party will likely (but not for sure) be affected?

          What if they ask you to join them in support of marriage?

          All of those are perfectly real issues we face to varying degrees every day. You are certainly free to make the case — for you — that it’s none of your business and it’s not your place to intervene in anything happening around you.

          But . . . are you being a bit dismissive of someone (me) who thinks they should intervene? Live and let live, you say . . . but you criticize how I choose to live. Why is it that you can pass judgment on my methods? Not even the arguments, apparently, but just how they are delivered. By your own standards, I shouldn’t be having this conversation with you.

          And, if you argue my criticism is against others (much like your argument is directed at me), I’ll take issue with that.

          It’s against ideas. People are free to both criticize and defend ideas, and that’s what’s happening here.

          And yes, after forty years of hearing the same tired, faulty, selective, and disingenuous arguments, I think I’m entitled to be dismissive and occasionally derisive about, you know, the “weird stuff”.

          Perhaps that might spur someone to challenge me with a cogent argument . . . but it might also get them thinking about what it is they believe.

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        • You raise a lot of interesting issues here. By not challenging them I do not dismiss them but like Voltaire’s Candide I prefer to tend my own garden!

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        • disperser says:

          Andrew . . . you do realize you’re not, in fact, tending your own garden, right?

          Liked by 1 person

        • disperser says:

          I had to tend to something else but I’m back now, so let me finish my thought . . .

          Assume for the moment that my desire to speak up and to speak as I do stems from my concern for others like me who perhaps don’t have the fortitude (or skill) to voice opposition to religious individuals.

          How is that different from you speaking up on behalf of your Jesus friend who is not here and will never read this . . . unless you invite him here . . . which I think you should as perhaps he wants to speak on behalf of believers like himself (or herself)?

          Why is it OK for you to question how and what I say but it’s not OK for me to question what and how religious people speak about me?

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        • I have never questioned what you say, I simply make a comment or offer an contribution.

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      • disperser says:

        ClubSchadenfreude, I do agree with Andrew that this comment is needlessly provocative. Having read your About page, I dare say you would not accept this, frankly, trollish statement unchallenged on your blog.

        While one might argue a relationship between some white supremacists and a particular religion, the primary argument there would be against supremacy arguments (of any race or belief). If wanting to be narrower in focus, one could argue the particular interpretation of religious scriptures as being faulty.

        It should be clear Andrew’s comment is not intended to excuse religious beliefs even when applied to the extreme.

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        • Disp, it seems that you are trying to make a false claim about me. I would answer such a question on my blog with no problem.

          We have a problem with the claim that not one’s position should be challenged. “I have a good friend who is convinced that he has a relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t share his views. He doesn’t try to impose his beliefs on me and neither do I to him. Live and Let Live I say , no need to try and challenge or dismantle people’s genuine beliefs!”

          Should they not be challenged on their “genuine beliefs”? How is this “trollish”? You seem to be assuming I mean that religion is associationed with white supremacists. In some cases it is, in some it is not. My question doesn’t care about that: I am asking, should we not counter some beliefs even if they are “genuine”? Or should everyone be allowed to believe what they want and that no one should challenge such beliefs? I would point out that if you do believe that no one’s beliefs should be challenged, that would seem to indicate that religion’s tendency to try to exactly that with missions should be a problem.

          Liked by 1 person

        • colonialist says:

          I’m god. I’m the greatest thing that ever was or ever will be. Trouble is, I’ve got nobody to tell me so. Well, that’s an easy one. I’ll just create a universe and bung some things I’ll call humans in it, and they can tell me how great I am all day long. If they don’t, I’ll bash them!

          And there we have a breakdown of the basis of most religions. Does that make god worth glorifying . . . ?

          Meaning and purpose? The way everything seems to operate, there is both. Whatever they may be they certainly don’t consist of pandering to some narcissist in the sky.

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        • colonialist says:

          I’m interested in the way this discussion has gone and the reactions. The mention of white supremacists was, in my opinion, a perfectly logical way of pointing out that the policy of laissez faire towards beliefs doesn’t work. What is important is whether they are true or not. If a belief is manifestly absurd and potentially harmful (persuading kids to believe lies) it should be challenged. Beliefs to be encouraged are those supported by at least some reasonable evidence.

