NYTimes opinion piece: "Atheists Agonistes"
Posted: 27 November 2006 01:34 AM   [ Ignore ]
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In today’s edition, by Richard Schweder. Read it here. (May require login).

It incudes a simplistic attack on the enlightenment as well as a deliciously self-contradictory conclusion, which I will quote:

[quote:3546e6f1a1=“Richard Schweder”]John Locke, who was almost everyone╠s favorite political philosopher at the time of the founding of our nation, was a very tolerant man. In his 1689 ¤Letter Concerning Toleration,Ë he advocated a policy of live and let live for believers in many faiths, even heretics. But he drew the line at atheists. He wrote: ¤Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all.Ë

Instead of waging intellectual battles over the existence of god(s), those of us who live in secular society might profit by being slower to judge others and by trying very hard to understand how it is possible for John Locke and our many atheist friends to continue to gaze at each other in such a state of mutual misunderstanding.[/quote:3546e6f1a1]

So, he advocates "toleration" and "being slower to judge others", at the same time approvingly quoting Locke’s advocacy of intolerance towards atheists.

Brilliant.

rolleyes

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Posted: 01 December 2006 01:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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So, he advocates “toleration” and “being slower to judge others”, at the same time approvingly quoting Locke’s advocacy of intolerance towards atheists.

I don’t agree with your interpretation of the closing paragraphs.  The author pointed out that Locke was “almost everyone’s favorite philosopher at the time of the founding of our nation”, i.e. he was a popular and respected philospher of the Enlightenment, the era which the author says all atheists praise as the source of rationality, and yet he despised atheists.  That’s the misunderstanding Shweder mentions.  I’d say he’s simply trying to add an argument from authority (Locke was anti-atheist) to the other nonsense he had already written.

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Posted: 01 December 2006 02:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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[quote author=“LA Raymond”]I’d say he’s simply trying to add an argument from authority (Locke was anti-atheist) to the other nonsense he had already written.

Well, yes, that too—but the irony remains, in that he’s preaching tolerance while quoting an authority figure who is clearly intolerant of atheism.

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Posted: 01 December 2006 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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NY Times Op-Ed

I do not agree with Locke, of course, and do see a problem with religious fanaticism… partly based on the belief in supernaturalism.  But I do wonder if the author has not made some good points? 

Atheism, or this aspect of the Enlightenment, did not in the 20th century stop the wars and violence.  Science has not replaced religion.  Topdown authoritarianism and the like have not gone away.  To me the reason is clear.  Religion is not only about theism.  Its not even only about supernaturalism.  Atheism and science might be a good prescription to rid us of the inherent problems with those two enemies, but it does not replace what else religion is ... interconnectedness, community, spirituality, hope, and emotion.  For that we need a lifestance which can be atheistic and naturalistic, but where it is probably about those other human needs. 

It must be relevant in sociopolitical terms, and it must be principled. 

Fortunately we have just this sort of life stance .. It’s called humanism!

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Posted: 02 December 2006 04:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Re: NY Times Op-Ed

[quote author=“Barry”] Atheism and science might be a good prescription to rid us of the inherent problems with those two enemies, but it does not replace what else religion is ... interconnectedness, community, spirituality, hope, and emotion.  For that we need a lifestance which can be atheistic and naturalistic, but where it is probably about those other human needs. 

It must be relevant in sociopolitical terms, and it must be principled. 

Fortunately we have just this sort of life stance .. It’s called humanism!

Good points, Barry, and they are very important ones for us to deal with. Unfortunately I really don’t think that was what Schweder was arguing. Instead it seems to me he was simply stating that atheists should stop questioning religion, and that the enlightenment had nothing particular to offer humanity.

Had he instead taken the argument in the direction you propose, it would have been a much better article.

:wink:

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Posted: 02 December 2006 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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a much better article….

Doug said: Had he instead taken the argument in the direction you propose, it would have been a much better article.

Yes, Doug.  I agree.  I did not agree with much of the essay either…. he was tossing out the baby with the bathwater… as many atheists I know do re religion.  My comments were not meant to display what I thought he was saying, but were meant to be considered as a way to respond to people who make such arguements. 

Of course, to response to such people (and their ideas), we would have to define humanism for them. 

But since many self-identifing humanists have different ideas on what exactly humanism is, we may have a problem with our responses   :( 

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Posted: 03 December 2006 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Re: a much better article….

[quote author=“Barry”]But since many self-identifing humanists have different ideas on what exactly humanism is, we may have a problem with our responses   :( 

Well, Barry, this is both our weakness and our strength ...

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Posted: 04 December 2006 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Re: a much better article….

[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“Barry”]But since many self-identifing humanists have different ideas on what exactly humanism is, we may have a problem with our responses   :( 

Well, Barry, this is both our weakness and our strength ...

Tell me Doug, how is it humanism’s strength that humanism can mean anything from Koepsel’s “method of inquiry” to my sociopolitical philosophy?  How does the strength of a philosophy lie in its ambuguity?

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Posted: 04 December 2006 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Re: a much better article….

