Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Letter to a Christian Nation makes me proud to be an atheist.

Sam Harris's book, Letter to a Christian Nation, is a short, well-written primer for the modern atheist, and a must-read for religious moderates, agnostics and people still under the spell of god delusion. After finishing the final page of Harris's book, I turned again to the first page and read the book a second time.

I'll paraphrase some of the author's best points:

- The burden of proof is on the believer in god; it's not up to science (or atheists) to prove that god doesn't exist. For example, if I told you that there's a mile-wide Chinese tea kettle orbiting the earth, you should challenge that claim; a legitimate response wouldn't be to put it back to you to prove the absence of that tea kettle. If I didn't produce some evidence, and kept steadfast to my belief in that kettle because it "gives my life meaning", people would (should) consider me a lunatic. Sames goes with god belief.

- 99% of the species that have ever lived on earth are now extinct. This should have closed the book on god and religion long ago.

- If god created everything, and he created man in his own image, he sure has an odd fondness for insects and viruses. There are more of those than anything else on the planet---at least 10 strains of virus for every species of animal on earth.

- Morality predates religion, not the other way around. The only commandments that have anything to do with morality are about not murdering, stealing or cheating on your spouse---hardly unique ideas when the Bible was written. The rest of the commandments have to do with silly reverent nonsense like not owning religious art (graven images).

- The Bible -- as most religious books -- is a horrible guide for being a good person and is full of obscene violence and contradictions. A lot of the violence is in the Old Testament, but in the New, Jesus says that everything written in the Old should be obeyed.

But don't trust me. Buy the book as a present this season!

(Here are a few videos of Sam Harris on youtube).
Comments:
Maybe I will read this book. Somehow, though, I think the target audience won't be putting down their "Left Behind" merchandise to buy this book.
 
Nice post LB. I have recently been thinking about this kind of topic due to some things I have read or heard in the media. I recently heard an interview of Garry Wills on NPR about how the Catholic church has lost its way, especially in America where religious people have made gay marriage and abortion their flagship issues. If these people are such devout followers of Jesus and the Bible, they should be using their immense influence to fight against poverty, the same thing that Jesus, supposedly, spent most of his life fighting. Along with that, just today I read on CNN about the son of Jim and Tammy Fay Baker who is starting a show called One Punk Under God. He is preaching that having Jesus in one's life isn't about working what one thinks is God's will but having unconditional love for your fellow man. This really captures my huge issue (one of several) with organized religion....People carrying out actions in the name of God and his will. No one, and I mean no one, knows what God's will is. Just live your life, stop getting involved in instituting your beliefs onto others because you think its God's will and we must all live by his will. Spend more time on caring for others and be accepting of them no matter their lifestyle or beliefs. Is it just me or are people who do not follow an organized religion or have an organized belief system are more like Jesus than the people who do?
 
Ding ding ding - we have a winner!
 
Criticizing the fallacies of organized religion, especially christianity, especially catholocism is like shooting fish in a barrel.

If I felt strongly about atheism it would be a fun hobby for me as well.

I have been in the room during atheism versus theism and it is like two children arguing over their favorite color. When you strip all the logic and faith points from the conversation, it comes down to what is most comfortable for each individual.

A redneck is probably a God fearer and a phd is probably a God sneerer. And who is right? ask them. They both are.
 
Is it just me or are people who do not follow an organized religion or have an organized belief system are more like Jesus than the people who do?

Shrubs - I read this aloud to my wife and we both agreed you hit the nail on the head. Well said and the theme of your entire comment is shared by many ,hopefully.
 
The term "atheist" shouldn't even exist. You don't wake up one day and decide you're a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist". Those terms are simple statements of the obvious and aren't really needed.

As for the two kids arguing analogy, I think that would apply aptly to the innumerable disagreements between the various waring religions throughout history; children tend to believe in things like the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and Yahweh. Rational people reject that sort of fantasy.
 
Nice assesment LB, The downfall of religon and the embracing of higher education must be the next step in our evolution, At one time alchemists and the like were feasible doctrines now they are left for children's fantasy's, Simply waiting for some great deity to appear and make the world better is quite the silly notion. We are rapidly approaching a crossroads for humanity and the past chance for salvation is a more enlightened population. Religion and superstitiuos beliefs cloud this path, misdirect it towards selfih and sinister goals. We have conquered survival for the most part, Now we have the chance to move on to greater things. You can argue that these religons were a necessary step for us to take but the time to move on I believe is upon us otherwise we are doomed as a species.
 
