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Tom Day's Avatar Joined about 7 years ago
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Go to: God grief

Tom Day's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by Tom Day

Good review. People don't subscribe to a religion following a careful examination of the philosophical or evidential arguments in its favour (unless they are stupid) - nor even after undertaking a review of its (often malign) place in history. They are either born and brought up in a religious tradition or embrace it when they are older for emotional reasons. Either way, it is unlikely that reason alone will convince many of them to abandon their faith. Harris's debate with Andrew Sullivan was a classic example of this. He won the intellectual argument hands down, but he offered no alternative vision to a man for whom religion provides emotional sustenance.

Mon, 21 May 2007 05:08:00 UTC | #40556

Go to: 'God Is Not a Moderate'

Tom Day's Avatar Jump to comment 452 by Tom Day

Comment #26905 by BaronOchs

BaronOchs, I appreciate your point. From their earlier exchanges, I don't get the feeling Andrew would behave as you suggest, but I have no knowledge of him beyond these blogs and you could be right. I do think , however, that Sam's logic has battered and bruised him to such an extent already that Andrew has been forced to retreat into a discussion on the emotional benefits of religion. Andrew tacitly admits as much. Therefore, Sam could have acknowledged that the debate has entered a new phase - the intellectual pretensions of Christianity having been dismissed - and engaged him in this territory. It's saying 'Come on Andrew, you know Christianity is nonsense, but you're clinging on to it. Let us show you how you can lead a fulfilling life without it'. Winning this debate will be much harder than winning the intellectual argument.

Thu, 22 Mar 2007 10:39:00 UTC | #24651

Go to: 'God Is Not a Moderate'

Tom Day's Avatar Jump to comment 435 by Tom Day

I think Sam has misjudged his last post. He clearly won the intellectual arguments in his earlier ones, forcing Andrew to defend his faith by reference to the emotional appeal of religion for believers.

"Maybe these psychological and spiritual experiences are simply the best way that humans have devised through countless millennia for coping with their own conscious knowledge of their own mortality." - Andrew's last post.

Instead of repeating himself, Sam should have gently offered up an alternative vision to tempt Andrew - a vision of community life in which people come together without churches, a vision of a shared morality based on human considerations (not biblical imperative), a vision of charitable enterprise inspired by simple compassion rather than religious motives, a vision of how people can come to terms with human suffering, survive trauma, bereavement and face death without the comfort of religion. At the end of the day you can point out to a drug addict the damage he is doing to himself until you are blue in the face, but you are going to do an awful lot more to help him get clean. The prospect of life without the emotional crutch of religion is simply too much for most believers to face up to.

Thu, 22 Mar 2007 02:52:00 UTC | #24581

Go to: 'God Is Not a Moderate'

Tom Day's Avatar Jump to comment 434 by Tom Day

I think Sam has misjudged his last post. He clearly won the intellectual arguments in his earlier ones, forcing Andrew to defend his faith by reference to the emotional appeal of religion for believers.

"Maybe these psychological and spiritual experiences are simply the best way that humans have devised through countless millennia for coping with their own conscious knowledge of their own mortality." - Andrew's last post.

Instead of repeating himself, Sam should have gently offered up an alternative vision to tempt Andrew - a vision of community life in which people come together without churches, a vision of a shared morality based on human considerations (not biblical imperative), a vision of charitable enterprise inspired by simple compassion rather than religious motives, a vision of how people can come to terms with human suffering, survive trauma, bereavement and face death without the comfort of religion. At the end of the day you can point out to a drug addict the damage he is doing to himself until you are blue in the face, but you are going to do an awful lot more to help him get clean. The prospect of life without the emotional crutch of religion is simply too much for most believers to face up to.

Thu, 22 Mar 2007 02:51:00 UTC | #24580

Go to: 'God Is Not a Moderate'

Tom Day's Avatar Jump to comment 405 by Tom Day

I think Andrew Sullivan should be commended for entering into this kind of dialogue - and showing a willingess to be so frank. Most Christians (in my experience) are not like this. Some previous postings are a little uncharitable to him I think.

Basically, Sam has been winning this exchange hands down - that's no surprise, not merely because he's a very smart fellow but also because he has all the best arguments on his side. However, Andrew has raised a couple of points worthy of consideration by us atheists. First, our naturalistic approach to understanding the World around us is based on certain asumptions about what constitutes valid knowledge acquisition (i.e science and reason). Often Christians try to argue that their beliefs are consistent with science and reason, rather than question some of the underlying assumptions of science and reason. This is a line of attack pursued by Alvin Plantinga I believe. It is worthy of relfecting upon, if only to be certain that our foundations are firm (which I believe they are).

Second, and more importantly, Andrew's last post makes the point that an atheistic World-view is not very emotionally satisfying for many religious believers. The fact that something is comforting does not make it true, but, nonetheless, I have a lot of sympathy with this view. We need to do more than attack religious beliefs: we need to offer an alternative humanistic vision that can inspire people and fill the emotional gap currently occupied by religion. Otherwise we will be preaching to ourselves.

Tue, 20 Mar 2007 09:02:00 UTC | #24281

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