Very Interesting

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Apostateabe
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Re: Very Interesting

Postby Apostateabe » Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:47 pm

Father Murud, I already like you, and you are just the sort I would love to chat with. To answer your question, "When you say 'leaders' do you mean of these boards or in the world?" I mean the leaders of the English-speaking atheist movement. Bobby Henderson is the leader of this board (and prophet), but his leadership seems to be very much behind the scenes and laissez-faire. When I say that our leaders are academically accomplished, I am talking about Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens.

You say religion is more work than non-religion, and that is certainly correct. Religion can in some cases be easy, but a lot of people take great pains and they sacrifice much to fuel the religious fires. To them, it pays off. It is not only the promise of heaven that they are after, and not only the benefit of those they might "save" as a consequence of their efforts, but there is a closely related benefit. It gives people a much-wanted identity of having great purpose. As social animals, we all want important roles in the community, and people work very hard to fulfill those duties. What can be more important than saving eternal souls and carrying out the transcendent moral plan of the master of everything? Without religion, then an honest look at every effort to fulfill any hope, dream, passion, or practical goal will on the face seem ultimately trivial and temporary--our own selves will not enjoy the fruits of our labor past a century and all intelligent life will eventually be extinguished in a final heartbreaking gasp.

The perception of ultimate purpose is perhaps the biggest factor in motivating religious adherence. It closely rivals the selfish desire for heaven. How do I know? It is presumed and implied in so much of the messages of Christian evangelists. I used to go from church to church, for fun, and at their driveways on Sunday morning I would hold a sign that says, "GOD IS FAKE!" hoping to attract a few people who would be willing to talk with me about their religion (I called myself an athevangelist). By far, the most common argument I heard in these adventures is what the skeptic's call, "Pascal's Wager." Pascal's Wager goes like this: I believe and you don't. If you are right and I am wrong, then we both have the same consequence: a snuffed candle. But, if I am right and you are wrong, then you will go to an eternal hell and I will enjoy an eternal heaven. Therefore, to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is a much better gamble, and your position is much riskier. You say that you would rather have the snuffed candle than the chance of eternal suffering, and I would too, but I think the whole point of the hell threat is that Christian adherence minimizes the chance of eternal suffering, making Christianity a better wager.

To you, that may seem like a very cynical way to treat belief. But I heard this argument consistently from church to church. My older brother used it with full sincerity when he attempted to persuade me back to the faith. Regardless of all the things wrong with it, it is very common. How can I not conclude, then, that Christians are not in it largely for the eternal reward and to escape the threat of eternal punishment? I certainly would not conclude that every Christian is motivated by that. The motivations are as diverse as the personalities. But, selfishness being a universal element of human nature, the force of heaven and hell in religion can hardly be overestimated.

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Re: Very Interesting

Postby Father Murud » Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:02 pm

You bring up great points. I had 3 strong thoughts as I read through your post.


First: I saw the name Dawkins and it made my skin crawl. He is an intelligent man who's opinions I respect and he has many great points. It's not his theories or thoughts that get to me. It's his personality. I'm sure you've seen him speak, as I have. He's a great orator and purveyor of his points. Have you ever seen a Q&A with him, though? I don't say this about many people but I consider him a pompous, contemptible man. He is one of those people that thinks... no, he knows that he is always correct and everyone whom disagrees with him is wrong. It drives me crazy. I haven't seen enough of him to say this is how he always is. I hope I am wrong. I sincerely do. The way I've seen him handle questions contrary to his beliefs appauled me. Intelligence in a closed mind is quickly suffocated, in my opinion. My students call that previous line a "Moo-ism". I have many not nearly as good as that one which I'm sure I'll force upon you at some point. Apologies beforehand ;-)

Secondly, You made a GREAT point in your second paragraph. It reminded me of a topic I'd like to discuss here at some point. Do people really ever do anything unselfishly? My best friend and I had heated discussions over days about this one. His point: It's impossible to do anything unselfishly because the act itself brings self gratification of some sort which is the reason you are doing it; therefor selfishness. My point was that it's possible to do something with out that. I honestly don't know whom was correct or not and I believe he felt the same. The fun in the discussion was taking a side and thinking about it and owning it as yours. Then presenting it. As with most disagreements I think there's a middle ground in there somewhere. Your thought that religion, being hard as it may, gives people a sense of purpose (selfishly?) brought me back to this joyous discussion of mine. I don't think your view is cynical at all.


