Richard Dawkins was interviewed in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and whips out some of his standard ‘arrogance’.
Q Here are quotes about faith from two thoughtful Twin Cities clergy members. What is your response to each?
The Rev. Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood: “I thirst for water, and water exists. I hunger for food, and food exists. I hunger and thirst for God, so I concluded that God must exist.”
Dawkins: The fact that you hunger and thirst for something does not make it exist. A young man ravaged by lust might hunger for a woman he believes loves him back, but she just doesn’t, and he can’t make it so by longing for it. It’s silly to assume that wanting something means it exists.
Roman Catholic priest and liturgist the Rev. Michael Joncas: “I am willing to embrace what science and knowledge offer us. Yet what has inspired me since early childhood is a great sense of holy mystery.”
Dawkins: Scientists thrive on mystery, on investigating it. But we would not use the word “holy.” To call life’s mysteries holy and imply that they have something to do with God is unhelpful and misleading. Among the things Roman Catholics call holy mysteries are the holy trinity and transubstantiation. But those things are myths.
Actually, that doesn’t sound arrogant at all to me. It’s more like clarity in stark contrast to the stupidity of a couple of “thoughtful” priests. Shouldn’t Christians be a little embarrassed at the vapidity of their representatives?
In another Twin Cities connection, we’re getting a warning.
Christian author and philosopher Os Guinness warns of a growing atheist backlash to the political strength of Christian conservatives.
In an interview with a radio station in St. Paul, Minn., Guinness said he doubts that atheists have grown more numerous, but he believes they’re now more organized and determined to press their case against religion and its influence in society.
Well, yes. Isn’t it about time? The only question is, when the “intelligent, educated segment of the culture” goes on the attack, which side are you going to be on?
G. Tingey says
Ah, the intelligent, educated segment of the population……
“When I hear the word “cultrue” Ir each for my gun.” – Hermann Georing
“We’ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture,”
This has and always will give me a laugh. I can’t imagine what issue this helps solve more?
The notion that these people of faith are all mostly idiots or that they hope the people they control through their faith are idiots?
Gerard Harbison says
I hunger for a million dollars to appear magically in my bank account.
Hey, it might work!
I’m not all that pleased with Dawkin’s reply on the common ‘We can only hunger for what exists’ argument. Sure, he’s right that a particular thing doesn’t have to exist just because we want it to, but I think the Rev. Boyd was asking a slightly different question, which could be phrased as: how would a need which could not be satisfied ever evolve?
The basic “needs” which God satisfies — the need to be secure, to understand, be loved, feel special, enjoy mystery, experience awe — can all be recognized as needs which are often satisfied through natural things on earth. There is really no special sort of “supernatural longing” which has no analog (or fulfilment) in anything we normally experience. Even the desire for “an eternal life after death” is just a variation of our perfectly reasonable desire to live and not die. I doubt that most theologians would wonder why a desire for self-preservation would be selected for.
The first quote reminds me of a line from Greg Egan’s novel Oracle:
I would argue that the latter sentenceis describing a completely different sort of strength than former, but I still like the quote.
Guinness is right about the “backlash” to the religious wrong, which is responsible for the increase in apostasy more generally, but I suspect his doubt about any increase in our numbers is nothing more than wishful thinking, at least until further reseach is done to establish just how many of the “nones” really are atheists. Perhaps he should have read this before becoming so optimistic.
on an aside, they replayed the giant squid first time on camera show on The Science Channel. That’s a damn neat program. How’s that for mystery?
Guinness is right about the “backlash” to the religious wrong, which is responsible for the increase in apostasy more generally, but I suspect his doubt about any increase in our numbers is nothing more than wishful thinking, at least until further reseach is done to establish just how many of the “nones” really are atheists. Perhaps he should have read this before becoming so optimistic. It’s full of wonderful ideas.
Sastra, if your interpretation is correct, Rev. Boyd is asking a question that he must have answered himself. Dawkins argues that there is (almost certainly) no god, and then this guy asks “then why do I have this need?” The world doesn’t revolve around his feelings, you know.
