Class Warfare Blog

April 10, 2019

Other Ways of Knowing?

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:11 am
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As I read I am often presented with the dichotomy of the material and the spiritual, of the head and the heart.

“There is a wisdom of the head and a wisdom of the heart.”
Charles Dickens

And it appears to me that this is a consequence of some simple physiological facts. The sense through which we extract the most information is our vision. This gives us the impression that “we” (homunculus, whoever is driving this vehicle, whatever) reside inside of our heads. This illusion is very strong and quite understandable. Through our vision we may attend the entire world, from near to far and small to large in quiet contemplation. This ability does not seem to be a source of passion, rather “cold” intellect.

When we experience strong emotion, for whatever reason, it tends to affect our torsos in the form of restricted breathing or the reverse, panting, or a feeling of being punched in the stomach, generally accompanied by rapid heart beats. This creates the illusion that something else resides in our torsos. Since breathing is usually quiet, as is our heartbeat, they go unnoticed until their rates are jacked up to high rates and then we can hear them, internally.

Experience in killing animals and other humans points out the importance of the heart and lungs. Break or have a finger cut off and you will survive. Take a spear thrust in a lung and you will die, slowly. Take a spear thrust in the heart and you will die quickly. A hierarchy is therefore created as to which sources of the sounds of our life are most important: life’s blood, the breath of life, etc.

Is this the source of the idea of spirituality? Does anything qualifying as spirituality even exist? What is it really? As much as I love Joe Campbell’s writing on this topic I am still wondering whether spirituality is just an illusion we have become comfortable with, much as a number of philosophers now argue that conscious thoughts are illusions, possibly even consciousness as a whole being an illusion.

That spirituality is tied to strong emotions is no surprise. Using human passion as a lever to control people’s behavior also seems a workable approach for religions. Much of my religion’s tradition was wrapped in the words and imagery of strong emotion (Jesus loves you, the Passion, Brides of Christ, etc.).

Most religions diminish the role of the “head” and emphasize the role of the “heart” (or chakras, or stomach, or . . .). This war between the head and the heart rumbles on today in discussions between religious apologists and “secularists.”

Can this discussion be resolved? I suspect not soon, but it has clearly taken a modern twist, begun I think by William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience) and continued by the likes of Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell, et. al.). These worthies have been applying the tools of science, especially those of biological evolution, to explain the human experience of religion (with much resistance without and within the academic community). Will any of that discussion affect ordinary folks like you and me? That remains to be seen. Possible the rise in the numbers of Americans no longer claiming association with an organized religion (the “Nones”) is a sign, maybe it is not. Please note that an organized religion is not a requirement for having religious experiences. People had these things before organized religions existed and will likely have them after. Understanding their sources is therefore important.

 

 

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March 15, 2019

Blood Magic . . . I Wonder Where That Came From?

In the recent Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre of Muslims, one self-identified suspect posted a manifesto which stated, in part: “The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European.”

“My blood is European.”

Mate, your blood is red, just like the rest of us.

The role of blood in our cultural imaginings is deep and to its core bogus. For example, in this country’s history, we had laws establishing how African-American people were. We used terms like “octoroon” which now is defined as being “a person who is one-eighth black by descent” or basically having one Black grandparent. But the common people talked about one eighth of a person’s blood being Black. Others said that “one drop” of Black blood made one Black. (This was always puzzling to me because these same idiots claimed that white blood was stronger and better than black blood, so someone with a 50%-50% mix should be classified as white because the 50% white blood was stronger, no?)

Blood magic was borne of ignorance of all but a few basic facts (the primary one being if you lost enough blood, you died). It was promoted through superstition and bias and prejudice (your enemies had bad blood). But what keeps it going centuries after it has been debunked as nonsense?

Ah, culturally blood shows up as a mystical power in religions. Christians and Jews can read about blood magic in their Bibles. They can read about how menstrual blood makes women “unclean” for several days of the month. They can read about how we were all saved “by the blood of a lamb.” They can read about blood sacrifices. They can read about how being born carries sin which resides in the blood. They can read about dietary restrictions involving blood, such as the Torah forbids the consumption of the blood of an animal. (Imagine forbidding the glory which is blood sausage. Amazing.)

