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December 31 2007

Faith and Choice in the Works of Joss Whedon. This book will be coming out in the summer of next year and "examines a variety of Whedon's characters and discusses what can be learned from their struggles and discoveries regarding religion and belief". The synoposis on the publisher's website is really interesting and well worth a look.

It's available for pre-order at

It's great to see that so many Whedonverse related books are coming out. I am not a religious person, but I am interested to see what the author has to say about the topic regarding the shows.
An earlier book on a similar topic, What Would Buffy Do?, did not impress me at all, but I would love to like this one. Because the shows deserve a good analysis.
Sounds interesting, let's hope the dollar's still in the loo come next summer (kidding US chums - sort of ;).

Must say I never really saw River as having a specific ideology to be zealous about so that part appeals quite a bit (i'd have thought The Operative would have been a more obvious choice from the Serenifly verse so good for the author for thinking outside the box a bit).
Thank you, Simon! Gosh, the 'verse needs some descent reading materials, I'll pick this one up.

Oh, is there any unicorns? Just asking:)
Wait. There will be no chapter on Willow? In a book that discusses providing meaning to your life and on redemption? What?
Looks fascinating - I really enjoyed WWBD.
Agreed, Dana5140, the absence of Willow is puzzling. As is the absence of Angel in the redemptive chapter, and the presence of Book when so much of his backstory is unknown.

I'd be interested to see how much Buffy herself is explored in Parts one and two. I feel sometimes she (or her development) is overlooked because, though she goes through so much, her arc isn't as extreme as say, Willows' or Faiths'.

Finally, a pet peeve - why oh why put in original airdates? Who cares?
Unless I'm mistaken, this is written by our very own Whedonesquer (and the nicest lawyer I've ever met...besides my wife of course) Mockingbird. Cheers, 'Bird! Are you going to be at the Slayage Conference again this year? Mrs. Haunt and I would love to get together and catch up.
Would my fellow Whedonesquers humor me for a moment? While I had been directed last year to a repository of scholarly articles on Joss' shows, does anyone have a short list of where to start with some of the books? Which titles they feel are a good starting place of thoughtful analysis? I have yet to purchase some, though I keep meaning to. For me, it's starting to feel like a maze and I just don't have the cash to do trial and error buying. Barring that, a thread link where this has already been hashed out? Thanks guys. ETA - I'll definitely be taking a look at this one. Sounds very interesting.

[ edited by Tonya J on 2007-12-31 17:16 ]
Look here.

Here's a good place to start Tonya J. It's where I looked when I started reading.

Muchas shininess on the new entry. I just picked up The Psychology Of Joss Whedon, which has been a great read so far.

[ edited by SoddingNancyTribe on 2008-01-01 03:14 ]
In my experience with these kind of books, it's not supposed to be a comprehensive assessment of every possible example -- so Willow and Angel aren't in the redemptive chapter because the author deliberately picked and chose.

Otherwise it'd be subtitled "1001 Essays on Whedonverse Shows!" and be the size of the Bible.
I would definitely like to read this, as it's a subject I've ruminated on many a night.
Thanks deepgirl! Always for me a case of so many books, so little time. Why can't I have a job that's just reading for pleasure, is that so much to ask? :>)
Speaking of Whedonverse books, my site will be in contact with the publisher of THE Q GUIDE TO BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER to help promote the book.

THE Q GUIDE TO BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is written by Gregory L. Norris, published by Allyson Books, and set to come out in March.
TonyaJ--May I recommend starting with the book that started it all, Fighting the Forces: What's at Stake in BtVS, ed. Wilcox & Lavery (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002). Or Reading the Vampire Slayer, ed. Kaveney, either the original 2001 or the updated 2004 version. Both books offer good introductions to "buffyology" and have a range of essays/approaches to analyzing the series. Good luck!
Tonya J, I got the most out of Reading the Vampire Slayer, and Seven Seasons of Buffy, a couple of collections of essays on the show. Not every one was good, but there's some great, insightful stuff. Why Buffy Matters which is all by one author, is definitely worth checking out, too.
While I'm here, advance congratulations to Dale Koontz! Can't wait to get my hands on her book!
Wow! Yet another reason I adore Whedonesque - I hear about this here before my editor tells me! Oh, sorry - I'm away from home for the holidays and had trouble signing in - this is actually Mockingbird and yes, it's my book.