Sorry about the double post. I tried to stop the first one because I suddenly recognized an opportunity for some shameless self-promotion:)
I have a need for tater tots. But dang, I’m a human living in the Pleistocene epoch and they haven’t been invented yet. Neither has microwave popcorn. Therefore, life is meaningless!
See the absurdity of not questioning artificial needs?
Dave C says
Maybe Os is making the first call against “the war on xmas”.
Dawkins and Harris from my experience are not attacking xtianity but all forms of organised superstition seeking to influence public policy and re-write the laws of nature.
Halloween is over so falafalman should be starting the warnings about how less than 5% of Americans are causing the rest of Americans to lose their faith.
Love the idea of a culture warrior, but to have a culture war shouldn’t both sides be cultured?
When I was quite young, I hungered for a unicorn as a pet. Oddly, I never got one, but it must mean they exist, right? Right??!?? I still wouldn’t mind having one other than that Invisible Pink one in the garage, I mean….
Jonathan Badger says
I too strongly suspect that god, trinity and transubstantiation are myths. But simply saying “those are myths” isn’t much of an argument — it’s like saying “you’re wrong because you’re wrong”. If Dawkins had simply ended with the first part “Scientists thrive on mystery, on investigating it”, it would have been a stronger answer.
Tyler DiPietro says
Love the idea of a culture warrior, but to have a culture war shouldn’t both sides be cultured?
I think Falafel Boy is cultured, but he’s cultured as a traditionalist who uses loofahs and falafel in very non-traditional ways.
Happy War on Christmas!
IMO, this is primary reason why most religions exist. Without it, it makes no sense to worship (i.e. “suck up to”) anything. You would have no vested interest. Religious motivations are really quite selfish, actually. Unless perhaps, you believe that god can somehow reward or punish you in your temporary existence. But even then, your religious commitment would be inversely proportional to your age.
For some reason, this post made me think of a lot of things to say, some of which MAY be more relevant in other entries.
1) Regarding the “thirst” and the “hunger”, it occurs to me that of Christians I’ve met, the most striking thing is that their need for god is being met. I’m not exactly sure how to put it– but it seems that it is pretty hard for me to tell them not to believe in something that they don’t require this vigorous proof of anyway. God is like a “D” term paper, but they’re happy with it and it seems to meet their needs.
2) Because of the above, I often wonder if it would be more useful to allow smart folks to harness this phenomenon somehow– essentially just admit that some folks are never going to “get it” and exploit them with their own myths.
3) Regarding the growing “organized” atheists: Not in my area. As near as I can tell, my family might be the only ones. We’re in a small town similar to the one PZ described a few days back– within a short distance of a state university, full of nice people active in the community, and chock-full of churches. In nearly every regard, I love the town and the people, but it is terribly difficult to be surrounded with folks who think you’re from hell if you let it slip that you’re an atheist. I’d very much like to challenge some of the local school district’s religious leanings in school (it isn’t Kansas, but hey! I hate slippery slopes…) but there isn’t anyone to really back me up. I find that in this situation, I have more in common with the single Muslim family, and the guy driving his girl to school in a Volvo with an “IM PAGN” license plate. Getting us together would be like the set-up for a bad joke. Does anyone else have experiences in this vein? I’d love to talk about this more.
4)Regarding my comments yesterday about Dawkins’ blinking and twitching jerkiness: While I stand by my off-the-cuff assertion that he WAS pretty jerky with Haggard, I hope that PZ’s latest post about Dawkins’ “arrogance” wasn’t sort of intended at me, or comments like mine. I really didn’t want to say that Dawkins IS a jerk all the time, or that he’s some sort of bad guy. I don’t know enough about him, and I never met him face-to-face. But maybe I accidentally said this anyway, so I apologize. I don’t think its right to judge people wholly this quick– but I’m reserving the right to factor it in should I ever meet the guy. Anyhow, the stuff PZ quoted seems pretty down-to-earth, maybe the year between now and the documentary has seen him brush up on his people skills.
Those things clearly are myths. The question at hand is whether those myths have an element of truth to them, which logic and the best available evidence indicate they don’t.
