Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Delusional Atheism: A Reply to a Reader


A reader named Guy Monty posted the following on "The True Meanings of Christmas, Part II". I want to respond to it in detail, because I think it is a good example of delusional atheism. Guy's comments are in italics.

Although I am not affiliated with any group, movement, or cadre, I am an atheist. From what I have witnessed and learned in 44 years here on planet Earth, I have to agree that religion is stupid, offensive and that it does actively erode man's quality of life. Why? Because it requires one to accept things for which there is no evidence, as if there is. As soon as one sets foot on that path, the mind is left open to all kinds of nonsense. This can manifest itself in a fairly benign form of delusion (crystal and faerie worshipers for instance), but it is delusion nonetheless. Any creature which chooses to allow fantasy to take the decision making reigns, is a creature which will eventually get itself into trouble. With social animals such as humans, this inevitably leads to getting ones fellows into trouble as well. The moment when your argument against atheism fails, is when you assume that atheism is some form of dogma, theology, or even an ideology. It's not. It simply means that one does not believe in a deity.

Ready Guy? Here goes.

You conclude by summarizing your version of atheism in this way: “it simply means that one does not believe in a deity" (call this [ND]). This is what most atheists usually say, but it is a flattering delusion, as you yourself show.

Consider what else you have written in this paragraph:

1.) "Religion is stupid”

2.) “Religion is offensive”

3.) “Religion actively erodes man's quality of life";

4.) “Religion actively erodes man’s quality of life because it requires one to accept things for which there is no evidence, as if there is".

5.) “Accepting (any) things for which there is no evidence eventually gets us, and others, into trouble”.

These five beliefs go far beyond (ND), don’t they? So, your belief (ND) is false, isn't it? And, you are unable to see this fact, aren't you? Indeed, it is remarkable how you can type out all five of those specific beliefs – about the nature of religion, the nature of the best sort of belief, etc. – and then type out (ND) without noticing that it cannot possibly be true given what you'd typed mere seconds earlier.

Moreover, those five beliefs very much appear to serve as the anchors of a genuine ideology. Yet you write that your version of atheism doesn’t constitute an “ideology”. That seems to me like another instance of a sort of delusive blindness.

But let me get more specific. Take belief (3). It is a universal claim. As such, it is a denial that there is, or could ever be, a single case in which religion would not erode the quality of a person’s life. On that basis alone, I would say this extreme belief looks very much like dogma. More to the point is that your belief has absolutely no evidence for it. By your criteria, it is therefore a delusion.

Worse, though, is that (3) is contradicted by the positive results of innumerable psychological studies which show that by a number of criteria, religious belief and activity enhance the quality of life of certain people. (3) also betrays a gargantuan presumptuousness, in that, on no evidentiary basis whatsoever, it denies the validity of the first-person-reported experiences of many tens of millions of religious converts who claim that the quality of their lives has improved as a result of their religious adherence. In other words, (3) constitutes an assertion that you, Guy, know far more about the quality of people’s lives that you have never met, and never will meet, than the people in question do.

Yet the lack of evidence for (3), and the abundance of evidence showing it to be incorrect, has not induced you to revise (3). The point is - if this all does not constitute some serious dogmatism, some serious delusions about the knowledge you posess, I don’t know what does. That alone should be enough to show that there is something totally wrong with this sort of atheism. But let me mention something more.

Notice (5). It expresses the belief that there can be no such thing as an adaptive unjustified belief. There is also absolutely no evidence for this belief – it is therefore an unjustified belief (a “delusion”, according to you).
But even worse is that this belief of yours is in conflict with the Darwinian principles of evolution that all good atheists subscribe to. After all, what Darwinian evolution says is that the human brain has evolved so as to form beliefs which confer survival advantage - a claim which obviously allows that such beliefs may very well have no supporting evidence, and very well may not even be true. Darwin makes this pretty explicit in his famous passage from "The Descent of Man":

"There can be no doubt that a tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to give aid to each other and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over other tribes; and this would be natural selection".