LB, while the analogy of two children arguing is better applied to "THE MESS" of the mideast and other wars of religion, I must guide you to today's edition of the funnies, namely OPUS.


LX - holy crow that is some deep shit. I love the idea of organized religion being a psychological step in our evolution.

Abandoning religoius doctrine IS a necessary step in furthering humanity's evolutionary progress. Unfortunately people who share this belief are seen as insensitive. When if fact thoughtful and concerned is more of an apt description.
 
come on, Bruner. Don't be so dismissive of beliefs. I'm with you on the problems inherent to organized religion, but to say that there should not be such a word as athiest, based on the fact that believing in some sort of higher being should just be called inanity and ought to be the anomaly rather than the norm, goes too far. There are and have been plenty of labels for people who do not believe in given theories and fairy tales that once seemed true -- whether you call them revolutionaries or skeptics depends upon the time and place. I'm not a True Believer or an athiest either -- I pretty perfectly define the agnostic school of thought, or lack thereof, if you will, which many have such a problem with.

Here's my question to athiests, and it's not rhetorical. I can understand rejecting bible literalism and even I think only a fool could believe that an omnipotent yet somehow still perfect God came down and performed all the acts of the old testiment and then contradicted them with the love in the new testiment while managing to smite some with hurricanes and alligators whilst protecting the church youth group picnic from thunderstorms.

Still, I urge you to read something like (I know it's old, and it has sustained serious criticism, but it's still a valuable book for raising questions) Thomas Kuhn's STructure of Scientific REvolution before you so wholeheartedly put your faith in science. My point is that believing in God is imperfect and requires a leap of faith and leaves questions unanswered and requires one to suspend parts of the brain that pick up anamolies, but in many documented instances, so has science. The answer to Thomas Kuhn's book is, (in a word) science works, so it must be believed. But to many intelligent people, a belief in god or some other higher power works as well. They see trees and skies and mountains as evidence that some intelligent entity was behind it all. I know that's hard to believe, and I'm not saying that I believe it. I'm simply saying that I have questions about science, too, that have gone unanswered. If the universe was created by a coincidence involving gas and particles and unformed matter, where did the gasses come from? Why is it easier to imagine that gases came from nothing but the universe did not come from a God?

Okay it's time for my bible study now. 8:00 at my house. Bring spiked eggnog. We'll watch "one punk under god."

BTW, no kidding, I met his wife in Atlanta -- she was at our show at The Earl. STrange, huh? I didn't know who she was until after.
 
Red Storm:

You made a statement about "putting my faith wholeheartedly in science", but think about what science really is: it's not something that one would need to use faith to believe. Science rests on a few fundamental principles, mainly that a person should have evidence for things that they believe. Any theory is as good as the evidence it presents, and if new evidence comes along, new theories are decided upon. Falsifiability is the cornerstone of the whole thing.

So, for example, if I said that I believed there's a two ton diamond buried behind my house, you would ask me why I believed that. What if I answered that "it gives my life meaning". You'd think I was a lunatic. But this is exactly what god believers get away with all the time. It's relatively easy to dismiss claims of giant diamonds as lunacy---not much to be agnostic about in that case or any other wild claim.

"Intelligent design" is creationism using science-sounding language plain and simple. If a person thinks there is an intelligent designer of the universe, they should show evidence for that, just like anything else.

Also, just because there isn't an answer for everything, doesn't mean that a deity is behind it. Take enzymes: science readily admits it doesn't know all the enzymes that exist in the world. Upon that conclusion, it would be ridiculous for us to conclude that a space alien is lurking behind it all. Or god, for that matter
 
Red Storm has a great point, that the belief in God requires a leap of faith. It seems that where science cannot provide an answer, a Theist provides God. To a scientific minded Atheist, this is a cop out. To an atheist, this is the two ton diamond or mile wide tea kettle irrationality that is so frustrating. To a modern rational Theist, this does not pose a problem - their faith rests on scientific discovery and is then extended according to their desired perception of God, knowing that their position is easily defended through the lack of scientific fact.

This is where the debate gets heated, since one school of thought thinks that until something is proven to exist, it doesn't (Atheist), while another school of thought thinks that unless something is proven not to exist, it could (agnostic) or does (Theist).

