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Gospel music

2002-01-22 00:40:16+00 by Dan Lyke 62 comments

Occasionally I think I should be reading The Onion more often. Via Howard's Musings, Black Gospel Choir Makes Man Wish He Believed In All That God Bullshit. Yep. That's me. There are some absolutely fantastic voices and melodies out there that I have to consciously try to tune out the lyrics to listen to, otherwise they grate harshly on me. Sigh.

[ related topics: Religion Music Dan's Life ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:37+00 by: ziffle

When I was 9 years old, my Mother took me to the church - we supposidly belonged to. I liked singing. I came the appointed hour, and joined the group. We were given the song books, and started singing. As I read the words, I was shocked. Things like 'Jesus died and now we are all guilty for that' - I don't remember exactly, but 'his blood is on our hands', and so forth. I could hardly sing - it was so aweful. I liked the pitch and melody etc. but I just could not sing something so aweful.

After it was over, I gathered my composure, and in my best sweet voice, asked the woman leading the choir a completely honest question: 'do you really believe that'? I have always been one to get to the point. I thought it was a kind question, asked directly, as any intelligent human would want it asked - appealing to the mind inside her - her highest attribute.

She scrunched her face up and hardly answered. I was shocked again at how she did not answer in words to such a simple question. And to the fact she became unhappy at my question.

The subject of the choir was never brought up again. I assume the choir lady advised my Mother anyone with an attitide like that was not welcome.

I spent decades trying to understand what happened. My answer in the long run was not optimistic. She wanted to believe it, but I doubt it. Preachers and the flock all feel that if everyone else believes it then they can believe it too, the value of the communities feelings being higher than their own mind. Eventually they convince themselves they believe it and they are gone from this life, as humans, anyway.

I hope that the simple question I asked her, helped her later, to rethink her premise and find her own love of life as it really is.

Having children of my own, I was very concerned that they not be filled with the inherent guilt and false clearing of that guilt by being taught christian phenomenology.

It is destructive, and causes all manner of self doubt. I have been successful, I think in protecting my children from the virus of religion, its most virulent specie, christianity, and its most insidious germ, preachers.

For those who write here occasionally that this forum is anti-christian, I do not intend to offend you, but please rethink your premise, cast aside 'faith'; it is not a valid form of epistemology. Failure to do so will mean you have lived an entire lifetime under false illusions, and wasted your life. Life as a human is precious; live it.


#Comment made: 2002-01-22 15:12:00+00 by: Larry Burton [edit history]

You've never offended me, Ziffle. I find value in allegory and symbolism and apparently you don't, at least not in a religious context. That's all. That's the only difference. I think we both appreciate a lot of the same morality and ethics we just view them in a different context.

Contrast the following lyrics. The first uses spiritual connotations for a life fulfilled while the second one addresses the same theme from a humanistic standpoint.

I'll Fly Away

Some glad morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away.
To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O Glory,
I'll fly away.
When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye,
I'll fly away.

When the shadows of this life have flown,
I'll fly away.
Like a bird thrown, driven by the storm,
I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O Glory,
I'll fly away.
When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye,
I'll fly away.

Just a few more weary days and then,
I'll fly away.
To a land where joy shall never end,
I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O Glory,
I'll fly away.
When I die, Hallelujah, bye and bye,
I'll fly away.

Satisfied Mind

How many times have you heard someone say
'If I had his money, I could do things my way?'
Little they know that it's so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.

Once I was waitin' for fortune and fame
Everything that I dreamed for to get a start in life's game
Suddenly it happened, I lost every dime
But I'm richer by far with a satisfied mind

Money can't buy back your youth when you're old
Or a friend when you're lonely, or a love that's grown cold
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind

When my life is ended, my time has run out
My trials and my loved ones, I'll leave them no doubt
But one thing's for certain, when it comes my time
I'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind.

Whichever way it takes to find peace, I'm all for it. Isn't that what it's about?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:37+00 by: ziffle

I was not referring to you, Larry, but others as I recall.

And actually, no, our ethics have no common begining point nor result. I shudder at the thought that my children would be taught whats in the first poem. The second poem implies money and living in peace are contradictory, which is wrong, and exemplifies the false dicotomy of man versus life as a man, in mystical teachings.

Who could live up to the ethical standards taught by Christianity? Who would want to for that matter? I have never met a Christian who lived up to those standards, because its impossible, and wrong. An ethic that is impossible to live up to should be examined for what it is: antilife, regardless of the music, soft words, and agreeement of those around it. Yes I am saying Christianity is anti-life. Modern Christians have been seduced by capitalism for the most part but that increases the conflict they should feel and hence their guilt, and hence their need to be 'forgiven'. Its a vicious circle. Its designed to create guilt.

