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nijineko
08-08-2008, 08:18 PM
i say that neutrality as d&d defines it: the midpoint between good and evil, does not exist in any way.

good, as it typically defines itself, is the penultimate ideal way of being and acting. as such, anything less than that is, if not actually evil, is then failing to be good. the peak of the mountain. the high point in the middle of the road. these are what good defines itself to be.

with such a definition of good, there can be no such thing as d&d neutrality. it is a black and white definition.

now i imagine that many will point to the whole shades of grey concept, claiming that our world has no such brilliantly demarcated differentials between goods and evils.

in a shades of grey concept, the notions of good and evil become perceptual. defined by viewpoint and the beholder. this can be best represented by a sheet of linen that is flapping in the wind. depending on viewpoint, any given point on the sheet could be good or evil. and those points are constantly changing. still no room for d&d neutrality.



lastly, does neutrality exist in real life? i say yes, if rarely. the only form of neutrality that exists is where a being, by virute of state or circumstance, has no comprehension-indeed is incapable of knowing the concepts of good or evil. upon such a being no law can justly be held to be effective, for they do not understand law, ethics, or morality.

classic examples of beings in such a state in real life: adam and eve (before that snack-and assuming you believe in them...), newborns and young children, those who by birth or injury or physical breakdown, are limited as to comprehension and mental faculty.

i welcome everyone's commentary. =D

ignimbrite
08-08-2008, 10:38 PM
So paraphrasing (out of context): if you aren't pure good you are evil ...?
That seems a weeny bit harsh.

I would say that neutrality could exist as a shade of good and evil - if you are not pure good or pure evil then you carry an element of both. Therefore you are neutral. Kinda like fuzzy logic (as I understand fuzzy logic anyway), we know that you aren't 100% A and you're not 100% B, so you must fall into the fuzzy area between that is difficult to quantify.

If you use the above reasoning then almost everyone is neutral (with good or evil tendancies) and only things like angels and devils can be classified in the black and white (binary) system.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
08-08-2008, 11:51 PM
You dont need to even understand the morality of it just so long as you understand the law. So therefore one can comprehend it but just doesnt necessarily follow it. The same goes true with non-lawfullness, or chaotic.

You'll find that cn's will likely follow the laws of the land more often in civilized area, but not so much elsewhere. Only thing that keeps them from being big-time criminals is that fact that they arent evil.

So i say that neutrality does exist. They just see the world different than the goods and the evils. Hmmm, i could explain much better via verbal discussion, but i'll submit this anyway.

It's all about pespective.

Thoth-Amon

nijineko
08-09-2008, 03:23 PM
some free associations in response:

it seems to break down do an inability to agree on a definition of good and evil. if there is a defined "good" and a defined "evil" and those two definitions encompass every possible behavior and improbability, then there can be no neutrality as d&d defines it.

please note that i do claim that neutrality exists, just not the type as defined by d&d.

and by a black and white definition of good and evil, yes it is harsh. but it is also justice. (assuming of course, that that really is how good and evil operates in our universe... which also please note, i have not claimed.)

let's take the classic adam and eve example. they, by definition, did not know good or evil. then they were given two conflicting instructions: don't eat the fruit, and have kids. as they were innocent they did not know how to have kids, they didn't even know they were naked. they could either eat the fruit and have kids, or not eat the fruit and remain childless immortals in the garden. note that even religions call this "adam's transgression" and not a sin. that's because they were incapable of sin, knowing not good or evil, so no law regarding good or evil could justly be held against them. true innocence and true neutrals.

admitidly this example is mixing the whole good and evil thing with law. most religious examples have that inescapable aspect. they understood the law enough to make a valid choice, but they didn't know good or evil, so they could not be held accountable by any laws regarding good or evil. thus their actions were not sins in the religious sense, but a transgression of one of the instructions given. in this context, sin and transgression are not the same thing.

best part about all of this? satan thought he was screwing things up by offering the fruit. talk about the evil bad guy being pwned by the gm.

fmitchell
08-09-2008, 05:33 PM
In some ways I think the 4e take on alignment is better: most people aren't "neutral", but "unaligned". Those who stand for "Good" or "Evil" really have to prove it.

"Neutral" in D&D implies a sort of apathy ("If I don't make it, tell my wife, Hello."), or even an active attempt to "balance" good and evil ("Oops I did a good deed today, I'll have to kick a puppy.").

