This is True
Randy Cassingham

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bullet  Why is a Touch of Equal Time a Problem?

As I put this week's issue to bed, I thought I had done a terrific job of handling what could have been a very controversial story. But let's go to the start -- here's the story from this week's issue:

Consider Yourself Spurred

Michelle Incanno says she was a Starbucks addict, buying beans and coffee drinks frequently. The Springboro, Ohio, woman recently got a cup of joe at her neighborhood outlet when she noticed something new on her cup: a quotation that, Starbucks says, is designed to "collect different viewpoints and spur discussion." The company invites replies on its web site. The quote on Incanno's cup read: "Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure." Incanno was outraged. "I was so offended by that," she said. "I just want coffee." She says she won't return to Starbucks. (Dayton Daily News) ...But if she does, she might want to consider switching to decaf.

Note I didn't say she was stupid, nor did I say she was wrong. But indeed I did imply she overreacted a bit. And she did. That's all -- end of story. Unless, of course, you're an overly sensitive reactionary type like, say, Ms. Incanno.

Indeed she's not alone in her overreaction. Here's the very first comment from a Premium subscriber on the story:

Randy, I really think you showed your anti-God bias in the story about Michelle Incanno who read that anti-God screed on her Starbucks coffee cup and decided not to patronize them anymore. As a Christian, I would have been offended too and am not going to buy Starbucks again. This is what the free marketplace allows for, right?

What I don't understand is why you put Ms. Incanno in with the stupid crooks, etc, as though her actions were either stupid or ridiculous. She's simply following her beliefs and acting on them, hurting no one in the process. Starbucks has the right in this land of the free to print what they want on their cups; Incanno has the right to refuse to fund them; you have the right to make fun of her for it, but I totally disagree that she should be lumped in with these bozos, like the minister who turned out to be a crazy pervert, stupid bank thieves, etc. You're making an exception for her, making fun of her for her beliefs, not her actions, like the others. I've supported you in the past, but this time I think you're wrong. Please let me know your views on this, as I think you should print an apology to her online for attacking her for her deeply held beliefs just because you don't agree with them. --Vivian, Florida

One thing I do like about Vivian's note: she didn't scream that I'm going to hell, etc. In fact, she defended my right "to make fun of her". But really, "anti-God"? A "screed"? Hardly. "Making fun of her beliefs, not her actions"? Exactly the opposite -- I said nothing about her beliefs. Vivian doth protest too much.

But even before I bothered to reply to Vivian, several other Premium subscribers had comments of their own that helps puts the story into perspective:

Why is it okay for Christians to literally litter the streets with Jesus paraphernalia and not okay for Starbucks to put a discussion question on a cup? Obviously, because it dared to imply that God does not exist, although the question, without that little implication, was very Jewish in nature. And even I, a wishy-washy Unitarian Universalist, think that Starbucks is better out of the religion game at all. I don't much like the idea of corporations making religious comments be they Christian OR atheist. --Mary, Kansas

That little blurb you included about the woman who won't go back to Starbucks was interesting to me. The majority of time you see stuff like that, it's something biblical, or about how great god is. Now for a change there's something which makes you think and doesn't infer that god is real, and someone goes nuts. I highly doubt she would've had the same reaction if it had been a biblical quote. --Michelle, Colorado

And:

What do you think the response would have been to a Starbucks cup that said, "Go to Church" instead of the opposite? I'm certain the answer would have made a True issue also. --David, California

Indeed a possibility, David!

Certainly Starbucks knew the cup would bring reaction -- and that was exactly the idea. The entire cup quote program was designed from the start to "collect different viewpoints and spur discussion," as the story itself noted. Ms. Incanno chose to go to the media with her point of view, and that's ok, but I'm "anti-God" to give her more publicity, or to help that discussion along? Please.

The a-religious (please don't read "anti-" there; "a-" simply means without) are told by society they must sit still and shut up when someone wants to force religion on them. But that's not reasonable; why is it that there has to be wailing and gnashing of teeth when someone dares to talk back? Why do so many in-your-face, fire and brimstone finger-waggers scream "Freedom of Religion!", but then refuse to recognize the same right in those who quietly speak in reply? Sure the religious have a "Constitutional right" to practice religion the way they please; why don't the a-religious? And if one side or the other decides to step into the public spotlight to sputter and rant, why shouldn't those who aren't addicted to caffeine be free to roll their eyes in reply?

- - -

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115 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Alice Shade @ Odessa, Ukraine. on June 5, 2007:

If only that was a single issue.

Sadly, there was many a time I read something similar. Why it is OK to defend any mainstream religion, but not atheism?

Frankly, the more I see of USA news, the more I come to believe, that there is something... fundamentally wrong, with whole idea of political correctness, as it is implemented right now. It seems to be selectively-blind, I`d say.

Posted by Conrad, Ohio on June 5, 2007:

"A touch" of "equal time" is right! The cup merely asks a question, just a tiny bit of sense in a heated issue, and it gets THIS sort of reaction? It's a tiny drop against a tidal wave of religious spew that, frankly, I'm sick and tired of hearing.

I was born into a Methodist family and remember Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and singing in the church boy's choir. But as I grew toward maturity, I bristled at the (as you say) "sit down, shut up, and don't ask questions" mentality of the church. It pushed me out. Let me say that again: IT PUSHED ME AWAY FROM CHURCH. Probably forever.

What sort of "faith" do people really have if such innocuous questions send them into a tailspin, like what happened with Incanno or Vivian in Florida? If they truly had faith, they'd merely smile at such a coffee cup (or story in a newsletter). That they protest -- either rashly like Incanno or, as you point out, quietly and even thoughtfully, like Vivian -- speaks volumes about the discomfort they feel inside themselves. You're not the cause of that discomfort, Randy, just a catalyst by shining what's really a tiny, tiny light on their souls. So I say not just "keep it up" but please brighten that light -- and shine it on all of us. Only then do we truly see what's in our souls.

I'm a Premium subscriber for life: work like yours needs support, and I'll be damned (er, upset!) if I sat by and let your voice waver for lack of support.

Posted by David -- Rochester on June 6, 2007:

Politicians pandering to the theist majority are fond of braying, "Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion!" But of course, if we truly have a choice in religious matters, then "none of the above" must be an option or that choice is meaningless. Atheism is a religion just as bald is a hair color.

You hit it spot-on when you said that if the quote on the cup had been a theism-positive one, there would be no story here. Three hundred years after the Enlightenment, atheists are still the most despised minority in the US and it seems to be regressing, not improving. A recent poll asked voters which single characteristic of an otherwise well-qualified candidate would be the deal-breaker that prevented voting for him/her. Atheism "won," hands-down. Really? Candidates for office must assure us that they will be taking recourse to imaginary friends in the sky for solutions to real problems. Failure to do so is the single best reason NOT to vote for such a one?

Randy, I commend you for not despairing of this stiff-necked people. It's more than I can manage.

Posted by Carter, Clearwater, FL on June 6, 2007:

Randy, It looks like Starbuck's plan of stirring discussion is working! Maybe they will add some of the quotes from "This is True".

---

Indeed Starbucks' PR people (and stockholders) must be gleefully rubbing their hands together. Ms. Incanno did exactly what they were hoping for: she went to the media. -rc

Posted by Denise, NC on June 6, 2007:

Ah, to have a life where there is everything is so sweet and peaceful that I could take the time to make a public fuss about a comment on a coffee cup.

Has Incanno spayed or neutered her pets? Is her neighborhood crime-free? Are there no orphans that she can go preach to while she feeds and clothes them? If she wants to make a difference, she needs to start with more practical avenues.

Besides, who doesn't get a boost to their faith and a warm fuzzy feeling from feeding orphans? O:-)

Posted by Doug, Illinois on June 6, 2007:

Her answer could have been as simple as, "I believe that God is not a figment of my imagination. My relationship with God provides me strength and support in good times and in bad." Or something of the sort...which could lead to more discussion...exactly what Starbucks was looking to accomplish. Last time I checked, the only way to debate is to take contrary positions...otherwise it is not really a debate.

Randy, thank you for continuing to show how people need to think before they act.

Posted by Andy, Mission Viejo, CA on June 6, 2007:

Randy, I have wondered numerous times what your religious beliefs are. The fact that I have never been able to form a conclusion simply means, to me, that you are very even-handed on that particular subject just as you are on almost every other subject.

Being an atheist and having studied a good bit of history my beliefs are anti-religious, however also being a pragmatic libertarian my actions are a-religious...up to the point where someone pushes religion on me specifically (not the general case of advertising, praying, etc.) at which point I react with cold logic but am invariably polite.

Thanks for your great distinction between anti-religious and a-religious!

Posted by CeeJay, OH on June 6, 2007:

Ms. Incanno missed an opportunity here.

By letting the newspaper print a front page article about how offensive the comment was, all the discussion around here (I live about 20 miles from Dayton) has been about whether or not this constitutes news or about her inability to accept any criticism of her religious beliefs.

Instead of complaining about the comment, she could have written a reasoned letter to the editor, or to Starbucks. She may have started a discussion about the existence of God and maybe from that discussion somebody would have been able to convince me that god is not an imaginary figure.

Yes, the right to free speech means that she can choose to boycott Starbucks and let the whole world know why, but it also means that Starbucks can print whatever they want on their coffee cups.

Ms. Incanno could have used this as an opportunity to get some free advertising for God...instead she provided free advertising for Starbucks.

Posted by bandit, Albuquerque on June 6, 2007:

I happen to be a Christian who think a lot of people who use that term have a ghod *so* small they can only see him when they have their head up their ass.

It is a sad commentary on the general state when the first reaction of most folks, on whatever topic, is to scream bloody injustice instead of thinking. Pretty thin-skinned, too.

For example, on topic, I keep hearing how "Christianity is under attack". In China and other places, yes. Christians are in prison in China for just being Christians.

However, in the US, this kind of statement is just silly. Sometimes it is in response to evolution, sometimes because of some very silly comment by a TV preacher.

This is the most pro-Christian place on the planet. A previous comment about an atheist Presidential candidate is spot on - they wouldn't even start. A Mormon has problems because they are a suspect splinter cult (for the mainstream). There is now a Creation Museum, for goodness sake!

I am not only a Christian, I am an engineer. I believe in both the Bible, and in facts. Nothing in the Bible is contradicted by any facts we know today.

On the subject of evolution/creation: The Bible account answers *every* question of who (God), what (created the universe), where (everywhere), why (for His Glory), when (in the beginning). However, *how* is pretty thin, until Adam and Eve. As an engineer, "He made a mud man and breathed life into it, then Eve from the rib" is pretty thin on details.

Thus, this whole argument is rather silly, because it revolves around a specific belief: that the Genesis account is *factually* correct in *every* detail, including how. But How is never defined. "And God Said" is a who doing what.

Everyone accepts that there are stories in the Bible. These are used to teach, not to be an explicit factual truth. "When the fig tree blooms" is a prophesy about the nation of Israel being reborn, not a factual statement about a specific fig tree blooming 2000 years later.

Genesis is a story. Simple as that. It was told to folks who had no clue about the universe, or their own (flat) world. The mechanism (the how) was not the point, but the rest of the questions.

I do not spend money at Starbucks, because I hate coffee. I think I will go in and buy a cookie.

I suppose we should be grateful the Starbucks cup didn't say anything about evolution.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 6, 2007:

Simply put, Ms. Incanno overreacted by going to the media, which was the point of Randy's article. 'Nough said. Now for MY opinion...

I don't think that Starbucks "simply" asked a question. It was predicated upon one side of a debate, inviting rebuttal. Fine, if that's what Starbucks is in the business for. Personally, I think it's stupid from a business standpoint, but it's THEIR company. If I don't like it, I can take my business elsewhere.

And, although many tend to argue with me, I maintain that Atheism is just as much a religion (as evidenced by so many proponents) as monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, or the many recognized religions without a god such as Buddhism or Taoism. As such, Atheism is as deserving of religious tolerance as any other, and its advocates owe the same courtesies that they demand for their own views.

Posted by Barbara in Utah on June 7, 2007:

I can't see why anyone would get their knickers in a knot over the food-for-thought quotation on the Starbucks cup. Count me double dumb for not understanding how featuring it in True is anti-God or anti-Christian.

I found the quotation thought provoking and the only way I can really see anyone getting offended is if there's some wobble in the offendee's belief system to begin with. How is this tempest-on-a-coffee-cup anti-Christian? Do Christians have the market cornered on God himself? Last I heard, there were thousands of belief systems all over the world and pretty much all of them have a God figure somewhere at the core.

I guess it's much easier to project those inadequacies as an attack on religion than it is to figure out why the quotation is really bothersome in the first place. There seems to be a missing leap of logic in some of the reactions. I can see where some people might see it as very clever, others could see it as tasteless, and still others see it as pointless, but I can't figure out how folks can see it as anti-Christian.

The outraged reactions to the True featurette and Starbucks blog are kinda retro in a way - isn't this the sort of thing that launched the Crusades and kept them feeding the war machines for several centuries?

Ordinarily a thought or slogan like this is not particularly newsworthy and the thing that makes the story True fodder is Ms Incanno's public tantrum. Or is it an instantaneous cure for her Starbuck's addiction? Or is it some kind of recruiting tool for atheism? If that's the case, then it flew completely under my radar.

Posted by Melodie - Olympia Washing on June 7, 2007:

As a Christian, I agree with most of what bandit says. However, I do think Christianity is under attack in the US - by people like Ms Incanno. (Not as blatant as the attacks in places like China - but pretty effective). As one of the earlier commenters mentioned, it's those kinds of attitudes that push people away from Christianity. Our country claims to be the most pro-Christian but acts less and less Christian every year. The sad part is people reject "Christianity" without ever knowing what it really is or experiencing the joy of true Christianity.

Any religion that can't withstand questioning is worthless. I was blessed to be raised by a Christian father that encouraged questioning. Maybe that's why I turned out to be another of those Christian engineers.

