Platitude of the Day: a non-denominational parody of the BBC's religious "Thought of the Day"

Stef sez, "During the BBC's flagship morning radio news show, The Today programme, there's a religious segment called 'Thought for the Day.' Its rotating presenters are multi-faith, but humanists, agnostics and atheists or followers of specialist faiths such as the Cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, are barred. provides a daily parody of the broadcast piece and the site explains itself, thusly:

The BBC's department of Religion & More Religion, recognises that only those who commune with their invisible magic friend can possibly have any morality. Atheists, agnostics, humanists and other amoral non-believers are therefore excluded from the pure and godly Platitude of the Day, broadcast Monday to Saturday at 07.45 (but obviously not Sundays). For your further edification and spiritual improvement, we therefore present these concise, bite-size summaries of the wisdom of their presenters.
Platitude of the Day (Thanks, Stef!)


  1. Nice to see that atheists, agnostics, humanists and other amoral non-believers can be just as vicious, stupid, and bigoted as fundamentalist religious types.

    Or is that not meant to be the message of the site? Because it seems to be the one delivered.

  2. I see that atheists and humanists can be just as superficial and uncurious about their beliefs as many of us religious people are about ours. So you guys, go with the platitudes! If you can’t beat us in our Hallmark-card spiritual superficiality, join us!

    I also recognize that atheists, humanists, and FSM-ites have just as much morality as we of the faith. If you are willing to share seriously, it would be a good conversation to hear where you think these non-faith-based moralities come from. An innate sense of right and wrong? Inborn compassion for one’s fellow human? And where did *those* come from?

    Like I say, it would be a good conversation. Better and more productive for sure than most religious/atheist debates.

  3. Not really. It still boils down to:

    Atheists/scientists/reasonable people: compassion is a product of evolution without which the human race could not survive

    religious people: God did it

  4. Belief itself is not the issue: it’s discrimination. The BBC discriminates against people who don’t follow approved religions. This policy is bigotry: atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, et cetera have valuable thoughts to bring to the program.

  5. Apparently, BoingBoing is for Atheists only.

    Any other opinions need not apply.

    It really is too bad that Atheism is pushed here so much, because there is a great deal here that is very entertaining and enlightening for a free thinking theist.

    The fact that uninteresting and insulting anti-theistic propaganda is constantly pushed on this site is just a shame.

    It really just makes you all look like a bunch of mind numbed anti-religeon nazis.

    You don’t need to accept my religeon, but the constant atheistic propaganda makes me feel unwelcome here, if that is the case just come out and say it; that you actively discriminate against theists and get over it. Then you can get together with white robes and burn religeous literature. Now that is free thinking baby!

  6. Cross Impact @ 1 it would be a good conversation to hear where you think these non-faith-based moralities come from.

    We atheists get our morality from the same place religious people get theirs, as we are all humans on earth in the same situation. It’s originally an emergent property of the condition of being human in society, founded on/developed from/evolved out of pre-moral pre-rational relationships of animals. As pre-humans became humans and articulate, thinking people they argued, discussed, rationalised, mythologised and fought over various aspects of ethics and morality in a variety of social, legal, literature or family environments.

    A number of humans developed certain – and wildly different – ideas of supernational entities and post-life conditions to enforce particular views of morality among other people in this world and a putative next one. At some stages in history almost everyone apparently believed in one or other of these gods as factually true (or weren’t keen to admit publicly that they didn’t for fear of being – morally – killed or excoriated) but in fact the multitudinous gods arose after people, not before.

    Various human promulgators of religious beliefs may well have had good and useful things to say about the moral relationships of humans and societies, but that is due to their essential humanity, not any connection they claim with non-existent supernatural entities.

  7. No oversimplifications or false dichotomies there, eh Trent? “Reasonable people” and “religious people” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. And not all religions boil down to “God did it.”

  8. Morality and ethics all predate any religions by tens of thousands of years. No group can be formed without a shared sense of right and wrong. Religions, especially the big3 religions of the desert, came late to the game, and have been trying to steal the ball ever since. The jewish religion is less than 6,000 years old, christianity is less than 2,000 years old and islam is less than 1,400 years old. Now lets see, the Australian Aboriginal mythology goes back as much as 40,000 years, maybe further. That these desert religions think they found anything new or special is the height of arrogance. These 3 religions, as do all religions, have their roots in the first coming together of human societies.

    At any rate these morals and ethics certainly weren’t handed down from on high by some god, but are the creation of human civilization. We do not need to give credit where credit ain’t due. These modern late comers have spent the last 6,000 years trying to make us believe we are incapable of spontaneous morality and all would be lost and debauched without them.

    Morality probably in some form predates humans as well, as the great apes and many other creatures have formed communities that would not exist without standards of behavior, which includes a shared sense of right and wrong.

  9. @Narmitaj, #6:

    “Various human promulgators of religious beliefs may well have had good and useful things to say about the moral relationships of humans and societies, but that is due to their essential humanity, not any connection they claim with non-existent supernatural entities.”

    Or so you like to believe. I mean, it’s a preference, right?

    Personally, I’d prefer it if the BBC programme in question allowed for contribution from agnostic/humanist/atheist commentators as well as the religious ones.

    I’d also prefer it if BoingBoing and many of the other purported free-thinking sites and commentators whose work I like to read weren’t quite so shrill in their intolerance for religious viewpoints. The constant mockery and sarcasm betray a certain elitist hubris, no?

    Intelligence does not preclude faith, and faith does not preclude intelligence.

  10. Well, when I started writing my comment there was only one, when I returned to the post I found something quite beautifully written. Thank you NARMITAJ, your comment says it all and says it well. Just perfect!

