At the invitation of Professor Robert, I'm starting a new thread.

Dr Bob, you are continually trying to draw clear distinctions between Catholicism and other (especially Christian) religions. I grant that Catholics are (a little) different, but, as they still fundamentally believe in the magic, invisible daddy in the sky, there is really NO difference.

Two points: The Bible (whether or not you take it literally) is the foundation of your (and all Christian) religions. A cursory examination of the Bible reveals a SMALL handful of usable tenets along with pages and chapters FULL of utter nonsense. The fact that any religion would base itself upon such a holey book, makes that religion as creditable as Joseph's golden tablets from God which he, unfortunately, misplaced.

God: I will be heartily disagreed with here, but I find the idea of God to be completely understandable. Here we have, at the dawn of civilization, various groups of totally ignorant people trying to put words, meanings, and causes to all manner of things which they couldn't possible understand. Combine this with a clever but ruthless set who have come to realize that, if they ascribed words, meanings, and causes to the world around them, people would actually BELIEVE them (as they no other source of information). These priests could and did use this power to govern the people - insisting that everyone in the tribe bow before them.

Then came the age of knowledge. We could start to actually understand all these things that the priests had, up till then, kept to themselves. As the power base for all civilized people rested with these priests, they were (and, of course, still are) wildly defensive of their position.

There is, however, NO CONCEIVABLE REASON for any educated person to believe in the supernatural - aside from these historic pressures.,

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Hi Simon, Nice to see you : ))

 "a violation of good" is a good way to put it.

 

I feel a strong need to chime in here. Not only have you purposefully neglected to state your own opinion as to Reg's question, you evaded in a move that would make some politicians see stars (the whole answering a question with a question thing is something you do often), and you show your real bias.

Your opinion seems to be that the idea of atheism should say something in addition to what it does, namely to say that whatever god is little more than mythology. Atheism as a social theory is a failure, because it's not a social theory. Once a person figures out that there is no God or deity controlling his or her life, then they also begin to realize that there is no manual, text, or sets of phrases that give any instruction or direction on how best to live life. Those that exist might give some indication, but that is not because their messengers had everything right when it was written. Instead, it is because wisdom can be found in many places at many times form many sources. No one has a monopoly on it. Nor does anyone have the correct method for living life. Let's face it; the world is far to variable and unpredictable for any one way to lead to a good life in all circumstances.

Atheism doesn't even pretend that it has the answers to life and how to live it well. Sometimes people still go on living the same way not questioning why the still do or think the same things they did as theist. Others use it as I did as a tabula rasa moment to reevaluate their core assumptions to find out if they warranted keeping. And then there's everything in between! For myself, I found that by becoming an atheist, the onus was wholly on myself for my life. I couldn't rely on God to help me as I thought I could before. I didn't have a handy text to sift through for inspiration when looking to solve my problems. I no longer had a direct line to the Man with the Plan. The only person I could rely on was myself and that!, my goodness, that realization was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. My whole life turned around on that singular moment. The idea of full responsibility for my future is at the same time my greatest treasure and my greatest burden. So while you may think that atheism does not give anything to society, and I would say that you are right, it does in my experience provide an opportunity for a tremendous personal benefit.

 You say that atheism has "adherents only in societies that tend to be arrogant and wealthy at the expense of others." Firstly, tell that to our members in Egypt right now who face DEATH if a certain type of person finds out they are an atheist that they must live in a society that is arrogant and wealthy because obviously there would be atheists there if it wasn't. Secondly, arrogant and wealthy? So Sweden is an arrogant country that throws it's weight around the world proclaiming that they are better than everyone? What about the UK, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany? All arrogant countries? How does one define an arrogant country anyway. Is it one that says our way is right and throws their weight around the world because that sounds like the US and the US has a large majority of religious people. Wealthy countries though? Yes. Where there is less social strife, quite simply, people have less need of a divine protector. On top of that, there are higher levels of education that can focus on more analytical thinking, and cognitive research has already shown that in general analytical thinking leads to less reliance on the intuitive thinking that allows a person to believe in the supernatural. So it should be no surprise that wealthy countries with with a quality education system (read not the US) have larger atheist populations.

"Gell-Mann made up a tale about some faeries he named after nonsense words from a James Joyce novel.  Made-up human idea, written in human books, passed along by very human scientists.  Nonetheless, useful in describing the physical world, and therefore increasingly accepted by large groups of scientists, built into the Standard Model, and now largely adopted as being a reasonable description of our understanding of the truth of that physical world."