In this passage, Darwin contemplates that the following sorts of beliefs would confer survival advantage on to groups:

"My tribe is the very best tribe in the whole world" (patriotism);

"I ought to suffer inconvenience, or more, to relieve the suffering of a fellow tribesman" (sympathy);

"I ought to run toward enemy lines to distract them while my tribe escapes, even though I will die doing so" (sacrifice for the common good);

Etc.

And what is key here is that none of these beliefs can muster any sort of evidentiary support. So, these are "unjustified beliefs" which Darwin says are adaptive. That is, Charles Darwin believes that there can be such things as adaptive unjustified beliefs, but you don't. Hm.

Now, let's introduce the elves which you mentioned in your note, since these would push these beliefs away from being merely unjustified, toward being false.

So let's say our tribesman believes the following:

"There is a small green elf named Burkle who lives inside my head. Burkle has told me that I should exercise and be strong, instead of remaining lazy and growing very weak and fat".

That is a false belief. We could crack open our tribesman's head, and we would find no green elf there at all. Yet one result of this false belief will enhance the tribesman's ability to survive. It doesn't matter that the green elf portion of the belief need not be there; the fact is, it could very well be there, and if it is, then this is just one of innumerable beliefs which are both false and adaptive. We could easily replace the green elf in the head with Jesus living in the sky; the belief would stay the same: an adaptive unjustified or false belief, that is, a religious belief which does not "erode" the quality of a man's life, but enhances it. And the fact is that most religions have quite a few beliefs as beneficial as this one. Duh. "A bearded man who lives in the sky wants you to be chaste" may be a false/unjustified belief; but chastity confers real health benefits in an era of sometimes lethal STDs, like HIV. Doesn't it? How could this be any more obvious?

Your denial of the possibility of adapative unjustified/false beliefs, and by implication adaptive religious beliefs, is, I think, very blatantly wrong; and certainly it is at odds with evolution as Darwin conceived of it. And funnily enough, whether a belief contradicts Darwinian evolution seems to be an important standard for atheists when evaluating theist beliefs. Yet here you have shown you have an atheist belief which also contradicts Darwinian evolution. Why should it not be regarded as just as delusional, by your own standards?

Although it would be offensively wrong to argue that no atheist ever committed a crime (I've yet to hear that from anyone who professes to be a theist), I cannot agree that the presence of an atheist within a morally bankrupt political ideology amounts to "crimes committed in the name of atheism". In the case of the atrocities committed by Bolsheviks, the heinous crimes against humanity were committed in large part to consolidate the power of madmen, not in the name of "atheism".

Here's one problem with this, Guy. You cannot make this argument without disallowing atheists from making their favourite argument for "crimes committed in the name of theism"; for following your example, and with as little justification, we could just glibly assert that "the heinous crimes against humanity were committed in large part to consolidate the power of madmen, not in the name of theism".

But the bigger problem is that this statement about theism would be no truer than your own about atheism; for atheism is as crucial, as fundamental, to Marxism, as theism is to Catholicism. There is no way around this. That atheism is a disbelief in God, rather than a belief in God, makes no difference. The point is that fanatical devotion to each has helped inspire people to commit heinous crimes.

By the way, your statement that "I cannot agree that the presence of an atheist within a morally bankrupt political ideology amounts to 'crimes committed in the name of atheism' is shocking in how grossly it distorts the fundamentality of atheism to Marxism. This isn't about "the presence of an atheist" in a "morally bankrupt political ideology"; it is about a political ideology which itself is fundamentally, crucially, officially, irrevocably atheist. As I said in my earlier post, for this reason crimes committed by Marxists to advance the Marxist cause are - unavoidably - crimes committed in the name of atheism, just as unavoidably as are crimes committed to advance Catholicism crimes committed in the name of Christianity. The belief that they are not, is just another example of the delusions to which atheists of your stripe are prone.

