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Is the world really becoming more secular?

by Bill Osler / July 31, 2007 11:29 AM PDT

I've tended to assume that, since Europe and the US have become more secular as they have become more 'enlightened', the rest of the world would probably follow a similar trend. At least some scholars are seriously questioning that notion.

I'm listening to a podcast from 'Speaking of Faith' called 'Globalization and the Rise of Religion'. I should note at the outset that the folks behind this show have no great love of fundamentalists of any kind. My perception is that, theologically speaking, the show tends to be pretty far out in left field. In fact, I think the show makes most Unitarians look conservative. But I digress.

One of the sociologists explained the secular/religious divide in the US in an interesting way. He first observed that Sweden is probably the most secular society in the world and that India is probably the most thoroughly religious society in the world. He then described the US as having a tiny 'Swedish' academic and political elite with a much larger 'Indian' population. The 'Swedes' in academia feel embattled because they are clearly a minority. The 'Indians' in the rest of the population feel embattled because the 'Swedes' have most of the power in the political and academic worlds. It creates a great deal of tension. His view seems to be that the 'Swedes' will eventually lose in both the US and in Europe as the world becomes less secular. He also had an interesting take on the ACLU: He said that their view is that the practice of religion should be restricted to consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes. Yeah, I know, that's an exaggeration.

It's an interesting set of interviews that might give the 'Brights' in our midst something to chew on. Not that they are likely to listen. After all, they are too 'bright' to learn anything from people who have any faith.

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(NT) Why the insults, Bill?
by Dan McC / July 31, 2007 1:08 PM PDT
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You see insult, I find fact.
by drpruner / July 31, 2007 3:16 PM PDT
In reply to: Why the insults, Bill?

Especially since he has already explained:
1 Cor 3:19 "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written: "He catches the wise in their own cunning." *
Dr Bill and I disagree on most matters of religion, but (it seems) we agree on the applicability of this to real people in the real world.
Want wisdom? Look here: Pr 1:20-33.

* Which Paul got from Job 5:13: "[To the] One catching the wise in their own cunning, So that the counsel of astute ones is carried headlong"

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I take it that just your opinion. My opinion is...
by Jack Ammann / July 31, 2007 7:56 PM PDT
In reply to: Why the insults, Bill?

...Dr Bill, especially in his last paragraph, stated a fact.

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I don't recall mentioning you ...
by Bill Osler / July 31, 2007 9:26 PM PDT
In reply to: Why the insults, Bill?

Therefore I'm not sure how you could have felt insulted.

Or do you consider yourself one of the 'Brights'? If so, I should point out that the name itself was chosen with either a desire to offend the rest of us or else with complete indifference to its offensiveness. Or maybe both. Under the circumstances I can't say that I regret using the name in an offensive manner.

I recognize that whether secularism does or does not increase with time is not necessarily connected to whether or not the secularist view is 'true' but I guess I couldn't resist the urge to point out that the triumph of secularism is not inevitable. There does seem to be something about the human spirit that yearns for spiritual connection. Personally I'm not enthusiastic about the kind of 'spirituality' that appears to be at the center of the phenomenon the program discusses but that is another topic.

I guess if you took offense at my comments you might want to remember that the rest of us find the intellectual arrogance of some of the 'Brights' (eg: Dr. Dawkins) thoroughly offensive. Dr. Dawkins seems to pride himself in his offensiveness but I will resist the urge to claim that all his fellow travelers share that pride.

"The fool has said in his heart that there is no God" but Richard Dawkins has said: proudly proclaimed "Of course religion is a scientific theory. A very bad scientific theory." (The clip includes more than just that statement, and it illustrates just how wide the divide is between Dr. Dawkins and people of faith.) It is pretty clear that there is no middle ground.

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I didn't mention me, either.
by Dan McC / August 1, 2007 5:21 AM PDT

I can find insults inappropriate and disturbing even when they are not directed at me. Still, the insult is there. I appreciate your honesty in not claiming it was not.

Now what will you do about it? Think of what you would do if a forum member had said that religious folk are too narrow minded and limited in imagination to learn from rational people. If that is acceptable please let us know now.


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Hey! You want insults? Listen to these:
by drpruner / August 1, 2007 9:38 AM PDT

"Scientist H. S. Shelton asserts that the concept of special creation is "too foolish for serious consideration." Biologist Richard Dawkins bluntly states: "If you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane." Similarly, Professor Ren

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by Dan McC / August 1, 2007 11:30 AM PDT

You seem to think that since these other, non forum individuals are insulting then it is OK for Bill to be insulting, too.

That the best argument I've heard.


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Re: insults
by Bill Osler / August 1, 2007 12:38 PM PDT
I can find insults inappropriate and disturbing even when they are not directed at me.