I'm so pleased this is getting comments! For good or ill, the book represents a year and a half of my life, so . . . Yes, there are characters who didn't get the attention that they deserved - I had space limitations and liked the idea of concentrating on some overlooked characters - like poor Fray; no one writes much about her, so I made sure to include her. Including everything about everyone would have resulted in the Whedon equivalent of Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and (let's face it) no one much reads that treatise. It's a delicate balance - you want to give the fans something to think about that they haven't previously considered and you want to give the academics a reason to look at the original work seriously in the first place. Here's hoping I straddled the line well.

Well, that comment sounded downright vulgar, didn't it?

So onto more highly elevated things. For anyone just starting to read academically about Whedon, it's hard to go wrong with Fighting the Forces or Reading Angel. (I personally have a soft spot for Finding Serenity; just depends on what you're looking for.)

Thanks for the link and Happy New Year!
METAI says "In my experience with these kind of books, it's not supposed to be a comprehensive assessment of every possible example -- so Willow and Angel aren't in the redemptive chapter because the author deliberately picked and chose."

No kidding. This is so obvious it really does not merit the comment, just saying. But for me, the usefulness of the book, and whether or not it will interest me, is dependent on whether or not it discusses the characters I care for. And this should be equally obvious. So, akin- the author- notes that she made a decision as to whom to cover and why, and I completely respect that. But the decision to purcahse will be made on issues specific to me. No Willow certainly decreases my interest. Having said that, I have a habit of getting anything Buffy related at all.... so, I'm a hypocrite! :-)
It's a good summary that points out that Joss' atheism is self-identified. I, for one, don't see any evidence of Joss being an atheist in fact. Or perhaps it would be better to say that I see a lot of evidence of Joss being a non-atheist.

Atheists aren't mad at God. They don't refer to Him as the "sky bully." Only people who believe in but reject God are *angry* at him. Atheists might be angry at those who claim to follow a deity--I know plenty of religious folk who are angry with others who claim to follow the same faith--but it is logically inconsistent for any atheist to have an emotional reaction like anger towards a being whom they believe to not exist. It would be like an adult being mad at Santa Claus, rather than at his parents who lied to him when he was a child. Anyone who's angry at Santa Claus *believes* in Santa Claus, you see.

So what I'd love to see is someone taking a look at Joss' body of work, and trying to figure out why he's mad at God.
Tonya J I just want to recommend to you going on to ebay and searching for Buffy Books. You can often get stacks of books for the price of one. It's a great source, especially if you are trying to get a book that is no longer in stores.
TonyaJ Can't do much in the way of recommending, since I only have three, but..."Bite Me!" by Nikki Stafford (Episode synopses for the first six seasons & first four of Angel), color pictures (Oddly enough, the one of Tony fell out of my copy), tidbits about music & such, who wrote & directed & guest-starred, "Seven Seasons of Buffy" mentioned above & "The Quotable Slayer," which...isn't all that accurate at times, but is great if you want a random line to throw into a conversation.

Dana5140 When my friend's novel "Willow's Promise" is published, you'll have plenty of reason to read it. 'cause, to quote her, it "gives Willow & Tara the happy ending they should have had." She just finished writing it this weekend; next stop is finding a publisher. I'm already developing the soundtrack for the movie version. ;-)
Excellent advice all, I really really appreciate it. And Akin, congrats on your book.
it is logically inconsistent for any atheist to have an emotional reaction like anger towards a being whom they believe to not exist.

But people, even atheists, aren't always logical. Joss and Mal are both angry atheists but may not be angry for the same reasons. Joss we don't know but Mal is angry because he was a believer who found himself no longer able to sustain that belief in the face of his war experiences. He's angry at himself for that inability, or for letting himself be fooled, or at God in some kind of phantom limb sense, or at the concept of God (atheists still believe that the concept exists just not the being). Loss of faith can be as traumatic and/or mysterious as the gaining of it and it's different from Santa because with Santa your parents have deliberately lied to you, with God they probably didn't mean to.