When a political entity attacks a specific religion because they are trying to gain sole political power, I can hardly see where this constitutes an atheist Jihad. So would the world be better if without religion? I think it would. I don't feel the need to toss anyone into a lake of fire for all eternity if they don't agree though.

---Again, your belief that the world would be a better place without religion is a belief without any evidentiary warrant, especially given the atrocities committed in the name of an ideology for which atheism was a crucial pillar just in the past century. Moreover, your belief seems to rest on the assumption that "a human race without religion" is even possible – which I would say is itself a total delusion, given that innumerable findings from anthropology, psychology, history, sociology, etc., are that religion is endemic to human brains.

And that you can "hardly see" how crimes committed in the name of a fundamentally atheist ideology are no less crimes committed in the name of atheism, as are crimes committed in the name of a fundamentally theist ideology crimes committed in the name of theism, is precisely the point. You can't see it even though it is as plain as day; and you just repeat the same sorts of defensive slogans that theists repeat when guys like you start talking about how religion is the primary cause of evil on the planet.

This whole business, this sort of contemporary orthodox "Dawkins-style" atheism, goes far beyond mere disbelief in the existence of God. That is its problem. It prides itself on being an expression of "critical thinking" and science-based skepticism, when in reality it has nothing to do with critical thinking or science-based skepticism at all. It is nowhere near critical or skeptical enough. It is, rather, mostly a pile of bigoted, dogmatically-held, false knowledge claims - delusions - about the supposedly evil nature of religion, about how to save humanity from itself, about what is possible in human affairs, etc. - slopped on top of a blinding, self-congratulatory disbelief in God, and which is no different in principle from a pile of delusions which just happen to be theist. It is just the other side of the same coin.

This type of atheism, in short, is no less delusional, no less unjustified, no less false, no less dogmatic, no less ideological, than the religions it claims to be superior to.

I welcome your reply, Guy.

40 comments:

Tyson said...

Tal,
I think your definition of an atheist has a very large umbrella. I'm not a believer any longer in religion, for the same reasons you aren't, but does that make me deluded? Does my disbelief in someone's imaginary theology brand me with the association of pol pot? I can only see atheism as what something isn't, and those that want to take it beyond that enter into the arena of belief, and the appropriate scrutiny you have applied to Guy. In looking at the common popular atheists of today, I see them making the following arguments.

On the definition of atheism from Sam Harris, see the following reading from his "a letter to a christian nation" book. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5zITiMtsww

On the dogma of atheism, I can see how one would confuse unbelief with dogma. I watch Dawkins on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTZONIl546c&feature=related and I see him define his unbelief correctly as atheism, and then turn around and use atheism as the definition of his belief. However, I also see Sam Harris starting to make the argument of moving away from the moniker of atheism. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55raoECDz4A and note his arguments at 6:40.

On the subject of an "Atheist's" opinion of the future of religion in the world, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PKAULFkZrU

On whether or not Atheism is deluded, I think a good example of someone who crosses the line between disbelief and dogma is Pat Condel, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4mWiqkGy-Y&NR=1 ,but I can discern his arguments for disbelief from his sarcasm.

Ron said...

Thank you for showing where you get your information from Tyson.I appreciate that as Tal rarely does and we can not check his information for ourselves to verify it.

Tim said...

There was recently an article by an atheist in the "Times of London" which further backs up what Tal is saying

As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article5400568.ece

Tal said...

Hi Tyson

I see your point that there is a variety of things which pass under the banner of atheism.

My post was directed at Guy's version, which is basically Dawkins's. And I think Dawkins's (Guy's) is supremely deluded, for as I pointed out it, it does not confine itself to skepticism and critical thinking at all, but goes on to make all sorts of knowledge claims (just like any religious ideology), for which there is NO evidence.

In that version of atheism, something called "religion" is the root of all evil; it "poisons everything"; no religious belief can ever have salutary effects; no one needs religion to be a better person; everyone in the world is so constituted that they can find ultimate emotional satisfaction with things like *the quadratic equation* or a gene-centered view of evolution.