[quote author=“Barry”]Tell me Doug, how is it humanism’s strength that humanism can mean anything from Koepsel’s “method of inquiry” to my sociopolitical philosophy?  How does the strength of a philosophy lie in its ambuguity?

It makes the position more supple. It allows room for argument and discussion. It doesn’t assume a priori that we have the right answers.

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Posted: 07 December 2006 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Humanism is not what Doug says it is…

Barry wrote:
Tell me Doug, how is it humanism’s strength that humanism can mean anything from Koepsel’s “method of inquiry” to my sociopolitical philosophy? How does the strength of a philosophy lie in its ambuguity?


Doug said: It makes the position more supple. It allows room for argument and discussion. It doesn’t assume a priori that we have the right answers.


This is absurd, Doug.  It makes the position weak, less concise, less likely to stand out among any and all other philosophies.  It neuters humanism.  It leaves humanism to mean whatever to whomever so as long as they are anti-supernaturalistic.

No one ever claimed that humanists would have all the right answers, and that there should be no room for argument and discussion.  Since humanism has to answer to scientific naturalism as it moves this way or that re its sociopolitical and economic message, it can not become dogmatic in the sense you fear.  That is the beauty of humanism!  But there IS a socio-political and economic message… in fact, it is the only relevant message to the masses humanism has to offer (naturalism is only humanism’s technique).

Your sense of humanism is, to borrow a provacative term, a ‘blank slate’ version.  Wrong and useless.

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Posted: 07 December 2006 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Re: Humanism is not what Doug says it is…

You’re overstating the case pretty severely, Barry. If I accept the general definition of humanism that Paul Kurtz puts in the front of each issue of Free Inquiry magazine, for example, I am not left with a humanism that “means whatever to whomever”.

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Posted: 07 December 2006 09:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Re: Humanism is not what Doug says it is…

[quote author=“dougsmith”]You’re overstating the case pretty severely, Barry. If I accept the general definition of humanism that Paul Kurtz puts in the front of each issue of Free Inquiry magazine, for example, I am not left with a humanism that “means whatever to whomever”.

Many self-identifing humanists - including those at CFI - do not agree with these statements, they feel any real agreement would make them sound dogmatic.  They do not agree with much in the manifestos either for the same reason.  And many so-called humanists believe things quite antithetical to these statements and the manifestos.  Also, not all of what is humanism is listed in the FI opening pages.

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Posted: 07 December 2006 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Re: Humanism is not what Doug says it is…

[quote author=“Barry”]Many self-identifing humanists - including those at CFI - do not agree with these statements, they feel any real agreement would make them sound dogmatic.  They do not agree with much in the manifestos either for the same reason.  And many so-called humanists believe things quite antithetical to these statements and the manifestos.  Also, not all of what is humanism is listed in the FI opening pages.

And so?

Obviously there are people who call themselves ‘humanists’ and don’t agree with these things.

Obviously there may be more to humanism than what Kurtz says.

I have a feeling I know where you are going with this. You have an opinion of what humanism is, and it’s a particularly robust, radical sort of anarchist politics called “inclusive democracy”. Am I getting warm?

:wink:

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Posted: 07 December 2006 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Re: Humanism is not what Doug says it is…

Barry Wrote: Many self-identifing humanists - including those at CFI - do not agree with these statements, they feel any real agreement would make them sound dogmatic.  They do not agree with much in the manifestos either for the same reason.  And many so-called humanists believe things quite antithetical to these statements and the manifestos.  Also, not all of what is humanism is listed in the FI opening pages

Doug replied: And so?

Obviously there are people who call themselves ‘humanists’ and don’t agree with these things.

Obviously there may be more to humanism than what Kurtz says.

I have a feeling I know where you are going with this. You have an opinion of what humanism is, and it’s a particularly robust, radical sort of anarchist politics called “inclusive democracy”. Am I getting warm?  :wink:


1) What good is humanism if anyone can see fit to call themselves humanists without challange FROM humanists?

2) Why does CSH endorse AS humanists, folks who clearly are not… such as Chris Hitchens, Nat Hentoff or Tabor Machan?

3) I did not say there is much more to humanism than what Kurtz says (he says allot about humanism in lots of places), but about what you pointed out he says in the FI statements.  Some of what Kurtz says elsewhere is indeed too broad, or even contridictory at times, and he does not see the anti-humanism of capitalism; but he is “old school,” after all wink

4) I do think anarchism and ID are very well fitted to humanism, but so can be certain forms of socialism and libertarianism under certain conditions.

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Posted: 07 December 2006 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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We’ve gone around and around on this general topic on the forum, Barry, and while I don’t see any reason not to go round the track again, I think we both know what will be said. I am just not as interested as you are with setting up necessary and sufficient criteria for being called “humanist”, and it seems not to be jazzing up too much interest from others here, either.

I agree with the CFI’s more-or-less laissez-faire approach, which allows you to be called a humanist and also some right-wing libertarians to be called humanist. I have problems with both your views.

And that said, as you well know, you are more than welcome to challenge right wingers as to their “humanist” credentials. If you make good points, I might even support you!  LOL

But OTOH, I expect some “r-libertarians” to make some interesting points as well sometimes; e.g., the point that capitalism has its good as well as its bad aspects.

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