[ edited by hayes62 on 2008-01-01 16:54 ]
SQ- keep me posted. :-)

BTW, the slayage site links to as complete a list of Buffy material as exists today. And I just got a note from Amazon letting me the newest (and for now, last) Buffy novel is on its way.
I've been reading 'The Psychology of Joss Whedond - An Unauthorized Exploration of Buffy, Angel and Firefly' and loving it i really would recommend it for any whedon fans that have an interest in psychology.
ps: I might be wrong but it seems to me that joss isnt as much mad at god but intrigued by the idea of it. Someone who is trying to understand faith may wonder why someone would follow a 'sky bully'.
Nikki has a sequel to Bite Me called Once Bitten, including Buffy season seven and all of Angel.
Deepgirl, when I click on the Wikipedia link, it takes me back to Whedonesque. Just fyi. I realize that I can just cut and paste the URL, however.
Hey 'Bird, I had no idea that you had a different ID on Dot Com than you do on Dot Org. Oops. Well anyways, congratulations on your publication. Pam and I are very, very excited to read it. We are both obsessed with the questions of faith and free will in pop culture in general and the Whedonverse in particular. In fact Pam has written her own paper on the Whedonverse as a workable theology that she was originally planning to submit for the upcoming Slayage Conference, but she chickened out. I think we'd both love to share it with you and get your thoughts on it.

As for other books along these lines, here is a list of the ones we have in no particular order...

Hollywood Vampire: Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Angel, by Keith Topping
Reading Angel: The TV Spin-Off With a Soul, edited by Stacey Abbott
Five Seasons of Angel, ed. Glenn Yeffeth
Redeemed: The Unauthorized Guide to Angel, by Lars Pearson & Christa Dickson
Once Bitten, by Nikki Stafford
Finding Serenity, ed. Jane Espenson
Serenity Found, ed. Jane Espenson
Dusted: The Unauthorized Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by Lawrence Miles, Lars Pearson & Christa Dickson
Bite Me: An Unofficial Guide to the World of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by Nikki Stafford
Slayer Slang, Michael Adams
Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy, by Candace Havens
Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy, ed. James South
Blood Relations: Chosen Families in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, by Jes Battis
Fighting the Forces, ed. Rhonda Wilcox & David Lavery
Seven Seasons of Buffy, ed. Glenn Yeffeth
The Existential Joss Whedon: Evil and Human Freedom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Serenity, by J. Michael Richardson and J. Douglas Rabb
Why Buffy Matters, by Rhonda Wilcox
Reading the Vampire Slayer: An Unofficial Critical Companion to Buffy and Angel, ed. Roz Kaveney
Slayer: An Expanded and Updated Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by Keith Topping
The Physics of the Buffyverse, by Jennifer Ouellette
The Quotable Slayer, by Micol Ostow and Steven Brezenoff
The Firefly Episode Guide: An Unofficial, Independent Guide to Joss Whedon's Firefly with Complete Facts and Critiques, by Mimi Noyes
Firefly: The Official Companion, Volume One & Volume Two, from Titan Books
Will the Vampire People Please Leave the Lobby? - True Adventures in Cult Fandom, by Allyson Beatrice
The Psychology of Joss Whedon: An Unauthorized Exploration of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, ed. Joy Davidson, PhD
Televised Morality: The Case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by Gregory Stevenson

[ edited by Haunt on 2008-01-01 03:02 ]
The Girl's Got Bite- Kathleen Tracy
Undead TV- Elaine Levine and Lisa Parks
The Aesthetics of Culture in Buffy the Vampire Slayer- MAtthew Pateman
Serial Television- Glenn Creeber
Cult Television- Sarah Gwenllian-Jones
The Undead and Philosophy- Richard Green
Sex and the Slayer- Lorna Jowett
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BFI TV Classics)- Anne Billson
The Lure of the Vampire- Milly Williamson
Slayers and their Vampires- Bruce McClelland
Telefantasy- Catherine Johnson
Athena's Daughters- Frances Early
Hollywood Divas, Indie Queens and TV Heroines- Susanne Kord and Elisabeth Krimmer
The Complete Slayer- Keith Topping
50 Key Television Programs- Glen Creeber
Fixed Deepgirl's link, and the over-italicization issue too . . . yikes, but that was a scary amount of code in Haunt's most excellent list.
Thanks SNT - and thank you all for the generosity of information. I'm going to cut and paste it all and start a special file. Youse is tops.
I'm going to need a bigger bookshelf.