How can any "critical thinker" believe such things, when they have NO evidence for them? I mean, NONE. They're all nonsense.

Just take the extreme moral claims Dawkins makes for atheism. Has Dawkins never done anything rotten in his (atheist) life? Has he never acted selfishly? In his own view, has his atheism made him transcend his own humanity and pass into a realm of irreproachable moral perfection?

He must think that; otherwise, how could he possibly say the things he does about the "moralizing" effects of atheism, and the "morally poisonous" effects of theism?

This whole brand of atheism is arrogant, delusional nonsense!

Tal said...

Ron

Let me know what claims of mine you think need backing up, and I'll post stuff in response.

Tal said...

Pretty thought provoking article, Tim, thanks for posting that.

I'm still waiting for someone to respond to the absurd suggestion, made by Guy and the likes of Dawkins, that there can be no such thing as adaptive theist, or adaptive unjustified/false, beliefs.

So ludicrous!

Tyson said...

Ron,
It takes google less than 3 seconds to research the points in Tal's arguments. I've been through several of his previous posts, and in addition to being well documented, his undocumented points, upon independent research, is pretty spot on. If you have a specific point to contend, please propose it, because I would be interested to hear it.

Kris K said...

To Tyson (And Tal), you say you no longer believe in religion.

Does that mean you no longer prescribe to a certain style of beliefs, or that you have put aside your belief for any existence of a diety whatsoever?

Tyson said...

Kris K,
I no longer subscribe to beliefs that have no reasonable evidence to do so. I have simply applied the common sense questions I use toward any other objective decisions in my life toward religion, and am answering honestly. I think a good illustration of this argument can be found here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjhbccXIp4c&feature=related

Tal said...

Hi Kris

If you mean, do I believe in a deity, I wouldn't rule one out, but I have no clue what might be happening out there. I don't believe or not believe, really - just have no idea.

Tyson said...

Tal,
I think I understand your point, and there's good reason behind your arguments. Frankly, Dawkins does appear to be rather arrogant, which could be viewed as delusional, or just reciprocal rhetoric to the equally delusional view from the foyer. I still view Dawkins arguments against religion, or on behalf of evolution, more reasonable than deism or theism has against atheism. But do you have an argument for what takes the place of religion? If the basis of Atheism is simply non-belief, and we do apply critical thinking towards a dogmatic "atheists" view that "everyone should be like me and kill God", what should be the approach to life? In the absence of a loving God, which I'm sure we would all like to have evidence for, what is left, Secular Humanism?

rachael said...

I'm glad you wrote this reply to this particular reader. Bravo!


I found and posted the quote he used about some athiests who call religion, 'stupid, offensive, and erosive of mans quality of life'.

I posted the statement as an example of what I deeply dis-respect about athiesm, and though I guess I would most closely sit in the athiest camp (if I have to sit somewhere), NO part of that statement resonates with me. Not even a little.

Like Tyson implied earlier, I regard athiesm as simply seeing what something isn't, rather than a new realm of belief.

I was surprised (perhaps I shouldn't be) that anyone would take that quote and proudly display the words as something they agree with.



BTW; QUOTING Tyson:

"Ron,
It takes google less than 3 seconds to research the points in Tal's arguments........"



Ditto....

Ron said...

Of course I know I can research Tal's points on Google.What I am getting at is that I would like the specific place that a quote was taken from.

Critical thinking can be manipulated to favor the writer,also we have the problem as to whether Dawkins,etc. are actually being non manipulative in their arguments. Just because someone says it,it aint necessarily so.If we are asked to apply critical thinking to things of a religious nature, the same applies for things that discount religion or the way the universe came to be. I have seen so many people swallow so much from scientists and so called educated deep thinkers, only to have to eat crow afterwards so if I am going to quote anyone, I want to read it for myself,that's all.Anyone can put a thesis on the internet but what they say isn't necessarily true, as things long held as true by the scientific world have been later discounted.We would be asked to discount the views of how the universe"worked" if it was related to a religionist view,so the same standard must be applied to other views.
Also, there are so many things that we all believe in that we don't have proof for.That doesn't mean they are not true.We may have good reason to believe them because of evidence that MAY substantiate it but the same can be said for religious beliefs too. If a scientist or so called intellectual writes something he believes he may have evidence to substantiate,he may have to recant it ten years from now.I'm just saying be just as careful what you swallow from intellectual reasoning as you are of anything else as "intellectuals" love to hear themselves pontificate.

