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" we note a certain un-scientific rancor in the way Dawkins discusses religion in America."

------- The topic religion is outside of science, so it is unsurprising that Dawkins argues unscientifically, and substitutes rancor for reason.

One can with honesty and at least some intelligence call oneself an atheist if one believes that it is within the compass of the human mind to answer the fundamental question of metaphysics (Heidegger) Why is there anything rather than nothing at all This can also be considered as both the question and answer which we label as 'God'. It is the God question and our only valid answer, which merely a name for an answer, is 'God'.

Most students I have taught claim to understand this point rather quickly. It is not a difficult point to understand once it has been stated. One way to arrive at it is to pick some fact and ask why --why is it true, how do you explain it. Then ask Why again, this time of your answer to the first question. One generates a chain of Whys must end in ignorance. You may say at one point---because the laws of Physics make it so. But then you have ask, why are there laws of physics as well as the objects which obey them? There is no answer to that question of metaphysics. The laws are given to us---by what?...you might as well use the traditional word for it, 'God'.

This is concept difficult for many to accept, or to spend time thinking about. Such people will often say, for example, "well, that is a meaningless question because it is unsolvable and I do not waste my time on meaningless questions". Many people willfully blind themselves this way and think they are being sophisticated in doing so.

In conclusion to assert boldly that one is an atheist, ithat you KNOW there iss no God, is either a misuse of the concept (maybe the atheist is just saying he does not believe in church rituals--quite another thing), or is an intellectual error of the first rank.

Dawkins has always impressed me as a shallow thinker...and his views of Religion and America bear that out. Einstein, by the way, was quite comfortable in talking about a creator. And I think he liked America.

Pat Robertson MAINSTREAM?????? Nice article Helian but I think this confounded assertion alone delivers the tone of his fervor. I read once that there are really no true atheistic nations. In the USSR, the state simply steps into the role of the almighty. In the absence of a functioning political system think the author might have also included ideology, as it seems to me more and more that religion and ideology are one and the same.

I try my best to shy away from vitriolic hyperbole (e.g. Feminazi; = Hitler), but reading his "American Taliban" rants kept me remembering the ACLU. Seems they were on a jihad (oops, does this count too?) to remove a cross that had been on federal property for several years. The details are fuzzy but I think it was some kind of war memorial near a highway around San Diego. The ACLU's sacred quest to sanitize even the most tangential of relationships between religion and government seemed reminiscent of the Taliban's destruction of the Buddha statues.

P.S. For the record, I walked away from organized religion when I was 19 and do think Judge Roy Moore is an ass.

Actually, the San Diego situation was a cross standing on city owned property which has been used as a cemetary for WWII service men. A resident of San Diego has tried for several years (a decade at least) to have the cross removed as a violation of the First Amendment. I'm not sure if the ACLU was involved but most likely it was. The last I read, the suit was finally successful after being heard in several levels of the California judicial system. Most San Diegans were outraged at the loss of their beloved monument and the city government vowed to fight on probably at the Federal level. Not sure where it stands at the moment.

Helian

As always your essays and comments are most balanced and enlightening to those who regularly come here to learn at DMK. To the average less learned American, Richard Dawkins is not particularly convincing and comes across as just another intellectual with a ridiculous impression of America and its citizens. To put it mildly, he is simply over-reacting to our traditional religious practice has been brain washed within his cultural and intellectual influences to fear God-fearing folk most of whom could care less what Pat Robertson thinks or says.

@Sagredo, icarus, jane m

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Sagredo, Dawkins addresses the issues you raised in your comment, including the religious beliefs of Einstein, in his book. No doubt I find his arguments about these matters more convincing than you will. Regardless, “The God Delusion” is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in these matters. While others are certainly welcome to do so, I will not comment further on them myself, as the issue of atheism vs. religious belief writ large, while very interesting in itself, is not germane to the point of my post, or to the mission of Medienkritik. What is germane is the emergence of anti-Americanism as a central tenet of an ideology that has many features one normally associates with religious belief, or, to describe the phenomenon more accurately, a cult. Religions tend to be conservative, and, not surprisingly, this new cult has a number of features normally associated with older quasi-religious ideological constructs, such as Communism. However, some features of the creed associated with the new cult, such as an exaggerated anti-Americanism based on belief in a fantasy out-group “America,” are new, or, at least, carry this aspect of the “faith” to an extreme. The new cult is emerging from the wreckage of Communism, and, like fanatical Islamism, tends to fill the ideological vacuum left by the demise of that earlier “religion.” As one might expect in view of its relatively recent emergence, many of its features are still half-baked, and vary from “true believer” to “true believer.” However, irrational anti-Americanism is a common feature of all versions.

i just finished this book, and i must say it's one of the awesomest books i've ever read.

i too, found dawkins' use of the term "american taliban" a bit over the top, but it's more - i believe - intentional hyperbole in the interest of getting people's attention. The religious right, in my opinion, is indeed quite dangerous, and the numbers of people in this country who are literal believers in the bible are staggering. The numbers of such fundamentalist christians in other countries are nowhere near those in the US, which i think goes a long way in explaining why dawkins concentrates on them.

i do not think dawkins is inherently anti-american, i think he is anti-ignorance and after dealing with the people he's had to deal with throughout his life (from selfish gene on), he RIGHTLY equates religion with ignorance. it just so happens that the majority of ignorant people whose ignorance is rooted in religion live in the united states.

Good lord Helien, you had fun with this one didn't you? But honestly, your talents are wasted on Dawkins. His complete lack of intellectual rigor, not to mention dishonesty, was in full plumage w/The Blind Watchmaker.

@jwtkac
he RIGHTLY equates religion with ignorance. it just so happens that the majority of ignorant people whose ignorance is rooted in religion live in the united states.

