Thursday, January 11, 2007

Consider this . . .

A short video by Why God Won’t Heal


Jason H. Bowden said...

Looking at the 20th century, who has been more harmful to mankind, the religious, or the atheists? Looking at the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the People's Republic of China, the Cambodian Reds, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il--- militant atheism doesn't look very healthy to me.

In older times, atheists, in the tradition of Epicurus, were happy to live in peace with the world. Since Hobbes, however, atheists have arrogantly believed they can change the world. It all stems from a modern bias that the past has nothing to teach us, that history is a story of progress and so forth. We ignore that much of morality isn't instilled in articulated principles, but resides in habit, imagination, convention, passion, and instinct.

Take the ten commandments for instance. While it looks simple, much of the wisdom is latent. Don't steal-- protect private property. Honor your father and mother-- learn from those who came before you, and avoid the recklessness of the new. Have no other gods-- the god of moses isn't something sensual, but something abstract beyond broken tablets that dignifies the person. Don't murder -- respect human life as an end in itself. Don't covet your neighbor's sports car -- be thankful and happy with the cards given to you. You get the idea.

Atheists of all people should know man is only a small step up from the beasts. When progressives, who worship progress, crusade against the myths of society, they often strip everything away from man until he is a primitive barbarian, hence releasing man's dark side. We've seen this result from the Jacobins to the Bolsheviks.

Stardust said...

Looking at the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the People's Republic of China, the Cambodian Reds, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il-

These examples you have given are religions in themselves. Mao even had his own religious text...The Little Red Book. Mao, Stalin, Castro, Kim Jong Il all made gods of themselves, forcing people to "worship" them.

You confuse me, I thought you are an atheist. Also, you have been scared shitless that Iran is going to annhilate Israel and the west because of their superstitious religious beliefs and now you are DEFENDING religion???

Lest you forget, the Muslim faith is an Abrahamic one that uses much of what you just defended in your comment (Ten Commandments). We don't need religion to have those values in society. In fact, religions just incorporated certain moral values into their religions.

Atheists are not out to "change the world"...but if people would give up the sky daddy beliefs it would make other problems much, much easier to deal with since people might just think a little more rationally. We don't need ancient mythology books in order to have morals. This is the arguments we have with xians all the time.

Tommy said...

As ever Stardust, Jason paints with a broad brush. During the Middle Ages, atheists had to keep a low profile, what with peaceful religious activities such as the Inquisition and trials for heresy and witchcraft going on.

Looking at the 21st century Jason, who do you fear more, religious fundamentalists or "militant" atheists? When was the last time an atheist flew a passenger airline into a building or blew him or herself up on a public bus? When has an atheist ever declared that a hurricane was nature's punishment on a community that restricted access to abortion or birth control or for trying to teach intelligent design in public schools? Does anybody in America fear that a "militant" atheist might set off a dirty bomb in New York City?

One could argue somewhat more broadly that the problem is not religion but rather dogmatism. The tyranny of Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's CCP set up apparatuses of control that stifled all dissent. As Stardust argued above, their ideology was in a sense a religion, a godless religion to be more exact.

Stardust said...

JHB - Reading the bible in its entirety, it contains much more immorality than morality, and pretty much the immorality cancels out the morality via contradicting verses.

From Sam Harris's "Letter to a Christian Nation"

" . . . Do members of the atheist organizations in the United States commit more than their fair share of violent crimes? Do members of the National Academy of Sciences, 93 percent of whom do not accept the idea of God, lie and cheat and steal with abandon? We can be reasonably confident that these groups are at least as well-behaved as the general population. And yet, atheists are the most reviled minority in the United States. Polls indicate that being an atheist is a perfect impediment to running for high office in our country (while being black, Muslim, or homosexual is not). Recently crowds of thousands gathered throughout the Muslim world -- burning European embassies, issuing threats, taking hostages, even killing people -- in protest over twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper. When was the last atheist riot? Is there a newspaper anywhere on this earth that would hesitate to print cartoons about atheism for fear that its editors would be kidnapped or killed in reprisal?

Christians like yourself invariably declare that monsters like Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Kim Li Sung spring from the womb of atheism. While it is true that such men are sometimes enemies of organized religion, they are never especially rational. In fact, their public pronouncements are often delusional: on subjects such as diverse as race, economics, national identity, the march of history, and the moral dangers of intellectualism. The problem with such tyrants is not that they reject the dogma of religion, but that they embrace other life-destroying myths. Most become the center of a quasi-religious personality cult, requiring the continual use of propaganda for its maintenance. There is a difference between propaganda and the honest dissemination of information that we (generally) expect from a liberal democracy. . .

The problem with religion -- as with Nazism, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology -- is the problem of dogma itself. I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became to desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.

