Las Vegas, gun control and God

The mass shooting in Las Vegas has re-ignited gun control debate in the US (note that technically ‘gun’ is not an apt description), but as has happened many times before , it is likely to change little if anything.

Defenders of the ownership of firearms has already begun – see the vacuous Tammy Bruce: Why gun control won’t end mass murder

Statistics are being re-published, like How US gun culture compares with the world in 5 charts

  1. Americans own nearly half (48%) of the estimated 650m civilian owned guns worldwide.
  2. Americans own more guns per capita than residents of any other country
  3. The US makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, but holds 31% of global mass shooters.
  4. Gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the US than in other high income countries.
  5. Worldwide, the countries with the highest gun-homicide rates are in Central and South America.

More from Vox:  Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts

America is an exceptional country when it comes to guns. It’s one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. But America’s relationship with guns is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most violent — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms.

  1. America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany

  2. America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but almost half of the civilian-owned guns around the world

  3. There have been more than 1,500 mass shootings since Sandy Hook

  4. On average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in America

  5. States with more guns have more gun deaths

  6. It’s not just the US: Developed countries with more guns also have more gun deaths

  7. States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths

  8. Still, gun homicides (like all homicides) have declined over the past couple decades

  9. Most gun deaths are suicides

  10. The states with the most guns report the most suicides

  11. Guns allow people to kill themselves much more easily

  12. Programs that limit access to guns have decreased suicides

  13. Since the shooting of Michael Brown, police have killed at least 2,900 people

  14.  In states with more guns, more police officers are also killed on duty

  15. Support for gun ownership has sharply increased since the early ’90s

The NRA is a very strong lobby group that donates a lot of funds to politicians. The chances of significant controls on the ownership and use of firearms in the US seems slim, unless Donald Trump decides to do something worthwhile about it.

One claim that keeps coming up is that the more good people who have guns, the greater the chance of stopping bad people with guns from killing.

It took armed police about 70 minutes to locate and stop the Las Vegas killer.

Things are unlikely to change much if at all.

BBC: Las Vegas shooting: Five reasons US gun control won’t happen


The National Rifle Association is one of the most influential interest groups in US politics – not just because of the money it spends on lobbying politicians, but also because of the engagement of its 5 million members.

In 2016 the NRA spent $4m on lobbying and direct contributions to politicians as well as more than $50m on political advocacy, including an estimated $30m to help elect Donald Trump president.


Most recent attempts to pass new federal laws regulating firearms are over before they ever really begin, stymied in the US House of Representatives, which has been in Republican hands since 2011.

Due to the way the lines of House congressional districts are drawn, many by Republican-controlled state legislatures, there are more “safe” seats for Republicans than there are for Democrats.

In these congressional districts, the politicians are more responsive to their primary voters, who tend to be motivated by hot-button issues like gun rights. The price for crossing these voters is much higher than alienating those who, while perhaps more in favour of gun control, do not vote in Republican primaries.

The filibuster

If a gun-control bill were to make it out of the House of Representatives, it would still face a challenge in the Senate, where the rural-urban divide plays itself out on the state level, as well. States dominated by big-city voters, such as New York, Massachusetts or California, are outnumbered by rural and Southern states with pro-gun sentiments.

The rules of the Senate can also thwart efforts to enact more stringent firearm regulation, thanks to the “filibuster” – a procedural hurdle that means most major pieces of legislation need the backing of 60 out of 100 senators to pass, rather than a simple 51-vote majority.

The courts

With Congress more interested in rolling back existing firearm regulations than implementing new ones, left-leaning US states have taken a greater role in implementing gun-control measures.

After the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, 21 states passed new gun laws, including imposing assault weapons bans in Connecticut, Maryland and New York.

Some of the laws have run up against another barrier, however – the US judicial system. In recent years the Supreme Court has twice ruled that the right to own personal weapons such as handguns is enshrined in the constitution.

Could it change? Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch has made it clear he views Second Amendment rights broadly. The president is filling out the ranks of the lower courts with pro-gun-rights judges. If anything, the judiciary is moving to the right on this issue.

