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alterego55
Resident tea grinder.
06:19 PM on 03/04/2011
Frank, did you intentionally leave out Agnostics or did you simply forget? Agnostics can criticize both Atheists and Theists, although I must say, Theists seem to deserve the most criticism for their lust for patriarchal power and control.
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
05:51 AM on 03/05/2011
Hi Alterego55 I think that agnostics are the only people who can say that they are being reasonable in this debate. I also think that one can be agnostic as part of also being religious (I am) in the sense that one can practice religion as a commitment to community and at the same time be agnostic as part of a faith embrace of humility. "I'm not sure" and "I don't know" are both humble, realistic and smart ways of describing the fact that for most of the time we're in the dark on just about any "final answers."
Best, Frank
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alterego55
Resident tea grinder.
11:16 AM on 03/05/2011
Exactly. Agnosticism doesn't preclude examining spirituality, nor does it preclude tribal bonding. It takes a simple pragmatic view that the topic of spirituality is so huge and the learning path is so long, that in the short years mankind has been in this universe, he has not come close to scratching the surface to any "Truth".
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Cole 33
Careful. We don't want to learn from this.
04:03 PM on 03/10/2011
Agnostics are either Atheists or Theists. nobody "knows' if god exists, so we are all "agnostics"

I'm an Atheist, but I have no knowledge of whether God(s) exist or not, I'm an Atheist because I don't BELIEVE they do, and nothing I've discovered so far in life through study or experience as changed that lack of belief.

people KNOW whether they believe in holy book deities or not. i don't think "i don't know" is a genuine answer, but more of an unwillingness to define their true belief.
08:25 AM on 03/05/2011
You really can't criticize an Athiest. Athiest is a needless label. All it means is that you haven't been convinced of any "theistic" claims so you don't believe them. You can't criticize someone for believing something without giving them any proof.
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wbthacker
Can YOU pass the Turing Test?
01:28 PM on 03/04/2011
It seems to me Mr. Schaeffer doesn't understand the atheist arguments he is tired of. He writes, "They say they are debating about God but really are only attacking religion... and think they have successfully attacked the idea of the existence of God." That's pretty clueless.

We don't argue about the existence of God to prove he doesn't exist. We've already concluded that, that's why we call ourselves "atheists". We're concerned about the harm we think religion causes, hence we attack religion.

"The only irrational thing we can say about God is that we can describe Him, Her, or It and/or say that there is no God. "

And yet, every believer can provide a detailed description of God. Tell me, does God want you to be peaceful, or to slaughter everyone except your kin? Does he love you? How do you know? And if you don't know, why do you worship him?

I agree it's irrational to say no god exists. There could be an undetectable god who hasn't interacted with the universe since the Big Bang. But you see, that's not the a god anyone worships, because if he doesn't interact you couldn't possibly know anything about him.

People worship gods that *do* interact with the universe; answering prayers, healing the sick, giving advice. Those gods are not "outside of the cosmos", and given the lack of evidence for them, it is not irrational to say they don't exist.
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slackbatter
a fellow small mind
01:56 PM on 03/04/2011
I'm a believer and I cannot provide a detailed description of God. God is essentially mysterious (i.e. incomprehensible, irrational). Sure I regularly use metaphors for God that are meaningful and useful for me and my community. Metaphor is the only way that anyone can speak of a mysterious entity.

So yes I could answer your questions asking about traits of God and in some sense give a detailed description (though I haven't yet nailed down God's Myers Briggs type), but my answers are metaphorical descriptions of God intended to lead to certain actions from myself and my community of believers (thus God interacting with the universe, but again only in metaphor). They are not literal limits that God must henceforth conform to.

Also, to your first point, athiests definately like to argue about the existence of God in order to prove to others God doesn't exist (even if they have already concluded that). And why shouldn't they? It's fun and I enjoy such debate. But I tend to agree with Frank Schaeffer that such debate shoudn't be considered of any value other than just for fun. Attacking religion does have value though, so keep that up.
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
05:55 AM on 03/05/2011
Hi Slackbatter: thanks for reading my article and I agree with you that religion needs attacking. What is odd is that atheists are so defensive (sometimes) about their own beliefs that unless one signs on wholeheartedly they (like all religious literalists) get their panties all bunched up. This black and white world where one is asked to be on one "side" or the other is nonsense. Best, Frank
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wbthacker
Can YOU pass the Turing Test?
11:28 AM on 03/07/2011
Thanks for your reply, slackbatter.

