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Gee Amber, this seems familiar.

Cece, Please note the following in my post preceding your last reply.

This is not a matter of “sustained thought” as some of us have “thought” quite a bit about evolution and, as carradee and I both suggest, the issue is not natural selection as is evidenced in the link you provided. My response to the evidence of selective nature of genetics is “yep”.

While I will not hold myself up as a person who is very smart or very good at communicating, I might suggest that you take a look at the long discussion that I, AmberV, and a few others had about this earlier this year.

While I do not expect that you will view anything differently relative to the origin of “things”, you might discover that not all people of faith, particularly christian faith, are unthinking buffoons with no ability to understand the basic concepts of science. Even the dumb ones like me frequently take the time to figure things out for ourselves.

It’s folly to wade into these debates - but what the hell, the kettle’s boiling.

Faith - by definition - doesn’t involve thought. It’s a decision (or perhaps a predisposition) to believe. It is indifferent to evidence. That’s the point - faith comes first…truth is revealed by God. That which contradicts divine revelation cannot, by definition, be true.

The result of which has been the low, dark comedy of Christian epistemology: a long sequence of humiliations for the Church as, time and again, it affronts the human intellect and our duty to free enquiry - before yielding without apparent shame, or ever learning from its mistakes, to the undeniable

"And the sun rises and sets and returns to its place, " Ecclesiastes tells us (1:5). So let’s dig up Galileo Galilei and ask how well that discussion went.

With the benefit of a little hindsight, how fatuous the church looks, how blundering - and how worldly the pomp of its divine, intemporal revelation.

And yet - this absurd argument about evolution. And, quite incredibly, shrill accusations of blasphemy -

  • on a forum which relates to software dedicated to writing.

Does anybody else here see the terrible irony of that?

Blasphemy!? Seriously?

While I’m here, can anyone remind me of the church’s reaction to, say, the invention of the printing press? In all the excitement, I seem to have forgotten. Perhaps we should dig up William Tyndale and ask him. Of course, they strangled him before they burned him - so we’ll all have to be quiet and listen very carefully.

A polite person would not deliberately insult another’s deity. Nor, however, should a religious person expect complaints about “blasphemy” to carry any particular weight among non-believers. In a free society, it is necessary to have a somewhat thicker skin about such matters.

Nor should any thinking writer–of any religious persuasion–argue for prohibitions against blasphemy of any kind. Writers in societies with such prohibitions are disproportionately likely to find themselves subjected to persecution.


Discussion does clear the sinuses, in writers especially. And before any more finger-pointing, please re-read the initial druid post. To call a particular social aggregation “g-d” is, as we have seen, open to highly personal interpretations, colored by all kinds of choices in faith and life. If g-d is read as god-damned, that does suggest the argument that many who self-identify as rightwing evangelicals have forgotten the central lesson of Christianity, and many other belief systems, which is: you may risk damnation (however defined) if you refuse certain central lessons: to stretch out the hand to those who are most unlike you, and mean it; to entertain hard, new, uncomfortable concepts (love enemies? give away my money? imagine a deity who doesn’t mind questioning and doubt?) even though doing so gets you precisely nothing and nowhere in the eyes of the world. No head-of-the-line, no season ticket, no I’m-better-than-you, o blaspheming infidel. Tough duty. And even tougher when you assume the burden for its own sake, like Darwin, who was a vestryman in his parish at Down, and quietly did more for the poor, the young, the ill, the old, the animals of his district and his nation than any hundred of his comfortable, pompous opponents. No loud prayers, much humble action for the common good.
PS: If anyone can provide an example, from a literary source, of “blaspheme” used as a noun (i.e. “Well, you’re just a big blaspheme!” or “Susie gave me a blaspheme today,” I would be most interested.)

So I can’t request people be polite or point out when they are saying something I find offensive? I disagree.

Do I expect any non-religious person to refrain from using any of God’s names as a curse out of his own desire not to insult the deity? No. Can I expect them to be polite and refrain from insulting my deity, my beliefs, or me for them? If they expect me to do the same, yes.

Not everyone has that approach to faith. Sure, there comes a point when you have to trust, whatever your belief, because no one person can know everything, but faith does not necessarily come without thought. Otherwise, people would believe without question the first perspective they’re taught as a child.