So, while us secularists are trying to reduce superstition and ignorance, the religionists are reinforcing it.

Oh, and the manifesto writer which claims “my identity is European” is apparently an Australian. His European language is rooted in the Near East. His DNA is roughly two thirds African in origin and one third Asian in origin. European political beliefs? Really? Is there any political belief you cannot find embedded in Europe? This poor sod is seriously confused . . . but he sure does know how to sling buzz words at a right-ring audience.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. (Anonymous—please do not comment that it was Mark Twain, it appears nowhere in his writings or reporting upon him.)

February 3, 2019

More on Stolen Gifts

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:10 am
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In my recent post, Stolen Gifts, I pointed out that religions have hijacked ordinary abilities and declared them to be gifts from their god, which has a number of consequences, one being we are expected to feel grateful for our “gifts.” Another is that we are to see their god at work in our lives and not as some distant, removed supernatural superhero.

Giving this psychological sleight of hand a bit more thought I realized that it is a double edged sword for the religions, cutting both ways, not just to their benefit.

As a child I was fairly successful in youth sports. Largely this was due to the fact that I was substantially taller and stronger than my educational classmates. As we grew up, these advantages diminished and almost disappeared. I was confronted by others whose athletic “gifts” were far greater than mine. I specifically remember turning up for the first day of basketball practice as a sophomore in college only to find roughly 60 guys in the gym, at least three quarters of whom were better players than me. On day two of practice, we were down to 30-35 guys left, again, most of whom were better players than I was. By day three we were down to about 18, the normal number of players who would practice and I was still there (hadn’t been cut or quit). Basically I was willing to pay the price (there were hours and hours of conditioning drills in those early practices) and was stubborn enough to not quit (I had been cut from teams before but had never quit). What I could have done had I more “talent” I can only dream of.

The same could be said for my intellectual gifts. I had a high IQ but either didn’t get the guidance I needed or I didn’t make the effort needed to expand upon that “gift.” I saw many, many other students who seemed far brighter than I was. I persevered by didn’t light any fires.

So, if these were my “gifts from God,” what should a child think who was born into a flawed body or was starved as a child until they were physical or intellectual derelicts? Why them? What should children think who were born infected by AIDS, or as a foster child of ours was, born with seven illicit drugs in her blood? The usual answer is “God works in mysterious ways” or “No one can know the mind of god.” These are spoken without irony by people who will turn around and tell you exactly what their god thinks and why it is clear as air what you should be doing.

But why indeed? Why are some showered with gifts and others starved of them. Why does god play favorites? Why would god “choose” a people to favor? Are we not all “God’s children”?

Obviously I tend to over think these things … but someone has to to point out the sheer mendacity and silliness of these concepts. The brilliance of Christianity is its design to have its practitioners take over the task of acquiring fresh, new believers, while reinforcing the beliefs of people already in the flock. If all of this required professional religionists, then we would be much less subjected to this religion. Small armies of ordinary people, often through unthinking meme transmission are doing much of this work. Having ordinary people going around saying things like “what extraordinary gifts your child has been given” makes parents glow, while lowering any suspicion they might have of vested interests in the comment. Thus these memes get passed around like a disease vector.

January 8, 2019

Other Ways of Knowing, Part 2

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:46 pm
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In the ongoing war between faith and science a common claim is that science is not the only way to acquire knowledge, that there are “other ways of knowing.” Along with this I see question after question on the Quora website asking atheists about what “evidence” would convince them to believe in God/Jesus (like we tell them and then they produce it … strange question). The number of these latter questions is smaller than the usual ones asking atheists to prove there is no god or asking for evidence that there is no god, but they are numerous enough.

So, many of these arguments center on “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” arguments which are too nonsensical to take seriously but the “other ways of knowing” response is intriguing. Usually they are referring to “revealed” truth or some such thing through “personal experience” (as if there were any other kind). Interestingly enough, in the vast majority of times in which revealed truths have some up against scientific truths, the revealed truths have come out poorly. This lead me to the following line of thinking.