Jason H. Bowden said...


Socialism is not a religion. There is a distinction between a religion and an ideology. The word isn't coextensive with anything that is bad-- there are bad ideas out there that do not entail belief in a superhuman agency.

In the 1900s, it was the atheists who were racking up body counts unheard of in human history. Intellectual honesty requires recognition of this fact, not evasion.

Looking forward, the fascist movement growing in the Muslim world is the greatest danger, but thankfully we have people like Bush who stand with the partisans of freedom. The Muslim religion itself is not a threat. Islamofascism is not an epithet-- it is a deep, sophisticated, intellectual, ambitious ideology that seeks to fashion a new kind of modernity where man can will no longer be schizophrenic and atomized, but will be authentic and fulfilled. They are not fighting for control of territory, economics, or military domination. They've integrated Islam into the Marxist critique of the West, along with the fascist plan for the new future, and think a society that has all of its different parts unified-- economics, education, law, science, literature and so forth -- in a totality inspired by Islam, the full dignity and freedom of the individual and society will be achieved.

Of course, the total society is nothing but totalitarianism, and a liberal (in the classic, not socialist sense) is a superior way of living. But our institutions-- the market, liberal democracy, and the family have all been attacked as shams lately. We educate Muslim elites with anti-Western nonsense in Western universities, and then we teach our own that all other cultures are superior to their own liberal tradition, since we are the sinful and guilty. if the trend continues, I have no doubt revolutionary Islam will win this struggle and the west will lose. Most of the west has already surrendered in self-hatred, and where atheism is more dominant, like France and Sweden, the fascists make greater inroads.

In short, religion is not the cause of the dark clouds we see in our historical horizon, and atheism is not a cure if Pol Pot and Kim Jong Il show us anything. Western decadence and how to overcome it is a greater and more complex challenge than this. Technology can get a superior civilization nowhere when people are taught not to use it, i.e., peace at any cost, even self-destruction.

Jason H. Bowden said...


From Mary Midgley's review of The God Delusion:

"These examples are, of course, endless, and the thought that removing religion would end such large-scale atrocities accounts in large part for the rise of anti-religious movements. However, the regimes they gave birth to during the 20th century included the governments of Nazi Germany, Pol Pot's Cambodia and Stalin's Russia. It is still not clear how it was possible for these regimes to commit the three most monstrous crimes of the epoch, but what does emerge is that removing religion had not helped at all. The roots of great crimes plainly lie far deeper than the doctrines people use to justify them.

In any culture, rogues defend their actions by professing whatever standards their society respects. Until recently, of course, Christianity was the norm in the west, but Marxism and fascism proved just as effective. Science, too, it turns out, can easily be used this way, as both Germany's and South Africa's justification of racism demonstrates. Religion is not really relevant at all, unless we carefully define "religion" to link it necessarily with atrocities.

This, of course, is the tendency of Dawkins's book. Dawkins is no rogue though; indeed, he is sincere in regarding God and religion the enemies of rationality - and in arguing that they are linked to atrocity to such an extent that they must be resisted. So much so that he is forced to assert that faiths which do not use the concept of God, such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, are not really religions at all. He also works hard to exclude scientists, such as Einstein, who firmly and repeatedly used religious language to express what are plainly central elements in their thought, from the taint of religion."

Tommy said...

Jason, did you read Dawkins' book? Because if you haven't, then you have no business citing someone else's opinion or review of it.

Stardust said...

Jason, we never said Stalinism, Maoism, etc. were actual religions, I said they are similar to religion...their ideology was dogmatic. I thought that would make it clearer by quoting Harris...apparently not because like a xian you are too involved in getting out only what is in your own mind and not listening. If you were listening you would not be labeling people unfairly.

Stardust said...

Also, this is not a black or white is various shades of colors.

Stardust said...

I could post about a dozen Mary Midgley rebuttals but I won't waste my time because I know your opinion already about a book you haven't read yet (if you ever bother to, Mary Midgley has made up your mind for you). As with any book, you are free to read it and criticize it as you will. I am not on the Dawkins or Harris worship wagon. I merely read what they write and agree with many of their points, and even disagree on them about a few things.

Again, please stop making wide-sweeping generalizations about people, especially here.

Stardust said...

Jason, question for you. What if when you begin teaching Science/Physics, a student/students come to you and tell you that your science is full of crap and when you give them a big fat zero for not cooperating the parents are in your face, and then the principal and the parents meet together and decide that their child should be given special consideration because of his/her religious beliefs? That happens in the school systems across the country on a daily basis. Fundamentalists are the most difficult to deal with.

I grade standardized academic achievement science essay exams for a company here in Illinois. Many times I have come across essays that state that science is not real, we don't need science, your science cannot help you, and so on. These are high schoolers, not little kids.
What do we do with them? Give them a zero? No...we give them to the supervisor who gives them back to the schools so they can make an allowance for religious beliefs. These are PUBLIC schools.

