Americas Culture Wars: The Rationalists Finally Fight Back!

#2
I can't get a link for some reason. Post?
 
#3
in_the_cheapseats said:
I can't get a link for some reason. Post?
Reposted from:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/01/02/news/letter.php

NEW YORK: Here on the first days of the year of our lord 2007 it seems awkward to talk about a Godless world, but the fact is that in the waning months of 2006, a kind of militant atheism was making itself felt across the land.

There were two best-selling books declaring belief in God to be a kind of mass delusion, and a harmful mass delusion at that, occasioning a vigorous and often angry response from many people who believe the repeated announcement of the death of God to be wrong, spiritually deaf and dangerous.

This situation gives rise to a New Year's prediction that 2007 will see an intensified war of religion in America, or, perhaps more accurately, a war of the religious against the irreligious, and why that should be happening just now is an important sign of the times, a reflection of our moment in history.

Atheism is nothing new, of course, and perhaps not even the militant, proselytizing atheism of the sort taking place just now. And yet, when a figure of the scientific stature of Richard Dawkins writes a book called "The God Delusion" and the book climbs onto the New York Times best-seller list and stays there, for 14 weeks so far, you know something significant is taking place.

Atheists have generally tended to live their lives quietly inside the comfortable cocoon of their secular community, in which, say, a blessing before dinner, or some remark about Jesus' love would be about as chic as cappuccino made with instant coffee.

But at least a few atheists are now actively, angrily, passionately trying to persuade the religious to their point of view, none more conspicuously than Sam Harris, a graduate student in neuroscience whose book "Letter to a Christian Nation," another recent New York Times best seller, portrays Christianity as a kind of malign nonsense. Harris is engaging in no polite parlor discussion, showing due respect to the views of others. For him, as he puts it, the grievous harm caused by religious conviction "is what makes the honest criticism of religious faith a moral and intellectual necessity."

The mood can be found elsewhere. The New York Times reported a couple of months ago on a conference at the Jonas Salk Institute in California during which participants, who included Dawkins and Harris, called on scientists actively to combat religion, with the physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg delivering this summary of the mission: "Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization."

Atheism as a necessary attribute of civilization — religion as the opposite of civilization — that argument is being stated more assertively and is being welcomed in some quarters more warmly now than at any time before. What is going on? One conclusion is not so far-reaching. It could be simply that there's a market for just about anything in this country — whether atheism or psychic channeling.

The best-sellerdom of books like those of Harris and Dawkins shows that there is a market for militant atheism, but the market for religious belief is bigger. I wouldn't imagine any candidate for office winning on a platform of disbelief in God. I would similarly suppose that Billy Graham and other televangelists will have far vaster audiences than Harris does.

The timing of all this is telling, the atheists' best sellers coming when what might be called faith-based extremism and conflict is on the increase. Harris is obviously bothered by the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the United States, which has coincided with the very violent rise of fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East, one product of which was the attacks of Sept. 11.

The two movements are almost entirely dissimilar, of course, with Christian fundamentalism engaging in no violence or threats. Still, both movements arise from the deep conviction that a return to a kind of pure religious practice, rather than secular Enlightenment thought, is the answer to humanity's problems. Murderous Hindu nationalists in India and Orthodox Jewish settlers on the West Bank who believe they are following God's commands in seizing Palestinian land are other illustrations of faith-based extremism.

To atheists like Weinberg, Dawkins and Harris and their many avid readers, it is clearly disappointing that in America, unlike in most of Europe, rationalist, scientific ideas have not become the norm. Harris gloomily recites poll figures on this point: 53 percent of Americans, he says, believe in creationism, which to scientists is like believing that the sun revolves around the Earth. In what he sees as an illustration of mass self-delusion, 80 percent of the survivors of the Katrina disaster claim that the hurricane and flood strengthened their faith in God — rather than serving as powerful evidence, as it does for Harris, that God does not exist.

Clearly, to a secular rationalist this is all disturbing. "Our country now appears, as at no other time in her history, like a lumbering, bellicose, dim- witted giant," Harris writes, and in writing his "Letter to a Christian Nation" he clearly is hoping to do his little bit to reverse the trend.

Will he succeed? It is doubtful. There are no available statistics on who exactly is buying the books by Harris and Dawkins, but it seems reasonable to suppose that the majority of them are already solid members of the rationalist choir. Books no doubt do sometimes change people's minds, but more often they help to foster a sense of solidarity among members of an existing group, whether believers in alien space abduction or disbelievers in God.