In legal contests, if one side makes an argument that there is only one interpretation of the evidence and that interpretation circumstantially leads to the guilt of a defendant, the only requirement of the refutation of such an argument is that another equally plausible interpretation be made … not proved, just made. So, if the argument is “god did it,” then in spite of the evidence, all that is needed is an equally plausible interpretation of the “evidence.” Well, that has been provided and, obviously, it didn’t work.

So, consider the following hypothetical scenario. A favorite meme of the ancient alien speculators (they are not theorists) is that an alien race came to this planet and “adjusted” our genetic material to make us who we are now. What if that were true?

So, a flying saucer (or any other equivalent space craft) lands on the White House lawn and after a small diplomatic interlude, their representatives claim that they came back to check on how we were doing, because X numbers of thousands of years ago, they “adjusted the DNA of a hominid ancestor of ours to result in … us. They provide more than credible evidence of this deed (videos, tissue samples, explanations of the DNA “adjustments,” etc.

What happens to the “other ways of knowing” at that point? I suggest that all of them are blown out of the water as the hooey they are. The claim that there are “other ways of knowing” is simple a ruse to protect their “knowledge” from critical inspection.

I suggest that this is not the only scenario that results in all of those “other ways” of folding up like a cheap cardboard suitcase left in the rain. (Cheap cardboard suitcases were the ancestors of cheap plastic suitcases.) Another would be the discovery of significant life on another planet, which could come about through contact or communication remotely. If we found that their set of “beliefs” about nature were different from scientific truths and ascribed to “other ways of knowing,” we would know we were talking to their bullshit artists who were part and parcel with our bullshit artists.

Can you think of other such scenarios? Wouldn’t a benign one of these be lovely? Traumatic for some but lovely collectively. (One can empathize with the traumatized (and I would), but you can’t put your balls on an anvil, pass out hammers, and then complain of the pain you suffer.)

December 2, 2018

The Real War on Christmas

I play on the Quora website from time to time and the number of questions trolling atheists is truly astounding. Here is just one of them: “If atheists don’t believe in God or Jesus, why do they celebrate Christmas and Easter, the day Jesus Christ was born in the day he rose from the dead … ?” This brought to mind the War on Christmas promoted by Fox (sic) News and leads me to this post.

Which Christian saint is this?

Both the holidays mentioned in the Quora question were highjacked by Christians, that is they existed before and Christians took them over. This was a part of their strategy to obliterate other religions. Christian church buildings were constructed on the foundations of pagan temples, Christian calendar dates were moved to coincide with dates on pagan calendars, and pagan holidays were supplanted by Christian holidays by highjacking the festivals associated with them.

If you look at the iconic aspects of Christmas (feasting, decorated trees moved indoors, gift giving, Santa Claus, etc.) or Easter (egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, May pole dances (archaic), etc.) none of them are associated with Christian practices. Those two holidays were associated with the winter solstice and spring equinox festivals of antiquity. The eggs and rabbits of Easter were fertility symbols associated with the beginning of a new growing season. The word Easter is derived from the name of a fertility goddess (Eostre) and has no Christian roots.

Christmas is supposed by Christians to be a celebration of the birth of the Christ even though the dates do not match up nor do the celebrations. And think about it. If the creator of the Earth and the Heavens and Adam and Eve wanted to create a human representative to spread the good news, why would he impregnate a human girl and make his new “creation” go through diapers, puberty, school, deprivation, hunger, disease, and all of that for a mission that wouldn’t start until the guy was 30 years old? Is that how you would expect an all-powerful, all-knowing god to behave? Nothing that Jesus is claimed to have done prior to the age of thirty has anything to do with the so-called salvation plan. When Yahweh wanted humans in his garden, he made them post haste, as fully formed adults. So, the Christian claim that Christmas celebrates the birth of a god, it is celebrating a 30 year waste of time by a assumed to be perfect god.