The creation of the universe, for example, wasn’t seen. Scientists disagree on how it was formed, especially with the problems with the big bang. (Though I’m not sure about the validity of all those complaints; time is a function of gravity. The greater the gravity, the slower time runs.) I’m sure some, knowing the problems, still believe that the big bang was likely and endeavor to explain those problems from within the big bang model. They have faith that they are correct, just like anyone else does.

@ cece: Colloquial does mean spoken. I’ll see if I can find a written example, but I can’t even remember when I last saw any form of the word written.

Faith has many contextual meanings. There is a religious system, as in “his faith contains the doctrine of an eternal souls”. There is established reliability, as in “I have faith that the electricity is working when I flip the switch”. There is trust in another, as in “I have faith in you which is why I gave you all the money”. There is a reconciliation to the unknowable, as in “I have faith that this particular answer will prove true”.

We all operate with these realms of faith. The, in no particular order or grouping, agnostic and scientist as much as the philosopher and as much as the christian. Faith is not a unique characteristic of a single group of homo-sapiens. When is the last time you used a voltmeter to verify that electricity was present before you flipped the light switch? Do you fact check every item you read? if not then you have faith in at least one person. The real issue that separates is the last one in the list, reconciliation of the unknown. If the christian places reconciliation to the unknown in God, the agnostic/atheist places his reconciliation to the unknown in the theories of other men.

@NeilCross: Revelation does not equate to faith (context 4), nor does faith (context 4) equate to revelation. Unless, of course, you are using revelation differently than I assume. For the record I am considering revelation to be “the voice of the deity providing direction”.

My weatherman told me when sunrise and sun set will be today. He must be an uneducated ignoramus because he thinks the sun rises and sets instead of the earth rotating. Now that you see an out of context statement similar to your out of context quote of Ecclesiastes, lets explore the idea of historical record and literary work existing in the same document. Moby Dick contains scientific information about whales as understood at the time. As literary reading it is … dry. There are chapters dedicated to facts interspersed among chapters of prose. Guess what? The Bible is comprised of historical record (Gospels) and literary prose (both fictional (Psalms) and revelatory (Isaiah)). Ecclesiastes is PROSE. It is the writings of one man discussing his dissatisfaction and disappointment in life. It is not a historical or scientific treatise any more than the weatherman’s use of “sunrise” and “sunset” indicate that the sun moves around the earth.

To your point that there are idiots that do not think for themselves… both sides of this conversation have more then their fair share of stupid to go around.

As an outspoken critic of the “establishment” I agree with your disdain for the policy of the religious institution. To suggest that all people of faith (context 4) agree with the idiocy of the leadership is to suggest that all American citizens agree with the leadership of America simply because they are Americans. If you don’t like that example replace the word American with any nationality, company, or other group of your choice. The generalization that you are applying to christians is unsupportable. Narrow your brush and be specific and you will find that most of “us” agree with you.

@Katherine: A couple of question that raise from your very wise posting that I find myself pondering: What point does a non-believer have in invoking a deity that they don’t believe in? With out belief is there any weight to use the word/name at all? Why would the deity even be used in the context of derision unless direct insult to the believer is intended (not suggesting this of you druid, more philosophical in nature)?

That out of the way, I think it is the last point that causes folks on both sides of the deity question to oppose certain things. Examples: this thread, and X-mas. Both sides impose levels of censorship. Neither side likes to be pointed out as the censor.

As to the knife cutting both ways on policy, I would recall to your memory my position on pro-choice v pro-life legislation.

After kicking this off I have been sitting back and trying not to get involved, but I’ve actually done some writing today for once so what the hell (!). You all know I’m a godless heathen, so if anything below comes across as offensive (I hope it doesn’t as it’s not intended that way), please take solace from your belief that I will burn in hell for all eternity. :slight_smile:

There are several problems with this sort of argument, the main ones pertaining to the use of words such as “conviction” and “faith” in the context of scientific theories. It’s an old rhetorical trick to apply the language of faith to the syntax of science, a trick intended to make science seem akin to a faith, but it is deliberately misleading and mendacious. (Although I hasten to add that I’m not calling Carradee mendacious - far from it! I’m just talking about the age-old arguments from which the above seems to spring.)

For a start, when science deals with things that cannot be seen, it is dealing with either:
a) Something too small to be seen by the human eye (e.g. atoms) but which can be seen with specialist equipment (yes, I know that this doesn’t apply to the above, but I have seen arguments that we have “faith” in atoms existing).
b) A theory that explains something based on current evidence and research findings.

