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What if monotheism never existed?

MouthWash
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9/28/2012 1:04:45 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Let's say that there was no Christianity or Islam to convert idolaters or spread the worship of God. Would pagan beliefs have survived into the modern era? For instance, would it be acceptable to worship trees and bushes as gods even if everyone knew that they were simply mindless clumps of organic matter that had gained the ability to self-sustain through natural selection? In India they still worship cows, although I think that is because of the reincarnation belief (which still survives despite knowledge of biology) and not because cows are gods or anything like that.

What about the weather? Surely no educated person today would worship Thor? We know that lightning is simply a massive discharge or energy caused by the unbalanced flow of electrons inside a cloud, and unlike in monotheism, nature was not simply considered a tool of the higher power(s), but rather was the direct supernatural act of the gods. The same goes for the sun... we couldn't worship Ra as the creator of the universe if we knew what the sun actually was and its relationship with the rest of the stars (the entirely galaxy couldn't have come from the sun). Interestingly, if not for the rise of monotheism the world right now might be overwhelmingly atheist as people discovered the nature of their deities and gradually abandoned them. Buddhism and others similar to it might spread to fill the gaps, though.

On the other hand, a ball of burning gas is rather complex at the elemental level. Who's to say there isn't a transfer of binary information via the electrochemical interactions in that ball of flame that doesn't amount to a form of sentience? And if we, as microscopic blips in that interactive web, can deign ourselves to have self-aware intelligence, how is it such a stretch to believe a planet or a star could as well? There is no evidence to support such a theory, but it might be used as a justification for nature-worship, although atheism would inevitably be quite popular no matter how the alternate history is envisioned.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
imabench
Posts: 21,230
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9/28/2012 1:06:43 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
My guess would be that people turn to Buddhism or just go straight to Atheism.
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MouthWash
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9/28/2012 1:15:20 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:06:43 PM, imabench wrote:
My guess would be that people turn to Buddhism or just go straight to Atheism.

Is that an informed guess or an "I have an opinion" guess?
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
Kali
Posts: 34
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9/28/2012 1:22:34 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Polytheistic religions are still pretty popular these days, ya know. In the absence of a strong, centralizing force like the Roman Catholic Church, and without the presence of Islam, I think Europe would have remained in a feudal state for much longer than it did and the sciences would have stagnated greatly. The Roman Empire would be the best hope for stability and progress that the Western world would have had, and they weren't exactly doing so hot before Christianity came along. Of course, if we wipe out all the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism isn't around to give the Romans a major thorn in their side, but at the same time, isn't around to create the wealth of Israel that they plunder. Strip out Judaism and Zoroastrianism and the world changes too much to say for certain, but simply remove Christianity and Islam from the picture and things are unlikely to progress as fast as they did in our world.
MouthWash
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9/28/2012 1:27:03 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:22:34 PM, Kali wrote:
Polytheistic religions are still pretty popular these days, ya know. In the absence of a strong, centralizing force like the Roman Catholic Church, and without the presence of Islam, I think Europe would have remained in a feudal state for much longer than it did and the sciences would have stagnated greatly. The Roman Empire would be the best hope for stability and progress that the Western world would have had, and they weren't exactly doing so hot before Christianity came along. Of course, if we wipe out all the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism isn't around to give the Romans a major thorn in their side, but at the same time, isn't around to create the wealth of Israel that they plunder. Strip out Judaism and Zoroastrianism and the world changes too much to say for certain, but simply remove Christianity and Islam from the picture and things are unlikely to progress as fast as they did in our world.

But eventually progress would happen. And what would you think would happen when it did?
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
Kali
Posts: 34
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9/28/2012 1:27:57 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:27:03 PM, MouthWash wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:22:34 PM, Kali wrote:
Polytheistic religions are still pretty popular these days, ya know. In the absence of a strong, centralizing force like the Roman Catholic Church, and without the presence of Islam, I think Europe would have remained in a feudal state for much longer than it did and the sciences would have stagnated greatly. The Roman Empire would be the best hope for stability and progress that the Western world would have had, and they weren't exactly doing so hot before Christianity came along. Of course, if we wipe out all the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism isn't around to give the Romans a major thorn in their side, but at the same time, isn't around to create the wealth of Israel that they plunder. Strip out Judaism and Zoroastrianism and the world changes too much to say for certain, but simply remove Christianity and Islam from the picture and things are unlikely to progress as fast as they did in our world.