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        • disperser says:

          ClubSF, no disrespect or accusation intended, but I will defer to your statements regarding the management of your blog. I’d hate to get off on the wrong foot because I think we share the same strong opinions about things but . . . “this is my place and my opinion reigns.”

          Specifically, you don’t know either Andrew or me and you didn’t ask the question the way you rephrased it. That question would have been perfectly fine and might have started a different and more productive discussion.

          Or are you saying your original question is not in the least provocative?

          I ask because it certainly came across as provocative both in its choice of example and terse wording.

          For example, if someone argues that it’s OK to use a mild and largely symbolic spanking to discipline a child, there is a big difference between pointing out that such an attitude might encourage progressively more abusive punishments versus asking “what about people who beat their kids for no reason?”

          Can you see how the discussion in between is shortchanged by such a question? It also comes across as willfully disregarding the initial statement. Some might even call it a strawman argument.

          In contrast, the more measured question takes into account the initial statement and leads the discussion toward (perhaps) a more fruitful discussion.

          Instead, here we are ruffling each other’s feathers. Tell me how that is not toward the trollish end of the spectrum.

          Like

        • disperser says:

          Col, you know full well my views on religion. I think the subject here has transitioned from a religious discussion to a discussion about discussions.

          You can read my response to ClubSF as to what I think might have been a better approach to initiate the conversation you’re having. In fact, her subsequent response proves my point.

          If it’s not clear from years of reading my blog, I aim to both express my views and in the process engage readers in conversation especially when their views counter mine. In that, I’m blunt and I don’t pull any punches.

          The way this conversation has gone diminishes the point I was trying to make with this post. Namely, that we can have a meaningful life without resorting to imagined entities or — and here we might disagree as we did before — resorting to ideas about universal consciousness or ideas of a grand plan for humanity based on notions of destiny.

          Now, I don’t really mind these types of conversations as ultimately we’re having a conversation and that’s way better than storming off in a huff.

          . . . which might still happen considering I’m essentially accusing a few people of being disingenuous and purposefully finding offense where none is given.

          Like

    • disperser says:

      Andrew, as I’ve recently stated, I don’t go out of my way to challenge personal religious beliefs (many people in my sphere of acquaintances and friends are religious or nominally “spiritual”).

      I do comment publicly (these days, just here on this blog) about tragic and sometimes horrific consequences of religious beliefs. I also comment (again, here, on this blog) about religious beliefs when believers advocate for something that would either be a detriment to my life and society in general.

      Of course, that’s predicated on my view of things and as such, they could be argued. I welcome intellectually honest people to discussions of things.

      But, telling me there’s no need to challenge people’s beliefs is a bit like saying we don’t need to continue with the progress of civilization. Oddly enough, it’s also a defense of Trump and his ability to believe what is convenient and a defense of religious Trump supporters who literally believe he was sent by god to “fix” grievous wrongs. I wish I was making that up, but I’m not.

      I also warn the devout — often and occasionally with forceforcefully — to keep away as this is not a safe space for religious or other flawed thinking. As such, any intellectual challenge religious people might encounter here is of their own making.

      In the case of this piece, a friend is involved in a discussion with a friend of his (not a friend of mine) and his question/request falls within our normal discussions on such matters.

      Like

  2. But it is a completely pointless comment. What does it mean? Have you an understanding or an explanation? What has white supremacy got to do with religion?

    Challenge is good, misunderstanding and denial of alternative views is ignorance!

    I do not condone radical religious beliefs but surely those harmless and benign believers are entitled to their views without being harangued by agnostics or atheists. For myself I do not believe but I do not deny those that do their right to do so!

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Man, you sure are sensitive about this . . . which, by the way, might give you a small glimpse on the fallacy of “harmless and benign” beliefs. It could be, after all, just a hurried and not well-thought-out comment but it obviously offended you.

      All beliefs are benign and harmless when confined to the individual. It’s when they are applied on a broader scale that they should be examined and challenged.

      For instance, when a religious person says you can only get your morals from god, that is a statement saying I have no morals. Worst yet, that if I have morals, god instilled them in me against my will. The religious people making such statements may even be unaware of the obvious offense. One could charitably say it’s not intended or one could challenge the basis for such belief or one could dismiss it. Personally, I challenge it.