Besides, unless powerful evidence surfaces suggesting that a myth is true, looking for disproofs is a waste of time. Can you demonstrate that Paul Bunyan did NOT have a giant blue ox named Babe? Further, how much proof do you demand that the Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years before you will accept that Bunyan did NOT carve it by dragging his axe along the ground?
Don’t be obtuse.
It’s not a biological need. I don’t need it. I know others that don’t need it. To put spiritualism in the category of food, water, and air is just hyperbole. I agree Dawkins misunderstood the statement, but it’s still not a compelling one.
I neither hunger nor thirst for god. I am comfortable with the knowledge that I will die and rot, recycling my chemical make-up for other uses. Perhaps this makes me appreciate the time that I am here. I suspect that when I am dead it won’t matter that much to me anymore. Does my lack of thirst for god prove non-existance? Hard to say. I don’t hunger for NASCAR either, but there it is, pre-empting The Simpson’s entirely too often. I would, however, relish a big dollop of world peace but I don’t see that showing up any fatser than “god”. If only thirsting for something would make it real…..On that note, I think I’ll grab a cocktail. All this philosophy is making me thirsty.
I see the religious person’s need for God like the addict’s need for his narcotic of choice: it fills some void in his life or mind. The drug addict does not need his crack like he needs water and food; he can be weened off of crack, filling the void with something a lot more fulfilling and useful. God and drugs are quick fixes to bigger needs in our lives–I’ve ironically found myself a lot more spiritually fulfilled since disavowing my old faith and embracing humanism.
The need for God seems to be there, though it is not a need in the physiological sense, and does not prove god.
Could it have occurred as a result of the development of symbolic language? Symbolic language is hugely powerful tool that enables us to do incredible things, but at the same time it is so powerful that it has, in one way, cut us off from our environment. For the most part most of our senses and feelings are channeled through, or run concurrently with, an internal verbal dialogue. This adds a layer between stimulus and response (or at least between stimulus and memory), and also makes sure much of our internal experience is that of dialogue and not of what is around us. Part of a need for god, might be a longing to get beyond the verbal barrier back to direct experience.
Jonathan Badger says
Nobody has to disprove Paul Bunyan because nobody believes in him in the first place. Stories about him were deliberately created for amusement with the complete knowledge that he didn’t exist. Any comparison between Jehovah and Paul Bunyan are only convincing to people who *already* don’t believe in Jehovah.
But, unlike Paul Bunyan, millions of people do believe in Jehovah. Therefore, beliefs about him do merit debunking. For example, one can trace ideas in the Abrahamic religions that clearly derive from pagan myths that nobody believes in anymore, although people once did. Of course, even those arguments won’t convince that many theists, but they would certainly be more effective than merely asserting the mythical nature of Jehovah.
Richard Harris, FCD says
I think the priest made a category error – “I thirst for water, and water exists. I hunger for food, and food exists. I hunger and thirst for God, so I concluded that God must exist.”
In the beginning, there was consubstantiation. Everything in the universe – gods, man, beasts, trees, rocks, wind, – was made of the same stuff, coming in different flavors. Everyone believed it.
Then, philosophy got started, with the idea that there were the elements – fire, air, earth, water, – & some folks believed it.
Recently, science discovered the elements – chemical properties, atomic structure – & outside of science classes, no one much, I guess, understands this.
Is the priest (& probably most folks who believe in religion, New Age, psychic guff, etc) just locked into tacit, (unexamined), beliefs derived from cultural tradition? His statement is utterly foolish to anyone with a modicum of scientific understanding. I think Richard Dawkins was spot-on right.
And those stories bear a striking resemblance to the excess of stories we have about divinities. People frequently recognize other people’s religious beliefs as being mythical – this is because it is painfully obvious how such stories are created.
I’ll grant that that’s certainly the question Boyd thinks he’s asking. The problem is that he’s assuming that his “need for God” can be taken at face value in the same way that the need for food and water can.
A lack of food and water leads to death. But food and water existed long before we did, so it seems to defy the rules of cause and effect to claim that they’re only there because we need them.