So when Christians harp on “remembering the reason for the season,” please do. It had nothing to do with Christianity, so much so that the Pilgrims in America would have nothing to do with it. This should be meaningful to all of you original intent constitutionalists. And it takes a lot of chutzpah for those who highjacked such a celebration (not a holy day) to criticize those who celebrate it the way it was originally intended.

 

November 26, 2018

Meaning, Schmeaning

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:10 pm
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Atheists have to deal with a great many accusatory questions from Christians. One of my favorites is: how can there be morality without God? (Implication: I am an immoral asshole.) I always the questioner ask for a clear, definitive statement of Christian morality and I usually only get a “mumble, mumble, Golden Rule” response.

Another question is” How can there be meaning in life without God? (Implication: my existence is meaningless and, hence, worthless.) Well, we now have an answer! Pew Research has done a survey asking people where they derive “a great deal of meaning” and “the most important source of meaning” in their lives. So, our 70% Christian nation has spoken! Here are the top sources rated from most to least (with the percent responding “provides a great deal of meaning”):

Spending time with family … 69%
Being outdoors … 47%
Caring for pets … 45%
Listening to music … 44%
Reading … 37%
Your religious faith … 36%
Your job or career … 34%

So, what do you think? Is this just additional proof that Satan is in charge “down here?” Is the placement of people’s religion as a source of meaning in their lives right in being between “reading” and “your job or career,” and well behind caring for one’s pets? (Keep in mind Americans notoriously hate their jobs.)

Here’s the article I read (https://religionnews.com/2018/11/20/for-most-americans-new-research-says-family-comes-first/).

Addendum Before you write back to tell me that religion was ranked very high as the “most important source of meaning” in people’s lives religion still came in at 20% (one out of five), half of what “spending time with family” pulled down. And that survey asked about religion and not god. Since there are more than a few atheists who are members of churches (and churches which welcome atheists with open arms) and it is well noted that religion has a significant social component, I wonder where “god” would have ranked? (Basically, you cannot ask that question, because it will encourage people to lie. It would be like the “Does this dress make me look fat?” question.)

November 19, 2018

Culture Signaling

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
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There are myriad ways of signally where one stands in our culture(s). One of my favorites is the middle class grunt. This can be observed in any bar in which a middle class man takes a stool at the bar. Often the taking of a seat is accompanied by a slight grunt, as if the climbing thereupon were strenuous. This signal tells all of those nearby that you, too, work for a living and that you deserve the respite of a pint with your friends.

There are myriad ways in which the signal “I Believe in God” is made. While leaving a hotel recently at a too early hour, I was making a cup of coffee to go in the lobby when a cheery staff member asked how I was doing. (I hate perky, by the way, but that’s something else.) I grumbled back that “I was alive.” She responded with “Thank god for that,” and smiled her way away. I did not respond as that would have been unkind.

People often use phrases in ordinary language that identify them as a member in the god-fearing culture. You will hear such way more often in the hinterlands than in big cities but you will hear such everywhere in this country.

Signally that one is religious is a way of signally that you are a trustworthy person, and that you are not a threat. Basically, you have morals. The cost of this is to the people who do not signal back. Atheists are not to be trusted and signally is one way to identify these amoral threats to a good Christian life.

Maybe we need some atheist signals to show the religious crowd that we are amongst them. Maybe “As Daniel (Dennett), Richard (Dawkins) and Sam (Harris) say …” or ‘What would Hitch do?” (WWHD). I don’t think we need a secret handshake or anything but recognition for the Atheist Headquarters in the Colorado mountain bunkers would be nice. Publication of Atheist Statements of Disbelief and the posting of them in public spaces would help, I guess, but I will start with culture signals. What do you think?

November 14, 2018

Marks and Con Men in the Religion Con

I just started reading The Evolution of God by Robert Wright and, as is common with accommodationists, he is very kind in his interpretations. For example:

However diverse the forces that shape religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world. … But they didn’t have the heritage of modern science to give them a head start, so they reached prescientific conclusions. Then, as understanding of the world grew—especially as it grew via science—religion evolved in reaction.

