Letter: Writer: students make a spectacle of faith

Godslayer
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Letter: Writer: students make a spectacle of faith

I think this would be a very interesting read. This is was written in my University’s newspaper(University of Rhode Island, URI). There where these crazy evangelical christians that tried to preach in my school. I do not know if you would be surprised to know what happened, but you would have to read to find out.
The article was is in this link.
You need to register to read it of their site.

Here is what was written in the article. Also, notice the bias by the writer.
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"You are going to hell." This was the message many University of Rhode Island students received verbatim while on or around the Quadrangle on Monday morning. Two evangelicals preached seemingly rehearsed diatribes about accepting Jesus Christ, but what really drew a crowd was their old fashioned fire and brimstone bent. Wearing signs proclaiming the end of days and Satan's unacceptable dominion over we poor sinners, many students were warned about their imminent bath in the lake of fire. I watched this pair for some time, and despite rampant hellish imagery, I was much more surprised about the reception they received from URI students, which was often immature at best.

For every student I saw attempt to debate the evangelicals in a civil manner, I saw several more loudly decrying their "bullshit" with barely an attempt to discuss, argue or examine. I heard dozens of sophomoric insults hurled from the safe anonymity of crowds and the snickers and approving mocking laughter which these insults drew. I saw dozens of students pause to take pictures of the evangelicals. Several students chose to invest their time in counter-demonstrations. One student gathered a few informative sheets about philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche with his famous statement "God is dead" (likely this student excepted from his contrarian existentialist pamphlets the works of Soren Kierkegaard, a devout Christian.) The casual counter-demonstration reached its apex when a pair of students crafted signs reading "Satan isn't so bad" and "Jesus is a zombie." Essentially I saw the devout faith of two people soundly mocked and made spectacle and I wondered why.

It seems that Christian faith is not at all cool. I grant that the methods of these evangelicals were obnoxious to an indefensible degree. However, I believe that for every student heckler responding to this, there were others who simply saw a sign reading "Give Jesus time 2 love u," perceived an irreverent crowd of peers around them, and decided to have at it. It is true that these two evangelicals were attempting to make a spectacle of themselves in order to attract attention to their message, but how many students would have felt motivated to take pictures of people holding signs for gay rights? How many would have taken pictures of those positing a faith that is less popular to disparage? Would Taoist demonstrators, even aggressive ones, have been gleefully mocked for three hours? The demonstrators were attacked as much for their message as their methods.

Formulaically, this is the point in the letter where I should point out the freedoms of speech and assembly, which exist in the United States. I should point out that the grounds of a university of all places in the world should be welcoming to challenging and even uncomfortable ideas, and especially to all faiths.

By this advanced point in our educations, it should be redundant for me to remind students of this, but today I saw some students who seemingly need to be reminded. I saw people acting in a crowd mentality denigrate Christian faith. The polite way to respond to demonstrators with whom you do not want to associate is to simply turn down their literature. The sensible way to respond to aggressive ones such as those this morning is to debate them, or failing that, to treat them as you would treat a harmless bully - ignore them and proceed with your life. All those students who took time out of their day to heckle the faithful before a crowd, or to take yet more time and return armed with signs should ask themselves why they did so. Hopefully the answer will not be because these two people bore The Holy Bible.

Robert Preliasco


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Funny he forgot about how

Funny he forgot about how the counter demonstration is also covered by free speech. Plus it doesn't matter why they did it even if the only reason, as he implies, they did it was because they think the bible is bullshit. Freedom isn't free with restrictions and faith shouldn't get a free pass.


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Yea, I should probably write

Yea, I should probably write to the guy. It is bullshit and we have the freedom to counter these disease(=theism) ridden people.
It is too bad that I was not there. I would of have joined the fun. I heard my classmate talk about it as if it was bullshit and insanity. They were making fun of the whole thing. I love my school.Laughing out loud
Like I said, I am making a group to combat this type of irrationality. My friend is in charge of getting members and I will meet with him next Wed. I am guessing that we will not have a hard time getting members.