And from what I can tell, a lack of belief in God has absolutely no negative side-effects whatsoever.
Jon H says
I would have answered the “hunger” question by noting that, by that logic, much of the world, and indeed the universe, is a God-free zone.
Drop someone in the desert, or in the ocean, and they’ll find themselves thirsty, with nothing to drink.
As such, it seems a poor basis for a system of belief.
I have to admit, in that position I would’ve been much more arogant.
My immediate response would’ve been, “So, when are you going to ask me the questions from the thoughtful clergy members?”
I think the answer to the second question was a little weak: Before the trinity can become a mystery, one must first establish both that it exist, and that it has the properties attributed to it.
If you don’t, it’s less a mystery and more a koan.
But even ignoring that, to call mystery “holy” is to remove it from the realm of mystery; holiness is a concrete attribute.
More then that, it’s also a value judgement; a declaration that the mystery deserves worship/respect.
The problem is, because it’s a mystery, its behavior is at least somewhat incomprehensible.
Without understanding what something is, how can we possibly attach a moral value to it?
To do so is to submit to tyranny, to the idea that your leaders may do strange, even awful things, and yet you should follow them anyway.
Paging Mr. Rove….paging Mr. Karl Rove!
God, to these people, is nothing more then Linus’s security blanket. We atheists are the metaphorical Snoopy. Snoopy never succeeded in getting that damn blanket away either. They are scared little children in the dark spooky world known as life clutching on to anything thing that makes them feel better. Education is the only way to illuminate this dark place. It is not hunger that the priest feels, it is fear of the unknown.
David Harmon says
Daephex: “I often wonder if it would be more useful to allow smart folks to harness this phenomenon somehow”
Well, that’s what L. Ron Hubbard did. Given how he ended up, I’d say “do not summon what you cannot banish”.
(As I heard the tale, in the last two weeks before his death was announced, no-one got in to see him except his second-in-command. In that time, his will was changed to disinherit his family and leave everything to the Church. Eep!)
Oh yeah, and solidarity trumps bad bar jokes, but even so, you may need more allies. Start by getting to know the ones you’ve already noted, and see where that takes you….
“I too strongly suspect that god, trinity and transubstantiation are myths. But simply saying ‘those are myths’ isn’t much of an argument — it’s like saying ‘you’re wrong because you’re wrong'”
If we can;t just flat out say that those things are myths, then we can’t say that ANY myth is a myth. Might as well dispose of the word.
Bro. Bartleby says
“Shouldn’t Christians be a little embarrassed at the vapidity of their representatives?”
I would put it “disappointed” in much the same way as I am disappointed in our leadership in Washington, am disappointed in both parties, disappointed in those that run for President, asking myself: is that the best we can do? In a few posts back you noted the many churches in your town, but unlike a man of reason and science, you blanket them all as ‘prisons’ and all sorts of backwardsness, yet I dare say you have never set foot into any of these churches. I mean as a man of science, investigating these ‘homes of vapidity’ would turn up what? Some ordinary folks coming together to form a soup kitchen that helps feed the poor and homeless? A pastor acting as the chaplain at a hospice? Ordinary folks volunteering at the hospice, at the hospital, at the retirement home where some have long ago been abandoned by family? Maybe find a team with construction know how that have helped in Katrina reconstruction? Or the many that donate time and money for the poor worldwide? I would think a scientist would at least check out the petri dishes before proclaiming it all rot. Even some of us backwards folks try our best to help others in need, and do so without becoming caricatures.
It’s not arrogant. it’s incomplete thought.
You on the other hand PZ, are more than Dawkins here.
Both incomplete in your thought AND arrogant to boot!
Fernando Magyar says
Is your Invisible Unicorn’s pink RGB, CMY(K), YIQ, or HSI?
Sometimes when converting from one color model to another certain colors may be lost. I think you should be on the lookout for one in a light shade of invisible magenta…keeping your Unicorn in the garage just isn’t right!
Joel Sax says
Look at what PZ wouldn’t quote:
>Q Some critics have said that you unfairly lump all people of faith — from Osama bin Laden to Nazi resistance hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer — together as, at bottom, fools. Is that justified?