The enthusiasm gap

Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to new gun-control laws at the national level is that opponents tend to hold fiercely to their beliefs, while support for new regulation tends to ebb and flow around each new instance of violence.

The NRA’s strategy, and that of pro-gun politicians, is to wait out the storm – to delay legislative efforts until attention turns elsewhere and the outcry fades.

Pro-gun politicians offer their thoughts and prayers, observe moments of silence and order flags flown half-staff. Then, in the quiet, legislative efforts are deferred and ultimately derailed.

God is probably nearly as influential as the NRA in the US.

Fox News: Lee Brice performed at Las Vegas shooting venue: ‘I believe God has a plan’

“I have faith that God has a plan and that he will prevail. That this kind of a terrorism, which I believe that it is. What kind of terrorism it is, I don’t care. It’s just a fact that somebody is trying to make a point to scare people, country music fans, innocent people to stop doing what they want to do.”

Faithwire:  Trump’s ‘God’-Filled Reaction to Las Vegas Shooting: ‘We Are Searching for…Some Kind of Light in the Darkness’

President Donald Trump delivered a statement before the nation on Monday, expressing horror over the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday that claimed more than 50 lives and left hundreds injured.

The commander-in-chief prayed for healing for the victims, their families and the nation at large. He also expressed sadness, shock and grief over the tragic events, saying that the shooter — whom police identified as Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old male from Mequite, Nevada — “brutally murdered more than 50 people and wounded hundreds more.”

In addition to praising first responders for their quick response — one that he said was “miraculous” in nature — Trump repeatedly invoked God and faith throughout the short address.

“We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss. To the families of the victims, we are praying for you and we …  ask God to help see you through this very dark period. Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

“In times such of these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers don’t come easy.”

If there’s a real climate problem God “can take care of it”

There are a number of reports that President Donald Trump is set to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, but Trump continues to send mixed signals.

Politico: Trump expected to withdraw from Paris climate deal

President Donald Trump is planning to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, a White House official said Wednesday morning — only to have Trump himself revive the suspense less than an hour later.

The withdrawal would fulfill a Trump campaign promise but would be certain to infuriate America’s allies across the globe. It would threaten to destabilize the most comprehensive pact ever negotiated to blunt the most devastating effects of climate change.

Axios first reported the news that Trump would withdraw.

Administration officials sent mixed messages on Wednesday, with some saying they are confident the president will pull out and others urging caution. But officials on both sides of the issue have become increasingly convinced he plans to exit the deal, despite arguments from moderate advisers like Trump’s daughter Ivanka that withdrawing would damage U.S. relations abroad.

Reaction from the international community Wednesday was swift, mostly without mentioning Trump by name. “Climate change is undeniable,” the United Nations tweeted from its official account Wednesday morning, quoting from a speech by Secretary General António Guterres. “Climate action is unstoppable. Climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.”

A withdrawal would put the US at odds with most of the world.

Meanwhile GOP Congressman: God Will ‘Take Care Of’ Climate Change If It Exists

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) told a constituent last week that God can solve the problem of climate change if the global phenomenon truly exists.

The 66-year-old Republican, who is a climate change skeptic, made the remark at a town hall in Coldwater, Michigan, on Friday.

“I believe there’s climate change,” Walberg said, according to a video of the exchange obtained by HuffPost. “I believe there’s been climate change since the beginning of time. I believe there are cycles. Do I think man has some impact? Yeah, of course. Can man change the entire universe? No.”

“Why do I believe that?” he went on. “Well, as a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us. And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, he can take care of it.”


Craig, Slater told off by judge

Today Colin Craig continued to question Cameron Slater, and both were told off by judge for how they were conducting themselves.

Stuff: Judge scolds Craig and Slater in the High Court

Craig, who is representing himself, was cross examining Slater on Thursday, when Justice Kit Toogood took exception to his methods.

“Mr Craig, you need to bear in mind there is not unlimited court time,” Justice Toogood said.

Craig had been repeatedly asking Slater the same question, which was “unhelpful”.

“Cross-examination is not an exercise in trying to persuade a witness to your point of view. It is soliciting evidence.”

That’s one of the problems with someone with little or no court experience representing themselves. And perhaps someone with an obsession to prove themselves right or their adversary wrong.