Seriously, that's a big list.
I picked up a copy of Mimi Noyes's Firefly book but couldn't get past the first chapter. Very very amateurish. The early Ben Bella books were like that too but they have improved significantly in recent years. I enjoy Nikki Stafford's books a lot but they are not philosophical/academic or the thoughtful analysis you are looking for, TonyaJ.

As for whether an atheist can be angry at god - I'd say it is possible. The habit of faith can remain long after the belief. It is possible to still remember the belief and be angry at the object of it.
LOL Sorry about that SNT. I changed my mind about mid-way into that list about how I wanted it to look. Should have gotten rid of the the bold and italics when I went the hyperlink route. Thanks for the assist. :)
Lioness, I think we're using the word 'Atheist' differently. One who lacks belief in God or the lack of any god--one who does not know about the presence or absence of divine beings--is called an agnostic. It's less logically inconsistent for an agnostic to be angry at God, e.g. "If you exist, God, I hate you." is less logically inconsistent than "I know you don't exist, God, but I hate you anyways" which would be the atheist's response.

Remember, love and hate are not opposites--they're differing strong emotions. Indifference is the emotional opposite of either, and indifference would be the expected emotion of an atheist towards the God he or she doesn't believe exists.
Lack. Lack. Lack. People who don't adhere to your beliefs lack something, jclemens. They are vacant, while you are full of...knowledge, which you refuse to give to them except through where?
I can see jclemens point, though I personally disagree in that I do not think referring to a "sky bully" indicates anger at God. To me it would indicate that the person does not like the way some religions try to control people by the use of an all powerful entity whose main concern seems to be punishing people who do not believe what a particular religion tells them they should believe. It is a comment on the teachings of many religions, not with an entity they do not believe exists.

I should think this would be especially true for an atheist who recognizes the amazing power that faith has for people, while seeing that power being used to justify the infliction of pain and suffering on others. A term like "sky bully" would be meant to put the role that some humans have assigned to the entity they call God, into perspective. Al la, "Is that really the right role for a being you believe is all powerful? Does this make any sense?"

...and no, I am not personally an atheist.
jclemens said:

I, for one, don't see any evidence of Joss being an atheist in fact. Or perhaps it would be better to say that I see a lot of evidence of Joss being a non-atheist.

How about the fact that he has stated that he is an atheist? Do religious people really not realize how condescending it is to deny that someone who says they're an atheist, means, feels and believes, just that? If an artist deals with spiritual themes such as redemption and atonement, well news flash, those themes are moral and ethical without having to be part of a religion. Morality and ethics, doing "evil" and later rejecting that evil and working to become a more moral and ethical human being, are concepts that work perfectly well without a specifically religious framework of belief in a deity.

It's maddening when people make rigid statements like "Atheists aren't mad at god. They don't call him the Sky Bully". It always amazes me that some religious people are so literal minded that the obvious has to be spelled out so .... well, literally. You don't have to believe in "God" to be angry at what the concept represents, and at the self-righteous assumptions made by some religious people.
Whose God are we even talking about, the assumption is always the Christian God, which is IMO a whole lot of hubris on the part of the type of self-righteous Christians who think it's perfectly OK to say, in affect, "No, you aren't an atheist, just because you say you are".

I'm not even an atheist, but my spiritual path is so unconventional that I've suffered more than my share of the "you can't seriously believe that" attitude. So I understand personally the frustration of people believing they know what you believe/don't believe better than you do. It's really insulting.

The book sounds fascinating, as long as it doesn't define "religion and belief" as exclusively Judeo-Christian.
Yeah, I'd pretty much have to go with "Joss is an atheist because he says he is." And also, "Um, he'll let you know if he changes his mind about that."

As a fellow atheist, Joss' reference to God as the "Sky Bully" made perfect sense to me, a non-angry atheist as well, and I've picked it up - not because I'm mad at or about something I never believed in, but because it aptly describes the notion of God that many religions have, including the one they tried to teach to me in the church of my childhood. It just never took, but Sky Bullying is certainly an aspect of the God my Mom believed in, and thought the church should instill in my little developing psyche. (Pop was an atheist, too, though he never said a word to us about it - he read the papers out in the car while we were at church. How I envied him...)