Kris K said...

Thank you for your responses.

Tyson, I will watch the video links you posted.

This is a fascinating topic to me, and one I wish would create more open dialog. There are so many dogmatic 'believers' on both sides of the fence that it can be extremely difficult to have an intelligent debate about the issue.

Dawkins, in my opinion, is completely arrogant and self-righteous. The very thing he mocks, he actually promotes in that his 'preaching' of his own beliefs is on par with a Sunday Morning evangelist.

I am never impressed by the idea that we have to tear something else down to prove our own cause. It makes a person look desperate, and unwilling to be open to other ideals.

Me said...

Well said Kris K.

Tal said...
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Tal said...

Once again, Ron, no clue really what you're on about since you haven't specified any particular quotes, nor do I remember any which I didn't identify. I await your specific complaints. If you're referring to the pagan origins of most Christmas rituals, as Tyson said that's accessible in about 1.2 seconds on the internet, from all sorts of sources.

Tyson - I don't mean to say that Dawkins's arrogance is a "delusion"; it's his *delusions* which are his delusions. As I mentioned, they include, among other things, universal beliefs like "religion poisons everything" and "everyone would be better off if there were no religion", and weird ones like "we can create a world which has no religion", etc. These are beliefs which have absolutely no evidence for them. They are *atheist articles of faith*.

If you just mean you agree with his claim that a belief in God is, scientifically speaking anyway, an unjustified belief, then you would never get any argument from me. Nor, I suspect, would you get much of an argument even from most Christians.

I take your final comments to really be a question about how to find meaning - maybe even a reason to live - without believing in some "life-giving" mythology as though it were the absolute cosmic truth. I think that is really the big question, and one I've thought about a lot...maybe I should do a whole post about it, and then we can chat about it.

Thanks for the comments all. Happy New Year!

Tyson said...

Ron,
Thanks for making the argument. I agree with your point. However I might add that at some level, I think we do come to accept certain "truths". We can (if we know) dispute the exceptions (if there are any) of the law of conservation of energy, or Bernoulli's principle, yet people still get in helicopters and airplanes every day without a second thought to why they are able to defy gravity (yet another "Theory"). The point being that although the process might be slower than we notice, we are understanding and adapting to our surroundings, and we can confidently come to some conclusions, even if they are interim to the final and yet unknown truth.

Tyson said...

Tal,
well said, no objections. Happy New Year to all.

smile said...

Happy New Year!

~Jen~ said...

This is just a lot of over-thinking....

I do not believe in any god (Maynard James Keenan excluded) and I am consistently offended by a variety of religions that are being shoved down my throat within the culture I live in. I am a live and let life sort...if someone wants to live their life thinking some holy man in the sky is going to save them from certain damnation ~ have at it... to each his/her own...but I still think it is stupid, foolish and gullible. That is my opinion of it.

I don't go around trying to convert ppl to atheism, I have no agenda and I don't think anyone should die because they believe differently than me (ok most of the time...KIDDING...relax!)...so why am I delusional? I truly don't get it.

Tal said...

You're not necessarily delusional at all, Jen. No one said you were. The post was about Dawkins-style atheism (as regurgitated by Guy Monty), which may not have anything to do with what you believe.

~Jen~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Jen~ said...

thing is I didn't see anything wrong with Mr Monty's post or that 30 min Dawkins video....so I assume I am considered delusional here...which I am perfectly ok with, just trying to understand where the cut off line is on this topic....how you go from being an atheist/agnostic (it is a mood thing) to deluded.

Tal said...