In reality, most people have a concept of what "good" is ... but different people have different concepts. Most of us try to do the "good" thing if it's not too inconvenient. We're loyal to our friends and family, we avoid hurting other people physically or emotionally unless we ourselves feel threatened, we go to church if we're religious, we obey the laws except for "trivial" ones where we think we won't get caught (e.g. speeding, parking violations, sometimes worse). We pay lip-service to good, for some definition of good, but most of us don't have a strong drive to go out and "help the helpless" and "right wrongs" ... nor do we feel strongly about "ruling the world with an iron fist" or "sowing misery and death".

Similarly, "law" and "chaos" are even more nebulous concepts. Whose law? The law of the land or some immutable Divine Law? Is it "chaotic" to supplant one law with another, or to defy unfair laws? Is a "chaotic" character a rebel without a cause? An anarchist? A nihilist? A lunatic incapable of understanding "right" and "wrong?

Hence, if "neutrality" doesn't make sense, it's the fault of the alignment system. However, to say anyone who isn't "good" is "evil", and anyone who isn't "lawful" is "chaotic", itself represents a Lawful Stupid vision of a fantasy world with disturbing parallels to real-world extremist beliefs. There is a middle ground where 90% of the population lives, from upstanding citizens to petty lawbreakers. Humans fudge the law, and do "bad" things that they rationalize somehow. "Neutrality" was an attempt to capture that aspect of human nature, but acquired other interpretations over the years.

It's better to call the vast mass of people "Unaligned": neither Good nor Evil, neither rigidly Lawful or truly Chaotic, neither heroes nor villains in the grand scheme of things.

nijineko
08-09-2008, 06:39 PM
all wonderful points. and while we're on the subject, note that many of my examples do not necessarily represent my beliefs-with the obvious exception that i don't think that d&d neutrality exists in real life, and the version of neutrality i did mention. i am trying more to toss various ideas out there and get everyones take on it. so by all means, please continue. i'm enjoying the various viewpoints greatly.

DMMike
08-09-2008, 11:01 PM
I've seen a couple different D&D versions of neutrality - not leaning one way or the other, and seeking balance.

One glance at the Monster Manual says it best though: animals are always neutral.

So with mother nature's lead, the way to be neutral is to behave like the animals. Which typically ends up being: Seek self-preservation, defend your home and family, and go with the pack.

My personal take on neutrality is the opposite of there-is-no-neutrality. To me, everyone is neutral, in the sense that everyone shares both good and evil traits. Common exceptions are planar beings and the undead.

For campaign purposes, set out some guidelines or rules to set yourself and your players straight. I'd recommend the following:
Good - acting for the benefit of others
Evil - acting for your own benefit
Lawful - following a set of rules
Chaotic - following many or no sets of rules

ignimbrite
08-10-2008, 12:46 PM
DMMike, I actually quite like those simple outlines for the 4 corners of the alignment spectrum.
Maybe I'll write those down and tell my players the next time we start a campaign.

Bearfoot_Adam
08-10-2008, 02:02 PM
I would disagree with the evil = acting in your own self interest.

Our natural state of being is acting in our own self interest. A ball flies at us... we duck. We're hungry... we get something to eat. We're cold... we put on a sweater. we see a person who may harm us... we hide/run/fight back. If there is not enough food an animal will feed themselves before their young. All of these are acting in self interest and none of them are evil. I think the evil comes in when your self interest comes at the unnecasary harm of others. Holding up a small child to take the ball in the chest, stealing another hungry persons food or freezing persons sweater that kind of stuff.

nijineko
08-10-2008, 04:21 PM
everyone wants to put neutral between good and evil? i wonder why that is.....

i see it more as neutral-good-evil, than good-neutral-evil. what if good is not an extreme, but a blending of the best of traits of all the other ways of being?

some have called self-preservation as neutral, and self-interest as evil. good can be just as self-interested as neutral or evil. good is interested in both self preservation and self perpetuation. hmmmm. i wonder if tackling it from another angle might yeild additional insights....

i'd like to see some attempts to define neutrality. if it is indeed something that can stand seperate from good and evil, then it might have existance. but if it cannot exists as a precept without good and evil defining it, then there is likely no such thing. what behaviors, acts, actions, and so forth are neutral in and of themselves, serving nor promoting good or evil?

tesral
08-10-2008, 09:31 PM
Good points made around. I agree that unaligned is better than "neutral".