A proper Ethics is not something chosen at random or whim so that one is as good as another, as long as one feels good about it.

I'll let you have the last say.

(I wish this thing had a spell checker...)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:37+00 by: petronius

Christian ethics are not a standard. They're a goal. One which a good Christian would say is unreachable, but worth striving toward. If we establish an ethical system whose goals we can attain, we've set the bar far too low. As to guilt, we can generate that on our own, without religion. Who among us is perfect? (where have I heard that before?)Who hasn't done something that hurt another?If you can live without guilt, you are fooling yourself or you're living in a cave.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:38+00 by: Larry Burton

Hmm, you take away something completely different from the lyrics than I do. Perhaps it's just the different way we look at things. Blind faith is something I reject as you do but I do place faith in some things. One of the things I place faith in is that as long as I continue to place value in justice and mercy and let that value guide my actions I'm going to live a life that is free of guilt. Accumulation, or the lack, of wealth is coincidental to that, not exclusive of it.

As far as being able to live up to a standard, perhaps the standards taught by Christianity are impossible to maintain, but they are reachable and I've known a few folks that have done a passable job of maintaining them. But tell me, what good are any goals or standards that require no effort to achieve?

Oh, and I don't want the last word. I would prefer discussion.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:38+00 by: Dori

I thought that ethics were irrelevant to Christianity?

Christians have told me that all that matters is faith in Jesus. If you believe that he died for your sins, you have a free pass and can do anything you want.

Gandhi, otoh, believed in ethics, and he (according to those same Christians) is burning in eternal torment, because he didn't believe that Jesus died for his sins.

Then again, when the topic is Christianity, the question has to be asked: whose version of Christianity? For every group that considers themselves to be Christian, there's a second group of Christians who are positive that the first are going to hell.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:38+00 by: petronius

The Christians who said that if you believe you get a free pass weren't reading the instructions. There is an argument over the relative value of good works vs. faith, but your construction is a parody of the principle. All sins can be forgiven, but somebody who sins constantly doesn't really believe. This is not like registering Democrat or Republican; if you believe than you believe God knows what's really in your heart. And in Gandhi-ji's.

And yes, some christians do belive other Christians are taking the long fall. And some atheists like Stalin and Mao had fewer morals than a bacteria. Again, no perfect human has been born lately.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:38+00 by: Dori

My understanding was (seriously!) that all the major sects had agreed fairly recently (like in the last decade) that good works were no longer necessary and that faith was all. Which sects say that faith in Jesus isn't sufficient?

I don't understand the argument that if I know that all my sins are forgiven, I'd stop sinning. If I knew that eating chocolate wouldn't cause me to gain weight, I wouldn't stop eating chocolate.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:38+00 by: Dan Lyke

I miss purgatory; once the heaven/hell debate was decided by faith, your time in purgatory got decided by works. In the free market of religions, it's easy to see why this lost out to religions promising salvation on faith alone. I think the point petronius is trying to make is that works are an expression of faith, which to my mind dodges the point because if faith is subsumed into works, then what's the point of faith?

Of course I think that the wiser course is to separate one's spiritual practice from one's ethical structure, but that requires a lot of faith (sorry) in the power of ritual.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:39+00 by: Shawn

I intended to stay out of this discussion because I'm far too busy to provide the massive essays living in my head as to why I personally believe that religion is dangerous, stifling and manipulative. But in the interest of providing as broad a cross-section of opinion as possible, I will attempt to distill my position on the matter into a brief comment:

I think any belief system (and most especially the sin-based religions) that relies on outside influence for moral guidance/control is worthless. If one cannot be fair and compassionate for the sake of fairness and compassion themselves, then one's works/actions are not truthful and genuine - and are therefore worthless as far as true moral character goes. I reject the notion that people are incapable of being good to each other without some kind of reward/punishment system in place. I find the whole thing a cop-out for personal responsibility ("I'm doing this because _____ [usually God] says I should.", not "I'm doing this because it's the right thing to do." The onus of right/wrong is placed on somebody else's [God's] shoulders.)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:39+00 by: Larry Burton

>> If one cannot be fair and compassionate for the sake of fairness and compassion themselves, ...

Actually, that's the core of my Christian faith and I will agree with you that religion can be a very dangerous, stifling and manipulative thing. I tend to look at Christianity as having two aspects to it. There is the public aspect where men try to do great things and build a great reputation for themselves all in the name of God. Then there is the spiritual aspect of Christianity where one comes to terms with one's own spirit and one's relationship with one's God (whatever that god might be). I also believe that every major (and possibly every minor) religion has these two aspects. Of course that's a personal interpretation and not anything that any group necessarily subscribes to.

