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← Karen Armstrong Weaves Bizarre Defense of Religion

Karen Armstrong Weaves Bizarre Defense of Religion - Comments

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 1 by TIKI AL

"The US is an outlier, a weird country that combines wealth and religiosity. Using it as an example is a very bad idea."
...so after vehemently denying it for many years, all of those people who think I'm a weirdo turn out to be correct?

If America is "weird", what is North Korea?

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 14:14:00 UTC | #408583

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 2 by irate_atheist

How can anyone be that stupid and yet be capable of breathing in - and out - unaided. The mind boggles.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 14:23:00 UTC | #408585

j.mills's Avatar Comment 3 by j.mills

It's weird how Armstrong, who's just put out a book called The Case For God, bases her 'arguments' always on anything but a case for God.

it was the empirical emphasis of modern science that encouraged many to regard God and religious language as fact rather than symbol, thus forcing religion into an overly rational, dogmatic, and alien literalism.
It seems it is pitiably naive and simplistic to ask whether god 'exists'. What a crass question! God transcends such over-literal dichotomies. (So much, in passing, for the ontological proof, reliant on the superiority of an existing god over a non-existent one.)

If the woman won't even give a straight answer to the question that most exercises her, why should anyone concern themselves with her opaque utterances? Enough already! Get thee [back] to a nunnery!

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 14:36:00 UTC | #408602

A's Avatar Comment 4 by A

God is dad.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 14:38:00 UTC | #408604

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 5 by TIKI AL

irate atheist @ 2: "How can anyone be that stupid and yet be capable of breathing in - and out - unaided"
...anyone can breathe while unconscious, but few can type while unconscious.

Apparently Karen is one of these gifted people.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 14:39:00 UTC | #408606

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 6 by Chrysippus_Maximus

There it is again...

As soon as we became recognizably human, men and women started to create religions. We are meaning-seeking creatures.


'religion' is NOT synonymous with 'has meaning in life'.

GAH.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 14:46:00 UTC | #408610

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 7 by Border Collie

I heard Karen Armstrong speak a couple of weeks ago at a Christian college in Texas (free tickets from a friend). There were alot of noddings and appropriately mild vocalizations of approval. I just sat there ... realizing how much I'd changed since finding this site and reading Richard, et al.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 15:37:00 UTC | #408637

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 8 by SaintStephen

Fundamentalism is in many ways a desperate reaction to that loss, that deep down even they know God is a powerless answer. That was the striking thing about the "Creation" Museum: it's a deeply fundamentalist institution, but even there in the heart of Christian literalism, they do nothing but ape the trappings of science and strive to present a "science" to support claims that were once sufficiently endorsed by simply pointing to the Bible. God is dead; he is no longer a vital element in how human beings interact in a meaningful, productive way with the universe. Modern fundamentalism is basically a series of aftershocks as cultures struggle to deal with the fall of gods.
Great stuff PZ!!!

EDIT:
We are meaning-seeking creatures.
Wrong, Karen Armstrong. We are pattern-seeking creatures. And there is a big, big difference. "Meaning" is our own peculiar memetic mis-creation.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 15:48:00 UTC | #408642

DNR's Avatar Comment 9 by DNR

I dont know guys, I think she made some good points. I mean, she did say that "God has proven to be alive and well." I can't speak for you guys, but that's good enough for me.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 15:55:00 UTC | #408644

gos's Avatar Comment 10 by gos

The US is an outlier, a weird country that combines wealth and religiosity. Using it as an example is a very bad idea.


Correlating national wealth and religiosity leaves the U.S. as an outlier, yes.

More thoughtful comparisons have been done and they reveal that there is a very obvious correlation between religiosity and unequal wealth distribution: considering 1st world countries the most religious (the U.S., Greece and Italy) are also the countries with the highest disparity between the wealthy and the poor. Conversely, the country with the lowest proportion of people below the poverty line is also the least religious: Sweden. I'd say the obvious interpretation is that poverty and desperation breed religion.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 16:01:00 UTC | #408647

Mitch Kahle's Avatar Comment 11 by Mitch Kahle

"I'd say the obvious interpretation is that poverty and desperation breed religion."

No doubt about it!

