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Jun 30 2013

Atheism is Dead, Long Live Religion

Let’s face it. Atheism isn’t classy any more. Gone are the witty people and instead you fuckers are stuck with people like me who swear and spell things incorrectly.

I read this article through the Catholic Herald’s link on it.

Apparently we aren’t what we used to be. We haven’t replace the titans of “atheist thought”. We don’t have a “modern day Nietzsche”. We lack the great thinkers that were household names. That our once “mighty” stable of intellectual debaters has been replaced by what can only be described with the euphemism of “Maths Debaters”. That the god-bashers du jour have nothing of significance to say about life.

How do we determine our morality? Did we make it? Is it intrinsic?

After all, either there is an intrinsic “truth” to the way we live our lives or we impose our order and rules on “nature” to civilise it.

But this last simply cannot be true. There is meaning in the universe which we discover, and which we do not create. Well, how did that meaning get there?

I don’t think this is a stupid question.

I think it’s a cognitive bias. The meaning we see are no different from the portents of augurs. We see what we want to see in the Universe. It’s the double rainbow viral video. To us it is the refraction of sunlight in a specific way through rain. To him it’s the most beautiful event EVER.

Again, we are “egocentric” creatures. We like to think we are the centre of everything. That our world revolves around us. Hell if you are a believer in astrology then the stars themselves move in order for you to get lucky with that hot thing from checking and accounts.

The meaning of life is to survive.

It’s just that humans can do that with style. We can create value and do things other than survive. Survival for us is easy so we survive in style. We fulfil our lives through a variety of ways. Money and Power? Relationships? Experiences? Objects? And indeed Spirituality and Religion.

I think religion is a fantasy but it does help people feel “happy and fulfilled”.

As for contemporary barbarism? I assume that’s a casual dig either at poor people, Islam or the Visigoths are on the move again.

We kind of have to deal with these two topics separately. Let’s first deal with the Catholic Herald’s main argument. Because the Catholic Herald has a more political agenda than the Spectator article.

The Chief Rabbi speaks of the threat of contemporary barbarism. He is right about that. But if we are to build civilisation, or to reinforce it, we have to have agreed foundations, and where are we to find them, unless in some shared metaphysical belief? This metaphysical belief does not have to be in God, but it does have to be in some shared value. It must at least be based on an admission that values, absolute values, exist.

The difference between our viewpoints is simple too.

The foundation of civilisation has always been the people who live within it. A shared metaphysical belief or “Religion” has however been the cause off the cessation of a lot of civilisations.

Values are not absolute. Thou Shalt Not Kill?

Unless it’s ordered by a duly stated authority.

Absolute Morality is rigid, inflexible and unfair. It does not take into account circumstance. It is a hammer and when the law is a hammer all crimes are nails.

No, I am afraid the foundation of society is human beings and the moral framework we utilise is the notion that all human beings are equal and have the same will to happiness and prosperity as each other. So we must treat each other as we wish to be treated and that requires laws.

The law and human society pre-date modern religion. Laws are there to help us survive. Laws change and are mutable.

If we had this conversation a hundred years ago and stood by principles at the time we would still be living in a world where I wouldn’t be allowed to sit on the same seat as a white man. No. I am afraid morality progresses and the rules change. And morality is based on our understanding of how our actions interact with others and how it affects them.

Incidentally, it has to be admitted, and as a religious person I have no difficulty admitting it, that several avowed theists in our world may well be the sort of people who have no real value system whatever, or indeed may be the proponents of a system of profound ‘disvalues’ (as they are called). Cameron, Haig and others, in their desire to arm the Syrian “rebels”, show a profound lack of common sense, as well as a failure to grasp what is at stake here; they have advanced no proper argument for their position, at least none that would sound good outside a school debating chamber, to the level of which our Mother of Parliaments has long descended.

And how would believing in a magical entity that wrote a 2000 year old book help them make this decision? Where in the Bible does it say “Don’t Equip Syrian Rebels. Seriously? Those guys are cocklords.”.

Equipping Rebels in Syria is a historical repeat of the Mujahadeen. Added to which “tales” of Rebel atrocities to match the Syrian government have started trickling out. What’s at stake here is the lives of the people of Syria which is being systematically destroyed by the actions of a dictatorial government resulting in a “rebel group” and war between the two.

Right can never be reduced to the concept of “because I will it so.” Right must rest upon some reasoning process, and must have some reference to something that is greater than ourselves. Metaphysical truths represent a break, perhaps the only break on human stupidity, and human barbarism. They hold back the tide, they command us to think again, and sometimes to stop what we are doing. To deny any such absolute truths and values is to open ourselves up the ultimate horrors of the Holocaust, to which the former Chief Rabbi alludes.

Except right isn’t reduced to the will of the people. Many a time “right” has been done against the will of people.