Both are about as far removed from religious belief as possible. The latter is true of the Big Bang theory. You cannot see the Big Bang, but certain attributes of the universe - expansion, background radiation suggestive of an “afterglow” - call for explanation (beyond the Battlestar Galactica “God did it” one - yes, I had to get BSG in there again, because it still hurts. :slight_smile: ). The Big Bang theory is such an explanation - a theory that is (or was, depending on your Big Bang stance, which sounds like a cool dance move) able to offer an explanation for the facts at hand. And no, this is not the same as saying that “the universe exists, someone must have created it - God! God put the radiation there and God makes the universe get bigger because it pleases him…”. The big difference is that if the Big Bang model falls down, that isn’t the end of science itself - just a major blow to the scientists who invested lifetimes into that explanation only to be proved wrong in the long run. To science, the disproof of a theory just provides another challenge - initial evidence points toward one theory, but if more evidence comes in and disproves it then scientists abandon the theory and try to find something better; if we knew everything, scientists would be out of a job, after all. Of course, some scientists will still cling to this or that theory in the face of overwhelming evidence; that’s just people. But science as a whole moves on.

(And of course, there are those of us who strongly believe that the belief in God is just one such discredited theory - it made sense at one stage in our evolution, but no longer stands up to scrutiny. But it provides a nice answer to life and a feeling of power to the powerless so many hold on to it.)

At any rates, such scientific theories (not “beliefs”; not “convictions”) represent the complete opposite of religion, which is not grounded in evidence or logic and thus simply cannot be disproved because it is logically impossible to prove a negative, just as were I to claim that invisible ants with the invisible faces of invisible mongooses sit on my fingertips for forty-five minutes every lunchtime, you could not - ever - prove me wrong, because a belief not founded on evidence or logic cannot be dislodged by evidence or logic. Science - such as the Big Bang theory - conversely, is based on evidence and logic, so although superficially its “theories of what cannot be seen” may seem synonymous with religious beliefs, this is misleading and untrue. The crucial difference is that a scientific theory can be proved wrong, and asserts itself on the very basis that it is testable, whereas religious belief asserts itself on the basis that it is untestable. As Neil points out, in every area the church has historically asserted material knowledge of the universe, aspects of the universe that can be proved or disproved - when it was “created”, when the first people came along, how the sun and planets interact - it has, on the whole, been contradicted by science and evidence and in response has taken one of two stances: the worst strand attempts to promote ignorance by denying that which science has to offer us and asserting it as wrong and the work of the devil and suchlike (Darwin is responsible for Hitler!), still claiming in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are still the sole holders of Truth, while the less damaging but more apologist strand has accepted the many discoveries of science and now deals in metaphor, explaining away the inconsistencies of their holy book by declaring that it contains deeper truths and shouldn’t be taken literally after all.

But doesn’t it worry that your faith is entirely predicated by the society into which you were born? Isn’t that the same thing? If you were born in India you would most likely be a Hindu, if you were born in Afghanistan you would most likely be a Muslim. So in a way, faith is believing without question one of the first perspectives to which you were exposed as a child.

Again, these aren’t synonymous comparisons, though. If I want to check the electricity is present, it’s quicker to flip the switch than use a voltmeter. Moreover, I have flipped light switches billions of times, and most of the time, it works. So I have an expectation that it will work rather than a faith or belief - it’s a different thing. Likewise, “faith” in a person is really “trust”. Trust that has been built up over many years of getting to know that person. Sometimes you will have to gamble and trust someone you aren’t sure of, but that’s life. It’s not the same as “faith” in something for which there is no precedent or quotidian evidence.

If it is not holy writ, then why was it allowed to remain in the Bible? To me it seems that in areas where the Bible can be proven false, we are supposed to accept the explanation that, “Oh, that bit wasn’t done by God - that bit was just by a man… But the rest of it, all the bits that tell us God exists, and about heaven and hell - they’re true, those bits are God’s word - just not that bit there…” And the parts that are deemed God’s word, metaphor, or just historical curiosity will differ depending on which branch of the church you belong to, of course.

Surely this is just historical curiosity, just with the weatherman using terms such as “sunrise” and “sunset”. I say “Oh God” all the time, because it’s something I grew up with and is part of my language. I also say “away with the fairies”, but my lack of belief in fairies does not render the term meaningless.