Posted by Terry - Michigan on June 7, 2007:

The kind of quotes that Starbucks puts on their cups says a lot about the corporate culture that they are projecting. The fact that this idea and all the quotes have to go thru committee review before they are ever put in production is very telling.

The one -ism that has been forgotten here was secular humanism....the one that would like to see god removed from everything. There are a lot of influential people buying into that as well. Didn't we hear Jesse Ventura and John McCain say that religion is for the weak minded?

It is those cultural mores being every so heavily and steadily promoted in our culture that bothers Michelle and myself. Everyone laments about the decline of our society, yet our Lord is a gentleman. You show him the door and he will exit and what you get is the society that justifies other people calling us infedels....and attacking that very culture.

Posted by Dan - Philadelphia on June 8, 2007:

As a Christian who is equally comfortable with the labels Mainline Protestant and Evangelical, I find it encouraging that Starbucks would be willing to even engage a question touching on faith. It's so much preferable to the standard ethic of encouraging people to keep their mouths shut about faith in the public square.

However, I do hope that Starbucks is fair in their choice of quotations and include some thought-provoking words which ask why we are often so eager to avoid God. Perhaps the "I need God" passage from Douglas Coupland's "Life After God" or Pascal's statement about only an infinite God being able to fill the infinite abyss within us.

---

As an observer, I find it encouraged that you're encouraged! I don't know that Starbucks has the sort of quote you're suggesting, but frankly I'd be surprised if they didn't have something like that. -rc

Posted by Colleen, Bound Brook NJ on June 8, 2007:

What a tempest in a coffee cup! I'm Catholic, and as such I believe in free will - each of us has the choice to believe as we wish. The best part of this adventure we call life is finding out the answers as we go along, knowing that many of the answers will be out of our reach, but reaching for them anyway. Peace be with you, Ms Incanno, Vivian, Conrad and everyone else who has joined in the discussion. By discussing and revelling in our mutual humanity and power to THINK, maybe we'll finally figure out peace on earth, goodwill to all.

And, I avoid Starbucks because I think their goods are overpriced! My personal free will choice.

---

You're Catholic ...so some people think you're not Christian and are going to hell. And isn't that sad? Instead of celebrating the 99% of the things you agree on, they concentrate on the 1% that's different so that they can shun you. What a pathetic way to live. So kudos to your way! -rc

Posted by Margaret, Oregon on June 8, 2007:

It seems to me that this type of response is what is responsible for the whole "Christianity under attack" idea in the first place. It almost always comes down to overreaction. I agree with Conrad's response - they are really reacting to the discomfort in themselves that such a question provokes.

I'm also trying to figure out where the quote is "anti-God" let alone that This Is True is "anti-God" for publishing it. The quote ponders why it is that in moments of crisis rather than relying on our own inner strength that we turn to a higher being which MAY WELL BE a figment of our imaginations. It didn't say IS, but may be. How is that anti-God? Not only did Ms. Incanno totally overreact, she completely missed the point of the question in the first place. Or perhaps she just wasn't able to answer it.

Posted by Craig, Macon, GA on June 8, 2007:

If you use the link in the above story to go to the Starbuck's cup quote program you may wish to know that the quote in question is #247; so that you may navigate to it more quickly...

---

Thanks! -rc

Posted by Derek Scruggs (Boulder, CO) on June 8, 2007:

Mike in Dallas said: I maintain that Atheism is just as much a religion (as evidenced by so many proponents) as monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, or the many recognized religions without a god such as Buddhism or Taoism

Mike, if not believing in god is a religion, then not playing chess is a hobby. Sorry, but I don't buy it. I don't "demand" respect for my views. I just wish Christians didn't feel like codifying their views into law and public institutions.

Posted by Garry, Dearborn, MI on June 8, 2007:

"Always examine possibilities on their own merits, even if they challenge your faith, always if they challenge your faith. If your faith cannot withstand the challenge of new possibles, or even new facts, then you need to reexamine the faith, not the facts. Facts are, truth is what you find within the facts, faith is what you take from the truth." -- The Tao of Phoenix

Posted by Joe, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on June 9, 2007:

We hear over and over that we are free to believe, "as we wish." Once my age exceeded single digits, I have been unable to make myself believe something because I wished it to be true, without evidence that is was true, and I cannot understand how so may people are able to do that.

Shouldn't we want to believe WHAT IS TRUE, and shouldn't we work to find out what that is?

I believe that much of the hysterical reaction to any questioning of religion comes from the fear that if the believer were to think about her beliefs, her faith might not stand up to the examination.

Posted by Don, Kenner, LA on June 9, 2007:

The reason behind Ms Incanno's "outrage" is extremely simple. Those of faith are certain of God's existence, and even our pragmatic Founding Fathers saw religion as a valued adjunct to the fair and moral ideals of our country.
The attacks on (mostly Christian) religions is based on the same Liberal and Socialist trends that see patriotism as a vice and moral codes as unnecessary. No, the a-religious and atheistic do NOT get equal time, because they have no alternative (of any substance) to offer instead.

I think Starbucks will reconsider their program in light of the publicity, which is likely to bring (deservedly) negative reaction. Would YOU *pay* to sponsor someone who opposed YOUR standards or YOUR way of life?

I think not.

You may not be anti-Christian but you do seem to find it convenient to ridicule them for being thin-skinned at times.

---

I comment upon stupid actions no matter who performs them. If you wish to call that "ridicule", that says more about you than it does about the commentary. -rc

Posted by Greg in Seattle on June 9, 2007:

Reminds me of an old joke where a reporter asks a hot dog vendor for his opinion on a religious issue. The vendor replies: "I got a deal with the church. I don't preach sermons and they don't sell franks."

It would be nice if more corporations took that attitude. I don't need my morning pick-me-up plastered with McMetaphysics.

If Starbucks wants to ask important questions, why don't they ask if it's possible to live in a major metro area on the wages they pay? For example, a single mom in Los Angeles County, with one kid, working full time at Starbucks for $9 an hour, would make about $1560 a month. Two unpaid sick days in any month and she qualifies for food stamps.

Let's see them spur discussion about that.

Posted by April, South Texas on June 9, 2007:

I find it interesting that one major point to consider here is not mentioned... AND i find just the same quote on this page as well... "Comments are of course the opinion of the poster."

I enjoy quite a few Starbucks drinks in the course of my weekly routine, and one of the things listed on each and every one of the cups I have purchased is that this may or may NOT be the view point of the company. Just because it passed the committee, doesn't mean that they believe it. It just means that the committee works like our dear friend Randy here. They think in a way that wants to get people talking about controversial subjects. That's all.

I was raised and still feel like a christian. Even though I choose not to go to church. Every church I have gone to has felt like they didn't want me there, or my beliefs were not exactly like theirs. Just because I don't go doesn't mean I don't believe.

I wonder if anyone made it a point to show this quote to our acquaintance Michelle.

Posted by Ray, Mitchell, Indiana on June 9, 2007:

I have always been somewhat amused by Miss Incanno's type of reaction. Some folks claim a deep faith in God, then overreact at the slightest challenge to that faith. Her type reaction is part of the reason that I have disassociated myself with Christianity.

But it is those folks that label any comment that "dares" to point out such an overreaction for what it truly is as "anti-God bias" that drove me firmly away from Christianity. Such an attitude firmly divides the world into two factions. The Godly (theirs) and the Hell-bound (everyone else) with no room for compromise.

I personally believe that God is an omnipotent entity known by many names by many peoples. I hope to live to see the day when people of all faiths will celebrate that 99% of things we agree on.

Posted by Dale, Wheaton IL on June 9, 2007:

This article is perfect for ThisIsTrue!

The exaggerated response to an innocuous statement or question is just one of the reasons I've been drawn to your newsletter.

As I see it, the various quotations and questions written on Starbuck's coffee cups are meant to cause controversy and discussion. For centuries, that is precisely what happened in coffeehouses. Where else except coffeehouses and ale houses are people drawn to discuss the happenings of the day as well as thoughts, beliefs, opinions and such? Now many Christians and most Muslims would never go to an ale house. But they flock to coffee and tea houses.

When they get there, does Ms Incanno or Vivian just sit there and sip their coffee in silence? I rather doubt it. They may not speak about religion, as my wife tried to make me not do. Of course, my wife fails miserably since I am overly opinionated and unafraid to discuss just about any topic that comes up. Be it Freedom of Religion, Freedom FROM Religion, Atheism, a-religious beliefs or the pantheon of Gods that our ancestors worshiped. I'm game.

The only thing I find offensive is those who allow only those who agree with their own form of religion to speak.

Indeed there is an attack upon God today. But it is an attack upon EVERY PERSON's God that doesn't match the "Moral Majority's" perception of what GOD is. That includes atheism, which is a belief in a non-God God, a-religionists who believe in an undefined power that can be described as a God in some form or another and even paganists. The last is the funniest of all, since ALL religions have Paganism as their core belief. Now THAT is a line that will spur a lively coffeehouse discussion!

So keep up the good work of pointing out the foibles of people, no matter who they are or whether your pointing out their actions is PC or not.

Posted by Dustin in Calif. on June 9, 2007:

Ms. Incanno has every right to disagree with her coffee cup. I just think she should have tried to enter into an intelligent dialogue with the cup before deciding to take the disagreement public.

If you let a coffee cup affect your life that much, you certainly deserve the "True" treatment. Everywhere you go you can find something to offend you. You don't even need to look very far most of the time. If ideas different from your own scare you so much, watch out, because there are lots of them out there.

Like other commenters, I believe in God. While the quote on the cup is definitely anti-God, I fail to see how that makes Starbucks anti-God for printing it on the cup or "This is True"/Randy anti-God for pointing out Ms. Incanno's overreaction.

I decided to go to the Starbucks site and read some of the quotes they have available there. I found most of them to be rather neutral in nature and fairly balanced between different points of view (there was even one from Dr. Laura).

I think a poignant one in this discussion is #216:

A very bad (and all too common) way to misread a newspaper: To see whatever supports your point of view as fact, and anything that contradicts your point of view as bias.

--Daniel Okrent, First ombudsman of The New York Times and author of Public Editor #1.

Obviously, the scope can be broadened to include email newsletters and even coffee cups.

Posted by Cathy, Indiana on June 9, 2007:

Perhaps Ms. Incanno's response was more guilt driven than by her being offended. The truth sometimes hurts.

It is interesting that many who believe that God exists, only call on him in times of crisis. Do they daily thank Him for the beauty this world offers? The fact they woke up this morning? For the joy their children bring them? Or do we merely go thru our days accepting life as our "right and privilege" and when something goes wrong, whether thru our own choices or out of our control, we ask or beg God to "fix it"?!

Perhaps when reading that statement on the coffee cup, she saw herself, knowing perhaps that she too only called on God when she deemed it necessary. Me thinks she doth protest too much.

Personally I think that God would like to hear from us all the time, in good times as well as bad times. After all who among us doesn't like to hear that we're appreciated for what we do?

My first reaction to reading the comment? It was thought provoking, did not smack of anti-God. AND made me think about all those who do wait for a crisis to call on God.

Posted by Angie, Kansas on June 9, 2007:

As a Christian, I find both Icanno's and Vivian's responses depressing. I've been taught all my life that when your faith is questioned, it's an opportunity. Maybe it's your opportunity to comfort someone who is troubled, or to "bear witness" to someone who is looking for a reason to believe. Maybe it's your opportunity to examine your own faith, to be sure that you can answer the hard questions (like this one) when you're confronted with them. And I don't remember any minister I know ever suggesting that the best way to witness to my faith was to say "Believe the way I do or else."

Posted by Anna, Connecticut on June 9, 2007:

Well, the key point in the absurdity of Incanno's reaction -- to expand on what Margaret in Oregon had to say -- is that the question on the cup was NOT a statement of belief from Starbucks. It was merely a topic for discussion. There is nothing to take offense to. So, to overreact to a mere topic of discussion is, as Conrad pointed out, probably a testament to Incanno's discomfort within her own belief system.

Posted by Leon, Lake Helen, Fl on June 9, 2007:

The existence of a supreme being can neither be proven or disproved in any logical fashion. However, it is glaringly obvious that if such an entity exists he/she/it does not meddle in human affairs. And I personally believe any such being would not embrace any form of organized religion.

Posted by Pat - Sydney, Australia on June 9, 2007:

Michelle Incanno overreacted in going to the media, that's true. What previous posters have overlooked though is that the quote does not simply invite debate on the existence or otherwise of God but strongly implies (by the second question) that those who turn to God in times of crisis are less intellectually capable than those who do not. I would think that many Christians might be offended by that, just as much as anyone else who felt that their opinions or beliefs were being used to question their intelligence.

Posted by Richard, Courtenay, BC Canada on June 9, 2007:

I find it exceedingly sad that all of this "debate" misses the real point of the quote on the cup - which is why don't we get ourselves out of our own messes without turning (and I think the implication here is that it's only at these times that many if not most of us do) towards God, or some higher power, for which no empirical proof exists.

I find it sad also that this has become a debate about Christianity vs the rest. Comments about people calling us infidels denies Christians calling non-christians heathens and the like. The point is that the original message of Jesus was one of tolerance and love, and Ms Incanno and several others here seem to have forgotten that. No wonder so many people refer to the supposedly offended religion as "Churchianity".

It was a great question, to all of you with a faith I encourage you to ask yourselves "Do I do that?", and to those of you without a Faith (in this more traditional definition) I encourage you to ask yourselves "If so many believe, is there something in it?". It's not that I want you to deny your beliefs or even change them, but to question them in such a way that you are certain and sure in your belief and that it is right.

I wish you all success in your search for answers

Posted by Michele, Toronto on June 9, 2007:

Some of the Starbucks quotes are from customers. Perhaps those who are upset by a quote should offer their own counter-quote.

