God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything God Is Not Great discussion


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message 1: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:23AM) (new)

Andy Premise 1: God was and continues to be invented by people.

Premise 2: Language was and continues to be invented by people.

Conclusion: Using language to argue against the existence of god is like using _____________ (noun) to _____________ (verb phrase).


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Using language to argue against the existence of god is like using architecture to build buildings.


message 3: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:24AM) (new)

Andy Dang. No converts yet.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I think Hitchens is an angry, spiteful guy, and I'm not making much effort to find and read his books, but, I mean, language is ALL we have to discuss things. Speech, self-reflection, talking to ourselves: These are the building blocks of consciousness, whatever the Zen dudes might say to the contrary--and I love them dearly.


message 5: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:25AM) (new)

Andy Agreed.

It just seems silly to me to count "being invented by humanity" as a negative aspect of any institution when obviously everything is invented by humanity. The very logic Hitchens uses to create his argument has been invented by humanity, so wouldn't the basis of his argument have many of the same flaws as the world's religions? Put another way: Is Reason just another religion? Are universities--those bastions of rationality--just so many more churches dotting the country side? Are professors preachers in sheep's clothes?


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 27, 2007 09:41PM) (new)

Scientific ideas can be disproven. It works really well--observe PROGRESS.

Belief in a God cannot be disproven, because there are no provable or disprovable elements to the assertion.


message 7: by Kelly (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly I think you are missing the point, as an atheist I found the book funny and brilliant. I think some of the best written sentences of all time are found in this text.

I agree that religion and belief in gods are all just man made notions, with a dose of fear of an afterlife.

Reason is for making the world a better place, to help improve the human condition. Gods/dogma may help some people but most organized religions just take your money.


message 8: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:37AM) (new)

Andy "Reason is for making the world a better place, to help improve the human condition. Gods/dogma may help some people but most organized religions just take your money."

In the religion of the academy, reason is the dogma. And they take your money, too. Another interesting similarity.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Grrr. All authority figures are bad. All organizations are bad. Grrr.


message 10: by Bryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:38AM) (new)

Bryan "Reason is for making the world a better place, to help improve the human condition."

Nonsense. Reason is just a tool, like a hammer. It can be used to be used to build a house or to cave someone's head in.

As for Brendan, Hitchens is a brilliant writer. He's a little off his nut when it comes to religion. But his work is always worth reading, even when I disagree.


message 11: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:42AM) (new)

Andy Brendan, regarding Message 6:

I believe you are trying to link science to progress; as in science leads to or causes progress.

The way you are using the word "progress" has positive connotations for me; as in progress is good.

I believe a more accurate word would be "change". Science, and the structure of rational thought that helps drive it, leads to and causes change. (Of course, in this sense, science is intimately connected with other socio-political factors--many of which rely on rationality as their driving engine as well. Law, governance, and business certainly rely on principles of rationality as well.) In my view, the jury is still out as to whether the changes are good, bad, or neutral--I believe arguments could be made for each of those options.

As for the second part of your argument, the part regarding proof, I believe proof is largely a matter of interpretation. So humanity developed a scientific method. And this method works well. One can use this method as evidence for the validity of science in general. I would argue that using the scientific method for proof of the validity of science is a closed loop, so to speak. We have developed a method for interpreting events of the universe, and the method works fairly well. It was very clever of us to develop the method such that it works. It would have been silly to develop a method that didn't work well.

Of course, their are limits to what science can explain. Thomas Kuhn's theories of scientific revolution, which I believe are fairly well accepted in most scientific circles, certainly introduce paradox to rational certainty. The theory suggests that all paradigms (basically, accepted theories of certain material events) have anomolies...little glitches that can't quite be explained by the prevailing theory. Eventually these anomolies will be explored and reinterpreted to the point where the prevailing paradigm has to change quite drastically to account for the new explanation.

To extend Kuhn's theory to the principals of rational thought in general (going from strictly science to the previously mentioned larger group of rational socio-political structures) would suggest that a) Kuhn's own idea will eventually become obsolete and that b) the way we understand reason today will eventually change to a point where we would barely even recognize it as reason.