Anyway, as I say all of the above with the utmost respect to holders of such beliefs - I have no desire to upset either Jaysen or Carradee, both of whom are valued members of this forum, and I agree with Carradee on her point about politeness; I’ve never much liked the idea that we have to “respect each other’s beliefs” (would you really respect the beliefs of someone who thought invisible ants visited his fingertips?), but respecting the holder of the beliefs is a must, so in advance I apologise if anything in the above has offended anyone, and I hope none of it is taken personally. But the flipside to this is, of course, that for some of us heathens, words such as “blasphemy” and terms such as “intelligent design” are equally offensive.

Oh, and as someone else once said, saying that atheism is a “belief” is like saying that not collecting stamps is a hobby. :slight_smile:

But ah, Christmas. Now there I’m a hypocrite. I love Christmas. But then I never said the New Testament didn’t have a great deal of wisdom in it; I just said I didn’t believe its wise man was really the son of a deity.

Anyway, this whole thing is AmberV’s fault. I only brought up Creation in the first place because she got to see Moon and I’ve got to wait for it to come out on DVD…

KB here we are again. Me stirring the pot, and promising to give over once you call halt. Seems like a six month interval for us on this topic.

I might disagree with you on the appropriateness of the use of “conviction” and “faith” relative to held theory. As we have noted before, the english language is sloppy when it comes to context and word meaning. I provided four common uses of the word faith with four distinct definitions. Are the better words to use, maybe. But the usage holds true. A better question would be to the one using the word: Which contextual definition of “faith” do you mean? I will grant that few people actually consider that their use of a word has different implications based on the context of the listener as much as the speaker. And this is the problem in comparing the apples and oranges.

In using a common word, such as faith, the appleites apply the context that they choose. So do the orangites. I say “faith” and mean trust, you hear “faith” and assume I mean “reconciliation to the unknown”. You say “faith” and I assume you mean “reconciliation to the unknown” when in fact you mean “established reliability”. And down the drain we spiral. Add to this a basic ignorance when it comes to the significance of implied meaning that pervades modern societies and the feeling of disingenuousness that each side feels toward the other makes perfect sense.

All that to say, we CAN us these terms, but we must be clear as to the definition. Your point is well taken, that it would be wiser to argue our points using less contentious words such as trust, evidence, and doctrine.

I do have a question that I guess I never really asked before. What do you understand the Bible to be to Christians? In answering that let’s keep doctrine separate from practice. Your use of “holy writ” gives me pause as there may be a significant difference in cultural and/or doctrinal views that I am not understanding. My fear here is that my explanations would be completely out of context to the question “why was it allowed to remain in the Bible?”

Oh, you can ask. Just don’t be surprised if people ignore the request.


And if the light switch doesn’t work, you can get out the voltmeter if you like. The fact-check is possible, whether you choose to do it or not.

A key test of any purportedly scientific theory is whether it is falsifiable: is there a way in which it could be proven false? If the answer is yes, it is science. If not, it is a matter of faith.

(Example: Current theories of evolution would be falsified by evidence that man and dinosaurs co-existed.)


Ooh, tempting. My evil mod powers mean that I could just go, “And so here on L&L we have proved that God doesn’t exist. Thread closed.” :slight_smile:

Here we are again indeed, but I never got chance to contribute much to the last topic (and I doubt I will to this one, although I am enjoying the read). Stir away, I say; I may disagree with you (and you I) entirely, but I respect the way go about your disagreements. :slight_smile:

But usage and meaning are like form and content - entwined but not the same. We may use the word “faith” in various situations, but does not mean we always mean the same thing. That’s fine - until we start trying to use such words where they don’t belong, just to imply similarity, as when the religious start applying terminology usually when talking about faith systems to anything they wish to discredit (calling atheism a “belief” - or science “another faith”, as though they are grounded on an equal base). Actually, even then, this being a forum of writers, I can’t really complain about rhetorical tricks, as where would be without them? I was merely pointing out that equating scientific theories with religious beliefs is just a clever bit of rhetoric, though, and thus deliberately misleading.