And finally, Pascal's Wager is true with the majority of religious believers (where it is applicable). I don't like to go out on a limb usually with brash statements like "the majority of A is B" but I feel strongly on this one. If you have faith in your god only because you fear what may happen if you are wrong then you have no faith at all. You might as well give up and move on or rededicate yourself to finding your true god and your faith in him. When arguing the opposite side of religion (as I often enjoy doing) and someone took the stance of "Well, if YOU'RE wrong then you burn in hell but if I am then nothing happens" I immediately started finding a way to get out of this coversation as soon as possible. At this point I realize that the person has a different understanding of "belief" or "faith" than I do and our discussion didn't even have a firm base to start off with. It's futile.

I have something to do so I don't have time to preview this post. Apologies for mistakes in grammer, spelling and probably logic ;-)

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Re: Very Interesting

Postby Apostateabe » Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:37 pm

Father Murud wrote:You bring up great points. I had 3 strong thoughts as I read through your post.


First: I saw the name Dawkins and it made my skin crawl. He is an intelligent man who's opinions I respect and he has many great points. It's not his theories or thoughts that get to me. It's his personality. I'm sure you've seen him speak, as I have. He's a great orator and purveyor of his points. Have you ever seen a Q&A with him, though? I don't say this about many people but I consider him a pompous, contemptible man. He is one of those people that thinks... no, he knows that he is always correct and everyone whom disagrees with him is wrong. It drives me crazy. I haven't seen enough of him to say this is how he always is. I hope I am wrong. I sincerely do. The way I've seen him handle questions contrary to his beliefs appauled me. Intelligence in a closed mind is quickly suffocated, in my opinion. My students call that previous line a "Moo-ism". I have many not nearly as good as that one which I'm sure I'll force upon you at some point. Apologies beforehand ;-)

Secondly, You made a GREAT point in your second paragraph. It reminded me of a topic I'd like to discuss here at some point. Do people really ever do anything unselfishly? My best friend and I had heated discussions over days about this one. His point: It's impossible to do anything unselfishly because the act itself brings self gratification of some sort which is the reason you are doing it; therefor selfishness. My point was that it's possible to do something with out that. I honestly don't know whom was correct or not and I believe he felt the same. The fun in the discussion was taking a side and thinking about it and owning it as yours. Then presenting it. As with most disagreements I think there's a middle ground in there somewhere. Your thought that religion, being hard as it may, gives people a sense of purpose (selfishly?) brought me back to this joyous discussion of mine. I don't think your view is cynical at all.


And finally, Pascal's Wager is true with the majority of religious believers (where it is applicable). I don't like to go out on a limb usually with brash statements like "the majority of A is B" but I feel strongly on this one. If you have faith in your god only because you fear what may happen if you are wrong then you have no faith at all. You might as well give up and move on or rededicate yourself to finding your true god and your faith in him. When arguing the opposite side of religion (as I often enjoy doing) and someone took the stance of "Well, if YOU'RE wrong then you burn in hell but if I am then nothing happens" I immediately started finding a way to get out of this coversation as soon as possible. At this point I realize that the person has a different understanding of "belief" or "faith" than I do and our discussion didn't even have a firm base to start off with. It's futile.