When Slater again insulted Craig while answering a question, Justice Toogood interjected again: “Mr Slater I said to you before, I don’t need editorial comment. Answer the questions and confine yourself to the answers please.”

Sounds like trying too much to play to an audience outside the court.

The judge was unhappy with the slow pace of the trial, telling both parties they needed to “think about duration”.

“You will need to understand we can’t just conjure up court and judicial time out of the air.”

Three weeks may not be long enough (the are currently in the second week).

Earlier they got into a religious argument.

“Not one of my Christian friends ever talks about speaking with God,” Slater said.

“And none of them certainly speaks about getting messages from God, and I thought that was weird.”

Slater was referring to a letter Craig wrote to his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, on Christmas Eve 2014, in which he claimed he’d received instructions from God to “look after Rachel”.

The two men are both Christian, but appear to have differing views on the nature of prayer.

“As a Christian yourself, isn’t prayer a practice in the Christian religion?” Craig asked.

“I certainly have never had a conversation with God,” Slater replied.

“Isn’t prayer speaking to God?” Craig said.

I don’t know what people do when they pray. Do they speak top God? Perhaps it varies.

“It requires two parties to have a conversation,” Slater said. “I started wondering what accent did [God] have? Considering one of the poems was [titled] Two of Me, I wondered whether you’d actually been speaking with yourself.”

They also discussed Craig’s relationship with his party secretary.

Slater said he didn’t believe Craig’s relationship with MacGregor was consensual, but possibly the result of a power imbalance.

“If I was a female employee getting letters commenting on my breasts, saying how beautiful I was, I wouldn’t have gone to the Human Rights Commission; I would have gone to the police.”

Craig also asked Slater if he accepted it was possible for people working together to develop more than just a professional relationship.

“If they think with their nether regions and not with their heads it can happen,” Slater said.

That may be fodder for tomorrow morning’s Whale Oil trial progress post but no wonder the judge is getting fed up.

And no wonder post of the media are paying scant interest. The Court seems to be being used for a battle of the witless.

Closet atheists

A US poll based study claims that the number of American atheists is under reported because many people aren’t up front about admitting it.

Pew and Gallup polls have both recorded a slow increase to about 10% of Americans saying they do not believe in good, but estimate from this study claims it is closer to 26%.

Vox: How many American atheists are there really?

Pew and Gallup — two of the most reputable polling firms in America — both come to a similar figure. About 10 percent of Americans say they do not believe in God, and this figure has been slowly creeping up over the decades.

But maybe this isn’t the whole story. University of Kentucky psychologists Will Gervais and Maxine Najle have long suspected that a lot of atheists aren’t showing up in these polls. The reason: Even in our increasingly secular society, there’s still a lot of stigma around not believing in God. So when a stranger conducting a poll calls and asks the question, it may be uncomfortable for many to answer truthfully.

Gervais and Najle recently conducted a new analysis on the prevalence of atheists in America. And they conclude the number of people who do not believe in God may be even double that counted by these polling firms.

“There’s a lot of atheists in the closet,” Gervais says. “And … if they knew there are lots of people just like them out there, that could potentially promote more tolerance.”

Recent polling:

Most recently, Pew found that around 3 percent of Americans say they are atheists. It also found that a larger group — around 9 percent — say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit. (Which goes to show that you may not believe in God but could still be uncomfortable calling yourself an atheist — because that term implies a strong personal identity and an outright rejection of religious rituals.)

Gallup also regularly asks the question point blank — “Do you believe in God?” The last time it asked, in 2016, 10 percent of respondents said no.

More than just believing in God or not is involved. Perceptions or morals also plays a part.

Study after study has shown that most people (even other atheists) believe atheists are less moral. “We’ll give participants a little vignette, a story about someone doing something immoral, and probe their intuition about who they think the perpetrator was,” Gervais says. “And time and time again, people intuitively assume whoever is out there doing immoral stuff doesn’t believe in God.”

Therefore “People are embarrassed to tell strangers they don’t believe in God”. In the US at least.

So they tried a different approach with dual polls.

Gervais and Najle set up a very subtle test. They sent a nationally representative poll to 2,000 Americans, who were randomly assigned to two conditions.