By my last remark I was merely referring to the Apocrypha - so many works, many of which have an equal claim to “authenticity” (if that is the word) to what was allowed to remain in the Bible, but thrown out by the Church because these writings didn’t fit with their view of what should be in their holy book. (St Thomas is my favourite, in which Jesus goes around withering anybody who p***es him off. There’s a great film in that somewhere - although of course it might suffer distribution problems. :smiley: ) I love Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor”, Ivan’s story in The Brothers Karamazov, in that regard (I’ve probably mentioned it before). Jesus is resurrected, but the inquisition arrest him and have him executed, because his teachings really don’t fit in with the way the Church have twisted them. My point here being that not only was the Old Testament a collection of great stories that originally were about a number of gods, but later rewritten to have only one (hence the reason God seems so psychotic in it - he was originally many gods), but the New Testament was also heavily edited in the (relatively) early days of Christianity. But that doesn’t quite answer your question. What do I think the Bible is to Christians? Surely there would be as many answers to that as there are Christians? But as far as I understand it - and I was brought up in a Christian state system and have been made to pray in school and so on, something I now rail against in my own children’s education - the Bible is, to Christians, the Word of God. Because if you claim it to be anything else - if you claim that it is a historical record or suchlike, written only by witnesses - then it must be subject to the same scrutiny and cross-referencing as any other historical record, at which point any belief system it propagates become only a historical curiosity, its God a matter for classical studies.

Now I really ought to do some coding!

I think you just did.

Keep in mind you should be coding, not reading this.

What I am suggesting is that there is no deliberate misleading on either part. Might it be possible that the majority of the uneducated dolts, folks like me, use terms believing (maybe trusting would be better here) that context, underlying definition, and implied connection are common to all parties? Now using the phrase “another faith” may be less significant if we are in context 1 or 2 (system of doctrine or experiential reliability).

Another thought on this end is that the dolts like me may not actually understand what they really mean. The idea is there, the concept lurks behind the mask of limited experience, and expression is limited to the well known words that are used with the same assumptions of understanding, and the waters get muddy. This is not to say that there is not education in the literal terms of the word, but that the education of apologetics, rhetoric, and debate is sorely lacking. As evidence I offer … me (Amber also falls into the good example category based on her experiences in the church). If a person questions the basic tenants of faith, the response is often sincere, but fairly meaningless, abstract thought. When the teachers can not convey doctrine simply and clearly then the chances of the parishioner succeeding with clear communications are lessened. The spiral tightens.

While I have given evidence of my lack of faith (trust) in the abilities of my immediate congregation on both the understanding (why) and application (how) of their faith (doctrine), I do believe that there is a sincerity in their faith (belief). While they, we actually, may be unable to express the internal faith (reconciliation) in terms that are expressly clear and consequently supplant eloquence with passion, we mistake the passion of others as a fellow to our impotence in expression. What we see in the non-believer look, sounds, feels like the very expression of our faith (reconciliation). Just coming from the other perspective.

All this is of no consequence of course. I can simply not conceive of a life devoid of some type of “faith” that provides a meaning. Cece’s “predisposition” comment has been niggling at the back of my mind since this first time this subject was broached here (the first turtles). But this is another problem altogether.

Yes, many different answers. In my particular doctrine we say it is the “divinely inspired word of God”. On the surface it seems like a cop out. That is the doctrine.

In the practical, the Bible is seen as an instruction book. There is historical fact, meaningful insight on mankind, guide lines for living a righteous life, and “revelation from God”. I have never understood the Bible to be anything less than all the above rolled between 2 covers. There are parts of the Bible that should be held to scientific scrutiny, just like other historical documents. There are parts of the Bible that are prose and should be subject to literary critique just like other historical prose. The only real contention comes down to the conceptual of “revelation” and “divine inspiration”. To the atheist these claims are nonsense as there is no deity to back them up. To the believer they are the keystone of the faith (reconciliation). There is no way to get past this impasse.

I will not deny that the exclusion of some apocrypha has really bothered me. As I read more I began to realize that nearly all the apocrypha that was considered credible was already included in the canonical books. The additional material did not clarify any tenants, and added some confusion to boot. It “makes sense” that they are not considered canonical, but I agree that the complete lack of acknowledgment granted by the protestant church is … hypocritical. It seems to me that if common Joe can “hear God” then the same should be said of the apocryphal writer (I’m certain exigate77 will show my ignorance of other denominational approaches to the apocrypha).