Pot meet kettle. Try Talmudic studies. Or Aquinas' Summa Theologica. Read First Things. Intellectual discipline is the norm, hardly the exception. It won't be online until the next edition comes out, but the April edition of First Things has an article by Georgel Weigel discussing ius ad bellum and ius in bello as applied to the war in Iraq.

And then there's one of my longtime favorites, Maimonides.

Enjoy.


@jwtc

Isn't Islam a religion, why do we always ridicule the christians? Could it be that ridiculing Islam would have murderous consequences?

first of all paaaaaamela, i find no reason to consider theology scholarly. You can study ethics and philosophy and their relation to religion - which is basically tradition mixed with mysticism - but you cannot claim that rejectors of science for religious reasons are intellectually rigorous. I went to catholic school for much of my life, and was schooled by those bastions of intellectual rigor the jesuits, whom i incidentally highly regard. nevertheless, the jesuits were themselves never able to adequately explain some of the most preposterous aspects of roman catholicism (including transubstantiation and the trinity) and seemed (honorably) more into the social justice and ethical strengths of the religion.

incidentally, islam is a more dangerous religion than christianity, and i will often rant about it as well, much to the embarrassment of my more PC friends.

finally, dismissing dawkins as lacking intellectual rigor is simply, well, wrong. he may be a pompous ass - and you may dislike that - but i challenge you to seriously debate his most pertinent observations from "the god delusion." religion is so ingrained into the heads of people from birth (as dawkins points out) that most don't even bother to challenge it, and many are quite afraid of challenging it.

p.s. at least read the chapter about the reactions of students in israel to the biblical (and talmudic) account of joshua's genocidal (and if you think that term is too harsh go read it yourself) conquest of jericho. it is simply frightening.

A man who loves Occams Razor so much that he commits harakiri in it. - Which indicates that there is a honour cult hiding behind science.

When God is being done with, he can move on and prove how the number Zero is a delusion whose use should be dropped. Back to Roman Numerals!

jwtkac
but you cannot claim that rejectors of science for religious reasons are intellectually rigorous.

I made no such claim.

but i challenge you to seriously debate his most pertinent observations from "the god delusion." religion is so ingrained into the heads of people from birth (as dawkins points out) that most don't even bother to challenge it, and many are quite afraid of challenging it.

I'll have to take your word that this is his most pertinent observation, because I found the Blind Watchmaker so sloppy I couldn't finish it and will not deign to give Dawkins any more of my time.

For the sake of argument, then, I will accept the premise as you present it.

People of faith are not a monolithic group. Are there people that fit your/Dawkins' description? Yes. Are they majority? I don't know of any way to find the answer to that.

What Dawkins has apparently done is painted us all with one very broad, and truly ignorant brush. That alone speaks to his intellectual dishonesty, and w/o honesty, there is no rigor.

@jwtkac

I think you are too easily impressed. I believe that anyone claiming that Pat Robertson is mainstream is either: pretty stupid (Dawkins clearly isn't) just ignorant about mainstream America. Obviously ignorance may have different origins. I suppose a person's ignorance could be innocent in that they have insufficient exposure to relevant data due to a lack of experience (I also doubt this applies to Dawkins) In the present scenario, I find it more likely that the ignorance stems from a deliberate and willful blindness by either seeking out only such data (or anecdotes) that reinforces one's own preconceived notions; and/or simply disregarding or rationalizing away any conflicting evidence.

Most, if not all persons are guilty of any of these, although your high-flying ivory tower types tend to excel at explaining away contrary evidence, thereby taking intellectual cowardice from an art to a science.

So jwtkac, if you don't mind- all this talk has left me mildly curious about the personal motivations which caused this wholly unsupported and galactically idiotic bald assertion:

[it just so happens that the majority of ignorant people whose ignorance is rooted in religion live in the united states.]

Just wondering what so caused you to suddenly forget names like: Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan.....


what dawkins has done is challenge people to in turn challenge their own beliefs - to ask why faith is so highly regarded, especially when it comes at the expense of reason and observation; to ask why aspects of religiously-derived moral codes change over time, despite the fact that the documents upon which they are based remain clearly the same.. there are many questions at the most fundamental level that should be asked of religion that are not, simply because God's existence is seen as a given.

@icarus ..

what contrary evidence are you referring to?

ok, i take back the "majority" statement, and transplant it to an amended one: it just so happens that the majority of ignorant people whose ignorance is rooted in religion, and with whom dawkins has been forced to spar over the years, live in the united states.

you're right, there are a billion muslims who are also ignorant. but most of them do not live in the u.s. nor have the influence that evangelical christians have here. evangelicals are the largest and most active religious group in the country - and their preposterous beliefs and disdain for "secularism" should make any thinking person think twice.

@icarus
Just wondering what so caused you to suddenly forget names like: Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan

heh. Nice one. I'm jealous.

@jwtkac

to ask why faith is so highly regarded, especially when it comes at the expense of reason and observation;

Thanks for proving my point about Dawkins' own ignorance/arrogance/dishonesty. There are a lot of people, myself included, who have been reasoned into a state of faith with a good deal of assistance from observation.

there are many questions at the most fundamental level that should be asked of religion that are not, simply because God's existence is seen as a given.

Spoken by somebody who never argued w/a Rabbi.

@jwtcac
I would never stoop so low as to ridicule anyone's personal belief whether I agree with it or not. All people are entitled to their own faith and thus belief.
I am a Deist and feel that someone/something had to start the whole mess we call the Universe as well as those we have not yet discovered.
Faith is not logic it should not be confused as such.

From Helien's initial post quoting Dawkins
“I could have cited those American ‘rapture’ Christians whose powerful influence on American Middle Eastern policy is governed by their biblical belief that Israel has a God-given right to all the lands of Palestine.”

This a lie, plain and simple. 'rapture' Christians have no more influence on U.S. Middle East policy than anyone else, and probably a hell of a lot less.

jwtkac, if this is the kind of reasoning you find 'awesome', your own ability to reason falls into question.

