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General White Attitudes Towards Intermarriage with Blacks:

Continuing with the discussion of Jewish attitudes towards intermarriage with blacks, co-blogger David Bernstein and Ta-Nehisi Coates (in one of the posts that started this exchange) suggest it would be useful to compare Jewish attitudes with those of other whites. We do in fact have data on the percentage of whites who would oppose a "close relative's" decision to marry a black. In this 2001 poll, 22% of whites said that they would be opposed. A more recent 2007 survey of New York opinion found that 23% of New York whites take that view.

These figures are much lower than the 38% of Jews who say they would oppose a close relative's decision to marry a black. Jews are, of course, included in the overall white numbers, but they are a negligible percentage of the total, since only about 2% of the nation's population is Jewish (though that percentage is much higher in New York state). However, comparing the 38% figure to the 22% tells us very little about relative racism among Jews as compared to other whites, or about the state of black-Jewish relations. As I explained in my earlier post, much Jewish opposition to intermarriage with blacks is probably a reflection of more general opposition any intermarriage with gentiles - opposition that is religious rather than racial in nature. By contrast, most gentile whites are Christian, as are most American blacks. So a gentile black-white intermarriage would not necessarily be an interfaith marriage. The two partners might belong to different Christian denominations. But intermarriage between different branches of Christianity is now extremely common and most American Christians no longer consider it a major compromise of religious principle. Intermarriage between Jews and Christians is more controversial, especially at a time when many American Jews worry that intermarriage might lead to the eventual disappearance of their community.

Interestingly, the GSS data linked by Coates show that 19% of blacks would oppose a close relative's decision to marry a Jew, compared to only 9% who would oppose a relative's decision to marry a generic "white." Much of the difference between the two figures may also be due to concerns about interfaith marriage rather than to anti-Semitism in the black community.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. General White Attitudes Towards Intermarriage with Blacks:
  2. More on Black-Jewish Marriage:
  3. Jewish Attitudes Toward Intermarriage With Blacks:
Derrick (mail):
There is an extreme amount of cognitive dissonance going on with "The Conspirators" on this issue. I can understand the want to explain this away, but it's hard to ignore the common sense determination that racism persists within the Jewish community. It doesn't mean that all Jews have a problem with African-Americans but the facts bear out some recognition that racism does exist here.
6.3.2009 1:43pm
Ilya Somin:
it's hard to ignore the common sense determination that racism persists within the Jewish community. It doesn't mean that all Jews have a problem with African-Americans but the facts bear out some recognition that racism does exist here.

No one doubts that it exists. Certainly I don't, and neither did David. The question is how much of it exists and how widespread it is. For the reasons mentioned in my posts, I don't think the GSS survey data are a good indicator of its scale.
6.3.2009 1:46pm
levisbaby:
So religious bigotry is less offensive than racism?
6.3.2009 1:52pm
John Humboldt (mail):

The question is how much of it exists and how widespread it is. For the reasons mentioned in my posts, I don't think the GSS survey data are a good indicator of its scale.



More than just criticizing the GSS survey data, you seem to be suggesting either it is not particularly widespread and its quantity is small or there is no good reason to believe its quantity is anything but small and its distribution is concentrated. I suppose that makes me wonder why the beliefs that racism is pervasive and widespread amongst Jews and anti-Semitism is pervasive and widespread amongst African-Americans persist.
6.3.2009 1:54pm
Ilya Somin:
So religious bigotry is less offensive than racism?

Wanting to marry within your own religion isn't necessarily "religious" bigotry. If religious observance is important to you, you might quite understandably want a spouse who shares that religion and will raise the children in the same faith. And you might feel that way even if you don't have any hostility towards followers of other religions.
6.3.2009 1:55pm
Ilya Somin:
you seem to be suggesting either it is not particularly widespread and its quantity is small or there is no good reason to believe its quantity is anything but small and its distribution is concentrated. I suppose that makes me wonder why the beliefs that racism is pervasive and widespread amongst Jews and anti-Semitism is pervasive and widespread amongst African-Americans persist.

I do think it is likely to be small, in part because of the generally very liberal attitudes the vast majority of Jews take on racial issues. As to why people think it is "pervasive," that is just one of many false political beliefs that persist because most people have not taken the time to systematically examine the relevant evidence. Large numbers of people believe far more absurd and implausible claims than this one.
6.3.2009 1:57pm
TaxLawyer:
I would be curious indeed to see the percentage of American Jews who would be opposed ot a close relative marrying a black person who undergoes a (halakhically valid) conversion. (The parenthetical part of the question would not need to be included for so-called Reform Jews).

My guess is, significantly less than 38%, perhaps less than the national average 22%.

In other words, IS is exactly correct -- the 38% stat for Jews does not isolate anti-black sentiment per se in the same way the overall white stat does. My rephrasing of the question, and the repsonse to it, would allow an apples-to-apples comparison.
6.3.2009 1:58pm
Pragmatist:

So religious bigotry is less offensive than racism?

Yes, in the same way that wanting your relative to not marry a lawyer is substantially less offensive then not wanting them to marry someone of a particular race of from a particular country.
6.3.2009 2:01pm
bearing (mail) (www):
Well, is there data about the percentage of Jewish people who would be opposed to a "close relative" marrying a generic non-Jewish person?
6.3.2009 2:02pm
Ilya Somin:
Well, is there data about the percentage of Jewish people who would be opposed to a "close relative" marrying a generic non-Jewish person?

Yes, I cited it in my previous post. THe figure is about 39%.
6.3.2009 2:03pm
Ilya Somin:
I should add that the 39% is the figure for those who would oppose their "child" marrying a "gentile." So it's not completely comparable to "close relative." But it is similar.
6.3.2009 2:04pm
John Humboldt (mail):

As to why people think it is "pervasive," that is just one of many false political beliefs that persist because most people have not taken the time to systematically examine the relevant evidence. Large numbers of people believe far more absurd and implausible claims than this one.



That is very true. It seems to me, though, that such false political beliefs are different than most absurd and implausible claims. The belief that Santa's elves will invade your mind through the rays from your television set is absurd and implausible, but it is unlikely to discourage others from exercising their personal liberties. An expressed belief that racism is rampant amongst Jews, however, may deter social interaction between Jews and gentiles. It may be the case that the silent majority is being herded by an outspoken minority that seeks to impose its views through "soft" social coercion.
6.3.2009 2:04pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I think that Prof. Somin's and Prof. Bernstein's explanations are probably spot-on.

That said, I am not a fan of members of ANY religious or ethnic group opposing intermarriage.
6.3.2009 2:06pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Wanting to marry within your own religion isn't necessarily "religious" bigotry. If religious observance is important to you, you might quite understandably want a spouse who shares that religion and will raise the children in the same faith. And you might feel that way even if you don't have any hostility towards followers of other religions.

I agree it isn't "bigotry" as such to want to prosletyze your religion to your children. But it is narrow-mindedness, because one's children should have the right to make up their own minds about religion.
6.3.2009 2:09pm
Malvolio:
So religious bigotry is less offensive than racism?
Yes.

First of all, judging people according to voluntary associations is less pernicious. Someone who finds himself held back by the widespread stereotype that Unitarians are clumsy, for example, can quit the church. It's harder to "quit" being, e.g., Lithuanian.

Second, judging people according their intellectual choices is entirely reasonable. There is nothing inherently evil (or even unreasonable) in considering the dogma and concluding that 9/11 Truthers are delusional, that liberals are over-sentimental, that global-warming skeptics are cynical. Religion isn't exempt from this process.

Third, adhering to any religion must entail believing that members of most other religions are, if nothing else, mistaken. If you are a Lutheran, you can (and arguably must) point at a Buddhist monk and say, "That man has shaved his head and given up eating meat for no reason at all, and might very well go to Hell for it." (OK, you can be more polite than that, but the substance will remain the same.)
6.3.2009 2:12pm
Ilya Somin:
But it is narrow-mindedness, because one's children should have the right to make up their own minds about religion.

I agree that they should have that right. But that is perfectly compatible with parents having their own views on the matter and trying to persuade the children to follow the parents' faith.
6.3.2009 2:13pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Also, it's worth noting that, as far as I know, plenty of SECULAR Jews believe more or less in the taboos against intermarriage. So it isn't JUST about passing on religious beliefs to the next generation-- it's also about various issues relating to Jewish culture and identity.
6.3.2009 2:16pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I agree that they should have that right. But that is perfectly compatible with parents having their own views on the matter and trying to persuade the children to follow the parents' faith.

Well, one person's persuasion is another one's stacking the deck.
6.3.2009 2:17pm
rick.felt:
If you are a Lutheran, you can (and arguably must) point at a Buddhist monk and say, "That man has shaved his head and given up eating meat for no reason at all, and might very well go to Hell for it."

I assure you that no Lutheran thinks that anyone is going to hell for shaving his head and not eating meat.

The ideas that many otherwise well-informed people have about religion are astounding.
6.3.2009 2:19pm
Ilya Somin:
Also, it's worth noting that, as far as I know, plenty of SECULAR Jews believe more or less in the taboos against intermarriage.

That depends on the definitions of "plenty" and "secular." As I noted in the previous post, opposition to intermarriage with gentiles is strongly correlated among Jews with religiosity. But even a relatively "secular" (in the sense of theologically liberal) religious Jew could still have strong feelings about ensuring that his family continues to adhere to his religion. It's not inherently contradictory to on the one hand be, say, a Reform Jew, and on the other believe that staying within the Jewish religious tradition is very important.
6.3.2009 2:20pm
levisbaby:

Wanting to marry within your own religion isn't necessarily "religious" bigotry. If religious observance is important to you, you might quite understandably want a spouse who shares that religion and will raise the children in the same faith. And you might feel that way even if you don't have any hostility towards followers of other religions.

I thought this was about "the 38% of Jews who say they would oppose a close relative's decision to marry a black". So it isn't about what one wants in ones's spouse, it is what one wants in one's in-laws. Quite a difference there.
6.3.2009 2:21pm
bearing (mail) (www):
I doubt very much, too, that there are many Lutherans who would say the Buddhist has "no reason at all."

It's not quite the same as "for religious reasons, the religion being one that I regard as false."

I agree, rick.felt, it's mind-blowing the things people say in innocent assumption that every right-thinking person will nod and let it pass.
6.3.2009 2:24pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Prof. Somin:

I am speaking only from anecdote, but I have known non-believing Jewish women whose non-believing families were nonetheless very concerned that they find a Jewish guy to marry. I suspect the sentiment is at least somewhat widely held. I suspect there are deeper cultural concerns then simply wanting to pass on religious beliefs to the next generation.
6.3.2009 2:27pm
John kmm (mail):
Am i wrong, or the son of jew woman will be jew and the son of a jew man will be a gentile? so it will matter only if the a jew marry an afro-american woman? at least formally.
Israel´s army saved 10 000 black jews in the 90s in Sudan. at least for Israel a jew is a jew, no matter his or hers skin colour
6.3.2009 2:28pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Ilya, it's problematic to compare data across different surveys, unless the precise wording of the question was the same. For example, I'm sure if you asked "would you support the decision of a close relative to marry someone black" you will get different answers than if you ask "would you oppose the decision..." Some people would say "not support" but would also answer "not oppose," both because the latter is stronger and also because it sounds worse.
6.3.2009 2:28pm
Cato The Elder (mail):
Ridiculous.
6.3.2009 2:30pm
Ubu Walker (mail):
So, the question is whether it is acceptable to personally discriminate based on religion, rather than race? If the question was "Would you (a Protestant) allow your daughter to marry a Catholic?" what would the numbers look like?
6.3.2009 2:31pm
Ilya Somin:
Ilya, it's problematic to compare data across different surveys, unless the precise wording of the question was the same. For example, I'm sure if you asked "would you support the decision of a close relative to marry someone black" you will get different answers than if you ask "would you oppose the decision..." Some people would say "not support" but would also answer "not oppose," both because the latter is stronger and also because it sounds worse.

My understanding is that the wording of the three surveys was very similar. The options in all three cases were, apparently, "strongly support," support, neutral, oppose, and strongly oppose. One did replace the "support" and "oppose" options with "somewhat support" and "somewhat oppose," while leaving the more extreme options intact. I think this is a very minor difference.
6.3.2009 2:33pm
Houston Lawyer:
I'm always amazed at the disconnect between the religious and the non-religious. If you are a practicing Christian, you will work hard to ensure that your children are Christians as well. The same goes if you are Jewish, Muslim, etc. Intermarriage between people of different faiths generally results in children of no faith at all. This may be well and good in the eyes of those who never had any faith, but grandma and grandpa believe their grandchildren's soul's are at stake.
6.3.2009 2:33pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I agree it isn't "bigotry" as such to want to prosletyze your religion to your children. But it is narrow-mindedness, because one's children should have the right to make up their own minds about religion.
And schools should teach ID, so that children can make up their mind about evolution.
6.3.2009 2:36pm
Mike& (mail):
It's amazing that the mainstream press gives Evangelical Christians so much grief, but leaves the Jewish alone.

I personally don't think it's a pretty big deal that the Jewish discriminate against the non-Jewish. If Catholics want to have a Church wedding, they need to marry another Catholic. Leave people and their superstitions alone, I say.

HOWEVER, if we're going to focus on "whacko" fundamentalists, let's focus, too, on Jews who won't even marry outside of their faith.

It's a pretty appalling double standard.
6.3.2009 2:39pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
And schools should teach ID, so that children can make up their mind about evolution.

Schools should teach science, because science is based on observation and emperically testable and verifiable. Fairy tales should be taught in literature class.
6.3.2009 2:41pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
This may be well and good in the eyes of those who never had any faith, but grandma and grandpa believe their grandchildren's soul's are at stake.

The problem is this proves too much. Christian Scientists believe their children's souls are at stake when they refuse medical treatment on their behalf. Muslim fundamentalists believe their children's souls are at stake when they encourage them to become suicide bombers.

Now, lying to your children about an alleged supernatural world isn't as bad as either of these things, but the same justification is being offered for all three, and it's weak.

The reality is that if religious beliefs were really compelling and persuasive, parents would have no trouble imparting them to their offspring after they reached adulthood and could judge them for themselves. The whole point of teaching them to children is that the parents know that it is BS and the only way to get the children to believe is to get them while they are young.
6.3.2009 2:44pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
You know, it is funny. My wife is Chinese-Indonesian. If our son decided to marry a black woman, that part wouldn't bother me, but it would bother her a LOT.

It is interesting to look at race relations in a way other than simple power relationships.
6.3.2009 2:46pm
Mike& (mail):
I can understand the want to explain this away, but it's hard to ignore the common sense determination that racism persists within the Jewish community.

Jewish people are very racist.

I lived in Los Angeles for many years. I had never heard the term "goyim" before. I heard it often in L.A.

Try being a goyim and work in the talent-management business. Really, give it a go. See how you are treated by Jews. See if you're treated less favorably than Jews.

