Why do God botherers insist on picking the scab?

Check this out:


OK, fine. As folks over at Dreher quickly pointed out,


the dare is easily met. Poster Aaron Gross:

“I think Damon Linker’s dare is just silly. He says that we’re moved by events like that because they instantiate some Platonic idea of divine love, which is supposedly the real object of our admiration. But why couldn’t we be moved just by the event itself? That’s certainly how it feels to us.

“As for why: A culture that doesn’t valorize self-sacrifice, in child-rearing just as in war, probably won’t survive very long. Therefore it’s not surprising that an existing culture would support these kinds of feelings. There might – repeat, might – be a Darwinian cause as well. I’m sure you’ll get comments about sociobiology and Hamilton’s Rule. But even a purely cultural explanation suffices to answer that silly dare.”

Poster TTT:

“We love our kids and feel pain / suffering visited upon them as being worse than pain inflicted upon ourselves. We will do anything to save their lives, including die for them. An atheist parent in the same circumstance would have been equally likely as a religious parent to do the same thing.

“’Dare’ met in ten seconds, though it read more to me like Linker was just trolling.”

Linker claims, the boy’s Down’s Syndrome makes an evolutionary biology answer inapplicable (“…as someone with Down syndrome, Vander Woude’s son is probably sterile and possesses defective genes that, judged from a purely evolutionary standpoint, deserve to die off anyway.”) But sociobiology doesn’t work that way. What is “selected for” is the desire to save your child’s life. And that desire operates at a deep, unconscious level. The “Darwinian” explanation is NOT that Dad sits back and contemplates the likelihood of his genes going forward in terms of the kid in jeopardy, or whether that kid is “defective” in the first place. No, the bio argument is that we are “programmed” to love our kids generally by genetics, and so we do so, in pretty much all instances, in a way that we would describe as “instinctive.” The “rule” works en masse, even if a particular example doesn’t vindicate the purpose of the rule. In general, Dads who value their kids lives will have their genes passed on more so than Dads who don’t. Whether a sacrifice in one case helps make that happen or not is irrelevant. Dad in this case was a product of thousands of generations that led to his sacrifice. If it so happens that his “line” ends in the near future (assuming he has no other kids and that the Down’s Syndrome boy does not reproduce), so what? That hardly disproves the bio rationale, either tout court or even in his case.

And, as the poster Gross mentions, the cultural explanation is sufficient anyway. Folks love their kids. Whether that has a bio basis or not, it is the “rule” of our and most cultures. And, again, it does not depend on the kid being a genius or even “normal.”

But all of that is actually prologue, to me. Of course Linker’s understanding of evo bio is idiotic, childish, simplistic, and grossly uninformed. As is his understanding of the cultural explanation.

My question is why bother? If you want to make his Romantic, fantastic argument about “glimpses” of heaven, and how acts of altruism, like art and music and so forth can provide for those visions, fine. Go for it. Frankly, I don’t much care. Not because it isn’t BS, if it is meant as a serious argument for the existence of any deity or a particular deity, because it is BS. But, meh, there is a lot of BS in the world, and God boys are hardly the only purveyors of it.

No, my beef is why, as TTT puts it, the trolling? Why put the recitation of this story, which could have stood on its own, or as a nice, Christian story (even though, again, it is not actually persuasive), in terms of a “dare” to atheists? Even assuming this Linker fellow is too stupid to understand that his claims about the evo argument are first order moronic, and that he is just too ignorant to not overlook the completely satisfactory cultural argument as well, why the impulse to get in atheists’ faces to begin with? OK, he admits that an atheist could just as easily have done the deed in question, but he “dares” atheists to explain it.

Is he just half smart? Is that the answer? Smart enough to frame the issue and try to use it against atheists, but too dumb to realize that the answer to his question is an easy one? Or is it some compulsion, some scab picking desire on the part of certain God botherers? They can’t leave it alone. No, it must always be the case that atheists are missing out on something, and are somehow less than human therefor. Or, even if they are not missing out, it is because they are piggy backing unfairly on the very religion they purport to deny. Which then leads, inevitably, to the contradictory assertion that atheism is a religion. So, on the one hand, atheists are less than fully human because they don’t acknowledge anything greater than themselves (goes the claim), but on the other hand they do actually believe in something greater than themselves, and that something is either traditional religion in disguise (the piggybacking claim) or some other “religion.”