Dan, I don't see how one can seperate one's spiritual practice from one's ethical structure. Ethics are a reflection of character which is formed by the spirit. I'm not sure you can have one independent of the other.

Dori, if you really want to understand what is meant by good works not being necessary you need to understand the analogy of being born again. It isn't the works but the change in one brought about by faith which will drive one to do the works. This ties into Shawn's comment about being fair and compassionate for the sake of being fair and compassionate.

#Comment made: 2002-01-23 04:13:35+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger [edit history]


I think I'm the guy who called flutterby "anti-Christian". I'm given to hyperbole sometimes. That said, I grew up in a fundamentalist church and don't really recall any hymn as blaming us for Christ's death. Of course, I also sometimes suffer selective amnesia. But there are a lot of /bad/ (both musically and theologically) Christian hymns out there, so I don't necessarily doubt that one or some exist.


In fact, very few Christian Sects actually believe that simply having faith is enough. But then, it comes down to semantics. What, exactly, do you mean by "faith"?

Since I don't want to bore you guys any more than I have to, I've put more of my response on my blog. I'm an Orthodox Geek, so I compare the word "faith" from Christianity with the word "free" from Free Software. (http://mah.everybody.org/blog/)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:40+00 by: Dori [edit history]

In fact, very few Christian Sects actually believe that simply having faith is enough.

Okay, here's an actual link to an article about the change that I referred to up above (October 1999): Faith and Works: Catholics and Lutherans Find Agreement.

So is it faith or works? When the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation signed a historic joint declaration on justification last October, some media, notably The Wall Street Journal, declared Lutherans the victors. Back in the 1500's Martin Luther and his followers had declared sola fide! Faith alone! Grace alone! Nothing we do can earn our salvation.

Catholics have insisted all along that salvation comes to us by God's grace and our cooperation with it. That's a blend of faith and works. The Wall Street Journal suggested that by signing a declaration that states, "By grace alone..." the Catholics recanted, admitting the error of a position defined at the Council of Trent.

So, which sects do think that good works are still necessary?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:40+00 by: petronius

So, which sects do think that good works are still necessary?

You're asking the wrong question. If you believe, good works are not necessary. They are inevitable.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:40+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

petronius is right -- it is the nature of a God-lover ("believer") to do what is right ("good works"). Of course, not all who claim to love God do right, just as Jesus said.

Catholics can say "By grace alone..." and not recant because they understand that the acceptance of grace enables and mandates right living. Those who claim to have faith, but do not practice right living are, at best, fooling only themselves.

Traditional Christianity regards the person as a whole. Your actions reflect your beliefs and your beliefs reflect your actions.

(Dan, do you suppose you could allow us to use the blogger API to post responses here?)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:40+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, it's been said that there are people who are wired differently, who don't "get" the spiritual experience. I'm probably one of those people. So what I experience as spirituality, what I used to get out of religious services and now get out of other practices, is strongly distinct from the beliefs that lead to my ethical structures.

And I actively fear the thought that people might try to derive guides to ethical behavior from some of the spiritual spaces I've seen folks in; it'd be like trying to define reality from the space of an acid trip.

Mark, I'm hoping people will use the Blogger API to post responses here.

#Comment made: 2002-01-23 21:02:10+00 by: whump [edit history]

Dan said:

"Larry, it's been said that there are people who are wired differently, who don't "get" the spiritual experience."

Which had me thinking, "but G_D wouldn't make a person who couldn't experience salvation," however, that's akin to the "Can G_D make a rock so big he can't lift it" questions we'd ask Jesuits when we were kids...

I was facinated by petronius' comment:

"If you believe, good works are not necessary. They are inevitable."

So if you believe in G_D with all one's heart, then you'll do the right things because the right things are consistent with such a belief.

That begs the converse question, and asks for the definition of "good works", which will lead to many arguements.

But even before I can get to the definition of "good works", I'm stuck with the problem that while it'd be nice to have a community of faith and a G_D to believe in, how do you reconcile it with a world in which G_D is not needed to explain the world?

That question, again is hopelessly off topic...

-- whump

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:41+00 by: Larry Burton

Why would G_D make people that aren't wired to believe in him?

  1. I guess.

I don't know. I accept the fact that a belief in God does add value to my life while having no meaning to Dan and even being revolting to Ziffle. Most likely I should have kept my fingers off the keyboard when Ziffle posted but at the time I was just wanting to comment on the fact that some of the gospel music and some of the secular music can have a common theme and perhaps that is why some of the music that can have lyrics that go against the grain of some non-religious types, even to the point of being revolting, can still have a musical appeal to them.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:41+00 by: Dan Lyke

Just to be clear: Gospel isn't the only musical style where I enjoy the music but hate the lyrics. There are lots of codependent love songs which make me want to hurl, but have really catchy hooks. I find myself humming Carol King occasionally; "...that's the way I always thought it would be, you want to maaararry me..."

