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The whole Baal of wax

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

"We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further." -- Richard Dawkins

Earlier today I watched a fairly fetching speech by Oxford professor and biologist Richard Dawkins. It was about what he described as "militant atheism". Among his points:

Science is corrosive to religion and religion is corrosive to science.

How can people try to argue that man, the world, the universe, are too complicated to have happened by chance and then argue instead that it MUST have been designed by an EVEN MORE complicated entity (intelligent design) ?

Agnostics are toothfairy atheists (he suggests that those of us who have proclaimed ourselves such are merely non-aggressive atheists).

I could go on, but won't.

I found Dawkins' speech to be engaging, thought-provoking, and sometimes humorous, to the point that I am re-evaluating my agnostic stance: some possibilities are less likely than others, as he suggests.

Perhaps the most interesting notion, though, was that we are allowed to argue the validity of what science discovers (science requires it, after all) and we are permitted to disdain atheists publicly, but it is considered bad form to express disdain for religion or religionistas.

Why is it that religion excludes itself from the magnifying glass, from the microscope, and this is permitted to be fine and dandy? Why do WE permit that? Why do we rely on reason's toolkit in dealing with virtually everything in our lives but toss reason out the window when it comes to explaining our existence and our purpose?

There is nothing really new about Dawkins' musings, with the exception of his notion that those of us who question rarely do so publicly but should. Consider this that.

Take care,

Joe

RE's picture
RE
Posts: 4606
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi Joe,

I don’t think we do not allow religion to be questioned; I feel it is questioned daily and often. Folks want proof so they can believe since by faith alone just doesn’t work for many. Take the Shroud of Turin for one, it has been scientifically examined and at one point it was determined to be too young to be the burial cloth of Christ yet some of these same scientists now wish to retest it due to errors that may have occurred while carbon dating due to a fire the shroud had survived centuries ago which could have altered the carbon dating. There is Fatima which occurred in our century where three children claimed to have had visitations with the Virgin Mary, these three children were chided not only by their parents but were held captive separately by constables and mentally terrified for several days in the hopes that they would recant their stories which they did not. Two of the three died quite young while the third lived a long life serving God as a nun and never wavered in her faith or in her stance that she had seen something quite spiritual. There are the Dead Sea Scrolls which since being found have been scoured for authenticity to see if they match up with biblical writings along with many archaeological digs where scientists, skeptics and the faithful alike work side by side attempting to prove something that because they are either not able to as the Bible states (walk by faith, not by sight) 2Cr 5:7 or they are wanting to reach others with proof of their faith. I for one do not usually become upset if someone question's my faith as it gives me the opportunity to share my belief with others.

I do not think you are an atheist I think you are agnostic you are a seeker you ask you wonder you ponder you question. If you were an atheist I would think you would simply come in here and bash what others believe or not come in here at all. In my opinion you have been questioning, asking and such quite publicly since the first time I ever heard anyone mention religion to you in a chat forum and elsewhere and you do so intelligently without ridicule which is refreshing.

My best to you,

RE

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

My sweet friend!

I was beginning to think that my continuing belief in your existence was going to require faith rather than reason. Your reply serves as most gratifying empirical evidence. (Translation: Great to hear from you! :))

You are correct with respect to my place in the realm of belief. I continue to find fault in the presumption by atheists that they KNOW there is no god. Even if as Dawkins and others argue the preponderance of evidence, the weight of probability, that is, is skewed against the possibility of a deity (or deities, for that matter), the very backbone of the Science, the Reason, that he loves and labors for demands that one NOT take such an assumption as truth. (And I am, by the way, aware that many folks would insist that there IS evidence for existence, of course.)

And your mention of the scrolls and the shroud as attempts to glean fact-based truths in religion has some merit, I suppose, but I am not so sure that these are examples of religion-based fact-finding missions so much as historical, archeological sorts of adventures. Perhaps I am splitting hairs.

In any event, Dawkins' real peeve at the time of the speech was the proponents of so-called intelligent design, who even today are trying to insinuate their 'theory' into high school science books and lesson plans. In this regard I share his concerns. I find the hum and thrum of the great middle, culturally-, politically-, philosophy-speaking, to be drowned out by the mindless din of the lunatic fringes. And so, his argument for a 'militant atheism' is really an urging not to show such respect for religions and religionists that we let the characters on the fringes of religion dictate educational policy, legislate morality, define truth, among other things.

Always great to hear from you!

Take care,

Joe

RE's picture
RE
Posts: 4606
Joined: Feb 2004

See Joe I knew you had faith....even if it is just faith that I exist! :-D

Yes we are splitting hairs when we vary in how we view the examination of the shroud, scrolls and other such items. I think it depends on what side of the fence you are on how you will view what type of mission is occurring a scientific historical fact finding one or one that is looking for religious evidence. I need neither, I have known in my heart of hearts from an extremely young age that God exists and is with me, it is an overwhelming physical and emotional presence I have been aware of since childhood. I most assuredly walk by faith and not by sight. Now all that said I am glad you have not decided to denounce your agnostic side and take up with the atheists although my father was a stonch atheists when he married my mom and he would go so far as to call out for Satan to show up and literally freak my mom out in his attempts to disprove her beliefs (she was raised Catholic in a very poor and very large Hispanic farming family and was fed many scary stories as a child, he was attempting to "cure her"). He has over the years come to know God and has a firm faith in the Bible and the truths it holds for those who believe.

