We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, August 15. 2007
Atheism is selling books. Joseph Bottum at First Things thinks it's about politics - and about selling books.
Brewton says, of Bottum's piece, that the Atheists are getting desperate and frustrated:
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
"The attacks of September 11 fit in here somewhere: the sudden unavoidable awareness of Jihadism and radical Islam put a weapon in the hands of opponents of religion. Here are crazies announcing they want to kill us in the name of God, and thus—by the logical fallacy known as illicit conversion—everyone who believes in God must be a murderous lunatic. Here are neo-fascists who are creating theocratic states across the Middle East..."
(if only, I mean come on, where are all the atheists crying terrorist/wolf?) Oh I get it, the Muslims are over there... Pat Robertson is over here.
The only folks I see willing to stand up to the Jihad are Christians. Fine folks as far as I can see, and I'm tall. The next time someone is hanged or stoned to death for wearing a Slayer t-shirt in Idaho, well never mind, it will never happen.
Thank G_d it's just about selling books, because selling their ideas would be harder. How about a book regarding the sense that people's beliefs are personal and none of my business, and likewise in reverse. Put that on the shelf next to "Great Moderates in American History"
Roger Scruton says religion is not about God, but about the human need for the sacred. And that religion is not the cause of violence but the antidote to it.
The whole first paragraph is just plain wrong and absurd. There's not a grain of truth in it, and no one (atheist of believer) should condone this irresponsible rhetoric.
The second paragraph is similar. I know of no mainstream atheist who worships anything. We do believe in reason. If you want to point to someone on the lunatic fringe, you can do that. But so can I point to the lunatic fringe of religion. It's just not productive to do so.
Attributing the totalitarian horrors of the 20th century to atheism is also a gross distortion. The mass murders in the Soviet Union were not due to the official doctrine of atheism, but to the desire for political power and control. The same is true of China. As for Hitler, he was raised a Catholic and refers to his religious beliefs dozens of times in Mein Kampf and in his speeches. But, because of this, I would not blame all of his crimes on his religious beliefs. That would be simplistic and wrong.
I don't know if the claims about religion rebounding in the places you mention are true or not. Given the inaccuracies and distortions of what is said previously, I tend to doubt it. But if it is true, we all have cause to worry because religion has always had a history of intolerance, and when it gains ascendancy it is a fearful thing.
Most mainstream atheists couldn't care less about what people believe as long as they don't force their beliefs on others and don't harm others. The trouble is that religion does both. I can't begin to describe the hate and violence expressed in the communications atheists receive from religious people. This is what happens when people by into a dogma so completely—they can't tolerate those who believe differently.
As far as Hitchens, Dawkins, and others are concerned, read their books, explore their reasoning and facts, and then refute them, if you can, on the basis of reason and facts. Isn't this the way it should be in still free societies? And if you can't refute them, then you have something do think about, don't you. It is always uncomfortable when our beliefs are threatened, but it usually ends up as an opportunity to grow, either in affirming those beliefs or in changing them. In terms if the strident manner of some of these books, take it in stride, it's modern marketing, and everyone with a point of view does it. In fact, some publishers insist on provocative titles.
Roger, if I may say, no realm has more semantic traps than religion. "God" to me is whatever it is that motivated you to care enough about people--yourself included--to attempt to communicate your thoughts. It's a word, the word has meaning enough to inspire the deepest and hottest debate. That right there, to shorthand my favorite religious philosopher Spinoza, is the proof that there is something just beyond our grasp, drawing us ever into mystery.
The invisible guy who lives in the sky is just one way many folks attempt to cope with the mystery.
The totalitarian genocides get blamed on atheism in the sense that a dictator with no context but his own, is a free agent, and available to do great evil. Hitler while he kept a political wedge open with German Catholics, was trying feverishly to become their god --much as did the first modern killer-demigod Robespierre (who murdered priests in the thousands).
The idea of "Christianity rebounding strongly in Africa, Latin America, [and] Asia," as Brewton puts it, doesn't sound too much like a recommendation to me. Give me billions of poor and uneducated, and I will sell them religion. On the other hand, give me people schooled in critical thought and who know where their next meal is coming from, and I will have a much harder go of it.
Wonder if Brewton has even read Hitchens or Harris? My guess is no, he hasn't. Axe grinder.
“The whole first paragraph is just plain wrong and absurd”.
Well, it’s a psychological assessment—dubious at best without a real argument to back it up. It made me wonder what Brewton was selling.
“I know of no mainstream atheist who worships anything”.
Mainstream perhaps, but others? I attended a public awards ceremony for Salman Rushie at Harvard. It was held by a humanist organization in a church and the proceedings at least seemed like the apotheosis of man. I know this is a highly debatable contention, but I’m merely relating my impression of the event. I had a lovely time and I found Rushdie to be charming and urbane. Christians in attendance were more disturbed by the air of religiosity.
“The idea of "Christianity rebounding strongly in Africa, Latin America, [and] Asia…”
Isn’t it largely the Health and Wealth Gospel being foisted on those places? If the numbers prove it it’s a shame—HWG is the lowest form of a great religion.
“…Christopher Hitchins, Richard Dawkins, et al have become desperate to reassert the superiority of their own minds”.
Again, this is a (biased) psychological assessment. Certainly these people want to sell books, but I’m sure, like many Christians, they believe they’re right.
Atheism cannot unseat religion. As religious beliefs are a part of the fabric of human being, so atheism is a minority belief. Perhaps atheism could challenge the unrelenting historical trends if people were born tabula rasa, but we have a nature and it is significantly religious.