(Not to be confused with Carol Queen, who I also find myself quoting occasionally, but whose prose I generally agree with.)

#Comment made: 2002-01-23 22:10:45+00 by: whump [edit history]

But Dan, wouldn't it be amusing to hear Carol Queen sing I Feel the Earth Move acapella at one of her readings?

-- whump[Wiki]

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:41+00 by: Uncorked

I also am a big fan of gospel music and spirituals as long as I don't listen too closely to the lyrics.

And, with Bill, fascinated by the statement "If you believe, good works are inevitable..." There are just so many ways people could use the assumption of this principle to evil ends (and do, in my opinion). Example: the corrupt preacher whose flock is convinced that he believes and therefore everything he does is good, and therefore they should send him their life savings because he said so...

As for hymns that indicate we (sinners) are to blame for Christ's death. Well, that was a pretty common theme in the fundie church I grew up in. I'm traveling right now, so I don't have access to my old hymnals, but off the top of my head: The Old Rugged Cross:

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross, The emblem of suff'ring and shame, And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best, For a world of lost sinners was slain. [...]

In the old rugged Cross, stain'd with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see, For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above, To pardon and sanctify me.

Oy. Why do I have all these lyrics still in my head? There was another one in one of our more modern hymnals titled exactly "Who Killed Jesus?" The first verse: Was it roman soldiers... Second: Was it Pontius Pilate... third: Was it Hebrew children... fourth: ... ends up concluding: ".. that it was really me."

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:41+00 by: petronius

"There are just so many ways people could use the assumption of this principle to evil ends (and do, in my opinion). "

Alas, there is no human institution or concept that is immune to corruption. Irreligion has its share of atrocities, just like religion. However, the religious folk know this, and if they're smart are constantly reassessing their actions against their principles. Hmmm....just like the honest freethinker, Maybe we have more in common than you think.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:41+00 by: Uncorked

the religious folk know this, and if they're smart are constantly reassessing their actions against their principles

But earlier you said that if you believe (in other words, have the right principles) then the good works (iow, your actions) will follow, and presumably thus not need to be reassessed because by definition they're 'good' since you believe. I'm confused.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:41+00 by: Larry Burton

One's spirituality is between one's God and one's self. Society doesn't measure into this equation. Goodness, when measured by society then can only be judged based on the god one worships. If society perceives that god as good then the follower wil be perceived as producing good works. If that god is perceived as evil . . .

Regardless of society, if one is believing in and following one's own god then one will perceive one's actions as being "good".

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:41+00 by: topspin

This discussion reminds me of something....

He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, -- "But these impulses may be from below, not from above." I replied, "They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil." No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.

Self-Reliance by Emerson

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:42+00 by: petronius

To Uncorked: I never said that once I believe that all my actions are, by definition good ones and don't need to be reassessed. I am, like all other folk, a weak and imperfect person with a remarkable ability to fool myself. Any believer who thinks they have attained perfection in deed or understanding is flat wrong. However, in my own experience as I admitted a spritual component in my makeup I gained tools to better reflect on my deeds and to try to choose the right path. Will I always do it? Nope. I am just human.

Two other points: 1)I have read extensively on approaches to arriving at a set of ethics through logic, such as the writings of Paul Kurtz. They seem to arrive at a set of guidelines that more or less match about 7 of the 10 Commandments (Don't kill people, don't cheat on your spouse, don't steal etc.)Whether these positions reflect the rules of a divine force or just our evolutionary hardwiring is, to me, irrelevant. Decent people need each other, and I don't care how they got to that point. 2)There seems to be a theory around that defines adherents to a position by the worst or most extreme of their fellow adherents. Thus, the corruption of religious sentiment represented by Jim Jones or Mullah Omar irremediably poisons the position of St. Francis or the Dalai Lama. Or that political liberalism is damned because of the atrocities of Pol Pot or Chairman Mao. The usual result of this idea is to try to structurally fix the situation by removing the framework; ie, bad religion exists so we will deny all religion, or because of the Stalin purges we will oppose even the mildest reform. Maybe a better approach is to admit that there is such a thing as human nature, and that while we set ourselves high goals we sometimes fail. Or to put it another way: hate the sin but love the sinner.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:44+00 by: rodolfo de hamsteaka

Bringing the discussion back to gospel, (and The Onion), Gospel music wouldn't even be remotely interesting without the the lyrics claiming that Jesus's blood is on your hands (and don't forget, it IS on YOUR hands).