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I have written a letter to

I have written a letter to the editor replying to this which I actually did not know was going to be pubhishe but here it is:
http://www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper366/news/2006/09/28/Editorialopinion/Letter.People.Have.Right.To.Assemble.In.Public-2314121.shtml?norewrite200610072336&sourcedomain=www.ramcigar.com
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Wow. Interesting bias. Robert Preliasco does have a point in as much as a majority of students don't really care to debate people intelligently and will respond with overt hostility, but I find his conclusions to be utterly unprofessional and un-journalistic (he is a journalist, right?)

He goes on to point that there is freedom of speech and assembly in the United States. Surely that doesn't only apply to Christians, but also to those of other denominations or no denominations. If people want to assemble in public and act like 15-year-olds, it's absolutely their right to do it.

Sure, it would have been better if everyone had lined up in a queue and bombarded those zealots with question after question, but the vast majority of university-goers aren't as smart (or sober) as they should be.

He then goes on to say that a university is a place to discuss and debate. I really cannot imagine anyone who claims that I'm going to hell is open to debate, i.e. an exchange of ideas between two individuals who are willing to maintain an open mind. The anonymous hecklers were just as closed-minded as the Christian fundies.

I also fail to see why the bias is unilateral. It's perfectly acceptable for two fundies to disrupt the peace by yelling fire and brimstone and bothering people, but when the people bite back and do the same to them, it's unacceptable? So religion and especially their ridiculous mythologies should get a pass from criticism? Although he is right about the civility of the whole exercise, I find this guy journalistically biased and utterly unprofessional. He probably just got offended because his fantasy was criticized.

Gabriel Lugo

Editor's Note: Robert Preliasco is not affiliated with the Cigar.
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Here is where he responded:
http://www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper366/news/2006/09/29/Editorialopinion/Letter.Writer.Answers.Critiques.From.Other.Letters-2316788.shtml?norewrite200610072341&sourcedomain=www.ramcigar.com
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On Sept. 26 the Cigar printed a letter that I wrote about the actions of two Christian fundamentalists on the Quad, and especially about the reception they received from URI students. It was not my original intention to write a second letter debating the inevitable response from another student. I felt that it would be only natural for my letter to be placed next to a rebuttal and allow the Cigar's readers to decide for themselves. However by this point, the 28th, there have been three other letters printed by the Cigar, two of which argue against me. I feel somewhat embattled and pressed to respond. I will now do so in a point-by-point format. First point: I do not now nor have I at any time approved of the actions of the two evangelists. They were the most impolite and self-righteous people I have ever encountered. I believe this was conveyed in my original letter through its sarcastic opening, and more importantly from the following statement: "The methods of these evangelicals were definitely obnoxious to an indefensible degree."

Second point: I did not attack the evangelists very much in my original letter (which needed to be done) as I thought some other student would beat me to it or at least have that angle covered. Mr. Jordan Mishkin did, I think, an excellent job of doing so in the Sept. 28 edition of the Cigar. My letter was about what I thought was a much more difficult and nuanced angle: Why did so many people mock the evangelists?

Mr. Gabriel Lugo, in his rebuttal letter from the 28th, wrote: "The anonymous hecklers were just as closed-minded as the Christian fundies."

This statement is the entire point of my original letter, and here Mr. Lugo has said it perhaps better than I did.

Third point: I afforded in my original letter for the students who were politely debating the evangelists. If I did a poor job of it originally, allow me to say now that the evangelists were not interested in civil debate. The letter did not concern those who attempted to debate. Rather I wondered why so many students who did not possibly have the time to perceive the hostility of the evangelists took immediately to mocking them - passers-by who heckled or took pictures (this last action lead to my letter's title, "The Spectacle of Faith.") I also asked why students would take the time to counter demonstrate to obviously fanatical people, an act that accomplishes nothing. I posited that the answer to this question is that by doing so the students were performing for their peers. A quote from my original letter: "I believe that for every student heckler responding to [the rudeness of the evangelicals], there were others who simply saw a sign reading 'Give Jesus time 2 love u,' perceived an irreverent crowd of peers around them, and decided to have at it." Also I thought that the two evangelists' Christianity was an important ingredient in their heckling. I wanted to ask the people who counter-demonstrated why they did so, but also ask the casual hecklers more importantly, as they do not have the motive of fighting rudeness. Was it because the evangelists were rude or because they were Christian? Maybe both? My letter was meant as a question, not as a condemnation. I have no doubt that the counter-demonstrators are, as Mr. McMahon told me, "nice guys." Fourth point, perhaps most important of all: I am an agnostic! I adhere to no religion. Both letters attacking mine assumed that I am a religious person and took offense. Let me say that if I were a religious person I would have been more offended at the evangelists' poor portrayal of my faith. I would now also like to point out an irony or two. Mr. Lugo's letter from the 28th accused me of bias, both journalistic and religious.

