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An imaginary deity is denounced and debunked - Comments

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 1 by Mr Blue Sky

Good review, what an unexpected present, I like the way he shows up the hypocrisy of the US political system of modern times.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 14:41:00 UTC | #12696

blaine's Avatar Comment 2 by blaine

To any who haven't seen my name, I'm a whole-hearted New Atheist. But... I'd like to point out that the argument for the non-religious founding of America is not as cut and dried as Dawkins or West make it out to be. I'm sure that Dawkins knows that he has oversimplified the situation (just as he knowingly simplified genetics for Selfish Gene). I have no idea about West.

The problem is, every Founding Father that I know about wrote both pro-religious and anti-religious things. Even Jefferson! Remember that these people were not only subject to typicalhuman vicissitudes, but were politicians. Any historian will tell you that there was serious mud-slinging in the first few elections for American president. As a preliminary opint-- the Declf Ind. mentions God.

I think Dawkins would admit that his evidence for Jefferson's alleged atheism is not conclusive. It is definitely not the consensus of professional historians. Franklin is one of the most ambiguous writers I've ever seen about religion. I've read his autobiography and two biographies, and I still have no idea which side he leaned to when he passed away.

My theory is that the great majority of the Founding Fathers were genuine (non-salvation) Deists, but they had to play to Christianity to the public since the great majority of the American public were traditional Christians.

So, before bringing up some Founding Father quote before a Christian audience, do some thorough research on that specific founder so that you don't get broadsided with a conflicting quote which is just as genuine as yours... or at least expect it and honestly admit that while your qoute proves that the person was your ally at some times, some times he (they were men) was not.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 15:33:00 UTC | #12709

helen sotiriadis's Avatar Comment 3 by helen sotiriadis

debunk the bunk!

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 15:36:00 UTC | #12710

Jared's Avatar Comment 4 by Jared

I believe, Blaine, that Dawkins DOES argue that the Founding Fathers were Deists who (at least in the case of Jefferson) weren't terribly fond of having religion as a national institution.

But I also think he makes a statement that "Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism," which certainly would say that, if deists, the Founding Fathers weren't atheistic. You are right, either way, to point out the wishy-washy opinion of religion that most of them held!

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 15:49:00 UTC | #12714

blaine's Avatar Comment 5 by blaine

As noted specifically by West, Dawkins DOES argue that Jefferson was an "atheist". That is exactly what I am referring to in the first two sentences of the third paragraph of Comment #2 above.

I have run into many atheists who have concluded (understandably), based on atheistic authors such as Dawkins, that the Founding Fathers stood stoutly against organized religion.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 18:36:00 UTC | #12734

Kimpatsu's Avatar Comment 6 by Kimpatsu

Bear in mind that, in the time of the Founding Fathers, special creation was the best explanation anyone had for biodiversity. It wasn't until Darwin came along that a better explanation prevailed. Even Hume, a staunch atheist and contemporary of the FF, had trouble with the origins of species. Dawkins's contention is that had the FF known what Darwin knew, the last reason they had for thinking there might be a shadowy supreme being would have been swept away, and their atheism naked for all to see.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 18:57:00 UTC | #12737

Jared's Avatar Comment 7 by Jared

Do you have a quote handy where Dawkins says that? I'm not saying he doesn't, it's been a while since I looked at or heard him read from the book. I remembered that it just involved isolated quotes that might CONSTRUE an anti-religious bent, but that didn't explicity state "These men were atheists." There's every chance in the world I'm wrong, though.

I know that there was not a unified stand against institutionalized religion in the beginning. From what I've read about Jefferson, his opinions on the matter were somewhat controversial in Virginia at the time. Nonetheless, his advocacy of church-state separation does speak strongly for him. I don't think he was against organized religion, simply a state-sponsored one.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 18:57:00 UTC | #12738

blaine's Avatar Comment 8 by blaine


I apologize for my last sentence, which is pretty imprecise. I should have said:

I have run into many atheists who have concluded (understandably), based on atheistic authors such as Dawkins, that the Founding Fathers stood *wholeheartedly and consistenly" against organized religion.

Dawkins thinks that many FF were closet atheists. He gives several quotes (cited by West) where they stand against religion, and gives no hint that the same people also spoke for (pro) religion.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 18:58:00 UTC | #12739

Jared's Avatar Comment 9 by Jared

Gotcha, Blaine, thanks for the clarification :)

I agree with Kimpatsu's restatement of Dawkins's position, to a point. I think that, had evolutionary science been extant at the time when most of the Enlightenment deists, and those they inspired, were around, it is likely that some of them would have dropped the notion and opted for atheism. But I'm not sold on the point, for a large variety of socially motivated reasons. It is, at best, a reasoned guess and far from a certainty (no matter how much I'd like for it to be!)