I don't understand your purpose here. Are you trying to make an analogy to the Bible in our language by comparing it to a another set of human created set of documents? That's a failure of an analogy if that's what you are trying to do. Gell-Mann had the hard numbers (or soft variables as it were) of math to back up what he was saying. Without that and the evidence and data gained from experimentation, his tale about faeries would still be just that: a fanciful tale. It was built into the Standard Model and accepted because it was a "reasonable description of our understanding of the truth of that physical world," not because it was believed to have a supernatural origin.

The Bible on the other hand does not have the benefit of data, evidence, or math to back it up. It is considered divinely inspired and as such, the Word of God. While there is some wisdom in the Bible, it does not by any means accurately depict nor offer up a reasonable explanation for our understanding of our world or of people.

As a side note: after reflecting a bit on what you didn't say compared to what you did say, I think I will attempt to read between the lines, and as this is guess work on my part merely extrapolated from your own words, by all means, feel free to correct me. I think you might have told us why you are Catholic and you may not have dodged the question as much as I first thought. Your arguments focused prominently of the social aspects of religion. I venture to say that you think that Catholicism is the best practice for strengthening society, inspiring creativity, causing individuals to work diligently, and continually strive for self-improvement, and that it can also serve to unite people across national/tribal/ethnic lines as well as sacrifice for the greater good. Am I right?

I think you got there in the end, @Sagacious, at least partly.  

In evaluating ideas, we must consider their utility.  Quarks were made up nonsense arising from recognizing SU(3) symmetry, yet the notion proved quite useful, and over time has become accepted as actually being a good working model of reality, or what we'd call "true".  Saying that humans wrote or compiled books, or developed and refined concepts over time, or use absurd terms in a specialty language that seem to defy sensibility does not imply that there isn't utility, or truth.  Useful ideas win widespread adoption.

Conversely, ideas which seem far more sensible than flavored quarks might not be useful, and therefore not really be worth pursuing further.  Those don't earn widespread adoption.

The reason for my answer being a question was to encourage examining your own beliefs with the same rigor that you apply to others. Does atheism as an idea have significant utility for individuals or societies?  If you want an idea to be broadly accepted, it's necessary for people to find utility in that idea.  It has to be good for something.  In medical terms, it has to be significantly better than the current accepted treatment.

I think the fundamental problem with atheism to my mind is that it just isn't very useful.  I'm not sure atheism even really does as well as the placebo for individuals or societies.  Ideas which aren't useful we tend to discard. That is perhaps why religions I would consider nothing more than placebos have more adherents than atheism.

Now I do think atheism has some utility.  As you describe from your personal history, sometimes people need to reject bad ideas, and atheism is the result of rejecting bad ideas and starting again with a (relatively) clean slate to try other approaches. I think that's wonderful, and I watch many posters here doing that and I think it's great.  It's a perfect situation for which atheism is useful, and worth adopting.  It's just a limited use-case.

This argument invalidates itself almost immediately. The catholic faith unlike other christian religions is NOT based on the bible, nor is the bible considered by catholics to be the 'one true word of god' as with other christian denominations. 

Are you catholic?

I was raised Catholic.. Sounds like a good first blog theme.

Me too..K-12. Lucky I am not in a mental ward. I like to call my grade school "our lady of pain and suffering"

From what I read I think the Professor is on the wrong blog and a catholic blog would suit him better, where he can feal at home. He is offended by us Atheists. 

@Jorita, I'm not offended by atheists at all.   Why should anyone be offended by ideas, or the questioning of ideas?

I feel perfectly at home talking with Jewish colleagues, or UU friends, or fundamentalist preachers, or thoughtful atheists.  Talking is how we come to understand each other as friends, rather than dividing ourselves into oppositional tribes.

Damn, Nate.  Have you seen yourself lately?  You don't look very well, if I might say. 

rather than dividing ourselves into oppositional tribes.

Well, coming from someone who made an awful lot of incorrect statements about what atheism is, and how atheists are this does sound a bit ironic.

You seem to think that atheism is more than the simple lack of belief in god(s), but it simply isn't. Stop making assumptions, if you want to understand us then start asking questions.

Practice what you preach, you know.

Earlier I mentioned that it's kinda useless to categorize people by what they are not, we are both non-Zoltarians, does that really say anything about you and me or what we stand for?

You and I both are atheists (lack belief towards gods), I simply go one god further than you, whether you like it or not, you yourself are an atheist, as atheism is nothing more than a position opposed to a belief in a god. 

A lot of people think that you can either be theist or atheist, but not both, that's just incorrect, this seems to create a divide where there really does not have to be one. 

we are both non-Zoltarians,

Are you sure you are a non-Zoltarian?  There's a Zoltarius-shaped hole in your soul, you known, so only Zoltarius can fill it!

OK I'd better stop this before the Lord God Tarskyte smites me for my lapsing and following false gods.

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