Okay I kind of got off course here but its where my fingers took me, take care Joe hope you are getting to eat more exciting stuff these days (chicken excluded).

RE

DennisR
Posts: 148
Joined: Sep 2009

and yet, Joe....science still can't answer the proverbial question..What came first..the Terradactyl or the Egg?
In fact, for all of their Wit and wisdom, their musings and logical conclusions are being proven incorrect almost daily...only to be replaced by yet another (logical) scientific theory that is again accepted as irrefutable proof of whatever theory they're attempting to validate....and they're not being disclaimed or discredited by theologians, but by their own fellow scientific peers.
Perhaps someday when our children ask, "Where did I come from?"...we'll be able to tell them with some degree of certainty, "Well son, you came from a couple of balls of mutated slime cells that were attached to a chunk of seaweed that washed up on a beach in South Africa.....now go outside and play".

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

Ah!

You make my point better than I did, dennis. Science does not purport to have all of the answers while religions do. Science insists, in fact, that none of its answers are cast in stone (pardon the pun) but are open to constant testing and revision, while religions, on the other hand, insist upon tenets that are, indeed, cast in stone: when people of the christian faith, for example, find themselves in disagreement with its original tenets, they establish splinter groups, cults, actually, that become the Lutherans, the Methodists, the Baptists, the Quakers, the LDSs, and so on, over time.

There are no cults in science, none that I am aware of. There are disagreements with respect to results, to be sure, but there are no folks running off and establishing new sciences with different rules. It cannot be because it would not be logical and science, well, science is about logic, about proof, about the ability to repeat something enough times that one can reliably predict that if one does the same thing again one will achieve the same result.

Science does not pre-suppose atheism. As far as I know, science does not, to this day, even hypothesize that there is no god or gods. I am fairly certain, in fact, that science has not taken up the matter because science cannot come up with an acceptable procedure for doing so. The best that science can do in that regard is to continue to search, both microscopically and macroscopically, for answers, and for some reason that seems to rattle cages in the tabernacles of quite a number of religious sects.

Frankly, the greatest danger to civilization today is probably the number of people in my country and other nations who have not been sufficiently educated to at least understand that science does not have a role in the god game, that science, real science, is value-neutral by definition.

And while you are lambasting science, don't forget to thank it for the medicines and instruments and education it provides that help you or loved ones survive cancer, with the assistance of a benevolent god, of course.

As for how to answer the child, I would advise that you go with a geneaological answer first: You come from your mom and dad; and if that doesn't work, go with your faith: You come from god (if that is the essence of your faith); and if that doesn't work, go with the truth: I don't know, but I'm glad you're here.

Take care,

Joe

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4665
Joined: May 2005

Science makes an attempt to explain things and often it does so correctly. That is how it works. You have theories, they get tested and tested and are proven valid or not. New ideas and theories get tested again. Many things have been explained through science like the age of the earth that are more accurate that what many believe from the bible. I think it's fair to say that the earth is not 6000 years old and that man and dinosaur did not roam the earth together. Of course there are those who say that God put fossils there to "fool us" and that a year in biblical terms is really many billions of years.

I think that science makes more sense than saying some imaginary being "up there" who passes judgment on those who do not believe in him so you better get your act together made everything. Oh, and if others do not believe in me, it's OK to kill them.

I'd be more comfortable answering my kids with "you came from the miracle of nature/science" than to say that they came from God. What if a child has a handicap? (I'm sure this term is not PC) How do you answer "why did God make me with no arms, or blind, or with a bad heart". Do you tell the child that God is testing you?
I wouldn't...

Look at much of society Dennis, I think the "couple of balls of mutated slime cells" makes a lot of sense!
;-)

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4665
Joined: May 2005

Good play on words with Baal. I've heard the name but I'm not very familiar with him. So, "Agnostics are toothfairy atheists" I'm not sure that there really IS a tooth fairy so am I agnostic in that sense? ;-)

He/you make very good points. Science always has to prove itself, that's how theories come about. The testing and retesting of a scientific finding or possibility. Religion is based on faith which can not be scientifically tested. I think the test for faith is if you have to go through a lot of crap and you still believe in your religion then you have faith.

In public, if one questions religion it's almost always seen as a personal attack on the individual you are speaking with. Any public figure who questions it is made to look like a meanie. I still find if hard to swallow so much of what religion is based upon. Just look at the information that mankind had at the time for explaining the world around him...no wonder we made stuff up to explain things. Also, people want to have a sense of living forever. Religion supplies that to many.