>A Ah, this is where it gets difficult. Clearly, Bonhoeffer, along with [Thomas] Aquinas and Augustine and many other theologians, was no fool. However, I line up with Sam Harris, who suggests that respectable, nonviolent, really nice religious people pave the way for extremists by teaching that faith is a virtue rather than encouraging that we foster reason based on the evidence. There are likely to be violent, extremist people in any walk of life, but if you tell them as children that faith is positive and good, then you don’t have to justify it. Many people believe that the stronger you hold to your faith in the face of the lack of evidence, the more of a virtue it is. They say, “You can’t argue with my faith.” Why can’t I? Why is faith any different from other things we question and debate?
File this under “I’ll hate religion no matter what the form, no matter what the fruits. If it is religion, I’ll find a way to blame it for the world’s problems.”
I found the cutest brown hoody when I was out shopping with a friend today. It had embroidery and rhinestones and all kinds of shit all over it.
Then I thought to myself, “hoody,” and I put it back.
If God is dead, are believers in him necrophiliacs?
Steve LaBonne says
So, Joel, why IS faith any different from other things we question and debate? Do you actually have anything to say on the subject or are you only capable of whining?
Joel, it’s as if you didn’t even bother to read Dawkin’s response. Of course he can make a distinction between benign forms of religion, and more dangerous forms; just as he can make a distinction between intelligent and thoughtful arguments for the existence of God, and dogmatic ignorance. But he’s looking at religion the same way he’d look at any poor system of reasoning, any pseudoscience. There’s a problem at the core, and just because some good things come out of it — or at least some harmless things — doesn’t make the entire system neutral or better. It makes it hard to draw lines between reasonable and unreasonable.
“If God is dead, are believers in him necrophiliacs?”
I also think that necrophilia is a sin. Therefore, only those who dont believe in god go to heaven. Way Im going to heaven! I always wanted to do that!
Good thing his nick’s not “Clean_Underwear.”
Well, heck, as an atheist myself (though I don’t use the term much), I often cringe at the vapidity of the arguments of other atheists, so why shouldn’t christians feel that way about their coreligionists once in a while?
Personally, I wish dogmatic atheists would get over their childlike fixation–one they share with fundamenalists–on an overly rigid definition of the verb “to exist.”
Hamlet doesn’t “exist”, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something by reading and thinking and talking about Hamlet. This ought to be obvious. But (continuing the analogy), every debate about atheism turns into a fight between, on the one hand, people who adamantly insist that Hamlet was real, by cracky, and schools should teach the play as if it were an exact and unbiased history of actual events… and, on the other hand, people who loudly proclaim that Hamlet is a made-up story and therefore a waste of everyone’s time. They’re right about the first part–which makes them more right than their opponents, at least–but they’re still wrong about the second part.
People really do have religious experiences. I can’t explain why we have them; I suppose our brains are just wired that way by evolution–but we do have them, they’re a real phenomenon. I know this because it’s happened to me. It’s etremely hard to describe; all I can tell you is one day, about seven years ago, I suddenly knew that everything in the world is connected and the universe is a totally benevolent place. The experience brought with it a wave of giddy euphoria that lasted for weeks afterward, and altered perceptions as well–everything was brilliantly colored. (I’ve never used hallucinogens, but after I described this experience to a friend, he said it sounded like an extended multi-day acid trip.)
To say the experience was “intense” or “beautiful” doesn’t come within miles. But metaphorical language can get closer. The experience I had could be quite aptly and succinctly expressed as “God spoke to me”. I didn’t then, and don’t now, believe in a literal God–but subjectively that is what it felt like.
I’m not remotely arguing that there’s an actual person named God who invented the universe and cares whether you masturbate. I’m simply saying the idea of “God” is not just a security blanket or a bludgeon to keep the sheep in line. There’s something real there, and worthy of respect.
“God” is a myth, a metaphor, that was made up to explain and apprehend a real–subjective, but widely shared–experience. When people say “God touched me” or “I saw God”, it’s not always just babble. Oftentimes they know exactly what they’re talking about, and the metaphor of “God” is the best language they have to discuss it.