In this sense what the atheist phenomenon reflects is the extent to which America is culturally divided. It used to be, as the British novelist and scientist C. P. Snow famously said, that there were two cultures that failed to understand each other — the scientific and the humanist. Snow's analysis may well still hold true, except that the main divide now seems not to be between physicists and poets, but between those who make religion central to their lives and those who don't.
and then there are various discussion points, comments etc afterwards...

wouldnt be before time that an 'age of enlightenment' penetrated the US interior... But I will believe when I see it, the *bile belt is still pulled way too tight to let the trousers of outdated religious superstition fall down.


EDIT:- *upon reading my post I was going to correct the spelling to 'bible belt', which is what I wished to write/type - but think I will leave it as is, equates to much the same after all.
 
#4
Because of course atheism has done wonders for the world. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung...

It's been done a few times on ARRSE I know.

How Dawkins etc can argue against organised religion is interesting because ATHEISM IS ITSELF A BELIEF SYSTEM. It is based on certain UNPROVABLE BELIEFS about humanity, the world and the nature and meaning of being, life etc. that the believer holds to be true and structures the rest of his beliefs around.
 
#5
Crazy_FOO said:
Because of course atheism has done wonders for the world. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung...

It's been done a few times on ARRSE I know.

How Dawkins etc can argue against organised religion is interesting because ATHEISM IS ITSELF A BELIEF SYSTEM. It is based on certain UNPROVABLE BELIEFS about humanity, the world and the nature and meaning of being, life etc. that the believer holds to be true and structures the rest of his beliefs around.
I think you'll find Hitler had a very strong believe in god. 'Gott Mit Uns' on the belt buckles etc.

Also Aethism is a lack of believe in gods (any gods) and not a believe system at all. Please show me the equivalent of the Bible for aetheists (and not a New York time best seller book please).

One of the most worrying pieces of TV I have sen recently was the episode of 28 days (from Morgan Sherlock, the Supersize me guy), where a US aetheist went to live with a Christian family.

On the whole the family were what I expected (God fearing, focussed on love thy neighbour etc), but the bit that really worried me was that they (or at least the husband) could not conceive how a person could be good, and not believe in God.

Personnally I don't need a God to do right by my neighbour, and the Bible (to me) is just an instruction book telling people how to live a good, social life, backed up by the threat of an imaginary being how'll punish you if you don't. I believe I dont need parent figure, threatening me, to make me do the right things in life, I grew up a long time ago!
 
#6
Drummer_Boy said:
Also Aethism is a lack of believe in gods (any gods) and not a believe system at all.
I disagree. Crazy_FOO is correct in that atheism is an active belief in the non-exsitence of a deity or deities. It is based on abscence of proof, which is not in itself proof of abscence, and one would think that scientists in particular would spot that logical inconsistency.

The lack of belief in gods is agnosticism, which is ipso facto also a lack of belief in the non-existence of gods. That's my point of view because I neither know the answer nor care to speculate on it. Atheists have as much faith in thier unprovable world view as religious people do.
 
#7
I think you will find that most people who call themselves "atheist" are actually agnostic, since the vast majority would change their view in an instant were this to appear in the sky:



However, since this is incredibly unlikely, we "atheists" don't really need to worry about it.
 
#8
Crazy_FOO said:
Because of course atheism has done wonders for the world. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung...

It's been done a few times on ARRSE I know.

How Dawkins etc can argue against organised religion is interesting because ATHEISM IS ITSELF A BELIEF SYSTEM. It is based on certain UNPROVABLE BELIEFS about humanity, the world and the nature and meaning of being, life etc. that the believer holds to be true and structures the rest of his beliefs around.
No it's not. Athiesm is not a belief system. It is a system aimed at allowing everyone to think for themselves critically about life the universe and everything, and in doing so give them the analytical tools to come to their own conclusion.

Compare and contrast to the major religions, where followers are not encouraged to think critically about what they are being told, instead they are asked to believe in miracles.

And if that scares the pants off anyone, then they should be ashamed of themselves.



It's based upon the assertion that without empirical evidence, then a theory is just that, a theory.
 
