Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: It's Not Sex, and It's Not Education

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  • Heather Gaye,

    Satanism. LOL. Go for it, but don’t hurt anyone. Is this a real religion?

    It’s def a reaction, but I don’t know if that means it’s not a religion. I’d put it in the same category as discordianism and the flying spaghetti monster though.

    I’ve only met a couple of people that explained atheism in a way that I understood and respected, and they were equally respectful when talking about religion. Granted, I’m sure there are many many more people in my group who are respectable atheists that I just haven’t had that conversation with.

    Far more of my discussions with atheists about religion are along the lines of slagging off christians for “needing an imaginary friend” and “using religion as a crutch”, but when you actually have a serious talk their atheism seems to be as much an article of faith as religion.

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to James Butler,

    And what about people who don't believe in gods but have a very strong spiritual belief system that isn't covered by any organisation or religion?

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    > Buddhist don’t seem to think that sex is a subject for their religion to stipulate about, although monks are traditionally chaste. Again, I expect this ambiguity means that the decisions about these things fall into the hands of the powerful.

    Um…

    Yeah, you’re the big cheese in Buddhism but never got laid in your life. Hard to really expect a different outcome than them having views that are kind of whack. As with Catholicism, what the Dalai Lama says, and what the “folllowers” do are always going to be out of synch, when the main dude’s dick gets no action.

    It does seem that they just have different rules for monks and the laity. But that page needs a lot more citations before I really believe it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye, in reply to Heather Gaye,

    I’ve only met a couple of people that explained atheism in a way that I understood and respected

    ...oh, looks like that number's increased since I started writing. Pah! Public address community. Typical!

    Morningside • Since Nov 2006 • 533 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Butler,

    It's not a matter of having "powerful arguments against the existence of one formulation of the Christian deity", but of no-one else having testable arguments for their particular deity. I don't see exactly how this differs from your "general scepticism and unbelief".

    Many times I've heard Atheists raise the Argument from Evil, one that I've always agreed with. It's a great big hammer in their repertoire. Wider out, it's just "you can't prove it", to which the comeback is "neither can you". Which leads to the rational position, IMHO, of withholding judgment, rather than claiming to actually know. It's the difference between being Agnostic and Atheist. I'm personally Agnostic, leaning toward Atheism as being likely. That does not, IMHO, make me an Atheist.

    That's the theory side. The practical side is that Western* Atheists engage in most of their debates against Christians, and pore over the Bible at length. I just don't want to hang out with Christians or read their shit that much - this kind of debating gives the old beardo in the sky more airtime than he deserves.

    *ETA: Perhaps I should make that more tight: Western Evangelical Atheists. There's plenty, like my Dad, who just never talk about it. If asked, they say "I think there's no God". Asked why, it's "It seems silly and I don't care about it and don't want to spend time on it". These are the people who close the door on Mormons, rather than enjoying standing there for an hour arguing with them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to James Butler,

    Saint Fucking Paul

    And a pox on YOU, my friend, for today's bad NZ song earworm.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    heterodoxies hearsay…

    Satanism is a Christian heresy.
    It doesn’t exist independent of the Christian myths.

    Santaism is the only true ‘present day’ religion…
    not to be confused with Baganism…
    (bogans and pagans and mall mercies)
    or Consumerism, which admittedly does have
    a certain cash, ay?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    It does seem that they just have different rules for monks and the laity. But that page needs a lot more citations before I really believe it.

    Yeah, two of the basic tenets of Buddhism seem to me to be sex-negative, and "sexual misconduct" carries an essential concept of "right sex" and "wrong sex". It's disheartening but unsurprising that "wrong sex" is currently being defined by the leadership as utterly in line with the Abrahamic idea of "wrong sex".

    That said, the difference with Buddhism is the disinterest in telling other people how to have sex.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to BenWilson,

    It’s not a matter of having “powerful arguments against the existence of one formulation of the Christian deity”, but of no-one else having testable arguments for their particular deity.

    That’s my position, and it’s why I define myself as a “sceptical agnostic” rather than an atheist. There’s no proof of supernatural beings or phenomena, and neither are useful for explaining the universe, so even if you can’t dis prove them, by Occam’s Razor one can talk and act as if they don’t exist. To all intents and purposes I’m an atheist, but I don’t actually believe in the non-existence of god(s), because I don’t believe in anything.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    I regard atheism as the view that there is no evidence for the existence of god(s). It can't be the belief that there is no god, even if some atheists put it that way, because as a matter of logic, it's impossible to prove a negative. There can be no evidence that proves that god doesn't exist. So in a sense an agnostic position is somewhat incoherent, because it says that a person can't decide between something that is a logical impossibility (proving a negative), and a logical possibility (proving the existence of gods).