Strange, or maybe not, that he should do so this time of year, too. Perhaps the dodge viz a viz the timing is the old Christian tactic of start the conversation by saying something nasty, or, at least, challenging, about atheists. Then, when atheists respond in defense, accuse them of being “angry,” and of wanting to persecute Christians, and attributing those evil desires to their not having “made peace with God” and so on. And, best of all, when they play this game during “Holy Week,” they get the added benefit of falling back on “Must you be this way this week, of all weeks? Can’t you atheists let us poor Christians have this one week without your meanness?”

“Relationship” with God

Dreher has a post up in which some guy claims that three factors tend to keep the kiddies tied to their faith.



The original article:


The upshot here is a sort of inside baseball argument…is it intermarriage or some other factor that is causing the decline of the Greek Orthodox Church in the USA? Frankly, I really don’t care, and, as one of Dreher’s commenters puts it:

“Is it just way too simplistic to say that there is only one reason why someone would leave their church?

“- They think doing something else would be a better use of their time.”

Yeah, but leave that aside, for now.

And there is a lot of blather among Dreher’s commenters about “genetics” and what not as well, that wouldn’t pass muster in a ninth grade Biology class, but leave that aside too.

Also leave aside the first two of the three factors the GO guy mentions, namely:

“…a person is most likely to retain Christian faith throughout adult life if he or she had three meaningful and healthy relationships in their early to mid teenage years: one with faithful Christian parents, one with a faithful Christian mentor outside of the family, and one with God Himself.”

I mean, the first two seem fairly axiomatic. Kids, at least in the first instance, do tend to mimic what their parents do, rather than what they say. So, if their parents are “religious” in an entirely conventional but thorough going way (ie not only “go to Church” when they “have to,” but at other times too, also pray and otherwise do religious stuff at home, belong to Church organizations beyond the mere basic congregation, etc), that will have an effect that can be measured statistically. The second factor, while perhaps rarer, is almost tautological. If a kid has a devout, non relative, Christian as a mentor, and really thinks of him as such, his or her self, well then, duh, that probably will have an effect too, on average.

Of course, as another of Dreher’s posters mentioned:

“Even if this is all true, how do you fix it?

“Aren’t the ones lamenting this problem the faithful Christian parents….

“If you are a faithful Christian parent worried about your kids ending up leaving the Church, you have already have supplied relationship #1. As for relationship #2, the mentor, you can try to hook your kids up with somebody who feels the same way you do, but there is no guarantee your kid will bond to that person in a meaningful way. And when it comes to #3, how do you make that happen? You can provide opportunities for religious experience for your child, but you can’t force a relationship between your child and God.”

And I agree. Of course religious parents already do thing number one, ie they are really religious, and not just going through the motions. As for number two, well, how can you possibly ensure that your kid finds a non family member Christian mentor to bond with and that, even if he does, they will actually bond? It seems to me that candidates for that role are probably rather thin on the ground. And the more they are responsible, parent-like Christians, the less likely, one might think, that a kid would see them as anything different than their parents, than the priests, the Sunday school teachers, etc. In other words, just another adult guy (or gal) who wants them to stay in the faith.

Number three, though, is what really got my attention, and why I’m posting. Not only is it impossible to “force a relationship between your child and God,” it is impossible for most of us to have such a “relationship.”

To me, the use of that term is almost comical, particularly coming from so called traditionalists. “Relationship” is sorta Sexual Revolution, but also sorta New Agey. Folks who are not married but who sleep together have a “relationship.” That’s what the word usually means. Friends don’t really talk about having a friend-to-friend “relationship.” Of course, when modified, when made more specific, the term can mean other things…eg the parent-child relationship, a sibling relationship, the doctor-patient relationship, the teacher-student relationship, etc. But to speak of a free floating “relationship” with God is, well, to me anyway, kinda weird.