Gangsta rap is not really that much fun to listen to without the glocks and hos, Ted Nugent isn't fun to listen to without militias and bowhunting, and Carmina Burana isn't fun to listen to without the nuns and monks getting busy.

Kenny G going platinum means there are millions of culturally neutral philistine killjoys running around, something I find far more distressing than the occasional lyric about something I don't believe in.

The point The Onion was trying to make, is that white atheist grad students are dorks, and black gospel choirs are cool. No matter what you believe, it is hard to argue with that.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:44+00 by: Uncorked

The 'you' was a general you. Substitute 'one' as necessary. Petronius said "If you believe, good works are not necessary. They are inevitable." That was the general statement I was talking about which to me seems to be in conflict with the notion that works/actions need to be constantly reassessed. Good works are inevitable (because one believes), so why does one need to reassess?

2)There seems to be a theory around that defines adherents to a position by the worst or most extreme of their fellow adherents. But this is a very scientific approach, even a computer geek approach. It's about testing the algorithm/approach against the boundary (most extreme) conditions. If the logical consequences of the philosophy degenerate when followed through to their ends, then there's a flaw somewhere. The mathematician's conclusion: contradiction, ergo, false.

Of course, I'm highly biased in all of this because I escaped from a destructive fundamentalist religion that told me "the devil was working in my heart" when I was 8 years old and asking lots of "why?" "I don't understand?" kinds of questions. Yes, I'm now ~30 and I'm still bitter.

white atheist grad students are dorks, and black gospel choirs are cool. No matter what you believe, it is hard to argue with that. Yup!

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:44+00 by: petronius

The mathematician's conclusion: contradiction, ergo, false

Human beings are not mathematical formulas. Logic applied to human affairs has grave linmitations. We contradict ourselves all the time, not being machines. I do feel (note the word)that with belief good works become inevitable. Only not just good works. You say the analysis is followed out to its ends, but there is more than one end. Part of the theory behind Christian belief (I cannot speak for other systems)is that our understanding is imperfect, so I must be suspicious of my conclusions. Perfection of anlysis is denied me.

I'm sorry your experiences have left you bitter. I grew up in a gentler environment (Roman Catholicism)that is rather more tolerant of human failings, and supportive of human achievment. It did not teach me that I am wicked. It said rather that I wanted to be good but that I often gave in to my baser impulses. I no longer attend churches, per se, but I did give up wasting my time on hating a god for the failings of its' ministers. If there is a god, my belief or unbelief will not change the fact. However, I belive that my "belief" has given me the tools to strive to be a better man. I hope you find something similar.

#Comment made: 2002-01-25 16:28:09+00 by: Dori [edit history]

I grew up in a gentler environment (Roman Catholicism)that is rather more tolerant of human failings, and supportive of human achievment.

Except for the failing of being a Protestant. They're going to hell.

[Note: link fixed--sorry!]

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:45+00 by: Dan Lyke

To each their own, but given the number of "recovering Catholics" I know I'd never considered that "a gentler environment".

And while logic applied to human affairs may have grave limitations, if anything differentiates us from the other flora and fauna that populate this little rock, it's our relatives capacities for reasoning. Denying that capacity, rather than celebrating it as strongly as we possibly can, seems at best foolish.

#Comment made: 2002-01-25 17:05:48+00 by: Larry Burton [edit history]

I just fail to see how my belief in a god prevents me from using reason to its fullest extent.

I also fail to see how lyrics that might run contrary to my view of reality should prevent me from enjoying the song. If the lyrics are nonsense then they are nonsense. Tons of folk songs are like that, Old Dan Tucker is one that I can think of off the top of my head, and I can still enjoy a rousing rendition of that song.

Ol' Dan Tucker was a funny old man,
He washed his face in a frying pan;
He combed his hair with a wagon wheel,
And died with a toothache in his heel.

Get out of the way of Ol' Dan Tucker,
He's too late to get his supper;
Supper's over and breakfast is cooking,
Ol' Dan Tucker stands there looking.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:46+00 by: rodolfo de hamsteaka

Larry, it is because only stupid people believe in god. It is like believing in the easter bunny, or acupuncture, or darwinian evolution. Only irrational people believe in something for which there is no proof.

Regarding recovering Catholics. It seems like the atheists posting here haven't been to church in a while. Most mainstream churches these days are more about pancake breakfasts and cross country ski trips than eternal damnation and bombing abortion clinics. A typical midwestern suburban church service goes like this:

10:00 am: start (moved service from 8 to 10 because people didn't want to get up so early on a weekend)

10:10 am: contemporary christian hymns, accompanied by the Bread Breakers turntable crew

10:15 am: pastor lists recent birthdays in the community, followed by Women's Prayer and Body Sculpting schedule, Men's Monday Night Football with the Lord schedule, Wednesday Night junior high Soccer N' Sacrament schedule, Senior Mallwalking in Jesus's Footsteps Schedule, etc...