Yes, Starbucks includes "discussion topics" about God, such as:

The Way I See It #250 In reality hell is not such an intention of God as it is an invention of man. God is love and people are precious. Authentic truth is not so much taught or learned as it is remembered. Somewhere in your pre-incarnate consciousness you were loved absolutely because you were. Loved absolutely, and in reality, you still are! Remember who you are! --Bishop Carlton Pearson, Author, speaker, spiritual leader and recording artist.

Posted by Dan, Boca Raton FL on June 9, 2007:

Well, I (an agnostic) am compelled to handle things with pro-God comments every time I spend, receive, or carry cash ("In God We Trust"), and have no reasonable option to boycott this (other currencies aren't accepted where I shop).

Posted by Neil, Titusville FL on June 9, 2007:

I somewhat agree with Mary from Kansas. As a Jew I can tell you that the question as stated by Starbucks was Jewish in nature. Go to a Synagogue and you will hear questions like that as part of the norm. I have even known some Pastors that ask questions like that. Why? To get you to think, to test your faith. Isn't that what Yeshua did, ask thought-provoking questions? Unfortunately most Christians that I have met forget that their savior is a Jew and his name is actually Yeshua, not Jesus, and no, Jesus is not the English equivalent of Yeshua. Constantine had all the Hebrew names removed from scripture and Greek names put in when scripture was cannonized and translated into Greek. Years later when scripture was translated into Latin by the church the names were again translated and then again translated into English when the King James Bible was written. The English equivalent of Yehsua is Joshua. BTW, ask anyone who speaks more than one language and they will tell you that names aren't translated. In a lot of cultures including the Jewish culture it is considered an insult to be called by a name other than your given name, unless you have given explicit permission to do so.

Posted by Noella - Missouri on June 9, 2007:

I believe CeeJay has explained it so well, though being a non-churched Christian and having many friends of various faiths, after much thought, I've determined my response might have been the same as Ms. Incanno (though I seriously doubt I would have gone to the press). In defense of Ms. Incanno, I believe that the frustration in answering the question put by Starbucks comes from a feeling of inadequacy in trying to explain one's faith. Faith is so closely connected to hope in something "not seen" and thus extremely difficult to explain to someone who seems to be a "non-believer."

Posted by Kermit from Tallahassee, Florida on June 9, 2007:

The comments remind me of a story about "Christian" tolerance.

In the 60's during the height of racial tensions,
a black man was ordered by God to attend a particular church.

The next Sunday he walked boldly up to the front door of the church. Even before he reached the door, the usher put a blocking hand on his shoulder. "You are not allowed in here."

Surprised, the black man turned away. Later he prayed to God. "They would not permit me to attend."

God answered, "Go back and insist that you be permitted to attend."

The next Sunday, the black man again walked boldly up to the front door of the church. Again the usher placed a blocking hand on his shoulder. "You are not allowed in here."

"But I insist. God himself has commanded me to attend this church."

The usher glanced over his shoulder at the Deacon, who nodded his head negatively. The usher then forced the black man backwards. The black man, barely keeping his balance, stumbled backwards, then retreated.

"God, they would not let me enter."

"Try again. Be more assertive."

So the next Sunday the black man went back, and walked boldly up to the front door of the church. When the usher attempted to place a blocking hand on his shoulder, he dodged it and walked into the church.

The Deacon, and two others forced marched him out of the church, and shoved him down the steps. Then while he lay sprawled on the sidewalk, the usher rushed down the steps and stomped on his legs.

Later, limping home, he prayed again to God. "They still would not let me in."

God spoke regretfully. "That's ok. They would not let me in either."

Posted by Bruce Doxey, Zephyr Cove, Nevada on June 9, 2007:

Well the Starbucks cup really worked!

As an anti-christian and anti-god person, I would like to point out that the innocuous question on the Starbucks chalice was a neutral question. It did not promote my view other than acknowledging the possibility that it exists. (If you want a more extreme view, just ask.)

---

I'm getting a chuckle out of this comment. If I were truly anti-Christian/anti-religion, readers actually think I'd be so subtle about it that I'd "preach" via little stories like this, mixed in at the rate of about 1 in 100 stories? That would be downright stupid, and few accuse me of stupidity. -rc

Posted by Jim B., California on June 9, 2007:

"What I don't understand is why you put Ms. Incanno in with the stupid crooks, etc, as though her actions were either stupid or ridiculous."

But they are stupid and ridiculous, Vivian, as is your letter -- not merely stupid, but dishonest for claiming that Mr. Cassingham attacked Ms. Incanno's beliefs. We don't even know what her beliefs are. All we know is that she is so screwed up in the head that she finds the mere suggestion that God might not exist offensive, so offensive that she would act against her own interests by shunning Starbucks. Shutting out any hint that your beliefs might be false isn't "belief", it's mental illness, a consequence of brainwashing.

Posted by Jim B., California on June 9, 2007:

"However, I do hope that Starbucks is fair in their choice of quotations and include some thought-provoking words which ask why we are often so eager to avoid God."

Who's eager to avoid God? A lot of people would love to believe in a big sky daddy who answers their prayers, and grants them eternal life -- if only there were any evidence or rational reason for such a belief. One religious poster noted the "closeness" of faith and hope -- indeed, religion is born from the fear of death and the hope of not dying. How can one avoid God in this society? Even atheists are identified in terms of God. No, what is avoided by believers is honesty about God and the reasons they believe. If you're trying to fill an infinite hole, good luck with that, but God doesn't spring into existence just from your need for it.

Posted by Jim B., California on June 9, 2007:

"What previous posters have overlooked though is that the quote does not simply invite debate on the existence or otherwise of God but strongly implies (by the second question) that those who turn to God in times of crisis are less intellectually capable than those who do not."

Well, if you turn to an abstraction instead of applying your own capacities, then you may be intellectually capable, but you aren't using that capacity. The question could be framed as "Why act as if you were intellectually incapacitated?" If you actually are intellectually capable, then why rush to be offended rather than apply your intellect and debate the implication? Sorry, but your very response adds evidence that the implication is correct.

Posted by Jeralie, Oklahoma City, OK on June 9, 2007:

I'm a long time reader of This is True and a new Premium reader. I agree that Incanno over-reacted. As a christian, I was not offended by the question on the Starbucks cup and certainly would not have gone to the press. As a thinker, I found the question interesting. Neither the article nor Randy was "anti" anything.

I don't like to see religious statements or logos on company signs, business cards and TV/radio ads. There used to be a company here that advertised "Buy a washer and dryer from us. Praise the Lord". They actually were not very honest folks. To me they're trying to use their religious beliefs to sell products.

I believe there are many paths to God and many interpretations of God. The older I get the more I talk to God and the fewer the "foxhole" prayers. If I get or find myself in a jam I try to get out of it, but I certainly don't hesitate to ask for God's help. Together God and I can do anything. I also don't believe in Hell. I think everyone has a chance for an afterlife and if you are truly not interested, when you die that's the end of you. There's no eternal punishment.

I enjoyed reading all the comments by other readers.

Randy, keep up the good work. Extremists, over-reacters, stupid criminals and zero tolerance believers need to be exposed.

Posted by Ken, Ventura, CA on June 9, 2007:

Years ago Ben and Jerry's had a banner pushing their point of view (it was not about God). I stopped going there since I don't care to have the views of the owners pushed on me when I attempt to buy their product, even if I agree. In the case of Ben & Jerry, I did not agree and thought that it showed how stupid they were.

Rather than having a discussion as to whether God exists or not, why not discuss whether it is a good idea to present views and/or comments which will alienate their customers. People go to buy the products, not get into a discussions.

I personally don't drink coffee and really don't care for Starbucks, so I think their actions are a good thing since it might be the start of their demise :-). One could ask why people are so lazy that they need a Starbucks everywhere as they can not cross the street to get to one and instead need it on their side of the street.

Posted by Casey, Citrus Heights, CA on June 9, 2007:

From "365 Days of Tao", pg. 160:

"There has to be informed revision to all tradition if it is not to degenerate into superstition. The true substance of any tradition will take new form without compromising its inherent character."

Or as I tell people about my own constant questioning of my beliefs: A belief without questioning is dogma.

If one does not question one's beliefs, is that evidence that they fear their beliefs may not hold up to scrutiny? Did Jesus tell his disciples to stop questioning him? To test one's philosophies is to discover whether they are strong; where they might be weak; to seek knowledge. My own questioning has led me to Tao and Zen. In these I find many answers that strengthen my personal faith. Therefore, I consider faith dynamic, not static. It is static when one takes umbrage at the question on the Starbucks cup. Perhaps a true believer would have seen it as an opportunity sent by God to develop a deeper understanding of why they pray.

Posted by Pat - Sydney, Australia on June 9, 2007:

"Well, if you turn to an abstraction instead of applying your own capacities, then you may be intellectually capable, but you aren't using that capacity. The question could be framed as "Why act as if you were intellectually incapacitated?" If you actually are intellectually capable, then why rush to be offended rather than apply your intellect and debate the implication? Sorry, but your very response adds evidence that the implication is correct."

Not at all. I wrote nothing to indicate that turning to God was an alternative to thought or action. People in a crisis can draw strength from any number of sources, that does not mean that they are not making the most of their own capacities.

Perhaps your response implies a lack of intellectual application. (Couldn't resist the opportunity for a dig :-))

Posted by Catherine, Milwaukee WI USA on June 9, 2007:

Of all the comments, I liked Angie from Kansas' the most - of negative comments about religion being opportunities. McStarbucks may be seeking to groom its "branding" image by posting provocative quotes, something Burger King is doing on bags and other companies do and have done through slogans. Frankly, I find Starbucks overpriced, and I am even more unlikely to patronize them - I believe in vendors who sell based upon substance and economy, not style.

I am a deeply religious Christian. I would very much like to live in a world where I will never be offended. But it's unlikely to happen, and it's both my secular experiences, education and reason as well as my religious faith and teachings which are consistent on that point. I can understand Incanno's personal offense at the particular quote, just as I understand that expecting guidance, wisdom or support for anything on a franchise's coffee cup is absurd. I think this is more a case of Incanno's having two loves she had become comfortable with: her Charbucks coffee habit and her faith, and then she felt betrayed by the former. I also think that pitting people of faith against atheists is a bad direction for discussion. I would prefer more discussion of people of principle (whether faith, reason, logic or whatever) and commitment vs. manipulative image-sellers and trendy materialists. The latter tend to leave corruption and dissension in their wake as they laugh all the way to the bank.

Posted by Shane Paul, New Zealand on June 9, 2007:

I agree totally with what starbucks did, and all the comments Randy made, I also totally agree that Incanno over-reacted, had she read it and thought for a few seconds she would have made her reply, left, maybe forever but she would have told starbucks her thoughts first. Not doing that made her look bad. Inciting discussion is not a bad thing. I know dozens of staunch christians who agree totally with what starbucks did.

Several reasons for this.
1. They went out of his way to not criticise either religious or a-religious (non religious) peoples for their thoughts, they just wanted to get people thinking.
2. The whole thing has obviously incited discussion, otherwise I wouldn't be posting this as I wouldn't have even found out about it, i'm not a coffee drinker but if i was i'd probably go to starbucks now.
3. It leaves people to make their own choices, doesn't force any point of view on anyone. When christian groups do their door to door knocking and conversion runs, I'm not allowed to just close the door in their faces, but they are allowed to waste 30 minutes of my time. (everytime they visit I tell them no i'm not interested, and that no i'm not willing to convert.)

I myself am often thought of as anti religion or a-religious, but in fact I am Shinto, I simply believe in nature.

Posted by Peter Upan- UK on June 9, 2007:

Ha ha ha ha, do people still really believe in "god" !!?????
It seems in America they do, more so than in every other country, why should we listen to the majority of this huge minority?!!! Most people in the UK (over 90%) are intelligent human beings and don't believe in god (although nearly 60% believe in "something"!) It is time for the intelligent majority to stop pandering to the minority of "believers" and take it upon ourselves to explain to these poor people that we are all responsible for our own actions. You can't praise "god" for good actions just as you can't blame "god" for the suffering in this world, it just "proves" his non-existence if you do.

Wake up "believers" have faith in yourselves, not in a medieval fictional story!!!!

Posted by Dan, Lansing Michigan on June 9, 2007:

"Atheism is a religion just as bald is a hair color."

Very true. Atheism is a religion that proclaims that God does not exist. It requires just as much blind faith as any of the Pro-Deity religions.

I am an Agnostic. I don't believe in God, but neither do I disbelieve. I too find it very offensive when the religious of any type try to force their beliefs onto me.

"People go to buy the products, not get into a discussions."

Many small coffee houses tout themselves as centers of culture. They host events such as poetry readings, philosophical discussions, etc. People do indeed go to those coffee houses in order to get into discussions. Starbucks is simply trying to do this on a large scale. Perhaps the comment should read "People go to Starbucks to buy the products..." because that is certainly true.

Regardless of what the source of a thought or discussion provoking statement is, can it ever be a bad thing? You aren't going to the Starbucks to have a discussion, but then again you aren't staying at the Starbucks once you've purchased your coffee.

The only bad thing would be letting the religious nuts like Incanno do as they wish, which is to kill all thoughts and discussion of whether one or more Deities exist.

Posted by Dick in California on June 9, 2007:

The sad thing about this story to me is the strength of the reaction of a person of faith to a fairly neutral, speculative question. If persons of faith find can't be comfortable with such questions without the "anti-God" reaction, how are persons of different faiths every going to get along?

Further, my recollection of Christian teaching is that God is in the heart of every believer. If this is the case, then looking within (deep within) is really the same thing as looking to God.

Posted by Jackie, Tacoma, WA on June 10, 2007:

Thank you to Pat who put a finger on what is frustrating about that quote. I can't imagine going to the media about something like this either; if I had gotten that particular coffee cup (highly unlikely, since I very rarely drink coffee) I most likely would have just rolled my eyes or something. However, it does get annoying to have people make comments like this all the time.