The only thing that ever pisses me off about religion are the screwed up things some folks do to themselves and others in its name - just as I get peeved about any force that makes people treat each other badly. When religion causes people to expand themselves and grow and do good works, more power to it.

It ain't my personal path, but when it's lovely, it is lovely.

(But when it's ugly, it is ugly. When my Mom and brother-in-law died within several weeks of each other, a "friend" of mine told me that it was because of my family's atheism that they were taken from us so jarringly and unexpectedly. It was a very special moment that I'll always remember...)

Happy New Years, my lovelies, 'cause I don't think I'll make it over to the official New Year thread. May this year bring you whatever you would like - for me that would be an end to the Forever War...
Best New Years wish yet, QuoterGal, I join whole heartedly in that sentiment.
Yes, Happy New Year to all! How about getting Joss and Buffy onto some university courses now there are so many scholarly works about them? 'Cause by the time I finished my BA I'd been assigned Dracula four times and I was thinking "Could seriously use some new vampires here ..."
Shey and QuoterGal have pretty much said it. You can be angry at the idea of God without being angry at God.

Speaking as an ex-angry atheist (i'm still an atheist just not angry - or not-ish anyway ;) Joss might be angry at us - i.e. people - for somehow thinking that being ruled by a mix of condescendingly applied "love" and a whole lot of fear is anyway to live. It's a lot like Santa Claus in fact, because I guess Joss sees it as being OK to believe in Santa Claus when you're 5 but maybe not so healthy when you're 25 ;).

It's also a way to be actively irreverent (which makes sense if you don't believe) and to maybe get people to think a little bit about the actual character of the Christian God, as presented by the evidence Christians hold closest i.e. the Bible. Calling God the "Great Sky Bully" is basically the atheist version of evangelising ;).

(i'm not sure about Mal though, I think he's still a believer and that he says he isn't partly in defiance of God - who he sees as his betrayer - and maybe partly as a reminder that he can only rely on himself and those he keeps close. Mal really is angry at God)
I agree with your assessment of Mal, Saje. That's always how I've seen it.

And I'm glad to believe in God, because my God isn't scary and judgmental.
Like Quotergal, I had an atheist father and Catholic mother.
My dad remained silent as well, I think it's part of the deal.
I was a devout child, but consider myself agnostic now. I can't claim atheism because I don't believe there is any way for a human being to KNOW for sure, until they are dead.

I claim a lot of anger at many of the concepts of organized religion, although not at a specific god. Especially the evangelical religions that have become prevalent in my town, with their, "everybody who doesn't think exactly like us is going to hell" attitude. These people worship a "sky bully" and work really hard to stay on his good side.
Then there are the religions that use God as a reason to go to war, terrorize, torture and kill. Religion can be a force for good, but too often, historically, the opposite is true. Religion is the root of much evil.
Shey, I'm... hmmm.... I'm better looking than Brad Pitt. Saying it, and even believing it (which I do not), doesn't make it so. Or are we willing to accept that anyone who says "I'm not a racist" or "I'm not a homophobe" is correct? If not, then perhaps we can agree that some people at some times deny what they are. This might lead to interesting discussions, like...

If we look at Mal, we could suspect that Joss is closer to what Saje hypothesizes about Mal (which I agree with, BTW) than any sort of detached-disbelief with residual anger at followers or the idea of belief. But then, that's simply a sentence based on a few suppositions. It would make a fine topic for a book or an essay--at least as fair game as the rest of people have written about Joss and his work, no?

Dreamlogic I lack a lot of things. You lack other things. I lack cancer, (as far as I know) for which I am glad. I lack wings, for which I have perhaps a few misgivings during bouts of daydreaming in traffic. I lack other things which distress me. It's not a judgemental word--in fact, I've used it to differentiate agnostics from atheists. The former lack a belief in God, the latter have a faith in no-god.

If, at any time I'm restricting my commentaries to any particular God, I'll be sure to make that explicit. Granted that atheism in the Western world does tend to historically focus around rejection of the Christian God, but if someone believes in even one divinity of any sort, they're not an atheist. I may be reading a bit into what UnpluggedCrazy is saying, but it's a good distinction: just because someone talks about God, doesn't mean it's the same conception of God that you like or dislike. I find this a particularly important distinction, because if Joss came up to me and said "I don't believe in the sky bully" I would be perfectly happy to respond "Good for you, I don't either." Which might just be the start of a fun and fascinating conversation.
[I remove the first part, as it was personal in nature and therefore veered a bit off-topic-ish, thought it did help give context to my second comment, which I leave here since it is still on-topic...]

