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Go to: Dawkins Delusion (3rd article, Same Stupid Title)

Chris's Avatar Jump to comment 226 by Chris

Right – article comments

My writing so far has been an attempt at criticising your first article (I have not read your other as I do not have access to the page they are on). My thoughts have centred on two arguments you make which I think are incorrect.

1) That Dawkins and atheism are coming from a position of faith (blind faith presumably) and that they are fundamentalists or evangelicals and that their viewpoint is therefore no better than that of religious fundamentalists.

I have written at length in our discussions on this, I disagree strongly because based on the evidence available theirs is the most logical and rational position to take. You have disagreed, I am adamant that you are wrong to disagree. In particular the view that theirs is a faith position is particularly irritating because they clearly are not, the only assumption they are making is that their perception of reality is a reasonable representation of truth, you have challenged this assumption but it is in my opinion wrong to do so because the doubting of perception leads only to the admission that we know nothing, we can not even know that the bible exists or even that other people exist. Acknowledging that we do not know everything does nothing to strengthen the God hypothesis.



2) That the Dawkins belief is hypocritical because while he attacks the morality of religious leaders, atheist leaders like Stalin are worse.

While the truth of a religion has no impact on its usefulness, this argument is important to Dawkins because it explains why we should not just let religion be and why it needs to be confronted.

The best way I can express this is to use the Steven Weinberg approach. Some leaders in history have been good (there to put the interest of humanity before themselves) and some have been bad (megalomaniacal self interested and willing to make people suffer for their own good or ideology). But there is also a category of leaders who have probably been basically good, and wanted to do 'the right thing', but what they actually did was bad because they were following scripture to a logical conclusion. The Spanish inquisition was quite moral, so is murdering doctors who conduct abortions, opposing stem cell research, flying planes into the twin towers, hating 'fags', killing infidels or instigating a nuclear holocaust in the middle east IF you interpret a holy book to mean that these things are Gods will and some people do interpret it that way and I can't really blame them.

It is not surprising that megalomaniacs like Stalin and Hitler were atheist, but that is because they would reject something greater than themselves, they are not megalomaniacs because they are atheist, they are just megalomaniacs.

"Good people will always do good things, bad people will always do bad things, but only religion can make good people do bad things".

This is also what I meant when I said that secular humanism offers no barriers to acting in the best interests of humanity, it will make mistakes, but will do so for honest reasons not because it was following scripture.

We do not want bad people as leaders but we also to not want good people committing bad deeds because of their faith in an ancient text, no matter how well intentioned their actions. And as Dawkins pointed out, there sure are a lot of bad deeds in religious texts. We want good people unbounded by religious dogma (or indeed dogma of any kind), free to do what they deem best for humanity.

These are the general themes I would address in article 1. There are specific aspects too. These are as follows.


The following things are factually inaccurate or misleading.

- "Dawkins does not discuss with fundamentalists". He does, but seeks to avoid public debate (although has conducted such debate in the past).
- Atheists are poorly represented in America, indeed the House of Representatives and the Senate contain no openly atheist members to my knowledge. Atheists are mistrusted, disliked and unelectable entirely because they are atheists.
- In post 539 in rebutting Martin, you said you were not brought up in the church, but in the article you said you were brought up in a religious home. I know you can argue you rejected that teaching at a young age but I think it fair to say you have done some distinct blurring of the boundaries to score a point on Martin here.
- Your compare Dawkins to the Nazi's in saying that blaming the worlds ills on religion is like the Germans blaming everything on the Jews (I don't think Dawkins does blame the majority of ills on religion).

This is also a highly misleading, there are lots of examples in history of one group blaming things on a particular ideology, for example one can flip it around and blame the problems of the Jews during the holocaust on the Nazi's anti-Semitic ideology or one can cite the subjugation of blacks in the US on the racist ideology incumbent in the country at the time. Sometimes the accusers are right – to pick the example of the Nazi's blaming the Jews is unnecessarily provocative and misleading (no one is talking about rounding anyone up, just persuading people of a particular ideology to change their minds).

One final point – you say the arguments for atheism are sixth form in nature ( I will assume you deal with them directly in future articles). Indeed it is worse than that as I independently came up with almost all of them as a theist at the age of 14 whilst on my Religious Studies GCSE course. That they are simple and obvious does nothing to diminish their power, if anything it enhances it. For all the sophisticated theology over the years, the simple truth is that (for my mind at least) a personal God hypothesis is undone by a child's logic. I think this is one of the most powerful ideas of the book because many, myself included, long thought 'there must be more to religion than this?' – By demonstrating that there isn't, I think Dawkins might win quite a few converts. I know this last comment will grate, I do not mean offence. I look forward to your counter to Dawkins arguments.

I also agree with you on something! I think there is a subtext in Dawkins book that the Religious are stupid. I think and hope that Dawkins himself would not actually say this, but it is certainly a subtext to the book and I don't like it because it is not true and it is not nice. As you have demonstrated, and has many others have demonstrated theism is not caused by stupidity (Issac Newton for a start). On the other hand, the aggressive tone probably helps raise the profile of the debate which is a good thing. I just don't like not being nice.

I hope you had a safe trip.


Chris

Wed, 29 Nov 2006 08:28:00 UTC | #9556

Go to: Dawkins Delusion (3rd article, Same Stupid Title)

Chris's Avatar Jump to comment 215 by Chris

539. re Material vs Non material world.