And it’s just really silly to get into an argument about whether or not a metaphor “exists”. Not as silly as starting a war because some other tribe has a trivially-different metaphor than you do… nor as silly as twisting a school curriculum to have your metaphor taught as “science”… but, still–silly.
“God” is a myth, a metaphor, that was made up to explain and apprehend a real–subjective, but widely shared–experience.
I am not quite sure I follow you here Evan. However we might like to discuss this issue, it is clear as you point out in your post that most people who belive in God, certainly do not believe in “God as metaphor.” They believe in a God that is both vengeful and merciful, who is very real and who has established moral rules and rituals that we ought to obey. The idea that we can approach faith as a kind of interesting psychological epiphenomena is not something I suspect you will get much dispute on from atheists but it doesn’t seem to me that it has much to do with the actual public debate we are facing with religionists. When you write:
Oftentimes they know exactly what they’re talking about, and the metaphor of “God” is the best language they have to discuss it.
I am not sure of how often you think this sort of pattern is occurring but I have dealt quite closely with a wide variety of people of faith throughout my 36 years with wildly varying degrees of comittment to thir belief in a deity, but I have yet to meet a single person who would accept this as a reasonable description of their God-belief. And I mean, not a single one. Many would consider even the suggestion to be deeply disrespectful of their faith.
The reason why some people have a hunger for God is because they are mutants. Over the years I’ve noticed that a small fraction of religious believers have some
form of facial dysmorphism. Its fairly subtle and isn’t as blatant as, say, Down’s or Williams syndrome, but it is there. It also comes in more than one type indicating that there are a number of different mutations that can make people religious.
I’ll be on the side of liberty, justice, and of not being a dick to anyone: believer or non, just like always.
“which side are you going to be on?”
I’m on the side of the atheist allegiance of sea otters
Peter Barber says
I’m just puzzled at the description of Dawkins in the article’s title as a “firebrand”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dawkins either raise his voice or use expletives, let alone launch into a tirade. This labelling alone demonstrates the widespread misconception of atheism – refusing to allow religion its ‘get out of discussions free’ card, and instead applying rationality to it the same way as one would to any other issue, earns an atheist the sort of moniker which belongs to ranters par excellence like Hugo Chavez or George Galloway!
A dishonest christian fanatic says: Carrots are blue. PZ writes about how stupid christians are, that carrots most certainly are not blue. At the end of the day the christian chuckles to himself : ” I can’t believe I had an evolution scientist writing an entire post about blue carrots”
Buffalo Gal says
I understand what Evan means about religious experience. I have often felt that kind of connection with the universe when working in the garden or observing nature. The difference is that I recognize that the feeling is coming from inside my brain. It is a response to the visceral knowledge that, yes, the universe is connected. The forces that led to life evolved both me and the seed that grows into the food I need in a wonderfully interconnected web. The beauty of a woods or seashore fills me with awe; life fills every niche with every possible form. When I took a course in genetics, I was continually amazed at the ways life has found to continue itself. These are wonderful feelings, both uplifting and humbling. We don’t need a made-up god to feel or appreciate them. If we understood more fully that we are part of the larger whole, not special creations, we would find it easier to accept our fellow humans in all their imperfect variety.
Religion may have positive effects on individuals who lead kinder lives because of it, but its effect on society as a whole has been overwhelmingly horrible. It would be better for us to chuck it overboard and start over.
Now excuse me, I have tulip bulbs to plant.
I have a hunger for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I shall go in the kitchen and create one.
Odd Jack says
So, a person throws out all the standard religious tripe at you. It is the same platitudes, the same bland rhetorical lines, and the same fear that people will dare to peek behind the curtain at the wizard. You are supposed to nod in appreciation and just accept them, or fall to your knees, having seen the light.
How rude of Dawkins to answer with thoughtful responses that ask what lies beyond these talking points and choice lines? To actually ask what these words really mean, what they really say about you, and your thinking. That’s so mean. You’re not supposed to think when you hear this stuff, just praise god. Thinking has no place in religious discussions and debates. All right thinking people know this.