Thoughts from an atheist's mind: "If your God actually existed, I'd really hate that guy."

[ edited by Love's Bitch on 2008-01-01 22:01 ]
Can we keep comments to the issue of faith and choice in the works of Joss Whedon, please. Ta very much.
The former lack a belief in God, the latter have a faith in no-god.

I'm wondering if it's that "faith in no-god" that the author's going to suggest River has. I'll be interested to read the justification for it if so because it seems to me that you don't need "faith" to think something doesn't exist when the default position for "things" is to not-exist i.e. without evidence that something exists - be it unicorns/pixies/magic/whatever - the most rational choice is surely to assume (and act as if) it doesn't until shown otherwise ?

Agnostics on the other hand believe that we can never know for sure whether God exists or not and so they've decided to stick on a firm "Don't know". That's obviously fine but in the sense of 100% proof, we can never know anything for sure, even the existence of the world around us is an article of "faith" in the strictest sense. Why are agnostics not, therefore, agnostic about reality itself or about the sun rising tomorrow ?

River realises that we make assumptions all the time about all sorts of things often based on incomplete evidence and that thinking there's no God (until shown otherwise) is simply consistent with that perspective, it's not a belief requiring faith except in the sense that everything is (course, it could be that the author has something completely different in mind re: River and "religious zealotry" but that's the only belief I can think of that she may hold so absolutely as for it to have "negative aspects" as far as some folk are concerned).
it is logically inconsistent for any atheist to have an emotional reaction like anger towards a being whom they believe to not exist.
What does anger have to do with logic? It's an emotion, not a thought process. I was raised (and remain) an atheist, but I certainly understand the concept of God and am perfectly capable of getting angry at him. I get angry at Buffy sometimes, too, even though I know she's fictional. And if Santa Claus were cited as an inspiration for terrorism or subjugation of women, I might get pissed at him, too.
I think it is important to remember that Joss wasn't the only individual developing characters in Firefly. Mal may be more Tim and less Joss. I don't really know. Just a thought. I think sometimes we are quick to attribute every single aspect of the Whedonverse to Joss when that simply isn't possible.
I certainly hope the conclusions people draw about a writer's own beliefs are based on their own statements about themselves rather than what they have had characters say. In complex stories characters coming from different perspectives are a necessity. None of them may express the author's actual beliefs or feelings completely. I agree that Mal is a disillusioned and angry believer. That does not mean that he embodies the feelings of any particular writer on the show.

Why are agnostics not, therefore, agnostic about reality itself or about the sun rising tomorrow ?

Agnostics aren't agnostic about reality and the sun rising tomorrow? I was thinking about joining, but if they think they have definite inside scoop about reality and what is going to happen in the future, I'm going to have to take a step back and think about it some more.
Apparently not newcj, just about God. Makes sense not to sweat the little stuff I guess (like the sun rising etc. ;-).

Mal may be more Tim and less Joss.

True, and even if Big Purp did create him, Joss has said a few times in interview that he wouldn't necessarily get on that well with Mal, that they'd probably disagree about a lot of stuff.

I think most characters contain at least an element of the people that create them BUT it might even be the opposite to how they feel about a particular issue (because exploring that is what interests them - in the way that only ever hanging around with people you agree with on everything can get dull, i'd imagine the same is true of writing for a character that "thinks" exactly like you).

I suspect where the hero is concerned though (or heroes in 'Firefly's case) there's usually something the creator finds attractive about them, even if it's not a character trait the writer might necessarily want (e.g. who wouldn't want House's brains and lack of care for the social niceties, even if in real life someone like that would be unbearable).
Agnostics on the other hand believe that we can never know for sure whether God exists or not and so they've decided to stick on a firm "Don't know". That's obviously fine but in the sense of 100% proof, we can never know anything for sure, even the existence of the world around us is an article of "faith" in the strictest sense. Why are agnostics not, therefore, agnostic about reality itself or about the sun rising tomorrow?