@Helien
What is germane is the emergence of anti-Americanism as a central tenet of an ideology that has many features one normally associates with religious belief, or, to describe the phenomenon more accurately, a cult.

A thought, not well developed. Why are anti-Americanism and anti-reliogiousity so endemic to the self-styled 'intellectual elite'?

In this world view, Americans are boors and people of faith are superstitious rubes. And evidence to the contrary - which is copious - is completely ignored.

@jwtkac

Re: contrary evidence, I was speaking in general terms although the Pat Robertson=mainstream example is as good as any. Simply put, anyone who would make this assertion is going to have to explain away a cascade of empirical data that would undermine this conclusion. Tell me, do you believe he IS mainstream? And if so, do would you really suggest that there is no evidence demonstrating an incongruence with his values versus the mainstream's?

As for him being "forced to spar with"- again, I think you are exaggerating. I concede I haven't read his book, but I seriously doubt he has experienced any involuntary compulsion to refute such unscientific notions by the pious rightwingnuts. I could be wrong, but my guess is they have never been in any position to put his professional reputation or livelihood in jeopardy. In fact, quite to the contrary, it seems like sparring is something he rather enjoys.

As for the vitriolic hyperbole- your reliance on its "attention grabbing" utility as a justification isn't exactly shocking, but it's still rather shallow and smacks of intellectual laziness. If fact, I would argue that liberal use of metaphors like Nazi, Hitler, Fascist only desensitizes people over time, thus curtailing our ability to recognize the true threats of our time. (not to mention minimizing the horror and sacrifices of those who suffered under such regimes and gave their lives to defeat them).
evangelicals are the largest and most active religious group in the country - and their preposterous beliefs and disdain for "secularism" should make any thinking person think twice.
Granted this is merely a comment section on a blog, but again, your reasoning is incomplete. Even if evangelicals have extreme beliefs along with the being the nation's 'most active religious group' does not prove anything in an of itself. I'm going to take a wild guess that you made the above comment to support some notion that evangelicals are a (potential) major threat to our society. Even if it were true, you still haven't connected all the dots.

How well received by non-evangelicals (read: majority of population) is there message; what tactics do they employ; how much resources do they have; how long have they been making these attempts at subversion and with what success rate.... Even though I know the point you are trying to make, I, as the reader am under no obligation to finish your argument for you or repair any non-sequiturs.

jwtkac, I imagine I am probably one of the youngest "commentators" here, but I have to wonder how old you are. You see, after my break with religion I went through phases of anger & hostility, naturally infused with ueber-smugness towards anyone who such much wore a cross/star of David or kept a bible in their dorm room. Finally I realized that I should be happy for those who truly found comfort in their own faith, even though in my mind I've progressed beyond the point where religion provided me consolation. Today I'm happy to have mostly left behind the old secular but yet self-righteous little shit that was me. Naturally, if someone had challenged me back then, I would have incredulously retorted that my only beef with the pious is when they attempt to subject my sanctimonious self to their beliefs. Hopefully someday you will also free yourself from this façade. I concede that this paragraph is based only on my own perceptions of you by way of reading your comments, but you remind me too much of how I used to be.

@ Pamela

Hey Pamela. Rock-n-Roll!

I'm being sloppy today, apologies. A bit distracted with meatspace issues. Back to my contention that 'rapture' Christians having a powerful influence on U.S. Mideast policy is a lie: jwtkac, you are aware, I assume, that it is the stated policy of the Bush administration that it is committed to a Palestinian state? That simple fact gives the lie to Dawkins' assertion. You are the one who wrote here

he RIGHTLY equates religion with ignorance

when Dawkin blatently displays his own ignorance and/or mendacity - take your pick. Why should anyone with half a brain cell take this man seriously?

I would just as soon credit Lyndon LaRuche with insights on constitutional law.

There are reasonable - and honorable - arguments for athieism. I encountered Dawson's first foray into the field in Blind Watchman. It was crap then - when I was an agnostic - and given the practice he has had, I don't understand how he got even worse - other than as Helien suggests, it is all ideology/cult sans true reason.

icarus
Hey Pamela. Rock-n-Roll!

Hootchie coo, mama light my fuse.......Oh, wait, you are probably too young to know that lyric.

Never mind.

Finally I realized that I should be happy for those who truly found comfort in their own faith, even though in my mind I've progressed beyond the point where religion provided me consolation.

Please accomodate a personal aside from an old woman (lordy, I am shameless....).

I spent over half my life as an agnostic. How I came to faith is neither here nor there but there is a premise in your statement that is untrue. Faith is not meant to provide comfort or consolation. It is a bed of nails. I was much more comfortable and consolable as an agnostic.

And contrary to Dawkins and jwtkac, faith requires the discipline of reason. Without reason, faith is unguided, amorphous.

Ok, back to Hootchie coo.........

jwtkac - evangelicals are the largest and most active religious group in the country - and their preposterous beliefs and disdain for "secularism" should make any thinking person think twice.

I can only speak for this side of the pond, but in most complaints about "Evangelicals" this is not a reference to any particular Christian group, but a codeword for individual Christians with a (acutual or suspected) habit to - using the drastic image the German language provides for this - properly heat up hell for conversation partners who wish to seek their faith their own way - as if it wasn´t hot enough already.


dawkins has been on the front line of the battle between faith and reason since he wrote "the selfish gene" in 1976 .. this is where he is most familiar with the gut reactions of religious fundamentalists against scientific breakthroughs, because scientific breakthroughs were challenging (as they have been since the renaissance) the supposed truths espoused by various religious texts, primarily the bible.