I was raised as a Christian, and that has undoubtedly shaped my beliefs. I think that judging from the various responses in this discussion, however, it should be obvious that this did not make my eventual embracing of Christianity a given. I took time when I was a teenager to research other religions; this was partly out of curiosity, but had I found something that made more sense I was as open as possible. I also researched information about Christianity, the Bible, and what it all meant. While doing this, I was open to the idea that I might discover that everything I had learned was hogwash. I would have found this idea to be sad, but I was more interested in the truth than in sticking to my beliefs if they were false. After having looked into things, I came to the conclusion that for me the evidence pointed towards Christianity being true, and I chose to remain a Christian. As human beings it is hard for us to be truly honest with ourselves, but I tried to think things through as clearly and logically as possible.

Having chosen Christianity, I continued making decisions that were logical consequences of that choice. Since much of the focus of Christianity is on developing a relationship with God and drawing closer to Him, I did my best to do that. I spent time with God on a regular basis (not just when crises came!), and this became an important part of my life. Another important part of being a Christian is trying to have act as God would have you act, and so I worked at trying to become the sort of person God would have me be (even at times when it was hard). And so on and so forth.

I can't say that my relationship with God is based entirely on logic. Like any relationship, it comes from both the head and the heart. However, I have done my best to make rational, logical decisions about my faith. Things I have seen -- both in my life and the lives of others around me -- have given me more experiential proof that God exists. You who don't know me may not put much faith in that; however, just as much of what you believe comes from personal experience, much of what I believe about God now comes from personal experience.

Enter comments like the one on the coffee cup, or like various things said by earlier posters on this blog. The thing that is frustrating is that as Pat pointed out, this question (and others like it) assume that faith is a completely irrational and illogical decision made by someone who merely wants a spiritual crutch. Time and time again I've heard the viewpoint that if you choose to believe in God, then you clearly haven't thought things through. In fact, you're probably mentally unsound, utterly illogical, or just plain stupid. It's an insulting and condescending attitude that frankly gets old after awhile.

If someone else has carefully considered the evidence and has come to the conclusion that God does not exist and religion is a sham, then that's their right. However, the fact that I have carefully considered the evidence and have come to the conclusion that God does in fact exist does NOT mean that I'm illogical or dumb. Furthermore, having come to this conclusion, the fact that I carry my belief to the logical step of praying and asking God for help when I'm going through hard times does not mean that I'm trying to avoid reality or anything else; it means that I am doing something that is sensible and reasonable according to what I believe.

So for those who don't believe in God or religion, that's your right. We can certainly have a discussion or debate about what we believe, and talk through our differences. I would most likely enjoy it. But please don't make condescending comments about how my faith is clearly illogical and irrational (to billions of people now and throughout history, believing in God [here I don't refer just to the Christian God, but to any deity] has seemed the best explanation for the world and how things work); or at the very least, should you choose to make such comments, understand that it will come across as belittling.

Posted by Kanika, Monroe, MI on June 10, 2007:

When I was a cashier, I had a frequent customer who preached God to me every time she came through my line. One day she commented that I never said whether I believed in God. Fed up with her, I responded that I believed the human race was put here by aliens from another planet and they would one day return for us. (I don't really believe this, but I didn't feel I should have to explain my true beliefs to a stranger.) She reported me to my supervisor, saying I had insulted her religion and that someone with my views should not be working in the store. If I was not fired, she said she would not shop there again. My boss had a talk with me about not upsetting the customers, but he didn't fire me. I strongly believe in freedom of religion, but people like this woman don't. They're way is the only way.

Posted by Dustin, Lawrence, KS on June 10, 2007:

First off, there is nothing in that quote that says anything about people only going to God during times of crisis. It does not address whether you go to Him during the good times too.

Second, I don't see any problems with Starbucks putting quotes on their cups which are meant to start discussion. However, I do have a problem with this quote because it does have negative connotations towards people who seek God for help during bad times (as pointed out by Pat in Sydney). The fact of the matter is that in some moments of crisis, you do not have the power to overcome within yourselves. And even if you do, going to a friend looking for guidance should be nothing to be ashamed about - it can help ease the process of recovery.

If Starbucks were to print a quote on their cups insulting the intellegence of atheists, then you can rest assured that some atheist would raise a complaint about it as well. And if they did, I would understand completely, as I understand with this.

Now, I feel I should add that I do not consider you, Randy, to be anti-God in any way for posting this story. It has certainly raised what is for the most part a very interesting conversation. Furthermore, I feel I understand your viewpoint - Ms Incanno did overreact, espescially by going to the press.

However, I am disappointed in Starbucks for printing this. I do find it offensive (though clearly not as much as Ms Incanno, for it wouldn't be enough to make me stop going to Starbucks - and I certainly wouldn't go to the press about it). I don't mind things that start conversation, but I would rather not be told that people who go to God for help are not people of intellegence - espescially if I am paying for it.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 10, 2007:

"I don't 'demand' respect for my views."

Actually, Derek, if you insist that the First Amendment be upheld to keep Church & State separate, then you do demand respect for your views. As noted by your next statement:

"I just wish Christians didn't feel like codifying their views into law and public institutions."

Every religion feels like codifying their views into law, the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindus, etc. It's just a matter of which country you live in, whether it's Christians or others. Perhaps you prefer a country that embraces the Official State Doctine of Atheism. But in America it IS your right to demand respect for your views, just as it's your responsibility to accord respect for the differing views of others.

Agnosticism is not a religion, because its adherents do not believe in a God. However, Atheists do believe (as a faith, mind you) that there is absolutely NO God, which to me represents a religion. The only difference is that there is no Supreme Atheist to lead the religion. That distinction also precludes Atheism from being labeled as a cult.

I don't agree with your views, yet paradoxically, I'm taking time to support your position. I find it interesting that you would argue with someone who does offer support.

Posted by Hank, Albuquerque on June 10, 2007:

As a Christian, my initial reaction to the Starbucks quote was that it seemed to be condescending and patronizing -- and that's what I found offensive. The phrase "figment of our imaginations" does not help. Nor does the adjective "cognitive", which does imply that that those of us who believe in this Figmnet may not be cognitive. The content of the statement is great -- well worth discussion. But could it have been couched in a less disdainful fashion?

Posted by Derek Scruggs (Boulder, CO) on June 10, 2007:

Atheists do believe (as a faith, mind you) that there is absolutely NO God, which to me represents a religion.

Really? So when are church services? What book tells me how to live? Who are my priests? These are all characteristics of religion. Atheism has none of these. It doesn't take faith not to believe in God any more than it takes faith not to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or that Congress will pass a balanced budget.

If we were talking about sports instead of religion, you'd insist my lack of interest in baseball still somehow makes me a fan. We are all born into this world without any faith. It's only from our parents and our peers that we start believing. I've simply reverted to the initial state of nature. Do you think animals believe in God? If they don't, are they practicing a religion?

Every religion feels like codifying their views into law, the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindus, etc.

And I wish they'd all stop, too. The Arab states of the middle east are an abomination. The politicization of Hinduism and Islam in India's Kashmir region is a tragedy. Europe was once just as bad until the Enlightenment got a toehold. Now it's getting bad again because the Islamic wackos are stirring things up. I don't believe Christians here are as bad as in those other places, but I can't believe we have actual presidential candidates who deny evolution.

Actually, Derek, if you insist that the First Amendment be upheld to keep Church & State separate, then you do demand respect for your views.

How does that follow? I have no respect for a lot of views, religious and otherwise, but I believe everyone has the right to express them. I just wish, as I'd said earlier, they would stop trying to put them in the law. Last session my parents' congressman sponsored a bill requiring courts to display the 10 Commandments. Imagine if I tried to pass a law requiring courts to display a plaque that says "There is no God." They're both really stupid ideas.

I don't know what you mean by supporting my position. And I don't care whether you respect my views. Just leave me alone and I'll return the favor.

Posted by B., New York on June 10, 2007:

I read the quote on the cup and I don't find it in any way inconsistent with religion. A religious person (which I am) "believes" in God. Belief always includes the lack of certainty. If someone were to absolutely know that God exists, then his/her "belief" wouldn't be anything praiseworthy!

Posted by Theodore, Beaverton on June 10, 2007:

I cannot prove that I think, therefore I cannot prove that I am. That's what 20 years worth of usenet flamewars about religion have taught me - and I'm a faithfull Catholic. I'm not offended by the message on the cup, but Michelle Incanno, Vivian, and indeed the author of the quote on the cup all make the same mistake: presupposing that just because the world works one way for them, it works the SAME way for somebody else. Such arrogance! When what is really needed is the humility to say: "God exists for me, but he might not exist for you - our viewpoints are of different universes."

Posted by Larry, Las Vegas, NV on June 10, 2007:

I am not a practicing theologian, atheologian, or agnostic. I believe everyone should have the right to believe what they want. But, if the holder of those beliefs chooses to express those beliefs in a way that is incindiary or inciteful to people of other beliefs, then I am against their right to so express them.

I was against the KKK from expressing their views in the way they did. I was against the Nazi's for expressing their views in the way they did. I am against the radical Islamists for expressing their views in the way they do. I am not against them for having their beliefs, only for expressing them in a way that is hurtful to others. You can believe in rocks for all I care, just don't start throwing your beliefs at me.

In this case Starbucks is attempting to coddle their anti-theistic (yes I meant to not use atheistic) views in the multiculturalist haven of "inspiring thought". What a load of hooeey. The verbage used was written with intent to deride a person's belief in a god. Any attempt to inspire thought along these lines did not and does not need to be written in an inflammatory manner.

I only wish I was a Starbucks customer so I could take my business away from them again.

Posted by Jim on June 11, 2007:

I am amazed at the last comment. If our beliefs upset someone else, then we shouldn't express them (verbally or in print)? Isn't that the basis of the "free speech" laws in the USA? I would hate to live in a country where you couldn't say or write down anything that is "incindiary or inciteful" (sic) to other's beliefs.

I do not subscribe to the beliefs of the Nazis or the KKK. If they constrain their organizations to only speaking and publishing documents, then I see no problem -- I simply choose not to read or listen to them. The problem occurs when people wield their beliefs as justification to hurt or kill others. This is not the case with the Starbuck's cup incident -- they didn't ask if you believed in god when you entered the store, then shot people or poison their coffee if they said "yes".

As Voltaire (supposedly) said: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

I agree with the sentiment that Starbuck's opened a can of worms when they decided to put thought provoking questions on their cups. Any time you present an emotionally charged (for some people) question, you're polarizing your audience and risk the rejection of some. It's their right for those who object to stop purchasing Starbucks products, but they cannot make Starbucks stop publishing questions.

I find it amusing that people get so bent about this particular question on a Starbucks cup. The question never stated that god did not exist. It's asking for people's input! Instead of attacking the QUESTION, how about answering it?

Posted by Brian, Jackson, MS on June 11, 2007:

Why do we have to slam other's beliefs? As a Christian I am very happy with my belief system and comfortable with the disposition of my soul. There are two things though that gets my attention in this story that prompts me to contribute.

First, I think that Larry (Las Vegas, NV) has it exactly right in his third paragraph. The tone of the wording used by Starbucks is not consistent with inspiring thought, but to simply hack on people who don't agree with their viewpoint. That's their right, but frankly I would have expected better from them and I will also take my coffee business elsewhere.

Secondly, Randy your comments sometimes do indeed go too far. However in this case I was not left with the opinion that you were casting aspersions upon Ms. Incanno’s choice of religion, but her apparent over-reaction to the quote on the cup. Hence the reference to her being over-caffeinated. No doubt that she was to be incensed by the incident rather than simply taking the higher ground and simply walking away and taking her business with her.

What Starbucks did was distasteful and a very poor reflection on a very successful multi-national corporation. I suppose that it goes back to momma’s teaching … if you can’t say anything good, then keep your worthless trap shut. They should be VERY glad that they didn’t put this slam on Islam or there would be worse consequences than simply an irate woman complaining to the newspaper!

Posted by Paul, England on June 11, 2007:

I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I believe God exists. I would say I know he exists, but my proof could be argued to be a symptom that I have a screw missing inside my head, so lets leave it at I believe. I do not find anything wrong at all in the Starbucks comments. Why not start people thinking about the issue? Some people might then arrive at the right conclusion.

I think the key difference is that I do not belong to any church / synagogue / temple / whatever (recognised or otherwise). I have no religious pockets to fill. It's just me and God, so why should I worry about someone raising a question, especially when the question may trigger people to think deeper. The problem is the religious industries of all types at some level all want your money and your obedience. If people spent more time living their lives in a better way and less time trying to decide how others should live their lives, we'd all be a lot better off. I don't succeed too well with the former, though I try. I'm not 100% successful with the latter either, though I try. I guess God made us human after all, not divine.

I have read the basic tenants of most major world religions, because I wanted to find out who was right, not just follow the religion my parents followed. Many have good points (thou shalt not kill strikes me as a good point) and agree with some of my beliefs, but I can see the corrupting hand of man in many of them (thou shalt not commit adultery starts to look like man's view, not God's). If you think about it logically, with all the difference in detail of religious interpretation, all but one of them (at least) must have got it wrong anyway.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 11, 2007:

And that's exactly the problem. ALL religions ARE the right one. Which, of course, implies that all religions must also be the wrong ones.

At its core, a religious belief is nothing more than a personally spiritual philosophy which explains the "Why" of the world to an individual. Whatever an individual chooses to believe for himself is, by default, correct. Subsequently, whatever someone else chooses to believe is inherently incorrect. So a person can be both right AND wrong at the same time about his core belief. Sounds suspiciously similar to Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Posted by Matt, San Diego on June 11, 2007:

One point that I feel deserves some thought centers around the notion of faith. Faith, in a religious context and as I perceive it, is essentially belief without concrete proof; in this case, belief in God without concrete proof that God exists. I for one, believe God exists, but I can't say I have tangible proof for his existence. Theological/philosophical systems/definitions aside, I think the notion of faith has a lot to do with the central conflict here.