#9
Chinggis said:
Drummer_Boy said:
Also Aethism is a lack of believe in gods (any gods) and not a believe system at all.
I disagree. Crazy_FOO is correct in that atheism is an active belief in the non-exsitence of a deity or deities. It is based on abscence of proof, which is not in itself proof of abscence, and one would think that scientists in particular would spot that logical inconsistency.

The lack of belief in gods is agnosticism, which is ipso facto also a lack of belief in the non-existence of gods. That's my point of view because I neither know the answer nor care to speculate on it. Atheists have as much faith in thier unprovable world view as religious people do.
I had this argument with someone late last year. Most atheists and scientists, follow a system where by they require empirical evidence before they actually believe in something. They may suspect something but this is only a theory (known as a hypothesis), and is not given scientific validity until proven by the afore mentioned evidence.

In essence, they don't believe in something until it's existence is proven.


Compare and contrast this to religious beliefs that are based upon a willingness to believe in something (an all powerful being who built the world, and has control over our lives) before they have an any empirical evidence of its existence.

In essence, they believe in something before they get proof, and conversely don't believe that something does not exist, until it can be absolutely proven.

Now tell me which set of views is the most contrived and open to 'interpretation'??? :wink:
 
#10
Also the root of both words gives the meaning:

A good definition can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athiest , basically means without god, in the same way that asexual means without sex.

Agnostic means without knowledge, and also has a good definition in Wiki.

Whichever way you slice it atheists follow no belief system. In the broadest sense Buddists can be classed as atheists as they do not believe in a diety.

So there are 2 groups of people in the world those who believe in a god, or many gods, and those who do not believe in god (s).

Agnostics just haven't had god proven yet!!
 
#11
Agent_Smith said:
In essence, they don't believe in something until it's existence is proven.
They may be willing to apply that principle to scientific matters, but they (or at least the most strident atheists like Dawkins and Harris) don’t seem willing to apply it to matters of religious faith or the lack thereof. In this case they do not simply not believe in a thing which has not been and cannot be proven to be true (which would be logical), but they actively disbelieve in a thing which has not been and cannot be proven to be false (which is not logical).

For instance, Dawkins' book “The God Delusion” makes the argument that religious belief is a delusion because god does not exist. An application of the scientific method would lead to the conclusion that religious belief might be a delusion because god might not exist. Dawkins takes his argument beyond agnosticism, which is a neutral lack of belief, into atheism, which is a disbelief.

Disbelief in something is the antithesis of belief in that thing. Non-belief is neither, and it is the logical position to take when presented with a hypothesis that can neither be proved nor disproved.

Personally, I have no more problem with atheism than I have with monotheism or polytheism. What I do have a problem with is the arrogance of anybody who tries to tell me that I should subscribe to their view of something which is not provable one way or the other, particularly when their belief or disbelief is based solely on the fact that their opponents can’t provide evidence to gainsay them. The proselytising of Dawkins, Harris et al is no different to the proselytising of Evangelical Christians.

I suspect that the attitude of stridently atheist scientists is their unwillingness to admit that there are some questions that simply can’t be answered by science. When faced with unanswerable questions they refuse to accept that other people’s speculation is as valid or invalid as their own.

They get as wound up about religion as any Muslim or Christian fundamentalist. As an agnostic, I find their attitude both illogical and amusing. Personally, I neither know nor care who’s right.
 
#13
Look,
The fact of the matter is, the world is made up of two kinds of people.
There are those people who think the world is made up of two kinds of people and there are those people who don't.

yeah alright I'll get my coat.
 
#14
The Christian , Hebrew and Islamic definition of God is so different from the tribal or far eastern religions it is almost impossible to compare the two concepts.

An Indian Hindu I used to work with tried to explain this to me but I was too ignorant to listen properly.

Personally I like the idea of the mother nature view/opinion.

The world and everything in /on it is one big entity.

The more we respect or look after the planet the better our lives will be.

It's a shame if true , we are all fcuked.
 
#15
As a scientist and na athieist (agnostic if you like) I ask you can we please not go on about Richard bloody Dawkins. He is just as fanatical and closed minded as any God botherer you care to think of.

His books are dull and shallow and show no humanity what so ever. All of the the things he camplains about thiestist doing for God he does himself fo rhis beliefs.

He gave a talk at my uni years ago when after I had finnished studying. A bigger hypocrite you are not likely to meet. All of this talk about him just fuels his already huge ego.
 
#16
Drummer_Boy said:
I think you'll find Hitler had a very strong believe in god. 'Gott Mit Uns' on the belt buckles etc.