I have to admit that when the debate is reduced to simple logic like that, the onus would be on the Theist. However, a true scientific minded person would not come to a conclusion and stand by it. This might be the where Red Storm stands on the issue. If the hypothesis of God is being tested by the many experiments of human discovery and technology, then this grand experiment is still in its early phases. But it has not collected enough information for me to form a conclusion based on scientific results. Am I an agnostic like Red Storm? Red Storm has the most rational logic so far because she admits the jury is still out - A purely scientific mind would wait for the results before commiting to either theism or atheism.

Those who are God believers and enjoy a good debate with an atheist are probably used to having their beliefs belittled by demeaning analogies, but should the questions of why we are here, where did the laws of nature come from, or is there a God be likened to such absurdities as orbiting tea kettles? These are questions I consider innate to human psychology and are as old as recorded civilization at least. Dismissing them along the lines of insanity is too arrogant for my taste. LX made an excellent point, stating that religion could be a necessary step in the progress of human civilization. I tend to agree, and also think the belief in God or at least the desire to, is something perhaps instinctual. Perhaps atheists are an advanced step in evolution or in society as LX hints at since they don't need to.

The fact that there is something big out there is definite, whether it be just more facts and data, or a bright shiny light. Whatever it is, it's arrogant for us to assume it is within human's ability of perception and understanding. It is certainly beyond my ability to discuss, as this comment displays. At this point in human history it is completely unimaginable and beyond our ability to comprehend and whether we call this unfinished research God or a Spreadsheet is truly up to you.
 
Bruner, I see evidence for a God all around me every day. Just look around! The watchmakers' argument applies, you look at a watch on the ground and think it could never have assembled itself in an accident of circumstance - and how much more infinitely complicated is a bird? The human heart, or whatever firing synapses give us the capacity for love?

I don't believe in a tea kettle that orbits the planet. I also don't believe in a diamond in your back yard. If there were rays of light, however, eminating from the ground, and I felt a keenly and instinctually drawn to it, and somehow comforted by it, and you offered me a science that was egregiously incomplete in its ability to explain it, I might not be too much of a lunatic to think that a giant diamond in your back yard was one possibility.

Can I set up a diamond mine in your back yard by the way? I feel like exploiting someone...

BTW, great comment all rounder; very eloquent.
 
Red Storm,

Here's an example of evidence for God: "A massive apparition in the form of a man with a white beard and a staff was spotted ascending from the sky over New York City on September 5th, 1989. Thousands of people witnessed the phenomenon, and when the apparition spoke, he informed the masses of people that his name was Yahweh and he was the creater of the entire universe."

When that -- or something similar -- happens, there will be evidence of God.

The complexity of life is not evidence of the existence of a deity. Imagine if the logic of "intelligent design" -- as you described -- were applied to forensics; eg, "because of the flawlessness of murder X, it could have only been accomplished with collaboration of the entire population of Japan and Korea." Of course, that's obvious lunacy.

The complexity of life is evidence of evolution from simpler forms of less complicated life, as explained in ways I don't have time to get into here -- essentially, natural selection and genetic drift which act on the genetic variation created by mutation, genetic recombination, and gene flow. Those things can be observed and measured and are bona fide evidence.

PS: The diamond's mine, bitch. Hands off!
 
All Rounder:

"... where science cannot provide an answer, a Theist provides God" - AR. This is a great example of the raw arrogance of god believers. Where science says, "We don't know. We need more evidence for why the univer was begun" and leaves it at that, theists conjure something out of thin air, are 100% sure, and require no evidence!

"...their faith rests on scientific discovery and is then extended according to their desired perception of God, knowing that their position is easily defended through the lack of scientific fact - AR." Can you imagine any other facet of life where this would apply? Just throwing faith into something with zero evidence? For example, if I was planning a trip to a foreign country called "Xenostan" based only on faith that it exists? HA!

"... this grand experiment is still in its early phases. But it has not collected enough information for me to form a conclusion based on scientific results - AR" Wait, "enough" evidence? Hold on, what evidence are you refering to? Please email me that data ASAP.

"Whatever it is, it's arrogant for us to assume it is within human's ability of perception and understanding. -AR" It's arrogant for god believers to claim to know that god is behind it. Science makes the humble claim that they don't know how the universe was begun, yet religion sets itself on an all-knowing pedestal about that question and requires zero evidence. I can't think of anything more arrogant than that!