These paradoxes are barely understandable in terms of language. The language doesn't exist to solve them. That is why, going back to the original post, I believe that language is an insufficient tool to accurately argue against the existence of god. If god and the religious experience are expressions of the irrational forces that seethe beneath our somewhat rational exteriors, god and the religious experience are certainly just as valid and useful as language and reason in creating and reacting to change.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 15, 2008 05:34PM) (new)

Those things beyond language are pointless to talk about. If they're beyond language, they're also beyond talking about, beyond discussing. Thus, what's the point of writing about god or religion or any other expressions of irrational forces?

But, in fact, irrational forces can be talked about with rational OR poetic OR rhetorical OR [Insert adjective here:] language. Speaking amongst ourselves, we have the capacity to change each other's minds about god, religion, supernatural things, etc. We have the capacity to make arguments about the utility of religion, about the history of the religion, about the potential existence of things we cannot see or things we don't understand.

Kuhn's theory is interesting and possibly true, but simply leads me to be humble about what I know and don't know. It doesn't further the discussion. It suggests it's invalid, in the way Wittgenstein said there are certain things language cannot speak of.

If you feel that way about god and religious experience, we have nothing more to talk about, because you don't believe we can talk about it. There's little fruitful dialogue amongst those who believe, as Taoists do, that "those who speak do not know, and those who know do not speak."


message 13: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:43AM) (new)

Alex I love you guys.


message 14: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:45AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Steve "Premise 1: God was and continues to be invented by people.
Premise 2: Language was and continues to be invented by people"

First off, I don't claim to know anything about formal argumentation theory, but something about the entire mad lib seems unsound (which they often are).

Premise 1: True.
Premise 2: False. Language is communication; communication wasn't invented by humans.

You are asserting that either communication was invented by humans or that language is different from communication.

Further, communication wasn't invented, it evolved. Language is a faculty evolved in Homo sapiens in order to more effectively survive and, in some cases, dominate the resources of its environment. In other places, termites have done this. In others, bats.

"The very logic Hitchens uses to create his argument has been invented by humanity, so wouldn't the basis of his argument have many of the same flaws as the world's religions?"

This rings of solipsism. All material reality can be rendered down to an irrefutable argument.

"If god and the religious experience are expressions of the irrational forces that seethe beneath our somewhat rational exteriors, god and the religious experience are certainly just as valid and useful as language and reason in creating and reacting to change."

I agree that uniformed decisions can affect as much change as informed ones, but I vehemently disagree that they are equally valid.


message 15: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:46AM) (new)

Andy I agree that mad libs are often unsound and that my particular mad lib did not escape that cruel fate.

If we were to accept that language is a process of evolution instead of an invention, I would then argue that religion is likewise an evolved process. Which, if true, would bring us around to the original conundrum: The basis of Hitchens' criticism is flawed in the exact same way as the object of his criticism.

There are obvious counter arguments to the notion of evolved religiosity:
1. Religion does not exist in any other species, therefore it could not be a result of evolution.
2. Not all people are religious, therefore it could not be evolved.


I think a challenge to the notion that religion is a result of evolution would lead to some interesting territory.

Regarding solipsism: I don't really feel the connection of "Hitchens' Conundrum" to solipsism. We may have different ideas about solipsism. But even if I have slipped into a solipsistic argument, I would challenge you to tell me what the heck is wrong with that.

(I feel that same about moral relativism as I do about solipsism, why are these terms automatic grounds for dismissal in our little cultural battles?)


Regarding your last statement, I think you're making quite a leap to equate religion with uninformed decisions and rationality with informed decisions. (I made a pretty big leap at the end of my last post, too, but really). Schools preach rationality, churches preach religion. Both institutions have a good amount of power when it comes to influencing people and helping them make informed decisions. Both institutions have political, economic, and other, less crass, motivations for winning people over. Is it possible that some people hold reason in such high esteem because of what's been drummed into them in "Monday School"? (As opposed to Sunday School, get it?)

One of my postulates is that rationality is just another religion. If that's not true, what makes rationality different than any other religion?


message 16: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:46AM) (new)

Alex I have to agree with Andy on that last point. I've contended for years that even atheism is a religion.

"Religion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience."