But eventually progress would happen. And what would you think would happen when it did?
Impossible to say. No one has the capacity to predict the outcome of a totally alien history.
MouthWash
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9/28/2012 1:34:14 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:27:57 PM, Kali wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:27:03 PM, MouthWash wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:22:34 PM, Kali wrote:
Polytheistic religions are still pretty popular these days, ya know. In the absence of a strong, centralizing force like the Roman Catholic Church, and without the presence of Islam, I think Europe would have remained in a feudal state for much longer than it did and the sciences would have stagnated greatly. The Roman Empire would be the best hope for stability and progress that the Western world would have had, and they weren't exactly doing so hot before Christianity came along. Of course, if we wipe out all the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism isn't around to give the Romans a major thorn in their side, but at the same time, isn't around to create the wealth of Israel that they plunder. Strip out Judaism and Zoroastrianism and the world changes too much to say for certain, but simply remove Christianity and Islam from the picture and things are unlikely to progress as fast as they did in our world.

But eventually progress would happen. And what would you think would happen when it did?
Impossible to say. No one has the capacity to predict the outcome of a totally alien history.

It's human nature. Even in the dark ages advancements were made. The 'barbarian' peoples that the Romans subjugated weren't as primitive as most people make them out to be. The Celts had professional armies, the Audei faction had a government similar to representative democracy, if I remember correctly, and the Germanic tribes had an advanced road system. Polytheistic cultures are still capable of advancement.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
Kali
Posts: 34
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9/28/2012 1:36:39 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:34:14 PM, MouthWash wrote:
It's human nature. Even in the dark ages advancements were made. The 'barbarian' peoples that the Romans subjugated weren't as primitive as most people make them out to be. The Celts had professional armies, the Audei faction had a government similar to representative democracy, if I remember correctly, and the Germanic tribes had an advanced road system. Polytheistic cultures are still capable of advancement.
That's nice, but not relevant. Trying to predict the outcome of a change of this magnitude is like trying to predict what the world will be like in 6000 A.D.
MouthWash
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9/28/2012 1:48:34 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:36:39 PM, Kali wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:34:14 PM, MouthWash wrote:
It's human nature. Even in the dark ages advancements were made. The 'barbarian' peoples that the Romans subjugated weren't as primitive as most people make them out to be. The Celts had professional armies, the Audei faction had a government similar to representative democracy, if I remember correctly, and the Germanic tribes had an advanced road system. Polytheistic cultures are still capable of advancement.
That's nice, but not relevant. Trying to predict the outcome of a change of this magnitude is like trying to predict what the world will be like in 6000 A.D.

That's not my point. Even if it took till 9000 A.D., knowledge would eventually come unless you're saying that technological progress isn't human nature (contradicted by every civilization ever known).
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
Kali
Posts: 34
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9/28/2012 1:52:07 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:48:34 PM, MouthWash wrote:
That's not my point. Even if it took till 9000 A.D., knowledge would eventually come unless you're saying that technological progress isn't human nature (contradicted by every civilization ever known).
My point isn't that pagans or atheists are backwards or reactionary, it's that no man alive has the capacity to accurately forecast the consequences of a change of such scale as the one in the OP.
MouthWash
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9/28/2012 1:56:38 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:52:07 PM, Kali wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:48:34 PM, MouthWash wrote:
That's not my point. Even if it took till 9000 A.D., knowledge would eventually come unless you're saying that technological progress isn't human nature (contradicted by every civilization ever known).
My point isn't that pagans or atheists are backwards or reactionary, it's that no man alive has the capacity to accurately forecast the consequences of a change of such scale as the one in the OP.