Jen - I have tried to explain where I think the cut-off line is in my posts, but here it is in a nutshell. If you think I am mistaken, please show me where.

The cut-off line is right after "I don't see enough evidence for me to believe in God"; because after that, many self-described atheists ditch the skepticism, and start assimilating into their worldview all sorts of beliefs about the world which themselves have no evidence.

Atheist articles of faith (dogma with no evidentiary support) include "religion poisons everything" (Hitchens), that "it is possible for everyone to live an emotionally fulfilled life as a devout atheist" (Dawkins), that there can be no such thing as an adaptive false belief (Guy), and a dozen other things.

See?

To believe in those atheist articles of faith requires not skepticism, but the same credulity which allows theists to believe in their articles of faith.

I bet that theists can see all this with perfect clarity. Most theists even see that their faith is not based on "solid evidence" or "reason". Rather, they tend to cite intuition, personal feelings and private spiritual experiences, as the bases of their faith.

Yet atheists cannot see that their own faith (in those articles of faith I mentioned) is likewise not based on any "solid evidence" or "reason".

So which group, as a whole, is really more delusional?

Mark W said...

Hi Tal,

I don't really see what Guy said as "dogma"; these are simply opinions about religion that he's given his reasons for: "Because it requires one to accept things for which there is not evidence." To the degree that that's the case I would agree with Guy that religion is stupid and can even be offensive in that regard. And it can indeed erode the quality of life as a result. Nothing too outlandish here, or even anything that I'd think you'd disagree with in specific instances.

I agree that to make blanket statements about all religion being offensive under all circumstances in ridiculous, but I imagine that if you pinned Guy or Dawkins down on any specific such point that they'd acknowledge that one cannot defend such broad generalizations, just as Dawkins has acknowledged that from an intellectual standpoint it's possible that God exists; he just thinks it's very unlikely.

Bottom line, athiests, like anyone else will have opinions about things which are debatable or can't be fully supported by evidence, but that doesn't make atheism (even as described by Dawkins or Guy) a dogma.

Btw, I really enjoyed your serial personal stories on RFM. They were great, and you have a real flair for writing and drawing the reader in.

Happy New Year!
Mark

Tal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tal said...

Tal said...
Mark wrote:

"And it can indeed erode the quality of life as a result. Nothing too outlandish here, or even anything that I'd think you'd disagree with in specific instances."

---With all respect, I think you have missed a major point here, Mark. There is a HUGE difference between religion eroding the quality of life "in ALL instances", which is one of the most ludicrous of orthodox atheist delusions, and religion eroding the quality of life "in specific instances", which no reasonable person could ever dispute.

Mark: "I agree that to make blanket statements about all religion being offensive under all circumstances in ridiculous, but I imagine that if you pinned Guy or Dawkins down on any specific such point that they'd acknowledge that one cannot defend such broad generalizations, just as Dawkins has acknowledged that from an intellectual standpoint it's possible that God exists; he just thinks it's very unlikely."

Mark - I have read through "The God Delusion" a number of times now, plus have read a bunch of Dawkins's other stuff. I don't recall any indication that he would say that religion can sometimes really benefit people. If you can remind me of such a place, I would be grateful.

As far as I can see, Dawkins's demonization of theism has only grown more extreme, and more vitriolic over the past thirty years.

Mark: "Bottom line, atheists, like anyone else will have opinions about things which are debatable or can't be fully supported by evidence, but that doesn't make atheism (even as described by Dawkins or Guy) a dogma."

---When an important "opinion" is held not only in the absence of confirming evidence, but despite a lot of disconfirming evidence, then it is a delusion, a dogma. And that is just what quite a number of Dawkins-style positions amount to.

Mark: "Btw, I really enjoyed your serial personal stories on RFM. They were great, and you have a real flair for writing and drawing the reader in."

Thanks man!

Happy New Year

smile said...

Tal said, "As far as I can see, Dawkins's demonization of theism has only grown more extreme, and more vitriolic over the past thirty years."