The first condition asked participants to read through a bunch of statements like, “I am a vegetarian,” “I own a dog,” and, “I have a dishwasher in my kitchen.”

All the participants had to do was simply write down the number of statements that were true for them.

The value of this method is that participants don’t have to directly say, “I am a vegetarian,” or, “I’m a dog owner” — they only have to acknowledge the number of statements that apply to them. That alone should zero out any embarrassment or hesitance to admit to a particular item.

That’s important because the other 1,000 or so participants saw the exact same list — but with one statement added: “I believe in God.”

By comparing the responses between the two groups, Gervais and Najle could then estimate how many people don’t believe in God. (Because both groups of 1,000 poll takers should, in theory, have the same number of vegetarians, dog owners, and so on in each group, any increases in the number of agreed-to statements from the first group to the second should be reflective of the number of people who don’t believe in God.)

Because two polls with different sets of responders is involved could affect accuracy and margins of error. However:

One thing is clear from the results: Much more than 10 or 11 percent of the country (as assessed in Gallup and Pew polling) does not believe in God. “We can say with a 99 percent probability that it’s higher than [11 percent],” said Gervais.

His best estimate: Around 26 percent of Americans don’t believe in God. “According to our samples, about 1 in 3 atheists in our country don’t feel comfortable disclosing their lack of belief,” Najle explains in an email.

Gervais admits this method isn’t perfect, and yields an answer with a wide margin of error. (On the other end of the margin of error, around 35 percent of Americans don’t believe in God.) But the most fundamental question he and Najle are asking here is do polling firms like Gallup and Pew undercount atheists? And it seems the answer is yes.

So they think that instead of about 10% non-God believers it could be more like 20-35%.

This still seems relatively low compared to New Zealand. And it doesn’t deal with different degrees of belief.

For comparison here: How many New Zealanders believe in God?

61% of New Zealanders believe that there is ‘a God or some sort of universal spirit’

The full numbers from the SAYit survey were:

  • 28% absolutely certain it is true
  • 13% fairly certain it is true
  • 9% believe it’s true but are not too certain
  • 11% believe it’s true but are not at all certain
  • 6% believe it’s not true but are not at all certain
  • 5% believe it’s not true but are not too certain
  • 11% are fairly certain it is not true
  • 16% are absolutely certain it is not true

This shows 40% willing to say they are absolutely certain or fairly certain, while the majority say they have some uncertainty or don’t believe there is a God.

I think one thing this shows that whether you believe in God or not is a big deal in the US but doesn’t matter here.

In New Zealand devout God believers and atheists and a big bunch of maybes in the middle intermingle largely without caring what the beliefs of each other are.

I think this is a major plus for our country, a general tolerance of different religious beliefs. This is in contrast to the US.

I think that some people have odd beliefs about religion and politics and other things but they have as much right to think I may have some odd beliefs. We can express and discuss and debate these things openly without fear. This is a good thing.

‘God deeply frustrated with Auckland’s gay people’

This is the best response I’ve seen.

God is reportedly feeling “extraordinarily” frustrated that the gay people of Auckland – estimated to be the large bulk of New Zealand’s gays – are located nowhere near a fault line that could cause them sufficient devastation.

God, who punished Christchurch’s gays in 2010 and 2011, Seddon’s gays in 2013, and Kaikoura and Wellington’s gays earlier this week…

Go read it all: God deeply frustrated Auckland’s gay people live nowhere near a fault line

And here a couple of people explain how Tamaki doesn’t understand Leviticus: Porkies, Brian, Porkies!


Atheism, or lack thereof

Is atheism a belief similar to believing in a religion, or is it a lack of a belief? It depends.

Some people promote atheism and seem to strongly believe in it.

I think far more people simply don’t believe in existing religions or gods but don’t think much about what that makes them. They are agnostic or atheist (or a vague mix of both) more due to a lack of a religious belief rather than having a specific belief.

It’s common to see atheistic leaning people to say they won’t believe in a god or gods unless they see proof of their existence.

I think that puts them into a sort of agnostic/atheist position without devoutly believing in any label.