Regardless of what "religion" one follows, every human being finds a way to define their ethics, morals, and conscience. That being said, our individual approaches to the development of our "moral being" evolve and change based on current cultural mores, family background, life experiences, education, etc. I think that there is something to be said for the premise that both language and religion have evolved. Of course, that's if you agree with my assertion that reason/science/atheism and the like are all forms of religion....


message 17: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Alex Feels a little like school, doesn't it? LOL!!


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Andy, I'm confused about your counter arguments.

- - - - - - - - - -

There are obvious counter arguments to the notion of evolved religiosity:
1. Religion does not exist in any other species, therefore it could not be a result of evolution.

- - - - - - - - - -

Let's put a different word in place of "religion" and see if your argument is legitimate.

"Opposable thumbs don't exist in any other species; therefore opposable thumbs cannot be a result of evolution."

- - - - - - - - - -

2. Not all people are religious, therefore it could not be evolved.

- - - - - - - - - -

Let's try this again:

"Not all people are intelligent; therefore, intelligence cannot have been evolved."


message 19: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Andy Yes that's well put, Brendan. Good thing we two are not in that last group.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

I love you all.


message 21: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Steve One.
In addition to Brendan’s lucid comments, I’d add these:

“instead of an invention, I would then argue that religion is likewise an evolved process.”

I’d argue the same.

“The basis of Hitchens' criticism is flawed in the exact same way as the object of his criticism.”

You say this but have yet to make a real case for it:

1. “Religion does not exist in any other species, therefore it could not be a result of evolution.”

I really don’t mean any offense by this, but semantical puzzles aren’t arguments. It’s clear that there are novel morphological variations (to say nothing of subtler ones) across all species. If not, I want crab claws immediately. At least one.

2. “Not all people are religious, therefore it could not be evolved. I think a challenge to the notion that religion is a result of evolution would lead to some interesting territory.”

The territory of religiosity or pseudoscience? I find both interesting, but false. And in many cases dangerous. Further, people can be “religious,” i.e. be ritualistic, ecstatic, introspective, morally conscious and accountable, etc. without belief in spiritualism or supernaturalism. One may worship art or nature or mathematics or many things apart from a godhead. One may worship nothing at all.

This is the human psyche, an aspect of evolved sentience. Which we very luckily have.


message 22: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Steve Two.

“Is it possible that some people hold reason in such high esteem because of what's been drummed into them in "Monday School"?… One of my postulates is that rationality is just another religion. If that's not true, what makes rationality different than any other religion?”

[also:]

“I think that there is something to be said for the premise that both language and religion have evolved. Of course, that's if you agree with my assertion that reason/science/atheism and the like are all forms of religion....”

I don’t agree with that assertion, nor do I agree that rationality is religion, though I do agree that all of these things are evolved (which must now be evident to you all).

Religion is based on things outside of practical end evidential reality, while reason is based on the world around us, even if it’s relegated to being just "our" perception of it. But because it’s a perception unique to humans, and indeed to individuals themselves, doesn’t mean that this perception isn’t falsifiable through empirical analysis. Religion is not falsifiable because it has no characteristics in practical reality that can be tested.

“I've contended for years that even atheism is a religion.”

Are you an atheist? I am, and I can assure you that atheism is the very opposite of religion. If not, I’d be an agnostic, not an atheist.


message 23: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Steve Three.

I believe in zero gods. Religious people believe in at least one (I used to as well). If you consider yourself religious and believe in no gods, what do you consider philosophy?

Also, religion and atheism always existed side by side. From the dawn of recorded history there have been believers and non-believers, but as religions have changed throughout those millennia, unbelief has not. It’s just had to protect itself in different ways, for all of these religions have persecuted it and each other. It’s my contention, if I may now be permitted the liberty of expressing an assertion, that you’re seeing all these “atheistic-thought” books because many people would like to rise above that fray, and these people think that it will go away once religion does.

I don’t. Tribalism and oligarchy will still rear its head in some other way (see Stalinism).

“I think you're making quite a leap to equate religion with uninformed decisions and rationality with informed decisions.”