Now let's review: My letter appeared in the editorial/opinion section. Sharing opinions is precisely the point of letters under this heading (the word "opinion"? is in the heading,) but my opinion in this case was interpreted as "bias." Second, Mr. Lugo assumed that my offense sprang solely from my perceived faith and wrote, "He probably just got offended that his fantasy was criticized." Way to expose your own bias Mr. Lugo. Assuming that anyone defending the Christian faith in any way must themselves be Christian, and then insulting that faith in a letter attempting to answer precisely for charges of denigration of faith is quite poor form.

Robert Preliasco
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I responded to him:
http://www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper366/news/2006/10/03/Editorialopinion/Writer.Apologizes.For.Assumption.Made-2328010.shtml?norewrite200610072342&sourcedomain=www.ramcigar.com
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Dear sirs, I owe you an apology. Please understand that I had no idea this letter to the editor ("Writer: students make a spectacle of faith," Sept. 26) was written in the spirit of public opinion. I wrongly assumed that Mr. [Robert] Preliasco was a staff writer for the Cigar, which is why I responded with such outrage.
I see no ill with the publication of such a letter to the editor since it is naught more than opinion and is there to generate logical and rational debate. With respect to Mr. Preliasco being an agnostic, I must again humbly bow down. It struck me as odd to read about the faith-sufferers as described in his writings and not paint the author's person with the same irrational beliefs.
I am glad to read the opinions of fellow students at URI and, once again, rejoice in the solidarity shown during this incident. I will reiterate that I am proud of the students for standing up to these lowly individuals and for not tolerating this sort of harassment. Irrational beliefs should never be considered immune from criticism. We clearly do not allow this form of immunity to Holocaust deniers, Hollywood moon landing advocates or people who believe in psychic abilities.
In a world presided upon by the monopoly of evidence, rational thought and logical honesty, it is our duty to challenge these messengers of hatred, misinformation and intolerance.
Let us not forget the power wielded by some of the fundamentalist religious groups in this nation. Belief in invisible alpha males, flying deities, talking snakes and magical apples of knowledge has a profound effect on political landscape of the United States of America. Forty-four percent of the electorate share the conviction that an omni-benevolent Superman will return to Earth in our lifetime and bring forth the Endtime. One need not be a prophet of doom to see the effects that this herd mentality will have on the only remaining Superpower.

Gabriel Lugo

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Some Idiot then responded to this with:
http://www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper366/news/2006/10/06/Editorialopinion/Letter.Writer.Objects.To.irrational.Beliefs.Portrayal-2336375.shtml?norewrite200610072344&sourcedomain=www.ramcigar.com

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They sure teach the kids to string their thoughts together at the University of Rhode Island. Consider Gabriel Lugo's letter apologizing for mistakenly "paint[ing] the author's person with the same irrational beliefs" as some fundamentalist Christians whom that author had, in a limited way, defended. Writes Lugo: "In a world presided upon by the monopoly of evidence, rational thought and logical honesty, it is our duty to challenge these messengers of hatred, misinformation and intolerance."

Inadvertently, to be sure, Lugo has fleshed out in language the reason that many a rational and honest person is justified in fearing the palpable effects of disbelief in that venerable "omni-benevolent Superman" who presides over us all. He may not believe in "talking snakes and magical apples of knowledge," but Lugo's passive voice raises equally troubling questions: With what species of judgment and enforcement does his tripartite monopoly preside upon the world? How much tolerance is due (to) those whom Mr. Lugo apparently hates?