  11. I recommend you all check out “Primates & Philosophers: How Morality Evolved” by Frans De Waal, a well known primatologist.

    It’s a really interesting look at morality as an evolved trait, which even takes the time to field objections from leading philosophers in the field of ethics and morality, and then responds to them.

    The paperback is due out in February, the hardback is out now.

  12. Finally, a comment thread where we can settle this religion/science question once and for all.

    But on the matter at hand, t’s a silly policy not to allow anyone with a “thought” to share to share it on the show. I’m a theist and the free exercise of ideas isn’t something that puts me off. I can read Sam Harris one day and Augustine the next and draw my own conclusions.

  13. There is a snideness to the “Platitude of the Day”, but then there’s also a horrible snobbery to the “Thought for the Day” segment on the Today programme.

    And for me, despite being snide, the “PotD” site does a good job of pointing out how silly and empty a lot of the “Thoughts for the Day” are, and how they’re given excessive weight simply because they’re delivered from the mouths of religious officials and academics.

    What I’d like to see from TftD is a panel of humanists, theists, whathaveyou each giving their take on the events of the day. While perhaps no more useful than the current format, it would at least be a little more interesting to listen to.

  14. MGFarrelly, this is not about religion vs. science. This is about modern religions giving credit to a god for something that probably began before humans even came on the scene. It is becoming clear that dinosaurs formed communities that took care of their young possibly not much differently than modern day elephants. The roots of morality could concievably go back millions of years. No, where and when this all started not only predates science and religion, but even humans.

  15. Ah, some people are angry.

    I for one have always longed to believe in God. Nothing could be better because if I believed then I could have my dream job: Missionary.

    Missionaries get to travel to exotic places around the globe with like-minded people. They get to know people from all over the world. They get to “teach” without having to publish or perish. They only really have to know about one book. They actually believe that they are bringing people the most important information in the world. They believe that they are saving people for all eternity.

    What a trip that must be.

  16. Javanaut@5: That’s a tired old saw, and patently untrue. Just because many posts here point out alternatives to / hypocrisy of organized religious bodies, figures, or evangelists doesn’t mean this site or it’s editors espouse atheism. I challenge you to produce one item from BB’s entire catalog that states definitively and in all seriousness that any religious entity doesn’t exist (i.e. “pushing atheism”). You sound like one of those who denounced Martin Luther as a heretic for being critical of “The Church”.

  17. Congratulations to Javanaught on his first-ever comment, and it being used to complain about how he’s being oppressed! Well done, old bean!

  18. Jeez, do the Big 3 religions’ minions troll blogs, astroturfing their propaganda crusades, or what?

  19. “It really is too bad that Atheism is pushed here so much, because there is a great deal here that is very entertaining and enlightening for a free thinking theist.”

    As far as I know, most blogs aren’t required to be “fair and balanced” and they can espouse any position they desire. Blogs are ala carte…you pick from each what you want and move on.

    Does the inclusion of (or pushing of) an supposedly atheistic POV negate the entertainment and enlightenment?

    As for the topic: Ideas are often subject to Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If someone comes up with “Thought of the Day” someone will be along any minute with “Platitude of the Day”. Somewhere in the middle is something close to truth or reality.

    In my book, Religions are too much like Political Parties to trust implicitly. Faith has little to do with it any more. It’s all about who’s right and who’s wrong.

  20. My wife and I wake up to BBC4’s Today programme.

    I use TFTD as my drop-dead alarm clock: I absolutely have to be out of bed by 7.45 otherwise I’ll be late. Fortunately, the fatuous twaddle the TFTD presenters go on with usually gets me out of bed in a huff, so it makes for a pretty good alarm.

    I’ll second #15 about how lightweight the “thoughts” are. The clash between the rapid-fire no-nonsense interviews of the rest of the Today programme is telling.

    Each TFTD follows a basic formula:

    1. Superficial summary of complex social problem (bonus points: “I was reading in the paper the other day …”).
    2. Impractical or idealistic non-solution.
    3. Meaningless analogy to something in the Bible.
    4. Jesus namecheck.

    Points 3 or 4 will never appear before the others (they will however be tailored to the relevant deity on those rare occassions the Beeb allows a non-Christian presenter).

    But my main beef is that TFTD is rubbish, rather than the fact it’s prosetlysation.

  21. Phks @21
    Bllcrp. BB psts r xclsvly pttng frth nly th n gnd, thsm nd th dsgstng, ftn slf-ndlgnt psts frm th thst cmmnty hr t t p. m snstv t t, nd y bvsly r nsnstv t t.

    PlDRY @23–
    Yh, my frst pst, hd nthr lgn bt frgt t, hd pstd wth fw tms. Tht bvsly nllfs my pnn, shld hv knwn tht.

    Dn’t cld th ss wth nslts nd sch, jst dmt t,


    Y ppl r bnch f nt-rlgs zlts wh pl n rlgs flk lk th nqstrs y clm t ht.

    1. javanaught,

      The martyr trip isn’t working. Unless, of course, you’re an atheist agent provocateur. This discussion is open to many points of view on the subject. But shrieking is not allowed. If you can’t make a convincing argument, that’s your own problem.

  22. Ghost, Cross Impact, I agree that shrill, overly broad denunciations of religion aren’t cogent discourse.

    Maybe we should do a variant on Godwin; as soon as somebody starts channelling Jacques Derrida, deconstructing “atheism” and “agnosticism” to support some hobbyhorse, the thread is over.

    Or maybe as soon as either an atheist or a believer posts an egregious “excluded middle” fallacy. That would stop this one at #2, Trent Hawkins, I believe.