Goyim are also not treated very well in Jewish-dominated law firms.

So the racism (or, if you prefer, "culturalism") is widespread.

In fairness, goyim are pretty racist, too. Lots of goyim hate Jews. So there's no reason to single Jews out for their bad behavior.

Heck, blacks are very antisemitic. So they return the favor.

Anyhow, the posts are pretty hilarious. Yes, Somin and Bernstein, Jewish people do indeed discriminate against blacks and whites. It might not be as bad as the numbers show, but it's pretty damned bad. Why rationalize away the bad behavior?

The posts do have a "The lady doth protest too much methinks" tone to them.

If Jewish discrimination against non-Jews were not a problem, there'd be nothing to talk yet. And yet....
6.3.2009 2:49pm
Mike& (mail):
This may be well and good in the eyes of those who never had any faith, but grandma and grandpa believe their grandchildren's soul's are at stake.

Yep. Dilan's comments are embarrassingly ignorant.

I think religion is nonsense. So what. That has nothing to do with whether other people disagree. Some people take religion very serious. Heaven and Hell are at stake.

Here is what I was taught in church:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Zv9AgwKAE0

Robertson's view is NOT outside of the Christian mainstream.

Religious people - Jew or Christian - discriminate based on religion/superstition.

That Dilan might think this is silly doesn't change the cultural reality.

Dilan makes a common mistake. Because he believes something is not true, he claims that it logically follows that others do not believe that is is true.

Again, that's just evidence of cultural ignorance.

Yes, it's a big wide world out there. People disagree about a lot of issues. People believe all sorts of strange things.
6.3.2009 2:53pm
ohwilleke:
The vast majority of blacks who are active in Christian faith attend predominantly black churches (and African-Americans have among the highest level of Christian identification and participation, and among the lowest levels of atheism of any ethnic group in the U.S.), while the vast majority of whites who are active in the Christian faith attend predominantly white churches. Martin Luther King Jr. once said 11 a.m. Sunday is the most segregated hour in America.

But, notably, my anecdotal experience has been that a large percentage of black-white married couples did have a common church prior to marriage, sometimes involving a white partner attending a predominantly black church, and sometimes involving a black partner attending a predominantly white church, despite the fact that such a small percentage of people cross those denominational lines.

The Census doesn't keep track of this, and I've never seen statistics of any kind on point, but it would be an interesting matter to explore with better data.
6.3.2009 2:59pm
pst314 (mail):
In the last 30 or 40 years I have met a few Jews who expressed some anti-black prejudice, and lots of blacks who expressed Klan-level hatred of Jews.
6.3.2009 3:00pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Mike:

1. When you look at the evidence, a lot of religious belief in America is a mile-wide and an inch deep. (E.g., you don't see people really changing and reordering their lives in major ways on account of religion. It's just Pascal's Wager.)

2. True religious believers should have no problem waiting until their children are adults and are able to freely choose their religion before presenting their religious ideas to them. After all, if you really find your beliefs persuasive, you are going to be confident that your intelligent offspring are going to accept it.

Indoctrinating the kids is what you do when you are afraid that your beliefs AREN'T persuasive.

3. As I pointed out to Houston Lawyer, the argument that "their souls are at stake" can justify imposing even the most barbaric religious practice on one's offspring. This MIGHT be the way some believers think, but that doesn't mean we should credit it or find it justified, as we don't when it is a Christian Scientist refusing to take the kid to the hospital or an African native sending her daughter to get her genitals mutilated.
6.3.2009 3:02pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Schools should teach science, because science is based on observation and emperically testable and verifiable. Fairy tales should be taught in literature class.
Yes, and religious beliefs should be taught at home; that was my point.

We don't let children "make up their mind" in a vacuum about all sorts of things; we teach them what we want them to know.
6.3.2009 3:03pm
Law Student (mail):
I don't think not wanting you, or your family members, to have an interracial marriage is racism.
6.3.2009 3:04pm
ShelbyC:
Dilan Esper:

2. True religious believers should have no problem waiting until their children are adults and are able to freely choose their religion before presenting their religious ideas to them. After all, if you really find your beliefs persuasive, you are going to be confident that your intelligent offspring are going to accept it.

Indoctrinating the kids is what you do when you are afraid that your beliefs AREN'T persuasive.


Would you feel the same way about your children freely choosing values like, say, racial tolerance? Would you want to wait for your children to be adults so they can freely choose to be bigots or not, or would you like a hand in shaping those values?
6.3.2009 3:08pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
We don't let children "make up their mind" in a vacuum about all sorts of things; we teach them what we want them to know.

As a descriptive statement, this is correct. But as a normative statement, it is quite faulty. Obviously, if a parent fills a child up with racist hate, that would be a bad thing.

Similarly, if a parent indoctrinates a child into believing that evolutionary biology is all wrong and the world was created in 6 days 4,000 years ago, that's wrong too.

In the end, this is something a parent has a right to do, and it is something parents traditionally do. But that doesn't mean it's really a good thing.
6.3.2009 3:08pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Would you feel the same way about your children freely choosing values like, say, racial tolerance? Would you want to wait for your children to be adults so they can freely choose to be bigots or not, or would you like a hand in shaping those values?

Teaching values, right and wrong, etc., is quite different than teaching supernatural fairy tales as facts to your kids.
6.3.2009 3:13pm
ShelbyC:
Huh. Isn't refering to religion as "supernatural fairy tales" kind of a bigoted viewpoint?
6.3.2009 3:19pm
GMUSL '07 Alum (mail):
@Mike&-- "goyim" means "nations" or "people" in the sense of a tribal (if not quite ethnic) identity. Its typical usage, whether in singular or plural, is definitionally equivalent to gentile, but in a different language; linguistic parsimony suggests that people will use words with fewer syllables over longer ones.

Please get a clue (or several).
6.3.2009 3:24pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Shelby:

Only if you think that any criticism of religion is bigotry. I understand why religious believers like to claim that, but it's not the case.

(Simply put, I associate with religious believers, defend their rights in court, believe that they should face no discrimination and should be legally protected against discrimination, do not think they are less human or less intelligent than I am, etc. I just think they are full of crap. Thinking someone's ideas are idiotic does not make one a bigot.)
6.3.2009 3:25pm
GMUSL '07 Alum (mail):
@pst314 -- I'd be hard-pressed to find any Jewish or Israeli leader who has spoken about Blacks or Africans with as much malice as Jesse Jackson.
6.3.2009 3:35pm
josil (mail):
A survey of attitudes reflects opinion at a point in time and as mediated by the way the question is posed. Even apart from these caveats, speculation about individual motivation for the survey results has no factual basis whatsoever. While it may be a form of intellectual fun, all we are left with is a bunch of anecdotes.
6.3.2009 3:43pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Having a Jewish friend marrying a black friend many years ago - I learned that there was significant differences between orthodox, conservative and reform rabbis as to whether they would perform the service. If the information can be broken out by othordox, conservative and reform Jews maybe it might be a better way to try to understand the differences between Jews and other whites.
Best,
Ben
6.3.2009 3:55pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
I should mention that the black guy converted to Judaism as part of the process.
Best,
Ben
6.3.2009 3:56pm
Joe T. Guest:
Dilan, you speak with a lot of authority about whether people are living their faith and what their relationship to God means, and how it's crap. In fact, you seem to have a window into their very souls.

How did you manage such perfect knowledge about other people's faith? I've always sort of withheld judgment, on the premise that perhaps I don't know everything there is to know, particularly when it comes to metaphysics and theology. But the way you're debunking religion here... it's impressive. You're almost... God-like...
6.3.2009 4:01pm
BGates:
My favorite part of the GSS data was the attitude of black respondents towards the idea of marrying whites.

Only 17% would favor a close relative marrying a "Northern White", 57% neutral, 27% opposed;
Those numbers change to 26/45/30 for marrying a "Southern White", which I didn't expect.

But when black people were asked about a close relative marrying a "White", it's 51% in favor, 40% neutral, and only 9% opposed.

Goldilocks and the Three White People.
6.3.2009 4:03pm
ShelbyC:

Only if you think that any criticism of religion is bigotry.


Huh. How 'bout if you think that some criticism of religion is bigotry, depending on the tone, manner, etc?

I think "religion is a bunch of fairy tales" comes closer to the line than, "religion is wrong", for example.
6.3.2009 4:07pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
How did you manage such perfect knowledge about other people's faith?

Joe:

There are societies where there is a heck of a lot of devout religious observance. In such societies, you see-- at least in people's public conduct-- the major tenets of the dominant religions being observed. You see a majority of people ordering their lives around religious observances and activities.

In America, sure, 90 percent of the public will claim to be Christians in polls, but we don't see that. Indeed, lots of devout people (especially evagelical preachers and Catholic priests) are VERY concerned about this fact and admit it all the time.

I can't say of any specific person "oh, he doesn't really believe". What I can say is that as a whole, religious belief in America is a mile wide and an inch deep, and that plenty of people are clearly expressing religious belief to pollsters without really ordering their lives in any way around religion.
6.3.2009 4:08pm
Jim Copland (www):

2. True religious believers should have no problem waiting until their children are adults and are able to freely choose their religion before presenting their religious ideas to them. After all, if you really find your beliefs persuasive, you are going to be confident that your intelligent offspring are going to accept it.

Indoctrinating the kids is what you do when you are afraid that your beliefs AREN'T persuasive.


This statement completely misunderstands religion. You note -- correctly -- that many "believers" embrace a shallow religion and don't really reorder their lives. What we're talking about, though, are actual believers.

For such individuals -- even the most Pauline of Christians -- it's hardly accurate to characterize their "religion" simply as being about "belief." Rather, their religion is an ordering principle for their lives. For an observant Jew, that might include keeping strict shabbat, keeping kosher, respecting the high holy days. For a Christian, Baptism, communion, volunteer activities or service trips. Very religious people often spend the vast majority of their nonprofessional lives in and among their fellows in their churches and synagogues.

It's simply preposterous to say that one would order one's life in such a way and yet tell one's child, "I'm doing these things for a reason I'll tell you about when you turn 21."
6.3.2009 4:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I think "religion is a bunch of fairy tales" comes closer to the line than, "religion is wrong", for example.

Why? Does "supply side economics is a fairy tale" express bigotry?

What's so special about religion that its factual can't be criticized in the same terms as an economic theory without someone whining about bigotry?

Does "astrology is a fairy tale" express bigotry?

People believe in things that aren't supported by any evidence, that were written by authors who got all sorts of factual matters wrong, and which are constantly being undermined by scientific discovery. And yet anyone who says that the emperor has no clothes is a bigot.

I have an alternative suggestion. Lots of religious believers KNOW that it's all BS. That's why they are so afraid of having their religious professions questioned or criticized. Someone of true faith would laugh off anyone's statement that it was a fairy tale, right?
6.3.2009 4:12pm
hawkins:
Im willing to bet that the vast majority of Jews surveyed would have a bigger issue with their child marrying a black gentile than a white gentile. However, there may be fairly legitimate reasons for this. For instance, the white gentile would not look as out of place attending bar mitzvahs.
6.3.2009 4:13pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
It's simply preposterous to say that one would order one's life in such a way and yet tell one's child, "I'm doing these things for a reason I'll tell you about when you turn 21."

How about "I'm doing these things because I believe in the New Testament and that Jesus is my personal savior. I hope that as you grow older you will study the New Testament and accept Jesus as your savior as well."? That's very different telling the kid that it's all true and that he has to believe it and is going to hell if he doesn't.
6.3.2009 4:14pm
Suzy (mail):
Dilan, raising children in a religious tradition is for many people just the same thing as teaching them values. So it would be quite silly to wait until they are adults to discuss these things. If the "parents know that it is BS", then why on earth do they bother to be involved with the religion themselves? Of course they do not think it's BS--they think they are conveying the best wisdom they're capable of conveying to their children.

The fact that you don't find religious accounts compelling does not mean other people are intentionally trying to brainwash their kids into religion by getting to them young, because the adults know it's all nonsense. I also don't think you'll find a lot of clear factual evidence supporting this or that theory of morality, so if you want people only to teach scientifically supported facts to their children, they'll miss out on most of the training that practical wisdom has to offer.
6.3.2009 4:18pm
TaxLawyer:
GMUSL Alum:


@Mike&-- "goyim" means "nations" or "people" in the sense of a tribal (if not quite ethnic) identity. Its typical usage, whether in singular or plural, is definitionally equivalent to gentile, but in a different language; linguistic parsimony suggests that people will use words with fewer syllables over longer ones.
Please get a clue (or several).


That's absurd. The word "goyim" is used by Jews almost exclusively in a derisive way. When we say someone has "goyische kop," for example, we do not mean he has a "non-Jewish head"; we mean that he's an imbecile.

So you're either ignorant about Yiddish and the way it's used, or you're being disingenuous.
6.3.2009 4:23pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, raising children in a religious tradition is for many people just the same thing as teaching them values.

It may be "the same for them". That doesn't make it the same objectively. Indeed, I would want values to be separated from religion, so if the kid rejects the religion later in life, he doesn't reject the values as well.

If the "parents know that it is BS", then why on earth do they bother to be involved with the religion themselves?

Pascal's Wager
6.3.2009 4:26pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Can I say one more thing since I'm seeing a bunch of this in the thread? As I said, I don't think much of the pressure that parents put on their kids to marry within the faith. Nonetheless, this claim of Jewish racism is absurd. While their may be individual Jewish racists, there are also plenty of Jews who contributed their time, effort, and money to the civil rights movement. Jews are at the forefront of human rights NGO's. It just doesn't make sense to label this particular community, with its record on civil rights, as specifically susceptible to racism.
6.3.2009 4:28pm
c.gray (mail):

Does "supply side economics is a fairy tale" express bigotry?


It's obviously an expression of opinion dripping with contempt, which is why it might well be an indication of anti-religious bigotry once you substitute "religion" for "supply side economics".
6.3.2009 4:35pm
random reader:
Dilan Esper says that religious parents should be comfortable waiting to teach beliefs to their adult children, and that the sole reason to "indoctrinate early" is that the parents know deep down that it's B.S. Mr. Esper, I understand that you think it's all B.S., but if you wish to contend seriously that the parents are wrong to start 'em young, even granting for argument's sake that the parent's religious views are right, then you need to grant ALL aspects of that worldview before making such a sweeping statement. That includes (1) the idea that religious ceremonies can have real effects on the soul, e.g., baptism, blessings, receiving communion, whatever, and (2) the very real possibility that the child may die any minute, before adulthood, with the state of her soul in jeopardy.

Sure, that may be B.S. to you, but it completely undercuts your claim that it's still wrong to indoctrinate EVEN FROM their perspective. Catholics, for example, believe that children reach the "age of reason" at about 7, and may be guilty of sin, and need to confess to a priest to "clean up" the stained soul. So you schedule catechism class for age 18, but Johnny hits his sister and breaks some neighborhood windows, gets hit by a car and goes to hell before that.