You were quite right to pick me up on that, I did not address that very well, and what I wrote was balls! I am someone who is very interested in the concepts of Super String theory and this rather assumes a certain number of hidden spatial dimensions, I have no idea what if anything lurks in them, indeed I can not even conceive what it means to co-exist with curled up spatial dimensions, but I can appreciate the mathematical argument for their existence, which may or may not be valid. The point being, you are quite right, I can make no judgement on the importance to this reality of other realities, spatial or otherwise which I can not understand.

Indeed I deem it highly that there is much that is material that I do not know and cannot understand and much that is not what I would call 'material' that I also do not understand (Dark matter and energy for starters but these are only things at the edge of my not understanding, I suspect my ignorance goes much much deeper).

But…. (you knew one was coming)

I don't see how any of this changes my assessment of whether or not there is a personal God, the fact that I, like you am not all knowing about the nature of creation, does not increase the possibility of the existence of a personal God, especially as a Personal God by nature interacts with the material world in which I exist (through prayer, miracles and the sending of begotten sons).

My belief in a personal God is entirely dependant on the data that I am aware of. There could be such a God, but from my point of view, the probability of his existence is proportional to the evidence I see, which is basically none and thus I'm afraid his existence, based on the information available to me, it is no more likely than our friend the spaghetti monster. If I am wrong, I hope Allah or Zeus or Yahweh or the Spaghetti Monster understands I approached this issue with an open mind and made an honest decision but frankly, they put me in an impossible position and they really only have themselves to blame.

Chris

Tue, 28 Nov 2006 07:17:00 UTC | #9448

Go to: Dawkins Delusion (3rd article, Same Stupid Title)

Chris's Avatar Jump to comment 214 by Chris

Just a couple of points about the evil of atheist states, I think it is fundamentally true that any government that seeks to control beliefs of its citizens is one that I would not support whether it is atheist, communist, Muslim, Christian, etc. I

Indeed the only conceivable reason for banning a particular belief (that I can see) is that one is trying to shove a totally unpleasant idea down people's throats. I do not want to see religion banned; I see that as an absolutely appalling outcome.

But I am an atheist and I think that a secular humanist society is preferable basis to anything else I can think of because it contains no barriers (such as denial of rights to certain groups, opposition to certain aspects of scientific research and medical technology, and the justification for war) to pursuing outcomes that achieve maximum human benefit. Such a system should only be in place because it is the democratic will of society.

If secular humanism is unsuccessful in achieving the goals of promoting freedom and happiness, then under a democratic system it should rightfully be displaced by something that does the job better. I can not think of any societies where secular humanism has been the democratically chosen system of government and basis for society, the closest thing I can think of is the early United States, but as Im not an historian so I could be wrong about that..

I would like to see atheist humanists obtain a democratic majority in a major western country and form a specifically secular humanist government that does nothing to directly subjugate religion but promotes a separation of religion from all state run activities, in particular education and government – that is, on the governments watch, there is no religion of any kind. I am mostly a libertarian and would advocate freedom of religion and freedom from religion.

I think this is what other atheists want too; I think it is what Dawkins want. I think we should not imagine that we are seeking to round up the theists and put them in concentration camps, I want theists to choose to be atheists, if they do not, then I view that as a pity but so be it. If we can not achieve a democratic majority, then we have failed. We will also have failed if we get a majority and things get no better, which is also a possibility.

I do not know that it is possible to achieve this and I do not know for certain if it will work if we do, but I think it worth a try because it seems at least potentially to be beneficial to world peace, science, technology and education and these are things that I really care about.

Some people will not be easy to convert, they believe the evidence gives them a genuine case for faith, but I think that huge numbers of theists either have major doubts or are really, if they are honest, just 'in the closet' atheists. That is what this growing movement is about, saying

"Its OK to have these doubts, they are well founded and you are not alone. You are not evil or stupid, you just don't believe and that's fine."

I would personally have preferred Dawkins to have taken a softer tone in his book, but I am very glad that his book in particular seems to have had a big impact in raising this debate, I think that is a major goal of the book and a major victory that has already been achieved. Pene, for example, seems to have been influenced in exactly the way I would have hoped. I hope there are many more like you – Well done.

Tue, 28 Nov 2006 06:37:00 UTC | #9444

Go to: Atheists Agonistes

Chris's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by Chris

David,

While I largely agree that the future for humanity is quite bleak, I think you are missing a couple of points.

1. Science is not where the buck stops for blame in the damage humans may ultimately do to the world, the curiosity and desire for knowledge that created science is a feature that is inherent in humanity as is the desire to use that same science and technology for personal power through conquest. We are a curious and territorial creature and this explains the way science has been created and used.

2. We are just one of many millions or billions of species that has lived on the earth, we are not special in any way, noone will miss us. If we kill ourselves and much of natural life as well, it will be another great extinction event. One of many the earth has endured, life will most likely recover.

3. Without God, there is nothing objectively evil about humanity, any more than it can be said that a lion is evil for killing a gazelle. We are what we are, but what we do have in science is Earth life's one slim hope of outliving the Sun. I think this is worth pursuing even if the consequence of failure is another distinction event. The alternative is to sit here and wait for the Sun to kill us – now that is as truly bleak outlook.


Ps – If Britain runs out of Natural Gas we will use other forms of energy, Nuclear, renewable, coal and import. Economics drives science and technology; high energy prices deliver more efficient energy solutions,

Chris

Tue, 28 Nov 2006 02:13:00 UTC | #9423

Go to: The New Atheism

Chris's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Chris

its a beautiful thing dingodave, brought a smile to my face.

Mon, 27 Nov 2006 14:07:00 UTC | #9370

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