      Also, denial of alternative views is perfectly justified when such views are in obvious error and counter to everything we know. Or are you saying I’m misunderstanding religious beliefs?

      I don’t know why she asked the question. On the face of it, it’s just a question. True, there could be other implications there . . . but, again, maybe not.

      Perhaps she just read an article about white supremacists or perhaps she saw a picture of one of them marching under a banner with a cross whilst clutching a Bible just before reading your comment. Perhaps she has personal experience with religious white supremacists and was curious about your laissez faire stance on religion. After all, Live and Let Live is only claimed by religious folks after they get push-back for wanting to push their beliefs on others.

      Or, perhaps she was being provocative.

      I’ve already defended you once but perhaps you can be as charitable as I’m asked to be when considering the stupid things religious people say in earnest, and wait for clarification.

      Like

    • disperser says:

      On a side note, I’ve repeatedly let slide a common theme and even outright statement in your comments about your dislike for people who aggressively challenge religious beliefs.

      Should I have been offended? Should I demand what you mean by it? Are you insinuating I’m somehow ethically deficient and intolerant of others but primarily of pious and well-meaning albeit delusional individuals?

      How should I have taken the phrase (corrected for spelling errors):
      “I don’t mind people that believe; what irritates me is people who don’t and want to raise a fire-storm about their non-beliefs!”

      It’s obviously aimed at me. I dare say it’s none-too-flattering, I tell you what!

      Also, the above:
      “He doesn’t try to impose his beliefs on me and neither do I to him. Live and Let Live I say, no need to try and challenge or dismantle people’s genuine beliefs!”

      Should I be demanding what you mean by it? Do you disapprove of my voicing an opposition to religious beliefs? Are you suggesting I would be better served by shutting the heck up?

      As you can see, I do ignore other people’s beliefs and offer them the benefit of a charitable interpretation . . . but, perhaps I should occasionally remind them their comments could be taken as a slam against me where I less charitable.

      Like

      • You are entitled to your views, I respect that, but perhaps a little less aggressive would be better? Let’s agree to disagree and leave it there!

        Like

      • disperser says:

        Sorry Andrew; agree to disagree is one of them things I dislike. But, what are we disagreeing about, exactly?

        First, I’m not forcing anyone to read my blog. Second, I’m very clear about my stance from the get-go. It’s in my About page and in the FAQ and I repeat it often telling people who might not like what I say to avoid the blog.

        You could have commented on where I apply faulty reasoning or what I’m flat-out wrong about. We could have a discussion about it, even.

        We could even do it off-line through e-mail.

        Telling me to ease up is of no help without also telling me where I stepped over the line. If there is a line. And, if it’s clearly labeled.

        Like

  3. disperser says:

    Note: No one, not even me, likes to be told they could have handled things better.

    We seem to have descended down a path where an insult to one’s honor is claimed in response to a perceived challenge.

    Take a step back and breathe. If you have to, borrow a different pair of eyes and re-read these comments not with preconception but as if you’ve never seen them before and you have to figure out what they mean.

    Like

  4. Perry Broxson says:

    What is missing in this discursive and pedantic discussion, is the GENIUS of Emilio’s blog. Remember: The blog about Reason and Purpose – it’s kind of a big f**king deal!
    The way I see it is, we (meaning you guys) are holding a diamond in one hand and talking about the turd in the other.
    Emilio, this is a treatise on par with the revered pamphlets of Patrick Henry and John Locke. And for reasons I cannot comprehend, the ship seems to have veered off into turbulent tributaries of trolls and tones and god-knows-what.
    This blog is a pearl of wisdom, a star of sanity. And this little star shines brightly within the constellation of luminaries like Robert Ingersoll and Bertrand Russell. Let’s not sully it with quibbles about White Supremacists . . . God forbid.
    Bottom line, there’s 3,000 provocative words in this blog. There’s no reason to manufacture controversies, slights, and butt-hurts . . . let’s focus on the treasure trove of content we’ve been given.
    Thank you, Emilio, for the countless brain-calories you burned to craft this gorgeous composition.
    We owe you better input.
    P

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      Holy moley! Ingersoll!? Russell!?

      You done don me with an impressive mantle and one I’m sure is I’ll- fitting.