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 16:13:00 UTC | #408651

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 12 by SaintStephen

Human beings, whether atheist or believer, have the same cognitive apparatus that seeks to find meaning and pattern in the world. The difference between us isn't at all biological, but simply that some of us recognize that "god" is a piss-poor answer to any meaningful question, and we've moved on to looking for that meaning and pattern in more productive ways.
So PZ uses "meaning and pattern" to soften the blow. I mean, no pun intended, what the heck does meaning "mean" anymore? I'm sure PZ would agree that we are simply pattern-seeking robots "lumbering" through life as stipulated in The Selfish Gene. Is there any meaning in that?

Methinks this is the voyage humankind is just embarking on, as soon as we can toss the ancient religious copouts/baggage overboard...

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 16:21:00 UTC | #408654

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 13 by Sally Luxmoore

Since SaintStephen (comment 8) has already blockquoted my favourite part of PZ's article, here's my second favourite:

Bleh. What a mess of goo and vapor. I don't doubt that Armstrong is an intelligent woman, but she's giving us another reason why religion is bad for people and for nations: it turns good brains to mush. And that's a condition that can only make toothless zombies happy.

Religion teaches circular arguments, a mistaken idea of 'subjective truths' and a shameful disdain for evidence.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 16:41:00 UTC | #408663

ozturk's Avatar Comment 14 by ozturk

The woman is mad - as usual. Also, the pharyngula link doesn't work.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:02:00 UTC | #408674

ozturk's Avatar Comment 15 by ozturk

And why the hell is this item by Armstrong in Foreign Policy journal, for f*** sake?!?

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:06:00 UTC | #408675

Ballardian's Avatar Comment 16 by Ballardian

I find it ironic that PZ Myers attacks Armstrong for caricaturing atheist beliefs when I have never seen him do anything but caricatures of the religious.

I really wish he would stop 'reviewing' (or whatever it is he's doing) books on subjects he knows nothing about, he is just becoming an irritant now. Armstrong's book is better on religion than all the 'New Atheist' attempts combined.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:15:00 UTC | #408679

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 17 by Quetzalcoatl

Ballardian-

Armstrong's book is better on religion than all the 'New Atheist' attempts combined.


What do you think are the strongest points she makes, then?

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:21:00 UTC | #408684

clunkclickeverytrip's Avatar Comment 18 by clunkclickeverytrip

In the blue corner, "Goliath" Ballardian and in the red corner, "David" Quetzalcoatl - slingshot at the ready...

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:39:00 UTC | #408692

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 19 by SaintStephen

16. Comment #426941 by Ballardian on October 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I find it ironic that PZ Myers attacks Armstrong for caricaturing atheist beliefs when I have never seen him do anything but caricatures of the religious.
Translation:
I find it ironic that PZ Myers attacks Armstrong for making fun of the lack of belief in unicorns when I have never seen him do anything but make fun of the belief in unicorns.
What's ironic about that? It's all good comedy, basically.
I really wish he would stop 'reviewing' (or whatever it is he's doing) books on subjects he knows nothing about, he is just becoming an irritant now. Armstrong's book is better on religion than all the 'New Atheist' attempts combined.
Translation:
Stop it PZ you big bully. And that goes for the rest of y'all, too.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:54:00 UTC | #408704

j.mills's Avatar Comment 20 by j.mills

Hey, Ballardian, in particular can you give us the page references where she presents evidence for the existence of gods? Then we can all check it out in the bookshops without buying and ploughing through the umpty-hundred page apophatic screed. (Remember, our immortal souls are at stake here. Allegedly.)

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 19:25:00 UTC | #408763

Kmita's Avatar Comment 21 by Kmita

Some of the comments in response to that article are absolutely ridiculous. Being in a position to see how stupid people are really strains my capacity to empathize with their condition.

After all, it's not abnormal to feel sorry for someone who is so errant in their thoughts that they can't even understand there's a problem in their reasoning.

Unfortunately that feeling quickly passes only to be replaced by something that demands I call them retards and spit on the garbage they try to pass for intelligent conversation. However, I didn't do that.

