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Posted: 25 September 2007 12:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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trgregory,

I have very harsh words for religious fundamentalists, and some strong criticisms of all theists. Most respectfully, you’re arguing a false choice.

I expect more from our own. For example, Hitchens gave the finger to his audience twice on TV. That’s just plain foolish, not to mention immature. We have more than enough natural problems to overcome getting people to accept us without our supposed leaders acting like fools, and nasty fools at that.

Examples of overclaiming: Take as one example Dawkins’ literalistic insistence that the word faith necessarily means belief without sufficient supporting evidence. That’s one definition, but there are many others. Dawkin’s doesn’t own this or any other word, and he ought not to be acting like a fundamentalist zealot, or a one-man language police force. (I read his article along those lines in one of our magazine fifteen years ago or so.) When he does that, he sets up an unnecessary conflict with people of Faith, which can have a naturalistic meaning. It does for me. And over what: the meaning of a word. We of all people should know better than to reify non-objects.

Or take this statement from Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, p. 64: Religion “comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs.)” Gee, Chris, how do you really feel? Now maybe I’m being to picky about language here, but religion comes from the desire to know and fit all the pieces (of the universe, of all things) together into a coherent and meaningful whole as best we can. I grant that religion turned to myth and superstition (include the various theisms) to supply answers that primitive men simply did not have; it was at that point that it revealed its primitive character. The problem with Hitchens’ statement is that he presents “our inescapable demand for knowledge” as an inherent evil. Now wait a minute! Our demand for knowledge is what drives CFI, and every good scientist we have. His brush is too broad. Theism and other supernaturalist forms of religion suffer from the defect he mentions, but not all religions do. Funny how many of us make that point when it suits us, but deny it when we’re on a good rant.

Theists can get away with flights of illogic. We can’t. I expect our most visible spokespeople to be driven, and kept in check, by disciplined and incisive reasoning. Sam Harris has opened a door for the growth of non-theism in our culture. We simply cannot afford to overclaim, or we’re going to blow it.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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trgregory - 24 September 2007 07:05 PM

truthaddict

          You never answered my question about what you consider good for so-called humanists. You even included Hitchens as lacking humanity.

Do you consider religious folks as good for humanity?

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trgregory

Sorry, I was leaving work and made my response short.

What do I consider good for Humanists?

Let’s see…

It ought to have something to look to for answers to life (science, rational skepticism, etc) and a code of ethics that are broad, positive and uplifting (pretty much anything to the Left that isnt coercive or authoritarian). I don’t see much more needed for secular humanists then a source for answers and a code of ethics that are socially acceptable. The rest can be filled in or defined by the adherents themselves.

Do I consider religious folks as good for humanity?

My paternal grandmother is good for humanity and she is religious, though I dont think it is her religious views that make her good. So, in a general but direct way: NO!

I think religion should be separated from the folks when viewing this sort of question. Is it the religion or the person that is doing something good for humanity? I go with the latter. Religion may inspire people to do good, but I bet Adolf Hitler has too! “Let’s not redo what that guy did!” Does that mean Adolf Hitler was good for humanity? Certainly not.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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PLaClair - 25 September 2007 12:15 AM

...religion comes from the desire to know and fit all the pieces (of the universe, of all things) together into a coherent and meaningful whole as best we can.

Religion, however, failed to fit any pieces together. That is why it’s time for religion to step aside. That is why Hitchens calls it a “babyish attempt.” It might have served us once (some say it helped us to “win” against the Neanderthals), but now it’s time to move on.

[ Edited: 25 September 2007 09:52 AM by George ]
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Posted: 25 September 2007 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I wouldnt say babyish so much as I would say archaic. Kind of like String Theory. I wouldnt call it babyish, but it has apparently expired its time to prove itself.

If String Theory is being abandoned after 30 years because it fails to prove a thing, then religion should have died of disuse millenias ago.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 10:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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George - 25 September 2007 09:49 AM

some say it helped us to “win” against the Neanderthals.