    On the other hand, a person might claim to be agnostic in the sense that they really just don't care about the matter. A kind of social agnosticism, if you will, and it's a bit odd to worry about logical impossibility when someone is saying that it just doesn't really worry them one way or the other.

    Could we go back to talking about sex?

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report Reply

  • JackElder,

    ETA: Perhaps I should make that more tight: Western Evangelical Atheists.

    ...which you're defining as being, atheists who are preoccupied with Christianity. So, basically, what you're saying is that "Atheists who are preoccupied with Christianity, are preoccupied with Christianity"? I'd agree with that.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2008 • 709 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to BenWilson,

    Wider out, it's just "you can't prove it", to which the comeback is "neither can you". Which leads to the rational position, IMHO, of withholding judgment, rather than claiming to actually know. It's the difference between being Agnostic and Atheist. I'm personally Agnostic, leaning toward Atheism as being likely. That does not, IMHO, make me an Atheist.

    You see I agree with that position, but I'm comfortable calling myself an atheist, because my assessment of the likelihood of a/some Gods' existence falls below my 3dB line, as it were.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    falls below my 3dB line, as it were

    James, I really do want to thank you for this, it's going to be a Thing now.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Deborah,

    Could we go back to talking about sex?

    I'd make the point that it is by no means just religions that seem to have an interest in telling other people how to have sex. And why how they are doing it is wrong.

    Which is something I will never understand. (Beyond, you know, safety, as already discussed for 20 pages.)

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    myth understood...

    Could we go back to talking about sex?

    Gods can make anything come into being...
    with a little gentle ribbing
    and a bit of blow (pneuma)...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    I'd make the point that it is by no means just religions that seem to have an interest in telling other people how to have sex. And why how they are doing it is wrong.

    Possibly an imagination/memory fail on my part, but could you give some examples? Beyond the obvious one of laws relating to underage sex (which isn't really a 'how to have sex'), I'm struggling to think of formal or informal organisations outside religion that are proscriptive in the way you suggest.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Deborah,

    It's disheartening but unsurprising that "wrong sex" is currently being defined by the leadership as utterly in line with the Abrahamic idea of "wrong sex".

    Yes, I guess celibates end up of like mind. Best argument against them running religions, really.

    It can't be the belief that there is no god, even if some atheists put it that way, because as a matter of logic, it's impossible to prove a negative. There can be no evidence that proves that god doesn't exist.

    I don't think so. The Argument From Evil is a very powerful cut down of one way of constructing a God. This God isn't logically contradictory, but the existence of evil suggest that he can't exist in this world without being logically contradictory.

    So, basically, what you're saying is that "Atheists who are preoccupied with Christianity, are preoccupied with Christianity"? I'd agree with that.

    That's a fair cop. Similar defences exist for most religious positions too, there are countless practitioners who have views that are totally different from the organized religious groups. Which is why it's actually quite hard to generalize about what, say, Christians, think about stuff.

    Atheism vs Agnosticism is usually constructed as a binary. I don't think this is helpful. You could have a degree of belief in both - you probably just can't really have a very high degree in both, otherwise you render the terms identical.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Feminists who are... struggling to describe them, here. "Non-sex-positive"?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Megan Wegan,

    Which is something I will never understand. (Beyond, you know, safety, as already discussed for 20 pages.)

    The caveat that breaks the case. You can understand telling people what to do with their dicks, when it comes to wrapping them up in condoms. It's the Only Good Casual Sex.

    ETA: But I must say I've got 100 times more time for your views than sexual views of major religions. The number of casualties of your views are much lower. I just can't wholeheartedly agree, for personal reasons.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to James Butler,

    I have to admit to suffering a bit from this. Doesn’t help that I still participate in church services more often than you might expect an atheist to (although I know I’m not the only one in my choir).

    An old friend who now lives in the US is a highly-engaged, throughly non-theist Quaker. I quite admire that.

    The Quakers’ attitude towards sex and homosexuality in particular seems to depend quite a lot on where they live.

    British Quakers:
    In 1963, British Quakers published a book “Towards a Quaker View of Sex”. It put forth the argument that it was not the gender and sexual orientation of a person that mattered; it was the depth of feeling they have for each other.
    “Where there is a genuine tenderness, an openness to responsibility, and the seed of commitment, God is surely not shut out. Can we not say that God can enter any relationship in which there is a measure of selfless love?"