10:25 am: contemporary liturgical dancers interpret the readings of the gospel

10:30 am: pastor gives combination powerpoint presentation/sermon about the virtues of saving money in a tax deferred IRA, and how to set up Quicken to autodeposit into the church coffers every sunday

10:45 am: offering accompanied by short video clip of recent Amy Grant concert

10:50 am: pastor asks god to help the gophers crush iowa state in this afternoon's big 10 playoff game - service commences with pipe organ rendition of minnesota state pep rouser

11:00 am: church dismissed. time to meet chicks for donuts at the sanctuary starbucks!

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:46+00 by: rodolfo de hamsteaka

Flutterby's CMS did a number on my times. How do I repair that?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:46+00 by: Dan Lyke

The best way is probably to go straight to HTML; edit the message and do what you meant. Fix for this is on the way.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:46+00 by: Dan Lyke

And Larry, I was trying to address just the "Logic applied to human affairs has grave linmitations" assertion of Petronius. I would not go as far as Rodolfo, because I'm sure I have my own assumptions and beliefs which aren't true, and which may or may not be supported by further experimentation.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:46+00 by: whump

Rodolfo: you don't "believe" in selection any more than you can believe in gravity or time dilation.

And that you think gospel singing is somehow more worthy than graduate study is facinating.

Smallpox wasn't cured by prayer, but by those boring academics that you loathe.

And for people who think this forum is anti-religion, well, Bill O'Reilly's show is pro-moron. So there you go.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:47+00 by: Larry Burton

Dan, my comment wasn't to you, or anyone in particular, it just seemed to be a theme I was picking up. Since rodolfo has informed me that I'm stupid and have no intelligent input into the discussion I guess that just sort of slams the door on anything further I might add in that direction. Unfortunately he is falling into the stereotype that my belief in a god is a belief in a supernatural being that we only have stories about.

That's such a narrow view of a god. It kind of ignores that to me god could take the form of, oh, say a cigerette, or a rock of crack cocaine, or even service to mankind. Or maybe I do believe in some old guy with a long flowing beard sitting on a cloud wearing a white robe. I have a God I believe in, though, so automatically I'm stupid. I guess if I believed in gravistars I would also be labeled as stupid because I believed in something that there is no proof of?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:47+00 by: rodolfo de hamsteaka

Whump, FYI, Smallpox hasn't been cured. Your boring grad school friends better get back to work!

#Comment made: 2002-01-26 04:27:39+00 by: Pete [edit history]

Dori - I can't open your link, but this runs counter the sentiment of your post: Heaven open to everyone, says Pope

That's a Usenet repost of the Telegraph article. The link to the original article is broken, but the article was real. I linked it long ago when I maintained my own blog.

Larry Burton - Ethics are a reflection of character which is formed by the spirit.

What a howler! No Jesuit worth even one his half dozen or so degrees would let you get away with that. I'd be happy to let you just withdraw it before publicly poking at it...

rodolfo de hamsteaka - No human has had smallpox in a generation. I think it's fair to say that humanity has been cured of smallpox

#Comment made: 2002-01-27 01:15:24+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger [edit history]

How dull.

That's what I think when I think of ethics. Christianity's avowed purpose isn't to give you or me great ethics, but I believe people who are great Christians have great ethics. Morality is a side issue, a distraction, from what Christianity says about God and Man(kind).

Christ said the second greatest commandment (after the command to love God) was to love your neighbor as yourself (note: not more than yourself). He even went further and defined everyone as a neighbor, so to completely eliminate boundries.

Yes, too bad about those church leaders who go around spreading division and subtly encouraging the mindset of "I'm better than you 'cause I'm in and you're out." Ignore those that do that. The truth is we don't live in an ideal world and sometimes (often?) less than the best people are in positions of leadership.

Dan says "Denying that capacity ... seems at best foolish." And, of course, you are right (though I would claim that it is our creativity, rather than reason, that seperates us most from other living creatures and that is what we should celebrate).

#Comment made: 2002-01-27 05:34:25+00 by: Pete [edit history]

Dori - Your link works for me now. The one I pointed to records a later pronouncement.

#Comment made: 2002-01-27 20:10:32+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

It seems like the atheists posting here haven't been to church in a while.

On the contrary...