Second, I don't see is as is good, is evil, but acts good, acts evil. It's not a state of being rather an accumulation of actions. Alignment doesn't define your actions, your actions define your alignment.

I'm going to fall into the neutrality does not exist camp. The whole idea of seeking a balance between the extremes is on the face of it silly. Neutral is unaligned. You don't espouse any philosophy, agnostic.

A Druid is on the face of it pro nature, not pro neutral. That is being pro nothing. Perhaps uncaring of the philosophies of civilized men they do have a a philosophy, not an absence of one.

I prefer to ditch the alignments altogether really. Solves the whole mess.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
08-10-2008, 10:00 PM
It must, for how else would one explain why i keep making "neutral" whenever i take those online alignment tests? LOL

Thoth-Amon

tesral
08-10-2008, 10:01 PM
It must, for how else would one explain why i keep making "neutral" whenever i take those online alignment tests? LOL

Thoth-Amon

Hey it exists on my transmission.

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
08-10-2008, 10:04 PM
Good points made around. I agree that unaligned is better than "neutral".

Second, I don't see is as is good, is evil, but acts good, acts evil. It's not a state of being rather an accumulation of actions. Alignment doesn't define your actions, your actions define your alignment.

I'm going to fall into the neutrality does not exist camp. The whole idea of seeking a balance between the extremes is on the face of it silly. Neutral is unaligned. You don't espouse any philosophy, agnostic.

A Druid is on the face of it pro nature, not pro neutral. That is being pro nothing. Perhaps uncaring of the philosophies of civilized men they do have a a philosophy, not an absence of one.

I prefer to ditch the alignments altogether really. Solves the whole mess.
I find that i guage alignment with a healthy chunck of character perspective... for his/her pespective explains ones actions. If you dont know the characters perspectives then you are apt to inject your own(your characters) perspective into the character in question, actions. Did that second sentence even make sense?

Thoth-Amon

tesral
08-10-2008, 10:07 PM
I find that i guage alignment with a healthy chunck of character perspective... for his/her pespective explains ones actions. If you dont know the characters perspectives then you are apt to inject your own(your characters) perspective into the character in question, actions. Did that second sentence even make sense?

Thoth-Amon

However if you see the alignment system mas a set of absolutes, perspective should have nothing to do with it. It is isn't a set of absolutes, how do detects spells, alignment altering items and alignment sensitive items know?

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
08-10-2008, 10:25 PM
However if you see the alignment system mas a set of absolutes, perspective should have nothing to do with it. It is isn't a set of absolutes, how do detects spells, alignment altering items and alignment sensitive items know?
I dont see it as absolutes and i never allowed any "know alignment" spells into my games, ever. In fact, there are a great many folks that see things as i do.

Even when people agree on the absolutes method as you described, people still cant agree. This is no different than having a discussion on religion. No one wins. But, if one explains his/her actions on perspectives and motivations, then again, no one agrees, but at least people see your point even though they dont agree with it. This allows a certain flexibility to be injected into said games, thereby deterring any arguments that can slow the game down to a standstill.

Thoth-Amon

DMMike
08-10-2008, 10:32 PM
Our natural state of being is acting in our own self interest. A ball flies at us... we duck. We're hungry... we get something to eat. We're cold... we put on a sweater. we see a person who may harm us... we hide/run/fight back. If there is not enough food an animal will feed themselves before their young. All of these are acting in self interest and none of them are evil. I think the evil comes in when your self interest comes at the unnecasary harm of others. Holding up a small child to take the ball in the chest, stealing another hungry persons food or freezing persons sweater that kind of stuff.

Adam, your assumption here is that humans, as inherent self-preservers, are not inherently evil. Check out a book called The Selfish Gene for more on this.

If you want, you could say that self preservation is not evil, and I understand that. But for me, it makes things a lot more black and white to draw the line with preservation on the evil side. It's also why I see humanoids as neutral, since they'll always have that preservation-evil in their blood. The hope is that they balance it out with some good.