Wikipedia has a definition of atheism:

Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist.

Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[3][4][5] Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism,[8][9] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

The term “atheism” originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”, used as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society. With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase incriticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word “atheist” lived in the 18th century. Some ancient and modern religions are referred to as atheistic, as they either have no concepts of deities or deny acreator deity, yet still revere other god-like entities.

That’s not very specific and allows for a range of positions or lack of a position on gods.

A website American Atheists tries to explain what atheism is.

No one asks this question enough.

The reason no one asks this question a lot is because most people have preconceived ideas and notions about what an Atheist is and is not. Where these preconceived ideas come from varies, but they tend to evolve from theistic influences or other sources.

I doubt that claim. How many people have preconceived ideas about atheism? My guess is that most people simply don’t think much or anything about it.

I didn’t know anything about atheism as a concept until I was well into my adulthood. I simply didn’t see anything for me in the church/religion options.

Atheism is usually defined incorrectly as a belief system. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Older dictionaries define atheism as “a belief that there is no God.” Some dictionaries even go so far as to define Atheism as “wickedness,” “sinfulness,” and other derogatory adjectives. Clearly, theistic influence taints dictionaries. People cannot trust these dictionaries to define atheism. The fact that dictionaries define Atheism as “there is no God” betrays the (mono)theistic influence. Without the (mono)theistic influence, the definition would at least read “there are no gods.”

Why should atheists allow theists to define who atheists are? Do other minorities allow the majority to define their character, views, and opinions? No, they do not. So why does everyone expect atheists to lie down and accept the definition placed upon them by the world’s theists? Atheists will define themselves.

Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion. While there are some religions that are atheistic (certain sects of Buddhism, for example), that does not mean that atheism is a religion. Two commonly used retorts to the nonsense that atheism is a religion are: 1) If atheism is a religion then bald is a hair color, and 2) If atheism is a religion then health is a disease. A new one introduced in 2012 by Bill Maher is, “If atheism is a religion, then abstinence is a sexual position.”

The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds.

Even the “belief in gods and supernatural beings” (or lack of belief) is not clear cut. What is a supernatural being? Probably different things to different people.

I understand that many people believe in God, which is sort of the same thing for Christians, Muslims and Jews, their religions all have common origins.

So I believe gods exist for them in their minds. Does that make me a theist?

It depends on what definition of god you want to use. Commonly it means an all powerful thing that created everything and dictates moral laws and behaviours through earthly representatives. But it could also be just a belief in a greater power of some sort rather than a specific entity.

God could seen as an integral force of the universe like gravity.

Or it could be a construct of human beings, a figment of their imaginations.

For many people it’s a helpful figment. Many of those who believe in a god or gods get some benefit from their belief. But people who don’t share that belief could find their own benefits in different ways. attempts a Description of Atheism.

Most Atheists have analyzed the available material evidence about deities (gods and/or goddesses) and have concluded that there is no real evidence of their existence.

I doubt that many atheist-like people do much analysing, they are simply apathetic towards deities.

Many regard the concept of deity to be devoid of meaning.

I don’t know how many. That’s an odd statement.

They generally believe that the universe, Earth and its life forms came into existence and evolved by perfectly natural processes. They see no evidence of intervention or guidance by a supernatural entity.

I have seen people who follow a religion who think along very similar lines to that. Generalising about atheism is like generalising about theism, there are many flavours and strengths of belief.

Other Atheists are people who have simply never been exposed to belief in a deity or deities and therefore have no belief in them.

That sort of describes me. I was exposed to a bit of religion when growing up but just wasn’t very interested. Bible stories seemed a bit like Grimm’s stories but more boring.

Neither of my parents displayed any belief in religion although we occasionally went to the local church and my mother sent us to Sunday School for a while because she thought she should.

There was no consideration of ‘atheism’. It was just not thinking about much at all about it and not believing in anything religious.

I’m very grateful I live in New Zealand, a country where most people can live without any pressure to believe or not to believe, where we intermingle often not knowing or barely knowing what people we associate with believe in regarding gods and religion. It’s a personal choice without pressure.

AqualungI believe there could be some truth in that but it will always be up for debate.