"...but we have a nature and it is significantly religious."
Can you provide a source for this declarative?
"Can you provide a source for this declarative"?
Of course not and you know that... I wouldn't even know where to begin. It's conjecture based on my impression of history.
Do you disagree?
If it's conjecture, why state it as fact?
Of course, I disagree. And it is simple enough to discharge your assertion as bunk. Religion and its dogma are man-made constructs. Babies are born with temperaments leading to character, but they are not born with religiousity. They are taught that by their ever earnest parents. It has nothing to do with history unless you're talking of the typically stupid nature of most humans.
"If it's conjecture, why state it as fact"?
Oh for God's sake.
Birds make nests. Is that a bird-made construct? Anyway, where did I say religion and dogma are not man-made?
If people have made religions consistently through history, might it not be in man's nature to make religion?
Epistemologically speaking, everyone believes a lot of things they don't know. For example: "Babies are born with temperaments leading to character, but they are not born with religiousity".
Temperment leads to character? Source that back for me.
Your problem, IMO, is like that of the source of this thread- you are arguing that others should think like you.
I must be one of those stupid atheists that has the manners to leave people's beliefs up to them. After all, can you prove there is no G_d? Well of course you can't, therefore Atheism is a BELIEF to you as well dude. You aren't any better than stupid humans who believe things they can't see, you are one as well.
short wiki on the so-called "God gene":
The evolutionary mechanism proposed--at least in this wiki--is that self-transcedence promotes optimism, which confers a relative biological advantage.
What i can't figure out is, if Man did invent God, why would that make God any the less? I mean, the instant the idea of God appears in the mind, God is manifest.
And the mind must choose what to do with idea. There is no refusal, not to choose is also a choice.
Lots of things have no mass or energy. Thoughts have no mass or energy, yet they create the higher self, from which flows creation.
I'm talking about babies, not whether or not religion is right or wrong. Unless you want to take my comment about stupid people to task. If that's the case, I'll just say the majority is not always right, and the majority can be very stupid.
"Please Remember Me II" David Keirsey -
"Temperament is a configuration of inclinations, while character is a configuration of habits. Character is disposition, temperament pre-disposition. ..... temperament is the inborn form of human nature; character, the emergent form, which develops through the interaction of temperament and environment."
It is man's nature to engage in metacognition. From this unique ability, he no doubt wonders about the mysteries of existence. If he is not taught about God - as we know him - he may well create his own. He may see his 'god' as that which makes him do good, makes him help his neighbor or a stranger.
Does this 'godless' person deserve our scorn, mockery, pity? Because he has no religious dogma to guide him, is he less than you? Is he an atheist?
None of the above.
Is it man's nature to make religion? Certainly. How else to control the majority?
Buddy, man invents many things. I do not think you would wish most of them to become manifest. Those that make us feel better and live longer are the ones that win. That doesn't mean they are real.
Some time ago a crazy dream came to me
I dreamt i was walkin' in world war III
I went to the doctor the very next day
To see what kind of words he could say
He said it was a bad dream
"I wouldn't worry about it none, you know
Them old dreams are only in your head"
(heh--Bob Dylan week --"Talkin' WWIII Blues")
What do doctors and metaphysicians know? Sometimes really smart people get things completely wrong. Dylan has happy crazy dreams, too
"It's like my whole life never happened,
When I see you, it's as if I never had a thought.
I know this dream, it might be crazy,
But it's the only one I've got..."
“Character…develops through the interaction of temperament and environment”. Overlooking the appeal to authority and accepting this conclusion, then it is true that temperament alone does not lead to character.
“If he is not taught about God … he may well create his own”. It’s very likely if history has anything to say about religion.
About babies and innate characteristics… Babies aren’t born with a fully developed language, but rather the ability and inclination to acquire language. I believe this is true of religion as well. If you stomp a religion out, another will take its place.
As for atheists… Pat Condell is great. I’d love to hang out with this guy because he’s funny. Check him out:
Pat Condell regarding atheism specifically:
Condell is funny, but he’s only looking at things from one perspective. I have many Christian friends who are cool people—nothing like the straw man Christian paraded about so blithely by many who should know better. Condell included. I don’t care if you’re an atheist or a Christian, just as long as you’re not an a**-hole.
“How else to control the majority”? You paint with a very broad brush. Do sweeping generalizations often work well for you? For a more reasoned response try a more nuanced approach.
"If you stomp a religion out, another will take its place."
Do sweeping generalizations often work well for you? For a more reasoned response try a more nuanced approach.
"“How else to control the majority”? You paint with a very broad brush."
Yes, I do in this case. No need for nuance as far as I am concerned here. Do notice that I was referring to 'religion', not belief in a 'god'.
By the way, the title of that book is "Please Understand Me II" - not 'Remember' me.
The ability to acquire language is nothing close to the 'ability and inclination to acquire religion.' The latter is conceptual, therefore optional.
"'If you stomp a religion out, another will take its place.'
Do sweeping generalizations often work well for you? For a more reasoned response try a more nuanced approach".
Show me the societies through history that haven't been religious, or where governments have crushed religion and it hasn't still grown like a weed. People will face the threat of death to hold true to their faith. It's not a sweeping generalization, it's a fact of human nature and history makes it clear.
"By the way, the title of that book is "Please Understand Me II" - not 'Remember' me".
Yeah, I checked David Keirsey on Wikipedia. Proofreading on the fly ain't easy.