FAITH, when it compels one to believe that the world was created 6000 years ago and that fossils have been placed by unknown but undoubtedly satan-inspired saboteurs, is ANYTHING BUT REASONABLE. I have met no shortage of such people in my life, and I'm afraid i can simply not accept that religion's role in this area is positive. If you do, then you are an idiot, as far as i'm concerned. Calling science an ideology/cult is incorrect in that scientific knowledge is dynamic, and when a discovery is made that disproves previous scientific knowledge, it is incorporated and science textbooks are re-written.


i also don't understand the reticence of people to ridicule someone's religious beliefs. You would ridicule someone else's political beliefs, philosophical beliefs, moral beliefs, and so on? but if it's called a "religion" it becomes untouchable. I think questioning someone else's most deeply-held beliefs, no matter how flawed they may be, produces a gut reaction that is evident in the replies here. i have no more use to discuss this subject with people until they read the book and then make their case on the parts not involving the prevalence and influence of evangelical christians in the US.

I knew Dawkins must be illogical as all moralistic aethists are, but he believes in ending "speciesim"? Sheesh. And where does he get off calling the Taliban 'blackhearted'? They're just collections of molecules assembled by chance ending the existance of other collections of molecules assembled by chance, as said chance programed them to do: who cares?

and jwtkac, you're an atheist and you believe in "social justice"? phish.

An aethist can be moral, but can't base it on anything more rational than aesthetics. Even self preservation is not rational in a Godless universe.

@jwtkac

“Dawkins has been on the front line of the battle between faith and reason since he wrote "the selfish gene" in 1976.”

Yes, and for that very reason I had been one of his admirers until I read “The God Delusion.” I consider works such as, “The Selfish Gene,” and “The Blind Watchmaker,” outstanding vindications of the scientific method in general and the theory of evolution in particular against religious obscurantism and fanaticism. I consider neither work “sloppy,” although I will be glad to hear more of what Pamela has to say about this. I do feel that the best way to refute an argument is to meet it head on, rather than to label its author “sloppy,” or “stupid,” or a “moron,” as happens so often in public debate these days. I am, generally, not impressed by such claims, which may be true but are often simply lazy and demonstrative of an unwillingness or inability to counter opposing points of view directly.

“Calling science an ideology/cult is incorrect in that scientific knowledge is dynamic, and when a discovery is made that disproves previous scientific knowledge, it is incorporated and science textbooks are re-written.”

That’s very true, but, at least in my case, you are preaching to the choir. Science is often spoken of by those who can’t stomach its findings as an ideology/cult. Science, in essence, is simply the search for truth, and its goal is to ascertain the truth. The term “science,” however, can be as much abused by those who claim to represent it as by those who lash out at it in blind rage because it conflicts with their religious beliefs. When one conflates “science” with ones ideology or with a particular set of moral or ethical standards, one begins to wander into the swamp. That is what Dawkins has done. He has tried to identify “science” with his own “cult.” In doing so, he has ceased to be a scientist.

Morality is certainly a legitimate subject of scientific inquiry. Dawkins, however, has become arrogant. In fighting the palpably false beliefs of others he has become so confident that he represents the truth that he has begun to conflate his personal ideology/morality/perception of right and wrong with the truth. That is very easy for human beings to do. I base that conclusion, as well as what follows, on my own opinions, hypotheses, and conjectures, which are certainly open to question, and some of which are almost certainly wrong. I am a human being, and as fallible as any other human being in the search for truth. With that caveat in mind, let me proceed to set forth these opinions.

Morality has contributed to our survival, and, because moral creatures have a selective advantage, a predisposition to morality has been hard wired in our brains. Mother nature has not found it expedient to shilly-shally around with moral relativism. We all tend to experience and perceive our own concepts of right and wrong in terms of absolutes. We perceive good and evil as real things, with an objective existence of their own. That is the form in which they have been most useful to us in terms of promoting our survival. I, too, tend to experience my own version of morality as an absolute, just like any other human being. Logically, however, this is absurd. It is certainly absurd for an atheist. What conceivable reason could there be to conceive of good and evil as real things, with an objective existence of their own, rather than as subjective constructs dependent on innate predispositions hard-wired in our brains modified by experience and learned behaviors? If all living things ceased to exist, would one stone be “good” and another “evil?” What residue of objective meaning could possibly be left for these categories? Read Socrates “Euthyphro,” linked above, and it may also begin to dawn on you why they are subjective and not objective, concrete things with an existence of their own whether you are religious or not. Then again, it may not, because that’s just not the way nature has wired us. It is very difficult for us to accept the fact that morality is not “real” and “absolute” when we have evolved to perceive them in just that way.

I am certainly not advocating “immorality,” and, for that matter, Dawkins himself has argued convincingly that atheists tend to be more “moral” in the classic sense than religious people. I am saying that, given a correct understanding of what morality is, where it comes from, and why it exists, we cannot afford the luxury of perceiving facts through the filter of our personal moral constructs. The way to the truth does not pass through ideological tunnels, regardless of whether the tunnels are religious or secular. That is just where Dawkins has failed. Just as Christian fundamentalists believe the world is flat, or that the earth is just over 6000 years old, or that humans coexisted with dinosaurs, Dawkins has uncritically accepted a grotesquely flawed conception of the “United States” and started perceiving the “moral Zeitgeist” as an absolute good with an objective existence of its own because those notions agree with his personal morality/ideology. Most people behave in an exactly similar fashion, because that is their nature. However, if one is really seeking the truth, about the real nature of the United States, or any other set of facts, one simply cannot succumb to that temptation.

Dawkins has succumbed. He can no longer claim to represent a disinterested search for truth, but only another ideology, in opposition to other ideologies that happen to include the existence of supernatural beings. I do not criticize him for his brave fight against religious fanaticism. I criticize him because of the way he is beginning to resemble the people he claims to oppose.

@jwtkac
i have no more use to discuss this subject with people until they read the book

Why on earth would anyone discuss something written by a manifest liar?

@pamela

why indeed? you continually refer to dawkins as a liar and idiot and yet i haven't seen one particular example, either from your hated blind watchmaker or any other place, to reinforce this assertion.