Here's how a couple of those preservation examples could be seen as evil:
-We feed ourselves when hungry. This is pretty easy to call selfish/evil, because eating food is always at the expense of the next creature down the food chain. Also, if you're eating meat, it was pretty evil to say that that meat deserved to die so that you may live.
- We duck under balls. Self preservation, yes. But why was that ball coming? Who/what delivered the ball? A pretty neutral act if the ball fell off a shelf, or was hit as part of a game. A pretty selfish (evil) act if something we did earlier made someone angry enough to want to knock our blocks off. Is the ball thrower's justice less important than our bruise-free condition?

Bearfoot_Adam
08-11-2008, 12:12 AM
Check out a book called The Selfish Gene for more on this.


I wikipedia'd this and it sounds pretty interesting. One of the things in the synopsis states that.
"In describing genes as being "selfish", the author does not intend (as he states unequivocally in the work) to imply that they are driven by any motives or will merely that their effects can be accurately described as if they do."

I like that concept, and will have to read more.

I still have a hard time with the notion of biological imperatives being called evil since evil is a human concept based on a predetermined morality. And I feel biological relationships extend beyond human terms.

Also when one steps past the individual encoutner one may see a global view that is more in balence. The idea of the predator prey relationships being better for both species. That balence has been one of the deffinitions of neutrality.

Though, by using your view point yes all base acts are selfish and therefore evil.

Valdar
08-11-2008, 04:36 PM
Simply put:

Good = Altruism.
Evil = Malice.

If you aren't altruistic, and you aren't malicious, then you're neutral. If you know that you have plenty of extra cash, and that a beggar really needs a copper coin to eat tonight through no fault of his own, and you avoid eye contact on the way by? You're Neutral.

Give him the coin? Good.
Go off on him for being a lazy bum, when your background was much more pampered? Chaotic Neutral.
Roll him for his shoes? Evil.
Knife him without breaking stride? Chaotic Evil.

Simplistic, but a short post would have to be :D

boulet
08-11-2008, 09:38 PM
or even an active attempt to "balance" good and evil ("Oops I did a good deed today, I'll have to kick a puppy.").
Kudos to you for making me laugh ! I needed that :)


then they were given two conflicting instructions: don't eat the fruit, and have kids. as they were innocent they did not know how to have kids, they didn't even know they were naked.
Mmmm first time I hear of this interpretation of Adam and Eve innocence. As far as I understand they were ignorant of good and evil, as much as animals they had domination of. But it shouldn't take them much enlightenment to figure out how animals make babies...

Back to neutrality and alignments. I only understand them as a necessity for a certain flavor of fantasy where people of one side have special powers over others (detect good/evil, protection from good/evil etc...) To me this mechanic has very much of a cold war flavor to it and is kind of a relic from that time. It's successful in the way that it provides a strongly polarized atmosphere and is intentional on this. It fails to satisfy more subtle approaches to role-playing where, for instance, a character could be mostly well intended and seen as good but could have a few issues where his/her morality would get down (jealousy, addiction, revenge etc...)
When it comes to RPGs focusing on moral exploration I prefer avoiding alignment. But for someone looking for a "us against them" type of setting (like Tolkien's) I guess alignment do an ok job.

Neutrality is then in my view just a pressure valve to this very Manichean system. It needs a lot of mental contortion to justify as a philosophy but after all it's a gamist artifact, a simplification of morality issues like the rest of the system. About the difficulty of fitting into a good/evil grid I suggest reading Jean Paul Sartre The Devil and the Good Lord (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Devil_and_the_Good_Lord). Being a theater play taking place in a medieval setting I'm sure it's relevant to fantasy RPGs and the characters are a good study for a campaign.

tesral
08-11-2008, 09:44 PM
All the alignment threads together are rather pointing out why I drooped the whole contentious can of worms. More complex morals are simpler.

DMMike
08-11-2008, 11:10 PM
Good = Altruism.
Evil = Malice.
If you aren't altruistic, and you aren't malicious, then you're neutral. If you know that you have plenty of extra cash, and that a beggar really needs a copper coin to eat tonight through no fault of his own, and you avoid eye contact on the way by? You're Neutral.


Courtesy of Dictionary.com:
Malice:desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness.

Altruism: the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=egoism)).

So I'm with you on Goodness. But I use the opposite of Goodness to define Evil: the principle or practice of selfish concerns and indifferent or hostile intent toward others. (Wonder if I just defined Egoism...)