I take it, then, that you consider a substantial fraction of Dr. Dawkins' public remarks and published writing on the subject science and religion to be offensive? If not, why not? He certainly makes any number of insulting remarks about people of faith, and you apparently endorse his perspective. What was that about "a corking good read"?

Now what will you do about it? Think of what you would do if a forum member had said that religious folk are too narrow minded and limited in imagination to learn from rational people.

What I would do is what I have done in the past. I would either ignore the post or else reply with an explanation of why I thought the post was offensive.

In this situation I think it is fair to note that my 'offensiveness' (your opinion, not mine) was primarily motivated by recent posts by you and C1ay that linked to pieces that you (and probably he) knew a large number of the forum members would find offensive. Personally I fail to see that my relatively mild (and obviously sarcastic) explicit comments were as offensive as your favorable comments about somebody else's offensive speech.

I believe that by your comments both recently and previously you have effectively said that "religious folk are too narrow minded and limited in imagination to learn from rational people". The difference is that you sent the message by proxy. I do not regard that as a meaningful distinction. If I did not believe that to be the case I would not have used the tone I chose in my post.

Furthermore, I believe that the very way you phrased your reply, by contrasting "religious folk" with "rational people" is a further example of precisely the intellectual arrogance I have objected to.

Is that acceptable? YOU apparently think it is so I do not really see that you have much to complain about regarding my recent posts.
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(NT) As long as we all know this is acceptable on the forum.
by Dan McC / August 2, 2007 1:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Re: insults
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That what is acceptable?
by Bill Osler / August 2, 2007 11:32 AM PDT

I'm not sure I understand what the 'this' in your question refers to.

If you are referring to my post at the beginning of this thread then I'll just note that I did not violate any TOS so far as I can tell. I did ridicule the intellectual arrogance of the so-called 'Brights' (without actually mentioning specific names at the time if I recall correctly, and I don't think I ever subsequently specified any name other than Dr. Dawkins as a member of that self-labeled group) but I don't see how that violates the TOS. If the forum is going to ban all satire and sarcasm then we are in bad shape indeed. OTOH, if you are questioning whether your attempts to ridicule (by proxy) the people of faith on the forum are acceptable then I'll just note that the mods allowed the posts to stand so they must believe the posts were acceptable. As I understand it the TOS are guidelines for the forums and the de facto rule is that if the mods let a post stand then it must (in retrospect) have been OK. I'm not really complaining about that, just making an observation.

It seems to me that people (like the 'Brights') who make rather fatuous claims to be smarter, better educated, more rational and generally better human beings than the rest of us are practically inviting ridicule. How can you complain if people accept their invitation? BTW: As I looked at the list of claimed attributes I realize that the 'Brights' have not (so far as I know) claimed to be better looking than the rest of us. Maybe their hubris does have limits after all.

I also note that you did not answer my question about whether you found Dr. Dawkins' insults offensive (after all, they are insults and you said you find insults offensive even when the are not directed at you). I'll interpret the lack of answer as implying you do not find his insults offensive. I guess you do care who the insults are directed at after all.

I'll also take this opportunity to elaborate on another point you ignored. I believe it is both blatantly offensive and also hypocritical (or possibly just hopelessly na

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Comments such as
by Dan McC / August 3, 2007 2:44 AM PDT

"It's an interesting set of interviews that might give the 'Brights' in our midst something to chew on. Not that they are likely to listen. After all, they are too 'bright' to learn anything from people who have any faith."

We are allowed such blanket insults now? These are acceptable as long as no specific names are mentioned. Thanks for the clarification.


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Re: Acceptable comments
by Bill Osler / August 3, 2007 9:40 AM PDT
In reply to: Comments such as
We are allowed such blanket insults now?

I doubt that. I think it means that this time nothing in the posts has exceeded whatever the current offensiveness threshold is. Remember, though, that this entire thread would have been disallowed a couple of months ago and there is no promise for the future. Acceptability standards are not written in stone.

BTW: When did accusing somebody of being intelligent become an insult?

re: they are too 'bright' to learn anything from people who have any faith

If it IS an insult, then it's only an insult (and then more sarcastic than truly insulting) if the statement is wrong. I'm not sure that the statement IS wrong. But even if it is wrong, have you never heard of HYPERBOLE? or SARCASM?
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by Dan McC / August 6, 2007 1:58 PM PDT

Insulting, of course, but still clever.

Feel free to rationalize your actions however you need to.


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By the way ...
by Bill Osler / August 3, 2007 9:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Comments such as

Should I interpret your silence on the other issues as inability to answer them?

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by Dan McC / August 6, 2007 2:00 PM PDT
In reply to: By the way ...