Further, apart from that whole problem, it's impossible for the truly religious to try to teach plain-old morality WITHOUT the religious element infused. It's dishonest to say "Son, don't hurt anyone, because it violates the social contract. Well, actually, your Mom and I believe it violates God's commands, but we can't tell you that until you're 18. So you just do it on this basis instead."

Again, it's one thing to argue the basic merits of belief or not, but it's preposterous to claim that even the religious should, on their own terms, wait to teach the kids. Try again.
6.3.2009 4:37pm
Brian K (mail):
GMUSL '07 Alum:


@Mike&-- "goyim" means "nations" or "people" in the sense of a tribal (if not quite ethnic) identity. Its typical usage, whether in singular or plural, is definitionally equivalent to gentile, but in a different language; linguistic parsimony suggests that people will use words with fewer syllables over longer ones.

i lived in LA for quite a while, and the only time I ever heard the word goyim used was when it was in a negative manner, although it wasn't necessarily used in a racist manner. perhaps it has something to do with the local LA jew subculture or perhaps there is some other explanation.

(and according to my dictionary, they're both 2 syllables. goy-im. gen-tile.)
6.3.2009 4:42pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
It's obviously an expression of opinion dripping with contempt, which is why it might well be an indication of anti-religious bigotry once you substitute "religion" for "supply side economics".

In other words, it's perfectly OK to ridicule economic beliefs that one regards as silly, but not religious beliefs?

Come on, that's a completely bankrupt position. Religions make FACTUAL claims. They claim that an invisible man in the sky that nobody can prove the existence of did a bunch of sometimes contradictory things some of which are not consistent with the fossil and geologic record.

What is different between THOSE empirical claims and the empirical claims of Arthur Laffer that they are beyond criticism?

As I said, the real problem here is that many who profess to religious beliefs have very thin skins. And that, to me, suggests that they know in the back of their mind that it isn't really true.

Further, apart from that whole problem, it's impossible for the truly religious to try to teach plain-old morality WITHOUT the religious element infused.

Really? It's impossible to teach that it's improper to steal without saying that an invisible man in the sky ordered you not to steal?

Millions of secular and agnostic and atheist parents will wonder how they ever taught morality to their children.

the very real possibility that the child may die any minute, before adulthood, with the state of her soul in jeopardy.

So then it's OK for Christian Scientists to withhold medical treatment to their kids because their "soul" is in jeopardy otherwise, right?

Or does this only apply to favored religions and not disfavored ones?
6.3.2009 4:43pm
TaxLawyer:
Dilan's argument (which is as doctrinaire and inflexible as the "religion" he caricatures) assumes that religion can be separated from the rest of life (and from the teaching of values), that it's something one "does" only for an hour or so of a Sunday.

But my religion (and that of others, no doubt) does not conceive of itself as apart from one's life; it is, properly speaking, a way of life.

-- When my wife and I pray before dinner on Friday evening, shall we leave our daughter plopped in front of a Dora DVD, and call her to the table for chow?

-- Shall we hire a sitter to be home with her on Saturday mornings while we're at shul?

-- Shall we prepare shrimp casserole and ham and cheese sandwiches for her, but not tell her why we don't?

Or should we integrate her fully into the life of her own family, teach her Hebrew, and then let her reject the faith as an adult if she chooses to (God knows, many do make that choice).

We'll choose the latter route, Dilan. But thanks for your insufferable, patronizing advice. [expletive deleted].
6.3.2009 4:47pm
Mike& (mail):
Dilan, raising children in a religious tradition is for many people just the same thing as teaching them values.

Yes. Dilan does not know this and refuses to learn it. Hence, my comment earlier that he is culturally ignorant.

I grew up in the "Heartland." Religion is a way of life.

I am a libertarian. That is a belief. That's much different from a religious way of life. For people in flyover country, religion is life.

As a religious person, you don't just believe in God. You pray before meals. Have Bible studies at home. Go to Bible studies at church. Visit sick people. As a kid I was dragged to prisons to visit inmates. People join hands and stuff to pray before events. It's all very creepy, weird, and incestuous.

If a chick wanted me doing that nonsense, it'd be a deal breaker for me.

I could never go through the rituals my Jewish friends go through. If I married a chick and she expected me to do that nonsense, there would be issues. Which is why it's not surprising that deeply religious people don't often marry outside of the religion. This is not tough stuff.

Jews thus want to date other Jews. Catholics, other Catholics. Evangelicals, other Evangelicals.

So Dilan's comments are indeed the product of great ignorant and great arrogance. He does not yet, yet speaks with the authority of one who does know. Once he understands religious cultures, it will be possible to have an informed discussion with him. Until then, he will keep formulating arguments based on his own cultural ignorance. Thus, rational discussion is impossible.
6.3.2009 4:49pm
Brian K (mail):
However, there may be fairly legitimate reasons for this. For instance, the white gentile would not look as out of place attending bar mitzvahs.

that's a legitmate reason!? "son/daughter, i don't want you marrying a black person because they'll look funny at an event that happens every couple of years." wow
6.3.2009 4:50pm
Mike& (mail):
So you're either ignorant about Yiddish and the way it's used, or you're being disingenuous.

GMUSL '07 Alum did indeed embarrass (or discredit) himself.

The most charitable explanation of his comment is that, desiring to become an Internet expert, he went to Wikipedia for 30 seconds. Anyone can become an Internet expert on anything in 30 seconds. Just copy and paste!
6.3.2009 4:53pm
Cato The Elder (mail):
You have taken the bait. You have allowed Dilan to recenter the discussion on Evangelical racism, "religionism" - better yet, "whatchamacallit - and vacuous "isms" of a group that doesn't identify with the Left, instead of pressing Ilya on this theory of Jewish bigotry. The terrorists have won because they get your attention.
6.3.2009 4:57pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Tax Lawyer:

I am not telling you how to parent. But yes, ideally, parents would not teach their children that disputed factual claims made by religions are TRUE. That DOES NOT mean they shouldn't engage in religious observance, generally live their lives in a religious fashion, etc., around their kids.

But if you are telling them that something is true when you don't actually know it to be true, that's a form of lying to one's kids. You have a First Amendment right to do it, but that doesn't make it moral.
6.3.2009 4:58pm
ShelbyC:

What's so special about religion that its factual can't be criticized in the same terms as an economic theory without someone whining about bigotry?


I dunno, but I believe I've seen you use the term to refer to people who criticize SSM..

There are some things that are viewed as biggotted to criticize. That's why saying "people who believe in supply size economics are stupid" is different from saying, "jews are stupid" or "blacks are stupid".
6.3.2009 5:02pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Mike&:

What you are missing is that just because people REFUSE to separate religious and secular identities doesn't mean it is impossible to do so. It just means they don't want to do so.

You are further missing that a lot of religious practice isn't nearly as integrated into the community as you experienced. There's a heck of a lot of people who profess belief but DON'T change their lives in any way on account of the alleged belief. There are a heck of a lot of people buying Rick Warren's books, eating up the "prosperity gospel", watching preachers on television, etc., who may profess to be Christians but don't do any of the things you describe.

Finally, you are missing that a lot of the times, it isn't simply a personal choice not to be with someone who doesn't engage in the same rituals as you do. Rather, it's a Romeo and Juliet scenario where the participants are fine with it but the family members pressure the person to break it off.
6.3.2009 5:03pm
hawkins:

that's a legitmate reason!? "son/daughter, i don't want you marrying a black person because they'll look funny at an event that happens every couple of years." wow


Perhaps I wasnt clear. If it is acceptable for Jews to oppose their children marrying gentiles due to the way society will treat them, it is rational for them to more opposed to marrying someone who is clearly a gentile (black person) than someone who may pass as a Jew (white person).
6.3.2009 5:03pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I dunno, but I believe I've seen you use the term to refer to people who criticize SSM..

Shelby:

Opposition to gay marriage is not, by itself, bigotry. The active desire to discriminate against gays and lesbians, the belief that straight relationships are better than gay relationships, etc., is bigotry.

Now, let's bring that over to religion.

Opposition to religious belief is not bigotry. The active desire to discriminate against religious people, the belief that non-religious people are "better" than religious people, would, in fact, be bigotry.

But calling religious beliefs "fairy tales" is not an assertion that people who hold them should be discriminated against. It's just the criticism of false factual claims.
6.3.2009 5:05pm
Joe T. Guest:

What I can say is that as a whole, religious belief in America is a mile wide and an inch deep,


True for some maybe. But consider how passe it is seen by the elite in our culture to be sincere and religious (two separate things, both mocked, BTW). Taking religion seriously is not just disagreed with, it is considered a stigma and ridiculed - watered down ceremonial deism notwithstanding. Second, have you ever been exposed, more than in passing in TV coverage, to any of the vibrant communities of faith around the U.S.? There is a lot of depth in those communities. You probably aren't going to find people in white robes and halos though. Believers are ordinary people trying to live their lives by a particular moral code, with some engaged in a thoughtful spiritual quest, others trying to help out the less fortunate through charities, and still others just trying to keep their own act together. I think about my own Catholic parish that is bursting at the seems and doubling the size of the church. You can study metaphysics and doctrine with the PhD associate pastor, get involved with the youth ministry which spends summers abroad doing Peace Corps-like construction projects, or work one of the homeless or domestic violence shelters the parish operates in the adjacent city. You probably won't find anybody in the parish though who would come across as a living saint except maybe one of the padres; in fact the occasional golf junkets and NFL trips are pretty raucous parties. They're just people trying to live a decent life, be part of a good community and maybe help others out when time and resources permit. Is that inch-deep?

I think that like a lot of things we don't see first hand, you're looking religious faith and expecting to see something other than what it actually is. Just because you don't see what you are expecting to see doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
6.3.2009 5:12pm
Suzy:
Dilan, you seem to have constructed this straw figure for religion, and you take any discussion of religious experience as an inherent assault on atheism. It's simply not so. Most religious people in the U.S. believe in the truth of evolution, including the Catholic and Jewish traditions. Baptists and other more literalist or fundamentalist groups generally do not. So if you have a complaint against that interpretation of the Bible, take it up with them, and don't assume it applies to every religious person.

Yes, I laugh off the suggestion that religion is a bunch of fairy tales, because what is the point of railing against it? I'm content that those fairy tales are meaningful and essential to my life. I do not teach my kids about virtue and religion because I'm secretly sure that it's nonsense; I teach it because I think it's true, and I want to share the best of my understanding of life with my kids. I cannot separate my understanding of virtue, ethics, or morals from my understanding of religion. The fact that atheists can separate these things does not mean that religious people cannot join them, any more than the fact that religious people join them means that atheists cannot separate them.

What evidence do you have that most religious people are insincere--that they knowingly lie to their children, trying to brainwash them because Pascal's wager makes it a good gamble? Your only evidence is that you consider some religious people thin-skinned when confronted with repudiation. That's an incredibly weak case, especially for someone who makes such high demands of religious explanation and proofs.

And how should the non-believers train their children, to avoid any unseemly indoctrination before the kids are able to reason it out for themselves? When the kids ask about the purpose of life, should atheists defer all such judgments until they are adults? "I think life has no purpose, and I hope someday you too will think life has no purpose, but for now I'll tell you that I'm not sure what's true." Nonsense. Atheists teach their children a view of how the world works, and religious people do the same, and they can't help but do that because it informs how they live. There is no evidence that one group or another is more disingenuous or knowingly deceptive to their children in this regard.
6.3.2009 5:13pm
Suzy:

But if you are telling them that something is true when you don't actually know it to be true, that's a form of lying to one's kids.


I know the truth of my religious faith as much as I know the truth of anything else, from 2+2 to the sky is blue. Your religious bigotry is extremely clear from your assumption that because you don't happen to believe something is true, that means other people who believe it are liars.

That goes far beyond the factual issue and becomes a bigoted moral condemnation of other people. I may think that a person's economic theory is false, but that doesn't mean he is lying when he argues for it. If you assume that religious people are basically dishonest, then it's very clear that you're a bigot towards them.
6.3.2009 5:19pm
Mikeyes (mail):
rick.felt When you said: "I assure you that no Lutheran thinks that anyone is going to hell for shaving his head and not eating meat" it became clear that you have never lived in Wisconsin :grin:

In our Irish Catholic family we have a prejudice against the men marrying women who are less bright than they are. As far as I can tell for at least 5 generations this has been true and so far it has been beneficial to the whole family. (This is a part of a three rule meme passed on to me by my dad, with my mother's approval: Marry a woman who is smarter than you, marry a woman who can make as much money as you if she wishes, and no history of mental illness in her family. Otherwise anything goes. In fact I am now looking forward to having grandchildren who are eligible to be citizens of Israel.)

Poeple marry for many reasons, but one of the most prevalent is that they recognize something similar in their mate-to-be. Hence the common observation that many people marry those who have traits like their parents (or ar totally opposite depending on the relationship.)

Overall spousal choice is not usually based on racial or even religious bias but probably has more to do with the marriage(s) that was observed while growing up. When you ask someone about their attitudes about a "close relative" marrying, no doubt you will get the already formed attitude of that person and that person's attitude will be strongly influenced by their experience of marriage either their own or that of their parents and grand parents.
6.3.2009 5:20pm
Interested Party:
It was mentioned closer to the top that preference to religion was different than preference to race because of the choice involved in remaining religious.

I dont pretend to be a scholar of the jewish faith, but I was under the impression that there is quite a debate over what qualifies a person as a jew.

The universally accepted notion is that the parents (or just the mother) must be jewish. There children will be jews.

The contested notion is that if brought up as a jew, then one could be considered jewish. This would mean participating in all of the religious ceremonies associated with judaism.

Unless I am mistaken, all of those ceremonies take place before a person could really "choose" to be jewish. If at 13 your parents plan a bar mitzvah, chances are you'll be attending whether you like it or not.

This lack of choice, though not as cemented as skin color (your parents could decide not to raise you jewish, where as your parents could not decide whether to raise you black) still creates the same problem.

Besides...doesnt Tay-Sachs disease and its Ashkenazi prevelance indicate that jews could use some cross breeding?
6.3.2009 5:20pm
Ilya Somin:
Jewish people are very racist.

I lived in Los Angeles for many years. I had never heard the term "goyim" before. I heard it often in L.A.


The term "goyim" is not an ethnic slur (it is even less a racial one). It is simply a Yiddish word for "non-Jews," sometimes used by Jews in English to mean the same thing.

Anyhow, the posts are pretty hilarious. Yes, Somin and Bernstein, Jewish people do indeed discriminate against blacks and whites. It might not be as bad as the numbers show, but it's pretty damned bad. Why rationalize away the bad behavior?

Again, the question is not a matter of "rationalization," but a matter of the frequency of the bad behavior at issue.
6.3.2009 5:21pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Suzy:

The evidence I have is that (excepting some local communities where Joe T's and Mike's statements may have some validity), there is no evidence that the alleged 90 percent of America that is Christian actually engages in religious practices that one would associate with that (and which we see in more religious countries, whether Christian countries in Latin America or Muslim countries in the Middle East).