By the malice definition, I'd say evil can be more benign. For example, two travelers come to an intersection in the road, where a brewmaster has accidently left a keg of ale. The evil traveler, without blinking, loads it into his cart and rides off without a word to the other traveler. No desire for injury, no suffering, maybe not even meanness, but I'd say that keg-stealing traveler was one evil son of a hag!

For the record - alignment is a priceless element in heroic fantasy, because it is a means to start solidifying ideas of good and evil, which is the first step toward including these things in the rules, which allows for fantastic game elements like the Book of Exalted Deeds, the spell Blasphemy, and balancing a class (cough CLERIC cough) by requiring a moral compass.

boulet
08-12-2008, 07:47 AM
For the record - alignment is a priceless element in heroic fantasy, because it is a means to start solidifying ideas of good and evil, which is the first step toward including these things in the rules, which allows for fantastic game elements like the Book of Exalted Deeds, the spell Blasphemy, and balancing a class (cough CLERIC cough) by requiring a moral compass.

There's plenty of fantasy games out there that work perfectly without any need for a strong good/evil polarity. It's more about the specific flavor of D&D. But I understand your point. I personally think that even in this perspective of enforcing this flavor in the game, alignment is only a draft as a "moral compass". Maybe the books you mentioned provide more mechanic to reward players who struggle to respect their PC's alignment. I got frustrated with most alignment/moral/sanity rules in RPGs because at best they usually provide a punishment system ("if I do evil deed, I will loose my awesome pooowerZ") and rarely any positive incentive. Neutrality is in this context the local minimal energy state : "I don't have to justify my acts and the DM will leave me alone when it comes to good/evil plots"

tesral
08-12-2008, 11:20 AM
There's plenty of fantasy games out there that work perfectly without any need for a strong good/evil polarity. It's more about the specific flavor of D&D. But I understand your point. I personally think that even in this perspective of enforcing this flavor in the game, alignment is only a draft as a "moral compass". Maybe the books you mentioned provide more mechanic to reward players who struggle to respect their PC's alignment. I got frustrated with most alignment/moral/sanity rules in RPGs because at best they usually provide a punishment system ("if I do evil deed, I will loose my awesome pooowerZ") and rarely any positive incentive. Neutrality is in this context the local minimal energy state : "I don't have to justify my acts and the DM will leave me alone when it comes to good/evil plots"

My issue is less the control aspect, although that is part of it as the sheer volume and difference of opinions. Sure Alignment in general gives you good polarity, but it doesn't say anything consistent about what that polarity is. Every person that has posted on this and the other alignment topics has had a different and strong opinion of just what good evil law and chaos are. None of them the same, none of them necessarily wrong, but different enough to cause problems at the table.

For a "simple" system it is exceedingly complex to nail down. Hence my comment that more "complex" moral and ethos system are simpler.

I am not a fan of polarity either. I don't agree that it is necessary for a good high fantasy game. I submit my good high fantasy game that does not have a polarity of good vs evil. Playing for 32 years and going strong, without alignment in a D&D world.

But the main issue is the divisiveness. Too many opinions, and too many ideas of what exactly all of this means. In short, baggage that I believe you get a better game by doing a little more work, and dumping the slippery terms.

Ramzei
08-13-2008, 12:19 PM
It appears most are placing neutral between good and evil. Let's not forget it can be placed between lawful and chaotic. This is where neutraility can exist, as a flavoring particle if you will. However, using the 2e definition of "true neutral" it cannot exist in my view. This also includes monsters. I have yet to see a cornered beast try to befriend the party. I suppose it could happen, but would someone really believe a tiger trying to go from being a wild creature to a pet? While it could become a pet over time after building trust, over the span of seconds or minutes is pretty laughable.

tesral
08-13-2008, 12:37 PM
It appears most are placing neutral between good and evil. Let's not forget it can be placed between lawful and chaotic. This is where neutraility can exist, as a flavoring particle if you will. However, using the 2e definition of "true neutral" it cannot exist in my view. This also includes monsters. I have yet to see a cornered beast try to befriend the party. I suppose it could happen, but would someone really believe a tiger trying to go from being a wild creature to a pet? While it could become a pet over time after building trust, over the span of seconds or minutes is pretty laughable.