Also, it never ceases to annoy me when people of our bent are declared "new atheists". There's nothing new about us except for the relief from the fear of death at the hands of unruly morons. Even still, some of us are required to maintain that fear. So if the only thing "new" about "new atheists" is our ability to clearly speak our mind without fear of physical repercussions, why do the religious opt to use the term in what I think is clearly a derogatory manner. If anything, the term has to say more bad things about them than about us.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 19:52:00 UTC | #408782

Ballardian's Avatar Comment 22 by Ballardian

I by no means want to get into a massive debate, I just wanted to vent my rage because I thought it unlikely that anyone else would disagree with PZ Myers.

Comment #426946 by Quetzalcoatl
That is a fair question but I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to do justice to any of her points in this context. I also don't have the book handy as I'm at university and my copy is back at home. I know it sounds like I'm evading the question but even if I managed to do her points justice I'd probably then have to defend them from a storm of criticism, which I just haven't got the knowledge to do.

Comment #427025 by j.mills
Same goes for you. Although I should say that it is not a book that strives to prove or provide evidence for the existence of God, more what God has meant to different religions and cultures through time. I do think that the book has its flaws, and I'm not saying it's the best book on the subject ever written, I just think Myers is often too paralysed by his agenda to really give books like this a fair reading.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 20:08:00 UTC | #408795

Kmita's Avatar Comment 23 by Kmita

Ballardian, go crawl back into your hole of self perpetuating ignorance that you like to call the religious community.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 20:24:00 UTC | #408807

Mark Smith's Avatar Comment 24 by Mark Smith

Ballardian

even if I managed to do her points justice I'd probably then have to defend them from a storm of criticism, which I just haven't got the knowledge to do

How do you know she is right then?

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 20:39:00 UTC | #408813

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 25 by TIKI AL

"Armstrong's book is better on religion than all the 'New Atheist' attempts combined."

Exactly what the hell do you base this on?

I blaspheme in your general direction.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 20:55:00 UTC | #408819

John Yates's Avatar Comment 26 by John Yates

Ballardian, no-one is asking you to present a rigorous defense of Armstrong's book, just that you very briefly tell us what you feel is one of her more interesting points.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 20:55:00 UTC | #408820

Quine's Avatar Comment 27 by Quine

<!-- -->I listened to Armstrong explain her new book at length here. She kept alternating between interesting comments like the mythical origins of scripture, which showed good research and reasoning, and completely nebulous new-agey concepts of religion as something beyond what anyone thinks it is, until the needle on my double talk detector wound itself around the pin.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 21:21:00 UTC | #408828

Ballardian's Avatar Comment 28 by Ballardian

Comment #427075 by Mark Smith

How do you know she is right then?

Right about what? I wouldn't be able to defend her position because I haven't got decades of theological knowledge behind me, if I have any at all. I think the theory of evolution is 'right', that is, based in fact, but I would do a very poor job of defending it against doubters because I am not a scientist.

Comment #427081 by TIKI AL
Exactly what the hell do you base this on?

I blaspheme in your general direction.

I base it on having read a far amount of recent books by atheists, as well as Karen Armstrong's new book. It's my opinion. Bear in mind I say it's better on religion, by which I mean it is informative about religion and Armstrong understands it a lot better than most. I actually enjoyed God Is Not Great more, but that's because Hitchens is a great, entertaining writer and not because it provides any special insight into, well, anything really.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 21:44:00 UTC | #408836

Oystein Elgaroy's Avatar Comment 29 by Oystein Elgaroy

"The Case for God", page 179:

"The case of Galileo has become a cause celebre, emblematic of what is
thought to be the eternal and inherent conflict between science and
religion. But in fact Galileo was a victim not of religion per se but
of the post-Tridentine Catholic Church at a time when it felt an
endangered species. Pope Urban VIII made an appalling error when he
silenced Galileo, but Galileo also made mistakes. Each represented
the intolerance of modernity, which was beginning to overtake the more
open, liberal and healthily sceptical spirit of the Renaissance."

The book is full of similar statements. Reading the book I get the impression that Armstrong wishes we could rewind the tape of history to the bronze age.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 21:57:00 UTC | #408843

Quine's Avatar Comment 30 by Quine

In her vast studies, Armstrong seems to have missed the observation by Voltaire that "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" which compactly explains most of religious history.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 22:08:00 UTC | #408850