When did I say that? Answer my question or don't. You're just using strawmen now. If progress is a natural part of civilization (which it is) than certain things can be predicted even if the details can't be.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
Kali
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9/28/2012 2:03:07 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:56:38 PM, MouthWash wrote:
When did I say that? Answer my question or don't. You're just using strawmen now. If progress is a natural part of civilization (which it is) than certain things can be predicted even if the details can't be.
I have answered your question. My response was that, if we eliminate only Islam and Christianity as suggested in the OP, then the world progresses much more slowly, but is still alien to us and inherently unpredictable. If all monotheistic religions are eliminated, then history becomes completely unrecognizable and there is no claim about the world that we might reasonably make, except to analyze the effects on early (particularly, Mesopotamian) civilization, and even then, only for a very short period of time.
MouthWash
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9/28/2012 2:22:16 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 2:03:07 PM, Kali wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:56:38 PM, MouthWash wrote:
When did I say that? Answer my question or don't. You're just using strawmen now. If progress is a natural part of civilization (which it is) than certain things can be predicted even if the details can't be.
I have answered your question. My response was that, if we eliminate only Islam and Christianity as suggested in the OP, then the world progresses much more slowly, but is still alien to us and inherently unpredictable. If all monotheistic religions are eliminated, then history becomes completely unrecognizable and there is no claim about the world that we might reasonably make, except to analyze the effects on early (particularly, Mesopotamian) civilization, and even then, only for a very short period of time.

We've established that progress is a natural part of civilization. Are you saying that if we remove those religions, it is possible that we would never develop scientific knowledge about our universe? Because that would be a complete reversal of the pattern that developed previously.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
Kali
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9/28/2012 2:35:42 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 2:22:16 PM, MouthWash wrote:
We've established that progress is a natural part of civilization. Are you saying that if we remove those religions, it is possible that we would never develop scientific knowledge about our universe? Because that would be a complete reversal of the pattern that developed previously.
I'm not saying that at all. I think it's entirely likely that that development would occur at some point. Of course, it's also entirely likely that our star will die out in a few billion years, but I'm not going to start speculating on what civilization would be like at that point.

There are certain things that the construct of civilization guarantees, and the continued progress of science and reason are among them. The particular change mentioned in the OP is far too broad and at far too large a scale for anyone to accurately predict the consequences of, however, and so I won't say anything about what things would be like in that instance. A world without Christianity, Islam, or any monotheistic religion, would be too far removed from our own to judge the course of. Entirely different civilizations, ideas, cultures, and conflicts would arise that themselves lead to yet more divergence from our own timeline and push critical analysis and prediction farther and farther out of our reach.
MouthWash
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9/28/2012 2:46:01 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 2:35:42 PM, Kali wrote:
At 9/28/2012 2:22:16 PM, MouthWash wrote:
We've established that progress is a natural part of civilization. Are you saying that if we remove those religions, it is possible that we would never develop scientific knowledge about our universe? Because that would be a complete reversal of the pattern that developed previously.
I'm not saying that at all. I think it's entirely likely that that development would occur at some point. Of course, it's also entirely likely that our star will die out in a few billion years, but I'm not going to start speculating on what civilization would be like at that point.

There are certain things that the construct of civilization guarantees, and the continued progress of science and reason are among them. The particular change mentioned in the OP is far too broad and at far too large a scale for anyone to accurately predict the consequences of, however, and so I won't say anything about what things would be like in that instance. A world without Christianity, Islam, or any monotheistic religion, would be too far removed from our own to judge the course of. Entirely different civilizations, ideas, cultures, and conflicts would arise that themselves lead to yet more divergence from our own timeline and push critical analysis and prediction farther and farther out of our reach.

It doesn't matter. Regardless of what the title may have implied, the entire question is what would happen to religion if we were still worshiping nature when we began the scientific revolution. That's all. Congratulations on spectacularly derailing the thread.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
imabench
Posts: 21,230
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9/28/2012 2:54:10 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:15:20 PM, MouthWash wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:06:43 PM, imabench wrote:
My guess would be that people turn to Buddhism or just go straight to Atheism.