While I agree that such a thing can be argued against and that such an argument is worthwhile and can be fruitful (and is!), it certainly isn’t a “huge leap.” That’s to say, you’re being hyperbolic to make you’re argument appear more valid. I’m arguing that

1. Evidentiary reality is more evidently real than magic and superstition.
2. That thought and religion aren’t the same thing.
3. That language and a god concept aren’t the same thing.
4. That rationality and a god concept are not mutually exclusive, but are still apples and oranges.
5. That rationality is necessarily based on informed decisions where religion necessarily abandons them. Religiosity is not informed, it is Revealed.

OK. Have a fun weekend. I plan to swim.


message 24: by Thorir2007 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:51AM) (new)

Thorir2007 No religious denomination has expended so much time and effort to knock other religions as atheism.


message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 06, 2007 06:25AM) (new)

Thorir, I'm having trouble understanding your statement. It seems to me either ignorance of the facts of the past and the present, or an inflammatory lie.

Christianity has spent much of its thousands of years' history putting non-Christians to the sword, locking up and executing atheists as one small example, but not leaving out Pagans, Muslims, other denonimations of Chrisianity, and Jews (I'm a Jew!) in its murderous rampage to cleanse the world of those who have not accepted the love of Jesus. My favorite, though, is the father of all Protestantism, Martin Luther, who said the Jews were the Chosen People then realized they weren't going to convert to Christianity. He then wrote his famous treatise _On the Jews and Their Lies_.

Islam was predicated on a murderous series of geopolitical conquests at the hand of Muhammad, the warrior prophet. Those who didn't convert were executed, had to abandon their homes and everything had, or were taxed so heavily that even those who were proud of their brand of god-worshipping in one or two generations would find conversion the only sane route to living a better life in the Muslim world.

Point me to the philosophical atheists whose work wrought such murders and hatred on such a scale.

Ahhh, but there are all things of the past, you say? Right. That's why Catholics argue against Proestantism (the Pope just said Catholicism is the ONE TRUE FAITH), why Protestants mock the Papists (Americans didn't want to elect John F. Kennedy because they were worried he'd follow the Pope, not the laws of the land), why Shia and Sunni are murdering each other all over the world (and catching the Jews and the Christians in their bullet paths when they can), and why Hindus and Muslims are at each other's throats in Kashmir.

Even the Buddhists, sweet pacifists that they are, have had their warriors.

No, you're right. Clearly atheism is the great criminal in the war of belief systems. Atheists just refuse to accept that people believe in God--they refuse to allow it, even!--and they rear up in their gun-wielding, bomb-dropping hordes to smite the believers.

All hail the atheist nation!

Wait, what? Where is the atheist nation that has such an army?

Hmm. Nowhere.


message 26: by Bryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:52AM) (new)

Bryan What about Russian and Chinese Communism? Both murdered millions in an attempt to create a "New Man" on Earth. Both saw the destruction of belief in God as essential to their plan.


message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 06, 2007 10:06AM) (new)

Do you agree with this statement?

"No religious denomination has expended so much time and effort to knock other religions as atheism."

Excellent point on the Communism.


message 28: by Bryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:52AM) (new)

Bryan Hmmm, I can't say that I do. The history of religiously motivated wars outstrips atheism's history against religion.

However, if one looks at absolute numbers, the 20th century produced a bumper crop of totalitarian movements killing and enslaving in order to stamp out religion.


message 29: by Jonathan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:52AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jonathan Mandell I think Hitchens mixes two arguments together -- 1. the harm that organized religions (specifically, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but also "Eastern" religions) have done over the years -- to children, to non-believers, to innovators, etc.
2. the silliness of any kind of spiritual quest, or desire for a spiritual community.

Does he believe that the first is an inevitable result of the second?


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

There's a good argument to be made that human beings use the truth they regard as divine, incontrovertible, and infallible has caused more problems than solutions in human history. Some argue that humanity will evolve past those sorts of intolerant views as time and civilization march on. Maybe yes, maybe no.


message 31: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:53AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Steve "However, if one looks at absolute numbers, the 20th century produced a bumper crop of totalitarian movements killing and enslaving in order to stamp out religion."

Yes.

"There's a good argument to be made that human beings use the truth they regard as divine, incontrovertible, and infallible has caused more problems than solutions in human history."

Yes.


This plagues me each day. Is there an answer?
Clearly our discussion has moved beyond the scope of the book, but this is indeed where it must go. At least conceptually.