That's the reality. You have a far, far greater number of people who will profess Christianity to a pollster than who actually go to Church, volunteer for Church events, give alms to the poor, obey Christian rules of conduct in their sex lives, etc.

The problem with Joe T and Mike is they assume that this must mean I believe that nobody actually believes. But I don't believe that. Rather, I believe that a great many people don't believe, or believe only in a very light, Pascal's Wager sense, because that's the only way to make sense the contradiction between a society that professes religion and a society that doesn't-- AS A WHOLE-- act very religious, even if it has some religious actors in it.

Finally, this has degenerated into "what do I tell my kids?". You can frankly tell them whatever you want to tell them. The First Amendment protects that.

Now, if it comes to what you SHOULD tell them, I would say that you shouldn't force-feed them your religious beliefs, because they are based on unprovable truth claims, and the morals and values that you want to impart to them are best separated from religion so that if they reject one, they won't necessarily reject the other.

But I would also observe this. Religious believers MUST know that one of the reasons why so many organized religions insist that children be raised within the faith is because it is easier to persuade a child to accept religious faith without question than it is an adult. Really, this point is undeniable. So why go to all the lengths to obfuscate this and pretend that it's all about saving the child's soul and has nothing to do with the institutional goals of the religious organization?
6.3.2009 5:22pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I know the truth of my religious faith as much as I know the truth of anything else, from 2+2 to the sky is blue. Your religious bigotry is extremely clear from your assumption that because you don't happen to believe something is true, that means other people who believe it are liars.

Suzy, this statement is self refuting. You wouldn't call a person who said that 2 plus 2 equals 5 or the sky is green a bigot.

The reason you call it bigotry is that you KNOW that you can't demonstrate your religion to be true as you can demonstrate that 2 plus 2 is 4 or the sky is blue. All you can do is assert it.

The entire fact that you call it bigotry to question your religion shows that you know, deep in your heart, that there's no objective empirical basis for it.

Calling people who criticize religion bigots is basically the ultimate proof that it's all a house of cards. Evolutionary biologists don't call creationists bigots-- they just call them uninformed.
6.3.2009 5:25pm
ShelbyC:

But calling religious beliefs "fairy tales" is not an assertion that people who hold them should be discriminated against. It's just the criticism of false factual claims.


But why say "fairy tales" as opposed to just saying that they're incorrect? Isn't the reason to consciously or unconciously demean the beliefs, and thereby the people who believe in them, thereby implying that you are better than them?

I mean, everyone is wrong occasionally, but only folks that are way out there believe in fairy tales, right?
6.3.2009 5:25pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
One other thing. It must be really comfortable for professed religious believers, where they can label anyone who criticizes their beliefs "bigots" rather than dealing with the criticism.

It's just so much easier. You don't have to think. You don't have to confront the harsh realities of life. You don't have to consider whether you really have any basis for your professed beliefs. Because it's just "bigots" criticizing you. They can't be right, after all. They're "bigots".

It's a really nice defense mechanism.

The fact of the matter is, you claim to believe in things you can't demonstrate and can't prove. That's fine, if you want to do it. But the proper response to people who point that out isn't "you're a bigot!" but "why do I believe in something I can't demonstrate and can't prove?".

Of course, given where that line of thought leads, it isn't surprising that you take the easy way out and just call the critics "bigots".
6.3.2009 5:29pm
Suzy:
Mikeyes, I think you're struck upon a crucial issue or two in this question about marriage preferences:


This is a part of a three rule meme passed on to me by my dad, with my mother's approval: Marry a woman who is smarter than you, marry a woman who can make as much money as you if she wishes, and no history of mental illness in her family. Otherwise anything goes.


The surveys don't ask if you'd approve of your child marrying someone who is smarter and makes more money. So in the absence of such specifics, people are free to make assumptions about race that are related to these issues. Jewish people tend to have one of the highest levels of educational achievement and income; blacks in America have one of the lowest in both areas. I am guessing the issues of education and income weigh heavily on parental preferences about who their kids marry. I'm also guessing that if you asked parents whether they'd support their child marrying a black Williams graduate who makes 80k a year, you'd see greater enthusiasm for interracial marriage than is expressed in the abstract.
6.3.2009 5:30pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
But why say "fairy tales" as opposed to just saying that they're incorrect? Isn't the reason to consciously or unconciously demean the beliefs, and thereby the people who believe in them, thereby implying that you are better than them?

It's to ridicule the beliefs in exactly the same fashion that calling supply side economics a fairy tale ridicules supply side economics.

But that said, I am not any better than Arthur Laffer, neither the law nor any private business should discriminate against Arthur Laffer, and Arthur Laffer is entitled to believe what he wants to believe.

In contrast, for many (not all, but many) opponents of gay marriage, the point is entirely to ensure that the state continues to treat gays and lesbians as second class citizens.
6.3.2009 5:32pm
pst314 (mail):
"@pst314 -- I'd be hard-pressed to find any Jewish or Israeli leader who has spoken about Blacks or Africans with as much malice as Jesse Jackson."

I likewise, which is why I referred to prejudiced Jews but bigoted blacks. Among African-Americans, unashamed bigotry has become mainstream and carries no real social or professional penalties.
6.3.2009 5:33pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Catholics, for example, believe that children reach the "age of reason" at about 7, and may be guilty of sin, and need to confess to a priest to "clean up" the stained soul. So you schedule catechism class for age 18, but Johnny hits his sister and breaks some neighborhood windows, gets hit by a car and goes to hell before that.

And in the case of Judaism, Jewish theology regards Jews as a community bound together by a covenant with God, binding on Jew from birth, by virtue of their birth as Jews. Non-Jews may voluntarily enter that covenant. There is no procedure for Jews to leave-- if they repudiate Judaism, they aren't non-Jews, but simply bad Jews.

So Judaism is NOT simply a personal relationship with God, the way many american Christians conceive Christianity to be.

Furthermore, responsibility for various Jewish obligations vests at certain ages, which generally are younger than Dilan Esper regards as the age of consent. So raising children to accept the obligations incumbent on them, and assumng those obligations-- including restricting marriage to other Jews-- is part and parcel of Judaism. It goes without saying that converts to Judaism are Jews as much as people who are born Jewish.
6.3.2009 5:36pm
pst314 (mail):
As for Dilan, why respond to someone as obviously hostile to religion? Given his professed hostility to religious faith it's inevitable that he would condemn anyone who sought to pass on those beliefs to their children. Because belief is bad, anyone who holds such beliefs is bad and anyone who does anything to preserve or spread such beliefs is doubly bad. With such people a serious good-faith discussion is impossible.
6.3.2009 5:38pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
But calling religious beliefs "fairy tales" is not an assertion that people who hold them should be discriminated against. It's just the criticism of false factual claims.
...in a deliberately insulting manner, as you well know though you're disingenuously pretending otherwise.
6.3.2009 5:38pm
Suzy:
Dilan, I am not attempting to defend my religious faith to you because it doesn't require defense. What I'm attempting to defend is the thesis that when I teach my children about religion, I am not disingenuously trying to indoctrinate them young. Nor do I do this because I know my faith is baloney, and the only way I can lure the kids in is to force it on them while they're defenseless. I think that the vast majority of religious people are like this, and are not the liars you say they are.

Your bigotry comes not from thinking religion is false--be my guest, deny and challenge it all you like--but from thinking that religious believers must be lying when they affirm this truth, including to their own children. It's as if religious believers were sure that Santa was real, so they told the kids, and you came along and said that since Santa wasn't real, they must be intentionally deceiving their kids!

I am sure that I cannot demonstrate the truth of my religious beliefs to you, because it's quite clear that you reject them. However, I sincerely believe them, just like I believe the sky looks blue and 2+2=4. If I did not really believe those things, it would be a lie to tell them to my kids. But since I do believe them, I do tell my kids. I do not foist or force religion on my children. I cannot force anyone to have faith--what a joke that would be! All I can do is teach them these stories, these fairy tales, and discuss the moral significance they hold, and try to give the best account I can of how the world is. If my kids someday disagree, that is their choice. For you to assume that I or any other religious person is lying in this effort, because we know better but hope to trick our kids out of fear, is indeed bigotry.
6.3.2009 5:39pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Furthermore, responsibility for various Jewish obligations vests at certain ages, which generally are younger than Dilan Esper regards as the age of consent.

That's circular, though. There are religions that require barbaric things be done before the age of consent-- female genital mutiliation in Africa, refusal of medical treatment in Christian Scientism, strapping on a suicide belt in certain strains of fundamentalist Islam. Indeed, even traditional Judaism requires one truly barbaric thing-- male circumcision.

That's the whole point. In an ideal society, people would choose these things as adults and leave the kids out of it. Now, I realize, we don't live in that ideal society. And I don't think we ever could. So I have no problem with protecting the First Amendment rights of parents, within reasonable limits, to inculcate their children with their religious beliefs.

It doesn't make it right, though. Just legal.
6.3.2009 5:40pm
ShelbyC:

It's to ridicule the beliefs in exactly the same fashion that calling supply side economics a fairy tale ridicules supply side economics.


Huh. Is ridiculing the gay sex act in exactly the same fashion that one ridicules the wearing of one's underwear on the outside of one's pants bigotry?


Isn't the whole point that some things (religion, skin color, sexuality, etc) are due a little extra deference due to socitial experience with criticizing those things?
6.3.2009 5:41pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
...in a deliberately insulting manner

Again, though, why are the factual claims of religion entitled to special protection against insult? I've now asked this question six times, and nobody's answered it. They've just asserted that anyone who says that a religion is selling snake oil is a bigot.
6.3.2009 5:41pm
GMUSL '07 Alum (mail):
@Mike&, sorry, but I'm not only Jewish (from a regularly used goy and goyim growing up, never in a pejorative sense except to refer to things like tattoos). Oh, and I've also taken Yiddish academically. What you're doing is like telling me how seeing works when you're completely blind, merely because you've had a few photons hit your skin. You have no grounds to tell me or anybody else what we mean when we use the word. But congratulations on your incorrect assumptions!

@Mike&, @Brian K, @Taxlawyer -- The KJV (admittedly far from anything I consider even close to an accurate or faithful translation) translates goy/goyim as "nation" 374 times, "heathen" 143 times, "Gentiles" 30 times, and "people" 11 times. The term "goyim" in that and other version also refers to the Jewish nation of people, albeit infrequently.

@Taxlawyer -- Just because you use a word one way doesn't mean that I or others use it the same way. I agree that when you use it AS AN ADJECTIVE, as in "goyische kop," the adjectival form is likely pejorative, as when my mom refers to tattoos as "goyishe crap". But it doesn't follow that the nouns are, in and of themselves, pejorative. I'm sorry that you use them that way.

@ Brian K -- not exactly, w/r/t the syllables. "gentile" is pronounced with the "-ile" as /ayl/, which is dipthongized and more difficult to say. Goyim, in yiddish, is 2 easy dipthong-free syllables.
6.3.2009 5:46pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Huh. Is ridiculing the gay sex act in exactly the same fashion that one ridicules the wearing of one's underwear on the outside of one's pants bigotry?

Yes, because: (1) there's no such thing as "the gay sex act"; a sex act is a sex act, whether performed by straights or gays, (2) "the gay sex act" isn't a truth claim unsupported by evidence, and (3) gays and lesbians, unlike American Christians, are a historically oppressed minority group who is disfavored in the law as well as facing discrimination in society.

Isn't the whole point that some things (religion, skin color, sexuality, etc) are due a little extra deference due to socitial experience with criticizing those things?

Religious PRACTICE is certainly entitled to deference. There was a recent incident in which professional atheist PZ Meyers deliberately desecrated a communion wafer. That was pretty tasteless and motivated by anti-religious bias.

Similarly, people who, for instance, make fun of Orthodox Jews for wearing traditional dress are scum.

But saying that Catholics have no evidence to believe that Jesus was born to a virgin mother is not at all the same thing as throwing a communion wafer in a trash can. In the second case, a church makes a ridiculous and untrue factual claim about a person's sex life who lived 2,000 years ago. Ridiculing that sort of factual claim isn't "bigotry". Indeed, what you guys are calling for is for the ridiculous factual claims of religions to be above criticism.

Which raises a question. Do you guys extend this to other religions? Is anyone who mocks the claim in Islam about 72 virgins a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Joseph Smith got a revalation that he could engage in polygamy a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Marshall Applewhite and his followers were leaving to meet the mothership a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Muhammed rose to heaven on a golden steed a bigot?

I doubt you guys really believe that. You just want YOUR religion to escape criticism. And that, I would suggest again, is because you know it's a house of cards.
6.3.2009 5:48pm
Suzy:

Again, though, why are the factual claims of religion entitled to special protection against insult? I've now asked this question six times, and nobody's answered it. They've just asserted that anyone who says that a religion is selling snake oil is a bigot.


They're not entitled to special protection against insult. However, you do need to have evidence that they know they're selling snake oil, before calling them a bunch of lying snake oil salesmen.

So far, you've offered no evidence of that beyond the fact that some people get offended when you criticize their beliefs, and some people profess belief because they fear hell. That's an incredibly weak argument. I trust you'd never accept evidence that weak in favor of any religious claim.
6.3.2009 5:49pm
TaxLawyer:
...in a deliberately insulting manner

Again, though, why are the factual claims of religion entitled to special protection against insult? I've now asked this question six times, and nobody's answered it. They've just asserted that anyone who says that a religion is selling snake oil is a bigot.




Though I suspect Cato the Elder was right, and your mind is closed, I'll try.

Religion is not about "factual claims." I am a pretty observant Jew, but I do not believe the world was created in seven days, 6,000 years ago. Modern science gives much better factual answers to that question, and I accept them.

I nonetheless believe the book of Genesis to be true. Truth, though, has many layers. "Animal Farm," for example, says a great deal that is true about human society. But Orwell didn't beleive in talking pigs, none of his readers did either, and no one understood him to be talking about talking pigs.

It was an allegory. If Orwell is capable of allegory, then so is God. And believing much of God's Word to be allegorical doesn't make it any less true.

Now, I could probably write for another hour and scatter the bits of your offensive strawman farther, but I'm through with you.
6.3.2009 5:49pm
ShelbyC:

why are the factual claims of religion entitled to special protection against insult?


Cuz nobody ever tried to exterminate supply side economists.

The same reason other categories are protected from insult.

If I say people born on Friday are stupid I'm an idiot.

If I say blacks are stupid I'm an idiot and a bigot.
6.3.2009 5:50pm
Mike& (mail):
The term "goyim" is not an ethnic slur (it is even less a racial one). It is simply a Yiddish word for "non-Jews," sometimes used by Jews in English to mean the same thing.

I agree! Just yesterday, I said: I am so sick of all the non-whites in the United States. I mean that simply as "non-white," and it is not an ethnic slur (it is even less a racial one.)

Come on man. Be sincere.