I don't truly understand what you said about describing God metaphorically. I don't expect any human to be able to describe God fully; we can't even do that about dogs, let alone an entity who is defined as more complex than we are. But you must understand *something* about God's nature, otherwise you wouldn't bother thinking about him.

You mentioned "metaphoric­al descriptio­ns of God intended to lead to certain actions from myself and my community of believers". How do you know what actions to lead yourself and your community to? Don't those actions describe God? E.g., if you volunteer time to help feed the poor, that implies that God doesn't want poor people to starve, that he wants you to feed them, and that he has a way of communicating these wishes to you.

In terms of Schaeffer's argument, then, you're irrational, because you attempt to describe a God who exists outside the cosmos. The point I was making is that if God is outside the cosmos, nobody could interact with him or would have any reason to think he exists, right?
02:48 PM on 03/04/2011
Here's the part that is frequently missed in these debates in regard to Christians, and that the author misses as well.

He claims that god is outside of the cosmos and is therefore outside of our understanding. Well, if this is indeed the case, then who or what was Yeshua? Was he not god incarnate? Don't Christians spend a lot of time using descriptions of Yeshua as descriptions for god? Do they not spend equal amounts of time using him as an example for how we are expected to live?

The title of Schaeffer's book even refers to Yeshua, so who is it exactly that he loves and how can he claim that he has no understanding of god?
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whirlpool
founder walnut tree congregation
08:14 PM on 03/04/2011
Yes the part about god being outside the cosmos is the one thing in the essay that bothered me a bit. I find the statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas to be instructive here from a metaphorical point-of-view. He said that the kingdom (that is god) is inside us and outside of us and over all the earth but we do not see it. There are also statements about if you think the kingdom is in the air, the birds were there first or if you think the kingdom is in the depths, the fish were there first. Chop the wood and I am there. Lift up the stone and I am there. (I am paraphrasing.) It casts Jesus as a pantheist. No matter what one may think about the existence of Jesus, some of the Gospel of Thomas is great poetry.
11:24 AM on 03/04/2011
"When it comes to all the little questions like evolution and morals etc -- and I mean 'little questions' in the sense that these are fluid details of our existence not THE question of origins and cosmology -- almost everyone is battling over a silly book or silly people's actions, not over God. "

I totally agree with you that people should be able to say, yes, there may be a creator beyond empirical knowledge, but that's all we'll ever know. No point in going on and on about it.

However . . .
http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/2011/02/abortion_and_family_planning_s/all.html
"Should religion play a role in the abortion and family planning debate?"

Yep, a lot of Americans think that silly book ought to play a major role in determining whether a woman has a right to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. So how do we put an end to that nonsense except by attacking the concept that there is a Creator outside the cosmos who had a purpose in mind for creating humans?
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Mikdow
Curse you, Mansquito.
11:03 AM on 03/04/2011
To a Wiccan atheist the whole debate seems silly. There is no theistic God. There is no Abrahamic God. There is no God in the Sky passing judgment on people. There is no Great Divinity that wrote a sacred text, or any sacred texts.

Instead, there is an ongoing, self-created multi-verse that has no beginning and no end, as those words apply to us, because we make time ourselves. Time is a mental construction.

The argument for the existence or non-existence of God, as framed by atheists and theists, is far too narrow. Too often the point made that God PERMEATES the multi-verse on sub-atomic level completely misses both Sam Harris style atheists and fundamentalists.

IMO, neither side proves anything new, nor do they bring much useful information to the discussion.
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whirlpool
founder walnut tree congregation
12:41 PM on 03/04/2011
I agree with you Mikdow that the debate often boils down to a very narrow range in the conceptions of "god." I think Frank realizes this and expressed it pretty well in the essay. I have pagan tendencies and if pressed real hard, I would say that god is nature.
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Kiri the Unicorn
audio-animatronic amateur astronomer
08:46 PM on 03/04/2011
Hear, hear!