This is ultimately why I find the book (and most others like it) unsatisfying. Where is Paine? Lucretius? Douglass?


message 32: by Thorir2007 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:53AM) (new)

Thorir2007 For Brendan:

***Thorir, I'm having trouble understanding your statement. It seems to me either ignorance of the facts of the past and the present, or an inflammatory lie.***

Good opening. Very humane. Very civil.

***Christianity has spent much of its thousands of years' history putting non-Christians to the sword***

Not Christianity. Power has done that. Power is always doing just that, no matter its denomination. If anything, Christianity was the only mitigating factor.

***(I'm a Jew!)***

Would it help you if you weren't? I'm not sure what it has to do with the topic. Would my telling you I'm black change your mind about some things? Sheesh.

***in its murderous rampage to leanse the world of those who have not accepted the love of Jesus.***

My dear friend, eight centuries of Inquisition produced LESS THAN A MILLION corpses. Less than a hundred years of atheism in those countries that inculcated atheism as the official religion, hundreds of millions were destroyed in less than a century. There are facts and there are ideas. Please make sure you don't mix up those two. It's kind of uncouth.

***Islam was predicated on a murderous series of geopolitical conquests at the hand of Muhammad, the warrior prophet.***

Islam was predicated on earlier Judaic and Christian experience. I'm not sure I quite understand it, and like it even less. However, war has nothing to do with religion per se. There hasn't been one war-free year in the entire recorded history of the human race. A large portion of humanity seems to enjoy war, whether you (or I) like it or not (and whether folks' love of war is predicated on their inability to foresee the (fairly obvious) consequences). There have ALWAYS been wars. As a sound thinker, you shouldn't pay too much attention to what this or that power group uses as an excuse to go to war, for that is irrelevant, pretty much.

***Point me to the philosophical atheists whose work wrought such murders and hatred on such a scale. ***

Karl Marx. A lot more murders and hatred on a far greater scale than all of the religious philosophers lumped together have managed to produce.

***That's why Catholics argue against Proestantism (the Pope just said Catholicism is the ONE TRUE FAITH)***

Don't forget that arguing is a Jew's PASTIME, and not his priviledge. Why shouldn't others be allowed to argue? Sheesh.

***(Americans didn't want to elect John F. Kennedy because they were worried he'd follow the Pope, not the laws of the land)***

In the end, they overcame their fears, went ahead and elected him. To everyone's (Protestatns' and Catholics' and Jews') surprise, he didn't follow either.

***, why Shia and Sunni are murdering each other all over the world***

Three reasons:

1. They don't have enough video games for everybody.

2. They don't read books.

3. They don't go to the opera.

In other words, they have nothing better to do, is all. As for religion, I don't think they really have one. Tribal pride, hatred of the Yankees, hatred of Christians, hatred of Jews, gratuitous marksmanship - that's way too many gods. They're as pagan as atheists.

***Even the Buddhists, sweet pacifists that they are, have had their warriors. ***

Everybody have had their warriors. No religion has worshipped war as much as atheism, though.

***Wait, what? Where is the atheist nation that has such an army?***

The media, of course. What did you think?

Oh, and lighten up, will you.


message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 07, 2007 01:58PM) (new)

Serious topics and comments deserve serious consideration and argumentation. Don't toss a nasty comment out, as you did about atheism, and then act like you were kidding or that those should "lighten up." Feel free to preface your comments with "I'm just kidding" or end them with it. Then I'd get the picture better. Smiley faces work, too.

Power is a THING. People are smarter, faster, wiser, better-defended, better-armed, etc. Sometimes it's good for certain poeple to have power because they wield it in such a way that benefits more than themselves. That sounds best. But POWER itself is not bad. For instance, you likely live in the United States, the world's present economic, cultural, and military powerhouse. Would it better if some other nation or some other nations wielded more people? Maybe.

People are motivated not ONLY by boredom (as you say) and general hostility. They're also motivated by what they believe. And when they believe theirs is the one truth, that's a problem--whether it be the infallibility and perfection of atheism, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity.

Religion talks a good game of being tolerant to everyone, but I'm heartened by the fact that intelligent people are abandoning the hard and fast rules of religious law, custom, and history and making their way on whatever spiritual, communal, or ethical paths that may take.