It seems like a really “Born Again” Protestant notion too. A “personal relationship” with a “personal savior” and so on. At least back in the day, Catholics did not talk about “relationships” with Jesus; one did not speak of one’s “Walk with Christ.” You shut up and followed the rules, because God said so, according to your parents, the nuns, the priest, the bishop and so on up the ladder to the Pope. Your end of this non “relationship” was just that: to do as you were bidden. And God’s end of it was to tell you what to do (which the nuns, priests, etc took care of by mediating for Him, like a foreman on a job site). You had no “relationship” with Jesus and you were not “walking with” Him either. It would be almost blasphemingly presumptuous to claim otherwise.

But, beyond the Catholic and Protestant divide, the problem with the “relationship” thing is, as the poster hints at (but doesn’t come out and say), that there is really no such thing. A “relationship” takes two interacting beings, of some kind. I can have a relationship, I suppose, with a co worker, with a guy I see on the bus everyday, even with a dog or a cat, but I can’t have a “relationship” with a chair.

Much the same with God. The kids can’t be made to have a relationship with God because not only is it impossible to force such a thing, but the thing itself is impossible in the first place….

Look, I was young once. I tried to be “born again.” I tried to pray. I read the gospel. I went to church. And youth group. And youth singing group, and so on. And? And nothing. You pray, but there is no answer.

You read, and some of it is very good. Idealistic, perhaps, but inspiring. But other parts of it are absurd, some flat out wrong, and a lot of it incomprehensible. Its a book, nothing more, nothing less. It has some good ideas, and some bad ones. Of course, in the KJV, more than anywhere else (in English, anyway) it is kick ass as language and literature as well. Anything from the Bible that sounds cool or good in English is from the KJV. But, so what? Proust was cool too, that doesn’t make him God. And it doesn’t make Swann’s Way into the “Word of God.” You can study Proust’s full novel for the rest of your life, just as you can study the Bible, and you will then be learned (at least in that one field), and richer for the experience, but you won’t have any “relationship” with anyone thereby. You could stretch the meaning of the word and say you have a “relationship” with the author, but the author of the Bible is not God, at least not directly. So, OK, I can have a sorta “relationship” with Proust and with the various folks (scribes, priests, apostles, church fathers, etc) who wrote and edited the Bible, but that still is not the same as a relationship with God.

Singing group? Youth group? Church services? Beautiful. Its fun to sing with friends. Its fun to HAVE friends. Particularly given how harsh high school can be. Buuuuut, the “relationship” is with the friends, not with God. Same with Church services. At most, you have a relationship with your fellow congregants, not with God.

God just doesn’t do anything or say anything. You ask him questions, and he doesn’t answer. You pray for help, but it doesn’t come. Sure, sometimes things work out, but sometimes they don’t, and whether you pray or not has nothing to do with it. You simply can’t have a relationship with a rock. And, no, it doesn’t matter that they claim that this book is the “Word” of the rock, or that this institution is the “Church” of the rock, and so on. All you get is silence and nothingness. I can’t even say you get indifference, because indifference implies that there is someone there who COULD care, who COULD interact, but just chooses not to.

And that is why, I think, many people leave the Church (any church, not just the GOA, and not just the Christian church). As one of Dreher’s posters puts it:

“…18 years of going to…church failed to demonstrate to…their kids that there was anything to be had in church other than boredom and a sense of crushing obligation.”

And that is because, I think, of what would-be, wanna-be, believers call the “Silence of God.” God has nothing to say to most of us. Most of us do not receive even putative visions, answers, statements, etc. Not even in our dreams. To me, even “silence” is a questionable word. Because it too implies, to some degree, that speech could be forthcoming, but just isn’t, as a matter of choice. But a rock is not “silent,” rather, it can’t speak. Sure, lots of folks are put off by the supernatural claims, most of which have now been discredited by science and are in a state of semi abandonment (at least among the smarter believers). Others are more about the cultural relativism (ie why your Abrahamic “God” and not somebody else’s Zeus or Odin or Vishnu or whatever?). But what it really comes down to is that there ARE being better things to do with one’s time, and that is so because there is often nothing going on in church but boredom and guilt and obligation. And if there is anything else going on, “God” per se, has nothing to do with it. We like to have and be with friends. We like to celebrate stages in life. We like to make a big deal over the birth of our kids, and their growing up. We like to make a big deal out of getting married. We like to sing. We like pretty chapels and soaring cathedrals. We like Bach. We like poetry and chanting. Etc. And we like having relationships with other people.