Some people hold a faith that goes above and beyond the "I think God exists, but I don't know" belief system. They think God exists and draw from life experience and religious texts (among other things) as proofs of God's existence. On this basis, their belief becomes "knowledge". That said, this "knowledge" seems to be built on a somewhat shaky foundation, so whenever it's attacked by a reasonable thought or argument, the holder of this knowledge is naturally going to become a bit uncomfortable and defensive.

Although I'm not a big fan of Starbucks, I have to say they typically pick good quotes and the quote in question is no exception. As one who believes, but does not know God exists, I feel that taking responsibility for who you are is imperative - if there is no God out there watching over me and making sure I'm safe, but I assume he/she is and take a more lax approach to taking care of myself, the reality is that there really isn't anyone looking out for me. If, on the other hand, I take responsibility for who I am, how I got here and making any necessary changes to get myself out of here (if that's what I want), I have all my bases covered... either I'm the only one watching out for myself and I'm doing it well, or there is a God and we're both keeping close tabs on my life.

I also want to mention an interview I heard with Ayn Rand awhile back. I should point out, I'm by no means an avid Rand follower, but she is a very intelligent woman and makes some excellent points. In the interview, she pointed out that many religious people tend to thank and praise God when something goes well for them (picture the MVP athlete saying "I just want to thank God for..."), but when they fail in life or a part of life, they take the responsibility for it themselves (when was the last time you heard the guy who missed the field goal say "God made me miss"). Think about how self-defeating this is... giving away your positive achievements and harboring the "failures" as your own creation. The quote on this cup points out the fault in this mode of thinking. Although it does cast doubt on God's existence, perhaps it is not so much to critique God, but to critique humans for being so hard on themselves. Perhaps the quote was only intended to communicate that by taking responsibility for the downturns in our lives, we necessarily have to take equal responsibility for our own success. Further, the quote does not say "God DOES not exist", but "God MAY not exist"... big difference.

Ultimately, I think the bottom line here is this: we need to become more tolerant. The world is not going to cater its viewpoints and communications to our beliefs and values and with increased facilitation of communication through technology, it's likely we're going to be exposed to more and more viewpoints as our lives proceed. We can choose to let communications we don't like bother us, or we can simply go on enjoying our lives and let other people get bent out of shape over words printed on paper cups. Like everything else in life, we can either let things get to us, or we can slide the paper coffee cozy over the quote, smile and take stock in what's really important - life.

PS - Starbucks wins... we're all talking about their quote...

Posted by Bert in Springdale, Arkansas on June 11, 2007:

One wonders what Ms. Incanno would have thought had she gotten a Starbucks cup with this quote, courtesy of their website:

The Way I See It #224

Darwinism’s impact on traditional social values has not been as benign as its advocates would like us to believe. Despite the efforts of its modern defenders to distance themselves from its baleful social consequences, Darwinism’s connection with eugenics, abortion and racism is a matter of historical record. And the record is not pretty.

-- Dr. Jonathan Wells, Biologist and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

I suspect she would support the view very emphatically...

Posted by Mike Moyle, Lowell, MA on June 11, 2007:

"'Atheists do believe (as a faith, mind you) that there is absolutely NO God, which to me represents a religion.'

"Really? So when are church services? What book tells me how to live? Who are my priests? These are all characteristics of religion. Atheism has none of these. It doesn't take faith not to believe in God any more than it takes faith not to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or that Congress will pass a balanced budget."

Posted by: Derek Scruggs

Derek -

I'm not sure whether you're being intentionally disingenuous or whether you see no difference between the phrases "I do not believe in god," and "I believe that there is no god." The two are completely different in meaning.

Agreed, there is no Chief Atheist declaring the Scripture of Atheism, but this does not mean that Atheism is not a religion - merely that it is a faith that exists without the outward trappings of most religions. (This is a discussion that I have had more than once with my atheist friends.) A religion is, by definition, a belief for which no facts are needed - a FAITH.

Now, I have heard atheists say that there is no evidence that god exists, and use this as support of their belief that there is no god. But any honest investigator, of any sort, will admit that "nonexistence of evidence is NOT evidence of nonexistence." Thus, any "lack of evidence that god exists" is NOT evidence that She/He/It/They is/are nonexistent, but is NO EVIDENCE EITHER WAY. And making a decision without evidence is, as noted above, a decision taken on faith - a religious choice.

The only way that one MIGHT be able to argue, logically, that god does not exist would be to say "I have verifiable evidence that there is no god." Of course, this would then raise the question of whether this evidence is any more credible than the theists' claims that THEY have vertifiable evidence that there IS a god.

In the end, it all comes down to whose "evidence" you choose to believe or, again, a matter of faith.

(And, were I the suspicious and cynical sort - which, of course, I'm not - I might suspect that the reactions of rabid atheists to what they perceive as attacks on their beliefs stems from the same source as rabid theists' reactions to what THEY perceive as attacks on their beliefs, as mentioned by other posters here; an inner fear that their faith may NOT, perhaps, be unshakeable.)

Posted by Mike Moyle, lowell, MA on June 11, 2007:

One other thought, which I wanted to keep separate from my other post:

One thing that I have not seen brought up is the fact that Ms Incanno has admitted to being "...a Starbucks addict, buying beans and coffee drinks frequently".

My question is this: How many of those "questions for discussion" did she read that questioned OTHERS' beliefs did she read in her frequent visits before she decided to stop going because she finally hit the one that gored her OWN ox?

(I'm reminded, here, of Isaac Hayes' long (seven year?) stint as the voice of "Chef" on "South Park", which ridiculed EVERYONE - Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Republican, Democrat, straight, gay... right up until they made fun of his faith - the "Church" of Scientology - at which point he quit because of their insensitivity!)

Posted by Joseph, Hudson, OH on June 11, 2007:

Surprisingly, a quote from Weird Al's "Amish Paradise" seems to be a clear opposition to the attack on Starbucks:

A local boy kicked me in the butt last week,
I just smiled at him, and I turned the other cheek
I really don't care, in fact I wish him well,
Cause I'll be laughing my head off when he's burning in hell.

If you are truly sure of your belief system, it can't be damaged by another person, much less a quote on a coffee cup. This was an attack of ad hominem, attacking Starbucks instead of actually thinking about the message itself.

Posted by Krysty, Seattle WA on June 11, 2007:

Regarding the parallel Mike Moyle has drawn between this Starbucks "cup quote" situation and Issac Hayes decision to stop being Chef on South Park -

I can see how one could come to such a conclusion. However, what I feel is missing from this discussion is the fact that Michelle Incanno as well as Isaac Hayes have a right to discontinue involvement in something they no longer agree with. Perhaps the events that made them make that decision just cut too close to home for them. I reserve ANYONE that right and think it small minded of people to judge them for it.

---

I'm with Mike on this one: Hayes had no problem whatever spending nine years belittling every religious idea on the planet except his own. Giving Scientology the very same treatment that he gave others was suddenly "insensitive" and "bigoted". That's unbelievably hypocritical. Here (London Guardian) are (Hollywood.com) just (MSNBC.com) a few (BBC) links to coverage of that story. -rc

Posted by Krysty, Seattle WA on June 11, 2007:

Ah Randy, indeed it does appear hypocritical - but what of a person's right to change his mind? I'm sure at least once in your life you agreed with something and at a later time changed your story...

Again, this comes down to judging other people and their decisions. I'm not a Christian, but I believe Jesus once said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Good advice.

---

Sure people can change their minds. Hayes's timing -- after dispensing a dump truck full of stones -- is awfully suspect, though. It's a lot like the priests who rained fire and brimstone about sex ...until they were caught with their own pants down with children. I hardly think they should be excused as someone who "changed their minds" about what they were saying. -rc

Posted by Krysty, Seattle WA on June 11, 2007:

Wow! You're right...

Isaac Hayes, voicing a character on a cartoon, who then leaves the show for *insert reason here* IS a lot like priests preaching sexual morality and then molesting children. I never thought of it like that!

I agree, he SHOULDN'T be "excused" - in fact, he should be condemned, villified, and convicted in a court of law.

GIVE ME A BREAK!

MY POINT IS, WHO FRICKIN'CARES???
If he didn't like Scientology being made fun of, who gives a rip? Whiny couch potatoes that are mad the Chef is gone?
He's a GROWN UP and can do whatever the hell he wants.
Last time I checked, this was a free country.

---

No, Krysty, give me a break. This is no "insert reason here". This is a case of "I do what I want, insult who I want, do it for years and years, but then get all bent out of shape when I get insulted because someone does the exact same thing to me." If you don't see the hypocrisy there, you're really out of touch. -rc

Posted by Denise, NC on June 11, 2007:

"Would YOU *pay* to sponsor someone who opposed YOUR standards or YOUR way of life? I think not."
Posted by: Don, Kenner, LA | June 9, 2007 12:11 AM

Unless Don is not a tax-paying US citizen, then he is dead wrong. He and I and every other citizen of the US pay every day for other people to oppose our standards and our way of life. We do it through the payment of sweat and blood by our servicemen and women and through taxation which goes to pay for our Congressional representation. I assure you that many of the bills and policies being examined have items and agendas which I vehemently oppose, yet I continue to pay my taxes to support someone else's propaganda right along with the party line I ascribe to.

As a disabled veteran who has paid the price in blood, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by Lenore, Hoboken NJ on June 11, 2007:

Bert in Springdale, Arkansas suspects that Ms. Incanno would support the following view:

The Way I See It #224

Darwinism’s impact on traditional social values has not been as benign as its advocates would like us to believe. Despite the efforts of its modern defenders to distance themselves from its baleful social consequences, Darwinism’s connection with eugenics, abortion and racism is a matter of historical record. And the record is not pretty.

-- Dr. Jonathan Wells, Biologist and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

I can't speak for Ms. Incanno, but I will comment myself. I am an agnostic Christian, by which I mean that I don't know that God exists, but I choose to follow Jesus because the stories speak to me, and because Jesus was such a delightful rabble-rouser. I try to be the best I can be, to love others, to recognize the humanity and loveability of all people, including those who aren't like me, and to help work toward a fair world.

As far as Social Darwinism, the movement existed before Darwin wrote, though not by that name, and apparently Darwin himself was afraid that his work would be used to support it. Darwin's Theory of Evolution, however, has little, if anything, to do with human social and cultural structures. Even if our societal structures had evolved via natural selection, that would not mean we should like them or not like them, any more than I should like or dislike having blue eyes.

The quotation tries to associate Evolution with a nasty social movement because the movement adopted Darwin's name, much against his will. It's a dishonest argument.

Bert's comment makes the unwarranted assumption that Christians (or at least easily offended Christians) are anti-Evolution, and furthermore are willing to use a dishonest argument against it. I am very tired of the equation of Christian = Fundamentalist. Ain't true, my friend.

Posted by Krysty, Seattle WA on June 11, 2007:

I already mentioned I saw the hypocrisy in it (see previous post).

It's well established that South Park's premise is making fun of everybody and everything. I'm sure Isaac Hayes knew he would be part of that when he started as Chef. You act like it was a crime for him to do so & then get out of the kitchen 'cause it got too hot, so to speak.

I could give a rat's ass if he one day got it dealt to him and decided he didn't like it. In fact, it doesn't surprise me in the least. South Park goes to the absolute extreme on every topic for pure shock value. I could see how someone might feel the show crosses the line and might not want to contribute to it anymore.

I am a South Park fan and I saw the episode that started it all. I have to say that it did go WAY over the top with Scientology, compared to other religions that it has made fun of previously (and I've watched a LOT of South Park). However, that is just my opinion.

This is not serious news! However, there are many people who treat it as such. No one died or was hurt by his decision, except perhaps the pocketbooks of Matt & Trey (the creators of South Park).

A little understanding goes a lot further than a dump truck full of criticism.

It's been a pleasure having this debate with you Randy.

---

OK, fair enough -- though I wasn't the one who brought Hayes up. While I didn't see the Scientology episode, I've seen "WAY over-the-top" slams on religion, such as the "Don't call Jesus a pig-f**ker!" bit. It's hard to imagine the Scientology episode beat that.... -rc

Posted by Mike Moyle, Lowell, MA on June 11, 2007:

Krysty: Please don't misunderstand me. My comment was never meant to imply that either Ms Incanno or Mr. Hayes didn't have the right to "vote with their feet" when something offended them. Quite the contrary, the boycott is a perfectly valid form of social protest.

My only intended point is that, as my mother would put it, "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," or, as Yeshua was quoted as saying some 2000 years ago: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

If Ms Incanno was amused or intrigued when the Starbucks questions skewered someone else's beliefs but grew incensed when HERS were (mildly, in my opinion) questioned then (again, in my opinion) her actions were hypocritical. The same with Mr. Hayes' (apparent) comfort with his employers' ridiculing any religious beliefs but his own or, as Randy pointed out, preachers (and politicians) who rail against others sins, then try to excuse their own.

All of these are cases of "situational ethics" - the idea that what's right and what's wrong changes depending on the situation. "Do what i say, not what I do," is another way of saying "It's different when it hurts *ME*!"

I have no problem with someone who changes an opinion based on changing data - we all (hopefully) grow and change. The problem comes when the change in opinion is NOT because the ACT changed, but merely the TARGET (from "them" to "us".)

...and Denise, of N.C.: Thank you for puncturing the "What if it was something that YOU were against..." argument so succinctly. (And, in case no one's said it today - thank you for serving, as well!) There are many beliefs, philosophies, and groups in the U.S. with which I vehemently disagree, and which - if they had their way - would not allow me the right that I support for them: the right to speak their piece and let the "market" decide.