    Javanaught, if you learn to ignore the one-trick ponies, there are some interesting people and lots of interesting viewpoints here. In my own opinion, some of the people who are completely unreasonable on the subject of religion are occasionally worth reading on other subjects.

    This concludes my platitude of the day. Everybody drink!

  23. @FoetusNail:

    So this isn’t about science and religion, this is about religious people admitting that they are wrong?

    These discussions are rabbit holes.

    I manage to have a best friend who is an committed atheist, work with a para-rabbinic and a mentor who is an expert in Islamic history. We’ve had lovely dinners and talk quite a bit about music.

  24. To people who believe that morality must stem from religion, ask yourself:

    If it was revealed indisputably that Jesus (Muhammad, Buddha, etc) was a lying, cheating, murderer or didn’t exist at all, would you start stealing, murdering, and lusting after your neighbor’s wife? If so, then you are not being moral so much as unquestioningly following the demands of your holy book. If not, then you must admit that conscience is inherent to humanity, and your religion is good because it espouses good morality, not the other way around.

    You might argue that humans have innate conscience and innate susceptibility to corruption, and only religion provides sufficient armor against corruption, but to argue that humans can’t tell right from wrong without religion is arrant nonsense.

  25. Perhaps the BCC’s “Thought of the Day” and NPR “This I Believe” should swap names. I’ve been listening to This I Believe for a few months now, and have not heard a single religious essay on that show.

    By the way, it’s a great show. Look up “Everyone Deserves Defense”, for instance.

  26. MGFarrelly, yes I think most religions are wrong both in what they claim and do. But this discussion is about religions thinking they have some exclusive hold on spirituality and morality. This is about religious people being secure enough in their faith to leave the rest of us alone, and trust the god they claim to trust.

    Religious people need to have enough faith to let go let god, which means leave everything to him and leave the rest of us alone. Religious beliefs would not bother me at all if they stayed in their homes and houses of worship. If I had any money, I wold bet if the religious nutjobs this site PotD ridicules would just mind their own business and stfu we would rarely if ever have one of these posts. But they can’t because their faith demands that my business is their business.

    So, here we are once again.

  27. Th ssntl ss tht bngbng clrly nd bvsly prmts thsm nd s cntmpts f nyn cmmttd t prtclr rlgn.

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    nd t’s s fnny, bcs y rlly blv y’r nt dng t.

  28. I happen to be a religious person, albeit not a mainstream religion, but I say this nonsense has got to stop. I read this article and its comments right after reading an article over at Faux News about the “War on Christmas!!1!” because some atheists put up a sign next to the nativity scene at the public (gov’t) center. Boo hoo, cry me a river.

    It’s utter garbage, Christians make such a huge stink about being oppressed any time someone disagrees with them. This would be the equivalent of Jews crying bloody murder everytime there was a commercial for a bacon cheeseburger, as if it was somehow insulting to them and offensive to their “traditional values”.

    Atheists and agnostics make any effort whatsoever to gain some freedom from religion in the public arena, and Christians want to frame the debate as if it were a direct attack on them and everything they stand for. Let’s face it, Christians just absolutely cannot tolerate people who think differently. They will quietly and snidely laugh at/mock/hate/despise those of us who disagree, until we try to throw off the weight of 2000 years of religious oppression — then saying “Happy Holidays” is the equivalent of throwing them to the lions.

    Jesus H. Christ.

  29. I was sure I’d heard a humanist on TftD some time ago but perhaps I dreamed it. Never heard a Satanist though that’s for sure, and I’m sure they’d have some interesting things to say about the world. Also, they couldn’t be any more nauseating than Anne bleedin’ Atkins. Mind you, I usually flip over to 5live when it comes on anyway so I don’t really care too much. I wonder if anyone other than the speaker’s nearest and dearest actually looks forward to TftD? Doubt it.

    Endorse foetusnail’s comments about NARMITAJ’S lovely post #6; I intend to commit it to memory.

  30. You people are a bunch of anti-religeous zealots who pile on religeous folk like the Inquisitors you claim to hate.

    Uh huh. Well, I’m sure to follow your advice to “Don’t cloud the issue with insults and such” now.

    “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 RSV)

    One of us has some ‘splainin to do to his Lord.

  31. Also, I don’t no if anyone has noticed, but there are often to be found on these pages anti-christianity christians, pagans, anti-religion theists, as well as the anti-theists and agnostics. This site attracts all types, and I have only arrived at some of my best thoughts as a result of the people on these threads with whom I disagree. I for one hope they stay. But then there are people like javanaught who need to have a little more faith in their faith and remember that posts like that only serve to reinforce people’s poor opinion of the religious. Remember spirituality can exist without religion. Which came first, panic or religion.


    You are free to think, Javanaught. Or to believe. You have a choice.

  33. Those who complain about this sites few posts in the storm of judeo-christian beliefs permeating every aspect of our society, has some similarity with African-Americans getting one month each year to promote their history and whites ask when are we going to have white history month? And everyone knows the answer, every month is white history month.

  34. perhaps the non-organized religious wouldn’t have to criticize the organized religious if the organized religious were quicker to criticize the other organized religious that were saying and doing things that are evil. Capiche?

  35. DADU @34
    Thank you for helping me to say what has been bothering me as a regular reader here for quite some time.

    They don’t see their own bigotry, and I expected to be thrashed for speaking out about it.

    The FREETHINKER jab was the best, because it proves my point precisely. That someone can be a free thinking individual and still believe in God. That just because you believe in God you don’t become ignorant and rigid, but you will be portrayed that way by hateful people who don’t want to be shaken from their own beliefs.