But a “relationship” with God is pretty much a non starter. A one sided game of charades. You talk (internally and out loud) and God stays mum. You act, and God does zilch. You pray, but it makes no difference. And the lack of it does drive kids, and adults, away. Religion is simply “wrong.” Not wrong in the sense of evil, not necessarily (although it can be, in practice….it can be good in practice too, though, to be fair), but simply misguided. The study of God, theology, is the study of nothing. “Relationships” with God are nullities, because there is no there there to “relate” with. People, no matter how often they are told that the emperor has fine new clothes, eventually can’t deny his nakedness, and then they opt out, if they are able to. And, more and more in our Western society, they ARE able to. Folks no longer HAVE to have a religion. It is now OK, in many parts of the world, to not only be an atheist but to admit it too.

Windows 8 (ugh!)

I know, I know!

Yes, I know that I CAN download this, this, this, this, this and that, and get rid of this, this, this, this, and that, and change over this, this, this, and that, and then, pretty much, I can replicate the past Windows experience. The question is, why should I have to?

Change is neither good nor bad, in the abstract. It can be either. However, when you change the way people do things, you have to consider, in that analysis, whether the gains outweigh the costs of folks having to learn that new way. And, of course, before you even get there, you have to make sure that the changes are really improvements, not the opposite.

OK, with that in mind, Windows, from the beginning, was a “desktop” thing. You set the thing up and you put everything you wanted, a lot or a little, on the desktop. Including your internet entry button. Because the desktop icons were small, you could literally fit dozens of icons on a laptop and hundreds on a desktop computer. Now, with Windows 8, your computer wants to open to a horrific “Tiles” page. The “tiles” are huge, and even though there are really not that many of them, they take up more than one screen’s worth. Which means you have to slide the screen (we’ll get to that!) to see them all. And most of them are total crap! Who the hell wants pre loaded apps/ads for EBay, Amazon and so on!?! Do folks who want to use these for profit web sites find it hard to get to them, in the regular web surfing way? Can’t you just put them in Favorites, if you are such a big fan/customer? We don’t actually need “apps” when we are at home and on the web anyway. Moreover, why not have it as a voluntary feature, like the old desktop icons? Here are a list of apps that you CAN put on your “tile” page, if you so choose, rather than pre loading them.

The desktop, which used to be the initial page, is now just another option, another “tile.” Why? Did folks demand that Microsoft make it harder to get to their desktop, which is what 99 out of a hundred users want and are familiar with? W8 defenders say that the tiles are just like what you get on a smart phone or tablet. Maybe they are, I wouldn’t know. Because I don’t have a smartphone or tablet, and don’t want one. I want a laptop, which is what I bought. Why, per se, is what is considered good on a tablet or fancy phone considered to be good on my laptop (or desktop), that mostly sits on a desk and is used at home? With a mobile tablet or phone, you have to hold the damn thing with one hand, so maybe the “swipe” technology is better. Maybe (we’ll get to it, I promise!). And, maybe, because you use the thing as phone and text messager, the internet is not the main deal. Again, maybe. But not on my home computer!

And the IE that is loaded on the tile page? Oh My Friggin’ God in Heaven! The thing comes on and takes up the whole screen! No menus, no frame, no nothing. A “back” button that seems to come and go at its own caprice. Otherwise, nothing, no “forward” button, no controls at all. And a big, black bar at the bottom that has the web address in large, stupid letters…plus some pictures of web pages that I don’t know where they came from or where they go, or why. Who in the name of hell would want to use the internet this way? Some tiny group of “Techies,” perhaps? Fine, then why not make this an option, and leave the rest of us alone? Techies don’t mind, indeed they seem to like, messing around, adding things, making changes, etc. So, why not let the stuff designed for them be optional, not built in?