There are some things in life that we can remain "agnostic" about, like for example, we know that there may be living microbes buried deep within Mars' surface, but we need more evidence to decide fully. That's not an insane idea, considering the recent evidence about water on that planet.

However, some wild claims like astrology, alchemy, and the million other outlandish claims can be dismissed outright. We did this for Zeus, Posiden, and all the other dead gods and hocus pocus that lie on the ash heap of history---all things that no one is "agnostic" about in 2006.
 
An interesting thing occurred to me this evening, I was sitting on my couch contiplainting the latest posts to this thread when my wife casually mentioned that my aunt had made a Christening dress for us. She says to me "You have to deal with your family on this issue!" It made me snicker a bit as I realized some of my main issues with superstition/religon.

You can debate about proof, the how's, the what's, and the why's all you want. God people say: "How do you expalin how the universe was created?". Scientist types counter with " If god made the universe, than who made god? and if this supreme diety made god, than who made the supreme diety?, and so forth to infinity! When you boil it down no one has the answers, one thing everyone can agree upon, Faith aside, But isn't Faith objective? A tribal person in the amazon probrably does not grasp why fire occurs but has faith that it will be available to cook and heat. As educated folks we understand how combustion occurs and given the right conditions it will always occur, Faith becomes Fact. Ancient people did not know why the sun rises and falls but prayed to their god out of faith to make it happen. We know a bit about the solar system, again Faith becomes Fact! On the other hand we ounce believed the blood in people was a disease, so people were drained of the blood to rid them of the disease, Later we find out blood is pretty important, Faith Becomes False? Is this not true for Religon?

One of the fundamentals issues I have with Religious cults, sects, congregations whatever, is the sheer unwillingness to leap beyond "faith", and to close out any other possibilty except what is given to them, It is a bit sad, and in some ways selfish and destructive. We believe because it must be, "It was written", It is "god's will" Good people go to heaven, and bad people burn in hell, Are not these the same thing? Such a waste, think of what good could be accomplished if the amount of energy spent on such concerns were directed to things of consequence.

Consider this, The head of the Christian coalition was asked to step down because he advocated for helping the poor and the environment, Where is "God's Law" in that, Sounds like Human law to me.

Words in general have a way of restricting how to communicate some of these idea's. What is God? Is god a being, a force, a "state of mind". Why is God supreme? What is the point of god? Is the our goal as a species to become god? Maybe that is it? In the end it does not matter because we are humans, we live and die and that is it, We hope that in our short lives we can contribute some good in our sphere of reality so that as our species progresses until one day they can find the answers to these questions, and hopefully create vast new questions to be answered unto infinity, sounds pretty good to me.

As an interesting excersize I would love to read what anyone's given definition for god? Maybe that would gain some perspective.

I am not sure if I can do this myself being an "athiest" I find God to be superfluous like a Cyclops or Aquaman, Neat story but not real. So I have no true perspective other than My catholic school back ground.

BTW: Nice thinking post LB, I only wish I could write as good as you, I guess I should stick to math!
 
Just to keep my god believing readers going, here's a picture of your hero. Enjoy.
 
LB:

"... where science cannot provide an answer, a Theist provides God" - AR. This is a great example of the raw arrogance of god believers. Where science says, "We don't know. We need more evidence for why the univer was begun" and leaves it at that, theists conjure something out of thin air, are 100% sure, and require no evidence! -LB

It think it is as arrogant for a God believer to assume God is responsible for the creation of the universe as it is for an atheist to say there is no God. Both views seem close minded. I agree with your view that a rational scientific mind would say, we need more evidence. This is a point I attempted to make in my previous comment. An open minded person without agenda would admit the possiblity of something grander and more fantastic than the feeble human mind can grapple. A close minded person would say there is no God or there is a God.