Please show me the equivalent of the Bible for aetheists (and not a New York time best seller book please).
http://www.corrosionsource.com/handbook/periodic/periodic_table.gif?

Drummer_Boy said:
Personnally I don't need a God to do right by my neighbour, and the Bible (to me) is just an instruction book telling people how to live a good, social life, backed up by the threat of an imaginary being how'll punish you if you don't.
An instruction book written mostly nearly a thousand years ago by fanatical revolutionaries. Isn't it amazing how many people base their whole lives on ancient stories written so long ago by blokes who can't even get their stories to say the same thing and some of whom never even met Jesus, if he existed at all.

I wonder what we'll have as our bible in another 2000 years. Probably based on the holy trinity of Jack, Kate and Sawyer on Atlantis, after the flood of armageddon leading their people against Lucifer and his gang of psychotic demons called The Others .... I'll get me coat!
 
#17
bobath said:
As a scientist and na athieist (agnostic if you like) I ask you can we please not go on about Richard bloody Dawkins. He is just as fanatical and closed minded as any God botherer you care to think of.

His books are dull and shallow and show no humanity what so ever. All of the the things he camplains about thiestist doing for God he does himself fo rhis beliefs.

He gave a talk at my uni years ago when after I had finnished studying. A bigger hypocrite you are not likely to meet. All of this talk about him just fuels his already huge ego.
Well said. In his own way, Dawkins is as much - if not more - of a bigot than the very 'deluded' people he so derides.

I suppose I should be surprised at the level of attention this bargain-basement philosophe has managed to attract, but then I suppose large numbers of people in the West have convinced themselves that the best way to deal with Islamic extremism is to jettison all religion, and hey presto problems solved and we can all go about our empty husks of lives in an Ikea-designed spiritual desert declaring ourselves terribly sophisticated and above all that belief nonsense.

The assertion earlier that "Hitler had a very strong belief in God" and the reference to the Gott Mit Uns motto on the belt buckles of the Wehrmacht as proof of this, is spurious. Firstly, the Gott Mit Uns motto was a carry-over from the Kingdom of Prussia, and was left in place as a part of the (initial) Nazi policy of not being too obvious about its anti-Christianity. Such an assertion also ignores the blatant and extensive paganism/occultism that characterised Nazism, particularly in its latter stages. Furthermore, it also ignores the extent to which the Third Reich targeted religion, and the Protestant and Catholic churches in particular, sending large number of lay and clergy of both denominations to the KZ system.

Equally, the same can be said of the various incarnations of Communism throughout the 20th century - which, like Nazism, was an atheistic creed. In both instances, religious groups were at the forefront of opposition to these poisonous ideologies. Hyper-rationalists - which is how I would class Dawkins and his ilk - honestly believe (now that's ironic) that they can scientifically and logically dissect the human mind to the extent that the actions and thoughts of people can be predicted or controlled in the same manner that is applied to lab rats. To suggest that 'religion is the root of all evil' is indicative of the extent to which Dawkins et al have missed the point historically or have fallen back on the knee-jerk reaction to modern-day events that they simply seem unable to comprehend.

At this point I'll be terribly self-regarding and quote myself from a Jan/Feb 2006 topic in response to Dawkins' The Root of all evil series of programmes.

gallowglass said:
On the wider topic, I would be of the view that totalitarian ideologies such as Communism and Nazism (Fascism as a term can only be accurately applied to Mussolini's Italy) might be classed as secular religions, but they cannot be compared to proper, actual religions otherwise. One point that does seem to have escaped the Dawkins-groupies and religion-bashers, is that ideologues who shared a similarly 'balanced' and 'rational' worldview to the secular rationalists Dawkins so admires were the architects of Communism and Nazism, and were all characterised by their utter contempt for the idea and practice of religion, and had no qualms about murdering vast numbers of clergy and members of various faiths. Having watched Dawkins, I cannot shake the image of the barbarian trying to ram the square peg into the round hole, in the same manner that Dawkins, with increasing zealotry, has been striving to fit religion into a 'logical' and 'rational' pigeon-hole, and because he has failed to do so - as they are incompatible - he rushes to the conclusion that ergo religion is the root of all evil. What seems to have escaped him, is that adherence to and the practice of religion is primarily based on faith, and is therefore a question of what one believes as opposed to what one knows. It is not something that can be dissected in a laboratory or artificially created in a test tube.