Incidentally, when a groups of Jews in an office say, "Who the f--k does this goyim think he is," what is their point? Is their goal to include or exclude? Is goyim being used a term of derision? Or simply a neutral observation?

If the latter, why is it even relevant that a person is a non-Jew?

Seriously, man. You make some weird arguments. I always assumed you were at least being sincere. Now.... It's not so clear.
6.3.2009 5:52pm
ShelbyC:
BTW, Dilan, I usually avoid concepts like "bigotry" because I find the rules kind of arbitrary. But I figured I'd call you out since I saw you doing it to someone on the other thread, and I did find your comment, well... bigotted.

Sorry.
6.3.2009 5:53pm
ShelbyC:

It was an allegory. If Orwell is capable of allegory, then so is God. And believing much of God's Word to be allegorical doesn't make it any less true.



Huh. Serious question: Is believing God Himself to be alligorical taking things too far?
6.3.2009 5:57pm
Mike& (mail):
GMU '07 Alum:

Your arguments are laughable and insincere. Jew, by a dictionary definition, is just a group of people.

Yet one may use Jew as an insult:
"You're such a Jew!"
"Jew lawyer."
"Jew banker."
"That guy tried to Jew me down!"
"Look at this Jew!"
"Stop acting like a Jew!"

Those are not particularly effective insults. Nevertheless, people do indeed use Jew as an insult.

Indeed, the very term Jew is so loaded that people have debated whether one should say, "Jewish person" instead of "Jew." I believe David Bernstein even had a post on this subject at the Volokh Conspiracy. (He endorsed the usage of Jew.)

Of course, if we accepted your view, none of those usages of Jew would be insulting. After all, the person was merely noting a religious or cultural indicator.

It is indeed cute to suggest that goyim is a neutral term. Your position, however, is neither rigorous nor sincere. In common usage (especially in L.A.), goyim is a term of derision. Just as Jew is also often used a term of derision.
6.3.2009 6:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Great, 3 different answers:

They're not entitled to special protection against insult. However, you do need to have evidence that they know they're selling snake oil, before calling them a bunch of lying snake oil salesmen.

This is the easiest. All sorts of religions make all sorts of contradictory truth claims. Within even a single religion, there are multiple, contradictory truth claims. Indeed, even within scripture, there are multiple contradictory truth claims.

Further, there are all the things that religions used to claim to be true but which were disproven by science. Geocentrism. The Genesis creation story. The age of the earth. The biblical flood.

There is also the fact that religion, even now, is so associated with snake oil. How many hucksters are asking for money? How many preachers are saying one thing about sexual morality while doing something else?

And, most importantly, I might add that it isn't the critics of religion who have the burden of proof here. There's no basis for believing in religion. None at all. No proof that any of it is true. So the PRESUMPTION should be that it is snake oil, even if there weren't overwhelming evidence that is consistent with the presumption.

Religion is not about "factual claims." I am a pretty observant Jew, but I do not believe the world was created in seven days, 6,000 years ago. Modern science gives much better factual answers to that question, and I accept them.

First of all, many believers would reject this. Many believers believe that these doctrines are literal. Not only doctrines like "the earth is 6,000 years old" but also doctrines like "Jesus' mother never had sex". They don't believe that these are allegories. You certainly have the right to disagree with them. But you can't say that "religion is not about 'factual claims'". To you it may not be, but to many people it is.

Further, even your neutered form of religion is still about factual claims. As you said, you believe in Genesis as an allegory. What that must mean (because it can't mean anything else) is that you think at least some aspects of it are true. Whichever aspects those are, those are factual claims. If you believe that there is one God and not many, for instance, that is a factual claim. If you believe that the first humans were Adam and Eve, that is a factual claim. If you believe that the serpent tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, that is a factual claim.

In other words, all you are doing is saying "I don't know which of these things are true and which are false, but I believe there is a kernel of truth there and the rest is allegory". That still, in the end, has your religion making factual claims (subject to mockery), just more general ones.

Cuz nobody ever tried to exterminate supply side economists.

This makes no sense, though. I don't want to exterminate religious people. Indeed, I favor strong protections in favor of the free exercise of religion, as do, as far as I know, most if not all of the modern critics of religion. Further, as far as I know, most of the attempts to exterminate religious believers over the years have been perpetrated by OTHER RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS. Indeed, the most prominent recent example-- the Holocaust-- was perpetrated the government which was careful to maintain a stance of official Christianity.

The point is, we can't rule out any criticism or ridicule of religion just because people have tried to exterminate religious people in the past. Governments have tried to exterminate atheists and agnostics too-- does that mean you can't criticize them?
6.3.2009 6:02pm
BGates:
It's all very creepy, weird, and incestuous.

You tried to comfort the sick and imprisoned? That is creepy. Did you abjure violence, and give stuff to poor people? Nothing says "incest" like doing nice things for people you don't even know, right?
6.3.2009 6:04pm
Bored Lawyer:
Mike&

I don't know who you are responding to, but surely you understand the difference between a word which is inherently insulting and one which might be insulting in context.

"Black" is a neutral term. It could be used in an insulting manner, but not necessarily so. While "N----R" is, at least in America, universally regarded as a contemptuous insult.

"Goyim" is in the former category. In the original Hebrew it simply means "nations." As in "praise Him all the Nations." In Yiddish, it came to mean non-Jews in general.

Is it sometimes used perjoratively? Sure. Does it have to be used that way? No.
6.3.2009 6:08pm
ShelbyC:
a sex act is a sex act, whether performed by straights or gays,

the book my dad gave me years ago says it's a little different when performed by gays


"the gay sex act" isn't a truth claim unsupported by evidence,

neither is "religious beliefs are fairy tales"

gays and lesbians, unlike American Christians, are a historically oppressed minority group who is disfavored in the law as well as facing discrimination in society.


Your statements applied to Jews and Moslems as well, correct?
6.3.2009 6:11pm
Suzy:

This is the easiest.


Yet it must have been hard, because you didn't answer it. What evidence do you have that the believers do not truly believe, and thus are knowingly deceiving their children when they teach them about religion?

The fact that you find religion contradictory, unlikely, or unprovable is not relevant. Believers don't find it to be so. The fact that religious people used to believe false things that other religious people don't believe today is meaningless and even harms your case, because hey, these terrible liars at least seem capable of rejecting false beliefs sometimes. The fact that some preachers are hypocrites or that some people try to profit from selling religion does not show that believers are generally insincere.

There is no "burden of proof" here because, again, the issue is not whether religious claims are true. It's whether the religious honestly believe in the value and truth of what they are teaching their children. And for me the answer is yes. I'm mystified by why you'd want to sit here and tell me I'm a liar anyway, but ok. That's the bigotry I'm seeing, btw.
6.3.2009 6:14pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Shelby:

Lots of people say lots of things in books. However there's no relevant difference between the sex acts of gays and lesbians and the sex acts of straights that merits discrimination against a historically oppressed group.

As for Jews and Muslims (why the antiquated spelling?-- nobody says "Moslems" anymore in intelligent discourse), of course they are historically oppressed. But that doesn't exempt their truth claims from scrutiny.

Suzy:

I answered all of that above. Organized religions have had to drop many many doctrines over the years as science disproved them. What remains is a bunch of claims without any evidence.

It's no different than snake oil. The snake oil salesman can't say for sure that the snake oil won't cure your ailment-- he doesn't know. But he claims that he does. That's exactly what religion is.

None of us know. Some of us admit that; others claim, without evidence, that we know. And apparently pointing out the lack of evidence is "bigotry". How convenient.
6.3.2009 6:19pm
ShelbyC:

nobody says "Moslems" anymore in intelligent discourse),


didn't know that. I learned it that way when I was a kid and I guess I haven't been paying attention. Sorry for the unintelligent discourse.


However there's no relevant difference between the sex acts of gays and lesbians and the sex acts of straights that merits discrimination against a historically oppressed group.


No. The point was that it's not bigotted to ridicule many things (ear-sex?) it's considered bigotted to ridicule gay sex. That is because many things (religion, skin color, certain sex acts) are, as you say, entitled to special protection against insult.
6.3.2009 6:29pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Shelby, what you insist on calling "gay sex" (i.e., sex) is not a factual claim. It's a practice.

Ridiculing "gay sex" is like ridiculing Orthodox Jews for growing beards and wearing yarmulkes. Only it's even worse than that, because unlike with Orthodox Jews, there's a whole bunch of Americans who are looking for every chance they can get to enshrine discrimination against gays and lesbians into the law.

But if a gay rights group claimed that there was no homosexual transmission of HIV in the 1980's (a FACTUAL claim), you'd have every right to mock that, and it wouldn't be bigoted to do so.
6.3.2009 6:33pm
GMUSL '07 Alum (mail):
@Mike&-- you keep digging yourself deeper.
Incidentally, when a groups of Jews in an office say, "Who the f--k does this goyim think he is," what is their point? Is their goal to include or exclude? Is goyim being used a term of derision? Or simply a neutral observation?

This is just absurd. No Jew worth his salt would use a plural noun, "goyim," instead of the singular, "goy" when referring to a singular male individual, as in your example. To wit, "this goy . . he is" and "these goyim . . . they are"

You continually demonstrate your utter cluelessness about the word, its meaning, and context.

I guess people who grew up in spanish-speaking areas who are fluent in english should never even use the phrase "la raza" around you.
6.3.2009 6:38pm
Suzy:
So your position is essentially this: I am right about religion, and religious believers are wrong about it. However, it is not enough for me that they are wrong: it is also impossible for any person to deny that there is insufficient justification for religious beliefs. So deep down, all religious believers must realize that they are wrong, and thus they are lying when they claim to believe. Therefore, anyone who disagrees with me about religion is not simply wrong, but also a knowing liar.

Now, I could say the same thing about you, especially since you have conveniently admitted that "none of us know". If none of us know, then how can you insist that people who innocently think they know are wrong, and are lying? However, I prefer to assume that you're sincere, unless I have evidence to the contrary. I wonder why you cannot grant the same courtesy to believers, until you have actual evidence that they are being disingenuous.

Since you're concerned that children can be forcibly brainwashed into religious belief, I wonder when you think the magic moment occurs that they become liar-believers rather than merely duped-believers? Perhaps stupid people will escape your condemnation, while those clever enough to know better must simply be hedging their bets against hell while trying to trick their own children.
6.3.2009 6:38pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Dilan,

You're entitled to think that what others consider inseparable from values that should be taught from infancy is nothing but fairy tales. My beliefs happen to fall somewhere in between. But you can't just blanket assert ipse dixit that "[t]he whole point of teaching them to children is that the parents know that it is BS and the only way to get the children to believe is to get them while they are young." Do you have any evidence of deceptive intent that isn't based on unsupported assumptions?
6.3.2009 6:40pm
ShelbyC:

Ridiculing "gay sex" is like ridiculing Orthodox Jews for growing beards and wearing yarmulkes.


And ridiculing "gay sex" is different than criticizing "gay sex". (I'd imagine I'd have a few criticisms if I tried). And it sounds like we agree that certain things are entitled to special protection again ridicule. And as you said, you wern't just criticizing religious beliefs, you were ridiculing them.
6.3.2009 6:45pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Suzy, quite simply, the assertion of the absolute truth of a fact that one does not know to be true is, in fact, a false statement.

If I say that I am sure that Vitamin C cures some strains of the common cold, and I actually do not know that to be the case, I am lying. Now, I actually don't know that it doesn't cure some strains of the common cold either. I don't know one way or the other. But I represent that I know it.

Religious believers are making absolute factual claims without any basis for belief. They just believe. That's their constitutional right, of course. But it's not exactly the same thing as telling the truth.

In a perfect world, it isn't that children would never be exposed to religious practice. It's that people wouldn't tell children that things were true that they did not know to be true, before the children have critical faculties to evaluate that claim. And your argument that there has to be a bright line as to when that happens is fatuous. Is there a bright line as to when to tell a child about sex? About drugs? About being adopted? Etc.

It isn't a set age so much as it is that one shouldn't be taking advantage of the fact that someone does not yet have critical faculties, and the parent's role as an authority figure, to tell the child a bunch of stuff the truth of which the parent does not know.
6.3.2009 6:46pm
Steve H (mail):

In other words, it's perfectly OK to ridicule economic beliefs that one regards as silly, but not religious beliefs?


Yes. In addition to the reasons Shelby gave, it's simply classless and rude to ridicule someone's religious beliefs.

As far as I know, there are very few people for whom their economic beliefs form part of their very core. (Although if the issue were incorporation of the Second Amendment ... ) So mocking someone's economic beliefs might piss someone off, but it usually doesn't ridicule their very being.

Religion, however, is a much more serious matter. So mocking or insulting one's religious beliefs is a more serious matter than mocking economic beliefs.

If you want to say, "I believe there's no God," that's fine. Nothing rude about that. But IMHO, "Religious believers are a bunch of gullible morons who were taken in by fairy tales" has no place in civilized discourse.

And for what it's worth, I say all this as a dedicated atheist and a firm believer in separation of church and state.
6.3.2009 6:47pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
But you can't just blanket assert ipse dixit that "[t]he whole point of teaching them to children is that the parents know that it is BS and the only way to get the children to believe is to get them while they are young." Do you have any evidence of deceptive intent that isn't based on unsupported assumptions?

Leo, it's Occam's Razor. It's the natural explanation as to why someone wouldn't wait until critical faculties are developed, and why organized religions work so hard to get 'em while they are young.

And read upthread, the alternative explanations aren't convincing at all.
6.3.2009 6:47pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
As far as I know, there are very few people for whom their economic beliefs form part of their very core.

I don't know what this means. Does this means that if an incredibly stupid and false belief forms a part of the person's very core, we can't criticize it?

So we can't ridicule communism to a committed Marxist? We can't ridicule astrology to someone who visits a tarot card reader every week? We can't ridicule hypochondria to a hypochondriac?

What you guys all miss is that it doesn't matter how close to one's "core" this really gets-- religion makes a bunch of factual claims based on no evidence. Factual claims based on no evidence don't suddenly become anything other than that just because they form the "core" of a person.
6.3.2009 6:50pm
ShelbyC:

Leo, it's Occam's Razor. It's the natural explanation as to why someone wouldn't wait until critical faculties are developed, and why organized religions work so hard to get 'em while they are young.



But don't people work to ingrain beliefs that they don't think are BS (honesty, tolerance, etc?) in children at a young age?
6.3.2009 6:52pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
But don't people work to ingrain beliefs that they don't think are BS (honesty, tolerance, etc?) in children at a young age?

Again, those are values, not factual claims.

This seems to be the entire nub of the dispute. You guys don't seem to realize that religions make factual claims, not just value claims. And those factual claims are taught to children by authority figures taking advantage of their authority and the fact that the child doesn't have the critical faculties developed to dispute them.
6.3.2009 6:57pm
Steve H (mail):
First, I wasn't talking about "can" or "can't." I was talking about "should" or "shouldn't."

