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.,
We are all novices at something, @Strega. I alas, struggle with many things.
Please be kind to me and tell me what you feel as an atheist amounts to "good" and "evil". Those for me are terms which only make sense in a religious context.
@ Professor Robert - if you click the little blue "Here" word at the end of my previous posting, it will take you to a full definition, including synonyms. Those synonyms are not nested in religion.
As a HUMAN, I think of good and evil in a natural context. Pain and suffering is evil, joy and happiness, good. Of course there are exceptions and ways to contrast them, because they are natural sensations, most likely evolved with society to protect and enhance its continuance.
Are we wandering towards the "atheists have no morals" zone? Because I don't really have the patience for that kind of debate. I'll just dig up a load of links to videos, and you most likely won't bother watching them, and I don't have enough years left on my biological clock to be able to afford investing that kind of time.
Angela - science doesn't have a ready answer. It has a lot of ideas. We need an exact definition of good, and then we can define evil as some kind of violation of good, and think about the reasons why it happens. The Devil on your Shoulder is a good analogy I think. The Devil above a crowd, a group or an organisation, also.
I also think "intention" comes into it. If we violate good by accident, this is different to when we deliberately choose to do wrong.
@Simon, you and the professor expect that a "disbelief in the supernatural" somehow has "ideals" or social purpose in of itself. This is not the case. It does allow for "free thinking" that the religious fight to suppress. The benefits of free thinking are already being realized in the science communities. The percentages of non-believers is higher in the science and math world. The average "god fearing person" with limited educational opportunity may seem to benefit from the religious fallacy until you start thinking on a grand scale. How great the world could be if we just get the monkey off our backs?
If one believes "Atheist" N. Korea or Nazi Germany is or was "free-thinking", well then "there you go". They just traded god in for their dictators...they are pretty much interchangeable actually.
"Atheism as a social theory is largely a failure." - <blah, blah, equivalences to competing religions, blah, blah>
"Atheism is a religion like 'Off' is a TV channel." -.. Monicks
"So it stays a relatively small fringe cult"
For the first time in history, the masses are becoming truly educated. Knowledge of the real world cannot be unlearned. It will take a while but religion is irretrievably on its way out.
My personal favorite is "atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color."
But baldness is like some kind of disability. Follically challenged. Slap-head.
I'll work that ~
Atheism is becoming a religion like baldness is becoming a hair style...
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.