    But …

    Friends Church Southwest Yearly Meeting:
    They issued a statement on 1992-JAN-24 which says in part:
    “We declare that our sexuality is God’s gift, and that sexual intercourse is to be enjoyed, as the Scriptures teach, only within the marriage of one man and one woman. We reject and utterly oppose homosexual activity, especially the “blessing” of same sex unions, as sinful and displeasing to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Right reason, Holy Scripture and the Spirit of Christ within us unitedly testify that homosexual practice is contrary to God’s will. We also observe that homosexual practice is portrayed in the Scriptures as one of the awful consequences of humanity’s pursuit of idolatry. (Romans 1:18-32)

    Happily:

    New Zealand: The Quaker meeting in Aotearoa is called “Te Hahi Tuhauwiri.” This was the name gifted to them by the Maori Language Commission in 1994. It means “The people who are moved by the winds of the Spirit.” In 1999, they published their Statement of Affirmation and Reconciliation about the inclusiveness of sexualities, especially gays and lesbians. It had been adopted in 1995. Portions read:
    “The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Aotearoa New Zealand commits itself to be a community of reconciliation, responding to the love of God in equality of participation and service, and recognizing the gifts of God in one another. A cornerstone of Quaker belief is ‘that of God’ in everyone which makes each person precious, and of value to God, to the planet, and to her or his community.

    Each individual’s journey through life is unique. Some will make this journey alone, others in loving relationships – maybe in marriage or other forms of commitment. We need to ponder our own choices and try to understand the choices of others. Love has many shapes and colors and is not finite. It can not be measured or defined in terms of sexual orientation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    And what about people who don't believe in gods but have a very strong spiritual belief system that isn't covered by any organisation or religion?

    Oh sure, full power to those people, they get to decide what to call themselves. It's fully up to the individual non-believer to decide whether the thing they don't believe in isn't not Theism.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yeah, you’re the big cheese in Buddhism but never got laid in your life. Hard to really expect a different outcome than them having views that are kind of whack. As with Catholicism, what the Dalai Lama says, and what the “folllowers” do are always going to be out of synch, when the main dude’s dick gets no action.

    Ben, I'm a bit disturbed that you're so sarcastic about Buddhism. As a good friend of mine who is Buddhist is always telling me, it's not a religion, it's a spiritual practice. They don't have a deity. And it has many varieties, of which Tibetan Buddhism is only one. Personally, I have a lot of time for people who advocate tolerance and non-violence and self-improvement. Surely we could do a lot worse?

    Among Christian denominations I also have a lot of time for Quakers as they (generally) are passionate about social justice and good works.

    Myself, I am happily atheist, and pacifist and a liberal humanist. And a vegetarian! :-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Do fish do it for pleasure? Do birds? Do monkeys? Humans certainly do. Therefore one might assume we humans enjoy it more because....well....we can think about it, reason about and most importantly talk about it. All the above can't. I think we can safely say that all the above "do it" mainly to propagate the species. We do it to propagate but have also developed the niceties of enjoying it.

    Maybe the question now becomes how much, when, with who and why we should do it for more than propagation.

    There is nothing like family. The more the better to protect you. So we love birthing 'our own". Once the gods were invoked somewhere in the mists of time, nasty "rules" came along. Given the 10,000 (alleged) christian religions that have peeled off in the last 2000 years or so one can assume there may be a bit of variation in these rules. Certainly in non christian religions there are rules concerning sex in the cities and surrounds. With all of them came the battles to populate the world with your religion rather than every other pagan.

    So should we now take a minute and figure out a way of separating religy bits from the fleshy bits? If we do that and consider the costs and benefits of "the act" maybe we might come to a better understanding of how we should educate our young.

    My anecdata suggests that those parents who insist their child should be taught sex at home rather than at school are the ones who probably discovered sex with the lights out and are petrified their child might enjoy it too early in life. How sad.

    We find out about the workings of our bodies blood system, lungs and digestive system, we learn to read and write and add with our brain. All at school. A weee extension to include the bodily sex functions and the bits that go with it and the opportunities to enjoy might just be tolerably efficient in educating for life.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to James Butler,

    It's not a matter of having "powerful arguments against the existence of one formulation of the Christian deity", but of no-one else having testable arguments for their particular deity. I don't see exactly how this differs from your "general scepticism and unbelief".

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, etcetera. And, again, when you keep getting asked specific questions, you're going to come up with very specific answers. Generally one doesn't have to, in Western society, go into detail on arguments for the non-existence of Shiva. I'd imagine it'd be a bit different if you went to southern India.

    There's also the important distinction between atheists - people who don't believe in gods - and atheist activists, who work to secularise society and against religiously-motivated wrongs (faith healing, and so on.) The latter are what most people think of, but the former are the bulk of atheists.

    And, of course, a lot of people fighting to keep general society secular are personally religious - the fight against Christian evangelism in the American Air Force is largely being waged by other varieties of Christian, Jews, and Muslims who are sick of being told by superiors that their version of religion is the wrong one.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    If we (the non-religious) understand the function of religions as primarily a form of social organisation, then the proscriptions on who you mash your genitals with make a lot more sense. Having babies and social orders are important things. Particularly if you're a bunch of farmers in a desert 3000 years ago.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

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