There is much to learn from religion, but there's a lot to be rejected, too. And there's a lot to learn from atheism, namely, that religion can be a bloody, evil divider and destroyer of humans, the environment, and the world in general.


message 34: by Anna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:53AM) (new)

Anna I think we all agree that blind faith and intolerance, whether religious or any -ism, is the true culprit.

To simply say that religion can be a bloody divider is also to entirely ignore the other side. There are as many religious leaders and groups who argue peace and tolerance.

But I dare say that it is more newsworthy to describe a conflict as religious than as plain greed. And it's certainly smarter to say "my religion says I have the right to kill you" than to say "I want your land, and your money, and your women just because I want to get rich."

Most religious scripts forbid stealing, and impose quite severe punishments on those that steal, right? Tell me one religious war that has not been followed by pillaging, rape and murder? I know that to you, that's probably an argument for your theory. To me, that says opportunist people grab any and every chance they have to motivate their atrocious acts.

I'm just wondering where that atheist nation really IS? I would argue that the great, tolerant atheism have yet to prove its pacificm.

In fact, I have yet to meet an atheist who have NOT tried to "convert" me (currently a sceptic) whereas I have many religious friends from almost every religion who couldn't care less about what my beliefs are.


message 35: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:54AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Steve "Everybody have had their warriors. No religion has worshipped war as much as atheism, though."

Please substantiate this. Also, "worshipped" is an interesting word choice for that statement, Thror.

"In fact, I have yet to meet an atheist who have NOT tried to 'convert' me (currently a sceptic) whereas I have many religious friends from almost every religion who couldn't care less about what my beliefs are."

I appreciate your skepticism, Anna, but I'm curious as to the tone of this statement. Would you rather not discuss religion at all? Do your conversations among atheists and believers differ broadly, and in what degree? Also, when is it that atheists began their attempts at "converting" you? Was it recently? since you've began doubting religion yourself? since the current mini-explosion of popular atheistic essays?

I'm genuinely curious and don't intend irreverence.


message 36: by Tucker (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tucker Andy wrote on 6/25/2007:

Premise 1: God was and continues to be invented by people.
Premise 2: Language was and continues to be invented by people.


Steve Ross wrote on 7/29/2007:

Premise 1: True.
Premise 2: False. Language is communication; communication wasn't invented by humans.


I'm not so sure abut Premise 1, either. Theism, as a carefully constructed belief system, is an invention to be credited to, or blamed on, human civilization. But The Varieties of Religious Experience, as James would have it, are a bunch of brain states. And if you read Breaking the Spell, Dennett explains how the assumption or feeling of God's existence may be byproducts of other basic attitudes that evolved for our survival, such as obedience to one's parents or the assumption that other people have minds similar to our own. We can't be held entirely responsible for these tricks that our mind plays on us. They aren't "invented" any more than human emotion, logic, or language was invented.

A test of whether it is fair to call something an "invention" might be whether it appears in all human civilizations and eras. The airplane and the printing press are inventions, clearly localized to a time and place. Emotion, logic, belief in divine beings and languages are so universal and basic as to preclude them from being called "inventions." That is not to say that their truths transcend humanity; only that they are integral parts of the bodies we were born into.

But, to answer Andy's question:

Using language to argue against the existence of god is like using a campfire to demonstrate the goodness of marshmallows.


message 37: by Lindsay (last edited Mar 26, 2008 01:30PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lindsay Response to Anna's

"In fact, I have yet to meet an atheist who have NOT tried to "convert" me"

Unfortunately, because our society is currently intolerant of Atheists, you have probably met many Atheists that did not feel comfortable telling you about their Atheism. They, of course, would not have preached to you. Also, you have probably met many Atheists who simply didn't think their Atheism was your business. These people also wouldn't have preached to you.

I think it is sad people think Atheism is another kind of religion. Worshiping a supernatural being is a key element of religion. Atheists do not do this. Because of this, they are able to make sound moral decisions without their morality being clouded by requests from an imaginary being.

Communism does not equal Atheism, it equals dogmatism. Any type of dogmatism is dangerous. And I think that because Atheism is ruled by logic instead of emotion, it has a much higher chance of battling dogmatism. We, as a society, should be acting in a way that makes sense, not in a way that pleases someone's supernatural beliefs. Religions differ in their moral views, and so it is impossible to please everyone's supernatural beliefs all at once. Therefore, making big decisions based on logic is the best way of assuring that we make decisions that are good for everyone.