It was amusing to watch Dawkins sniff-out the assorted religious zealots and fringe lunatics (where did he get them from, particularly the Jewish convert to extreme Islamism?), and then stand in the midst of a completely harmless crowd of pilgrims at Lourdes and announce with a completely straight face that such a scene is not all that far removed from placing explosives in back-packs. Honestly, Prof. Dawkins should be in comedy, not science, as apart from that being one of the more ludicrous pronouncements I have yet heard, it was very funny. I could be terribly unfair and point out that supposedly 'rational' and 'logical' scientists such as he have in the past (and still do) developed some of the most heinous weapons in history, and such delights as Zyklon B....all in the interests of science of course.

Prof. Dawkins is the very thing he purports to despise - a bigoted zealot.
 
#18
gingis says this:

'For instance, Dawkins' book “The God Delusion” makes the argument that religious belief is a delusion because god does not exist. An application of the scientific method would lead to the conclusion that religious belief might be a delusion because god might not exist. Dawkins takes his argument beyond agnosticism, which is a neutral lack of belief, into atheism, which is a disbelief.'

I admit I have not read Dawkins book.
By all means criticize him of course but please quote him otherwise we can not be sure that your precis is correct.

But he is anyway correct about god being a delusion.
The very concept of a god is not found in nature.
It is only a concept and therefore must have originated in men's minds.
Those who still hold to a belief in god even though there is no evidence can quite reasonably be described as delusional.
And one must most definitely not be fooled or impressed by the amount of people who believe in god as being evidence of the veracity of god.

For example:
Do you remember that crazy cult thing that happened a few years ago?
It happened some time after the Spice Girl Girrl Power craze but was finished before Crazy Frog came around?

I think it was called the WMD cult and it swept around the country like wildfire almost everyone catching the bug, especially it must be said amongst those week minded individuals who were already susceptible to religious belief.

Under the thrall of a suposedly charasmatic leader called 'The Blair' the people of a once sensible nation got the notion that they were all suddenly going die all at once due to being attacked by these mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Well after a through military investigation of the places where these 'WMD' were supposed to be it was found that they didn't exist.

In other words, such is the absurdity of the human condition, a very, very real war had to be launched in order that a very, very silly notion could be dispelled before a deluded peoples could be brought sharply back to their senses. (a painful process that is still continuing to this day)

Now the population shamefacedly try and pretend that they were never followers of that cult to begin with although some people still get very touchy if you mention their old quite ridiculous beliefs.

Well religious belief in many respects has the same qualities as the belief in WMD in as so far they are both 'memes'.

In other words they are viral mental concepts that no matter how irrational can sweep through a body of people and become lodged in the mind. And the weaker the mind the more easily the meme can become established.

Which is why both religious and political leaders like and use them to help steer the herd into doing their will.
'Weak Minds and Strong Memes' is a winning combination for both kinds of leader.

It is a great sadness to many of us that the main established religions cannot be as suddenly and as comphrehensibly disproved as the infamous WMD cult was.
 
#19
Agent_Smith said:
Crazy_FOO said:
Because of course atheism has done wonders for the world. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung...

It's been done a few times on ARRSE I know.

How Dawkins etc can argue against organised religion is interesting because ATHEISM IS ITSELF A BELIEF SYSTEM. It is based on certain UNPROVABLE BELIEFS about humanity, the world and the nature and meaning of being, life etc. that the believer holds to be true and structures the rest of his beliefs around.
No it's not. Atheism is not a belief system. It is a system aimed at allowing everyone to think for themselves critically about life the universe and everything, and in doing so give them the analytical tools to come to their own conclusion.

If this is the case why is there such an uproar in the atheist community about the prospect of intelligent design being taught?

Compare and contrast to the major religions, where followers are not encouraged to think critically about what they are being told, instead they are asked to believe in miracles.

I think the argument here is back to front: people believe in miracles because they believe in a supernatural god not vice versa.

And if that scares the pants off anyone, then they should be ashamed of themselves.



It's based upon the assertion that without empirical evidence, then a theory is just that, a theory

Then the theory "There is no God" can only ever remain a theory unless someone has empirical proof that there is no God.
 

Sixty

ADC
Moderator
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#20
Frankly, anyone who believes in a supernatural being with whom they can communicate by talking and singing shouldn't be allowed out by themselves.
 

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