With regard to “religion evolved in reaction,” I do not think it evolved so much as changed so as to not be subject to ridicule. But that aside, I want to address this part: “… religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world.” This seems like quite a benign motivation. And it brings those ancient people and “us” into the same room, but is this a valid supposition? I do not think so.

Allow me to finish quoting from the book, specifically, a couple of descriptions of the relations hunter-gather people have been documented to have with their “gods.”

By Klamath reckoning, the west wind was emitted by a flatulent dwarf woman, about thirty inches tall, who wore a buckskin dress and a basket hat (and who could be seen in the form of a rock on a nearby mountain). The Klamath sometimes asked her to blow mosquitoes away from Pelican Bay.

For example, Karei, thunder god of the Semang hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia, would get irate if he saw people combing their hair during a storm or watching dogs mate.”

Think about this: what person trying to make “sense of the world” would come up with such bullshit? These sound more like the work of a bullshitter than a contemplative proto-philosopher.

I think a more likely scenario is that these stories were crafted by sly members of a tribe in an effort to acquire status they could not otherwise acquire. Imagine a gamma or even delta male who has been getting the leavings of the stronger males: poorer food, less access to the tribe’s women, what our President would regard as a “loser.” If he tried to grab a women by the pussy, he would find himself roundly cuffed into better manners by a higher status male.

But one day, a solar eclipse occurs (or any other natural phenomenon that you think they would think was rare and threatening). It gets darker and darker and it seems that the sun is being eaten. The tribe is terrified, cowering on the ground. In a moment of inspiration, our delta male jumps up and starts to belittle the spirit that was eating the sun (they were animists, remember) and sure enough, he scares away the eater and the sun comes back. Our bullshit artist becomes a hero, becomes a valued member of the tribe, earns a new title (shaman) and gets better selections of the tribe’s resources from then on.

But the shaman needs more answers. When queried after that point, he can’t just shrug his shoulders, so he has to come up with more stories, and when you read the stories that hunter-gatherer peoples have (the book has quite a few examples) see if they don’t sound to you like they were made up by a drunken frat boy.

Stories are good. They educate and they entertain, and obviously just from the couple of examples provided, they do not have to make much sense (Watch dogs fornicating and the thunder god becomes angry!).

So, while the author of this book addresses the foundations of religion (the hunter-gatherers did not have religions, they had spirits and ghosts as part of their environment) as an intellectual effort to “make sense of the world,” “as we do,” I think that is a sop thrown to the religious. It is far more likely that religion began as part of a con, in instances as described above. My argument is based upon the motivation of the bullshit creators. I think that the sly members of a tribe were far more likely to come up with such stories than any one else.

A con game is short for “confidence game” and is a effort on the part of a con man (or con men) to acquire the confidence of his marks. That confidence enables them to extract wealth from the marks willingly. As far as I am concerned, religion is a Big Con still. The con artists are still spinning stories (I can’t wait for the big Vatican conclave on the sexual predation of its priests; I expect to see big stories created.) and the marks are still believing those stories.

I note that religious apologists pull stories out of their asses in great quantities (e.g. Ever notice how a banana seems designed to fit our hands?), that is they just make things up, often with no support in doctrine or scripture or even reality. They didn’t start the Big Con, but they are going to benefit mightily by keeping it running.

 

 

November 13, 2018

No, I Don’t Think So, Nope

I started reading the book The Evolution of God by Robert Wright last night and right from the start he declared himself to be an accommodationist.

There have been many such unsettling (from religion’s point of view) discoveries since then, but always some notion of the divine has survived the encounter with science. The notion has had to change, but that’s no indictment of religion. After all, science has changed relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories, and none of us think of that as an indictment of science. On the contrary, we think this ongoing adaptation is carrying science closer to the truth. Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.

He is even more explicit shortly thereafter:

“These two big “clash” questions can be put into one sentence: Can religions in the modern world reconcile themselves to one another, and can they reconcile themselves to science? I think their history points to affirmative answers.

I am interested to see how he pulls this off. He is hinted that the religious will need to modify their beliefs in the process, so I wish him luck with that.