Second, I didn't say that criticism, in and of itself, was out of line. I was saying that mockery and insult are out of line (in civilized discourse).

Third, I kind of doubt that there are a significant number of believers in astrology or Communism for whom that belief is an essential part of who they are. But for those people, yes, I don't think they should be insulted or mocked.

And your last point is irrelevant. You believe that religious beliefs are erroneous. So do I, by the way. But in my view, disagreement with a belief does not give license to offend the believer.
6.3.2009 7:00pm
ShelbyC:

Again, those are values, not factual claims.

This seems to be the entire nub of the dispute. You guys don't seem to realize that religions make factual claims, not just value claims. And those factual claims are taught to children by authority figures taking advantage of their authority and the fact that the child doesn't have the critical faculties developed to dispute them.


Huh. But isn't it even more true with factual claims? Folks teach kids that the sky is blue and God did whatever at the same age, right?
6.3.2009 7:01pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Shelby:

No, because there's a difference between factual claims with an empirical basis and factual claims without one.
6.3.2009 7:02pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Dilan,

And read upthread, the alternative explanations aren't convincing at all.

I don't believe at least the supernatural parts of those stories, and if I had kids I wouldn't teach them from a religious text. But I don't think Occam's razor works here. It's possible some parents have the deceptive motives you describe, but I think the most obvious explanation for most is that some honestly believe every word, some believe enough to make the whole true overall, and those who doubt the literal narrative still think it's a useful allegory for teaching children abstract norms. That's not an intention to deceive. It's an intention to use effective tools for teaching things children ought to know.

You guys don't seem to realize that religions make factual claims, not just value claims. And those factual claims are taught to children by authority figures taking advantage of their authority and the fact that the child doesn't have the critical faculties developed to dispute them.

Let's assume that's true for the sake of argument. It still doesn't follow that parents as a rule teach it to their kids because they're afraid their kids wouldn't buy it if they wait. If the parents believe the underlying norms are important for moral development, you can criticize their using factually questionable allegories to teach them, but the motive is still a positive value of early learning, not avoidance of the kids' presumed later skepticism.
6.3.2009 7:23pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Leo:

The problem with that argument is that you don't need the factual claims to teach the norms and morals. Indeed, surely every religious parent teaches their children many moral lessons that aren't commanded by their religion. (For instance, don't religious parents read "The Tortoise And the Hare" to their kids?)

So there's no particular reason to include the factual claims unsupported by evidence in the moral lessons, except that childhood gives them an opportunity to get them while they are young.
6.3.2009 7:30pm
sureyoubet:
"You guys don't seem to realize that religions make factual claims, not just value claims. And those factual claims are taught to children by authority figures taking advantage of their authority and the fact that the child doesn't have the critical faculties developed to dispute them."

But they do have the critical faculties to ask "why" when it comes to morals, values, ethics, etc...

And if men are nothing but carbon masses that are a random accident of chemistry and evolution without a soul or spirit, then I honestly cannot give them a logical answer as to why they should do the right thing if no one is looking.

After all even if someone else is harmed, they are just carbon and water. Their emotions and feelings are nothing more than fleeting elecrical impulses. There is no reason to be concerned with others, except to the extent they can make your brief existence more pleasurable.

And if you say you "believe" that humanity is more than that, then you too are religious.
6.3.2009 7:31pm
Blue:

Religious believers MUST know that one of the reasons why so many organized religions insist that children be raised within the faith is because it is easier to persuade a child to accept religious faith without question than it is an adult. Really, this point is undeniable. So why go to all the lengths to obfuscate this and pretend that it's all about saving the child's soul and has nothing to do with the institutional goals of the religious organization?


It is truly a shame that you were not given the opportunity as a child to learn the faith of a child. It is possible for an adult such as yourself to find faith but it is a long and difficult process and many never succeed.

It isn't an issue of "pesuasion" with the faith of children. It is giving them a touchstone of faith to return through for the rest of their lives.
6.3.2009 7:32pm
ShelbyC:

No, because there's a difference between factual claims with an empirical basis and factual claims without one.



So Occam's razor says that people teach factual claims with an emperical basis to kids at a young age for one reason, and factual claims without an emperical basis to kids at a young age for another reason?
6.3.2009 7:35pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
So Occam's razor says that people teach factual claims with an emperical basis to kids at a young age for one reason, and factual claims without an emperical basis to kids at a young age for another reason?

Yes, actually it does.

It is truly a shame that you were not given the opportunity as a child to learn the faith of a child.

The children of in the Branch Davidian compound were given that "gift". Look what it got them.
6.3.2009 7:46pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Dilan Esper:

The problem with that argument is that you don't need the factual claims to teach the norms and morals.

True.

So there's no particular reason to include the factual claims unsupported by evidence in the moral lessons, except that childhood gives them an opportunity to get them while they are young.

False. Not only is the particular intention you ascribe unsupported by evidence, so is intention of any kind. Parents do all sorts of things their parents did without much thought at all. And when they do think about it, it's hardly ever as specific and logical as you think. Intention aside, few people even have the ability to think in such abstract terms.

Let me give just one example. By the time I was born, my dad, a pretty bright guy, also a lawyer, was completely unobservant religiously, though he wasn't an atheist. He was just furious at God because of the Holocaust. He couldn't have cared less if I practiced Judaism or believed the Biblical accounts, but he sent me to Hebrew School anyway. I never asked him why, but I'd bet anything the question would have surprised him. It was just something you did. I'm sure he considered it his responsibility to me, not to himself, God or any religious institution, to give me the normal religious education his parents gave him and his peers gave their kids, and not to punish me with his personal feud with God. I assure you the accuracy of the Biblical narrative never crossed his mind. And I don't think he was that unusual.
6.3.2009 9:15pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Let me give just one example. By the time I was born, my dad, a pretty bright guy, also a lawyer, was completely unobservant religiously, though he wasn't an atheist. He was just furious at God because of the Holocaust. He couldn't have cared less if I practiced Judaism or believed the Biblical accounts, but he sent me to Hebrew School anyway. I never asked him why, but I'd bet anything the question would have surprised him. It was just something you did. I'm sure he considered it his responsibility to me, not to himself, God or any religious institution, to give me the normal religious education his parents gave him and his peers gave their kids, and not to punish me with his personal feud with God. I assure you the accuracy of the Biblical narrative never crossed his mind. And I don't think he was that unusual.

That sounds pretty idiosyncratic to me, and certainly not where the fights are occurring. In other words, what we've seen in this comments thread is considerable pushback by purportedly devout individuals against the idea that they shouldn't be teaching contested, unsupported by evidence religious claims to their children as true.

They aren't saying this because it's traditional or because they want their kids to learn what their parents taught them. They are saying this because they want their kids to adopt their religious beliefs.

I am sure that some people do give their kids religious instruction for the reasons you set out. But I doubt those people would be particularly passionate about how important it is to do so. In other words, if such a person married someone who didn't think such religious instruction was such a great idea, would they press it and insist. Would they divorce and marry someone else? I get the feeling that for many of the commenters here it is indeed a deal breaker. They want their kids to learn their religion, darn it!

In any event, even if it is only done for ceremonial reasons, one shouldn't be presenting evidenceless claims to one's children as true. The fact of the matter is that young children are entirely trusting of what authority figures tell them, and if they are telling them things that don't have any evidentiary support, the children are going to accept them. And that's what's so terrible about this.
6.3.2009 9:34pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
But don't people work to ingrain beliefs that they don't think are BS (honesty, tolerance, etc?) in children at a young age?

Again, those are values, not factual claims.
"Blacks and whites are equal." That's a factual claim. Should parents not teach that to their children?
6.3.2009 9:45pm
NowMDJD (mail):

That's the whole point. In an ideal society, people would choose these things as adults and leave the kids out of it.

We hold children to certain secular obligations-- for example they are liable in tort for intentional acts. We hold them to elective obligations-- like doing their homework or having dinner with the family. pPresumably you have no problem with these.

Why do you single out obligations to a community held together by allegiance to God?
6.3.2009 9:55pm
Blue:
Dilan, it strikes me that you are uniquely unqualified to offer an opinion on why religious parents expose their children to their faith. It's not your fault--you were just raised in an impoverished childhood.
6.3.2009 10:01pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Incidentally, when a groups of Jews in an office say, "Who the f—k does this goyim think he is," what is their point? Is their goal to include or exclude? Is goyim being used a term of derision? Or simply a neutral observation?

And I don't believe the author of this block ever heard this, because "goyim" is a pleural form. A Jew referring to a non-Jew using that word (which as others have said, may be perjorative or non-perjorative depending on context and speaker) would use the word "goy."

Whoever wrote this isn't writing from experience.
6.3.2009 10:04pm
NowMDJD (mail):

Religious believers MUST know that one of the reasons why so many organized religions insist that children be raised within the faith is because it is easier to persuade a child to accept religious faith without question than it is an adult.

Some faculties are more easily developed, and some skills more easoily learned, at a young age. Two examples are foreign languages and spirituality.
6.3.2009 10:11pm
hawkins:

nobody says "Moslems" anymore in intelligent discourse),

didn't know that. I learned it that way when I was a kid and I guess I haven't been paying attention. Sorry for the unintelligent discourse.



Come on, that's just absurd. You havent noticed that every reputable source uses a much different spelling?
6.3.2009 10:30pm
Suzy:
Dilan, I have difficulty understanding your epistemology. In it, every belief is either a value claim or a fact claim. Religious claims are exclusively factual claims. You apparently believe that it is possible to have rock-solid, unshakeable evidence of every true non-religious factual claim that we wish to convey to our children as a normal part of their upbringing. Meanwhile, there is zero such evidence whatsoever for the religious claims.

If these are the 4 premises of your epistemology, I would say that each one of them is a failure. There are facts about morality. There are value claims in religion that are inextricable from the religious belief (though this does not preclude non-religious people from having values).

We constantly tell our children all kinds of things for which we have no evidence. I don't understand physics as well as I'd like to, and I have difficulty raising my children with the proper understanding of matter, energy, gravity, etc. Yet I talk about these things as if I know something true about them, because I can't help but operate with my limited, simplistic physics worldview. This does not make me a liar selling physics snake oil to my children. I hope their understanding someday exceeds mine. I have an unshakeable belief that love which goes beyond mere biological connection is real, and I try to teach that to my children every day. This is a factual claim. Am I a liar for that? Trying to get them to love me young before they realize it's all just brain chemistry?

I believe there is plenty of evidence for religious claims. I experience many of these things as completely real and unshakeable. I would be more apt to believe that--like the doubting version of Descartes--I've got confused notions about mathematics, than to believe that there is no creator for whom existence or being has a good purpose.

I think when you automatically call people liars because they don't share your beliefs, you are deeply bigoted. I assure you that I will not be upset if my children do not share my faith someday. Each person has to reason about this. I fully intend to share with them the arguments for doubting that faith, when the right time comes. For you to impute all sorts of sinister motives to people without evidence is indeed a value claim--a bigoted claim--a claim you should be ashamed to be making.
6.3.2009 11:06pm
Suzy:
On a separate topic, then, let me address the idea that it's okay to teach our children Aesop's fables. If these fables did not convey truths about how people should live and behave, we would have no business teaching them. And yet, we do not have unshakeable evidence of this on your view--we merely have the fairy tales. So why is it not pernicious, knowing dishonesty to teach children about the mouse and the lion, or the fox and the crow? On your view the only possible reason to inflict Aesop on a child--assuming you think the story conveys truths--is a desire to brainwash the child early.

If you think children can easily distinguish what is true and false about these stories, you're mistaken and maybe need to spend some more time around little kids. They often believe in Santa, too. You should love that, because the intellectual tools necessary to reason away Santa are the same ones you're going to want them to use later, to disprove God.
6.3.2009 11:12pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, it strikes me that you are uniquely unqualified to offer an opinion on why religious parents expose their children to their faith. It's not your fault--you were just raised in an impoverished childhood.

Yeah, I am so impoverished that I wasn't born to one of the women in David Koresh's compound or a family of Muslim suicide bombers. I really feel I missed out.
6.4.2009 1:00am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Why do you single out obligations to a community held together by allegiance to God?

I don't single it out. It falls in the same category as astrology, faith healing, seances, and other things that people claim to believe but which aren't supported by any evidence.
6.4.2009 1:00am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
"Blacks and whites are equal." That's a factual claim.

It's a value judgment, actually.
6.4.2009 1:01am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Some faculties are more easily developed, and some skills more easoily learned, at a young age. Two examples are foreign languages and spirituality.

The difference is that foreign languages are simply a useful tool. What you call "spirituality" is simply defeating the critical faculties to ensure that a person believes in something without evidence.

Also, there's a great irony in the example you choose. Learning foreign languages brings the world together. Religious indoctrination splits the world apart into warring tribes.
6.4.2009 1:03am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Religious claims are exclusively factual claims.

I never said that. Religious claims THAT CLAIM THAT CERTAIN THINGS OCCURRED HISTORICALLY are factual claims.

In other words, "thou shalt not kill" is a value claim. The claim that Moses was handed a stone tablet on a Mountain in the Levant from God and brought it down to the Israelites is a factual claim.

We constantly tell our children all kinds of things for which we have no evidence.

Any given parent may not have evidence. But that doesn't mean the evidence doesn't exist.

YOU may not know how gravity works. But gravity is nonetheless confirmed by empirical observation.

Meanwhile, for thousands of years, people have searched and searched and searched for even ONE piece of reliable evidence that your religious beliefs-- or the religious beliefs of other people-- actually correspond to fact. And yet there is no such reliable evidence.

These things are in two different categories.

Suzy, the reality is that you are lying. You know damned well that religious belief is believing things without a shred of evidence. You can be all postmodern and claim that there's no evidence for things that are emperically confirmed. But you don't really believe that. You don't live your life that way. You swerve to avoid a crosswalk because a pedestrian is there and you believe in the laws of physics. You don't swerve to avoid God in that same crosswalk because you know there's no evidence She is actually there.

I believe there is plenty of evidence for religious claims. I experience many of these things as completely real and unshakeable.

Just as delusionals have visions and drug users have hallucinations, Suzy. Your personal experience, unverifiable by others, untestable by scientific observers, is not evidence. It's just a hollow claim.

I am sorry that you claim that you can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Of course, I think you perfectly can but just don't want to admit the lack of evidence for your faith. But if you really are having visions of what you think is God, you might want to seek professional counseling.
6.4.2009 1:10am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dilan:

Do you guys extend this to other religions? Is anyone who mocks the claim in Islam about 72 virgins a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Joseph Smith got a revalation that he could engage in polygamy a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Marshall Applewhite and his followers were leaving to meet the mothership a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Muhammed rose to heaven on a golden steed a bigot? I doubt you guys really believe that. You just want YOUR religion to escape criticism.


You've asked a bunch of good questions that no one has answered, but I particularly like that one.

