Do you like how Dawkins, Hitchens et al. represent atheists?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by francois, Jul 31, 2007.

  1. Atom Registered Senior Member

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    Whoa boy!

    Yes of course symbolism and mythology were interwoven into everyday life in 'every' society and its natural that they use the World around them rather than the false celebrity culture and worship of false gods that exists today.

    If I were to strip your clothes off, Frags, and suck out all the useless knowledge you've learnt over the last 30 yrs or so and handed you over to some tribe existing amidst pure Nature then you'd soon return to the same Source in which we all appeared from.

    Its true to say that Chinese astrology still survives.

    Now I'm not going to dismiss it out of hand without careful study but my criticism of Chinese beliefs - as a whole not just astrology - lies in the sheer insularity of their ideas. And insularity breeds strange ideas which go largely untested. Thus we have Chinese medicine, Feng Shui, Acupuncture and whilst bit and pieces of these ideas and beliefs have some merit they have never truly been tested until very recently.

    Now in contrast...if you compare it with what 'we' commonly know as Astrology..it began in Sumaria travelled through the East and arrived in Egypt and was then further refined when it arrived in Greece (at which point it was carefully anotated). So rather than being stuck in some unchanging backwater, never developing or being added to or removed according to usefulness and worth it just never really developed.

    Whereas what we know of Astrology has been refined from the very dawn of time.
     
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  3. Atom Registered Senior Member

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    << In his own lifetime, as it happens, Hitchens has himself been a true believer, albeit not in God but in revolutionary Marxism. His hard-won and long-overdue disillusionment with that creed has given him some sympathy for religious believers: “to some extent I know what you are going through.” It has also, he thinks, given him special standing to deal with an anticipated objection to his argument about political evil—the objection, namely, that in every instance where power has been allied with militant atheism, the result has been the systematic, deliberate murder of citizens on a scale that renders trivial the total number of victims of religious persecution throughout recorded history.

    Indeed, in the face of the horrors perpetrated by “scientific socialism,” whether of the Communist or Nazi variety, most of today’s atheists tend to fall mute. Hitchens, however, has a riposte. Communism and Nazism “did not so much negate religion,” he writes, “as seek to replace” it. That is, the essential wickedness of “scientific” totalitarian regimes is traceable in his view to the fact that they are themselves religions. For Hitchens, in short, everything religion touches is bad, and everything bad is religious—including anti-religion. This is the sort of reasoning that gives syllogisms a bad name. >>

    hmm..
     
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  5. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

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    Refined manure is still manure.
     
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  7. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Oh! Oh no! Help me! She's presenting me with the terrifying figure of a person able to critically change his mind!

    What am I to do? Run around in circles crying that the sky is falling?
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Since all gods are imaginary it's not very scientific to label one set of them "false" and dangle the unspoken assertion that by elimination the others are in some bizarre sense "true." The gods of Stone Age people were manifestations of archetypes: instincts that exist in our midbrain and feel like knowledge until they're properly examined. The worship of living humans (whom no one literally regards as "gods" because they are not ascribed supernatural powers and are acknowledged as mortal with perhaps the single exception of Elvis

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    ) is an expression of affection and respect for their empirically observed contributions to our culture. Worship of these "idols" (a better term) is therefore more rational than that of traditional gods and arguably represents an advance in civilization. If the stature of one of these idols is discovered to be overblown or fraudulent, such as Mao or Paris Hilton, it is corrected rather quickly, compared to the endurance of the false gods of the Abrahamists and other Stone Age relics. Again, rationality triumphs over instinct, civilization over nature.
    That would make me 34 years old and probably still your elder. But if you were able to strip all of the civilization off of me, starting with the bilingual household in which I learned to talk that made me the linguist I am today and the broadcast music I heard in my cradle that made me the musician I am today--two of the most powerful influences that have shaped my personality and inspired my love of civilization--you would be starting over. Of course if you toss a baby into any particular environment he will grow up as a child of that environment. Duh? The fact that the people around me would brainwash me with Stone Age woo-woo doesn't mean it's not still woo-woo.

    The "source we all appeared from" is nature. Civilization has been a ten or twelve thousand year struggle between the animal instincts of our nature and the reasoned and learned behavior we pass on to our children through the technology of language, arguably our greatest advantage. Reason is winning and we are better off for it.
    To describe one sixth of the human race as "insular" is just a tiny bit Eurocentric, perhaps? Chinese civilization was exchanging ideas with Indian civilization two thousand years ago, when the various branches of Mesopotamian civilization were incestuously exchanging cultural motifs with each other and coming up with such catastrophic aberrations as Christianity and Islam, which do not even permit testing, the prescribed punishment for which is genocide.
    And is this conclusion supposed to support a claim that our Mespotamian/Greco-Roman/Euroamerican civilization is therefore superior to the two other surviving civilizations of China and India? The Chinese spent the last two or three thousand years developing a formal economic system, a written language that facilitates incremental literacy, public health and sanitation, a positional decimal calculating machine, and a continuity of nationhood that goes back into the mists of time; while we took a set of Stone Age superstitions and built them into an intricate soothsaying methodology that to this very day serves as a barrier to scientific literacy?
     