    Being a believer does not mean you stop thinking, and it is INSULTING when people post crap like that in these comments.

    1. javanaught,

      Since you haven’t contributed anything to this thread except a lot of noise about how everybody is being mean to you, you can take a day off to compose an articulate comment about the subject of the post.

  36. How sensitive some “theist” people seems to be!

    How easily offended by “atheist propaganda” they are.

    Guess what, we atheists are *constantly* assaulted by “religious propaganda”. I see religious imagery everywhere, I see religious displays in tv, radio, on the streets, etc. And we have basically to shut up, on risk of being even physically harmed.

    Also, just a quick fact: there is no evidence of any “divine being” whatsoever.

  37. @ Javanaught: There’s no upside to believing what is true. Whether or not there is a Golly, there’s nothing my belief is going to do about it. There’s simply no point in taking a stake in the way it is being any particular way. I might as well leave all that alone.
    There’s a cornucopia of perverse payoffs, though, to believing what is false. Like a sense of security that is not grounded in anything, but is still a sense of security. Like a sense of belonging you share with those who seem to believe the same as you do. Like certitude of knowing good from evil, us from them, you don’t have to question, ever.
    However, you’re still free to think.

  38. @ Ghost: Let’s put it differently: you have the choice to inquire into the plausibility of a statement. Or not.

  39. Trent from comment #3 — Why not both? The fact that compassion, empathy, and love are in the intersection of moralities derived from many different cultures, faiths, and philosophies says something significant, does it not?

    What if this intersection came from a place beyond the illusory natural/supernatural, faith/reason lines we like to draw to orient our experience?

    NARMITAJ in #7 — I concur 85%. ‘cept I think various faiths developed not so much to enforce morality as to explain trancsendent experiences that are, yes, common to all humans and precede all religious doctrine. Faiths are often co-opted in the service of other agendas, but their origin is in response to this common human experience of love.

    Humanists and us Christians actually have a lot of in common at their root. Pope John Paul II (yes, everyone’s fave I know) defined Christianity in Humana Vitae as “humanity fully alive.” So the pointy hat guy defines his faith without using God or Jesus in the definition. What gives?

    The answer to all this folly is not either/or, but to go deeper.

  40. Oops, botched the citation badly! That was originally St. Irenaeus. Quoted liberally and often, including John Paul II:

    “The Glory of God is Humanity Fully Alive”

    Stand by my point though. Will dock myself 20 points.

  41. I am so bleeping tired of Christian-in-name-only drama queens dropping in at Boing Boing because they think it’s a reliably atheist forum where they’ll be able to do a big song-and-dance number about how oppressed they are and how nasty we are to believers.

    You know what they are? Trolls for Jesus. And like any other kind of troll, their real motive is to rile up people who would never otherwise pay them a bit of attention.

  42. @Juanpa:

    Speaking as a Unitarian, I’m only bothered when public money goes to support private beliefs. The separation of church from state not only protects the state, it protects the church (mosque, shrine, whathaveyou) as well.

    The argument to me boils down to one’s own evaluation and judgment. There are a great many people who hold to a religious tradition who oppose this ugly kind of intolerance vociferously. My faith, my belief, is not threatened by your, I assume, atheism.

    I’m far more interested in what we have in common than where we disagree.

  43. I love the phrase Atheist Agent Provocateur! (from Antious in #40)

    I so want to be one, it sounds like an awesomely cool job.

    My only problem is I’m not a believer, by which I mean I don’t believe there isn’t a God. (I’m also not sure there IS a God either, so I’m quite even-handed on the topic)

    -abs fears he’s just disqualified himself from ever having one of the coolest titles EVAR, oh well, faith just isn’t in his bag of tricks whether it’s faith in the existance of a God or faith in the non-existance of a God

  44. Religious people on athiest threads are so weird. You don’t see those of us who don’t like steampunk going on the steampunk threads and claiming to be oppressed.
    Or at least I assume not. Cause I don’t visit those threads. So what are you doing here?

  45. Cross Impact @ 50 – I think various faiths developed not so much to enforce morality as to explain trancsendent experiences that are, yes, common to all humans and precede all religious doctrine.

    Perhaps it is a bit of both. People creating great works of art, such as Michelangelo or whoever designed the Parthenon, or music, like Tallis or Byrd or Allegri, or indeed the people who wrote religious-minded literature such as the gospels, are exploring or expressing or trying to explain or attempting to induce some sense of transcendence as well as or as part of being specifically religious. The fact that I am not religious doesn’t prevent me responding to various works of art or writing just because their creators were religious – to me, they were just other humans exploring or inquiring into the mysteries of the world about them.

    Nobody these days believes in Zeus and the other Greek gods, as far as I am aware, but they still respond to the Parthenon, and I don’t think anyone knows what the people who built Stonehenge really believed but Stonehenge still represents something to us.

    I like the mediaeval English stone churches and their grave-filled churchyards that dot the landscape round where I live. I find cathedrals and minsters impressive – but I am aware that planting them all over England was a Norman political statement as well as an expression of godly piety.

    It’s all about the human search for meaning – a meaning we have always been and still are creating ourselves, as there is no-one or nothing else to deliver it to us. That’s the human condition – intelligent beings awake in a vast universe full of strangeness and mystery – and why people think and talk about it so much.

  46. @Secret Life of Plants: And, as a bit of a bonus, eternal salvation / life after death. Must be marvellous to have belief. Really, it must. But, for me, who doesn’t, I find I can’t just put it on like a coat. “Faith” I think it’s called, and I just can’t find it anywhere.