It makes a lot more sense to me to doubt the existence of an invisible, metaphysical being, capable of violating empirically derived scientific laws, and whose only demonstrable claim to existence is the beliefs of its followers, vs. an experientially existent reality which exhibits empirical consistency.

Which is not to say that this "realty" might not be just a dream that I am having which only appears to have lasted a number of decades (in which case I wish that I hadn't dreamed I had to come into work this morning, and while I'm at it, that I had Joss' talent).

It's just that based on past experience, from a statistical point of view I think it far more likely that, consequent to the earth's rotation, the sun will appear to rise tomorrow morning (and far earlier than I would like it to at that), than that there exists some particular deity or deities, who match any one of the multitude of mutually incompatible descriptions of such being(s) found in humankind's religions (including the multiple versions of God found within the Judeo-Christian canon).

My attitude toward the "unseen" world, is that we human beings are fairly limited creatures, and that given the limitations of both our senses and our intellect, it's presumptuous to make any claims about that which is beyond our abilities to sense. Or, as summed up much more beautifully by the brilliant British geneticist and evolutionary scientist J.B.S. Haldane "It is my supposition that the Universe is not only queerer than we imagine, it is queerer than we can imagine."

Although, I have to confess that in practice, I have recently renounced my devotion to Agnosticism and have adopted ancient Egyptian religious practice. That is, to say, I worship my cat.
That is, to say, I worship my cat.

Invazun phaze 1 am compleet ! LOLZ !


Yep, I know where you're coming from barboo it just seems like since, as an agnostic, you act as if (and on the assumption that) the sun will (apparently ;) rise tomorrow and, presumably, from what you say, if someone asked you outright "Will the sun rise tomorrow ?" you would say "Yes unless you can provide evidence otherwise" then why not do the same with God(s) ?

I bet, for instance, if you were asked "Do you disbelieve in Zeus ?" you would be (more) comfortable answering "Yes". All River and other atheists are doing is deciding (if they're honest, with the caveat that there's always a chance they're wrong) to disbelieve in God(s) in exactly the same way most people currently disbelieve in the Greek pantheon or in Unicorns.

(that said, thinking on it I wonder if the author is going to present River as a victim of "religious" zealotry rather than as a practitioner of it ?)
Invazun phaze 1 am compleet ! LOLZ !

Well, it's only taken them about 4000 years. At this rate they may conquer the planet just in time for the Apocalypse.

presumably, from what you say, if someone asked you outright "Will the sun rise tomorrow ?" you would say "Yes unless you can provide evidence otherwise" then why not do the same with God(s)?

I think there's a continuum of belief and my Agnosticism edges close enough to Atheism to say that I totally doubt the existence of any God humanity has ever worshiped. In particular contexts I'm perfectly comfortable calling myself an Atheist outright, especially when I think it's necessary to stand up against the religious bullies on both sides of the political spectrum who think that moral/ethical principles can only exist if derived from the big sky-father, and I think the subtlety of the distinction between disbelieving in your particular God, and not being willing to completely rule out the possibility that some kind of superpowerful entity exists that I with my limited human abilities cannot apprehend, is one that is beyond a lot of religious believers ability to grasp.

Another way to look at it, I live my daily life as if the sun will continue to rise without having to think about the probability of it (excepting of course unless Dubya manages to ignite World War III). I also live life under the assumption that there is no God(s), without thinking about it as an intellectual exercise.

But I do flatly disbelieve is in any human conception of what a God-being might be like as being accurate. The very multiplicity of religions, all of which assert that God(s) must be worshiped in some particular way tells me that none of them can be accurate, because if there were such a Being to whom our worship mattered, it would have done a better job of making sure we all recognize the correct way. The fact that many people, professing the same religion can use the Bible to justify utterly opposite points of view and action tells me that the Bible is worthless as an expression of God, even if I hadn't read enough of it to be aware of the internal inconsistencies and contradictions, not to mention the external historical inconsistencies, and known enough about religious history to know where particular pieces originated.

Of course all this is moot when it comes to my cat, who clearly does rule the universe.
Ah OK, get you. I think we probably sit in similar places on the spectrum barboo.