It reminds me of an instance at VC where someone (apparently a Christian) seemed comfortable supporting prejudice against a particular religion because he considers it less "valid" than Christianity (link, link, link). So his answer to your question ("Do you guys extend this to other religions?") seems to be 'no.' Just one example, but I think it's representative.
6.4.2009 5:08am
Blue:
How can you have any notion of the value of spirtuality when you do not possess the trait? (By the way, your petty references to Koresh and suicide bombers merely serve to demonstrate your ignorance about it.)

I don't understand your insistence that people who believe aren't just wrong but willfully lying. I believe that the fact of existence is proof of a Creator and I see the hand of that Creator in the world. I intend to teach my son that (or more precisely to communicate those beliefs to him).

Your postings are also chock full of logical errors. For example, you pull some particularly silly bit of text and say, "See! All you are doing is teaching nonsense!" But there are many elements of my belief structure, Christianity, that are confirmed by historical fact. For instance, it is a historical fact that there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth. It is a historical fact that he was a religious leader 2,000 years ago. It is a historical fact that he was crucified. What is more, and this is important, it is a historical fact that his followers did not act as is he was a failure upon that death but rather continued to follow a dead leader. Very, very odd that. What is more there is a series of books that preserves oral accounts of what happened--and letters from particpants as well.

It is ignorant for you to simply assert that all claims made by religion are wrong. It demonstrates that you have neither spent the time to learn what you are rattling on about nor thought deeply about your own unquestioned atheistic beliefs.
6.4.2009 9:06am
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :

Third, I kind of doubt that there are a significant number of believers in astrology or Communism for whom that belief is an essential part of who they are. But for those people, yes, I don't think they should be insulted or mocked.

And your last point is irrelevant. You believe that religious beliefs are erroneous. So do I, by the way. But in my view, disagreement with a belief does not give license to offend the believer.

Would you agree that proponents of religion, and particularly proponents of the many factual claims of religion (e.g., Jesus rose from the dead) should be entitled to no MORE deference in debate and discussion than proponents of a scientific theory, a non-theistic factual claim, or a political philosophy?

I ask because in my experience, proponents of religion often demand and expect a heightened degree of "inoffensiveness" in discussion of religion, a deference we virtually never accord to any other factual or political claim.

The Danish cartoon controversy was an extreme, but hardly the only, example of this phenomenon.
6.4.2009 9:56am
Cato The Elder (mail):
ABANDON ALL HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE

Seriously, is there any hope in resolving this issue, which has wildly veered off the primary topic of addressing Ilya's convenient theory of Jewish intermarriage, especially when the extremely terse commentators of Dilan and jukeboxgrad will be at your throats?
6.4.2009 11:41am
RabelRabel (mail):
"Intermarriage between Jews and Christians is more controversial, especially at a time when many American Jews worry that intermarriage might lead to the eventual disappearance of their community."

You can find a similar argument at Stormfront. Perhaps someone here can explain to me the difference between the two positions.

I have a generally favorable opinion of both American Jews and Israel, and would not be at all bothered by intermarriage in my family, but a spade is a spade.
6.4.2009 11:57am
David M. Nieporent (www):
...in a deliberately insulting manner

Again, though, why are the factual claims of religion entitled to special protection against insult? I've now asked this question six times, and nobody's answered it. They've just asserted that anyone who says that a religion is selling snake oil is a bigot.
I didn't say that the factual claims of religion are entitled to "special protection against insult" -- just ordinary protection against insult. When I hear people talking earnestly about homeopathic "medicine" or UFOs or astrology, I roll my eyes, but I don't go up to them and mock them.


And, FWIW, the claim that religious claims are unproven (or unfalsifiable) may be true, but your much stronger claims that they are "false" or "snake oil" or the like, is not. (How can one even talk about the truth value of an unfalsifiable claim?) You can't actually prove that the earth wasn't created 5,769 years ago; you can only cite Ockham, or try to argue that the burden of proof ought to be on religious people. But arguing that you won't believe a claim without proof is not the same as mocking them.
6.4.2009 12:29pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
cato:

the extremely terse commentators of Dilan and jukeboxgrad will be at your throats


This is my second comment in this thread. I wonder if you know what 'terse' means.

=====================
RabelRabel:

You can find a similar argument at Stormfront. Perhaps someone here can explain to me the difference between the two positions.


When such an argument comes from a group that represents a tiny portion of world population, I think the meaning of the argument is very different, as compared with when a similar argument emanates from a group that represents a very large portion of world population.
6.4.2009 12:42pm
Seamus (mail):


nobody says "Moslems" anymore in intelligent discourse),

didn't know that. I learned it that way when I was a kid and I guess I haven't been paying attention. Sorry for the unintelligent discourse.




Come on, that's just absurd. You havent noticed that every reputable source uses a much different spelling?



I've noticed that the MSM outlets all spell it that way, but I've never gotten a plausible explanation of why. The best I've received has been that that's what they then do call themselves, probably because they like to stick as close to the Arabic as possible and there is no letter "o" in Arabic. That always struck me as a little silly, if intended to be normative for non-Moslem/non-Muslim speakers of English. We don't call the Germans "deutsch" just because that's what they call themselves. By the same token, we refer to "Moonies" and "Hare Krishnas," even when they themselves might prefer to call themselves "members of the Unification Church" or "members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness."

The universal replacement of "Moslem" by "Muslim" just strikes me a an example of slavish groupthink, the way "the Ukraine" and "the Sudan" have suddenly lost their definite article (in the case of the Ukraine, presumably because Ukrainians don't use the definite article, though that argument doesn't work for the Sudan since the official title of the country in Arabic *does* include the definite article).

I note that Fowler's Modern English usage (2d ed., 1965) says of "moslem" v. "muslim" (I'm not sure why he doesn't capitalize): "The OED treats the first as the ordinary English form, but muslim has since gained on it."
6.4.2009 12:53pm
Steve H (mail):

Would you agree that proponents of religion, and particularly proponents of the many factual claims of religion (e.g., Jesus rose from the dead) should be entitled to no MORE deference in debate and discussion than proponents of a scientific theory, a non-theistic factual claim, or a political philosophy?

If by deference, you mean refraining from mockery and insult, then I would *not* agree that religious claims are on the same plane as scientific or philosophical claims. Because, once again, religious claims, to religious believers, are generally far more important to people than these other things.


Do you guys extend this to other religions? Is anyone who mocks the claim in Islam about 72 virgins a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Joseph Smith got a revalation that he could engage in polygamy a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Marshall Applewhite and his followers were leaving to meet the mothership a bigot? Is anyone who mocks the claim that Muhammed rose to heaven on a golden steed a bigot? I doubt you guys really believe that. You just want YOUR religion to escape criticism.

I'm not saying that mocking a belief is the same thing as bigotry. But yes, I do believe that mocking or insulting Muslims or Mormons or Applewhite's followers is just as classless as mocking or insulting Christians. (Christianity isn't really my religion anyway, except maybe culturally.)
6.4.2009 1:00pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
"Intermarriage between Jews and Christians is more controversial, especially at a time when many American Jews worry that intermarriage might lead to the eventual disappearance of their community."

You can find a similar argument at Stormfront. Perhaps someone here can explain to me the difference between the two positions.
The difference is that one refers to race and one refers to religion, and the two situations are not analogous. Just as separate bathrooms for men and women are not equivalent to separate bathrooms for blacks and whites, because sex and race are not the same.
6.4.2009 1:24pm
Seamus (mail):
The difference is that one refers to race and one refers to religion, and the two situations are not analogous. Just as separate bathrooms for men and women are not equivalent to separate bathrooms for blacks and whites, because sex and race are not the same.

From which I take it that it's OK to be concerned that your religion might die out as a result of intermarriage, but not OK to be concerned that your race (or, presumably, ethnic group) might die out from the same cause. So do you condemn non-religious Jews who only want to marry (and only want their children to marry) other Jews?
6.4.2009 1:39pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I'm not saying that mocking a belief is the same thing as bigotry. But yes, I do believe that mocking or insulting Muslims or Mormons or Applewhite's followers is just as classless as mocking or insulting Christians. (Christianity isn't really my religion anyway, except maybe culturally.)

Steve:

Thanks for the response, but I'm really curious what the response will be from the people who upthread swore that any mocking of implausible Christian beliefs with no evidentiary support is "anti-Christian bigotry".

So far, silence. I think they believe it's perfectly OK to mock other people's implausible religious beliefs. Just not their own.
6.4.2009 2:58pm
Blue:
Dilan, do you have any even the slightest conception of the diversity of views and beliefs that compromise Christianity? Do you understand how incredibly tiny the total number of things one must believe in to be considered a Christian by the majority of the faith?

Seriously, educate yourself.
6.4.2009 3:02pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
But there are many elements of my belief structure, Christianity, that are confirmed by historical fact. For instance, it is a historical fact that there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth. It is a historical fact that he was a religious leader 2,000 years ago. It is a historical fact that he was crucified. What is more, and this is important, it is a historical fact that his followers did not act as is he was a failure upon that death but rather continued to follow a dead leader. Very, very odd that. What is more there is a series of books that preserves oral accounts of what happened--and letters from particpants as well.

It's worth noting that: (1) nobody really knows whether Jesus actually existed or was some sort of composite (though I suspect he did exist); (2) nobody really knows if he was executed by the Romans; (3) nobody really knows much of anything about the earliest days of Christianity (the gospels were written decades after the fact); and (4) what we do know about the first couple of centuries of Christianity was that it was a mess of competing claims about Jesus (including many sects of followers who claimed he wasn't God or the Son of God or the savior, he wasn't divine, he didn't rise from the dead, and that canonical gospel accounts of his teachings were inaccurate) which were resolved basically by mandate and force by what became the Catholic Church a couple of centuries in.

This isn't to say that there's nothing in the New Testament that corresponds to history. Just that even when it comes to historical (non-religious) claims about Jesus and early Christianity, there really aren't any contemporaneous accounts and basically believers are relying on a tradition that was cobbled together in a process that was intended to centralize Roman power and control over the various Christian sects which had developed a couple of centuries out, while squelching dissenters. It wasn't exactly an impartial search for the truth.
6.4.2009 3:03pm
Drew P.:
Uh, I think the relevant figures from that GSS study are this:

1) Jews are in favor a close relative marrying a white person either strongly or very strongly at 72%, and the rest are neutral at 28%. Zero percent oppose.

2) Jews are in favor of a close relative marrying a black person at 22%, 41% neutral, and and oppose at 38%.

Given that the survey differentiates between generic WASPs and Jews, this doesn't look like a religious explanation in the slightest.
6.4.2009 4:09pm
Suzy:
Dilan, if you now choose to deny that religious claims are exclusively factual claims, then you have destroyed one of the primary grounds for your argument that people can easily sever their religious views from other wisdom they want to teach their children.

You also had to get into a fairly detailed and disputable analysis of evidence--some of which may be mistaken, since you give no good reasons why we should reject non-Biblical historical evidence--in order to argue that there is no support for the historical claims made in the Bible. Even if they are all false, the difficulty involved in judging these claims suggests that many people will sincerely believe them to be true and will not accept or understand evidence that purports to disprove them. In short, people can be sincere and honest in their beliefs, which is what you deny.

Of course, you contradicted yourself on that point, when you said that: "Any given parent may not have evidence. But that doesn't mean the evidence doesn't exist." Okay, but if parents don't know that evidence, then they're not lying to their kids. Therefore, your insistence that they must be--that I must be--is simple bigotry against religion.

I have not claimed that we lack evidence for things that are empirically confirmed. Rather, I have argued that we constantly rely on beliefs that are not thoroughly supported or understood. I believe in the factual truth of love, and compassion, and freedom, and all sorts of other things that aren't empirically confirmed the way you'd demand that religious beliefs be empirically confirmed. Yet I'm not a delusional liar for teaching my children about those things, right? Yet you insist I am when the topic changes to religion because you hate religion and are prejudiced against it.

It is simply sad to watch you insist that I'm lying, that I know I'm tricking my children, that I know I have no evidence for my claims. None of this is so. You are deeply blinded by your animosity, to the point that you're now engaging in a very unethical kind of argument.
6.4.2009 6:54pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan, if you now choose to deny that religious claims are exclusively factual claims

Suzy, you are arguing against straw men here.

You also had to get into a fairly detailed and disputable analysis of evidence--some of which may be mistaken, since you give no good reasons why we should reject non-Biblical historical evidence--in order to argue that there is no support for the historical claims made in the Bible.

And here.

Okay, but if parents don't know that evidence, then they're not lying to their kids. Therefore, your insistence that they must be--that I must be--is simple bigotry against religion.

If you say that a statement of fact is true when you have no knowledge that it is true, that is a false statement of fact. (Check libel/slander law or commercial misrepresentation law if you have any doubt about this.)

Rather, I have argued that we constantly rely on beliefs that are not thoroughly supported or understood.

With all respect, this is a postmodern cop-out. The fact that there are value concepts (which are endlessly debated) and facts that are only axiomatically true (i.e., dependent on underlying assumptions) does not mean that factual claims made without any evidence whatsoever fall in the same category. I.e., the fact that one can make epistemic objections to the claim that Caesar crossed the Rubicon does not mean that the claim that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, on the one hand, and the claim that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead or that the position of the planets in the sky determines human events, on the other hand, are of equal validity.

It is simply sad to watch you insist that I'm lying, that I know I'm tricking my children, that I know I have no evidence for my claims.

Here's the way I would put it Suzy. People really WANT to believe religions are true. That causes them to engage in a lot of mental and philosophical gymnastics in order to claim that the factual claims made by their religion are not implausible.

(Note by the way that it's only the factual claims of YOUR religion that you do this for. In other words, I am sure that when a Mormon speaks of Joseph Smith's visions, or a tarot card reader speaks of her ability to read the future, or an Islamic fundamentalist speaks of God appearing in a vision and telling him to kill the infidels, you don't suspend normal human skepticism. But your arguments, if taken seriously, would mean that all those people get deference as well with respect to their factual claims.)

In other words, yes, there are epistemological theories that call into question whether we are sure of various self-evident propositions. But it is a terrible misuse of those theories to claim that means that the most wacky, implausible, contrary to all verifiable human observation claims of religions could be just as true as the sky being blue.

If a friend of yours came to you and said he was having visions of his dead mother who was instructing him to kill the President, your reaction would not be to say that "well, that really might be your mother talking to you, after all, we can't prove it isn't". When it comes to everything in life OTHER than your religion, you, just like everyone else, assume that reality conforms to verifiable observation.

So, in the end, you very much know that there is no verification for your religious claims. But if you want something to be true badly enough, you can convince yourself to believe in it.
6.4.2009 7:24pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
And Suzy, before you call me a "bigot" again, have the guts to answer my question about whether ridiculing NON-Christian religious beliefs (72 virgins, Joseph Smith, Marshall Applewhite) constitutes bigotry. Or is it only YOUR religion that is entitled to special protection.