@helian

interesting reply, but i think you're overreaching when you refer to dawkins's claims of the moral zeitgeist. i think his main point was to connect changes in morality of societies (and there are immense changes) to his pet "memes" theories, which is fair enough in that i think there is a very compelling argument for the idea of memes.

The fact is, there are certain "moral truths" - if you want to call them that - that inherently lend more stability to a society than their alternatives. for example, "don't lie" is one. Otherwise, we all derive our morals from exactly the same place - tradition. Traditions change as society changes. I think dawkins, in talking about the moral zeitgeist, is also more interested inc calling out those who pick and chose their morals from a religious text, leaving out those rules that are clearly immoral, or at least would be considered immoral today by most people. i don't think he's saying that the moral zeitgeist is an absolute good, i think if anything he's inferring the opposite.

"i don't think he's saying that the moral zeitgeist is an absolute good, i think if anything he's inferring the opposite."

It seems to me this is not a supportable argument in view of the recklessly anti-American tone of his book alone. Anti-Americanism is very definitely a part of the current "moral Zeitgeist" in Europe, and it's on gaudy display and right in your face throughout "The God Delusion." We all like to give the benefit of the doubt to people we've always agreed with. I'd love to give Dawkins a pass, because I've always admired him, and agree with much of what he's said in the past, too. I can't give him a pass, though, because his anti-Americanism is indefensible. I've lived in many locations in the United States over several decades, and have been an atheist since around the age of 12. As such, I have been very sensitive to any manifestation of religious fanaticism, and am well aware of the agenda of the Christian fundamentalists. It is clear to me that Dawkins' picture of the US as an "incipient theocracy" and his notions about the political power and influence of the would-be theocrats, as well as their similarity to the Taliban and related groups, bear no resemblance to reality. Rather, his version of the "reality" of the US is an ideological construct. In fact, Dawkins is promoting and condoning hatred of the United States at a time in our history when it is particularly damaging and threatening to do so. Anyone who doubts this needs to take another look at the images of 911. It is intolerable to me, as an American, whether I view it from a moral perspective or not, because, in a very real sense, it threatens the survival of me and my family. Don't believe me? Ask the families of the 911 victims. You can follow Dawkins off into his ideological swamp if you're that attached to him, but don't expect me to follow you.

@jwtkac
you continually refer to dawkins as a liar and idiot and yet i haven't seen one particular example

Can you read? I cited one example from Helian's initial post upthread. Nor have I used the term 'idiot'.

@Helian

I no longer have a copy of Blind Watchmaker - I gave mine away. It seems its been about 8 years since I read it - or tried to. I'll ask around to see if I can find a copy somewhere so I can give you a more detailed, memory-refreshed run down later.

I did think his exposition of Darwinian evolution was clear and could be helpful for someone new to the subject. Certainly easier than slogging thru Darwin. Basically, the objection was this: Darwinian evolution almost certainly explains the science of life on earth. But that is all it can do. IIRC, the subtitle of the book was something like "how evolution reveals a universe without design", when what he really meant was "how evolution reveals a universe without a designer". Hence, the watchmaker is blind, random, without intent.

Science can reveal no such thing. Ever. Be it evolution, quantum mechanics, etc.

I want to get on to your 'objective morality' issues, but people are getting back from their lunch breaks and the phones are ringing off their hooks.

BBL

@Pamela

"IIRC, the subtitle of the book was something like "how evolution reveals a universe without design", when what he really meant was "how evolution reveals a universe without a designer". Hence, the watchmaker is blind, random, without intent."

I don't accept inferences about what Dawkins really meant unless he says that he really meant something himself. In fact, the eye, a dragonfly's wings, bombardier beetles, or whatever have been used for centuries by religious believers as evidence of the existence of a designer. Dawkins very effectively kicks out this prop in "The Blind Watchmaker." In view of the prior claims that these natural phenomena "prove" the existence of a God, it was entirely reasonable and justifiable to take issue with those arguments. To the best of my knowledge, Dawkins has never claimed that he can prove God doesn't exist, or that science "reveals" that God doesn't exist. He does not even claim there is certainly no God. He does say that the existence of a God is extremely unlikely. His arguments in "The Blind Watchmaker" support that contention by demonstrating that one of the classic "proofs" of the existence of God is not tenable, supporting his general argument of the improbability that God exists. It is in no way clear to me why it is not legitimate for him to make this argument. In fact, I consider that argument very clear and reasonable.

@helian

i understand your being put-off by the areas of that chapter dedicated to what he refers to as the "american equivalent" of the taliban. i also cringed when i read that, and i do not necessarily agree that equivalent is an appropriate word. whether dawkins is condoning hatred of the united states is still debatable, but that notwithstanding he is much more critical of Islam than of either Christianity or Judaism (and he doesn't leave Buddhism unscathed, either), and especially of the Muslim theocracies of the Mideast.

@pamela

sorry, you never used the term 'idiot', but i'm sure if one had not even half a brain cell one would be considered an idiot, or am i wrong?

back to faith: faith is defined usually as belief in something for which there is no proof. some definitions will add "evidence" - but the fact remains, your including "reason" in a definition of faith is a singular one in a world of very faithful and very unreasonable people. explain to me how reason inspires the faith that if one gives their lives up as a martyr they will be offered 72 virgins in paradise? explain to me how reason inspires the faith that, if your best friend calls his or her god by a different name he or she will have a pretty shitty time in the afterlife?

@helian

exactly.. the existence of many quirks of nature would - if you apply the same logic that creationists attempt to apply - highly indicate the lack of a creator, as dawkins explains. he indeed never says he can prove the nonexistence of god, but then again he's not responsible to is he? i believe the onus lies on the one claiming existence of something to prove it exists, not the other way around.

@jwtkac

I don't know how to understand you.