Anna, I am sorry that your Atheist friends think it is their job to convert you. But I think there is a tendency in our society to view an Atheist who says anything contrary to Christianity (or religion in general) as more militant that the Atheist actually is. Christians can knock door to door proselytizing, and be absolved, but if an Atheist opens his or her mouth, they have already said too much. Keep in mind that Atheists don't make a practice of handing out leaflets, Bibles, and invitations to church. If you start a conversation with us about religion and we're comfortable telling you our point of view, we will participate. That doesn't make us militant, that just means we have an opinion.


message 38: by Andy (last edited Mar 29, 2008 12:13PM) (new)

Andy ***The following two paragraphs are an excerpt from David Berlinski's book The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. Being the gentle soul I am, I hate that this book has such an inflammatory title, but the state of commerce being what it is...

(Note: I stole this excerpt from the excerpt that appears in the April, 2008 Harper's Magazine.)***

"Faith," it is said in Hebrews 11:1, "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." This assertion, chaining the concepts of faith, hope, evidence, and appearance, ratifies a triviality. We can make no sense either of daily life or of the physical sciences in terms of things that are seen. The past has gone to the place where the past goes; the future has not arrived. We remember the one; we count on the other. If this is not faith, what, then, is it?

If religious belief places the human heart in
the service of an unseen world, the serious sciences have since the great revolution of the seventeenth century done precisely the same thing. Mathematical physics has the narrative shape of a quest; physicists have placed their faith in the idea that deep down the universe is coordinated by a great plan, a rational system of organization, a hidden but accessible scheme, one that, when finally seen in all its limpid but austere elegance, will flood the soul with gratitude. Every scientist since Newton has placed his allegiance in the world beyond the
world. In his treatise_The Road to Reality_, Roger Penrose quotes a letter from the mathematician Richard Thomas, of Imperial College London. What is one to make, Penrose asks, of the remarkable, strange, and baffling mathematical results that have appeared in theoretical physics over the past twenty years or so? Thomas's reply is instructive, and it is quite moving. "To a mathematician," he writes, "these things cannot be coincidence, they must come from a higher reason. And that reason is the assumption that this big mathematical theory describes nature." Western science is above all the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


message 39: by Andy (last edited Mar 29, 2008 12:16PM) (new)

Andy The dictionary definition of religion states something about "belief in a superhuman agent." This phrase is problematic to my argument and the argument laid out above.

Taoism may present a problem the superhuman agency clause. From what I understand of Taoism, it may be a religion that does not express a belief in a superhuman agent. (Taoism experts?)

Conversely, as a thought experiment, I've been trying to think of a way to suggest rationality (if it is indeed a religion) actually expresses a belief in a superhumn agent. Here is the argument:

Premise 1: To believe in a "superhuman agent" is to believe in the authority of the superhuman agent. If the individual who believes didn't think of the superhuman agent as an authority over them, the superhuman agent would in fact be a subhuman agent.

Premise 2: The "agent" part of "superhuman agent" implies that the supposed superhuman agent has a conciousness and plays (or had played) an active role in the events of the universe.

Premise 3: In practice, the work of scientists is an expression of the authority of scientific groupthink. (Rational knowledge--aka paradigms--are created, maintained, and challenged in peer reviewed journals, symposiums, etc.)

Premise 4: The collective conciousness of the scientific community plays an active role in the decisions made by scientists (regarding what to study, how to allocate resources, etc.)

Conclusion: The scientific community is a superhuman agent because it is authoritative (super) and because it plays an active role in the events of the universe (agency).

Note: The agency of the collective scientific conciousness is expressed by individual leader-prophets: Einstein as Moses, etc.

Note 2: The active role of the collective scientific conciousness is made tangible by watching scientists submit to the wishes of the collective. For example, it may become apparent that more work needs to be done on Problem A. And suddenly the collective leadership makes funds available for work on Problem A. Scientist Z, who maybe would RATHER work on Problem B, turns his attenction to Problem A because of the active manipulation of the collective.


