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Links for 2006-05-09

14 replies on “Links for 2006-05-09”

“I don’t really need to keep posting things where smart people talk about their problems with religion.”
Then indulge some of us by taking your own advice. Such posts are tedious, boring, and always in bad taste.
Militant atheism is no better than what it claims to combat; it is merely the religion of materialism. Honestly, a materialist evangelizer spreading the one true religion while defending the people from the depredations of false gods is the type of tragic irony that should win awards. Rushkoff is what he cannot tolerate in others – an intolerant bigot who wants to make people conform to his faith using any means at his disposal.

Atheism isn’t a faith or religion (of materialism). It’s not believing in things which are unfounded. It’s refusing to believe in things which are unfounded. Then suddenly when you criticise people for acting or making judgements based on unfounded beliefs you’re militant..?

There seems to be a common argument doing the rounds that atheism is exactly the same as fundamentalist religion.
Of course, it’s not the same at all. But it doesn’t stop people trotting it out as though it’s a given, in an attempt to somehow disprove atheism in some way. Odd.

Driven mad by the tunnels? It’s possible, looking at some of things young Mr Osmanagic has written:
“Once the Earth begins to vibrate in harmony with the Sun, information will be able to travel in both directions without limitation. And then we will be able to understand why all ancient peoples worshipped the Sun and dedicated their rituals to this. The Sun is the source of all life on this planet and the source of all information and knowledge.”
Sounds like the wheel is spinning but the hamster has long since left the cage.
Re. Rushkoff, in my experience atheists can be generally as dogmatic, and tiresome, as god-botherers. Winding them up is fun, of course.

That last statement completely winds me up, to be honest – I cannot see the similarly in dogmatism between religious belief based on received wisdom and atheism that demands evidence.

Rushkoff seems to be railing against fundamentalist Christianity in the States, which is a minor and stupid irritation that’s kept in check by the US Constitution.
Now the really threatening religion is?

“Atheism demands evidence” – I think I might be missing the point here. I can offer rock solid evidence that the universe is 12 billion years old, that the rock we’re sitting on is around about one third that age and that we are a bunch of highly evolved apes who think that novelty ringtones are a pretty neat idea. But lack of a god in the universe? Supposing there was an ineffable divine spark at the heart of everything. I don’t see how would I go about offering evidence toward either proving or disproving that conjecture. I can believe there is no god, but I can’t offer much evidence to prove that belief.
For me, atheism has been a personal, philosphical choice. I don’t like atheists who evangelise their beliefs any more than I like Christians that evangelise. Atheism is a philosophy, based on a personal belief about the nature of the universe. It has its own set of dogma, and adherents who will fall back on that dogma when their position is attacked. Some of the comments on Rushkoff’s blog demonstrate that.
Anyway, that was where I was coming from, if that makes it any clearer.

I think Jim is right here. The idea that atheists ‘demand evidence’ while believers rely on authority and faith doesn’t really stand up: you can’t get through a day without believing things in the absence of evidence. You’d be on stronger ground if you said that believers are people who believe things against the evidence – but then you’d only be attacking a subset of believers, viz. the crazy ones.

You’re getting into philosophical areas here by equating everyday belief with big ‘Belief’ thingies such as religion, etc.
Thing is, do I use the word in the same way when I say ‘I believe Jim is coming to the races at 8pm’ as when I say ‘I believe there is a God’.
The answer is, clearly, no.
Yet the fact that we use the word differently depending on context is often lost in arguments like these.

Adam – my comment was poorly phrased, but I stand by the strong version of it. It’s possible – highly likely, in fact – that my deepest beliefs about human nature and society are either unverified or verified in such a locally-contingent and qualified way that I should really hold them provisionally. (If a belief is borne out in practice every day of your life, that’s still a very narrow evidential window in both time and space.) But my deepest beliefs about human nature and society are just that – for me, they’re a large part of how things are. I don’t think it’s possible to get behind all our beliefs with rational enquiry – you’d never get out of bed in the morning.
Chris makes a similar point more concisely:

Ruth [Kelly], I fear, is a victim of the tyranny of rationalism. Yes, I think catholicism is an irrational superstitition. But most of the views we have are partly irrational; I certainly could not fully rationally defend my beliefs (even those you might agree with). And many of those who think Catholicism is irrational probably wouldn’t know Bayes’ theorem if it were to hit them in the face. Is secular liberalism really fully rational? Or is it just a fashionable faith? I’m a secular liberal myself, and I’m not sure.

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