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 19:05:00 UTC | #12741

blaine's Avatar Comment 10 by blaine

Seems like all parties here are agreed on all points engaged.

FYI, pp. 42 to 43 to TGI. Dawkins does argue this (closet atheism), but does not fully commit to it. I think that West, in the review above, really exaggerates Dawkin's commitment when he claims that

"... founding fathers of the United States were atheists who wanted their country to follow suit. Yes, absolutely true."

I very much doubt if Dawkins would say, "Yes, absolutely true," on this. Who knows, he could poke in here and settle the matter definitively. :)

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 19:16:00 UTC | #12742

lpetrich's Avatar Comment 11 by lpetrich

One has to distinguish between the US Founding Fathers' personal beliefs and what they thought was good for others to believe and practice.

One can believe that all varieties of religion are false yet believe that people ought to be made to practice some religion in order to make them virtuous. In effect, one would believe in Plato's Royal Lie; one would believe that the religion business is desirable as opium for the people.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 20:53:00 UTC | #12746

adorno's Avatar Comment 12 by adorno

Myth turns into enlightenment, and nature into mere objectivity. Men pay for the increase in their power with alienation from that over which they exercise their power. Enlightenment behaves towards things as a dictator toward men. He knows them in so far as he can manipulate them. The man of science knows things in so far as he can make them. In this way their 'in itself' becomes a 'for him.' In this transformation the essence of things is revealed as always the same, a substratum of domination. This identity constitutes the unity of nature.

(Horkheimer / Adorno: Dialektik der Aufklärung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1969. p. 12. My translation)

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 20:57:00 UTC | #12747

Niels Thorsen's Avatar Comment 13 by Niels Thorsen

RE: 12. Comment #14633 by adorno

Horkheimer sounds as if he is describing ever increasing complexity, (evolution), through a form of 'natural selection'.


Sun, 24 Dec 2006 00:24:00 UTC | #12770

adorno's Avatar Comment 14 by adorno

[...] That determines the course of demythologization, of enlightenment, which compounds the animate with the inanimate just as myth compounds the inanimate with the animate. Enlightenment is mythic fear turned radical. The pure immanence of positivism, its ultimate product, is no more than a so-to-speak universal taboo. Nothing at all may remain outside, because the mere idea of outsideness is the very source of fear.

(Max Horkheimer & Theodor Adorno: Dialektik der Aufklärung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1969. p. 15. My translation)

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 01:50:00 UTC | #12773

adorno's Avatar Comment 15 by adorno

The thinking that thinks from the question concerning the truth of Being questions more primordially than metaphysics can. Only from the truth of Being can the essence of the holy be thought. Only from the essence of the holy is the essence of the divine to be thought. Only in the light of the essence of divinity can it be thought or said what the word "God" is to signify. Or should we not first be able to hear and understand all these words carefully if we are to be permitted as men, that is, as ek-sistent creatures, to experience a relation of God to man? How can man at the present stage of world history ask at all seriously and rigorously whether the god nears or withdraws, when he has above all neglected to think into the dimension in which alone that question can be asked? But this is the dimension of the holy, which indeed remains closed as a dimension if the open region of Being is not cleared and in its clearing is near man. Perhaps what is distinctive about this world-epoch consists in the closure of the dimension of the hale [des Heilen]. Perhaps that is the sole malignancy [Unheil].

"Letter on Humanism," in Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), 253-254.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 01:51:00 UTC | #12774

adorno's Avatar Comment 16 by adorno

Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: "I seek God! I seek God!" As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why? is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea voyage? Has he emigrated? - the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub. The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. "Where is God gone?" he called out. "I mean to tell you! We have killed him, you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine putrefaction? - for even Gods putrefy! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we console ourselves, the most murderous of all murderers? The holiest and the mightiest that the world has hitherto possessed, has bled to death under our knife - who will wipe the blood from us? With what water could we cleanse ourselves? What lustrums, what sacred games shall we have to devise? Is not the magnitude of this deed too great for us? Shall we not ourselves have to become Gods, merely to seem worthy of it? There never was a greater event - and on account of it, all who are born after us belong to a higher history than any history hitherto!" Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. "I come too early," e then said. "I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is traveling - it has not yet reached men's ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star - and yet they have done it themselves!" It is further stated that the madman made his way into different churches on the same day, and there intoned his Requiem aeternam deo. When led out and called to account, he always gave the reply: 'What are these churches now, if they are not the tombs and monuments of God?'

Nietzsche - The Gay Science ($125)

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 01:59:00 UTC | #12775

Mel Z's Avatar Comment 17 by Mel Z

"God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him!"
we are all hoping for the day when these words ring true

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 14:16:00 UTC | #12814