I fear for Gabriel that he may, someday, depart from academia only to discover, among the variegated masses of his fellow citizens, that some exist who are respectable, even admirable, and intelligent, and yet who ascribe to the "herd mentality" that his pack has taught him to hunt. What will be his reaction when he finds that the easy prey abounding is not so simple a matter to devour and, worse, that the herd stubbornly insists that it has a right to shape its society and government?

The University of Rhode Island would offer such as Gabriel an incalculable service for his money by throwing in his path some selections from the vast library of Christian thought that are not so plainly dismissible. Whether a secular American university is still capable of challenging its students to such an unthinkable degree is another troubling question.

Justin Katz
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I need some help though. I want to respond to this "With what species of judgment and enforcement does his tripartite monopoly preside upon the world?", but I want to give some evidence on how atheist are moral than christians, like prison population figures. I have also heard of christians or more religious people of having a higher incidence of immoral/uncivil behavior. I have some arguments and even some evidence, but I would like to get the best evidence that I can get. If some people have some evidence more rooted in biology or in social sciences I would greatly appreciate it.
Also, if anyone has any good ideas on what I could add, I would love to hear your input.
Finally, I am going to challenge him or anyone else to a public debate.

thanks


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I just want to update on the

I just want to update on the letter written to the Cigar.
Here is one published on 10/12/06 which was:
http://www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper366/news/2006/10/12/Editorialopinion/Letter.Writer.Agrees.With.Points.By.WhitsittLynch-2346795.shtml?norewrite200610151935&sourcedomain=www.ramcigar.com
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To the Cigar,

Jesse hits the matter squarely on the head. Throughout history, I struggle to think of one non-communist state that did not claim to have God on their side. It is only natural for a nation to imagine itself to be the Chosen One. I can hardly conceive of a head of state turning around to its public on the "State of the ... State of the Union ... speech to the nation, whatever you want to call it ... " and informing them that God was not on their side. It is clearly a vote winner that preys upon the nation's selfish desire to be cherished and feel special. And any candidate not mentioning it is a candidate that stands no chance of being elected. This should be a fierce condemnation of the pro-theocratic elements becoming involved in politics today, but people ignorantly accept the status quo. History is riddled with examples of such inane claims to divine favoritism. Surely, if we are to believe in an all-loving Abrahamic god, we certainly should not be allowed to believe that it favors one group of its creations over another, or else it certainly could not be considered all loving. This can lead to a number of tragic, yet bitterly amusing situations where, for instance, the Saracens would scream out "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) or "Ins Allah" (God wills it so) as they charged the ranks of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, whilst battle cries of "God wills it" would resound from the Crusader side, as both enemies conjured the will and force of the same Abrahamic God.

Additionally, I did desire to address one tiny point regarding Jesse's first paragraph pertaining to "Under God" and "In God, we trust." It is extremely important to realize that those elements are in fact deeply unconstitutional. They are recent additions to the American currency and to the Constitution; additions that took place during the McCarthy witchhunts in the 1950s. They do not originate with the founding fathers of the American nation who were overwhelmingly secularists, in some cases deists, in others clearly atheists. The belief that the United States of America is a Christian nation is therefore absolutely unfounded and wrong, since the bulk of the evidence shows otherwise. Yet, we are faced, day after day, with individuals who would use this flawed argument to impose their faith on others on a number of subjects ranging from the teaching of the pseudoscience of creationism to the stem cell research debate. The many nations of Europe long ago realized the unavoidable dangers of allowing a theocratic regime to come to power. As soon as one allows church and state to become overly involved with each other, the inevitable outcome of such a marriage becomes the oppression of minorities, a decrease in status of scientific endeavours and a deep polarisation of society, three phenomenons visible in American society today. When a head of state is torn between his allegiance to a deity and his allegiance to his people, there is clearly a conflict of interest. Europe had to discover this the hard way, let us hope that America will not follow in its elder brother's footsteps and will figure this one out by itself.