"...their faith rests on scientific discovery and is then extended according to their desired perception of God, knowing that their position is easily defended through the lack of scientific fact - AR." Can you imagine any other facet of life where this would apply? Just throwing faith into something with zero evidence? For example, if I was planning a trip to a foreign country called "Xenostan" based only on faith that it exists? HA! - LB


-I know - God believers seem to try and get away with this one, and it must infuriate the atheist. Trying to be objective, though, I again must point out the relative ?APPROPRIATENESS? of asking the ancient questions of "why am I here", or "is there a God". If a person does not accept these questions as significant, than there is absolutely no possibility of God after examining the natural world. The natural world doesn't provide proof of God, no matter what ID people spew from their brainwashed minds. But if you do accept the question of God's existence as appropriate, there suddenly is the possibility of a God. LX sees the question as appropriate, and uses his knowledge of history to think it through to his conclusion as an atheist. Red Storm sees the question as appropriate and stands as an optimistic agnostic - I think. I guess it seems irrational to me to put the ancient question of "is there a God" on the same playing field as "is there really a country called Xenostan". I think you would get more out of being an atheist if you decided the question of God is at least worth contemplating.


"... this grand experiment is still in its early phases. But it has not collected enough information for me to form a conclusion based on scientific results - AR" Wait, "enough" evidence? Hold on, what evidence are you refering to? Please email me that data ASAP.
I was actually thinking of the evidence that is discrediting the existence of Godfaith, not supporting it. I'm sorry for not writing clearer, I have a tendency to become a little too floral when I enjoy a topic. LX's account of all the failed faith systems that have become fact are perfect examples of this.


"Whatever it is, it's arrogant for us to assume it is within human's ability of perception and understanding. -AR" It's arrogant for god believers to claim to know that god is behind it. Science makes the humble claim that they don't know how the universe was begun, yet religion sets itself on an all-knowing pedestal about that question and requires zero evidence. I can't think of anything more arrogant than that! -- LB


- I couldn't agree with you more. I can't stand dogmatic rhetoric pushed on me as though it is fact. It assumes you haven't the ability or the right to analyze information. Plain disrespect. God believers "believe" they know how the universe was created because they or anyone else simply don't "know". God believers like myself must understand that words like faith and belief exist because they are the antonyms of words like knowledge and fact. If this would only be understood by all those who choose to be a God believer, there would be nothing but respect for atheists. and other theists for that matter. Now I'm sounding like a world peace advocate.



"God's existence is either true or not. Calling God a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in" - Francis Collins, genome pioneer and a Christion geneticist.
- I have to admit this is a cop out, but I love it nonetheless. Who are we to determine the rules of this game? God could be beyond nature, and therefore be outside of space and time. I know this is getting pretty abstract, but so is String Theory and plasma research. If you think of "God" as this type of open minded possibility, then suddenly man's attempt at images used to express the idea of God, like LB's link to gray-bearded He-man, are bad attempts to do something fantastic.

LB - here is a quote from Richard Dawkins you may find interesting. He's an atheist professor of biology at Oxford who wrote The God Delusion.
"[A supernatural Intelligent Designer] seems to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable - but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I dont see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian or any religion has ever proposed."


LX - I will try your exercise.

God - a big dude in a white robe who glows and has a beard and strikes down nonbelieving scum with a shepard's crook made of lightning bolts. And he is hung.



Just kidding -

God - an entity, probably beyond our ability to fathom and therefore forever unknowable, existing not completely within humans' known rules of space and time, which has been incorrectly portrayed and represented throughout history by myth, imagery and law, that holds all the answers of Why, not just How, we percieve our surroundings.

LB - thanks for the great post, and congrats on realizing your position - I've never met an atheist I didn't like, although annoying God believers are fucking everywhere. We need to drink beer and discuss these topics. Have a Merry Christmas!!
 
Merry Christmas to you too!
 
Merry X-mas and May "God" bless you all!!


BTW one more fo 20 posts!
 
I just came across an excellent Richard Dawkins video. Take a moment to watch it. You won't regret it!
 
Bruner,

I will stop replying since you're a close-minded arrogant bastard who will probably be smited by Jesus on his birthday or maybe the day after, if there's time. I've now decided to start worshiping the diamond in your back yard.

I'm coming for it, ass pony.

Love,

Doppler Radar

PS. AllRounder, yes, in fact, optimistic agnostic bordering on believer -- but I'm a universalist with no preconceived notion of what's up there / out there / down there / over there. Whoever the diety is, he will forgive LX for his wrong-headed arrogance!

:)

xoxo

Merry Christmas Bruner! And Happy Athiests Day as well!
 
I think we should rename boxing day to Darwin's b-day, that way we evolutionists can better fit in! Any takers??
 
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Web Counter
Web Counters