Is that an informed guess or an "I have an opinion" guess?

Obviously the latter...
Kevin24018 : "He's just so mean it makes me want to ball up my fists and stamp on the ground"
Geogeer: "Nobody is dumb enough to become my protege."

7/14/16 = The Presidency Dies

DDO: THE MOVIE = http://www.debate.org...
http://www.debate.org...

VP of DDO from Dec 14th 2014 to Jan 1st 2015
Sidewalker
Posts: 3,713
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9/28/2012 3:08:52 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:48:34 PM, MouthWash wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:36:39 PM, Kali wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:34:14 PM, MouthWash wrote:
It's human nature. Even in the dark ages advancements were made. The 'barbarian' peoples that the Romans subjugated weren't as primitive as most people make them out to be. The Celts had professional armies, the Audei faction had a government similar to representative democracy, if I remember correctly, and the Germanic tribes had an advanced road system. Polytheistic cultures are still capable of advancement.
That's nice, but not relevant. Trying to predict the outcome of a change of this magnitude is like trying to predict what the world will be like in 6000 A.D.

That's not my point. Even if it took till 9000 A.D., knowledge would eventually come unless you're saying that technological progress isn't human nature (contradicted by every civilization ever known).

You're making a false assumption that technological progress in some way negates or eliminates faith in a transcendent reality, it doesn't. You are arguing that progress is inevitable because it has always occurred in all places and all times, but the same can be said about faith. The majority of human beings, in all places and all times, have believed in a transcendent reality of some sort, technological progress has never impacted that fact. The God of the Gaps theory that is so trendy lately has been completely rejected by the academic community, it has no explanatory power at all in the historical study of religions.

Science and faith are not just compatible, they are mutually reinforcing, and technological progress has never been much of a factor as it relates to the history of belief in a transcendent reality.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
slo1
Posts: 4,362
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9/28/2012 3:19:13 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 1:04:45 PM, MouthWash wrote:
Let's say that there was no Christianity or Islam to convert idolaters or spread the worship of God. Would pagan beliefs have survived into the modern era? For instance, would it be acceptable to worship trees and bushes as gods even if everyone knew that they were simply mindless clumps of organic matter that had gained the ability to self-sustain through natural selection? In India they still worship cows, although I think that is because of the reincarnation belief (which still survives despite knowledge of biology) and not because cows are gods or anything like that.

What about the weather? Surely no educated person today would worship Thor? We know that lightning is simply a massive discharge or energy caused by the unbalanced flow of electrons inside a cloud, and unlike in monotheism, nature was not simply considered a tool of the higher power(s), but rather was the direct supernatural act of the gods. The same goes for the sun... we couldn't worship Ra as the creator of the universe if we knew what the sun actually was and its relationship with the rest of the stars (the entirely galaxy couldn't have come from the sun). Interestingly, if not for the rise of monotheism the world right now might be overwhelmingly atheist as people discovered the nature of their deities and gradually abandoned them. Buddhism and others similar to it might spread to fill the gaps, though.

On the other hand, a ball of burning gas is rather complex at the elemental level. Who's to say there isn't a transfer of binary information via the electrochemical interactions in that ball of flame that doesn't amount to a form of sentience? And if we, as microscopic blips in that interactive web, can deign ourselves to have self-aware intelligence, how is it such a stretch to believe a planet or a star could as well? There is no evidence to support such a theory, but it might be used as a justification for nature-worship, although atheism would inevitably be quite popular no matter how the alternate history is envisioned.

To be honest, I don't think much would have changed. A different religion of the day would be just as good at causing people to be irrational and hate each other across the world just as monotheism has.