Basically we agree that at some point men decided what to include. Here is where the “divinely inspired” line rears its head again. The tenant is that this selections was guided by God as much as the writing itself. Not a difficult task if you believe that He created everything.

The problem that I feel the church universal has created is its pomposity with statements like “the perfect Word of God” and “infallible Word of God” coupled with an arrogant attitude of self righteousness. There must be an acknowledgement that prose it prose and metaphor is metaphor which means that some things may not appear “perfect”. Ecclesiastes is a perfect example of this.

Would I be right in thinking, that generally speaking, most, if not all members of the Christian community, accept that God, didnt in fact sit for William Blake and have his portrait painted, and that the concept of Blakes bearded and benign fatherly figure, residing somewhere (above?), is well and truly redundant. If that is the case, what exactly do the non-believers, think the believers mean when they refer to God? Also, what, in fact, do the believers mean?

The above are simple, if somewhat naive questions. I`m looking for simple answers :slight_smile:
Take care

Science can only prove things that are observable and repeatable. The behavior of alpha radiation (loose photons) is observable and the behaviors are repeatable. Theories are technically hypotheses that are supported whenever tested, which makes the Big Bang a hypothesis. (Note the problems with it I linked to above.) We (for now, at least) cannot observe or repeat the creation of the universe, which puts it outside of science.

Laws of science trump theories, which are used to form hypotheses. Principles are assumptions about things that cannot be tested. So the law of biogenesis, which states that life can only come from other living things, has been true at least since the time it was formulated and will be into the foreseeable future. If life is observed to form from non-life, it will no longer be a law. Molecules-to-man evolution contradicts that law, so technically “theory” may be the wrong term for it, since its viability as a fact hinges on disproving the law of biogenesis. We could say that we know the law is true today, but we cannot use it to extrapolate about the far and distant past–however, that requires us to reject the principle of uniformitarianism, which says we can extrapolate from the present into the past (otherwise we have no grounds to be able to perform archeological dating).

So, one person may believe that the law of biogenesis rules out any non-living source of life and therefore the molecules-to-man evolution. (I’m not certain, but this may be where the idea of earth being seeded by aliens comes from–a living source for life on our world.) Fairly common is the rejection of uniformitarianism as it applies to laws of biology while keeping it for archeology (again, because we can’t use the dating methods without it).

I use “faith” as a synonym for “belief”, to mean “what someone thinks to be true”. A scientist believes (i.e., has faith) that his particular hypothesis suits the facts, be that hypothesis of Intelligent Design, the Big Bang, or something else.

@cece: I just found examples of “a blaspheme” in a Google book search.

Your analogy makes no sense to me. We must be defining “belief” in two different ways, because even if you define atheism as “a lack of belief in the existence of God”, that makes it “a belief in the non-existence of God”. (“Belief” being “what someone deems true about the world”.)

I did say “faith does not necessarily come without thought” (emphasis added to this repeat). Do some people believe whatever their parents or teachers told 'em without thinking about it? Yes. Does everyone with faith (a belief, a worldview) do the same? No.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Especially when the people pontificating about the inerrant Bible don’t seem to follow its instructions all that closely. I don’t have much respect for someone who is so busy shouting about the seven-day Creation and Darwin as the Antichrist that he never gets around to feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, loving his neighbors, and all the other stuff that Jesus apparently thought was really important.

[rant mode off]



No, you are forcing a belief upon me by putting me in opposition to your beliefs; the analogy makes perfect sense. You cannot believe in the non-existence of something. By definition, a lack-of-belief is not a belief. Otherwise you also have to define yourself as someone who believes in the non-existence of Zeus, and who truly believes that a dung beetle doesn’t push the sun across the sky - and so on.

My main point was only that whether you call it hypothesis or a theory, the Big Bang “hypothesis” is nothing like “faith”. Those who believe in God do not call it a “hypothesis”, as if they did it would be open to debate and scrutiny and would have to be dismissed as “untestable”. And just because we have a scientific “law” or “principle” that is taken as read, and which will be so until it is disproven, that still does not make it in any way synonymous with religious believe. The whole point here is that a scientific law - or hypothesis, or principle - is testable and thus can be disproved; a religious believe is not and so cannot be.

Revelation, revealed truth, exactly equates to religious faith - that’s the point. This is the basis of Christian epistemology and Christian life - faith comes first. Exactly how revelation is mediated between God, Church and humanity is a function of your particular church’s doctrine - and has, of course, been the genesis of a much human misery and slaughter.