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Critically? *snicker*

    Probably the booze, must do wonders to soak the brain in alcohol.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2007
  10. superluminal . Registered Senior Member

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    Hey! This is fun! Lots of posts.

    Anyway, I generally don't like the fact that Dawkins, Hitchens, et al, have had to go to such relative extremes (especially for meek and humble people such as us atheists) as the titles of their books suggest "The God Delusion", "God is Not Great" etc. In other words, a bludgeoning about the collective head and shoulders.

    Unfortunately, with the current high profiles of various religions and the splendid things they are doing for our world, a bludgeoning is apparently what's necessary.

    I think that both of these gentlemen (well, maybe not Hitchens...) and others are simply reflecting an incredible frustration with mystical and superstitious beliefs playing such a destructive rold in our supposed modern world.

    In a nation that was founded on reason and the obvious, critical need to keep religious bias out of public policy, we have a president who proudly flaunts, at every opportunity, his essentially fundamentalist xian dogma and the fact that he "consults with god" for his decisions.

    Does anyone study history anymore? Do the innumerable lessons of the past (and even our recent history) mean nothing? Where are the strong voices of the christian and muslim rationalists that are as appalled at the current state of affairs as much as the rest of us? Who know for a fact, that theocratic behavior is bad for everyone?
     
  11. charles brough Registered Senior Member

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    Soviet and Asian Marxism has been a secular religion that is more rational than the old "spirit" based faiths, but it is such a defective ideology, even so, that it has failed to sweep the world and bring an end to the old/older religions. The fact that Marxist ideology is tied in with atheism is an embarrassment to atheism and to atheists like myself. Non-Marxist atheists, however, have no common ideology, hence they lack the unity of all those they oppose. They have no common beliefs except for a common NON-belief, the non-belief in "spirits".
     
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    As I probably said on one of the earlier pages in this thread, communism is an offshoot of Christian morality and Christendom can bloody well take the credit for it! Can you imagine one of the other religious communities coming up with the harebrained idea that a person's income should not be correlated at least to some extent with what he gives back to his society? Civilization would collapse in a few generations, as soon as all of its pre-existing surplus wealth ("capital") was dissipated. Oh wait... that's exactly what happened in the USSR, isn't it?

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    "Secular religion" is kind of an oxymoron. The essence of religion is belief in the supernatural, not any irrational belief at all.
    Yes. Atheism is the absence of religion. Religionists are fond of calling it a "religion," because they can't wrap their heads around the idea of happy, healthy, good-hearted people living without a religion. They think we all sit around being depressed and conflicted over the lack of something to "believe in," and that having that in common makes us a "community."
     
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Gotta disagree there. The acquisition of a deity in a religion seems to me an important step, and we seem to have a fair representation of atheistic religions with millions of adherents and long histories.

    Atheism is the absence of belief in a deity, which in the thoroughly evangelised West usually involves actual rejection of at least one proferred deity.

    His emphasis on this rejection, though easy to understand in context, is one of my objections to holding Dawkins a representative of atheism in general.

    Whether religion necesarily involves the supernatural is tricky - some would say that Taoism, for example, does not, but instead involves a rather different estimation of the nature of the natural. Is the recognition of a "spiritual" aspect of life necessarily a petition to the supernatural?
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You seem to agree with Wikipedia's definition of religion as a set of common beliefs and practices. I can't argue with you semantically then, but it seems like a not very helpful definition. There is a qualitative difference between a set of common beliefs and practices that is rooted in faith in the supernatural, and one rooted in empirical observation, learning and reasoning. One could almost apply Wikipedia's definition to science itself, thereby obscuring today's important dichotomy of religion and science being at the very least incompatible, and at worst anathema to each other.

    Since every religion is a collection of archetypes (instinctive beliefs that "feel" true without observation, learning or reasoning), perhaps a compromise between the colloquial definition of religion and the Wiki would be to state the converse, that every collection of archetypes is a religion: a religion is any set of common beliefs and practices that are without basis in observation, learning and reasoning. This way belief in Bigfoot or Atlantis can be a religion.

    Yet to many of us, the essence of religion is the belief that our lives--in fact everything in our universe--is under the control of creatures we cannot observe. To me there is an important difference between this type of belief and belief in communism or lost civilizations.
    Archetypes are often metaphors, or are presented as metaphors. Metaphors are neither true nor false, but are more akin to mathematical theories: principles abstracted from real life. I have no problem with people using metaphors to help understand life. I do not reject their deity. What I reject is their confusion of metaphor with reality, their failure to recognize the flawed premise of an instinctive belief.
    I don't consider the Dao a religion at all, for this very reason. "Sprit" has a variety of meanings, but the Jungian model freely uses the term to describe the various forces that drive us. To analyze these forces and realize that they are the same finite set that the Egyptians, Greeks, Norse and other cultures gave names and humanlike bodies to, is to begin to study archetypes and mythology. One can be comfortable using the word "spirit" for the 23 (if I have that number right) dimensions of the vector that drives our lives, without literally believing that they derive from the supernatural. Our "spirits" are a function of our conscious and unconscious cognition, which in turn is a function of the synapses we get from evolution (the natural world) and experience (the natural world and the man-made world). There is no need for a supernatural world in this model.