All I ask of anyone is that they allow me every right that they allow themselves and give me every respect that they demand for themselves, in return for which I will do my best to do the same.

Posted by LD, Ohio on June 11, 2007:

If there is one thing I would like everyone in the world to understand, one rule I would like us all to follow, it is: Carry your faith with you everywhere, but leave your religion at home.

All of us have faith in something, be it good or bad, and that faith is what controls our lives. Some gain faith from a single religion, some gain faith from studying multiple religions, some gain faith from nature and creation in all forms ... how and when one acquires faith is more individual than DNA, yet many of faith find others of similar belief with whom they can practice that which they believe in. And that group practice becomes religion. Religion can be, and is, written down and preached and sold and bought and sometimes even lived as an extension of the individuals' faiths.

Faith is the backbone of living; if you have a "bad back" you could end up with a "bad life," but what you are inside is determined by what you believe ... not what someone or something has preached at you. Preaching and reading will likely affect what your faith ends up being, but faith is within, while religion is without (outside)

If someone bad-mouths your religion, so what? Does your stand in defense, or ignoring what is said, make any difference to your faith? It certainly should not, since faith must be 24/7/365 while religion is per preset calendar, memo pad, published rules. Faith we cannot live without, but religion can be experienced on a periodic basis without damage to physical or spiritual self.

If all could see the truth, and accept it: Even if we practice the same religion in the same place at the same time, my/your/his/her faith is an individual thing, strictly one of a kind. And that is as it should be.

Posted by Paul - Erie, PA on June 12, 2007:

Don said: "atheistic do NOT get equal time, because they have no alternative (of any substance) to offer instead."

"Substance" being defined how? As a theistic system that you can safely attack on the same grounds that your own beliefs are founded on? A disagreement that becomes a matter of style, rather than substance?

Atheists offer reason. Whether you feel that to be enough is a judgment for each individual, but it's surely a system of notable substance. In fact, it's so notable that several Christians in this discussion have mentioned that they adhere to both systems.

I think the only concept more intellectually absurd than an evangelical atheist is an intolerant Christian.

As an aside, the simple fact that you assert that atheists do "NOT" get equal time doesn't make that an enforceable reality. Fortunately, you don't get to make those decisions.

Brian asks: "Why do we have to slam other's beliefs?"

Excellent question. That would be rather un-Christlike, wouldn't it? Except for that whole "hypocrites" thing. I kind of like that he made that exception. ;)

Mike Moyle said: "A religion is, by definition, a belief for which no facts are needed - a FAITH."

No, Mike, strictly speaking, that's a superstition.

A religion is an enduring social hierarchy based on the control of the followers, and of the direction and substance of a commonly held faith. Religions tend toward absolutism and division.

Faith is an entirely different thing. It's part of the belief system of many individuals, that helps each individual make sense of and deal with the world as they see and encounter it.

One is subject to human judgment. The other is not.

Do I think Ms Incanno over-reacted? My opinion on that doesn't matter. She acted within the bounds of civil people, doing no undue harm to anyone and breaking no laws.

Do I think she acted in a Christ-like manner? No. I don't. Her behavior appears to have been driven by anger, personal egotism, and a desire for vengeance. Claiming that to be a Christian set of motives makes it more than suitable fodder for Randy's pen.

Posted by Paul - Erie, PA on June 12, 2007:

By the way... This whole "Christianity is under attack" thing? Brilliant scam. I can just see it all starting. A bunch of middle class white guys in a room somewhere saying:

"Hey, we're the majority of the population in almost every ethnic and racial group in this country. We control most of the money and have enormous political and social power. But there are things we can't have, and that's unacceptable. Why not pretend we're the victims, that we're being attacked. That way, when anyone argues with us, we can claim they're part of the conspiracy!

"Everyone will be afraid of us, we can set the terms of political debate, our followers will send us more money, and we can have our next meeting in Switzerland!"

Motion carried.

And you bought it.

Posted by Derek Scruggs (Boulder, CO) on June 12, 2007:

Mike said:

The only way that one MIGHT be able to argue, logically, that god does not exist would be to say "I have verifiable evidence that there is no god."

Mike, you can't prove a negative. You can only prove a positive - this is a hallmark of science since the time of Newton, and it's the basis of our criminal justice system.

To me there is absolutely no evidence that God exists, so I take no proactive steps to believe in him/her/it. There is no evidence that sea monsters roam the depths of the Atlantic and occasionally come ashore to feed on young children, but my lack of belief in that hypothesis doesn't make it a religion. Closer to the real world of physics, there are a lot of reasons to doubt string theory, which I do. Is my lack of belief in string theory a religion?

Note that more evidence could emerge in support of string theory, at which point I may change my views, but that requires proof on the part of the researchers. Similarly, the onus is on believers to prove God exists, not just throw up your hands and say "well, what you believe is religion too, so we're really the same." Until you and other believers take up the challenge to actually prove your hypothesis -- as millions of scientists have done through the years without appealing to a higher power or accusing skeptics of having faith -- stop playing semantic games and leave me alone.

This is the last comment I will have in this thread.

Posted by Phil in NH (U.S.A.) on June 12, 2007:

I am a Christian (of the born-again variety), and I would have loved to have sat down at a counter next to somebody I didn't know and seen this quote on their cup. I am called by my Lord to spread the Good News to all the world, yet it's hard to bring up in casual conversation. I loved a good religious or political discussion (especially when there was polite disagreement) before I was saved, but now that I have been saved, I try not to offend other's sensibilities, which often rules out bringing up the Good News. What a great conversational opening!

Ms. Incanno may be a Christian, but she overlooked a great opportunity. Ordinarily, I avoid Starbucks because I don't care for the over-cooked/burned flavor of their coffee, but I think I'll start going out of my way to patronize their shops in the hope of getting the same opportunity!

Posted by Susan (Houston, TX) on June 12, 2007:

My first reaction was to think Ms. Incanno was quite right to avoid Starbucks. However, in visiting their website, I find that there are over 250 quotes being printed on the cups. Many are from well known authors and actors, but there are also thought-provoking quotes from Starbucks customers. If you look long enough, you can find quotes that would be considered religious or Christian as well. Oh, and did I mention, there is also a disclaimer that the quotes put forth by the contributors are not necessarily the opinion of Starbucks? Rather than overreacting to the quote, Ms. Incanno might have done better to do some research. Maybe Starbucks is taking a page from Randy's This Is True and trying to get people thinking and talking.

Posted by Vera (San Jose, CA) on June 12, 2007:

Brian in Jackson MS said: "They should be VERY glad that they didn’t put this slam on Islam or there would be worse consequences than simply an irate woman complaining to the newspaper!"

Brian (and others who see this quotation as attacking Christianity in some way), I think you're missing a very important point here. The quotation (your so-called "slam") was not directed at any one religion (say, Christianity). The quote said: "Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help?" It doesn't specify "Yahweh" or "Jesus" or "Allah" or "Brahma" or "Zeus" or "Thor" or "Manitou" or any other God you can think of -- just generically "God". The hallmark of almost all religious systems is a belief in some form of supreme being or beings, known as God(s) -- if you were to ask a follower of Islam if he believes in God, the answer would be "yes" but you should understand that to mean he believes in his God (Allah), not yours. And people who are religious tend to ask for help from their deity of choice in times of crisis. That is what the quotation is questioning -- why we seek this outside help at all -- not any one person's or group's personal belief system.

"You can tell the size of your God by looking at the size of your worry list. The longer your list, the smaller your God." ~Author Unknown

Posted by Megan, Canada on June 12, 2007:

Wow. I certainly can agree that perhaps such a thing should not be printed on a coffee cup, as it could offend some. Yet they do have a right (freedom of speech) to put such a thing there. Starbucks wanted a reaction, and they got one! But just because they wrote that on their cups is no reason not to buy their coffee. I personally am not Christian. If a coffee (or hot-chocolate, because I don't drink coffee) cup had a statement about Christianity on it, I may not like it, but tough. I wouldn't stop buying from that place. I won't stop going to school because we read poems that have biblical meanings in them. Honestly, I think she was being just a tad childish.

As a few others have commented, what if it were reversed? Surely, there would be comments on that too. And everyone has a freedom of religion. This should not exclude those with no religion or who are of different religions than Christianity.

I once wrote in my own blog about religion. I mean no offense to anyone religious, but some people are just plain childish when it comes to religion. "You have to belive in mine because it's the best" and "You can't talk bad about my religion or question it, because it's the best. It's the True religion" blah blah blah. It reminds me of little kids arguing over their favorite color: "Blue is the best color in the world, so it should be your favorite too." et cetera.

Posted by Henry, Ottawa Canada on June 12, 2007:

Looking at your tagline - Randy, you're not anti-God, but you might be anti-caffeine :-)

---

Sob! It's true! I'm so ashamed that you figured it out! ;-) -rc

Posted by Mike Moyle, Lowell, MA on June 12, 2007:

"Mike Moyle said: "A religion is, by definition, a belief for which no facts are needed - a FAITH."

"No, Mike, strictly speaking, that's a superstition.

"A religion is an enduring social hierarchy based on the control of the followers, and of the direction and substance of a commonly held faith. Religions tend toward absolutism and division."
Posted by: Paul - Erie, PA

I'm going to have to disagree with your definitions here, I'm afraid, Paul.

I would say that a "church" is a" an enduring social hierarchy", as you put it; or possibly *A* religion is a hierarchy, but religion, in and of itself, is a set of beliefs - something taken on faith. (See: http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion and http://mw1.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith)

"Mike said:
"'The only way that one MIGHT be able to argue, logically, that god does not exist would be to say "I have verifiable evidence that there is no god."'

"Mike, you can't prove a negative. You can only prove a positive - this is a hallmark of science since the time of Newton, and it's the basis of our criminal justice system.

"...Until you and other believers take up the challenge to actually prove your hypothesis -- as millions of scientists have done through the years without appealing to a higher power or accusing skeptics of having faith -- stop playing semantic games and leave me alone."

Posted by: Derek Scruggs (Boulder, CO)

Actually, Derek, I never mentioned what I believe - that was your assumption. In point of fact, I am an agnostic. Having seen no evidence that I consider compelling on either side of the debate, I keep an open mind. I consider that true Skepticism - the act of continually questioning.

As to "you can't prove a negative. You can only prove a positive - this is a hallmark of science since the time of Newton, and it's the basis of our criminal justice system,"; I may be guilty of sloppy thinking, or be the victim of sloppy teaching, but most physics texts that I have read tend to say that, by showing that light traveled at the same speed in any direction, the Michelson-Morley experiment proved that the "ether" did not exist. Sloppy terminology? Perhaps, but we constantly speak of "disproving" something as meaning "proving that (something) doesn't exist". In criminal justice, investigators are CONSTANTLY proving negatives. Often, admittedly, they do this by proving positives, i.e.: "the murder weapon wasn't a knife BECAUSE it was a gun", "the defendant was not the assailant BECAUSE he was in Katmandu at the time," etc.

In fact, the only way to prove that something doesn't exist, is to offer counter-proof. As far as I have seen, both deists and atheists offer self-referential arguments: "God exists because he says so," and "God doesn't exist because he hasn't shown us (me) that he exists, therefore he doesn't exist."

Therefore, in my opinion, unless a deist can say "I have verifiable evidence that there is a god," (providing concrete proof using anything other than scripture), or an atheist can say "I have verifiable evidence that there is no god," (providing COUNTER evidence, not merely citing a lack of evidence), then I will continue to claim that both are acts of faith (belief).

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 13, 2007:

"...stop playing semantic games and leave me alone."

The first time I saw such a comment from the poster, I was amused but let it pass as he may have meant to be let alone by society at large. But to continually seek out arguments and, then, continually ask to be let alone, is properly described as (noted by another) disingenuous.

Peculiarly, I only see Fundamentalists and neophyte scientists both proclaim (loudly) that science and religion are mutually exclusive. As more knowledge is gained, both in the infinitesimal world of neutrinos and the vast concepts of space and time, science is still looking for what pulls it all together. And that was the basis of speculation in "2001, A Space Odyssey," not to mention Heinlein's "Stranger In A Strange Land."

Posted by Scott Reynolds, Appleton WI USA on June 13, 2007:

I am a Christian. I vehemently disagree with the flatly stated (not "implied" or "inferred") opinion that God is a figment of anyone's imagination, but I'm not so naive to think that I can force everyone to believe what I believe.

In spite of this, and having occasionally bought a cup or two of coffee at Starbucks, it seems obvious to me that someone's missed the point that these are quotes from individuals who may or may not even be employees of Starbucks. On the site -- and perhaps even the cups themselves? I can't recall, and don't have one handy -- it says this:

Please note: The opinions put forth by contributors to “The Way I See It” do not necessarily reflect the views of Starbucks.

That's more than good enough for me. (It would have been good enough even without the disclaimer, to be honest.)

Thanks, Randy, for a bit of a chuckle, and a reminder that freedom is a two-edged sword.

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 14, 2007:

Putting a disclaimer doesn't automatically exonerate one from liability. Napster tried that argument but a court decision determined that Napster still provided the venue for the activity of others.

CBS has always provided disclaimers that the opinions of certain celebrities do not reflect their own, yet when Imus made his remarks, CBS still found it expedient to distance themselves from him.

Even though the opinions expressed on the cups are those of individuals, Starbucks still CHOSE to print them. Personally, I thought Starbucks was in the business of selling coffee, in which case ANY religious discussion would be anathema, but I may be wrong. Starbucks may be in the philosophical business funded by coffee sales. Only the client base will determine their success or failure.

The original article was about Ms Incanno's [over]reaction, about the same as some kneejerk complaint about an ad in the free newsletter here about Bush bumper stickers. The deeper issue in that would be whether to accept any advertising to avoid offending political sensitivities. The Starbucks deeper issue would be whether to discuss religious differences, regardless of which sides, or how much, equal time is given.