Kelly What? This makes no sense.


Kelly Rationality is based in facts, not faith. You must stop equating rationality to religion/dogma. There is so much more to rationality than to religious doctrine.


Lindsay I find it funny how convoluted the argument that Atheism is a religion has to be to make any sense. As for Taoism, I wouldn't say it is a religion if the followers do not worship a supernatural being. It is a perspective.

The Scientific community is a superhuman agent? Maybe to you, but not to Atheists. Science is only one of the things that influences the way we view the world.

Instead of spending all this time trying to understand what Atheists think and what influences our morality, why don't you just ask us?


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

No, see, science is religion, because religion says it knows how things were created, and science says that, too.

And God is like a great big scientist with white hair who planted all the animals and made all the plants and he has a big microscope that He uses to kill all the ants and bugs and people who don't do what they're supposed to do and He tells them. They would be happy if they listened, but, no, these aatheyists all says, "I don't believe in You," and that makes God mad.

Scientists are like priests, too, because they sometimes wear white coats, and priests wear white collars, and those are both white. Polar bears are also like priests, because they have tongues.

I just wrote this to say I totally agree with Andy, and I think atheists are bad and wrong. And they really believe in a a religion of atheeists, but they don't want to admit they're as dumb as religious people, so they lie and say that science is not a religion. But it IS.

Because God says.


Lindsay Brendan,

You are a delightfully clever human being.

Thank you for making me laugh.


message 45: by Jason (new)

Jason This is a fascinating thread...I hope it is continued.

Question: this argument of turning science/reason into a religion/faith...is it not similar to TAG: the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God? This theory has always simultaneously interested and confused me. Anyone familiar with it, care to expand?


message 46: by Kelly (last edited Mar 29, 2008 10:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kelly I am an atheist, it is not a religion, it is a lack of belief in a religion, god, whatever..

Scientists are NOT like priests. They study, looking for new information; priests are looking at old information (in every sense of the word OLD) and require faith from their followers.

I am curious why you are on this thread, it is supposed to be a review of a book about atheism. Why if your faith leads you; does it lead you here, but try to convert us.



message 47: by Andy (last edited Mar 29, 2008 12:50PM) (new)

Andy I'm interested in problematizing the following idea: rationality is true; spirituality is false. I don't generally talk about religion or politics in polite company, so I thought I would express my ideas here. I apologize if it seems like I'm trying to convert you. Maybe persuade would be a more acceptable word?

(It would be a funny exercise for me to try to convert somebody to my personal brand of spirituality--it's a bit esoteric for all that.)

(I think I did use the word "convert" in the third post or so. That was an attempt to humorously bait people into the argument. Has it backfired?)

(If I were a car salesman, I'd be a terrible closer. I'd much rather poke the prospective buyer in the ribs while they look at all that little writing on the sticker, and then run away squealing with delight.)

(Also, Lindsay, my admittedly convoluted argument is not about atheism. One person in this forum did suggest that atheism is a religion; it wasn't me. I haven't actually mentioned atheism in any of my posts until just now. My arguments are more about language, reason, science, academia, and spirituality. I know atheism is related to these topics, but it has never been a focus in my posts.)


message 48: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. Andy wrote: "Premise 1: God was and continues to be invented by people.

Premise 2: Language was and continues to be invented by people.

Conclusion: Using language to argue against the existence of god i..."


Using language to argue against the existence of god is like using one's brain to think for one's self .


message 49: by Brad (last edited Mar 03, 2012 10:11AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Cotton deleted user wrote: "Using language to argue against the existence of god is like using architecture to build buildings."

Winner.


Arguing for or against the existence of god is almost not worth it unless you're doing it with someone still deciding their position.

If you believe, you believe. If you don't, you don't. You will never convert anyone with conversation.
I contend - respectfully - the only way to convert a believer is with education. Science, physics, planetary history... these are the things Hitchens professes, and he's correct in all of it. The question is, do you believe in faith and wishful thinking, or do you believe in facts and evidence? It's really as simple as that. If you believe in your heart and mind that a man put two of each animal on a boat and lived to be 950, logic, reason and scientific fact have little or bearing and therefore, this book isn't for you.


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

I dont think its possible to convert believers even with education its something they have to realize on thier own.


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