Here I want to address the first quote above, specifically the part “After all, science has changed relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories, and none of us think of that as an indictment of science. On the contrary, we think this ongoing adaptation is carrying science closer to the truth. Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.”

Uh, no. In this he is overlooking a few small aspects of science that are completely missing from religion. First, scientists are looking for what works and allow that nature gets to decide. A good scientist follows wherever the evidence leads. If one’s thoughts are refuted, one changes one’s mind … period. (Some struggle at this more than others but a scientist hanging on to disproved ideas can expect only ridicule and pity at best from other scientists.)

Scientists arrive at their truths through criticism of their own ideas (it is required not just encouraged).

Religionists, on the other hand, claim to already know the truth, some claim that they are in possession of all of the truths and that there are no more. They do not systematically examine what they believe to weed out error and mistakes; they do not even encourage that. And they only change their minds when they absolutely have to, often never reaching this state. After all, who is going to change their mind for them. Even in the Catholic Church, whose leaders have accepted parts of evolution theory, there are some Catholics who accept no part of that theory. (In addition the Church’s leadership on artificial birth control has been ignored by 90+% of American women.)

So, the idea that “Maybe the same thing is happening to religion.” is impossible. Any change occurring in religions will not be based upon changing “relentlessly, revising if not discarding old theories” so, while religion does change (the gaps that gods used to hide in have gotten smaller and smaller) it will not be due to the “same thing” as happens in science when it changes. Scientists want science to change, want it to get better, want it to work better. Religionists claim that there is nothing to change, nothing to get better, nothing to work better. It is all correct as is. Why would it want to get closer to the truth? They believe there is no “closer” possible.

 

 

 

#10 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week and a half or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #10!

  1. Purpose and Meaning. For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist. If Hawking is right in that the universe is all there is and there is nothing else, nothing, including his research, has any meaning or value. Meaning, value, and purpose are found only because God exists.

Now this is an argument! Step 1: Include your conclusion in your first premise. Ta da! “For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist.” I suggest that these people are making the fundamental error in their belief that purpose and meaning for their lives comes from without. If that is true then when someone dies, their purpose and meaning live on! How that happens is beyond me. Purpose and meaning are things that are created by humans. My argument? If humans were to disappear instantaneously, what would happen to all of our meaning and purpose? Would alien archeologists coming to investigate the remains of our civilization be able to determine what they were? (Basically I think they would conclude that city dwellers would have been obsessed with collecting dog shit in little plastic bags that they preserved in large plastic, wheeled tubs for some religious purpose as there seems to be no practical purpose for that.)

As a counter argument I offer the following from Jonathan Gamer:

The Existential Argument Against God’s Existence
(Jonathan Garner)

  1. It is a known fact that many people find their life and journey to be meaningless, purposeless, and many humans/animals find life not worth living/continuing.
    2. Premise 1 is very surprising on the hypothesis of classical theism, but not surprising on the hypothesis of indifference.
    3. The intrinsic probability of indifference is much greater than that of classical theism.
    4. Therefore, other evidence held equal, classical theism is very probably false.
    Clarification
    It is important to notice that Premise 1 isn’t so much concerned with objective values. In other words, perhaps every life really does have intrinsic value and purpose. Nevertheless, some people don’t see this.

And To Conclude …
The list’s author makes the truly astounding comment that:

“I could certainly list other reasons to believe in God’s existence. But these will suffice for now. (Stephen) Hawking was a man of great intellect. Yet, despite his great mental prowess, it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God. While he could see, he was quite blind. Hawking said that ‘religion is a fairy tale for those afraid of the dark.’ I believe John Lennox provided a stronger claim by noting that ‘atheism is a fairy tale for those afraid of the light.’”

These are not serious claims, of course, but opinions. And the comment “Yet, despite his great mental prowess (Hawking’s), it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God.” is just priceless considering the offering of the wimpy intellectual arguments of this list. The arguments were almost juvenile and certainly lacking in development even compared to the arguments available from the current crop of apologists. That a genius couldn’t see what a simpleton could, doesn’t bring the genius’s comments into dispute.

 

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