I like that your put win in quotations…

its kind of like Studs Terkel’s book on World War Two, “the good war”

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Posted: 25 September 2007 10:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I don’t know, TA. I wouldn’t compare religion to String Theory. Maybe religion did serve us a purpose, but I don’t see how String Theory, if one day proven true or false, would have any impact on our lives. What about comparing religion to philosophy? Kant’s ideas on ethics have served us well, but once we really know why we behave the way we do, ethics might join the mythology section in our libraries. Both religion and philosophy help us to think and wonder (in the case of religion it “used to” help us to think), but only science will tell us what is really out there. It will be a scientist, not a philosopher, who will one day discover(!) in his lab, and not in his head, if free will is a mere illusion.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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youre missing my point, george. regardless of impact or meaning or fundamental differences and similarities, both “theories” offered an explanation of the universe. religion has had millenias to offer any substantive proof and it has failed, yet people continue to cling to it in high numbers. and the other - string theory - has declined in support in less than half a century. that principle that leads people to abandon string theory should be applied to religion. how long shall we entertain the religious notions and watch God’s gaps shrink before we play referee and say KO? that was my point.

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Posted: 25 September 2007 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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George, that’s never going to happen. I would prefer that religion throw off its supernaturalism and concentrate on lifting people up, comforting us, inspiring us and encouraging us to think rationally and according to the scientific method. I would like to see a new religion built on an understanding of what kind of creatures we are, and what works for us not just individually but as communities and as a species; to live centered on the Truth of our common humanity, on Love and with an optimistic attitude that approaches life as a continual stream of possibilities (my concept of Faith); a religion that celebrates life with a sense of awe and wonder, honors great achievements in science, art, literature, research, etc.; a religion that celebrates our lives just as they are without need of a narrative myth to compensate for our want; a religion of wisdom, empathy, generosity, responsibility, openness, and all the virtues; a religion that recognizes that soul is just a word people use for our innermost experience, and spirit is just a word people use for what they experience when they reach beyond themselves, e.g., to others; etc. That would be pulling all the pieces together as best as we can, i.e., it would be truly religious.

If religion ever does that, it will cease being a force for evil and will become a force for good. Not only can I live with that, I would enjoy sharing fellowship with members of my community who would be on the same page I was.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one . . .

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Posted: 25 September 2007 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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PLaClair - 25 September 2007 06:04 PM

George, that’s never going to happen. I would prefer that religion throw off its supernaturalism and concentrate on lifting people up, comforting us, inspiring us and encouraging us to think rationally and according to the scientific method. I would like to see a new religion built on an understanding of what kind of creatures we are, and what works for us not just individually but as communities and as a species; to live centered on the Truth of our common humanity, on Love and with an optimistic attitude that approaches life as a continual stream of possibilities (my concept of Faith); a religion that celebrates life with a sense of awe and wonder, honors great achievements in science, art, literature, research, etc.; a religion that celebrates our lives just as they are without need of a narrative myth to compensate for our want; a religion of wisdom, empathy, generosity, responsibility, openness, and all the virtues; a religion that recognizes that soul is just a word people use for our innermost experience, and spirit is just a word people use for what they experience when they reach beyond themselves, e.g., to others; etc. That would be pulling all the pieces together as best as we can, i.e., it would be truly religious.

If religion ever does that, it will cease being a force for evil and will become a force for good. Not only can I live with that, I would enjoy sharing fellowship with members of my community who would be on the same page I was.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one . . .

And I would love to see the scientists to come up with something to prevent heard attacks before I turn sixty and die from it like every other male in my family. That’s all. Keep me alive and I’ll take care of the uplifting myself. Also, a trip to the moon would be nice. See? I can dream too. But again, what do I know about humanism, Love with a capital “L”, and Truth with a capital “T”?

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Posted: 26 September 2007 06:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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.

[ Edited: 19 October 2007 10:02 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 26 September 2007 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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My latest rant reminded me of something else with regards to Hitchens’ book, Gos is Not Great.