All the more reason not to read any more of his stuff. *wink*

And where do we comment on the ever-changing blog title blurb? It's quite entertaining! :)

bryn said...

As a reply to Ron, who wrote: “Critical thinking can be manipulated to favor the writer”. Of course, we often look to confirm our own hypothesis. There is nothing wrong with that. Our truths are subjective. And of course, our truths may shift. Because a theory may be disproved at some point, does that mean that the theory should never be put forth in the first place? The point of an argument should not be to win, but to progress.
I also agree that if you want to research some of the points put forth by Tal, you are a big boy and you should look them up yourself.
Immanuel Kant, in his Essay “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” stated: Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another.
http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Etexts/kant.html
Use your own understanding, and ask your own questions.
Not every thought, or theory needs to be backed up instantly by evidence. Why don't we value our own opinions? Why do we need to have them constantly supported by evidence?
It takes courage to use our own understanding.

Mark W said...

Tal,

You wrote: I have read through "The God Delusion" a number of times now, plus have read a bunch of Dawkins's other stuff. I don't recall any indication that he would say that religion can sometimes really benefit people. If you can remind me of such a place, I would be grateful.

A recent interview (which can be read at http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/features/Unholy-warrior--Richard-Dawkins.4375690.jp ) says in part:

[begin quote]He is all for the “glory of life rather than the glory of God”, but does he worry about pulling the rug out from under the feet of those for whom religion is a huge comfort – the suffering, the bereaved , the lonely? “I do think that is something you can’t ignore,” he replies. “It’s a bit like the dilemma of a doctor who has a patient who has terminal cancer, and the doctor has to decide whether to tell the truth, or regard the patient’s private consolation as outweighing the truth. If I were talking to an individual who had recently been bereaved … I probably would hold my tongue in a way that I don’t for anybody who chooses to read the book.”

Known to profess a soft spot for the Church of England in which he grew up, he doesn’t reject the cultural trappings. “You can’t appreciate English literature, for a start, unless you’re pretty knowledgeable about the Bible, if you don’t understand what it means when someone alludes to “through a glass darkly” or “vanity of vanities”. It would be a step towards barbarism if children had no exposure to these.”

On Desert Island Discs, one of his choices was Bach’s St Matthew Passion – from which he quotes, in German, with some warmth when I mention it. “Just glorious, and it’s not just the music. The drama of the passion of Jesus, as a work of fiction, is something you can lose yourself in, just as one can reading a novel. You don’t have to believe that Heathcliff and Cathy really existed to get caught up in the emotion.” [end quote]

I think Dawkins is acknowledging some of the good things of religion here, while also making clear that he sees religious stories as myth not literal truth. But many liberal Christians see the Bible the same way, while still appreciating the benefits of religious community and worship (even if it's only the worship of "the best that is in us" or the seeking of inspiration through the Jesus myth. (I know most even very liberal Christians wouldn't put it in quite those words, but the idea is often the same).

I think I've heard Dawkins say that his concern is with literalist religions which teach things that are clearly not aligned with what we know about the world (whether that be creationism, or that Jesus was born of a virgin, or whatever), and that the more non-literalist a religion is the more benign it is in terms of teaching things which are clearly or very likely false.

Regards, Mark

Picklesworth said...

Just out of interest Tal, have you ever counted the times you use the words Delusional in your posts...or how you refer to other's remarks as delusional?
Must be your favorite word.

I totally get what Ron is saying.It's not that he's imature at all,just the opposite...wise,I would say.

Tal said...

Picklesworth - The reason I used the word "delusion" a lot in posting about evangelical atheism, is because "delusion" is the word that they use constantly when referring to religious beliefs. As in, "The God DELUSION". It's their favourite word.

So I can hardly point out that evangelical atheists seem quite as prone to delusions as the theists they think themselves so superior to, without using just that word, can I?

Hi Mark - thanks for those quotes. I do remember Dawkins's soft spot for the C of E, and I am glad he has acknowledged the comfort religion provides some people. It make him sound less kookoo.