I haven't had time to listen to the original source and I wouldn't want to proceed without doing so.


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by James Denison / August 8, 2007 6:25 PM PDT
In reply to: Nope.

Does this mean a perceived secondary non direct "insult" is held in abeyance till you actually have time to get around to letting it occur?

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by Dan McC / August 14, 2007 11:58 AM PDT
In reply to: huh?

I'm not really sure what you mean. Could you explain your question, please?



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When it comes to insults,
by drpruner / August 14, 2007 11:25 PM PDT
In reply to: huh?

we SE folk hold nothing in abeyance. Happy

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The trial lifting of the ban on religious discussion.
by Angeline Booher / August 3, 2007 12:13 AM PDT

.... so far has gone well. Participants in general have been giving more thought to their comments to keep them respectful of others.

If Dr. Bill's post was insulting, it would have been deleted. From what I've read, you are alone in finding it so.

In essence, he only voiced his opposition to words used to define him and others of faith, especially with implications that he and the others are less intelligent, less rational, more ignorant, brain washed.

Like in all exchanges of opinion, the difference lies in how they are worded.

We have believers and non-believers here. Links to sources to support both have been presented. The discussions have been kept for the most part on the messages of those sources, not on the messengers.

What is acceptable here? That has been determined by CNet as noted in the Terms of Service (note the "but not limited to" in several places).

Speakeasy Moderator

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It has been going well.
by Dan McC / August 3, 2007 2:44 AM PDT

I was surprised that Bill's was the first post to lower the level of discourse.

"Voiced his opposition to words used to define him..."? How does "It's an interesting set of interviews that might give the 'Brights' in our midst something to chew on. Not that they are likely to listen. After all, they are too 'bright' to learn anything from people who have any faith." serve any purpose besides ridicule?

I'm saddened that such is acceptable but as long as that policy is evenly applied then so it goes.


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I agree
by Steven Haninger / August 3, 2007 4:20 AM PDT

As well, there's a big difference between words/expressions that are designed to insult and those that are found to be insulting. If I said "You are foolish to believe.........." or "I think it would be foolish to believe.......", the meanings are not the same. One presumes you do believe and the other does not. If you do hold that belief about which someone is speaking, you might feel insulted by the comment. That perceived insult perhaps found you as a target but was not aimed as such. If the shoe fits....wear it well.

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by James Denison / August 8, 2007 6:27 PM PDT

Actually a Christian is supposed to be fully washed as in baptism, so I guess that can include being brain washed too? Wink
Better to be completely washed clean instead of just partly.

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That's an interesting thought.
by James Denison / August 8, 2007 6:20 PM PDT

Can someone be insulted on behalf of another? I tend to doubt it. The concept of being "insulted" is something that affects one personally as the target. Maybe the better view is empathy toward the one perceived to have been insulted.

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Empathy? On SE? In a religious discussion?
by drpruner / August 9, 2007 8:14 AM PDT

You're so na

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I think this is happening:
by drpruner / July 31, 2007 3:24 PM PDT

"But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For [Swedes] will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, [and the Indians] having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from [all] these turn away."

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My Dawkins quotes came from the cover articles
by drpruner / August 2, 2007 2:05 PM PDT

in the 9/1/94 Watchtower: Evolution on Trial, and Science, Religion, and the Search for Truth. The authors' point in repeating the quotes then, and mine now, was to show that scientists can be- dare I say it?- dogmatic. That's the opinion of a couple of others as well, cited in the very next paragraphs. (The subheading was Is Evolution the Intellectual Choice?)

"From these statements it would seem that anyone with a measure of intelligence would readily accept evolution. After all, to do so would mean that one is "enlightened" rather than "stupid." Yet, there are highly educated men and women who do not advocate the theory of evolution. "I found many scientists with private doubts," writes Francis Hitching in his book The Neck of the Giraffe, "and a handful who went so far as to say that Darwinian evolutionary theory had turned out not to be a scientific theory at all."
Chandra Wickramasinghe, a highly acclaimed British scientist, takes a similar position. "There's no evidence for any of the basic tenets of Darwinian evolution," he says. "It was a social force that took over the world in 1860, and I think it has been a disaster for science ever since.""

Hitching and Wickrmamsinghe. Certainly not preaching a fanatical faith from door to door, but sincerely and (I would guess) intelligently doubtful of Darwinianism.

Maybe you two (I give no names) could chew on mutually disagreeable ideas for a while, instead of each other. Always food for thought in the WT. I won't quote any more of the articles here, but will e-mail them to anyone lacking the, ah, boldness to acquire the texts locally.
In the meantime, I go looking for friendlier posts. Perhaps Kiddpeat's or Amman's.

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