Gabriel Lugo and Nils Sturman


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Here is one published on

Here is one published on 10/13/06:
http://www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper366/news/2006/10/13/Editorialopinion/Letter.Student.Responds-2349292.shtml?norewrite200610151938&sourcedomain=www.ramcigar.com
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To the Cigar,

I want to firmly establish that I do not hate anyone, not one person who exists nor one who has existed. Disagreeing with the beliefs of others does not imply hate. I do not respect unfounded beliefs, which are not deeply seated in evidence, nor beliefs grounded on logical fallacies and contradictions, but this does not imply hatred.

With respect to the question "With what species of judgment and enforcement does his tripartite monopoly preside upon the world?" I fail to see what is so troubling. In order to answer this question, I have no choice but to make some assumptions to respond accurately to the question, but I will keep in mind that these assumptions may not be Justin's. ("Writer objects to 'irrational beliefs' portrayal," Oct. 6, 2006)

Assumption #1: My behavior is seemingly unpredictable since it is not carved in stone or written upon vellum. Additionally, there are no negative consequences to my actions beyond that which humans can administer unto me through the many laws of our courtrooms. There is no Celestial Judgment cast down unto me through the armed fist of a supernatural Judge, Jury and Executioner.

Assumption #2: My behavior will be completely impulsive and human impulse leads to a threat to other individuals and society as a whole. I can maybe understand the fear of the unknown, but human behavior is, for the most part, not unpredictable or random, even if your values are not written down or judged by a supernatural being.

Humans do naturally have a propensity toward cooperation within a group. They also are predisposed to have a genuine care for others, and even engage in altruistic behavior.

Naturally, there are exceptions to this as in everything. For example, psychological studies indicate that 3 percent of the male population and 1 percent of female population will be sociopaths. This percentage in the population tends to stay relatively stable, regardless of environmental pressure from religion, economics, politics or other factors. Similarly, people can be trained to be dysfunctional members of society. And then there is, of course, autism's peculiar inability to recognize that these pink things moving in our circumference of visions are moved by the same emotions and drives as they are. There is also the problem of dehumanization as witnessed at this very moment in numerous conflicts across the world.

Socio-biology and evolutionary psychology will certainly back these claims, but I do not think this is even needed since it is clearly visible that humans would never have been able to develop such large and complex social networks without exhibiting these sorts of compassionate and empathic behaviors.

Even if you function only on self-interest and do not care to align your actions with regard to human suffering as I do, you can still develop an incentive to cooperate by using knowledge, logic, and just exercising recursive attitude toward your own thoughts. These people, for example, can use such tools to come to realize that engaging in social contracts with other humans will give these individuals a net increase in benefit. Not killing or harming others in his group will give the person a net return since they will live in a safer, more adaptive group, without the fear of society's legal enforcement.

Using knowledge, logic and intellectual honesty can also allow you to see through falsehoods and trickery, such as emotionally spurring rhetoric that will get you to open your wallet or vote for someone when these actions are in opposition to your values. And once in the possession of these tools, one is far better equipped to deal with situations that require decision-making that a polarized, black and white worldview simply cannot engage.

Examples of this are hypothetical but certainly deserve consideration. For instance, though followers of the God of Abraham might shun killing and consider it a violation of God's law, the Bible, Qu'ran and Talmud themselves are littered with examples of God's vengeful and murderous wrath.

There are other complex situations that will require decision-making through these processes where seeing the world in black and white will not allow you to make the decisions between competing values.

Killing may be allowed in specific circumstances. I think the religious would violate of killing, although the bible is contradictory with respect to this and other things. Would you kill someone if they were to kill your children? Would you kill one to save a million? Would you harm your son or daughter in self-defense?

Ethics can be improved. This is, again, done by an increase in knowledge and facts based upon reality, by partaking in recursive attitude thoughts and by becoming more ingenious at improving one's ethics. Naturally, this sense of ethicality cannot be found in some ancient book written by primitive people, who condoned the keeping of slaves, the stoning of women out of wedlock, the execution of children who disrespect their parents or who commit homosexual acts.

There is clear evidence to support the hypothesis that a religious society does not equate to a moral one. For instance, a survey was taken for the National Academy of Sciences, wherein over 90 percent of its members rejected the notion of a personal god. A similar survey was made for the Fellows of the Royal Society, wherein, this time, only 3.7 percent of them expressed conviction of a "personal god." With the possible exception of a little too much carousing being done at award ceremonies, I have failed to hear about criminal sprees being committed by their members.