Where is this coming from? AISI the neutrality argument for animals is that they are neither good nor evil, and have no philosophy outside of survive, eat, breed. It has nothing to do with the current hostility level. Philosophy is for creatures with an INT over 3.

Frankly the Unaligned "alignment" makes more sense. Neutrality in the Twooy sense is a really dumb idea in all honesty. One must achieve an balance of good evil law and chaos? What kind of Mushrooms have they been adding to the Druid's stew these days? How do you do that without behaving in an outright insane fashion?

DMMike
08-13-2008, 06:44 PM
boulet - Losing awesome pooowerZ is actually pretty important with some classes, like the cleric, and EVERY PRESTIGE CLASS (I don't like PrCs). The 3.X cleric gets heavy armor, spellcasting without fizzling, average attack, average hit die, turning undead, and two good saves! I think some control is in order here, and alignment is a decent way to do that.
(On PrCs, I think the usual intent of designers is to add an organization or devout order that grants some nice class benefits in exchange for being a member, but the usual player intent is just to get a bunch of cool, free abilities).

Ramzei - try to see more than one gray in the neutralities. It could be indifference, blending of the extremes, creating balance, or anything other than one of the poles.

tesral - pass me some of that druid stew.

Ramzei
08-14-2008, 11:07 AM
The description of "True Neutral" in the 2e PHB is what I was referring to. As described there it was possible for switching of sides to occur. Flawed, yes. The description in the PHB of "True Neutral" being altered by the GM in every 2e campaign I have ever played, yes. However, it is possible in the most extreme case or the most truly neutral. That is what I was referring to.

tesral
08-14-2008, 11:44 AM
The description of "True Neutral" in the 2e PHB is what I was referring to. As described there it was possible for switching of sides to occur. Flawed, yes. The description in the PHB of "True Neutral" being altered by the GM in every 2e campaign I have ever played, yes. However, it is possible in the most extreme case or the most truly neutral. That is what I was referring to.

No, can't exist in an sane being. The idea that you switch sides simply to maintain an artificial "balance" of the alignments would at times require to act against your self interests in a way that would not really benefit anything, never mind yourself.

Who ever wrote that description of Neutral in 2e was high on something. Worse, it survived the editing process. I think the fact that every game you have played in house ruled it should say something. There is a n old Quaker saying, syntax modernized. "If someone calls you an ass, ignore them. If ten people call you and ass, get yourself a saddle." I do believe that 2e Neutral needs a saddle.

If Neutral is at all it should be a gray area of no firm philosophy toward any extreme. Better sill: Alignment Delenta Est.

DMMike
08-14-2008, 12:42 PM
The description of "True Neutral" in the 2e PHB is what I was referring to. As described there it was possible for switching of sides to occur. Flawed, yes. The description in the PHB of "True Neutral" being altered by the GM in every 2e campaign I have ever played, yes. However, it is possible in the most extreme case or the most truly neutral. That is what I was referring to.

You know, that definition actually rings a bell, maybe because I remember how weird it was. Anyway, I'm kind of agreeing with tesral, that deciding to lean one way or the other is pretty much a sign of amorality (which is often evil) or schizophrenia (which is unaligned, but looks chaotic).

Weird definitions aside, have we answered the thread question yet?

boulet
08-14-2008, 12:57 PM
Switzerland exists. I saw it !

fmitchell
08-14-2008, 01:00 PM
Switzerland exists. I saw it !

But is Switzerland actually "neutral", or merely Unaligned?

nijineko
08-14-2008, 10:16 PM
to be honest, the first thing that started me on this whole line of thinking that d&d neutrality might not exist, and that it might not be between good and evil, but that good might be between evil and neutrality was an argument between mordenkainen and bigsby. where in mordenkainen espoused his point of view and more or less shut down bigsby trying to explain his with some clap about 'his extensively studied and extremely complex philosophy of true neutrality' being superior to the tired old ill-thought arguments that religions put forth.

ticked me off what. so i started thinking about it deeply and for a long time. still testing it out and all, but i'm enjoying this thread immensely. makes for a great reading of contrasts. thought i'd toss this out there and see how the responses compared with my studies. ^^ thanks all!

as for switzerland, they are in it for the money and power... gnomes of zurich and all that. ;D