(taps his horn on his right forehoof: the unicorns' traditional manner of showing respect)
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whirlpool
founder walnut tree congregation
10:37 AM on 03/04/2011
Frank --- As I said below before I got tangled up with some of the other posters here, I enjoyed your article very much. I think you are on the right track and encourage more articles like this one. I am just curious if you are familiar with the work of Fr. Richard Rohr? I find his books and tapes to be very helpful and I have listened to him speak and talked to him. He is the only contact I have with religion anymore. His concept of the Cosmic Christ appeals to a scientist like me who does not want to completely toss out his religious heritage despite the pain it has inflicted. I am just curious about your thoughts on it.
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
12:41 PM on 03/04/2011
Hi Whirlpool: thanks again, I don't know Richard Rohr's work, the name maybe but that's it. I'll Google. I've tried the expanded version in my new book, couched in terms that may strike you as at least in parts original. Let me know what you think if you read it. Best, Frank
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longtimegone
my micro-bio is under nsa review
04:04 PM on 03/04/2011
http://www.amazon.com/Prayers-Cosmos-Reflections-Original-Meaning/dp/0060619953/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299272599&sr=1-1
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whirlpool
founder walnut tree congregation
04:18 PM on 03/04/2011
Thanks for the link. I will buy it.
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Tykster
I'm beyond belief...
10:15 AM on 03/04/2011
Quote, "In that sense all religion is irrational and so is all atheism. Both begin and end with a false claim of certainty."

~ I think you'd be hard pressed to find any atheist that claims certainty. Just a huge probability, having examined the evidence, that god(s) is/are highly improbable. So improbable, in fact, that the notion of a deity's existence is so far fetched as to be irrelevant.

Basically Occam's Razor..... gods are superfluous, and have no physical bearing on how the world acts.
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slackbatter
a fellow small mind
01:35 PM on 03/04/2011
I don't disagree with anything you say here but think it misses what I read as the author's point. The concept of probability is not far from the concept of certainty in that they both work within the realm of the rational. To assess probability is a rational excercise. But in the case of god to assess probability would be to approach an essentially irrational entity in a rational matter, thus it is an irrational excercise.
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
08:52 AM on 03/05/2011
We humans been here for about 10 seconds, and know nothing. Religion has failed, so has science when it comes to moral evolution. There is no master race of fair disinterested beings here. Atheists, religious believers, none know anything. We have no idea "how the world acts." We can't even fix social Security!
Best, Frank
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Cole 33
Careful. We don't want to learn from this.
04:22 PM on 03/10/2011
Atheists don't ever assert they know anything outside of scientific discovery, even Dawkins says it's possible a god exists, it's just highly unlikely.

Also, I'm not sure when Science was trying do anythign with morals or evolution. I mean Science can find instances of "morality" in social structures, like the dolphins that saved teh drowning dog, but that's all i can think of.
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Cye
07:08 AM on 03/13/2011
It has never been science's function to provide moral and ethical guidelines for humanity, so I don't understand in what sense science has failed. And to the extend that atheism is married to the scientific method, we can really know a great deal about the world round us. Science provides us with the closes approximation to truth that human beings can aspire to. Everything else - to the extent that is not based on facts and evidence - cannot be verified, demonstrated or proven to be true. By that I mean that the scientific method can only be applied in a limited fashion to the social world, because it is much more complex than the physical world.

Its not a perfect system, but I see little reason to collapse into a relativistic, nihilistic chaos.
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TruthJustice4America
08:06 AM on 03/04/2011
That's a very good article. For a long time now I have been of the opinion that what religion does is give us a language with which to talk about our human sense that "there is something more". I do not believe much of the Bible and yet there is a great deal of wisdom and poetry in with a lot of crap. It's the Fundamentalists that ruin everything but that has always been true in any field. Fundamentalists leave no room for discussion, exploration and growth. That is sad.
07:38 AM on 03/04/2011
"The Only Two God "Issues" "the quest for meaning and the quest for love. "

The debate, if that is really what it is, having failed on the above two issues, reflects both the limitations of natural reason and the limitations of our moral/spiritual conception which exists innate to human nature. The ensuing intellectual chaos which we call a 'debate', is in fact no more than a slanging match between two entrenched positions, which is itself dishonest as the 'faith' side, is founded upon an all too human theological endeavor. Faith has never been in 'God' but in the contrived classical view of God provided by theology. Theology only exists because nothing has been revealed! But the means to blow this logjam of entrenched presumption right out of the water does now exist!