Gods popular when life gets tough

NZ Herald reports Judgmental gods the offspring of harsh times, study finds

People living in hardship are more likely to believe in moralising, high gods, according to a major new study co-authored by New Zealand researchers.

The study tracks the evolution of human cultures and finds ecological factors play a part in shaping human societies, including religious belief.

It drew on data from between 1900 and 1960, covering 583 traditional societies and religions as common as Christianity and Islam to more rare, localised belief systems.

Co-author Professor Russell Gray, of the University of Auckland’s School of Psychology, said people tended to believe in big gods when life was tough or uncertain.

“Pro-social behaviour maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments.”

The emergence of religion has long been explained as a result of either culture or environmental factors but not both.

The new findings imply that complex practices and characteristics thought to be exclusive to humans arose from a medley of ecological, historical, and cultural variables.

The study’s primary author Dr Carlos Botero, an evolutionary ecologist from the Initiative for Biological Complexity at North Caroline State University, saw the study as “the tip of the iceberg” in examining human behaviour from a cross-disciplinary standpoint.

“Pro-social behaviour maybe helps people do well in harsh or unpredictable environments.”

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

Gun control, conspiracies and god

At Kiwiblog a post on Obama’s gun crackdown meandered into discussions on conspiracies, beginning with…

January 17th, 2013 at 7:17 pm


He warned that many Patriots and Christians arrested and secured into these prisoner boxcars under martial law will never even make it to the death camps..that many will be tortured and sacrificed once restrained in these prisoner boxcars.

Amongst the following discussion SPC made a couple of pertinent comments:

No one doubts that there are interests that would like to express themselves through influence on and through the US government. But there is no singular “they”, more like rival “they’s”.

And yes the idea that “they” can have a President removed, and get away with it, is disturbing. Whether “they” have, has not been answered.

The highlights a problem with conspiracy theorists, who seemed to get fixated on a conspiracy and see everything (and often nothing) that ‘proves’ they are right…

…the problem with identifying the macro (conspiracy theory) is that then one is constantly seeing current events as micro signs signs of its advance to some end game gambit. It can get like the religious person seeing signs in world events of the coming of the end of the world.

There’s no doubt that crap happens, and some crap happens that we don’t get to know about, and some crap happens and we never find out for sure who was responsible.

But there is not just one master crapper, there are many crap shooters with different agendas, often competing.

We live in a very complex and convoluted world. Some people try to simplify things by understanding everything crappy as being caused by one conspiracy god.

Are most conspiracy theorists religious? Do they have an innate drive to find a single ‘they’ or god responsible for a myriad of intermingled machinations?

Update: mikenmild puts it another way…

Belief in all-pervading conspiracies is one coping mechanism in a complicated world; religion is another. Sometimes these mechanisms combine to produce significant, almost pathological, levels of cognitive dissonance.

God awful arguments

I’ve seen a lot of god-awful arguments (and godless-awful arguments) on blogs. And I’ve never seen anyone converted or  unconverted.

I’ve just seen this on Facebook:

I know some people will nod and smile in approval and understanding, but I think that that sums up a lot of religious argument – a quaint narrow example being used as some sort of proof of everything.

I remember one thing from bible study at school, we had an hour a week when I was in Form 1. The local vicar told a story that I have never heard of since, but our modern day Google God show’s it’s still out there in different variations:

A man died and St. Peter asked him if he would like to go to heaven or hell. The man asked if he could see both before deciding. St. Peter took him to hell first. There the man saw a big hall containing a long table, laden with many kinds of food. He also saw rows of people with pale, sad faces. They looked pale and there was no laughter. And he observed one more thing: Their hands were tied to four-foot forks and knives and they were trying to get the food from the center of the table to put in their mouths. But they couldn’t.

Then, St. Peter took him to see heaven. There he saw a big hall with a long table, and lots of food. He noticed rows of people on both sides of the table with their hands tied to four-foot forks and knives also. But here people were laughing and were well fed and healthy-looking. They were feeding one another across the table.

Four foot knives and forks seemed a really dumb idea – especially in heaven if such a place existed.

I guess it’s just very hard to explain in words what having faith is like – but they need to try some semi-believable stories.