You write
but you cannot claim that rejectors of science for religious reasons are intellectually rigorous.

I made no such claim.

You never responded.
------------------------

you continually refer to dawkins as a liar and idiot and yet i haven't seen one particular example, either from your hated blind watchmaker or any other place, to reinforce this assertion.

Yes actually I did and you never addressed it

From Helien's initial post quoting Dawkins
“I could have cited those American ‘rapture’ Christians whose powerful influence on American Middle Eastern policy is governed by their biblical belief that Israel has a God-given right to all the lands of Palestine.”

This a lie, plain and simple. 'rapture' Christians have no more influence on U.S. Middle East policy than anyone else, and probably a hell of a lot less.

jwtkac, if this is the kind of reasoning you find 'awesome', your own ability to reason falls into question.
------------
jwtkac again:

but the fact remains, your including "reason" in a definition of faith is a singular one in a world of very faithful and very unreasonable people. explain to me how reason inspires the faith that if one gives their lives up as a martyr they will be offered 72 virgins in paradise?

Again I question your reading comprehension. What I wrote:
----
faith requires the discipline of reason. Without reason, faith is unguided, amorphous.
-----------

Helian, jwtkac is taking up much of my time, - such vanity on my part I know - but just to give you a heads up on where I'm going

If all living things ceased to exist, would one stone be “good” and another “evil?”

If all living things ceased to exist, would mathmatics still be true?

(I'm sure you've heard this argument before. En garde, my friend.).


@Helian
Morality has contributed to our survival, and, because moral creatures have a selective advantage, a predisposition to morality has been hard wired in our brains.

is intolerable to me, as an American, whether I view it from a moral perspective or not, because, in a very real sense, it threatens the survival of me and my family

Go tell your kids and your wife that the 'love' you share is hard-wired as a pre-disposition for 'morality' - in quotes. Somewhere in here is the term " droid ".

@Pamela

"Go tell your kids and your wife that the 'love' you share is hard-wired as a pre-disposition for 'morality' - in quotes. Somewhere in here is the term 'droid'."

Things are as they are, and the fact that we don't consider them sufficiently beautiful or sublime does not alter what they are, just as our opinion that life does not have sufficient purpose to please us without a God does not mean that a God must, therefore, exist. I consider everything about us sublime, spectacular, and wonderfully improbable, and don't require religion to see them that way. The fact that we are wired to fear death does not, therefore, imply that we must live forever, either, and it is really a liberating experience to throw off the shackles of belief in an afterlife, a belief that has poisoned so many lives in the here and now and caused so much misery. Shedding that belief is also safer for those around us. Just ask anyone who has survived the attack of a suicide bomber. It is an incredibly arrogant belief when you think about it, the notion that you are so important that you must live forever. It implies a complete lack of understanding of who you really are, what your identity is at the most fundamental level, and why you are really here.

@jwtkac

i also don't understand the reticence of people to ridicule someone's religious beliefs. You would ridicule someone else's political beliefs, philosophical beliefs, moral beliefs, and so on? but if it's called a "religion" it becomes untouchable.

The simplest way I could say it is sometimes religious belief truly deserve to be ridiculed, sometimes they don't, depending on the person and the context. Is this your view or have you no compunction about doing so at any time or place?

Calling science an ideology/cult is incorrect in that scientific knowledge is dynamic, and when a discovery is made that disproves previous scientific knowledge, it is incorporated and science textbooks are re-written.

This sounds great on in isolation, but in the real world you can never leave humans out of the dynamic (after all, that's what scientists are first and foremost) including the egos, prejudices, jealousies, territoriality and the ever present illogic that invariably accompanies such emotions.

Except for the most fervently devout, most people would acknowledge that religion itself is not static either. Even cults, which are relatively short-lived are often forced to revise their dogma from time to time. Thus, I don't think you can hang your hat on the dynamism of science to distinguish it from ideology/cults or religion.

i believe the onus lies on the one claiming existence of something to prove it exists, not the other way around

You still have yet to show that evangelicals are a true danger to this country (particularly in foreign policy as you seem to specifically note this area) regardless of the validity of their beliefs.

@Pamela

I suppose I would have chosen my words better and used 'religion' instead of 'faith'. But at the risk of starting a semantical perplexity, what is the purpose of faith? (better yet, can you boil it down to just one?) I don't think I could agree that comfort and consolation are not a part of this picture. Faith requiring the discipline of reason doesn't square with the "mystery of faith" concept I one professed. Maybe it was just a Catholic thing though.

& Shouldn't it be Lordy mama, light my fuse(?)

"the famous environmental policy of Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior [who said] We don’t have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand."

Except that he didn't say that, and Bill Moyers was forced to publicly apologize for making the accusation.

Now Dawkins is an accomplished scholar who appears to prize his intelligence more than anything else, so out of charity I am forced to conclude that he got this wrong not because he is a fool but because he is a liar. :-)

@pst314

"Now Dawkins is an accomplished scholar who appears to prize his intelligence more than anything else, so out of charity I am forced to conclude that he got this wrong not because he is a fool but because he is a liar. :-)"

Thanks for the fact check. In all honesty it sounded bogus to me as soon as I read it, but I didn't fact check it. It fits nicely with what I've written above. As soon as the subject turns to America, Dawkins' critical faculty deserts him. It's sad and shameful when you think about it. I've been an admirer of Dawkins, and to see someone like him become so arrogant, so reckless of the truth, is sobering.

pamela you're contradicting yourself. faith either does or does not "require" reason. or you need to extend this definition to include a further term. faith requires reason to be ... fill in the blank (truth?). either way you'll trip over yourself trying to reason one faith against another and that's my point. someone else commented that "some religions deserved to be ridiculed, some don't." Why is that, exactly? I think that's a load of shit, personally, and I think people are getting hot because they want the self-righteousness of knowing that their judeo-christian god (or whatever) is somehow more "reasonable" than ahura mazda, or a sun god or any other god.