Good post Joe,
if we're WAY wrong I'll see you in hell
;-)
-phil

RE's picture
RE
Posts: 4606
Joined: Feb 2004

Phil faith does not require one go through “a lot of crap” to be a believer, it simply means you have a choice to take what you have experienced in life, read in the Bible (or whatever your religious book may be, mine is the Bible) and you must decide for yourself whether or not it is a truth that speaks to your heart or not. I have felt God’s presence in my life way before any crap came my way, so my scientific theory is you are off the mark with that. Yes, if you’d like you may mention Job but then Job was already a man of great faith when his world was turned upside down and he remained so afterwards. In my lifetime (so far) I have been through a lot, more than some and less than some. I have been ill pretty much most of it. I have never felt it was God putting me through it is simply my path and has made me who I am.

I agree we need science it has brought us many wonderful things and I think we all realize things have to be tested and retested to come to certain realizations which is how I hope they find the cure to cancer so my children do not have to go through what we all have gone through.
In regards to living forever you could say that anyway you look at it because we decomp and that decomp certainly becomes something even if it is something I would rather not think about.

I know there are those who feel personally attacked when their faith is questioned, however there are a ton of other’s who look for the opportunity to be questioned so they can share their faith with you and hopefully help you to see things their way. I do not think going on the defense serves any purpose, just look here at what has happened with one post that has put you both on the defense, it saddens me. By the way I married one of those who thumbed his nose at religion and had only been to church for weddings, one who thought with time he could help me see the error of my ways it turned out the opposite and for that I am grateful.

I wish you only good things and certainly hope and pray that you and Joe never have to end up in hell.

RE

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4665
Joined: May 2005

I know I did not use the best choice of words to explain myself. The "a lot of crap" comment could have been phrased better. I think faith is believing in something that you want to believe in and it does not matter if it's something that can be proved or disproved. You believe because it makes sense to you or you just want to believe it. My poor choice of words possibly fits a little better with one's faith being tested, event then I could have used different words. Timing is everything. There was a line in one of the Dan Brown books when the main characters says something like "faith is a gift that I have not yet received". It could be said I fall into that category. I also do not feel it is important to my life either so I am not seeking answers based on having faith.

With living forever, I do think people want to live forever and also they want to be united with the people we love. I didn't mean that we'd live on as micro organisms or anything like that. While I do not believe in heaven or hell, I do think that our energy goes on somewhere. Where, I have no idea. Again, I don't stay up thinking about it either. I try to live in the now since that is where I am. I also try to be nice, obviously it doesn't always happen. I didn't mean to attack you but what I had gotten from Joe's initial post was that it's certainly not popular to get up there and proclaim "I do not believe in God". If one is a political or public figure, it's suicide.

I have no problem whatever anyone wants to believe. It's a private matter that some people like to discuss publicly sort of along the lines of being gay. I'm not saying being religious is like being gay but I mean that they are choices someone makes that is their personal choice. Actually, I don't believe that being gay is a choice 99% of the time. I think it's how people were made. It happens in all sorts of species, it's not only a human trait. My point is that I don't care what a person is, I also don't feel I have to know what they are either.

What I get frustrated with and it's mainly on this public site is that personal beliefs are often put in places with great intensity where it's really not appropriate. If I go to the colon cancer forum I really do not wish to read bible verses. I'd like to read people's questions about cancer and try to help them through my experiences. I do feel that if I ended every post with a comment about how I do not believe in God and that I believe God will not cure people, it would not go over very big at all. Being how I am, I would not think of foisting my views on that subject in that part of the public site. However, there are many on that forum who have no problem foisting their views/beliefs on me and others when it's not doing anything to answer the person's question at all. If this was a "christian cancer site" then it's a different story. For one, I doubt it very much that I'd be here. But it isn't. This part of the forum is for religious discussion so this is where I feel I can try to express myself the best that I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I may have gotten off-topic a bit but announcing I do not believe in God goes over differently that announcing that I DO believe in God.

I don't judge you as anything other than being a very nice thoughtful person RE. We don't agree on this but that's life. I didn't mean to be nasty or offend you and if I did please forgive me. I only wish good things for you too and don't worry about hell, I don't believe in it.
-phil
is it warm in here or is it just me?

Marcia527's picture
Marcia527
Posts: 2731
Joined: Jul 2006

I've thought it over carefully and decided, yes Phil, it's you. Probably a hot flash. Do guys get those too? Or is it called 'hot under the collar'? ;>)

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4665
Joined: May 2005

I can't speak for all men Marcia, but I will say I am affected by "hot flashes".
;-)

RE's picture
RE
Posts: 4606
Joined: Feb 2004

Marcia you made me laugh out loud, you such a great way of putting things you humorous gal you! I don't know if the men get hot flashes but I do know that I have certainly gotten "hot under the collar" before so I guess we can all get both! Thanks for the laugh Marcia, hope you are doing well.

RE

RE's picture
RE
Posts: 4606
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi Phil, I suppose I was having a sensitive day when I wrote that although I do stand by all I wrote. I agree strongly with you and have penned an entire blog here on the fact we should not be preachy on the other sites it is not what folks go there for, they go there for cancer questions and to be with folks who understand. If one becomes preachy it most certainly could cause people in need not to ask questions and not get support that they need. You made a great point that if you ended each comment with your belief there is no God that too may not be received well, after all it is not a religious forum it is a cancer forum.

My Best to You,

RE :-)

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