As far as your argument that science would put various deity worship in an awkward position, over 50% of american's believe the world is 10,000 years old, which flies right in the face of science. If people believed in worshiping the sun, they sure could deny all science and still worship it today. Common sense has never stopped anyone from worshiping anything in this world.
MouthWash
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9/28/2012 3:23:55 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 3:08:52 PM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:48:34 PM, MouthWash wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:36:39 PM, Kali wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:34:14 PM, MouthWash wrote:
It's human nature. Even in the dark ages advancements were made. The 'barbarian' peoples that the Romans subjugated weren't as primitive as most people make them out to be. The Celts had professional armies, the Audei faction had a government similar to representative democracy, if I remember correctly, and the Germanic tribes had an advanced road system. Polytheistic cultures are still capable of advancement.
That's nice, but not relevant. Trying to predict the outcome of a change of this magnitude is like trying to predict what the world will be like in 6000 A.D.

That's not my point. Even if it took till 9000 A.D., knowledge would eventually come unless you're saying that technological progress isn't human nature (contradicted by every civilization ever known).

You're making a false assumption that technological progress in some way negates or eliminates faith in a transcendent reality, it doesn't. You are arguing that progress is inevitable because it has always occurred in all places and all times, but the same can be said about faith. The majority of human beings, in all places and all times, have believed in a transcendent reality of some sort, technological progress has never impacted that fact. The God of the Gaps theory that is so trendy lately has been completely rejected by the academic community, it has no explanatory power at all in the historical study of religions.

Science and faith are not just compatible, they are mutually reinforcing, and technological progress has never been much of a factor as it relates to the history of belief in a transcendent reality.

Nope! That is a strawman, my friend.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
MouthWash
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9/28/2012 3:39:29 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 9/28/2012 3:19:13 PM, slo1 wrote:
At 9/28/2012 1:04:45 PM, MouthWash wrote:
Let's say that there was no Christianity or Islam to convert idolaters or spread the worship of God. Would pagan beliefs have survived into the modern era? For instance, would it be acceptable to worship trees and bushes as gods even if everyone knew that they were simply mindless clumps of organic matter that had gained the ability to self-sustain through natural selection? In India they still worship cows, although I think that is because of the reincarnation belief (which still survives despite knowledge of biology) and not because cows are gods or anything like that.

What about the weather? Surely no educated person today would worship Thor? We know that lightning is simply a massive discharge or energy caused by the unbalanced flow of electrons inside a cloud, and unlike in monotheism, nature was not simply considered a tool of the higher power(s), but rather was the direct supernatural act of the gods. The same goes for the sun... we couldn't worship Ra as the creator of the universe if we knew what the sun actually was and its relationship with the rest of the stars (the entirely galaxy couldn't have come from the sun). Interestingly, if not for the rise of monotheism the world right now might be overwhelmingly atheist as people discovered the nature of their deities and gradually abandoned them. Buddhism and others similar to it might spread to fill the gaps, though.

On the other hand, a ball of burning gas is rather complex at the elemental level. Who's to say there isn't a transfer of binary information via the electrochemical interactions in that ball of flame that doesn't amount to a form of sentience? And if we, as microscopic blips in that interactive web, can deign ourselves to have self-aware intelligence, how is it such a stretch to believe a planet or a star could as well? There is no evidence to support such a theory, but it might be used as a justification for nature-worship, although atheism would inevitably be quite popular no matter how the alternate history is envisioned.

To be honest, I don't think much would have changed. A different religion of the day would be just as good at causing people to be irrational and hate each other across the world just as monotheism has.

Atheists should be banned from the religion section...

As far as your argument that science would put various deity worship in an awkward position, over 50% of american's believe the world is 10,000 years old, which flies right in the face of science. If people believed in worshiping the sun, they sure could deny all science and still worship it today. Common sense has never stopped anyone from worshiping anything in this world.

No, not really. Evolution doesn't relate to anything in real life if you aren't a biologist. The giant, hot, blinding ball of light in the sky most certainly does. Same thing for meteorology or neurology or zoology. If people were obligated to learn more about where life comes from a lot more people would accept evolution, regardless of religious faith.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)
MouthWash
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9/29/2012 8:11:34 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Bump.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)