  47. MGFarrelly, me too, but I’m the one in the sanctuary with you who does not believe in the judeo-christian god. The judeo-christian god is a lie, or at best a very pale insulting shadow of god. If there is a god it will be so far beyond any description found in those books. I will never believe a god capable of creating this universe would behave as the god these religions describe and in which they believe. If there is a god, these religions insult god.

  48. The problem with these discussions is that some atheists divide the world into atheists and witch-burning jihadists, and some religious people divide the world into people who believe whatever they themselves believe and baby-eating psychopaths. I regard both groups with the same amount of respect and esteem.

    At the highest level of differentiation, there are several groups. Materialists believe that non-material-appearing phenomena such as consciousness stem purely from material causes. Metaphysicians believe that matter, energy, etc. stem from non-material causes, once again such as consciousness. Dualistic types see both material and non-material as valid in and of themselves.

    Some atheists, besides rudely claiming to be the sole possessors of science, refuse to distinguish between those who reject materialism as a philosophy and those who profess belief in organized religions and cults. It’s a cheap attempt to win an argument by muddying the waters.

    You can reverse the polarity of the last paragraph and apply it to many religious people. It’s easier to demonize vague groups of other than to make a reasoned argument. Speaking on behalf of reasonable people of all philosophies, cut the crap.

  49. hey! you don’t necessarily have to be a psychopath to eat babies you know. A little sensitivity maybe?

  50. Well, shit. I just went to my first steampunk posts. My brother always told me he worked for an anti-steampunk astroturfing company but i thought he was joking

  51. Javanaut@26: When you get back from your respite, perhaps you can attempt to provide a shred of proof of your invective assertions, which is all I was asking for. Surely you could not have been expecting us “atheists” to take your word on faith?

  52. @antinous:

    Very well stated, thank you for saying it.

    I attend a church where we read “The End of Faith” and “God is Not Great” in our book club. We also read “The Screwtape Letters”. We have faith, and doubts and care for each other and our community.

    And I’m certain a secular group could be just as strong in their values and commitment to each other.

    There’s so much we share. I’d rather focus on that.

  53. @ Patrick Dodds #59: I do have faith. I have faith in doubt. It brings me closer besides the truth than belief ever will, every time.

  54. Antinous, the problem I have is the 99% of these 3 religions that believe most of what the extremists believe. Extremist only exist because of the ready supply of believers provided by the moderates, whose children need only slight modification to become suicidal murderers.

    The silent majority is an accomplice to murder. If they wanted this stopped they could stop teaching hate and reduce the supply of fodder for the jihadist war. They could rewrite their holy books instead of picking and choosing their beliefs. Why weren’t a few billion moderates in the streets protesting murder? Where are they on these threads? We have Frank, Charlie, MGFarrelly and some others whose names escape me, but then most of what we read is written by venomous hate filled theists of the big3. Javanaught and his brethren are perfect examples of the hate that is hidden behind their platitudes.

    1. But then there are my aunt and uncle who are devout generic Christians, go to church every week, do lots of church activities and put a lot of effort into charity work. Although I was raised without religion, that behavior was the norm that I observed among protestants in Massachusetts. There are large areas of the world where Christianity is more associated with abolitionism or liberation theology than with dogma.

  55. @ #63: I don’t worry too much about Wahhabi Muslims in bomb belts or G*d H*tes F*gs Christians, but all things Steampunk that refused to die after Wild Wild West must be eradicated from the earth forever.

  56. I too go to church every week or so; most of those at a UU church are the same way, but they are also out in the streets protesting and possibly the most welcoming religious community in the world. However, my congregation, unlike some others, doesn’t use these bankrupt religious theologies as a guide. Many do believe in a god of some kind or another, and there are also many who do not.

    My challenge to the so called moderates is to edit or rewrite their texts, remove all traces of the poison exploited by the extremists and which their children read. Have you ever read the Qur’an? Probably half that book is warnings and threats to those that don’t believe and those that would associate with unbelievers, plus the whole bit about beating your wives and its OK to screw your slaves. The bible and jesus are also mute on the whole slavery thing.

    No, these people who hold these texts as holy works never to be edited, give tacit approval to the teachings, the hatred of extremism. The fact that they are all good church going people is in the end unimportant. If they no longer endorse those passages that promote hatred, violence, bigotry, and divisiveness, I then ask that they be removed so they never again infect the consciousness of another child, making them ready victims for extremists.

  57. There’s a joke in our congregation, the reason we are so lousy at singing hymns, is we are all reading ahead to make sure there is nothing we disagree with and need to skip over.

  58. I’ve got a better term for the “Big3” as some have called them above — the AMCs. Abrahamic Monotheistic Cults.

  59. Phikus @64, if he’s a true troll, you’re giving him too much credit for thinking about how other people work.

    Foetusnail @67: What’s the mystery? Am I not here every day, trying to get people to treat each other courteously, tell the truth, and think of the good of the community as well as themselves?

    Takuan @69: We do, sometimes. We just don’t do it for you.

    Foetusnail @72, can you point to a verse in the Bible that has to be given an inflammatory reading? Even if you cut out all the passages most conducive to flamage, do you deny the ability of ill-willed humans to manufacture inflammatory readings out of what’s left?

    Heruraha @74, I think I’ll stick with Sancta Mater Ecclesia.

  60. selfish I call that, always worrying about your own soul for your sake. What about my pleasure in your misery? Not very Christian. I demand more Charity! And bacon.

  61. Teresa, yes you are, and whether you know it or not you are a Unitarian Universalist, and a far better person than I will ever be. I loved the link to Making Light you provided recently. To these principles I would make only one change.

    And yes again, if it was up to me those books would all be forgotten. Since that will never happen, I only ask they edit out the obvious stuff or maybe write a preface and introduction. But sadly we will be burdened by this ancient hatred and bigotry forever, as these books are all considered the inerrant word of god.