Somehow, I managed to get an IE onto the desktop. But I am still not sure how. Moreover, it is only “pinned” to the bottom left of the screen (not a real icon), and, if you unpin it by mistake, you are back to square one! And opening up more than one IE window is still a pain in the neck. Before, you could open as many as you liked. Now, the thing seems to want to redirect you to previous pages you looked at. If I wanted to go to those pages, I would have minimized them rather than killed them, TYVM! Why not just let me open us as many windows in the internet as I want, starting at my homepage (which I chose, after all) each time?

And, before the most recent versions, the Windows menu (File, Edit, View, Favorites, Tools, Help) always came pre loaded. And that’s how folks learned to compute. Most folks use their home computer to surf the web….that is its main function. And with just a little fiddling, ie changing the homepage from the dreadful MSN to Google, it was easy to get that going….plug in the computer, hook up the modem, and change the homepage, and you were done, more or less. And, when surfing the web, the Windows menu was not some kind of bell or whistle, it was, and is, an integral part of manipulating the web to one’s convenience (at least for non techies, for folks who don’t know a lot “F” this or that functions). To find a certain term or word on a website, to add a website to Favorites so as to make it easy to get back to it, to print, to clear history, etc, etc. Folks learned to use those Menu items and they make web use better. So, why in the name of God would Mr. Softy get rid of them? Were customers barraging Microsoft, begging them to dump the menu? Please. Yes, you can put it back now, by why take it out in the first place?

And the Adobe Acrobat Reader, the Gold Standard when it comes to dealing with PDFs, has now been replaced with a pre loaded, impossible to get rid of POS MS “house” brand “Reader.” Like the new IE (and the “new” Math, for those of you old enough to remember it!) it is definitely NOT an improvement over the old version. Also like the new IE, it has no frames, no tools, no nothing. It is like one big “picture” of the document, with the only way to manipulate it being to “swipe” up and down. Besides the problems with “swipe” generally (and, to repeat again, we will get to them, I promise!), why would I not want to have a search function? And clickable pagination? And be able to change the size, and so on? Yes, yes, you can load Adobe, both the latest general version and the new “touch” version built to get along with W8, but despite what some might tell you, you can’t really make it the default setting for PDFs on IE. Changing the default to Adobe only results in Adobe (both of them or either) being the default where it “can” be. And, apparently, it can’t be on IE. Again, supposedly, you could download a PDF to the desktop, and then open it with Adobe, but that doesn’t work either, as the Adobe says it can’t read the document as formatted. So, you are stuck with the garbage MS “Reader.” Strangely, though, I am now able to get SOME of the Adobe features on a PDF in IE, if I say yes to a question box asking me if I want them (ummm, yeah, stupid, I do want them, duh!). But it is still some kind of Adobe/MS “Reader” hybrid.

Now, you might say, “big deal,” but it actually is a big deal. I use PDFs a lot. So do many people. Most sophisticated documents and high data documents are in PDF. Government and international organizations and academic websites all use PDFs. Moreover, the point is why change? Why go away from Adobe, when Adobe has been the first, last and best word on using PDFs for well over a decade or more? Again, did someone call up MS, ask for Gates, and say, “Please, Bill, take away my Adobe reader, because, (1) it is so good and easy to use, and (2) I am familiar with it. Replace it with a POS Reader of your own making that is unintuitive, totally different, and just plain not as good. Oh, and make sure it is hard/impossible for me to switch back too.”?

And now for the famous “swipe” BS. Yes, as I mentioned, on a device primarily meant to be used on the road, swiping might make sense. You need one hand to hold the thing, so you can’t really type (not touch type anyway, which is the only efficient way to type). In that case, the more you can do with one hand, with one finger, really, the better. Buuuuuuuuut, my laptop is not really a “mobile” device. I use it almost exclusively at home, and almost always in a traditional desk type setting. And I am hardly unusual in that respect. Even folks who take their laptops with them on the go don’t hold it with one hand and manipulate it with the other.

