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.,
Oh dear,. Bob. If you are really maintaining that understanding of the supernatural requires an understanding of quarks marrying, you are in deep shit indeed. In truth there is no way out for you. You HAVE TO declare "de fide" because, in the final analysis, that is ALL it is.
"just finding these multi-level threads hard to navigate"
I agree, but it DOES, I believe, work better than a purely chronological presentation. What I do is browse the emails for something that interests me then follow the link from there to the position in the thread where it appears. Perhaps more experienced members could relate a better way to navigate.
Maybe the easy thing is to just ask you Prof. Robert - Why are you a still a Catholic?
@Reg, why are you still an atheist?
Atheism as a social theory is largely a failure. Its level of adoption is low, and tends to be limited to those who nurse an anger toward organized religion for personal reasons. Most people find that unsatisfying the long run, and people who leave organized religion without anger seem to prefer a benign therapeutic deism. Atheism hasn't in any way proved itself useful in strengthening society, inspiring creativity, or causing individuals to work diligently toward self-improvement. It does not insist that people reach out across ethnic/tribal lines to consider all humans brothers and sisters, it has little success in moving people to sacrifice for the good of the whole, it offers neither comfort for the afflicted nor challenge for the self-satisfied. It would tear down religion or social structures that it feels are outmoded, but does not offer any satisfying replacement. Intellectually, I personally find it largely shallow and lacking nuance, and at times more dogmatic than most religions with which I am familiar.
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.
How is atheism useful in the social world? It does not seem like it has anywhere near enough utility as a theory to be widely adopted, which is what in fact we seem to see. So it stays a relatively small fringe cult, with adherents only in societies that tend to be arrogant and wealthy at the expense of others.
Atheism as a social theory is largely a failure.
It isn't a social theory; it's simply a distinction from a more common category.
Its level of adoption is low, and...
Yet growing, though it's not overly important one way or the other.
...tends to be limited to those who nurse an anger toward organized religion for personal reasons.
Anecdotal and/ or speculative. (Anecdotally, I would say it is also false).
Most people find that unsatisfying the long run, and people who leave organized religion without anger seem to prefer a benign therapeutic deism.
Also seems speculative. Most people are coming from a theistic paradigm. If we're going to entertain speculation, I'd say most feel considerable pressure to conform to the common views of their region. While religious minorities in a given region may also feel pressure to conform, most members of those minorities likely to ascribe to the religion of their family, so there is competing pressure and support. Many atheists may not be able to say the same and are stuck feeling as outsiders to both their family and society. In some regions, atheists also receive the greatest amount of antipathy of all religious demographical groups. In regions where religiosity is less pronounced, my suspicion is that much of the unpleasantness and discomfort with being an atheist is not present. For instance, where I live the largest group is 'no-religious affiliation', and being an atheist really causes no problems or discomfort from my experience or in the experiences of most atheists I know here.
Atheism hasn't in any way proved itself useful in strengthening society, inspiring creativity, or causing individuals to work diligently toward self-improvement.
Again, it's not a philosophy in iteself, so one shouldn't expect such a thing. Some atheists seem to feel that their atheism demands some level of social/ moral/ ethical consciousness, but my feeling is that each should feel free to pursue the life philosophy which holds the greatest value to them individually. For instance, I do not give charity as an atheist, but merely as a human being.
It does not insist that people reach out across ethnic/tribal lines to consider all humans brothers and sisters, it has little success in moving people to sacrifice for the good of the whole, it offers neither comfort for the afflicted nor challenge for the self-satisfied.
Well, at present it often does if for no other reason than atheism represents a minority. Out of necessity, most of us have to cooperate with those who are different from us. But even if that wasn't the case, many atheists seem to do it simply because we believe it has intrinsic value toward creating a better society in which to live.
It would tear down religion or social structures that it feels are outmoded, but does not offer any satisfying replacement.
Not intrinsically. There are vociferous atheists who would like all religion abolished, but the idea that they propose no alternative doesn't seem common. Naturally I would like to see outmoded views stripped from governmental structures, but I am not without views on replacements.
Intellectually, I personally find it largely shallow and lacking nuance, and at times more dogmatic than most religions with which I am familiar.
Shallow and lacking nuance are fair in my opinion, but do not detract from the position. It is a simple, straightforward position at heart: the impetus to believe in deities does not exist. Dogmatic? If you could cite a dogma of atheism, I'd be pleased to asses it.
Theres so much of that I agree with - so much food for thought.
and Im as atheist as they come.
@ Professor Robert - I can't really disagree with most of what you say. I think it's the militant atheists who tend to be the angry ones. I think the atheist ideal is more widespread and tenacious than you give it credit for. Apart from that, you're pretty on the money.
Militant how? Define militancy, if you please.
@ Kris - hardliners, people who want an end to religion.
I think 'hardliners' would be a better term. 'Militancy' is character assassination in most cases. It seems many who want to end religion entirely still do not desire to do so through forceful means. Castigation simply because they are willing to struggle hard for the world they want to see seems rather inappropriate.
If I've missed the mark, please do let me know, but I find 'militant' is used far too lightly these days to the point that it discourages impassioned discourse.
@Kris - for me, it's a good descriptive, but I can see how it might be used to give a negative slant to what someone's saying.