Hitchens relies heavily on Occam’s Razor to aid the reader in understanding issues. I find this an admirable approach and is deserving of respect.

The problem becomes evident when the application of OR is bereft of explanatory power. What seems plausible at a given time can become irrelevant when new evidence arises. When dealing with complex systems, and I find the breath of Human history/evolution to be complex, the simplest explanation can turn overly simplistic, unyielding, or even turn into an unworkable complicated hypothesis when contradictory evidence emerges. 

In this case it would have been wise, I think, for Hitchens’ to have used Occam’s Razor with greater rational justification.

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Posted: 27 September 2007 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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zarcus, perhaps I’m more interested in the psychological origins of religion, because that is what drives religion today and into the future, where I’m going to spend the rest of my life. I operate from a premise that in general people are not perverse. That premise leads me to presume that there must be something worthwhile in each person’s religious thinking. For example, while Jerry Falwell said and believed many vicious things, no doubt he also spoke of religion as a unifying or peaceful force, even if only in a few unguarded and vulnerable moments. Many of us think Jerry Falwell was perverse, and in many ways he was; that doesn’t mean—- however much he distorted it—- he didn’t understand the imperative of the Golden Rule.

It’s my view that the religious quest is an effort to understand and unify, among other things. The fact that practitioners of religion, or indeed most of our culture, have turned it upside down, inside out, distorted and perverted it almost beyond recognition doesn’t mean that the spark isn’t still in there somewhere. It’s my job to find it—- or at least that’s how I choose to see it.

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Posted: 27 September 2007 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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.

[ Edited: 19 October 2007 10:03 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 27 September 2007 10:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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[ Edited: 19 October 2007 10:04 PM by zarcus ]
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Posted: 27 September 2007 08:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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A better wording for the question “Are Dawkins and Hitchens good for Humanism” might be “Are Dawkins and Hitchens utilizing a strategy that will effectively help people to overcome the evils of religion by speaking directly and unapologetically to large populations of people?”

First of all, I don’t understand what anyone could possibly not like about Richard Dawkins.  Putting his brilliance in the physical sciences aside, he strikes me as a kind, generous, and socially conscientious man.  Not to mention one who is willing to make tremendous social sacrifice in order to genuinely help others.  I only wish that I had the social confidence to speak as freely as he.  His job isn’t one that he chose for himself.  It’s a response to dogma, not a form of it.  One cannot rationally regarded something as “dogmatic toward dogma” anymore than one can be rationally regarded as “intolerant” if they are “intolerance if intolerance.”

I agree with Doug about not particularly liking everything that Hitchens says, and that his book does present good argument.  To me, he is undeniably fighting “the good fight.”  I do agree with you, Zarcus, about Tibor Machan.  He may be “non-theistic”, but I can’t possibly understand how he can be regarded as any sort of humanist.  As for sexy Sam Harris, he is perhaps the most charismatic “rock star” figure listed amongst the so called “New Atheists.”  I’m a man and not homosexual, so he’s not my type.  But, if I had a daughter or a gay son, he would be welcome to have his pick!

To the point, the recent “Top 40 Hit Parade” books written by Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris do not particularly deal with humanism.  They deal with atheism and/or the rejection of religion and religious dogma.  That being said, I do believe that this is an important and even essential component of humanism because religion so consistently violates good humanistic values and principles.  As for the strategy, it is obviously not enough to simply attack religion.  We need alternatives.  But, that does not mean that we should not criticize religion.  Religion is dogmatic and to criticize it is to work defensively against its dogma, not to instigate.

Undeniably, Dawkins and Hitchens have been demonized in the press.  That would happen to anyone who says what they say so successfully.  But what they say needs to be said and is undeniably helping large numbers of people ask new relevant questions.

Of course Dawkins and Hitchens are good for atheism and/or the rejection of religion.  Of course Dawkins and Hitchens are good for Humanism.

R

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