      I mean, I like my writing and consider myself smarter than a chimp but not to the level of those luminaries.

      As for the comments, this is what happens to commenters on the Internet. It’s different than people speaking face to face because of the absence of facial feedback.

      Besides, all of them are above average thinkers and probably found my little dissertation redundant if not outright boring.

      Of course they would find something else to make life exciting.

      . . . and thank you for the kind words.

      Like

  5. mvschulze says:

    I found your post engaging, constructed nicely, and informative from numerous relevent perspectives – not wholly unexpected from you; and in part why I have been and continue to be a somewhat addicted follower for the past five years or so. Although I know you are no stranger to the controversial aspects of socital beliefs and desertation, in this case I revere in amazement that you could almost casually knock this out in seemingly one take, including numerous references! Oh, And I almost fell of my chair laughing to the first, sort of out of nowhere reference to Trump! :-) M :-) (Please excuse any typos or grammatical mistakes, as my proof-reader is asleep,)

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Thanks, mvs.

      This took a few hours to write (including a couple of re-reads/editing sessions) and I’m always amazed when people find what I do of interest so, again, thank you for that.

      To be fair, I can’t say I started from scratch because I’ve been thinking about these things for years. In fact, I was cleaning up some old files and came across copies of forum conversations and posts from 10+ years ago (before I had this blog) and I was saddened to see I’m facing the same feeble arguments today as I did then.

      One even sadder part is that the quality of the opposing arguments was actually better back then than it is now.

      Also glad you enjoyed the humor; I find it helps my mood if I can throw in some humor when discussing serious stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. disp, I’m not sure why you didn’t ask your question of me, since I didn’t see it until coming out here. This is what you asked, in part “Or are you saying your original question is not in the least provocative?

    I ask because it certainly came across as provocative both in its choice of example and terse wording.

    For example, if someone argues that it’s OK to use a mild and largely symbolic spanking to discipline a child, there is a big difference between pointing out that such an attitude might encourage progressively more abusive punishments versus asking “what about people who beat their kids for no reason?”

    Terse? Yep, and why is that a bad thing? Would it have been that much better if I said “now, if you would think for a moment, do you mean all beliefs? What about those of white supremacists?” than what I wrote in response to “Live and Let Live I say , no need to try and challenge or dismantle people’s genuine beliefs!”? And indeed, I mentioned no such thing about religion, and it seems that both you and Andrew made that baseless assumption that somehow I was indicating that some religions were white supremacist in my comment. that came from nowhere in my opinion. Your responses were rather defensive for reasons I still am not sure about.

    Asking if the worst thing I could think of is to be “live and let live” cuts to the chase; do you really believe in this “live and let live” attitude? And it does make people stop and think, rather than prating on about how open minded they are. Rather than slowly picking through all of the things that Andrew might approve of or not, it gets to the point that humans want to say that they’ll let people who agree with them alone, but anyone who does not, well, the laissez faire attitude isn’t what they believe at all. It is a thoughtless statement, nothing more than glurge that makes someone feel superior. Trolling? Not at all, it is making a point and if someone feels uncomfortable actually thinking about what they say, or deciding if they would stand up to white supremacists, I’m not bothered. They should be uncomfortable. I may be one of the “rough men”, not finding it necessary to coddle repeated platitudes.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Perhaps I wasn’t clear so I’ll make it clear . . . using — again — your own words from your own blog.

      My blog, my rules.

      I’ve now twice let you know that there are preferred ways to interact on this blog. Namely, I’m inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt and if they say something I don’t agree with, I prefer to draw it out and examine it before passing judgment.

      . . . so I won’t pass judgment on this part of your comment:
      “And indeed, I mentioned no such thing about religion, and it seems that both you and Andrew made that baseless assumption that somehow I was indicating that some religions were white supremacist in my comment. that came from nowhere in my opinion. Your responses were rather defensive for reasons I still am not sure about.”

      But, in not passing judgment, I have to assume that you truly are clueless and naive about your choice of question in joining a discussion about religious belief. In not passing judgment, I have to assume that for some reason you passed by my blog, read the discussion about religious belief and out of the blue wanted to discuss white supremacists as relevant to a discussion about religious beliefs.