As most people have expressed, a newsletter is not going to abandon all ads because one single ad offended somebody. If the Starbucks discussion works for the majority of their customers, good-bye Ms Incanno, don't let the door hit you.

Posted by Pete from Brisbane, Australia on June 15, 2007:

I personally am glad starbucks put the question on their cups. The reactions from people have amused me greatly and make for a good yarn...keep 'em coming.

Posted by Jackie, Tacoma, WA on June 15, 2007:

Just a few reactions to some of the things other people have said about faith and religion.

First of all, I would like to point out that as far as I've been able to tell, it does take a certain amount of faith to believe that no divine being exists. Honestly, it has always seemed to me to be much harder to believe that the universe, our solar system, our planet, and the immense variety of life we have here came into being without anyone creating it. To me this seems like walking down the road, seeing a large stone house on the side, and saying delightedly, "That's amazing! I wonder how many years it took for all of those stones to fall in that shape.... and how interesting that it just happened to be in such a useful and liveable shape!" This is one of the reasons that although I did try looking around at different beliefs and considered the claims of other religions, I personally couldn't seriously consider atheism.

Now, this isn't trying to take a stab at those who choose not to believe in any sort of divine being. I'm not even trying to make a claim for Creationism as opposed to Evolutionism; I've spent pretty much my whole life being a fence-sitter in that area, and am comfortable there unless I find some solid evidence that points me one way or another. In all honesty, I don't feel like the amount of time it took for the world to be created is all that relevant to my day-to-day life in most ways. The one part that really matters to me is believing that God was the one who created things. Atheists are free to disagree with me, but it still requires faith for them to believe that such a complex universe sprang out of nothing (especially since there's no way to prove anything that happened so long ago, so ANY belief about that time in history requires faith).

As far as all religions being completely right, or all religions being completely wrong, I think both of those are exaggerations. The idea that all religions could be completely right is impossible. There cannot be one God who created the world, takes a personal interest in it, and sent his son to die to save people, and at the same time a pantheon of gods who interact with people in some ways but without trying to save them, and a distant, unapproachable God who created the universe, got everything started, and then stepped back and stopped being involved. It is not possible that after we die we are reborn, cease to exist, reach Nirvana, and go to heaven or hell, all at the same time. Most people who put forth this idea that I have interacted with (which is not to say that it is necessarily true of most people who say this) actually believe that NONE of them are true, everything is in your mind, and so it doesn't matter what you believe.

Of the same style is the comment that "God may exist for you, although he doesn't exist for me." (someone else awhile back said something along those lines) This isn't a logical statement. Either there is/are (a) divine being(s) out there, or not. Our belief doesn't change their existence (or lack thereof) in any way, any more than I cease existing because someone says that I don't.

The view that all of them are completely wrong also rings false to me. A majority of faiths tend to have reasonably similar views on morality, and many have overlapping ideas on divine beings as well. One could argue that this is just a coincidence, or an element of the way humans have evolved, or something else. If one believes one of those religions, one might claim that these things are universal truths. I personally would freely admit that a large percentage of what I believe is the same as what those of other faiths believe. There are of course things that are different; as a Christian, I would argue that Jesus is an important difference. Yet I would never say that I am 100% right and everyone else is 100% wrong (I wouldn't even say that I'm 100% right; of course I agree with the things I believe in, or I wouldn't believe in them, but I'm wise enough to know that some of those things are undoubtedly not true).

(Note to the last person who posted on the last page [my browser cut your name off]: You don't necessarily need an opportunity for a quote like this to talk about your faith. As you can see, people tend to be very interested in such topics. If you lambast them with what you believe and ridicule them for believing something else, of course they won't like it. But if you discuss it respectfully, genuinely listen to their opinions, and don't try to force them to believe the same thing as you, many people will be glad to talk about such things. One of the all-time best conversations I had about religion was with someone close to me who was of a different faith. I was trying to learn about her faith and found a book comparing her faith to Christianity. Since we had tentatively discussed such things before, I brought the book to her and said, "Hey, I got this book, but I'm not sure how accurate it is in presenting what you believe. [the author was a Christian] How about if I read it and then we discuss it?" She agreed, and so I took notes when I was reading through it. I came to her after various sections and asked her questions about some of the things in there; it was a great springboard into a lot of good conversations that gave us both food for thought, and she wasn't offended because she could tell that I wasn't trying to force her into agreement with me, but rather seeking an understanding of what her faith was all about. Just a thought.)

Okay, sorry about the longwindedness; I guess I should check in more often so I don't have to respond to so many posts!

Posted by Leisa in Los Angeles on June 16, 2007:

Why is it so easy to be offended these days? Have everyone's belief systems become so fragile as to risk tumbling down when questioned?

I always thought that with belief comes strength, so that when that belief is questioned you can answer well-reasoned, not run off crying to the media that someone questioned you. In America at least, society has become so thin-skinned that the very mention of alternating points of view is fodder for outrage. Questioning becomes condemnation. Opinions become slander. When did we become a nation of sissies?

Posted by Jo, Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 16, 2007:

It does concern me a little that people get so exercised over any remark involving Christianity or the Christian God, but allow the Muslims to express their (in my opinion) even wackier beliefs. I am not much of a believer in any of the manifestations of the God of any bible or "holy" book, but it sure seems that the Muslims and the believers in radical Islam are getting a great big pass the rest of the religious communities are denied.

Posted by Christopher, Washington DC on June 18, 2007:

I really believe that most of the posts on this topic miss the entire point. It's not whether it's "ok" for this group or that group to "litter the streets" with their points of view, or whether the person was right or wrong to go to the media or to Starbuck's management, or to anyone else for that matter.

Bottom line - freedom of speech was exercised here, properly, by all parties involved. Neither party was out of line. Neither party crossed a forbidden boundary. Neither party suffers as a result of unfair practices.

I'm still scratching my head wondering why it was a news story to begin with. I can only imagine that religion being such a sensitive subject, the REAL news is in the stir caused by publishing the tale.

Posted by jTerry - Michigan on June 30, 2007:

This just proves that you need to be careful of bringing up religion and politics as a topic for discussion.....I guess you could say it is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates.

I find that it is refreshing that we can talk about isms, religion or non-religion in an open forum, with honest debate and respect to everyone's opinions. I also find that it is very telling that no one had enough hutzpah to throw Islam in the mix. Those who are not open to debate because they view all who are debating as infedels and fools. That is more what we should be fearing and outraged about. Those who are so bent on their own faith that they are willing to impose it on everyone at any cost....not the one who is tired of being bashed and has just had enough to be outraged about it. Of all the religions in this country...Christianity is the only one that is fair game for everyone to put down and we are always expected to turn the other cheek. There are times when righteous indignation is called for...and in this case, times when honest debate and reflection is good!

---

I've never had a Muslim try to convert me, but hundreds of Christians have -- without even trying to understand what it is I do believe. The problem isn't Islam, it's fundamentalism -- no matter who is behind it.

And yes, some care is needed. But avoidance of the discussion is more dangerous. We must have such discussions. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on June 30, 2007:

Randy, I appreciate what you're saying about fundamentalism, rather than any one particular religion. But let's be honest. The reason you haven't experienced the Muslim pressure to convert is due to overwhelming numbers of Christians in this country.

Go to Saudi Arabia. First, if you're Jew, you won't get in, nor would you want to, because it's likely you won't come out. If you're Christian, keep it very much low and under wraps. Same for just about any other religion.

Oh, even though you're not Muslim, be very careful to observe every (even seemingly insignificant) sensitivity about Islam. Although today as a Westerner, you're no longer REQUIRED to kneel down and pray with everyone else during the multi prayer times, you still better stop whatever you're doing, remain quiet, and try to blend into the woodwork. As a non-believer, never ever make the mistake of walking into a mosque, even by error, or professed curiosity about converting.

If no Muslim has ever tried to convert you, consider yourself very lucky. But if one ever does, my recommendation is that you express understanding, respect, and no dissent. Again, due to numbers, you probably won't die in America for refusing the Word of Allash, but there are countries where you will.

In Saudi Arabia, the only written law IS the Koran. And judgements are rendered by a tribunal based upon interpretation of that "law". As a non-Muslim, even your "rights" as an accused are decided by that same interpretation.

If it sounds like I'm trying to scare you, I couldn't possibly describe in a few words what the reality is like. You'd have to experience it for yourself.

---

Of course that's true (that it's because I live in the U.S., and have not traveled to the Middle East). According to ReligionTolerance.org, there are between 1.6 and 7 million Muslims in the U.S., depending on whose numbers you use. Let's assume that 7 is an exaggeration, and use 2 million; that implies .66% of the population is Islamic. I live in a small town, so it's probably less here. I used to live in Los Angeles and in San Francisco; it's probably more in both those places. I've certainly seen them, their mosques. Yet I've never been proselytized by them -- that's been 100% by Christians (including JWs and Mormons). And never, come to think of it, by Jews.

So yes, the numbers are low, but definitely not unnoticeably so. -rc

Posted by Dan from California on June 30, 2007:

How many "GODs" are there???? One for the Christian Faith, a different one for the Buddists, still another for the Jewish, and again a different one for Islam, etc, etc, etc... for every other religion?

This reminds me of the Old Testament where our (and I mean all our) ancestors worshipped "IDOLS" or "STARS" or "VOLCANOS" etc as their GODs. So my thought is this, either we as inhabitants of this rock whirling thru space realize there are either thousands of GODs, one GOD, or for others no GOD, and just stop the infighting and live in peace no matter which if any religous belief you hold.

Posted by Doug in Buffalo on June 30, 2007:

If God is a figment of your imagination, then praying IS looking inside yourself. Duh. Starbucks could use more competent question writers.

"But indeed I did imply she overreacted a bit. And she did."

The position that people of faith are not "cognitive beings" is not a thought-provoking one; it's flatly derogatory, and Starbucks chose to print it on their cups. It's not a criticism of her religious beliefs, it's a criticism of her personally, just for having them. When a business takes pains to insult you, refusing to give them your money anymore is not over-reacting. When you portray this woman's reasonable reaction as over-wrought, you simply demonstrate how little regard you also have for her; you deny her the right to indignation in the face of insult.

If you'd gotten a Starbucks cup that declared the sheer idiocy of advocating dvorak keyboards, and ridiculed the sort of drooling lackwits who choose waste time doing so, you'd probably not be keen to open your wallet for them again. I think you'd be unlikely to find that such a statement was motivated merely by a desire to "spur discussion", and you probably don't appreciate my saying so in any event. And yet I didn't even suggest that a core component of your personal identity was a figment of your own imagination in the same breath - I just mocked your nutty predilection for hardware.

"It's a lot like the priests who rained fire and brimstone about sex ...until they were caught with their own pants down with children."

Which priests were those?

"I've never had a Muslim try to convert me"

You're mistaken. Perhaps you didn't recognize it for what it was, but the proselytizing has already begun. Unless you go looking to convert, Muslims do it differently than through the conversation or argument that you've apparently come to expect of a Christian. As recently as a few months ago, Iran's President Ahmadinejad invited the entire U.S. to Islam (as Osama bin Laden did before him). That's the first step a Muslim must take to convert non-Muslim lands (dar al-Harb) to Muslim lands (dar al-Islam).

The second, incidentally, is to allow the people of the land to keep their beliefs, but pay a tax (jizya) to the Islamic body politic (ummah). As an able-bodied man who is likely not considered poor, you bear the burden of this tax. Should paying the tax be declined, the third option is to fight for your submission, i.e. outright conquest. Even once conquered you don't have to convert, of course; you can choose to live as a legally second class citizen, and pay your "I'm not Muslim tax" anyway.

Call me kooky, but I like the Christian way better. Having a couple dozen people insist that I need Jesus to keep from burning in hell is just not a hardship. It does me no harm to humor them, or to firmly disagree and go about my day. But why would hundreds (?!) of Christians be trying to convert you when you're already Christian?

@Alice in Ukraine - "Frankly, the more I see of USA news, the more I come to believe, that there is something... fundamentally wrong, with whole idea of political correctness, as it is implemented right now."

There's something fundamentally wrong with it any way you choose to implement it. It's the zero-tolerance of thought police.

@Derek in Boulder - "Mike, you can't prove a negative."

Not to be too pedantic, but within reasonable limits you certainly can. I can prove that I have no banana in my desk drawer, and no elephant in my garage quite easily. When you broaden the parameters to proving that I have no boat in the state of New York, or no iPod Nano anywhere on Earth, the unreasonable limits make the position unprovable.

@Mike in Dallas - "Again, due to numbers, you probably won't die in America for refusing the Word of Allash, but there are countries where you will."

This is where some knowledge of Islam could be useful. It is prohibited to spread Islam (but not sharia law) by the sword, but reminding one who so accosts you could be a slap in the face coming from a kuffir, and you should be careful not to shame them, since this may -- culturally, if not religiously -- entitle them to retalliation.

You might pre-empt such a confrontation, however, by requesting aman (loosely, a writ of safe conduct) from an imam of a place you intend to visit. A lesser sort of aman can be granted by any Muslim, but this seems to be an iffy proposition since the different schools of jurisprudence apparently disagree on just who may give it, and how much weight it should carry. If you get nowhere with an imam (or any designated representative), an adult Muslim male is your best bet for the lesser sort. Or so I've read. In any event, even with an aman, you are expected to demonstrate respect for Islam, since disrespect will be punished in the usual ways. But at least you won't be killed just for being a harbi.

Posted by Vern, Gold Coast Australia on June 30, 2007:

This is not original, but I cannot remember the source. "Religious wars are caused by those who believe that their imaginary friend is better than anybody else's".

Posted by Beth, NC on July 7, 2007:

Although I generally smile or chuckle at the Starbucks cup-quotes, I don't generally argue with my coffee cup. I agree that your only point was that Ms. Incanno overreacted, and it also suggests to me that it must be a rather shaky foundation to your faith if you have to be so defensive about it. It's a QUOTE on a COFFEE CUP. I'm surprised at how many people have, um, overreacted to it!