If I understand you correctly you're saying you actually do disbelieve in all the Gods we've thought of so far BUT that you allow the possibility of a God of which we can't even conceive ? I can live with that (strictly speaking, I don't see how anyone can even argue with it - to do so is to suggest that what we can conceive is completely unlimited which seems self-evidently untrue).

The way I put it is, in theory i'm agnostic but in practice i'm an atheist ;).

(in fact, at the moment I can even conceive of a God that I can accept - one which kick-started the Big Bang and then sat back outside our universe letting nature take its course without ever interfering in reality again, which seems as consistent with what we know about the universe as the current theories of what triggered it - though clearly that God is a "God of the gaps" in that if we develop a better understanding of pre-Big Bang conditions, he/she/it may be ruled out. Someone on here recommended a book which apparently presents an argument against even that God but I haven't picked it up yet)

Clearly though, the "universe as furball" idea will become the dominant religion of the future ;).
Saje: "The way I put it is, in theory i'm agnostic but in practice i'm an atheist ;)."

A pretty neat trick, that is. ; > I, of course, worship at the feet of the Furry Feline as well.

The big question is: can Saje conceive of a God so illimitable that he himself cannot conceive of It?

The mind reels...

An atheist cannot conceive
of a god-creed in which to believe.
Though my diagnostic
Of someone agnostic,
Is faith lost, which he hopes to retrieve.
Heh, nice limerick QuoterGal ;).

A pretty neat trick, that is.

It's all done with smoke and mirrors ;).

The big question is: can Saje conceive of a God so illimitable that he himself cannot conceive of It?

Are you asking can God conceive of everything QG ? Well, presumably he can't conceive of a being greater than himself, God being Perfection - so maybe not so illimitable after all, seems like even God can't conceive of the inconceivable. Boo, gimme my money back, this God is faulty - what do you have in a naturalistic, non-personified deification of the laws of physics ? ;-).
what do you have in a naturalistic, non-personified deification of the laws of physics ? ;-).

Astrology comes close and there are even a few physicists on board with that, two have written articles in The Mountain Astrologer magazine. But I'm not going to try and sell it, don't worry. Also some forms of Zen come close.

But I'll stick mainly to worshiping my Amazon parrots, the only creatures on earth more beautiful, arrogant, intelligent and aware than cats.
One of my parrots yells at my cat if he jumps on the screen door "No No No, cat!"
The cat is not amused. ;-)
If I understand you correctly you're saying you actually do disbelieve in all the Gods we've thought of so far BUT that you allow the possibility of a God of which we can't even conceive ?

I think that's a reasonable summation, except that it's not limited to the possibility of a God as we generally define such a being, but the whole "unseen dimension". Maybe there isn't a God, but some sort of race of hyperpotent beings and we're an experiment of theirs. Or maybe our individual physical beings are just a temporary manifestation of some mass spiritual entity. Or we're just a dream of the great cosmic fish. Maybe I'll know the answer when I'm dead. Or not.

I think I put the personal emphasis on the agnostic side rather than atheist, because for me what really looms in my thoughts on the matter is the limitations to knowledge. Not only is there so much unknowable, I find that if I even try to get my mind around certain cosmic concepts, it kind of freaks my brain out. Like eternity, or infinity. Or the universe. Where did the universe come from? If the universe is everything that exists, then how did anything exist prior to the universe existing in order for the universe to come from it? And how can the universe keep expanding if it is already everything? If the universe is expanding there has to be something for it to expand into, which means there must be something more unlimited than the universe which contains both the universe and nothing, but then whatever this thing is simply by existing means that there is something that does not exist which is outside it which means something that contains both it and nothing...

And on and on and on. At which point I need to take a deep breath and go pet the cat. (You may see why I am so fond of that J.B.S. Haldane quote).

The way I put it is, in theory i'm agnostic but in practice i'm an atheist ;).

Well, I'll concede that from my perspective being an agnostic pretty much requires being an atheist in practice. I mean, what would you do as a practicing agnostic, go to a church that displays a question mark instead of a cross? Pray to our Father who might be in heaven?
barboo I had to come back to say that I think your post is brilliant, funny, insightful and addresses the kind of universal might-be-truths that I've often pondered, myself. And wondered in the process whether I could be the only person on the planet who thinks is such terms .... the huge picture that dances in a circle like a cat chasing her tail.

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