And there is something greater than ourselves out there. You think it’s god? I think it’s our future. Our children and those who come afterwards. We leave the world for them and they leave it for those who follow just as our parents left it for us.

We should aspire to leave it better than we received it. Greater than ourselves? Humanity and society is bigger than one man is it not?

The very metaphysical truths that religion claims are part of the human stupidity and barbarism. It commands us to not think about what our actions really mean. The very adoption of absolute truth and values lead to the sort of Horrors of the Holocaust.

At no point during the Holocaust did the people doing it consider themselves anything but Moral Upstanding Citizens.

3 comments

  1. 1
    Pierce R. Butler

    In the west, any talk of “civilization” vs “barbarians” harks back to the fall of the Roman Empire.

    Perhaps Jonathan Sacks and his Chief Rabbi buddy have forgotten that both sides during that prolonged conflict worshiped Jesus C. and his Almighty Daddy (as did the great majority of Holocaust perpetrators).

  2. 2
    smrnda

    It seems that basing a society on the idea of rights that are negotiated as part of a social contract gets you a pretty decent way of life. I’ve yet to hear a religious alternative that’s better. I don’t see any standards carved out on stone that are obviously the work of any god – having people negotiate rights and responsibilities is about the best you can get, because even basing things on a religion required interpretation.

    The good thing about human attempts at defining values is that they aren’t sacred – we can critique our current system once it’s obvious that it isn’t doing a good job. Once your system is based on divine mandate, you don’t get that liberty.

    I also don’t see what arming Syrian rebels has to do about atheism. It’s an issue where, at least from my vantage point in the US, politicians seem eager to support some side against the other. Whether it’s ignorant idealism or just a cynical way to carve out a sphere of influence, it’s par for the course for foreign policy for pretty much all of human history.

  3. 3
    Olsnes-Lea

    Hi
    Additionally, if any use, one can consider “Atheism” as dead by this:
    I guess you already know about the weaknesses of “Atheism” and how we expect it to fail moral leadership. Here is one list that can strengthen the Religious side against “Atheism”:

    The strongest points pro-Christianity are given by the “powerlist” of Philosophers, from St. Anselm and up.

    There is no need to lose hope though, by “6+1″ Defences for God (not proofs), it will be rather the Atheists who become NO more, for not being intelligent enough in objecting to Religions in general, ecumenically speaking, only “whitelist religions, under 20″ considered. That Atheists have problems, logically with fighting off the “possibility for God” under Meaning and Ethics and two more, with providing the logical proof for “impossibility for God”.

    Some of the defences include:

    * The Descartes’ Phantom Feelings.
    - that if Descartes’ description of feelings can be proven then God “more”, that once again, the consistent pattern by the amputee’s brain proves the Atheists wrong once more and by this fantastic revelation, that God exists also by this notion.

    * The Van Lommel Studies.
    - that Van Lommel by his work has shown that the existence of the soul is a possible description for people’s (common) ability to win over death and that, therefore, God “more” yet another time Do we get it up? (Atheists to Mystics and Religions are cool after all?)

    * The ESP-God Debate.
    - now that, by telepathy, that we have God by our foreheads and Atheism seems more wrong than ever before, then why Atheism at all? Because the contention has been earlier that if telepathy is “realizable” then (necessarily/more conceivably) God, even by themselves.

    Failure from the them on these 3 scientific fundamental views leave them stranded, The Problem of Evil (the occurrence of Nazi-Germany in reality fx.) leave them in no better shape, failing every point of leadership there is to FAIL! My bet: They are soon out of universities, replaced by Humanism and “Life Philosophies”.

    Now what for Atheism after having lost its foundation for valid objections to Religions:
    They are to name themselves Non-Believers, Disbelievers, Non-Religious or Humanists.
    It’s useless to try to pull up after Jean Amery as the corrupt mind has certainly been a problem outside religion if not inside it. Additionally, they need to come up with something better than humanism and religion if they are not to consider themselves humanists.

    Also, outside every living person, please consider this “powerlist” pro-Religion:
    St. Anselm
    St. Aquinas
    Dr. Leibniz* – not that necessary, but elegant text by Theodicy
    Dr. S. Kierkegaard (of Denmark)
    Lady Conway
    Rev. G. Bruno
    (Dr.) Plotinus of ancient Greece
    Dr. René Descartes (Doctor philosopher, of Holland/Belgium/France) – author of “The Meditations”, short too, please check it out (a bit difficult, not for children)

    Two names more to remember which add strength but in a different way, ethically/theologically:
    Hon. Rev./Dr. Thomas Paine (Dr. Arts/Philosophy)
    Hon. Rev./Dr. L. Ron Hubbard (Dr. Arts/Philosophy outside US subversion, see his history, supporting university/general education)

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