You don't have the guts to admit that you only label it "bigotry" when someone ridicules something YOU believe in.
6.4.2009 7:26pm
Blue:

So, in the end, you very much know that there is no verification for your religious claims. But if you want something to be true badly enough, you can convince yourself to believe in it.


An unbelievably stupid and arrogant statement and wildly hypocritical as well given your supposed devotion to only making empirically verifiable truth claims.
6.4.2009 8:52pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Blue:

I didn't notice any denial of my point. Just name calling.
6.4.2009 9:06pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Oh, and Blue, like Suzy, you don't seem to be willing to answer whether your asserted standard of religious "bigotry" applies to people making fun of Muslim claims about 72 virgins, or Marshall Applewhite's followers, or Joseph Smith's claims about polygamy being a matter of divine revalation.

Again, doesn't seem to me like you think it's bigotry to ridicule other religious beliefs-- only yours.
6.4.2009 9:07pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
If you say that a statement of fact is true when you have no knowledge that it is true, that is a false statement of fact. (Check libel/slander law or commercial misrepresentation law if you have any doubt about this.)
I've read that three or four times to try to make sense of it, but I can't. As written, it's wrong. The truth of the statement "A is B" is not in any way dependent on whether I know that A is B, or have proof that A is B.

Now, e.g., the FTC may require you to have evidence for a claim before setting it forth in an advertisement, but it's not because your lack of evidence makes the claim "false."
6.4.2009 11:58pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
David, if you say "X is an alcoholic" and you have no evidence that X is in fact an alcoholic, you have published a false statement of fact. If you introduce a drug onto the market and state on the label that it cures leprosy, and you have no idea whether it actually cures leprosy, again, you have made a false statement of fact.

Expressing knowledge that one doesn't have is a form of lying.
6.5.2009 1:57am
mattski:

And if men are nothing but carbon masses that are a random accident of chemistry and evolution without a soul or spirit, then I honestly cannot give them a logical answer as to why they should do the right thing if no one is looking.


Regrettably this thread is pooped out I suspect. But fwiw I believe that values, moral values, are best derived from reason (observation of the real world) and not appeals to authority, which is the way it is done in the Judeo-Christian tradition. For me, Buddhism is quite effective in this regard as there is no appeal to divinity, just encouragement to observe the world carefully and to be open to wise counsel.
6.5.2009 8:16am
Suzy:
Dilan, if there is one thing we need to get straight, above all, it is this: criticizing the truth of a religious claim does not make one a bigot. I find nothing bigoted whatsoever about your criticism of religion, and I have said so very clearly. What I find bigoted is your insistence that religious people intentionally lie to their kids to brainwash them.

I absolutely do not ridicule other people's religious beliefs. I may criticism them or debate them if I disagree, but I do not assume that the people who hold those beliefs are insincere and dishonest. Your choice of examples is quite a sad coincidence; I assure you that members of at least one of the groups you mentioned were incredibly intelligent, sincere people. I might add that you also have no idea what my own religious beliefs are, other than the fact that I've said I'm a Christian. The assumptions you have about what that must mean are very revealing.

I fail to see what you're calling a "straw man." First, you said that religious claims were factual claims, because those were the kind that lacked evidence and thus proved the religious were knowing liars. You said that any other value claim could be divorced from its religious content, so the only actual religious claims at issue were factual. When called on this, you now apparently have changed your mind. I don't care to fight a straw man: you tell me very clearly what your position is, and I'll address it. The fact/value distinction is a much-argued topic, though, so you might want to look into that further before deciding where you really stand on this.

In order to refute the argument that religious fact claims are at least based on some historical evidence, you tried to evaluate and reject that evidence. I might add that you made a poor case, but let it pass. Let's assume you're correct. My point is that the average religious believer never attains the level of historical expertise required to evaluate these claims adequately. However, they have at least as good a reason to accept that evidence as they do to accept claims about the lives of Caesar or Socrates. I don't think you'd insist that people who taught their kids about those two men were lying because the evidence was imperfect, but if someone teaches her child about Moses or Jesus, she is a liar.

You keep throwing the word "postmodern" around. I do not think that word means what you think it does. I do not say that all claims are of equal validity or truth. Rather, I say that we often have imperfect evidence for our beliefs. I'd wager that you yourself believe all sorts of things for which you have inadequate evidence, by the same standards you are using to judge religious belief. I have given several examples that you chose to ignore. For example, do you believe that love is a purely chemical event in the brain and rest of the body? If you do not, what is your evidence for that claim? If you do, would you say that anyone who teaches their children otherwise is a knowing liar?

I might add that for someone who is so concerned about people claiming to know things without evidence, you've made an astonishing number of false and totally unsupported claims about my own religious beliefs, my personal motives and desires, and my attitudes towards other people's religious belief. If you could manage to rein in your impulse to make these false claims, that would be super, and would give me a sign of your good will to have a reasonable discussion.
6.5.2009 12:03pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dilan:

Expressing knowledge that one doesn't have is a form of lying.


Indeed. And a set of famous examples (that are relevant to discussions elsewhere at VC, although not this thread) are the way Bush et al claimed they knew certain things with "absolute certainty," even though the underlying intel was very far from absolutely certain.
6.5.2009 12:19pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
You keep throwing the word "postmodern" around. I do not think that word means what you think it does. I do not say that all claims are of equal validity or truth. Rather, I say that we often have imperfect evidence for our beliefs.

What I am saying is "postmodern" (it's a sort of an analogy) is your jump from the unarguable proposition that "we often have imperfect evidence for our beliefs" to the quite false (unless one is a diehard postmodernist) proposition that even preposterous beliefs ought to be credited because, after all, we often have imperfect evidence for our beliefs.

It's like saying that because we don't know for sure under the present cosmological models whether the universe is 14 billion years old or 20 billion years old, that means that it might be 6,000 as suggested in the Bible as well. Or because we don't know for sure how glucosamine works to alleviate arthritis, we might as well conclude that faith healing would work as well.

That's the jump you are making. "We don't have perfect evidence for things we believe to be true" is not a license to believe in preposterous things.

Again, I think you know this in the back of your mind. There's no reason you wouldn't. Indeed, the mere fact that someone who is obviously intelligent is jumping through so many obvious intellectual hoops to justify beliefs that she has no basis for is basically proof of my point.
6.5.2009 2:05pm
Suzy:
Okay, you're not addressing any of my arguments at this point, and you're erroneously attributing to me the claim that "even preposterous beliefs ought to be credited." No. Not even close to what I'm arguing. I'll try one last time:

We believe a lot of things for which we have imperfect evidence. We try to judge the truth of these matters to the best of our ability, and then we convey those beliefs to our children with perfect honesty and sincerity. Examples of these things include love, freedom, the existence of a self who makes decisions, the life of Pythagoras, the nature of black holes, and a lot of other things that you might want to talk about in the absence of Knowledge but with provisional opinions.

You may not think that religion falls into this category, because you are so certain that there is not merely imperfect evidence for its claims, but zero evidence. Well, religious people have an honest disagreement with you about that. And even if you are right and they are wrong, they honestly do not know that. They honestly tell their kids about Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha, thinking that they are basing the claims on no worse evidence than they have for discussing Pythagoras or loving other people for reasons that transcend biology.

So when a materialist comes along who is just as certain as you are that there is absolutely no evidence for this thing you call "freedom", and you babble on about it anyway, you will have to judge yourself a liar or a lunatic, by your very own epistemological standards.
6.5.2009 3:44pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
We believe a lot of things for which we have imperfect evidence. We try to judge the truth of these matters to the best of our ability, and then we convey those beliefs to our children with perfect honesty and sincerity. Examples of these things include love, freedom, the existence of a self who makes decisions, the life of Pythagoras, the nature of black holes, and a lot of other things that you might want to talk about in the absence of Knowledge but with provisional opinions.

Some of those things are value claims, not fact claims (love and freedom). Others are empirically confirmable and are supported by overwhelming evidence (the self, Pythagoras, black holes). The fact claims of religion are neither of those things, and you know that damned well. That's why you resort to a postmodern tactic of casting doubt on all knowledge-- it's the only way that you can get completely unsupported and unevidenced claims in the same intellectual category as supported and evidenced ones.

You may not think that religion falls into this category, because you are so certain that there is not merely imperfect evidence for its claims, but zero evidence. Well, religious people have an honest disagreement with you about that.

No, Suzy, they don't. Every one of the factual claims you list above (the self, Pythagoras, black holes) is supported by a set of systemic facts and evidence that fits together in a web of overwhelming support for the hypothesis. Meanwhile, there is not one piece of videotape or film, one fossil, one geological or astronomical feature, or any other piece of evidence that the factual claims made by the Christian religion (or any other religion) is true. In fact, despite centuries of attempts by religious authorities, we still do not have a single reliable piece of evidence of any supernatural event in the history of the universe. Not one.

So there's no "honest disagreement" here. Rather, there's religious people being dishonest or delusional, making essentially the argument I described in my last post, i.e., that because we don't have perfect knowledge of anything, that is a sufficient basis for someone to believe completely implausible factual claims.

Any smart person can see the logical jump here. You see it as well. You just don't want to admit it.
6.5.2009 4:35pm
Suzy:
Dilan, could you please stop attributing claims to me that I have flatly rejected? We cannot have an honest discussion if you do that. I am not arguing that you are wrong about the evidentiary support for religious beliefs, and I deny this supposedly postmodern thesis that all beliefs are equally poorly supported.

Even if you were correct that there is no "reliable evidence" for any religious claim, that is not relevant to the issue. The question is whether it is possible for anyone to sincerely believe in the truth of a religious claim. It resolves exactly nothing for you to continue insisting that the belief is false, unless you think it is somehow impossible for anyone to have a false belief. (If only that were true!)

You have illustrated this point beautifully by insisting that there is "overwhelming" empirical evidence for the reality of the self, for example. There is no such evidence; it's simply a fanciful notion you learned as a child, as a way of understanding experiences that result from a number of separate brain functions. Not everyone operates under that delusion, and many of the materialists who reject religious claims would reject claims about the reality of a "self" on the same grounds. Now, you may insist that they are wrong, though you've provided no empirical evidence and will have a hard time doing so. Does this mean you are a liar? Or crazy? Of course not. Nor does it mean that claims about the self have the same status as religious claims. Of course they don't.

Similarly, I'd be curious to know what you believe to be true about Pythagoras, and what your evidence is for those beliefs. I assume you are aware that the quality of historical evidence concerning Pythagoras is even weaker than the evidence concerning Jesus? Again, I say that not because I want to put the two claims on the same level. I've already granted you for sake of argument that everything said about Jesus is false and unsupported. The point is that an honest, sane person might believe that Pythagoras was a real person, a mathematician who developed important proofs, a founder of a school of philosophy teaching that the universe is based on number, and so on. If you've ever believed those things, by your own standards, you're crazy or lying.
6.5.2009 9:11pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
The question is whether it is possible for anyone to sincerely believe in the truth of a religious claim.

The problem is, you keep coming back to the point that OTHER types of claims are not supported by conclusive evidence. That's not a justification for believing completely implausible claims, though. And that's the justification you keep offering, over and over again.

I assume you are aware that the quality of historical evidence concerning Pythagoras is even weaker than the evidence concerning Jesus?

What do you mean by the "evidence concerning Jesus"? There's some circumstantial evidence that there was a charismatic Middle Eastern preacher who generally corresponds to the character in the New Testament. There's also some evidence that in fact "Jesus" is a composite of several individuals plus earlier pagan religious legends.

There's no evidence whatsoever of any of the supernatural claims attributed to him. And there's plenty of evidence that said supernatural claims were adopted by a Roman power structure for the purpose of suppressing competing sects.

Compared to all that, Pythagoras is as real as Barack Obama.
6.5.2009 9:53pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
David, if you say "X is an alcoholic" and you have no evidence that X is in fact an alcoholic, you have published a false statement of fact.
I would think the relevant factor for determining whether this statement of fact is false is not your evidence, but whether in fact X is an alcoholic.
If you introduce a drug onto the market and state on the label that it cures leprosy, and you have no idea whether it actually cures leprosy, again, you have made a false statement of fact.
Similarly, I would think the relevant issue in terms of determining whether you have made a false statement of fact is whether it is, in fact, false. If the drug actually cures leprosy, then the statement can't possibly be a "false statement of fact," whether you have said evidence or not.

Now, if you say, "I have evidence that X cures leprosy" and you don't have said evidence, then you are lying. But you're not lying about whether X cures leprosy; you're lying about your meta-claim that you have evidence.
Expressing knowledge that one doesn't have is a form of lying.
(Knowingly) making untrue statements is a form of lying. Making true statements without evidence is not.
6.5.2009 11:17pm
Leo Marvin (mail):

Making true statements without evidence is not [lying].

Making any statements without evidence isn't lying if you believe they're true.
6.6.2009 12:15am
markm (mail):
Suzy: There's a big difference between reading Aesop's Fables to your kids and teaching them religion. Even a three year old knows that a story with talking animals is make-believe, but when I learned the stories of Adam and Eve and of Noah's ark, the preacher claimed to be telling the absolute truth. (And got pretty upset when I asked him where were the dinosaurs.) Do you start out by teaching them that "the Gospel truth" is really allegory?
6.6.2009 3:18pm
markm (mail):

Blue:
For instance, it is a historical fact that there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth. It is a historical fact that he was a religious leader 2,000 years ago. It is a historical fact that he was crucified.


And your links to demonstrate these "historical facts"???

I'm no expert in this field, but as far as I know the only contemporary account that mentions Jesus at all is Josephus's history. The trouble is, he didn't etch his work in stone, so the papyrus or parchment rotted away and what we've got is a copy made by Christian monks centuries later - and the words used aren't at all how a Pharisee like Josephus would have described Jesus. Most likely the monks inserted the whole reference. Other than that, there's nothing at all except the Gospels, written many years later by writers who assumed false identities and backdated their writing. If Pontius Pilate took the trouble to include Jesus's name in his reports back to Rome, no record of that survived. (We do have copies of Julius Caesar's letters home over half a century earlier.)

Nor for that matter do Egyptian records - which often were etched in stone - mention anything about a batch of slaves who escaped and somehow managed to wipe out the army chasing them, including the Pharaoh. The Egyptians didn't raise monuments to their defeats, but if the events were as significant as Exodus suggests there should have been something.

Now by Occam's Razor, I do think it's far more likely that Exodus and the Gospels were based on stories passed down about real events rather than complete fabrications. But that still leaves room for a lot of distortion, and the insertion of other myths into the stories, so there's nothing that one can point to as being literally true. I recommend reading the Bible, if one takes it as allegory rather than history. I very much doubt that any religion more serious about their message than Unitarianism teaches the Bible to young children that way.
6.6.2009 3:57pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
markm

I very much doubt that any religion more serious about their message than Unitarianism teaches the Bible to young children that way.

Just when I thought this thread was petering out, you've gone and pissed off the fundamentalist Unitarians.
6.6.2009 6:53pm

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