    What is a child to believe when their parents and community tell them these words are the infallible words of god.

    Mommy is the bible the perfect word of god? Yes, dear, we believe the bible is the inerrant word of god. Mommy why does god hate GLBT people? Oh, honey god doesn’t hate them. The bible says he does. Well, we don’t hate anyone dear. Then why does the bible say god hates them. That was written a long time ago, things change. I thought you said, the bible was the inerrant word of god. Did god change his mind? No, god does not change his mind. Then why don’t we believe it if he said it?

    1. Once to every man and nation
      Comes the moment to decide
      In the strife of truth with falsehood
      For the good or evil side.
      Some great cause, some new decision
      Offering each the bloom or blight
      And the choice goes by forever
      Twixt that darkness and that light.

      Then it is the brave man chooses
      While the coward stands aside
      Till the multitude make virtue
      Of the faith they had denied.
      New occasions bring new duties
      Time makes ancient good uncouth
      They must upward still and onward
      Who would keep abreast of truth.

      Though the cause of evil prosper
      Yet tis truth alone is strong
      Though her portion be the scaffold
      And upon the throne be wrong.
      Yet that scaffold sways the future
      And beyond the dim unknown
      Standeth God within the shadows
      Keeping watch above her own.

  62. Now that the trolling has subsided, can I make a comment about the website in question? Is it just me, or is it just not very funny? I don’t live in the UK, and they don’t play the Thought of the Day on BBC World Service, and so maybe I just need to hear it first to get the joke.

    That said, I’m a third-generation atheist (although my grandparents were closeted for fear of discrimination). So while it doesn’t surprise me, it does infuriate me that such a prominent broadcast would be so blatantly biased, as well as plain useless.

    It’s too bad that the satire is so ham-fisted. It’s much more gratifying to me when responses to religiosity are witty, sensitive, and good-humored. (Case in point: Narmitaj, Foetusnail, Anonymous with the post about Steampunk marginalization, and of course TNH.) Is that too much to ask?

  63. @ Foetusnail: Sounds like a nice congregation you’re in.
    I don’t think we could or should rewrite the Bible, the Qu’ran etcetera. They are historical legacies from totally different cultural contexts, and as such, there’s nothing wrong with them. Granddad’s old books are just Granddad’s old books. The problem is the belief that some books are too “holy” to critically evaluate. The concept of Holy Scripture is brokeded.
    A book is “holy” insofar it is helpful to you in gaining a deeper understanding of the real world. So, what’s wholly scripture and what not depends on you, the reader, not the book.
    You could go to your bookshelf and pick out the half dozen books that have been most influential to you. There it is. Holy scripture.

    1. Holy scriptures are generally regarded in esoteric circles as being written in metaphors. They were never meant to be taken literally. Hell, they were never meant to be read by anyone except esoteric philosophers, because people would take them literally.

  64. Frank W, you do realize that what you wrote is considered blasphemy by hundreds of millions of the faithful from all three of those religions, and a few others. Frank, you and my wife have a somewhat similar problem, you are both unusually bright and reasonable people who look at things objectively, but neither of you realize how rare that is in most places.

    Antinous, yes, another great accomplishment of the church, trying to keep people from learning how to read. Well, Gutenberg screwed that up. The cat is out of the bag now. Let’s then ask them to keep the metaphorical love and lose the metaphorical hate, bigotry, and intolerance. And while your at it, please keep your metaphors out of my life and government.

    I don’t know if you have read the Qur’an, but those bits about beating your wife, along with hundreds of other passages, are not metaphors. Not only are they written quite literally, but they are taken quite literally by the clerics and are the foundation of Islamic law. In many circles the issue is not if a man can beat his wife, but how hard and where. I think most agree that striking them in the face is not acceptable.

  65. sswaan wrote:

    “It’s too bad that the satire is so ham-fisted. It’s much more gratifying to me when responses to religiosity are witty, sensitive, and good-humored. (Case in point: Narmitaj, Foetusnail, Anonymous with the post about Steampunk marginalization, and of course TNH.) Is that too much to ask?”

    Every single morning at 8am from the same person? Yes, I’m afraid it is too much to ask. Some mornings are better than others.

    You can hear the originals using the links on each POTD blog posting.

    PeteH – POTD

  66. @ Foetusnail re: #86: I’m fully aware of this. I know what a lucky bastard I am for living in Amsterdam, and even here, I wouldn’t want to have such a high profile as Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered by a Muslim fanatic at the corner of my street four years ago. I can stand by what i said here, though, if the irony of the Steampunk bit is understood.
    You YouYous seem to be a relatively sensible lot, though. I don’t know about any congregation of your denomination around these parts, but I like the idea of a church without a fixed belief.

  67. Narmitaj 58: Nobody these days believes in Zeus and the other Greek gods, as far as I am aware

    Thanks for qualifying that. In fact you are incorrect, and many of the Greek gods have modern worshippers among the Neo-Pagans (of whom I am one). I’ve been a devotee of Hekate for my entire adult life (and a bit before), and I know people who are devoted to Zeus.

    None of which changes or lessens your point, which is that people’s appreciation of religious art does not depend on their sharing a religion with the artist. I love me some Renaissance motets!

    Frank W 66: Indeed, Doubt is the cardinal virtue of the rational mind.

  68. (BTW the Parthenon is a temple of Athena, a famously virgin goddess. The ‘partheno-‘ root there is the same one as in ‘parthenogenesis’, virgin birth.)