Posted by Mike from Dallas on July 7, 2007:

Ah, I finally caught on to what you were saying. Yes, statistically you'd expect the number of proselytizing attempts to be lower but still evident. But those statistics further reduce the likelihood.

SE Michigan has probably some of the highest concentration of Muslim adherents in the U.S. There are Troy, Sterling Heights, and Dearborn to name the most major concentrations. Yet you still will see no attempts at conversion. You ventured a ratio of .66%. Let's TRIPLE that estimate to nearly 2%.

You might think that you'd see, statistically out of all attempts, that 2% of them would be Muslim. But with 98% of the population that's non-Muslim, that 2% will be very quiet in their views, appearing to be nearly 0%. In Middle Eastern countries where Christians number 5%, 10%, even 20%, you'll find that they're still very quiet about their faith. Not like Christians you'll encounter in the U.S. who are confident in the support of their numbers.

Posted by Brian in California on July 8, 2007:

Doug in Buffalo:

Ms. Incanno's boycott wasn't the overreaction, it was her very public announcement of it. If she felt like telling her friends about her outrage and getting them to boycott, that's fine. Calling a press conference? I'd say that's an overreaction.

Posted by Laura, Maine on July 9, 2007:

In fact, the only way to prove that something doesn't exist, is to offer counter-proof. As far as I have seen, both deists and atheists offer self-referential arguments: "God exists because he says so," and "God doesn't exist because he hasn't shown us (me) that he exists, therefore he doesn't exist."

I don't see how the second argument is self-referential or circular. You made it sound self-referential by repeating "therefore he doesn't exist" at the end, but "God doesn't exist because he hasn't shown me that he exists" would be a complete argument. And for that matter, I've heard better arguments from Christians than "God exists because he says so (although I've heard that one, too). I don't think that it's fair to take one of their weaker arguments and treat it as though it's their only argument.

As to "you can't prove a negative. You can only prove a positive - this is a hallmark of science since the time of Newton, and it's the basis of our criminal justice system,"; I may be guilty of sloppy thinking, or be the victim of sloppy teaching, but most physics texts that I have read tend to say that, by showing that light traveled at the same speed in any direction, the Michelson-Morley experiment proved that the "ether" did not exist. Sloppy terminology? Perhaps, but we constantly speak of "disproving" something as meaning "proving that (something) doesn't exist". In criminal justice, investigators are CONSTANTLY proving negatives. Often, admittedly, they do this by proving positives, i.e.: "the murder weapon wasn't a knife BECAUSE it was a gun", "the defendant was not the assailant BECAUSE he was in Katmandu at the time," etc.

How would you disprove the existence of God by proving a positive? I'm not sure that it would be possible unless you were proving the existence of a different god who is all-knowing and who says that God does not exist.

More than one person has asserted that atheism requires just as much faith as theism, and is therefore just as much of a religion as Christianity. (Most of them were agnostics--the last people I would have expected dogmatic assertions from.) I suppose that if you consider the fact that for many Christians, the balance of the evidence overwhelmingly points to the existence of God, you could say that that's true. But my experience, and the experience of all atheists I've talked to, is that we recognize that it's impossible to prove beyond doubt that God does not exist, but we don't feel that there is any credible evidence for God's existence. In this situation, we feel that being agnostic is comparable to saying that we don't know whether Sasquatch exists because there's no solid evidence one way or the other. That's technically true, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that the possibility is so small that I'm not going to take it into account in choosing my actions (although I'm open to changing my mind if I see stronger evidence). Is that faith? In a loose sense, yes. To me, the proper utilization of faith is to stop worrying about infinitesimal possibilities ("what if I get hit by a car on the way to work today?" etc) and get on with one's life. But "faith" in a strong sense--believing something because it's what you hope is true/want it to be true/think you should believe, even if going by logic alone you're not sure--simply doesn't apply to my beliefs. I find it a bit insulting/condescending for non-atheists to talk with such certainty about how much of this type of faith my beliefs must require, just because they don't find the arguments of atheism as convincing as I do.

I've seen both Christians and atheists speak condescendingly about the beliefs of others. After reading this thread, now I've seen it from agnostics, too. Some of the agnostics seem to think that they're above that sort of thing, all the while telling us (i.e., non-agnostics) how irrational our beliefs are.

Posted by Margarita, Virginia on July 15, 2007:

. . . So what I would like to know is this, when Ms.Incanno purchased a cup of coffee 3 weeks prior to this incident and the cup read a quote by, oh say Stalin or even Mao, did she react the same? Why not? Wasn't she offended by the clearly anti-democratic message? Or did she not react because her faith in her country's system of government was strong enough that she did not feel the need to defending it? Hmm makes you think. Is her faith in her 'Religion' not as strong in that she feels the need to object loudly to draw attention away from her "weak faith"?

My mother once told me that when dealing with religion we should always have "Quiet faith and deeds." In other words, a true christian needs no loud flashy advertising to show faith.

-- A Chrisitian Work In Progrss

Posted by Craig Portland, OR on July 18, 2007:

Several years ago I was on a long distance trip in my car
and stopped into a rest area on the highway.

On my way to the restroom a youth stopped me and offered
a religious pamphlet. I said, "No thanks. I don't believe in
proselytizing."

After using the restroom, I decided to visit the historical
display that this particular rest area had. While I was reading
about the westward migration of the pioneers of the area, the
youth approached me and asked, "What's proselytizing?"

Posted by The J, Las Vegas, NV on July 19, 2007:

I find it interesting how many religious people say "Atheism is a religion" and how many people adopt that religious label to define themselves by and then try to argue that "I'm an Atheist and Atheism is not a religion".

Atheist and Atheism are part of the Christian religion. People have always felt the need to label others by their own belief systems.

"Nigger", "Piker", "Faggot", "Spic" and a host of others were/are words of hate used by bigoted, narrow minded people to define others having a different skin color, heritage, lifestyle, national origin by their own intolerant standards. It unites those having ideas unable to stand on merit.

Atheist is no different. It , too, uses a label created solely to define a person that thinks differently.

Asense, (without sense). There's a word that a person who does not have a belief in mysticism could use to define mystics.

That person would have to join that long line of bigoted, narrow minded, intolerant groups that have always bonded those who wallow in ignorance.

The ignorance is not the belief. The southern whites believing they were great was not the issue, it was stating others were inferior. That is the problem.

And that is what the word Atheist does. It is an offensive, intolerant, bigoted word created by people that can bind themselves together by stating how morally superior they are to all those that do not believe as they do. Those they label as Atheists.

I do not accept that label. I will NOT define myself by the narrow minded labels offered by others. My morality will not allow me to subjugate myself to those that would use hate words.

It is an offensive word, but just as the grunting sounds of a pig are only a series of sounds in the truest sense I do not grant those bigots who wish to apply that series of sounds they call "Atheist" power over me by even taking offense.

I accept that they are achieving what they wish for in this life then look to achieve the same in my own life by associating with people of morality . . . no matter their skin color, heritage, lifestyle, national origin or belief.

The Starbucks cup asked a question. One that could be answered in many ways depending on your focus. One that needs answered.

Without resorting to name calling.

Posted by Laura, Maine on July 29, 2007:

Atheist is no different. It , too, uses a label created solely to define a person that thinks differently.

...Well, I suppose that's technically true. Defining things is what all labels do. Words are used to define things. Would words like "black" and "homosexual" also be "words of hate"?

"Atheist" literally means that I'm not a theist, i.e. not a believer in God. I don't see anything inherently offensive about that. If you were uninterested in politics and I called you apolitical, would you consider that rude? The reason that "asense" sounds rude is because you're ascribing a characteristic to people that they don't think is true and that they find insulting. It's true that I don't believe in a God and I don't find it insulting to have this opinion attributed to me. (And no matter how sure I am of my own beliefs, I wouldn't dismiss someone else's opinions in a hotly disputed subject like religion as "asense".)

Admittedly, people can get defensive when you put them into categories, if for no other reason than because it feeds into an "us-versus-them" mentality that seems to be instinctive in all of us, an attitude that you can see even in the warring chimpanzee factions described by Jane Goodall. But people do organize themselves into groups and cliques, and sometimes this is organized by religious belief, and not having a word for those factions won't make them stop existing. In fact, it may impede fruitful discussion about these differences.

Posted by Paul, Fresno California on August 4, 2007:

What I appreciated about your story and follow up was that you posted the link to the Starbucks quotation program page. That made it easy to follow up and look at the range of quotations. Somebody else followed up and posted the number (#247) of the quotation in question. So the attribution is:

-- Bill Scheel
Starbucks customer from London, Ontario. He describes himself as a "modern day nobody."

Ms Incanno did not see the distinction between Starbucks and the actual person who made the statement, but it is interesting that the newspaper story also did not make this distinction, thus inferring that this one quote is on all Starbucks cups and is a company philosophy. It was impossible for me to tell if this statement was on all of their coffee cups without going to their website and looking at the other quotations used. Turns out it is merely one of many though provoking quotes.

I found the quote in question reasonable and thought provoking. It is the sort of question that all Christians should be able to answer at a personal level if they wish to be effective in their evangelizing. Everyone has doubts and if you fly off the handle when someone expresses their true doubts, then they can't afford to talk to you honestly.

On the other hand if one wishes to be an inquisitor, then it is foolish to waste time trying to answer such questions. One should just track down any who dare ask honest questions and put them to death! Or if that is not feasible, maybe just boycott their businesses, scream and shout, that sort of thing.

Posted by Jorn, DE on September 27, 2008:

I know I'm way late to this party, but this article post was linked in this weeks True and I read it, and through the comments, and feel the desire to put my three cents in.

First, regarding proving a negative, no you cannot directly prove a negative, you can only do so by proving a mutually exclusive positive. To quote the commenter who said you could, "the defendant was not the assailant BECAUSE he was in Katmandu at the time" you haven't simply proven that the defendant wasn't at the scene of the crime, you have proven that he was in Katmandu.

Second, Atheism is not a Religion. My dictionary widget gives the primary definition as "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods" and by that definition atheism is definitely not a religion, but even more definitive is the second supplemental definition, "A particular system of faith and worship". Atheism is most certainly not a particular system. I myself am a Universal Eqvipnorian, which is a particular system which happens to be atheistic just as Judaism is a monotheistic system.

Third, and this is a response to Vivian in Florida, "I totally disagree that she should be lumped in with these bozos, like the minister who turned out to be a crazy pervert, stupid bank thieves, etc." I thought one of the primary goals of True was to point out how we can all be bozos from time to time if we don't take time to think. Thank you, Randy, for helping me remember to think before I act.

Posted by Mike New Jersey on September 27, 2008:

Anyone calling (or referring to) another person by any descriptive name tells me more about the namecaller than the object of the namecalling. I dont frequent Starbucks because I dont like their coffee, not because of any advertising ploy.
lighten up

Posted by Reg, Texas on September 27, 2008:

Hercules and the Waggoner

A Waggoner was once driving a heavy load along a very muddy way. At last he came to a part of the road where the wheels sank half-way into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels. So the Waggoner threw down his whip, and knelt down and prayed to Hercules the Strong. "O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress," quoth he. But Hercules appeared to him, and said:

"Tut, man, don't sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel."

Moral: The gods help them that help themselves.
--Aesop

Posted by Anna, Oklahoma on September 27, 2008:

This is too funny! Who said "much ado about nothing?"

Posted by Denise, NY, NY on September 27, 2008:

Dang...a whole LOT of people could stand to switch to decaf! :D

If for no other reason, they seem to think 'switch to decaf' means 'you're a moron' and not CALM. DOWN.

Deep breaths, everyone. :D

Posted by Mekhong Kurt, Thailand on September 27, 2008:

Randy, in your "other" role of editor, your choice of story may indeed reveal insights into you as an individual, or at least hint at them. In my own case, in a weekly online column I write, like you, I depend on published stories for a very large number of my own stories. Were anyone to read a dozen or so of my columns, that person might think I'm a technophile, for instance -- and be absolutely correct.

That said, you indeed did not call the person stupid -- though the very nature of "This Is True" suggests the possibility you think her overreaction (and I agree it was) you *may* think she's stupid, at least until one reads your further explanation.

---

Yes, one could make some deductions about my biases by reading an issue or two. For instance, people did that when I lambasted Clinton with an entire special issue dedicated to his "fornigate" scandal. And indeed I was called a "Rush Limbaugh conservative" for doing so. The problem is, looking at an issue or two doesn't tell the whole story. I've been accused of publishing "communist propaganda" because I accepted an anti-Bush ad, or only watched Ronald Reagan's funeral, rather than write about it. Really.

If you objectively read my work, I doubt you can tell what my political stance is. But you will be able to tell that I criticize both sides of the political spectrum for doing stupid things: I don't care if it's Clinton lying about getting a blowjob in the Oval Office or Cheney's Secret Service protection overreacting to a minor political protest. I simply don't care who they are if they've done something wrong. -rc

Posted by Bob, The Other Washington (The State) on September 29, 2008:

I remember reading this at the time and just passing it off but it did make an impression on me mentally. Somehow, I have collected many fragments of conversations from various leaders of "religion" as I have moved from state to state and watched TV news.

I seem to remember, "Look inward for god's charity." "Look within for god's answer." "God answer(s) may not come as an outward sign, look inside yourself."

Sounds as though YOU were being a bit religious. <grin> We can all be offended any time, any place that WE choose.

Posted by john cavanagh, Donegal on September 29, 2008:

RE. Religous bigots, I wonder am I the only person in the world who always invites Jehova Witnesses into the house and ask them what their beliefs are. I do this entirely for my own amusement as I enjoy arguing. I have not converted one of them yet but as we say here in Ireland "Its Great Craic".

My Premium subscription was the best bargain ever. Thanks Randy

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