..
and dawkins saying that rapture christians have a large influence in american middle east policy has nothing to do with "reason," whether he's correct or not. and what if you take away rapture christians and put in AIPAC. is that correct?

and your statement on mathematics is neither here nor there.

wtkac

I think questioning someone else's most deeply-held beliefs, no matter how flawed they may be, produces a gut reaction that is evident in the replies here.

Yet you do appear to me to be the only person in this thread getting a bit hot under the collar. Some of the commentators, like icarus, have gently attempted to nudge you into making a reasoned argument in support of your assertions that "evangelicals" and the like, due to the irrational nature of their theological views, constitute a danger to the republic. This does after all speak to the major point in Helian's post. Instead of backing up your contentions with evidence about the actual, real-world social and political behavior of these people, you respond with a lot of emotionalism about your own world view, repetition of the argument that religious belief is irrational (as if this in itself were an answer to Helian's thesis), and expressions of irritation that some people get all offended if you mock or challenge their religious beliefs. (Why yes, some of them do. Your point, in the context of Helian's?)

I note all this because as "one of you" (secular, atheist), I am often dismayed by the apparently "faith-based" assertions about alleged incipient theocracy in the U.S., or the alleged barely restrained taliban-ish impulses of my fellow citizens. (My, we atheists have had an exhausting task these last couple of centuries, no? - outnumbered in the millions by slavering goggle-eyed religious fanatics, and yet here I stand, still holding the Republic fast against the Baptists next door. Makes me weep with pride, it does.) Consider your statement "the religious right, in my opinion, is indeed quite dangerous, and the numbers of people in this country who are literal believers in the bible are staggering", which is logically equivalent to "the religious right, in my opinion, is indeed quite dangerous, and the numbers of people in this country who eat greasy doughnuts for breakfast are staggering". Now, there may indeed be a connection between quaint beliefs about the origins of man among American Christians, and a significant tendency to dangerous religious fanaticism - but you have to make the argument. Stamping your feet and repeating your premise over and over doesn't cut it. We know you think religious beliefs are irrational, but the irrationality of religious beliefs is not the gravamen of Helian's beef with Dawkins. As icarus tried to impress upon you, "[e]ven though I know the point you are trying to make, I, as the reader am under no obligation to finish your argument for you or repair any non-sequiturs". (How many hundreds of times have I seen "large numbers of Americans claim to be Biblical literalists" presented, not as a statement of fact, an opening into evidence-based argumentation about the real-world meaning and import of the fact, but as some sort of QED. It is not. This habit is every bit as annoying as "but the Bible says...")

jwtkac - The basix axiom of science is something very unscientific, specifically the assumption that you have an unlimited amount of time for reasoning. Note that though I do term this unscientific, I still think it makes sense and produces considerable results to keep up that assumption for a limited amount of time.

I can´t help but see Creationism as the other side of Apocalypticism. More often than not the cartoon of Pat Robertson and Al Gore playing ping-pong with the American mind is strikingly true, but then again we Euros also do have some dialectic rituals than may genuinely freak out Americans.

As for Dawkins, I won´t read the book. He is arguing that "final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue death blow to religion and other juvenile superstitions." Now is that a grown up attitude? If he does see the world as a kindergarten, why would that necessarily have to be a situation that should be dealt with in a destructive manner?

pamela you're contradicting yourself. faith either does or does not "require" reason. or you need to extend this definition to include a further term. faith requires reason to be ... fill in the blank

You really are incapable of reading comprehension. I wrote
And contrary to Dawkins and jwtkac, faith requires the discipline of reason. Without reason, faith is unguided, amorphous.

@icarus
& Shouldn't it be Lordy mama, light my fuse(?)

Marry me.

But at the risk of starting a semantical perplexity, what is the purpose of faith? (better yet, can you boil it down to just one?) I don't think I could agree that comfort and consolation are not a part of this picture. Faith requiring the discipline of reason doesn't square with the "mystery of faith" concept I one professed. Maybe it was just a Catholic thing though.

To ask what purpose faith may have is to consign it to utilitarianism, be it social, political, or spiritural.

suppose I would have chosen my words better and used 'religion' instead of 'faith'. But at the risk of starting a semantical perplexity, what is the purpose of faith?

Speaking for myself, the purpose is to make me fucking miserable.

I don't think I could agree that comfort and consolation are not a part of this picture.

This is the easter bunny western civilization justification for worship: Be a good boy and go to heaven.

It's late at night and I am dealing with a death of a friend. At the moment, I'm not able to provide this thread with the thoughtfulness it deserves.

Moira Breen,

"Yet you do appear to me to be the only person in this thread getting a bit hot under the collar"

You're joking, right? There was been a strong emotional response to jwtkac's statements that has little to do with reason.

Some examples from these "reasoned" commentators -

*"anyone discuss something written by a manifest liar?"
*"Dawkins must be illogical as all moralistic aethists are"
*"He can no longer claim to represent a disinterested search for truth, but only another ideology"
*"Why should anyone with half a brain cell take this man seriously?"

A nice little collection of Ad hominems, appeals to emotion and other ways of "knowing" ;-)

Just for the record, I think anyone who makes deliberate irratonally based decisions (whether astrology, tarot cards or a bible is used) is somewhat dangerous. - A good contemporary example would be a suicide bomber dying to become a religious martyr.

It's always a question of the degree of danger. The breatheren next door are somewhat dangerous (mainly to their own followers). An abortion clinic bomber much more so.

Cheerio
Combine_Dave


FranzisM

Correction. The basic principal of science is documented and reproducable evidence from which testable theories are proved or disproved.
Time for reasoning is unimportant. YOu might be confusing the scientific method with the theory of bounded rationality.

It hasn't escaped my attention that the majority here bagging Dawkin's book have never read it.