I want to keep my machine clean. Especially the screen. I want a clean screen, clean machine. But my fingers have natural oils on them. Also, I have dry skin, so occasionally I use lotion. Then too, I have been known, as have most human beings, to ingest food now and again. In other words, and without being overly graphic, my hands are NOT always ninety nine and forty four hundredths per cent clean. Is that, um, OK, Mr. Gates? Or are we now back in 1986, when there was no eating or drinking allowed at the “computer station?” Should I have to wear gloves, like Sheldon looking at his comic books on The Big Bang Theory, when I use the computer? I don’t want to touch the computer screen with my fingers……EVER! At most, I want to use a “chammy” cloth to clean the screen, very occasionally.

Mouse or touchpad, plus a few function keys, are all that is necessary. Not swiping, not touching, or “tapping,” as they put it.

More beefs…as with most new Windows, everything seems unstable. A touch, one light touch, on the down arrow, sends the thing plummeting down to the bottom of a long web page. Try opening the internet and you find that you opened it AND closed it again. Try again, with same results. Or, you have opened fifteen internet windows, just by holding your finger down on the click button for one second. Or, you go to make a video full screen and it toggles back and forth for five minutes between full screen and regular size. One press of the “back” arrow and the thing goes right back, past half a dozen previous pages, to the homepage. One press on the “forward” arrow and it goes all the way back to where you started!

And this “toggling” crap! I don’t need the computer to go back to somewhere I left because I happened to do something (not even sure what!) that the MS genius boys have determined means I must want to! If I play a game of chess, and then leave it to go surf the net, I can go back to my game if I feel like it. I don’t need some little picture of the game to show up in the upper left corner, which takes me back to the game against my will when I am just trying to use the “back” button on the internet or the recycling bin on the desktop. And it seems to toggle under other circumstances too, which I can’t figure out.

OK, I will admit that the complaints about the games in general are overdone. There are plenty of games to choose from, many of which are free. And it is easy to download and uninstall them. Much easier than it used to be.

Buuuut, when I am done with playing chess for the time being, why, for the love of all that is holy, is there not a simple box in the upper right corner? Ya’ know, a red box with a white “X” in it, that kills the chess function, for now, and until opened again? Again, did folks call up MS and say, “Gee Mr. Gates, when I am done playing Chess Titans, it is just too damn easy, too intuitive, and too simple, for me to just click the ‘X’ button that I am already familiar with, so that I can get rid of it and move on to the next thing. No, please, I beseech, beg and implore you, make it more complicated, make it new for no reason at all but change for change for change’s sake, and make it obscure, difficult and unfamiliar!”

I have no idea how to get rid of it right away, but when I then go to the desktop, it (the chess thing, as I left it) appears in the upper left corner as a little picture, and I can right click on it and close it that way. Sometimes. Other times, I can only get the recycling bin to open, when in pure desktop, or the back button on the internet. Great location for the toggle and close thingy, MS genius boy!

Same with the “Start” button. Sometimes it comes up in the lower left corner of the desktop, sometimes not. It seems to decide on its own whether to appear or not! And other times I end up clicking whatever icon is in that corner instead. Another great job of locating an important function button, MS!

And, no way, I am not going to “upgrade” to Windows 8.1, because I am afraid that I will again be sent back to square one, with no IE but the dreadful “tiles” version, no Menu, no nothing.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

The only real improvement, besides, as I mentioned, that it is easier to add and dump stuff, is the quality of the sound and video. Not sure if that is a Windows thing or a manufacturer thing, though.

The cost of a laptop has now gone up a little bit, after going down, down, down for years. It seems that a lot of bells and whistles, like pre loaded “apps” for commercial sites, “swipe” technology and “tiles,” are responsible for this. I can’t help but feel as if I am being played. Make something better, if you want to charge more for it. Give me more “CPU,” so that my antivirus doesn’t use it all up. Give me MS “Office” included. Give me something. But don’t charge me more on the basis of a new Windows that sucks.

That is all, for now.