Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rational Atheism

This article by Michael Shermer is making the rounds.
Whenever religious beliefs conflict with scientific facts or violate principles of political liberty, we must respond with appropriate aplomb. Nevertheless, we should be cautious about irrational exuberance. I suggest that we raise our consciousness one tier higher for the following reasons.

He then lists the following 5 reasons, elaborating on each:
  1. Anti-something movements by themselves will fail.
  2. Positive assertions are necessary.
  3. Rational is as rational does.
  4. The golden rule is symmetrical.
  5. Promote freedom of belief and disbelief.

The piece features two great quotes as well:
Charles Darwin: It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science.”
I didn't realize Darwin became as opposed to Christianity and theism as this quote implies. Fascinating.

Martin Luther King, Jr: The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We should be careful not to alienate our religious allies.

23 comments:

tikkunger said...

Hello JA
Wow this is a great and I should mention timely article because I'm in the middle of working my way through an assortment of audio books from of the “Axis of Disbelief” (Harris, Dawkins & the G-D Is Not Great Guy). I've just finished Sam Harris's "letters to A Christian Nation" and I'm about to start Disc 5 Dawkins “ The G-D Delusion”. I've got to say that this article echoes my own thinking regarding the so-called "New Atheists" and what I consider to be their intellectually dishonest lopsidedness. Your article's author is 100% right about the golden rule being symmetrical but unfortunately this is a point lost on people like Dawkins and Harris. I think inquisitions are a bad idea all the way around and I am unfortunately convinced that if people like Dawkins and Harris have their way religious people will be forced into the closet and that's a mistake. The right to disbelief (I believe is the article mentions) is rooted in other people's right to engage in belief , another point apparently lost to the " New Atheists". I certainly don't believe that the solution to religious fundamentalism is atheistic intolerance and extremism. I believe that this article and its author are on the right track in terms of the best course of action as we move further into the 21st century.

Anyhow thanks again for the interesting read.

Anonymous said...

"I didn't realize Darwin became as opposed to Christianity and theism as this quote implies. Fascinating."

As I recall, it was more the death of family members than science which lead to his heresy.

Keebo said...
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Keebo said...
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tikkunger said...

Keebo I “sort of ” think you frequently resent all kinds of things and are easily offended but I could be wrong.

But seriously your statement “At the same time, just like racist whites of the past who refused to see the truth of racial equality, religious bigots and those with closed minds will get no respect from me” is a fair and appropriate one, at least in my opinion, anyhow.

However having said that, I wonder if your keen sense of equality and justice cuts both ways on this subject and if so, could you also claim that “, just like racist whites of the past who refused to see the truth of racial equality atheist bigots (new or old)and those with closed minds will get no respect from me.”

Just curious!

Keebo said...
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tikkunger said...

Ok so keebo then i guess not, eh!

Keebo said...
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tikkunger said...

Keebo so did I and you are avoiding it! Can't say that I' am surprised by that. Why don't you try honestly answering it? after all don't you want to be part of the solution?

Anonymous said...

I think atheistic extremism is very useful to balance out the vast power of institutionalized religion in the world throughout history. I think it's better for the world to err on the side of extreme humanism, just like in American court system we'd rather let several guilty people go free than erroneously punish an innocent person.

Keebo said...
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jewish philosopher said...

Rationally, the best way to promote atheism is to insure that everyone has unfiltered Internet access.

I believe that you will find a positive correlation between between atheism and per capita pornography consumption.

tikkunger said...

Ah thanks Keebo your a jem.

J.D. Turk said...

Jewish Philosopher, Hitler was a very moral man in sexual matters. He was against porn and ordered sleazy books burned on German college campuses, among other books.

jewish philosopher said...

Hitler wasn't an atheist.

He was also nice to animals.

But anyway, think about it for a second. The Netherlands - lots of porn, lots of atheism. Saudi Arabia - no porn, no atheists.

J.D. Turk said...

I heard he was. To clarify, I disagree with your implicit unvoiced statement that atheism and porn are both somehow immoral.
My point is that someone could commit many small sexual and other petty immoralities and still do a great deal of good for mankind and individual human beings.

I don't see your point. In Netherlands people are free to watch porn and be atheists and they choose to. In Saudi Arabia people are not free to watch porn and be atheists and they do neither of those things. This only shows that given the freedom most people will choose to be atheists and watch porn.

JDHURF said...

Brilliant post, great quotes, substantive content, bravo. I agree entirely.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Hitler wasn't a Christian. The things he said in private about clergy showed that he held them in complete contempt. He domineered over the Church and, to Christianity's everlasting shame, many (though not all) of the clergy kissed his *ss to keep their miserable little jobs.

Anyway, I appreciate the sentiment in your last sentence, JA. People are going to continue to believe in large numbers. You might as well have some allies on the inside of religion, working against its worst elements.

Who knows, we might counter some of the atheist population's worst elements, too!

Keebo said...
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Anonymous said...

Keebo, you`re an idiot. The issue is freedom.

Kevoyochul said...

Keebo, aren't the atheist's truth contested? It would be unfair to allow the atheist to impose his views on the religionist. I mean the religionist also thinks he has the monopoly on truth, right? There are historical examples where atheists thought they were 100% rationaly correct and it turned out that the theists' ideas were more scientifically accurate: the big bang. Many atheists thought that rationally the world had to have always been in steady state, without a begining.

Keebo said...
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Keebo said...
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