Explain how it is destructive to replace unreason based on superstition/supernaturalism with evidenced based reason.

Cherio
Combine_Dave

Pamela,

Would you care to show how faith, which is by definition based on belief rather than evidence, somehow requires reason?


"To ask what purpose faith may have is to consign it to utilitarianism, be it social, political, or spiritural."

I guess questioning things wouldn't go down well with that whole faith thing.

"This is the easter bunny western civilization justification for worship: Be a good boy and go to heaven."

Isn't it usually phrased "thou shalt not...." Followed by the collection plate of course. In the words of Milhouse.. why would they make it up, what would they have to gain...

If religion was true then why do we grieve the death of a loved one? Surely believers should celebrate? OR maybe at heart they know it's a farce?

Combine_Dave - I was talking about the basic axiom of science, not the basic principal. Time is essential because it is what scientiests need for pursuing science, a scientist without it will produce no results.

Time also is the reason why I did not read Dawkins book, and still believe I can discuss what he stands for. Tell me something new he has written about reason that the Pope has not said too, and I might find a handle to the book.

As to your question to Pamela, jihadi Muslims celebrate the death of their suicide bombers. Why do you think it was wrong if a religion teaches to grieve death, instead of celebrating it?

"Time is essential because it is what scientiests need for pursuing science, a scientist without it will produce no results."

But time iself is one of the virtues of the dynamic scientific process. Because it is only over time that the self correcting
mechanisms of science can operate.

Ie; A hypothesis or theory is created (such as the earth not being at the centre of the universe), experiments and other
observational data can be taken that either do or don't support the theory. Over time new evidence and new theories emerge
that either improve on or supplant the previous theory.

Given that self-correcting scientific disciplines have a seemingly infinite time (or at least as long as humans survive)
to get things right, this renders trivial the time available to individual scientists (50+yrs) especialy if
their work is likely to be peer-reviewed, if not immediately then in the near future.

"Time also is the reason why I did not read Dawkins book, and still believe I can discuss what he stands for."

How can you analyse his statements if you have never read/heard them? Do you possess Psyhic powers? Does the great sky daddy
whisper his secrets in your ear during the night? Or do you mean this symbolically? That he stands for every atheistic strawman
argument you know and think you can refute?

"Tell me something new he has written about reason that the Pope has not said too, and I might find a handle to the book."

Ahh the pope told you so it must be true...Which Pope do you refer to? They good book may stay the same but the doctrine changes
from century to century. At least now the church accepts the earth is spherical. - Is it not enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe there are fairies at the
bottom of it too?

"As to your question to Pamela, jihadi Muslims celebrate the death of their suicide bombers. Why do you think it was wrong if a religion teaches to grieve death,
instead of celebrating it?"

The christian religion also cherishes death, hence the worshiping of the cross (an instrument), Christs death and commonly
expressed christian setiment "he's gone to a better place".

My point was that even though religion tries to teach us that death is a glorious transcition to a higher place (at least for believers)
that ordinary folk still weep for their dead loved ones. - Yes even the mums of suicide terrorists grieve for their lost younglings.
Does not show a lot of faith in the magic utopia in the sky.

Combine_Dave - If science is perceived not as a tool to the individual, but a cause greater than the individual, then it is an ersatz religion.

Re Dawkins, I read a handful of articles by and about him on the internet, which brought me to the conclusion that the man isn´t worth digging any further, but that´s just me, I won´t pretend otherwise.

I was referring to the current Pope, specifically his Regensburg speech on the relationship of faith and reason. I can only speak for myself, but my faith does not celebrate death as something that should be brought about, instead the cross is a symbol of a culture of death Jesus has redeemed us from.

As to the supposed fairies in your garden, I´m not interested.

"Combine_Dave - If science is perceived not as a tool to the individual, but a cause greater than the individual, then it is an ersatz religion."

Not a cause, but a self correcting mechanism for discovering objective truths. It can be a tool for use by an individual however in the long run it requires the contribution of many individuals to ensure evidence is uncovered and theories are confirmed, supplemented or replaced.

"Re Dawkins, I read a handful of articles by and about him on the internet, which brought me to the conclusion that the man isn´t worth digging any further, but that´s just me, I won´t pretend otherwise. "

True, but you do pretend to have a reason for your baseless accusations. Try reading one of his novels before commenting on the supposed anti-americanism inside.

"I was referring to the current Pope, specifically his Regensburg speech on the relationship of faith and reason. I can only speak for myself, but my faith does not celebrate death as something that should be brought about, instead the cross is a symbol of a culture of death Jesus has redeemed us from."

I haven't heard that speech. Although if his statements on evolution and "limbo" are much to go by I'm not missing much ^^ I don't have your apparent telepathic abilities , so I'd appreciate if you could provide a link to this - thanks in advance.

"As to the supposed fairies in your garden, I´m not interested."

The giant sky fairy more to your liking?

I was referring to the current Pope, specifically his Regensburg speech on the relationship of faith and reason. I can only speak for myself, but my faith does not celebrate death as something that should be brought about, instead the cross is a symbol of a culture of death Jesus has redeemed us from.

As to the supposed fairies in your garden, I´m not interested.

George Carlins 3 commandments:

1.Thou shall always be truthfull and honest.

2.Thy shall try real hard not to kill anyone, unless ofcourse they pray to a different invisible man from the one you pray to.

3.Thou shall keep thy religion to thyself.

(FTR) Dave, I haven´t said about Dawkins what you´re alleging I would have said. Please. Check my comments above.

As to the Benedikt XVI speech, one doesn´t need the skill you talked about to put a search engine on track, so here you are:

Glaube, Vernunft und Universität (Abschrift auf deutsch)
Glaube, Vernunft und Universität (mp3 audio auf deutsch)
Faith, Reason and University (transcript in English)

God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death....

This is the quote that Muslim leaders considered offensive.

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