  69. cross_impact “Humanists and us Christians actually have a lot of in common at their root. Pope John Paul II (yes, everyone’s fave I know) defined Christianity in Humana Vitae as ‘humanity fully alive.'”
    …but then he added “Oh, and no condoms. Ever.”, tarnishing the self-love somewhat.
    “”The Glory of God is Humanity Fully Alive”
    …but then he added “No chick bishops.”, tarnishing the self-love somewhat.

    mgfarrelly “I’m far more interested in what we have in common than where we disagree.”
    And if more people thought like that, and less:
    * watched the Sunday morning telepreacher pontificate on just how shitty things will be for those “left behind”, or
    * thought that “because God’s against it” is a valid reason to get evolution out of biology class, or
    * were both against abortion and the things that realistically reduce the pressure for it, or
    * denied “the gays” human rights that the rest of us take for granted, or
    * believed (and promulgated) the big lie that the USA is (and was intended to be) a “Christian nation”, or
    * believed that Jesus stands for social policies that help screw the poor, or He was for dismantling the EPA or public schooling or any quasi-socialist programs, or
    * people didn’t go apeshit after reading the Danish newspaper comic section or when a teddy bear got the wrong name…
    I could (and would) quite happily go back to being an apatheist. Sadly, those people are pushy, zealous, and not going away any time soon.

  70. Sswaan @82, you’re right: they’re not very funny in and of themselves. On the other hand, if they weren’t dull, they wouldn’t be platitudes. I think the humor is located one level back: pointing out just how platitudinous the daily offerings are, which calls into question the supposed value of their religious content.

    Foetusnail @80, I always knew that somewhere out there, there had to be at least one militant Unitarian Universalist. I’m proud to be acquainted with you.

    Why is the book not inerrant? Why isn’t more of it like the Sermon on the Mount? Well. The way I explain it to myself starts with an observation by Saint Teresa of Avila, that God does his work through us; to which I add, “and sometimes we aren’t very good at it.” One of the principles I keep going back to is that there can be no real holiness without free will; yet free will necessarily implies the possibility of screwing up. Where humans are, inerrancy is not.

    On the other hand, does it have to be inerrant in every jot and tittle? That’s always struck me as a childish requirement, and impossible besides. I’ve worked with books and text all my life, and I can’t even imagine an inerrant book. When I try to, all my systems throw up warning pages saying “It doesn’t work that way.” To believe in the possibility of an inerrant book is to believe that meaning resides whole and complete in the text.

    The problem is, the whole meaning is never on the page. Text is source code. Meaning is something we compile as we read. With the best will in the world, and the best readers in the world, there will still be variations from one reader to the next. What meaningful inerrancy can there be, in the face of that?

    The longer I think about it, the more bizarre it seems. Human language isn’t built to embody inerrant perfection. It doesn’t work by piling one discrete self-contained statement on another. It starts with a word and then a sentence that potentially has many different meanings. Further statements successively modify our understanding of the developing overall meaning, opening out additional readings, or extending or excluding contingent meanings already present. Longer chunks of language are commonly full of unexcluded multiple interpretations, elided causality, fuzzily defined antecedents, encapsulated metaphors, phrasal constructions, and other potent ambiguities. That’s why we include so much redundancy and double-checking in our everyday speech. It’s also why, when we try to come up with perfectly clear language that will read the same to everyone, the result — lawyerese — is so alien to us that we have to get professional help to understand it.

    One inerrant text would be a miracle. But then, you translate it into a foreign language. In fact, you translate it (sometimes inexpertly) into more than 2,400 languages. Do they all inherit the property of inerrancy? Does that include Codex Junius 11, in which the Pharaoh’s thanes go up against the spear-host of Moses? Here’s the arrival of the pursuing Egyptians:

    They had no way of escape nor any hope of their inheritance, but halted on the hills in shining armour with foreboding of ill. And all the band of kinsmen watched and waited for the coming of the greater host until the dawn, when Moses bade the earls with brazen trumpets muster the folk, bade warriors rise and don their coats of mail, bear shining arms, take thought on valour, and summon the multitude with signal-beacons unto the sandy shore of the sea.

    How about Da Jesus Book, a scrupulous translation into Hawaiian Pidgin?

    God wen get so plenny love an aloha fo da peopo inside da world, dat he wen send me, his one an ony Boy, so dat everybody dat trus me no get cut off from God, but get da real kine life dat stay to da max foeva.

    The Hawaiian Pidgin version looks to me like the overall sense is the same, but no way is it a word-for-word, phrase-for-phrase translation.

    How do we resolve this? I’d go with the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, which we get told three times, and which asks how you can judge who’s heard and received the word correctly. The explication’s in Luke 8:15:

    But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

    That is, it’s to be understood as a whole. The people who hear and assimilate the word correctly are those whom it prompts to become more like Christ, and to follow his teachings.

    Now, there’s a durable meaning. It even holds up when translated into LOLcat: UR REEDIN IT RITE IF UR DOIN IT RITE / AN VISE VERSA.

    The authors of the gospels lived in a polyglot and intensely exegetical milieu. I think they must have had some awareness that reading protocols and latitude of interpretation were going to be an issue. What they told us on that score was that the point of the text is what you do with it.

    That’s my conclusion. What I’ll add as a postscript is that Jesus never mentions homosexuality. He’s not particularly interested in sexual irregularities in general, and when they’re brought to his attention, he forgives them and moves on. He’s far more interested in getting people to love and care for each other, be just, love god, stop fighting, ignore ethnic differences, forgive slights and injuries, refrain from mistreating children, care for the poor and helpless, comfort those in grief, and pay more attention to the substance of religious teaching than its finicky details.