I wish there were more of that in "The God Delusion".

Anonymous said...

Can someone email Guy? I want to hear this dudes reply.

~Jen~ said...

I will let him know...although I am not sure he will bother himself to come read it...it took me a long time to even get him here to start with

Anonymous said...

You left the LDS faith.
At that point did you identify as a Christian? In the general sense of believing in and accepting Jesus and his role, and in God, or the idea of a Christian God?
Now has it become that you do not believe in God? Christian or otherwise?
while you were reading/ researching/studying the things that led you to disavow yourself from the LDS faith, were you still actively praying and studying that
word and faith? Were you still going to church or did you take a hiatus of sorts while you sorted and studied it all out?
I've many questions, so forgive my bluntness. I hope it isn't coming across as rude in this medium.
I wish you well.
Hannah (I used to visit the tal board way, way back when 'She's so high' was your success at hand).

Tal said...

Answers to questions:

You left the LDS faith.
At that point did you identify as a Christian? In the general sense of believing in and accepting Jesus and his role, and in God, or the idea of a Christian God?

---No. I was the GD teacher at the time I realized Mormonism was a fraud, and I had been teaching the New Testament during that last stretch. I did a lot of research and a lot of careful reading, and to be honest, the more closely I read, the more I pondered over everything, etc., the less plausible the Christian view of Christ became.

Now has it become that you do not believe in God? Christian or otherwise?

---I wouldn't say that; I really have no idea one way or the other.

while you were reading/ researching/studying the things that led you to disavow yourself from the LDS faith, were you still actively praying and studying that
word and faith?

---Of course - I was the GD teacher and a counselor in the BP. I'd never done more fervent praying in my life.

Were you still going to church or did you take a hiatus of sorts while you sorted and studied it all out?

---No, I went to church every Sunday; I was the GD teacher after all, plus I was conducting sacrament meetings, doing all the meetings, etc.

I've many questions, so forgive my bluntness. I hope it isn't coming across as rude in this medium.
I wish you well.

---No problem.

Anonymous said...
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CodyAnne said...

"If you just mean you agree with his claim that a belief in God is, scientifically speaking anyway, an unjustified belief, then you would never get any argument from me. Nor, I suspect, would you get much of an argument even from most Christians."

As a Christian myself, I can't say I disagree. I can't justify God's existence by the definition of the word. Simply put Tal, I very much respect your point of view, and thank you for sharing it.

Personally, I had to find God for myself; not by reading a book, not necessarily by listening to sermons in a church, but out in the world - walking through beautiful parks, strolling the beach, in the middle of a bustling college campus, listening to many other people and what they have to say about what they believe.

I've found that taking time to pray to God each day does improve the quality of my day, and by adhering to the basic tenets of the Christian faith (yes, with which I was raised), the quality of my own life has improved. I share what I believe here, because it has greatly benefited me and will continue to do so. I can only hope and pray that many of you who disbelieve can at least respect someone else's point of view. I've made an educated decision about my faith, and would appreciate that you take into consideration that I'm not the only individual who thinks my choice of religion through. Don't call us stupid just because you disagree with our faith.

(Obviously not directed at you Tal, but to those who have commented or may read this blog who think that anyone who has a religious faith is stupid for it. Again, thanks for this blog post!)

James Crawford said...

Sorry to post to an out-of-date blog entry, but I just found it during a search.

You've clearly done some thinking on this subject, and as I am currently struggling with the dilemma of not wanting to be an evangelical pain-in-the-rear with my own atheistic views I thought I'd check your thought process on this one:

At what point is it appropriate to speak up against something you clearly think is wrong, and that is being offered without solicitation? Should the doubter (regardless of personal label) resign himself to a life of inner struggle with the great questions, or should he feel free to engage a society that seems (to me, at least) to excuse a large number of social transgressions committed in the name of religious observance while condemning the secularly blunt as rude?

Interesting blog, btw. Will give it a thorough read later this week.