I've never gone to church as a regular activity - maybe been to a service all of 4 times in my life. But the last time I went (about 2 years ago) was to attend the "dedication" of my niece ("We don't want to baptise her because we want her to make that decision. Of course she WILL decide to be baptised, but it'll be her decision"). I was apalled that day to witness an actual excommunication; where the minister talked at length about how bad (with a strong implication of violence) things will happen - throught the will of god - to those who will not return to the church. There was no raised voices, no hellfire and brimstone. This verdict was calmly, quietly and sadly delivered. I was exremely uneasy as I couldn't help but wonder which of the "faithful" in the room would decide that they would be god's instrument...

And it didn't stop there. Next, the minister gave a progress report on their national efforts to gain [religious] control of the country by recruiting (subverting) wealthy, powerful and political figures.

Before that day, I had simply felt that belief in a god was inaccurate. But now I fear religion, and the influence it has over people.

Oh, and I prefer the term/label "secular pagan".

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:49+00 by: Shawn

Unfortunately he is falling into the stereotype that my belief in a god is a belief in a supernatural being that we only have stories about.

Larry, I find you're take on "god" facinating. And much more enlightened than most I know ;-)

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:50+00 by: Larry Burton

Pete, I'll stand by my statement.

Shawn, thank you.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:50+00 by: Pete

Larry Burton - Well then, there's a lot of background you'll need to provide for that statement to be of value to anyone that didn't agree with you before reading it:

How is ethics a reflection of character? Neither one has a definition dependent upon the other.

Are all ethics a reflection of character?

What makes character distinct from the spirit?

What do you mean by the spirit?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:50+00 by: Larry Burton

Pete, the root of the word "ethics" is ethos, which is from the Greek for character. The spirit that I'm speaking of is just the essence of the person or what truely makes that person an individual and not just a collection of cells. Character is going to be one of the outward expressions of that spirit, another being personality. One's ethics are going to be reflected by that character.

Does that give you enough background on my statement?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:50+00 by: Pete

the root of the word "ethics" is ethos, which is from the Greek for character.

This does not support your statement, nor does it answer my question. Not only is this tack logically suspect, since Greek etymology also tells us that spirit dissipates at death, it's attraction to a Christian eludes me.

Once again, how is ethics a reflection character? What makes it so?

Untouched: Are all ethics a reflection of character?

As to spirit, your definition is indistuingishable from individual identity, so the next question is "What proves that individual identity is not determined by the characteristics of a persons collection of cells?"

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:51+00 by: rodolfo de hamsteaka

pete,christian thought is a byproduct of the collision of jewish and greek modes of thinking, so when investigating christian views on ethics it is not logically suspect to look back at classical greek views on ethics, rather, it is necessary. don't forget that the guys who wrote the bible were ethnic jews preaching to the greeks. ... and that "Christ" is a greek word.

a quick primer on greek ethics:

aristotle, who codified greek ethics, divided people into four character (virtuous, continent, incontinent, vicious) and then said people make ethical decisions based upon what character type they are. a virtuous person does good things cuz she likes to, a continent person does good things cuz she feels she should, an incontentent person wants to do good things but doesn't, and a vicious person just wants to be bad. If you want more info, check out the Nicomachean Ethics.

but, that's basically what the ancient greeks thought about ethics. so, if you are thinking in that mode, that's how ethics relate to character. I don't know enough about philosophy or religion to know how you get from spirit to character, but maybe that's some fusion of the old-school jewish and greek thought.

of course there are other ways about thinking of ethics...just get an undergraduate ethics textbook and you can read all about them.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:51+00 by: Pete

rodolfo de hamsteaka - Thanks for the input. My point is not that Larry's "support" is insufficient because it's Greek, but because etymology does not equal logic, and his previous statement is cloaked in the phrasing of logic.

Any thoughts I had about using etymology as logic went out the door when I started learning about Scottish rhyming substitutions.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:51+00 by: Larry Burton

Once again, how is ethics a reflection character? What makes it so?

Pete, I'm sorry my explanation was Greek to you. You can look up the definition of character and see the number one definition for it is "the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another." You can find the idiom "in character" there listed as meaning "consistent with someone's general character or behavior: behavior that was totally in character." You can also look up ethics there and see that the number one definition is "a set of principles of right conduct", while the number three definition for it is "The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession."

Now I don't know about you but when I'm asked about a person's ethics I don't go look it up in a book somewhere on what their stated ethics are, I look at their actions to see what ethics they are displaying. I mean people will tell you a lot of things but their actions tell you their true beliefs. Don't they? Isn't that a logical conclusion? Aren't the rules they conduct themselves by reflective of their character?

Untouched: Are all ethics a reflection of character?

I don't see how individual or organizational ethics can be anything else. The ethics of an organization would reflect the character of the organization the same as the ethics of an individual would reflect that individual's character. Stated ethics reflect intended character while practiced ethics will reflect actual character.