Jason H. Bowden said...

stardust, & tommy--

You analogy is appropriate. Dawkins, based on his lectures and books I have read, appears to have no philosophical training. Mary Midgley is a philosopher by profession. By your own criterion, you should take her word on things, not the ideas of Dawkins, since he is telling people in the realms of theology and philosophy of science what to think when his own knowledge of these field is, if not scant, non-existent. Dawkins has not read philosophers of science like Hempel, Carnap, Reichenbach and so forth, and apparently he hasn't read theologians like Barth, Brunner, and Tillich. What Dawkins preaches is an ideology known as scientism in intellectual circles. The world isn't as simple as Star Trek makes it out to be.

Secondly, reality is a complex and often times strange place, but that is never an excuse to obfuscate when one has lost an argument. Logic is binary, it is black and white, and denying your own capacity to think is something that cannot be justified without recourse to dogmatism.

Stardust said...

Who the hell mentioned star trek?

Stardust said...

Jason, I knew that Dawkins knows little about philosophy. He openly admits it at the start of his lectures. Once again...I am not a Dawkins worshipper. I agree with some things he says, disagree with others. I wish this had a text size option so I can make it bolder for you.

Stardust said...

Jason - Mary Midgely is not a scientist, though she spends a lot of time talking about science.

She was criticised by many biologists who considered that she had misunderstood Dawkins' ideas. For example, they objected that Midgley interpreted the expression "selfish gene" to literally mean that genes have a psychological dimension:

Her attacks on Dawkins seem to be more of a personal disagreement between the two of them.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see you got rid of the old gravatar. Easier to take you seriously.
Since Hobbes, however, atheists have arrogantly believed they can change the world
Wait, you slam Hobbes, & then it sounds like you took up his epistemology?
Atheists of all people should know man is only a small step up from the beasts.
That sounds a great deal like Hobbes.
In some points, I agree w/you. Atheism isn't, nor should it be considered, a panacea.
When progressives, who worship progress, crusade against the myths of society, they often strip everything away from man until he is a primitive barbarian, hence releasing man's dark side.
Let's approach it from a different angle:
it takes no sociology degree to see, that if a particular minority/opinion is oppressed for X amount of years, it either
A. Dies, or
B. Comes back w/a vengeance.
The chances of religion being eradicated are next to nothing in our lifetimes. Humanity, being a neurotic species, requires some sort of creature comfort.
I think the extreme needs to be taken, to soften the meme, to draw its fangs somewhat.

While I'm nowhere NEAR being a Marxist, I've been indulging myself in Feuerbach.
"The uninspired materialist says: “Man is distinguished from the animal only by consciousness; he is an animal, but one possessing consciousness in addition.” He does not take into account that a being who awakes to consciousness is thereby qualitatively changed." - Chap. 1, Essence of xtianity.
Feuerbach stipulates that religion is Man's worship of Himself, extended out into the unknown.
But I agree w/you: we're not ready collectively to completely throw off the yokes of myth. Individually, some are, but by & large? No.

Jason H. Bowden said...


The difference between Hobbes and the classics is that Hobbes had a mechanistic view of the world, while the classics saw things teleologically. In the Hobbesian universe, human beings are simple building blocks that can be conditioned to any form we want provided we have the vision to make it happen. Like B.F. Skinner, man has no freedom or dignity, and anything can be sacrificed for the general welfare.

The classics had much more sanity than that. They saw man as a rational animal, capable of action, but within natural limits. The ancient atheists, Epicurean and stoic alike, believed nature compels us to live in certain ways, and we deviate away from it at our own demise. The neo-classicists that founded our Republic understood this well, and build a system that would remained balanced, symmetrical, and harmonious, like a Mozart symphony, given the imperfection of man. As Leo Strauss noted, they built on low but solid ground.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that peek inside, Jason. It helps me understand why you rail so at modern materialists.
So, you think that all atheist/liberals are...what exactly? Ignoring the natural compulsions, substituting technology & dark visions?
The term 'teleological' implies a tacit nod to a designer (it does to me, at least).
I do have a problem w/this statement:
It all stems from a modern bias that the past has nothing to teach us, that history is a story of progress and so forth.
If there is, I haven't seen it. I blog a lot (probably more than I should), & I note that a great many atheists are very up on the history & the past. History informs the debate, I've heard.
I say that militant atheism is a good thing, in many respects. It gets noticed (the soft, moderate voice goes unheard more often than not) - it draws attentions to things that were once verboten to speak of.
Give it time. Time softens the edge of all things.
& of course, we're not blowing ourselves up to prove a point, either.