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Monday, September 29, 2008

What Do You Mean?

Hello all! This is my first post here and I am happy to be contributing in some way.

I just got done listening to the atheist experience and it was a particularly moving episode to me.

It was titled "what do you mean?" and it simply talked about clarifying what certain words mean in an argument.

We all attribute certain meanings to words, for example: "dog". Some will think of a poodle, some will think of a german shepherd.

This happens quite often with many words we throw around when debating about "god", "existence", "moral", etc.

It was especially relevant to me because I outed myself to my best friend who is a christian and we had a fairly decent conversation but at the end he accused me of avoiding the questions he asked. For example: he asked me if I believed in evolution.

I had ask questions to clarify what he believed evolution was (he was misinformed) and if he understood that no one believes in evolution. Can you imagine?? "I pray to evolution every night!" LOL

Upon reflection, I wasn't dodging questions but trying to clarify certain phrases or words he used and he didn't like that. I suppose it is because it forced him to put what he exactly believes into some sort of order. 

But it's important when having a conversation like this to clarify and agree upon what definition of "god" or "moral" you use. And as a newly de-converted atheist, I have to be even more careful!


  1. Was a great episode, too much time devoted though to the one caller that couldn't define anything.

  2. Bob - wlecome aboard.
    On the meanings of words, did you know that, according to the Bible, Jesus DELIBERATELY hid the meanings of his teaching in parables so that people listening would not understand, bacause if the did understand they would be saved, and jesus didn't want that.
    Sounds crazy?
    Check it out
    Matthew 13;10-15
    The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"
    He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables:
    "Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
    " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
    For this people's heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
    and turn, and I would heal them.'

  3. Absolutely. But I felt they were being nice to her for some reason.

  4. This gives me a chance to harp on something I've been repeating for a few months now: religious people spend an awful lot of time saying things that merely communicate feeling.

    It's very difficult for them (imho) to speak clearly and unambiguously, simply because that's not how they communicate. They want to talk about reverence and worship and spiritual stuff - all of which is personal and experiential.

    Take note that the archetype of the tortured artist exhibits the same characteristics. Words are meant to convey feeling, and feelings are remarkably imprecise.

    Indeed, if you're interested in fact and in communicating information about it, definitions are extremely important.

  5. Stew, crazy that you are quite right when I think about it!

    Christianity is based on metaphor and confusion?? Deliberately??


  6. Bob,

    The only thing I can think is that she was really getting to the crux of the episode. They were talking about defining things and here she was unable to do that.

    They were way to nice with her though.

  7. whateverman - you've got something fundamental there. The emotions and the language. For the born agains it is primarily an emotional experience. Many Raytractors know this from personal history. When you become convinced of your sinful nature und understand that god himself died to redeem you it blows you apart.
    Just like a love affair, a new convert is passionate about Jesus. Although in love, passion eventually fades, in the real world there is a real partner, flesh and blood who is there, loving you caring for you, sharing your life and that sustains the relationship, and with effort passion can be kept burning.
    When the passion for jesus starts to stutter it has to be bolstered with scripture and sermons and films. The flimsier the faith gets the more fervently the believer seeks to bolster it with supporting propaganda.

    Winston churchil once said that single words could bring him to tears. It is the same with Christianity. Through sermons and bible study and repetitive singing of praise choruses there are certain keywords that can kick off those emotions. Words like "grace", "glory", "halellujah", "parise him" "amen".

    I reckon that this is also why they talk int heir own churchy way - "Oh, I just feel so richly blessed, and I just ask the Lord to move within my life and give unto me a blessing from his infinite grace" etc etc It helps reenforce their sense of belonging and renforce the emotion.

  8. Hi Bob,

    Welcome to Raytractors! Which episode was it?

  9. NM,

    It was yesterday's episode. Episode number 572.

  10. Welcome to the club, Bob. Our liddle ole fambly jest keeps a-growen. (sentimental sniffle)

    And welcome to the wonderful real world. Don't let the fundies scare ya.

  11. Stew said: The emotions and the language.


    Winston churchil once said that single words could bring him to tears. It is the same with Christianity. Through sermons and bible study and repetitive singing of praise choruses there are certain keywords that can kick off those emotions.

    This actually ties into one of the reasons I fell away from religion - but I think I'll let that one sit for a while.

    I'm still trying to quantify it, Stew. I still don't entirely understand the commonalities - what exactly are religious fundamentalists doing when they speak?

    I know emotion is part of it. You're also on-teh-mark when you talk about triggers; I posted something here yesterday about Christian movie goers loving Kirk's movies because of those trigger words (rather than because the movies are good).

    I think they try to relate to reality purely by instinct. And given that their instincts are tweaked by certain key words - anything which repeats those words must be a window into truth...

    FFS look at that - I'm babbling. Right here, evidence that relying on instinct will turn you into a dork...

  12. Bob,
    was there any defining moment for your deconversion or had you been skeptical for some time and, if I may be so presumptuous, were you raised in a church?


  13. Hi Bob-

    Welcome to the zoo, all animals invited, no feces flinging, please.

  14. Benjamin Franklin wrote:
    "Welcome to the zoo, all animals invited, no feces flinging, please."

    No flinging? Bah! What a ripoff!

  15. Hi Dale, I think I was an atheist for about 6 years but never had the label attached to me in my mind. I walked away from fundamentalism back in about 1996 but always questioned my "spirituality" but it wasn't til I picked up "God Delusion" and read it through that it all made sense to me...I was struggling to believe something when I had no good reason.

    Then I went nuts with internet searching on the subject, found the Atheist Experience and heard Matt's story and was very similar to mine (and many others) and presto! :-)

    So, until about a year ago, I called myself "spiritual" to try to fend off the fundies but now I don't care.

  16. Bob,

    Thanks for sharing that.

    Before the internet any people did not have any real means of investigating the claims of their God Heads. It was very normal to just accept by default the teachings of the group one found himself in.

    As my late Father was fond of saying, "Only where there is doubt can there be freedom."


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