I have something to do so I don't have time to preview this post. Apologies for mistakes in grammer, spelling and probably logic ;-)

I actually attended a Richard Dawkins book reading in Portland Oregon, and I was the first in line afterward to ask him a question. I asked him why Christian fundamentalism is so much more popular in the United States than in Britain. His guess, that the history of freedom of religion in the United States but not in Britain allowed more powerful religion, seemed very sensible at the time, and it had a lot to do with the way I think about religion today. The room was a banquet hall that was very large, and it was filled with people (must have been a thousand who showed up). That is the kind of city that Portland is. There were no questions that prompted any harsh reactions. You must have seen that online video of Richard Dawkins answering questions from the Liberty University students who attended the Lynchburg University lecture (if not, you can see that video here). The answer to the question, "What if you are wrong?" was the most abrasive ("...what if you're wrong about the great Juju at the bottom of the sea?"), but it was also the portion that received the most applause, and it received the most popular acclaim on the Internet.

All atheist leaders gain power through that abrasive approach, and I think it is a very unfortunate phenomenon of anti-religious sociology, because you certainly can not win people to your own way of thinking by treating those who disagree with you as idiots. Our leaders wield the blunt instruments of reason and rhetoric, with skill enough to sell books, get on TV, and get atheists to sign on to their causes, but everyone else will only be offended at their arrogance. Their literature has all the civility of a mad chimpanzee. Dennett is perhaps the most civil of the four, and even he can not hold back his contempt in public. Meanwhile the genuinely friendly and charitable atheists have little in the way of power, because their personalities do not attract other sympathizers. It has been that way ever since atheism existed as a public cause.

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Re: Very Interesting

Postby Father Murud » Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:30 am

Sadly, from what I've seen, you are correct.

On my side of the fence we have our own brand of blunt instrument wielding leaders as well. Ours, though, believe that they are going to burn for eternity if they don't do their "jobs".

Not surprisingly, the atheist leaders and their ilk wield weapons in defense of themselves when attacked with "swords of God". Your post actually made me rethink my position on Dawkins (and others) and I thank you for that. Just from the religious zealots that I have encountered in past discussions I can see why Dawkins may be defensive at times. We are only human and frustrations will inevitably arise... especially when being attacked by some similar to the fools I have come across. We have some real strange ones on our side as I'm sure you all already know.

Once again, I learn something about myself from a discussion with someone else. I have not seen that internet video yet. I will give it a watch, though. I realize now that I was holding Dawkins and others to a standard that there is no way I could hold myself. I get frustrated when my dog pees on the floor. What if I was dealing with millions of religious fanatics "peeing on my floor"?


I shudder to think...


Thank you, Apostateabe.

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Apostateabe
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Re: Very Interesting

Postby Apostateabe » Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:19 pm

Father Murud wrote:Sadly, from what I've seen, you are correct.

On my side of the fence we have our own brand of blunt instrument wielding leaders as well. Ours, though, believe that they are going to burn for eternity if they don't do their "jobs".

Not surprisingly, the atheist leaders and their ilk wield weapons in defense of themselves when attacked with "swords of God". Your post actually made me rethink my position on Dawkins (and others) and I thank you for that. Just from the religious zealots that I have encountered in past discussions I can see why Dawkins may be defensive at times. We are only human and frustrations will inevitably arise... especially when being attacked by some similar to the fools I have come across. We have some real strange ones on our side as I'm sure you all already know.

Once again, I learn something about myself from a discussion with someone else. I have not seen that internet video yet. I will give it a watch, though. I realize now that I was holding Dawkins and others to a standard that there is no way I could hold myself. I get frustrated when my dog pees on the floor. What if I was dealing with millions of religious fanatics "peeing on my floor"?


I shudder to think...


Thank you, Apostateabe.

Sometimes when scientists become champions of a cause, their scientific accomplishments become overshadowed. That is what happened with Noam Chomsky. He was the greatest theoretical linguist of the twentieth century, but his name is most associated with a cult following of his mediocre political assertions. Same as with Richard Dawkins. He is a top theoretical evolutionary biologist, in the same league as Stephen J. Gould. He proposed and effectively argued in favor of genes rather than organisms as the primary units of Darwinian evolution. He first proposed "memes" as a general term for evolutionary units, unintentionally setting off a new field of study, the Darwinian evolution of information. The juxtaposition between his brilliant scientific work and his cringe-inducing anti-religious spiels often puts those in the media in an awkward frame of mind when they judge him.


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