"What proves that individual identity is not determined by the characteristics of a persons collection of cells?"

I don't see that it matters where the individuality stems from in our above discussion but that does bring up another thought. If the sum of our soul/spirit/individuality/self-awareness, what ever you want to deem as our essence, is merely electrical stimulation of various braincells causing various chemical reactions resulting in more electrical stimulation how can I deem myself a true free thinker?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:52+00 by: Pete

Larry - There is, unfortunately, a distinction between ethics and behavior. People can and do act unethically.

If the sum of our soul/spirit/individuality/self-awareness [...] is merely electrical stimulation of various braincells causing various chemical reactions resulting in more electrical stimulation how can I deem myself a true free thinker?

That's irrelevant to the question. That an idea causes you discontent does not make it invalid.

And if you are now redefining both spirit and character to be indistinguishable from identity or individuality, regardless of source, then it makes me wonder what your point is? Individuals have individual codes of ethics? Uh, ok.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:54+00 by: Larry Burton

Pete, you are nitpicking now. How better to tell what someone's ethics are than by watching their behavior? What better way is there to judge character than by examining the ethics that a person practices? I never warranted the profundity of my statement, only the accuracy.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:54+00 by: Pete

I don't think it's nitpicking at all. To my reading, a statement that started out as this:

Dan, I don't see how one can seperate one's spiritual practice from one's ethical structure. Ethics are a reflection of character which is formed by the spirit. I'm not sure you can have one independent of the other.

has collapsed into "How better to tell what someone's ethics are than by watching their behavior?"

I see difference between the former and the later as much more than nitpicking.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:54+00 by: Larry Burton

Goodnight, Pete.

#Comment made: 2003-04-30 23:24:52.006648+00 by: Adinha

I'd just like to say that if you die and the whole God thing really was just some big thing made up in peoples mind and nothing happens it just feels like your sleeping or something, then fine you've lost nothing in terms of eternity... But what if it actually was real? What if hell actually is a real places where people are continually tortured by utter lonliness, pain, and evil for eternity? Where anguish, hate, and misery abound with no hope of release... Imagine yourself in utterdarkness knowing that if you just choose to believe you wouldnt be there. Eternity is forever. Think about it. Thats a long time. I should most definately think that my soul is worth the risk...

#Comment made: 2003-04-30 23:47:21.645254+00 by: Diane Reese

The risk of what? Pretending you believe something you see no basis for? What if a god exists and can see right through that ruse? "Just choose to pretend to believe?" I don't think that will cut the mustard.

I've long figured that if there is a god, it would know that I would just be pretending to believe in it, and then I'd get fried anyway for the pretense. No way to win this one, I'm afraid: lose-lose any way I look at it. Unless I choose to be here now. Thus. And I so choose.

#Comment made: 2003-05-01 01:34:48.389514+00 by: TC

Careful Diane, debunking Pascal's Wager could cut loose a lot of believers from a well needed moral compass. Logic! ....shame on you.

#Comment made: 2003-05-01 13:55:05.791508+00 by: meuon

If there is a God as almighty and forgiving/generous as we make her/him/it to be, it would not be shallow enough to damn me to hell (made up by mankind anyway), it would love me, fix my problems/issues/beliefs and welcome me to the next level. In the meantime, I'm staying away from dogma poisoned by mankind, and enjoying the God/Karma/Flow that I see in the world around me, every single day, enjoying and flowing with life on this level, not worrying about rewards or punishments on the next. If God is what I believe, then THAT is the way to salvation :)

Reverend Michael R. Harrison, Founder of the Church of Devout Practicing Gnostic Theists

#Comment made: 2003-05-01 14:02:53.458017+00 by: meuon

And, re-reading this whole thread.. It's amazingingly Fido-net-ish.. Kinda refreshing!

#Comment made: 2003-05-01 14:42:24.308836+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Speaking as a Christian (though one of the Eastern persuasion), Pascal's Wager is pretty stupid for just the reasons Diane outlined. If your faith is simply a strategic maneuver, then it really isn't faith.

The god that in which so many people claim to believe (or dis-believe) is not a god that I would want a relationship with anyway. Constant fear of retribution, proscribed guilt for sins I didn't personally commit -- this isn't how I want to live. And, as a Bible-believing Christian, I don't think that is how the Bible tells us that God wants us to live.

For more (much more) on this Christian perspective, see River of Fire.

#Comment made: 2003-05-01 14:44:44.939922+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Oh, and re: the difference between ethics and behavior.

If you claim to believe in or follow some wonderful ethic, but then behave in a way that contradicts that ethic, I will be justified in questioning your ethics.