      Now, in this case, my ability to assume things is being stretched because you could have asked the question you just asked; namely, you could have asked:
      do you really believe in this “live and let live” attitude?

      A thoughtful person might even have phrased it such:
      “Do you really believe in this “live and let live” attitude even in for the most extreme beliefs?

      No need to bring up nazis, child molesters, women who kill their babies, men who rape women, people who put tomato paste on pasta, or just about any other things you could have picked.

      As for the uncomfortable part of your comment, I’ll even go as far to say that I fancy myself challenging people and making them feel uncomfortable. If that’s not clear, maybe it’s an indication of how good I am in going about it.

      In question is the method, not the result.

      I’ll remind you — sigh once again — that you are free to use whatever methods you want to use . . . on your blog. I’ve read all your above comments and you seem perfectly capable of presenting a reasoned argument . . . so I have to wonder why you didn’t start out with that.

      Finally, take that “I’m a strong and unafraid person even if I am a woman” chip off your shoulder and treat people as potential equals at least until they prove themselves to be actual adversaries and/or people meriting your contempt.

      How’s that for not pulling punches and coddling anyone?.

      Like

      • Wow, Disp, if you are so upset, then delete my posts. It’s not that hard and adding accusations about me having some nonsense like this “I’m a strong and unafraid person even if I am a woman” is just pathetic when it serves to do no more than showing you have no problem in bringing in factors that seem to have no purpose at all than your need to make assumptions about me to justify yourself :) I’ll have to say that I really enjoyed that baseless accusation from you. It spoke volumes.

        It’s interesting that you first assumed I meant something about white supremacy and religion and now you want to assume that me being a woman has anything do with this.

        Pass judgment all you want and keep making baseless assumptions. I don’t give a damn about white supremacists other than using it as an example of thoughtlessly saying that one would accept any thought by anyone. And no, dear, a thoughtful person wouldn’t have agreed with you, but thanks for trying to claim I’m no thoughtful. It’s curious that you don’t think it necessary to offer examples about extreme beliefs, when that is to explore what a person finds extreme.

        Like

        • disperser says:

          “Wow, Disp, if you are so upset, then delete my posts.”

          Paraphrasing Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds, you’ll know if I get upset. As for deleting comments, I don’t do that. You wrote them, you own them, they stay here for all to see, as does everything I write. Perhaps in time, you’ll want me to delete them but I don’t think your maturity and wisdom is at that point yet.

          So, no, not upset . . . more like annoyed; like I imagine parents might get when dealing with a recalcitrant child that’s beyond reasoning with.

          “It’s not that hard and adding accusations about me having some nonsense like this “I’m a strong and unafraid person even if I am a woman” is just pathetic when it serves to do no more than showing you have no problem in bringing in factors that seem to have no purpose at all than your need to make assumptions about me to justify yourself :) I’ll have to say that I really enjoyed that baseless accusation from you. It spoke volumes.”

          Well now, let’s talk about that. Do you know where I came up with that? From your blog; your bio, posts, comments. You seem to take pride in how surprised people are — given your fierceness — at finding out you’re a woman. So, I don’t think it’s an accusation; I think it’s an accurate assessment of your personality and what you value.

          But . . . what if I’m wrong? What if it serves “… no purpose at all than your need to make assumptions about me to justify yourself”.

          Well, let’s talk about that. I mean, I agree with you; that would be dishonest and annoying behavior. It’s like having a religious person tell you that you’re not really an atheist or that you don’t really believe what you say.

          Tell me, did you make any assumptions about Andrew in your discussion? Did you tell him what, according to you, he believes? What he stands for?

          Because here’s the thing . . . no one likes having a stranger tell them “here’s what you really believe”.

          Still, while I might be wrong about the chip on the shoulder comment, I can at least reasonably argue the point by quoting your own words back at you.

          “It’s interesting that you first assumed I meant something about white supremacy and religion and now you want to assume that me being a woman has anything do with this.”

          Just when I think you can’t possibly act more disingenuous, you surprise me. I have to tell you, it’s not an endearing quality. Where did I tie the two together, exactly? My assessment relates strictly to your aggressive attitude and disingenuous self-righteousness. I’m not even touching on your arguments, just your style of arguing.