"The first ever viable religious conception capable of leading reason, by faith, to observable consequences which can be tested and judged is now a reality. A teaching that delivers the first ever religious claim of insight into the human condition that meets the Enlightenment criteria of verifiable, direct cause and effect, evidence based truth embodied in experience. For the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must contend with a claim to new revealed truth, a moral wisdom not of human intellectual origin, offering access by faith, to absolute proof, an objective basis for moral principle and a fully rational and justifiable belief! "

An unexpected revolution is underway: http://www.energon.org.uk
03:48 AM on 03/04/2011
The atheist side of the argument, at least, doesn't miss the point, the point not being to prove or disprove the existence of any deity, but rather emphasize the need there is for a method that leads us to a consensus as exists in science with the scientific method. Religion is not based on consensus and that's what we have to eliminate about religion. Because beliefs are principles of actions and religious people act according to their personal beliefs which are embraced whimsically and have not been properly justified and that threaten many people's lives. Science is not perfect, but sets the example of general "consensus", and we should do our best to bring it to religion. Paraphrasing Dawkins: religious claims are not exempt from the obligation to provide evidence.
So the whole point is not about which deities exists and which don't, but what aspects of reality we're able to reach a consensus about and therefore are justified to be believe in. It's not about squaring religious claims with scientific knowledge. It's about providing scientific evidence for every single religious claim, just as science does.
04:29 AM on 03/04/2011
Not a bad way to look at it. :)

I see a couple of problems with that view, though:

1) To build a scientific consensus, you have to present concrete evidence ... and religion by definition deals with ideas that lie beyond proof or disproof. (For now, anyway ...)

2) Even science has its cranks and charlatans (being human, after all) who just plain refuse to be swayed by the consensus, mountains of positive evidence be damned. A case in point being Michael Behe (he of "irreducible complexity" fame) who has spent the past 15 years being repeatedly proven wrong in labs and Federal Court alike, yet insists to this day that nobody has ever addressed the questions he's raised. If science can't rid itself of its less-than-worthy practitioners, I don't see how any religion will manage the feat.

And as Frank himself has pointed out in several of his books, most decent, ethical people (of any religion, or none) DO have a broad consensus about how to live, and how to carry out religious teachings in practice. (Golden Rule, anyone?) Likewise, fundamentalists of all religions have similarly harsh, narrow, and brutal outlooks - and exhibit behavior to match.

Me, I have enough skepticism in my nature to find plenty of common ground with atheists. In the end, though, I can't help feeling that the atheistic position arbitrarily rules out a lot of wonderful possibilities about the universe. ;)
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
06:44 AM on 03/04/2011
Hi Deezerd, thanks for the post. You make great points. My view is that all belief is hubris when it is exclusionary in that life is short, we are in an early stage of evolution, and no one really knows anything. 100 years from now books by people like Harris will seem as quaint as literal interpretations of the Bible seem to most educated people today and for the same reasons. Your point about most people knowing how to live, be they atheists or religious believers is the point: reality trumps belief every time.
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
08:48 AM on 03/05/2011
Hi CiroGalli: thanks for reading my article. When you say "scientific evidence" does this come from outer space, or do you mean the evidence given by scientists, ie. what they currently think? If so they have a great track record too, right up there with the wost popes. Scientific evidence gave us the atom bomb, industry that is destroying the globe, eugenics, as well as lots of good things. Trusting science is also magical thinking, because people make science and all us people are semi-evolved schmucks. Best, Frank
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Cole 33
Careful. We don't want to learn from this.
04:27 PM on 03/10/2011
well science didn't bring us anything humans can't control. just like religion it's what you do with it that matters.
02:15 AM on 03/04/2011
It occurred to me while reading this that Frank nailed precisely what bothers me most about the whole issue:

1) The time and energy spent ARGUING ... that could be put to better use on questioning, seeking, and learning.
2) And a perennial theme of Frank's writing ... the False Certainties. I think of Albert Camus' priest in *The Stranger": "He seemed so cocksure, you see. And yet none of his certainties was worth one strand of a woman's hair."

I think this is why my favorite atheist these days is Julia Sweeney ... in her show *Letting Go Of God", she talks hardly at all of arguments or debates. Her journey went from Bible reading, to traveling, to studying nature and science ... but from front to back, the show celebrates LEARNING. Which I think is something theist and atheist alike can agree to be an end worthwhile in itself.

Good piece, Frank - and I'm looking forward to the next book. :)
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
06:45 AM on 03/04/2011
Thanks Deezerd, and please let me know what you think of Sex, Mom and God when you read it. Best, Frank
12:39 AM on 03/04/2011
It always annoys me when squabbles with Christian creationists are taken to represent the debate in its entirety. It's like assuming that all of politics can be understood by listening to someone argue with a tinfoil-hat conspiracy nut.
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Missy Ruth
Oregon Native
12:01 AM on 03/04/2011
I went to Bible college and read Francis Schaeffer's books and truly respected what he was attempting to do - be a thinker while also embracing whole-heartedly the Christian religion. (And if someone says, "It's not a religion, it's a relationship with Jesus" to me one more time, I will bop them on the head. My relationships are built on two-way communication, thank you very much.)