Ick of the East says
“I thirst for water, and water exists. I hunger for food, and food exists. I hunger and thirst for God, so I concluded that God can be eaten and drunken.”
Or at least his priests can be drunken.
I am not quite sure I follow you here Evan. However we might like to discuss this issue, it is clear as you point out in your post that most people who belive in God, certainly do not believe in “God as metaphor.”
No, that’s true, and a pity. A lot of people get absurdly fixated on the metaphor. But some of them get it. A rabbi I know once told me that her branch of judaism is entirely compatible with not believing in a literal God: “Zero or one’s just fine; we’ve only got a problem with two or more.” Christian friends have listened to my story (quite respectfully, too) and pointed out that since they’d had the same kind of experience as me, well, whether I call it “God”, as they do, or call it a subjective experience that seemed like “God”, it’s just a semantic word game, makes no real-world difference, and has nothing to do with the experience itself. And I can’t really argue the point.
Scott Hatfield says
Joel: There’s a difference between rejecting an idea and hating the human being who holds it. Sure, some of the folk here tend to, um, blur that distinction but I don’t believe that most of the people here are haters.
Further, I don’t believe that Dawkins ‘hates’ religion; I do believe that he rejects ‘faith’ as a strategy, whether tied to religion or no, and that he is concerned that religionists legitimize ‘faith’ as a strategy, thus enabling those who actually tie their ‘faith’ to exclusive, prejudicial, inhumane and (frankly) hateful views.
I think the difference matters, because the views of Dawkins (while pointedly harsh) are nuanced in a way utterly foreign to the religious sort of zealot. I may not agree with the former, but I find the open discussion of his views more helpful than the latter….SH
I heartily agree. Mystical experiences — while generated by our brains and not indications of supernatural realms or forces — are fascinating areas of study. Religious texts, when taken as historical or anthropological records, are also rich and meaningful areas of study. Simplistic explanations of religion (such as ‘it’s all about being afraid to die’ or “it’s all about power and control’) fail to take in the entire spectrum of human and social psychology involved.
I am currently in the middle of re-reading Susan Clancy’s “Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Have Been Kidnapped by Space Aliens.” A psychologist studying the mechanisms and formation of false memories, she can both admit that none of the ‘abductions’ ever happened — but there is something real there, worthy of respect, and definitely deserving of study anyway.
Figuring out how ordinary, normal, intelligent people can become completely convinced they’ve been anally probed on a space ship reveals a lot about how our brains and minds work, and how our convictions form. The parallels to religious belief, and the personally-convincing intensity of mystical experiences, is pretty strong.
I recommend the book. Dismissing people from this group as a “bunch of kooks” is even more common than saying the same about theists.
Richard Harris, FCD says
Mark, instead of peanut butter & jell-o, try peanut butter & ketchup.
Richard Harris, FCD says
….on whole wheat toast, of course.
Marvin E. Kirsh says
I want to challenge obsessions with science, trends and behavior in argument over the natures of religion and science, to intuitively reflect(if you’ll excuse the pun), that the world is nothing but a process-procession from past to present of things rebounding and reflecting light from one event to the next: cause and reaction, reaction and reaction. Sense of some events can be found if they are regular (in path) short enough in period that a series of causes and reactions can be discerned, postulated and tested theoretically. However we can never know the exact beginning-origin, only intermediate points(from which we define a start) in the chain of events, for the applications of our science. Any state of affairs can have more than one plausible history, is most likely restricted to at least two -as rebound and reflection have two components (emitter and reflector), one can not know the exact past, it is cast upon his perception and breath , the real path to any time is unique: in the void, dark area’s of this reasoning , we are always left with all wrong answers, at least two alternatives, in our science fact(absolute fact) seeking unless our correct assumptions are stated/ included, which I think are always arguable in terms of a hypothesis and antithesis-at least two other alternate routes(if the real route is unknowable-we were not present -all the facts are never known). Belief beyond test, then, derived of intuition, cannot be included with the categories of thesis and antithesis-it has to do with a correct but unknowable path. A valid religious belief is beyond test regardless of what ever revelations can or do occur. Science then always has only an abbreviated view and assumption(of regularity, period, duration etc), in fact anything observed has an unknowable history/path. We all know this as common sense, but a very great meticulousness has evolved in our thinking and especially applied mathematics. I think this is related to a disease like disturbance involving this issue that is so in grained that we are not levelly aware of, or forgot in nature of where we started, of the roots-beginning of this questioning, which are not unknowable, they are inherent with curiosity of the world and a partly known history of the ideas reflected to us from the past(though never completely knowable/understandable as none of us were actually present in the communications of the past. Thus though have a commonality with the present-assumed life long duration. If not unknowable, this then is a topic of science-The mass of an electron or its’ path which includes many assumptions in derived theory, leaving the subject still in a vast darkness without the assumptions clearly known and stated to lend a correct name and classification to the theory, is a lesser category.