    So I think it's proper to restrict the term "religion" to belief systems that have a supernatural component.
     
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Most people do, however. And your restrictions
    would also exclude sophisticated Buddhism, many Animistic systems, sophisticated holdings of such belief systems as the Navajo and some Siberian tribes have, etc.

    And by excluding reason from one sphere, and spirit from the other, dangerous consclusions like this one become possible:
    I would rather leave such artificial and politically dubious compartmentalizing of human life to the religious zealots who champion unreason. Reason is too circumscribed, and faith too little accountable, to occupy incompatible and separate realms.
     
  16. Atom Registered Senior Member

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    I've only just caught up with this..so bear with me.

    A lot of psts get unread for various reasons.

    I can dismiss the above fairly easily..well very easily actually.

    I never mentioned India with good reason...they use a very similar system of astrology.

    As for the suggestion that China wasn't insular then that is a new idea that you should publish in some book. Get in touch with David Icke

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    Quite frankly its rubbish...trading goods on a fairly small scale is not an intermingling of ideas...hence Chinese astrology has remained static....its like Chinese music..its interesting but as a musician yourself how many americans are plucking at strings in the Chinese Way...

    ..to quote Level 42

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  17. The Devil Inside Banned Banned

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    i think dawkins is a dickhead.
    an extremely intelligent dickhead, but a dickhead nonetheless.

    he is a member of what i see as a "new breed" of anthropological scientists.

    hitchens, on the other hand....its all about being sensational and muddying the waters, with him.

    i dont think dawkins intentionally tries to offend anyone, he genuinely wants to help humanity as a whole.
    hitchens does try to offend, twist the point, and generally assassinate anything he disagrees with. he is not intelligent at all:
    http://www.tv-links.co.uk/listings/9/6964 <--fantastic debate, where both the contestants are idiots, but i find that hitchens loses (i dislike al sharpton too).
    it should be noted that i had never even heard of hitchens before watching this debate, but have recently purchased "god is not great", and have found it lacking....i am the owner of many dawkins related materials, and enjoy them regularly, even being a jew.
     
  18. spuriousmonkey Banned Banned

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    he is a zoologist.
     
  19. Giambattista sssssssssssssssssssssssss sssss Valued Senior Member

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    Pardon me for only reading half-way through the first page, but...

    S.A.M. has a point here. I have noticed that atheists can sometimes be as arrogant as fundamental religionists.


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    Look! God's... err... I mean... the Universe's... err... Nature's(???) gift to humanity!
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2007
  20. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Bollocks. Hitchens has an iron grip on the problem: bloody religion again. Not everyone is an equal opportunity offender these days, but give people like Falwell the chance and they will be again. Extremism discredits faith; why do the faithful try to brush extremism under the carpet?
     
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    In my own experience, they do it to make their religions seem tolerable to the rest of us. After all, tolerance is only a rational philosophy if the object of our tolerance is not going to turn around and treat us intolerantly the first time he gains power.

    A friend of mine insists that the vast majority of religious folks are sincerely nice, reasonable people who are not swayed by the extremists. When I pointed out that those nice, reasonable people persecuted Jews for a thousand years and then stood by while they were herded into camps, all he could do was whimper, "Yeah, but they didn't know they were really going to be murdered there." As an average American with a few Jewish branches on his family tree that were pruned by the Nazis, even I believe that statement, but it doesn't excuse them for the events leading up to it. This guy didn't even know that the reason Egyptian civilization can only be found in museums is that another branch of Abrahmists destroyed it in the name of Allah.

    The history of Abrahamic religion is the history of its extremists, and the only reason those extremists acquire enough power to make history is that the "nice, reasonable" faithful people fall under their spell. The faithful are easily swayed by the extremists precisely because religion is irrational. There are no objective criteria by which to judge an extremist who exorts you to burn the Aztec libraries, hang witches, throw rocks at ambulances driving through Tel Aviv on the sabbath, or knock down the Great Satan's commercial towers.

    But they don't want to admit that to themselves, and they certainly don't want to admit it to us.
     
  22. Ophiolite Valued Senior Member

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    zoology and dickheadedness are not mutually exclusive.
     
  23. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I disagree. Most people simply do not extend themselves; its laziness or a desire to not be involved, also called the bystander effect. This is coupled with the general human trend to obey authority. They expect someone else to take a stand. Like the boy who was tasered in Florida this week while everyone looked on. They even convince themselves he must have deserved it, since cops could not be wrong and applauded as he was subdued (for asking a question!! ) and led away.

    I would presume atheists are as likely as theists to conform; as is evidenced by how they justify the idiots on "their side".

    e.g. this

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    Last edited: Sep 19, 2007

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