          The white supremacist criticism is separate and stems for it being a stupid and needlessly confrontational comment to leave as a new commenter on a blog you are not familiar with and directed at a person you don’t know.

          Let me enlighten you about something; you are not a messiah for the atheist movement. In fact, we don’t need any messiahs; we have plenty of dicks filling that role and we don’t need yet another one.

          Want to know what we atheists need? Ambassadors. Diplomats. Measured and informed individuals who can debate without losing their cool, who can score points with grace and humor.

          Tell me, what did you accomplish in the above comments? You beat down Andrew to the point where you could claim some sort of perceived victory; you the fierce and valiant defender of . . . what, exactly?

          This is where Andrew agreed with you: “Now you make a good point. I would challenge extremist views e.g. anti-Semitism but would not challenge views on religion or, take another example – vegetarianism!”

          That’s him agreeing with you and trying to diffuse the confrontational tone.

          But you couldn’t let it rest. You wanted complete and total capitulation; you wanted to earn that “I’m a Dick and I won!” badge.

          All you’ve accomplished with your self-claimed victory is to convince yet another person that atheists are disrespectful dicks.

          Now, there is a time and place for turning up the dick factor; there are people who can be convinced only if faced with strong opposition, a display of fierceness, and basically getting into their face. Believe it or not, I’ve very good at that as well.

          . . . but, in my experience, that’s not the general case and that approach should only be invoked if one is both certain that it’s warranted AND if there’s good reason to think it will work.

          “Pass judgment all you want and keep making baseless assumptions. I don’t give a damn about white supremacists other than using it as an example of thoughtlessly saying that one would accept any thought by anyone.”

          Wow . . . are you upset? Using a variant of your opening argument, you’re welcome to retreat to your safe space.

          First, my assumption is not baseless, as we’ve already established. Again, I would gladly cull your words from your blog and from various comments on your blog . . . but, you already know them, so it’s not really worth my time. Besides, you’d probably vehemently and indignantly deny that’s what the words mean. It’s a tactic Answers in Genesis and Trump both employ; what is said is not what is meant.

          But, beyond that, getting upset and swearing gains you not even an iota of respect. You blew that chance when you ignored three separate polite requests to carry on a measured discussion AND ignored a personal e-mail from me on that same topic.

          “And no, dear, a thoughtful person wouldn’t have agreed with you, but thanks for trying to claim I’m no thoughtful. It’s curious that you don’t think it necessary to offer examples about extreme beliefs, when that is to explore what a person finds extreme.”

          Again with a disingenuous defense. You really ought to give it a rest. Or is it that you’re one of them people who only skims responses and doesn’t actually read to understand, flying off the handle based on what they assumed other people said?

          Look, you certainly are a thoughtful person in a controlled environment. A bit simplistic and narrow in focus, but your blog arguments relating to religion are well researched. But, by your own words, you’ve been banned from religious forums and religious discussions.
          You throw that out as if it were a badge of honor, a medal to pin next to other medals marking all the people you managed to piss off.

          You tried to do that here as well . . . except I don’t ban people because they then give themselves the medal of righteous victimhood. Nope. Your words will live here as long as I have this blog. You are even welcome to invite your faithful readers here to assess just how great and fierce you were to the meanies who wanted to just have a discussion about something else.

          And no; here you did not come across as a thoughtful person; you came off as a dick. For the record, my usage of “dick” is gender neutral.

          Now, I know full well you basically skimmed this long comment and gave it no measured thought whatsoever, already having written off me and everyone else who disagrees with you as your formulated your fierce response . . .

          . . . but, tell me; does that sound to you like the mark of a thoughtful person?

          Bonus items:
          This post was about having a purpose and meaning after losing your faith. Do you have anything to contribute to that discussion? I mean, you lost your faith; I would have thought you would’ve had something useful to contribute.

          Like

        • wow, that’s quite a post for “not being upset”. And someone like you isn’t good enough to clean the waste tanks on the Serenity. And now, thanks for one more false statement “Now, I know full well you basically skimmed this long comment and gave it no measured thought whatsoever, already having written off me and everyone else who disagrees with you as your formulated your fierce response.”
          I had a great time reading your post and its attempts to claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with you are all sorts of things, from being “simple” to being a “dick”. It’s interesting to see you use pretty much verbatim what conservative Christians use, when it comes to being upset that a woman dares to write and you tried so very hard to quote me out of context. How nice.