    Can we argue that the sinfulness of homosexuality was taken so much for granted that no one thought it needed mentioning? We cannot. In fact, the evidence points the other way: the early church knew perfectly well what Sergius and Bacchus were to each other, and had no problem venerating them as saints.

  71. @#61 posted by Antinous,

    “Metaphysicians believe that matter, energy, etc. stem from non-material causes, once again such as consciousness. Dualistic types see both material and non-material as valid in and of themselves.”

    Actually, Metaphysics is just the investigation of “What is?” What does being consist of and what kinds of things exist?

    I think you mean “Vitalism” — vitalism proposes that matter, energy, etc. stem from non-material causes, or else that everything that we perceive has, as its foundation, some form of vital energy or structuring principle — like the “Force” in Star Wars.

    Dualism just proposes that there are mind type things and body type things and that these two things are ontologically distinct from one another. It doesn’t necessarily say that either is valid. Only an argument can be valid. Beliefs are either right or wrong.

    I like the word “funny” because it is really easy to read when it has been disemvowelled. ( fnny ).

    1. ‘Metaphysician’ has other uses. So does ‘dualism’. You’re referring to them as specific terms in Western Philosophy, but they’re used otherwise in Eastern and esoteric philosophies.

  72. The apprehension of “god” humans enjoy is the cracked and distorted image of the pure divine within them as it attempts to shine through the limitations of our physical envelopes and society.
    Not the other way around. Yes, we are the hands of god. Our hands.

  73. A Holy Bible translation in kitteh is hoping for too much, but surely someone’s done The Beatitudes. Maybe?

  74. Secret LoP (I decided not to abbreviate you as SLOP) 95: Dualism just proposes that there are mind type things and body type things and that these two things are ontologically distinct from one another. It doesn’t necessarily say that either is valid. Only an argument can be valid. Beliefs are either right or wrong.

    I am, then, an anti-Dualist. Is that called a Monist? I believe that the mind and the body are one, and that the universe and the Divine (whatever you call Him/Her/It/Them) are both One and Manifold (because I believe that Oneness and Manifoldness are One).

  75. LOLCATBIBLE. Jesus H. Christ, who would DO something like this? I mean…

    Fuck it … I KNOW NOTHING.

  76. That’s it! It’s a bit early, but I’m turning in. You bb cats have blown my mind three times today.

  77. Teresa, thanks for taking the time to respond. What you say makes a lot of sense. Though in some circles there could be accusations of heresy.

    With only slight changes, I agree completely with Teresa of Avila, which may be hard for some on both sides of this issue to understand.

    The Universe has no body but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which it looks
    Compassion on this world,
    Yours are the feet with which it walks to do good,
    Yours are the hands, with which it blesses all the world.
    Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
    Yours are the eyes, you are its body.
    The Universe has no body now but yours,
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
    Yours are the eyes with which it looks
    compassion on this world.
    The Universe has no body now on earth but yours.

    Our Purpose
    We are the Universe looking at itself. We are here to explore, enjoy, share, and remember the experience. We are here to love. It’s as simple as that. So, sit back, enjoy the view, the experience, and remember that despite claims to the contrary no one knows any more than this and that’s OK. It’s OK to live without superstition and beliefs. Imagine growing up without a hundred thousand years of existential baggage, free of fear, living with Mystery, and without soothing tales bridging the gap between knowledge and reality. Live free of religious dogma and oppression; all you need is love.

  78. #96 posted by Antinous

    “‘Metaphysician’ has other uses. So does ‘dualism’. You’re referring to them as specific terms in Western Philosophy, but they’re used otherwise in Eastern and esoteric philosophies.”

    Yes, I am talking about the specific terms in Western Philosophy — just because I wanted them to follow from your definition of “Materialism”.

    You were totally right to say that “Materialists believe that non-material-appearing phenomena such as consciousness stem purely from material causes.” But this definition of Materialism is usually contrasted with “Vitalism” — Then, Vitalism and Materialism usually figure in accounts of “Dualism” as in “Mind / Body Dualism” (Descartes etal.)

    I know that there are people out there who use the term “Metaphysics” to talk about Crystals and Spirit Guides and Dream Catchers and stuff. But they don’t usually talk about “Materialism” the way you defined it. So I just wanted to get everything into the same system.

  79. “Materialists believe that non-material-appearing phenomena such as consciousness stem purely from material causes.”

    “Mind is to body what edge is to knife.”
    –some old Chinese guy.

  80. Foetusnail @107, the only problem I can identify so far is that your version makes me want to ask, “What about Galactus?”

    (Not all the little phrenological areas of my brain are responsible grown-ups.)

  81. I was explaining the implications of the Second Law of Thermodynamics to some high school students circa 1970, and one of the kids said “Galactus!”

    An A for the day.

  82. It is not necessary to be an adult, but a reasonable child, be the unadult(erated) child.
    Be here now, without knowledge of self.

    Remember, only you can prevent forest fires.

  83. @Foetusnail #72
    The removal/changing of texts/verbiage is exactly why I don’t believe.
    There are COUNTLESS books that are “unpublished” in the Bible. Why? Because it’s either too violent, written by the “wrong” people, or directly contradicts other accounts of the time period. Even the behavior of “GOD” changes throughout the book and contradicts himself. If he’s all-knowing, all-powerful, why be smitey-smite in the Old Testament, and lovey-love in the New?

    When studying History, it’s best to take in all sources. If you were to study say… American History on the Spanish War, you’d get a much different picture than studying Spanish History on the exact same time period.

  84. Anon@115, I’m just suggesting they clean up their text, which we all know will never happen. I am genuinely interested in knowing what you do believe. Do you still believe in a god or the supernatural?

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