But Frank Schaeffer has taken things to the next level, by being a thinker going beyond the comfort zone of absolutes. It isn't easy. Being threatened with eternal hellfire if you don't believe gets to you after so many years! This article once again helps me with my healing from absolute craziness as a former "Fundagelical." I mean literal craziness.

If God is some male force that revealed His son Jesus Christ as the only name "whereby mankind shall be saved" I just can no longer swallow what that means for the rest of the world and their own interpretations of who and what God is; what good is, etc. If I were born in a Muslim country, I would probably be a Muslim. And if I were born in a 100% neutral environment (which is impossible, I know), I would probably wonder at the wild destructiveness of the food chain and terror of nature and believe only in what was beautiful and in those who loved me.
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
06:47 AM on 03/04/2011
Hi Missy Ruth: thanks so much for saying that my writing has made a difference to you, makes my day. Best, Frank
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mivogo
Single standard truth and democracy
10:37 PM on 03/03/2011
God? Empathy? I don't care what you call it, as long as you practice it!

Mike
newyorkgritty.net
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sandalwood
songs of the shamans...
10:17 PM on 03/03/2011
I think this essay expresses the idea that rationality has limits. "God" is a purported answer to the question of our existential condition. Let's retreat to the original question. We note that rationality (the method of ratio), thought, reason, mathematics, analysis gives only relational knowledge which is endless and does not reach a conclusion.

For this reason, Patjanjali says in the Yoga Sutra that the aim of Yoga is the transcending of thought, of analysis, of measurement. The idea is that there is yet another epistemic approach to try before getting back to pragmatic physics and stimulating but unverifiable metaphysics, religious or otherwise.
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
06:49 AM on 03/04/2011
Hi Sandalwood, well put "rationalit­y has limits." I'd add that one reason is that rationality is only as rational as humans, and we aren't! Thanks for reading my post, Best, Frank
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09:30 PM on 03/03/2011
Please don't reduce religionists and atheists to straw men, and then knock them over with a flick of your rhetorical finger. And please don't put words into the mouths of us atheists or deny that we have argued what we indeed have argued all along. Please don't repeat the canard that atheists are "certain" that God doesn't exist. I don't know of any atheist worth his salt who would state such a thing, as one can't prove a negative. We atheists maintain that, while it's possible that God exists, no credible evidence for that existence has been provided and common sense argues against it. You say "There are only two questions that actually mean anything related to God: the quest for meaning and the quest for love," but that's just mumbo-jumbo. The human quest for meaning and love is a psychological issue and need not have anything to do with religion. Let's face it: At its essence, religion is merely a superstitious way of looking at the world, a reliance on magical explanations for events and processes that we don't understand. Disguising that superstitious approach as a quest for meaning or love doesn't make it any more valid.
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Frank Schaeffer
Frank Schaeffer is a New
06:53 AM on 03/04/2011
Hi Tydencency: thanks for reading my post and disagreeing with me. You make some good points, but in reality everyone has a "a reliance on magical explanatio­ns for events and processes" including those who think science will solve their problems, as unlikely a thing as it is unlikely that Jesus will "come back" and rescue us. Actually we're all in the same human fix, and so early in our evolution that we can really only be sure of one thing: everything we say now will be an embarrassment to out great great grandchildren.
02:02 PM on 03/05/2011
This is yet another straw man argument. As a skeptic and an atheist, I don't think that science will solve all my problems. The historical evidence does indicate that the methods of science are likely to be critical components of workable solutions to those problems that can be be solved. The knowledge and technologies that objectively and repeatedly work continue to be applied and enhanced by humans. Archimedes observation of the displacement of water by a submerged object is as valid today as it was during his "Eureka" moment.
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mrkurtzhedead
I'll be back, when it's dark!
12:11 PM on 03/10/2011
So what is the avenue allowing you to post on the internet, to take an antibiotic to knock out a virus, to hop on a plane to your next destination? Science. Not religion. Those are facts. That is not an embarrassment to anyone in any generation. No one is claiming science will lead to morality or immorality. That is up to what we do with it. But creating an equivalncey between scince, verifiable, and religion, far from verifiable, is illogical.