          But please do keep up the attempts at personal insults, Disp. I see you have nothing else.

          And no, your claims and attempts at being insulting aren’t the mark of a thoughtful person at all. It is quite funny when you try so very hard at encouraging me to agree with your baseless statements. I do wonder how you think that would work, but I think it’s pretty much you still being upset that a woman dares disagree with you.

          Like

        • disperser says:

          Why, the nerve!! (and an extra !! for good measure) . . . I am too, good enough to clean the waste tanks of Serenity!

          Man, what I wouldn’t give for that opportunity.

          And, since I’ve done similar work before (bottom of elevator shafts in buildings under construction) I’m confident I’d be good at it.

          Do you happen to know where I could apply? Would you reconsider and put in a good word for me?

          Like

        • nice try to avoid the point. you keep going, young Atherton.

          Like

        • disperser says:

          Not deflecting; I’ve often made it clear I long for some passing spacecraft to take me off this rock (a sentiment often shared by others) and for it to be Serenity would be a huge plus.

          Like

    • disperser says:

      As to why you didn’t see the question, it has to do under which person the answer falls. If Andrew initiated that particular thread, it may be that only he gets a particular answer (I have to click on “reply” somewhere).

      Or, it may be you’re not subscribed to the comments properly.

      If you subscribe to comments to a blog post, you should get all the comments under that particular blog post.

      That’s how it works for me in every blog I subscribe to; I get notices of every comment made and not just the ones responding to me.

      Regardless, that question was directed at you and now you’ve read it.

      Like

      • yes, I have read it. Will you answer my questions?

        Like

        • disperser says:

          Which question, exactly?

          About challenging beliefs?
          Already answered.

          About being a troll?
          Answered, in spades. Remember, it’s not whether you think you are a troll; it’s whether other people think you are. You should at least take an honest look at your behavior an contribution while here and ask yourself this: what have I contributed? If all you have accomplished is to make yourself feel good . . . troll.

          Why is being terse a bad thing?
          When you are not in your own home and someone asks you not to be terse while in their home, then continuing to be terse makes you a bad guest.

          About whether I believe in the “live and let live” attitude?
          Well, I did you the courtesy of reading a fair amount of your blog. You obviously have not read much of mine or you wouldn’t be asking that question. The short answer, for them with the attention span of a gnat, “yes” when it comes to some things, and “no” when it comes to others.

          Got any other questions?

          Like

        • Claiming someone to be a troll is no more than your opinion, Jimmy. Funny how no one agrees with you and has found my posts something to like. Again, you try your very hardest to get me to agree with you. Since I have taken an honest look at my contributions here and found them good, then all you have is either claiming I’m not honest, or admitting that all you are looking for is agreement with you. Now, since your god doesn’t like liars, do you want to falsely claim I’m not honest since you would be lying or do you want to admit that all you want is agreement with you?

          Sorry, a blog is not a home. It is a public space if you have the comments open to commenting. If you want to pretnd it is a home, then shut off comments and make your blog hidden.

          Yep, you read my posts and responded occasionally, which I thank you for. You have also lied about me, which isn’t courteous at all, Jimmy. And it’s hilarious that you attempt to lie that I haven’t read your posts for the lame reason that I haven’t decided that Jimmy is the second coming and I should believe in him and only him. Unfortunately, reality shows otherwise. Unless you take the cowards way out and delete our posts. But already other people have seen what you’ve falsely claims. Do you think your god didn’t see such things?

          I do have one more question: Jimmy, will you come to a blog and tell another Christian he is wrong since he completely disagrees with you?

          Like

        • disperser says:

          Oh, gosh, that’s so well-put, so articulate, so . . . awesome.

          I mean, obviously, if everyone you know agrees with you, well, then, you win. I bow my head in defeat.

          I shouldn’t have questioned your judgment, maturity, wisdom, and ability to have a rational discussion.

          My apologies for . . . well, everything, I guess. I’ll know to bow to your greatness next time you do the honor of commenting on any of my posts.

          Like

  7. Hope you won’t be offended when I tell you I’ve given this a miss.

    Like

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