Secular societies are among the healthiest among all developed nations. Highly secular societies such as Norway and Sweden are constantly rated in the Top 5 "best places to live" in United Nations reports. These are some of the best places to live with respect to the rate of violent crime, gender equality, educational attainment, social welfare, per capita income, infant mortality, etc.

So, does a religious society make for a moral one? Let's move closer to home. According to the NCPA, "Nearly half of all marriages break up, but the divorce rates in these southern states are roughly 50 percent above the national average." According to Gregory S. Paul's article, "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies" (Journal of Religion and Society), a clear correlation between religiosity and "dysfunctional behavior" exists. "Dysfunctional" is defined by indicators of poor societal health, such as homicide, suicide, low life expectancy, STD infection, abortion, early pregnancy and high childhood mortality (under five-years old). Religiosity is measured by biblical literalism, frequency of prayer and service attendance, as well as absolute belief in a creator in terms of ardency (rejection of evolution for theological reasons). These statistics examine eighteen of the most developed democratic nations, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, Austria, Spain, Italy, United States, Sweden and New Zealand. The conclusions are that the U.S., being by far the most religious, is also by far the most dysfunctional. Similarly, the extents of these dysfunctions are also far greater in the United States.

These statistics indicate that religious societies are more dysfunctional than their secular counterparts. Naturally, correlation does not imply causation, but the societies filled with secularists are desirable societies to live in. The counter argument that secularism breeds immorality and dysfunction is clearly unfounded. The correlation between religiosity and dysfunctional societal behavior disproves the widespread fantasy that religiosity is beneficial in a society. (Please note that as is always the case in science, more data and additional research is needed to solidify our conclusions.)

Another underlying issue with the more dogmatic and irrational religions today is the problem of misinformation. In some cases, misinformation is simply passed down through sleight-of-hand and out-of-context quotations, whilst preying upon the congregation's lack of scientific or historical knowledge. For instance, much of the population still believes that Albert Einstein was a Christian when this has clearly been disproved. With the support of dogmatic authority and pseudoscience, many will simply accept the misconception that, for instance, "evolution is just a theory" (despite the overwhelming mass of evidence that supports evolution through natural selection) and that abidance to this meme will, somehow, grant them a backstage pass to Heaven. All of this without even switching on their brains, as they look up to their preachers or into the Bible for literalist, pre-packaged solutions.

Actually, I argue that religious dogma can even be a danger to the sustainability of a progressive and free society. This naturally does not apply to moderate Christianity (the non-literalists), but when faced with several competing dogmatic religious worldviews (all boasting an equal immunity to demands for evidence or rational thought), violence becomes the voice of the people as the religious memes fight for the spiritual real estate of our fellow Americans. There are even certain religious groups in this country today that long for nuclear war because they think that will accelerate the Second Coming. This is not healthy for a nation.

The important question remains for Theists to answer: In a godless "vacuum and without a spiritual Sword of Damocles looming threateningly overhead," would Theists lose their empathy and their compassion? As a friend of mine once told me, "Good people do good things because they care, not because they expect a reward in the Afterlife or because they wish to escape eternal damnation."

Gabriel Lugo and Nils Sturman


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I've told this story before,

I've told this story before, but I thought it's worth bringing up: when I was in graduate school, these preachers used to come to the square in front of the Humanities building and turn on a microphone and scream imprecations of hellfire at people. Who almost exclusively either ignored or ridiculed them. Occasionally someone would take the microphone and make the crowd laugh before the preacher took it back.

The best counter-actions I ever saw were when these people dressed up in rainbow Afros and black tights turned on a radio really loud and started dancing behind the preacher, while handing out bar invites; and the second, when a guy dressed up as a gorilla suddenly ran to stand behind the speaker and without any words handed candy fruit slices to the crowd. I laughed so hard I got stomach pains.

That was beautiful.


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Sounds like great counters.

Sounds like great counters. Those maniacs have not been back since then though.