In discussion of religion and science, a good scientist does not make judgement, take sides in an issue. he learns, studys the fact of the existence of. Here again the matter is reduce a matter of nomenclature, title and topic of communications, not whether a god exists or not. In essence the discussion ,though understandable in the weaving and reflection, tossing of thoughts around on a topic to its’ resolution, healthy, is still a little lower than standard and mature behavior, reflected as if in threat of succumbing to the studied conflict itself. It(the topic) has an illness of some kind-of action and reaction, that we should find a greater peace in searching this out.
For example, in this weeks issue of Nature an article about a very old virus found common to the human species-fragments embedded throughout the genome(I personally think the problem is of something swallowed of bacterial size or larger.)
I might be accused of trying to change the topic, am not attempting to suppress it, but believe that the real issue is an unencompassed medical pathology and that we need to sort all of our science evidences and activities in this direction so that we do not exceed its real limits, become causers rather than curers.
I firmly believe that any part of the world presented to us by nature, automatically (by virtue of the progression of past to present)includes, within our reaches, an absolute satiating resolution that would be automatically recognized when found, regardless of the unknowable, as they(unknowable-unattainable) reduce to a supeflousness -secondary or as unimportant in nature for instance, in example, to the period of traffic light that on one day might be paramount to ones particular travels, and on the next irrelevant. I think that revelations to this nature of things for our physical, and mental health, guidance, are of the highest, number uno, priority for our education and intellectual pursuits, that we reflect on and better define and name our problems, mental activities, and endeavors. If the pursuit of a potentially ubiquitous infection was not on the original agenda, a reorganization and reorientation, re-sorting might be difficult (especially if mistakes are already made with respect to our hands upon mother nature , but not impossible. It is only our spiritual strength, acceptance of and courage, as the initial, base root, and final determinant , not assumed science fact, that constructs a prognosis. Some things are innately unknowable, untranscendable by science facts and deduction, less we harm ourselves in a very indirect way, as things are presented to us and arranged in nature, and have not ascertained, in lesson, that this is not impossible.
Marvin, cut it out.
Paul A says
Oops, a bit late to the party on this one. Anyway FWIW I think Dawkins’ reply to the first question was a bit weak.
A young man ravaged by lust might hunger for a woman he believes loves him back, but she just doesn’t, and he can’t make it so by longing for it.
Saying this suggests to me that while the woman may not love the man back she still exists. If Dawkins was refuting the existence of god’s love then this response would be fine. A better analogy would maybe be that a man could lust after some idealised perfect woman he has created in his mind but does not exist at all. His lust is real but the object of his lust is not (see Michael Rappaport’s character in the film Beautiful Girls for an example of such a man!). Such is the case with gods, man created them to fill in gaps in our knowledge millenia ago but thanks to indoctrination at an early age many people still feel a need for them.
Then again this is really nitpicking as, regardless of RD’s response, the pastor’s argument is utterly vacuous.
I cut Dawkins some slack. He was probably trying very hard not to laugh at what was characterised as “quotes about faith from two thoughtful Twin Cities clergy members.” The question was exceptionally weak. I don’t think I could have answered without making fun of it.