So the relationship between you and God might be direct, or it might be mediated via the authority of the church and its priesthood. Either way, faith is based on what God reveals, or has revealed, to us.

You say “faith has many contextual meanings” - of course it does; ours is a rich language. But this is the specific context in which we’re using it - faith in a divine, revealed truth, a faith to which you have chosen to adhere (or into which you have born).

All other meanings of the word “faith” for the purposes of this conversation are irrelevant and misleading. It’s a bit anaemic to suggest that I have “faith” in electricity working: what I have is experience based on many years of flicking switches and lights coming on. This is pretty much the opposite of faith. Faith is predicated on blind hope and assumption.

Indeed, many theologians have taken this existential exertion to be the very point of faith - if it wasn’t absurd and difficult to believe, what would be its purpose? The Church Fathers were struggling with this before the Bible was canonised. But it was written about best and most beautifully by Kierkegaard.

Of course, you can use the word “faith” if you choose - but poor word choice doesn’t make an argument. I have a lifetime’s experience of working light-bulbs. This in no way stands as analogous to your belief in a Sky God who created us sick and commanded us to be well.

The Ecclesiastes statement is not out of context - it’s smack-on in context. It’s quoted from your holy book. It also has specific relevance to the Galilean controversy and therefore my argument.

And of course Ecclesiastes is “just prose” - somewhat bizarrely, that’s more my point than yours…because naturally it’s all just prose, every word of it. For clarity, here’s what I believe: the Bible is just a story book and there is no God.

Incidentally, my use of the word “believe” above doesn’t make this a statement of “faith”.

It’s you who believes differently - it’s you who believes the Bible is as far from “just prose” as it’s possible to get. To you, the Bible is the revealed word of God, the history of God’s relationship with His Creation. You either believe this stuff or you don’t.

(I won’t 'say “you don’t get to pick and choose” - because pick and choose is exactly what all modern Christians do…except the literalists, with whom there is no possibility of reasonable argument. But, y’know - you really shouldn’t get to pick and choose what’s True and what’s merely poetry - not based on intellectual and historical convenience, anyway. )

The fact that you disavow elements of the Bible which are provably foolish (and embarrassing to modern sensibilities, such as those awkward instructions for how best to treat our slaves) does rather demonstrate my point, not yours.

When the Church is proved wrong, it retreats without apology or shame from its literalism, taking refuge in “poetry” and “degrees of truth” and “just prose”. Then, regardless, it weighs into another scientific debate.

My point being - the argument about Darwin isn’t an isolated incident. To put is mildly, there’s precedent - you might even call it a tradition. When the church is in power, it kills us for questioning it. When it’s not in power, it bleats about how we don’t respect it.

And it’s always, always proved wrong. Always.

When people like me point out absurd Biblical passage for the purposes of illustration, what you don’t get to do is intimate that we’re somehow foolish and naive for quoting it, as if we’re making a vulgar assumption -

  • it’s you who believes this stuff!

Nobody ever claimed Melville was inspired by God, and nobody ever claimed him to be inerrant, which makes that a straw man argument to which I won’t respond - except to say, had somebody ever actually made those claims for Melville, we’d think them at best misguided, at worst insane.

Carradee found a blaspheme! So did I: in 18th-century evangelist sermons. Not exactly colloquial. The Oxford English Dictionary rules this noun extinct.

Much cooler example, via Google Books Advanced Search, lurks deep in a news story on sightings of the Flying Dutchman in a 1999 Weekly World News (lowest of the supermarket tabloids, now extinct, thanks to natural selection, but once famous for breathless reports of mermen, dragons, Osama bin Laden’s alien allies, undergraduate cannibalism, husbands reincarnated as tarantulas, the discovery of the Garden of Eden in rural Colorado, and the distressing tendency of earthquakes to open portals to Hell, thus releasing demons upon the earth.*) Luckily, the WWN has evolved into a website, complete with a handy discussion of Sarah Palin’s views on Darwin: weeklyworldnews.com/?s=darwin

*Explains a lot, actually.

My question: what about druid’s original point, which was: why should the religious right get to dictate what the rest of us see in American theaters? The First Amendment, too, cuts many ways: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to cut off thy right hand if it offend ye.