Archive for the ‘atheism’ Category

Why Sam Harris should never be given any position of authority

September 13, 2011

The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.

Sam Harris, (quoted What the New Atheists Don’t See, Theodore Dalrymple)

The only ‘link’ here is that Sam Harris is a frustrated  totalitarian.  And who would decide which beliefs are so dangerous as to require them to be killed? Plato was like this. A committee of philosopher kings who would decide what’s best for us plebs and kill off those who have the ‘wrong’ beliefs.

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God doesn’t exist—the bastard!

September 13, 2011

God doesn’t exist—the bastard!

Samuel Beckett

This is the suppression of truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1). Atheism is not the consequence of a logical syllogism. It is believed for other reasons. The heart, as Pascal said, has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.

The British parliament’s first avowedly atheist member, Charles Bradlaugh, would stride into public meetings in the 1880s, take out his pocket watch, and challenge God to strike him dead in 60 seconds

September 13, 2011

The British parliament’s first avowedly atheist member, Charles Bradlaugh, would stride into public meetings in the 1880s, take out his pocket watch, and challenge God to strike him dead in 60 seconds. God bided his time, but got Bradlaugh in the end.

Theodore Dalrymple

God is gracious with all, every day who sin against Him. Though He would be justified in ending the life of any of His rebellious creatures, He often spares them even in the face of their blasphemous challenges.

September 6, 2011

In his novel The Age of Longing, Koestler describes the plight of Hydie, a lapsed Catholic:

Oh, if only she could go back to the infinite comfort of father confessors and mother superiors, of a well-ordered hierarchy which promised punishment and reward, and furnished the world with justice and meaning. If only she could go back! But she was under the curse of reason, which rejected whatever might quench her thirst, without abolishing the urge; which rejected the answer without abolishing the question. For the place of God had become vacant, and there was a draught blowing through the world as in an empty flat before the new tenants have arrived.

Precisely Koestler’s own predicament, and that of modern man.

Theodore Dalrymple

But ‘reason’ did not disprove God or miracles, only naturalistic presuppositions did.  Koestler didn’t need to give up reason to have the comfort of faith; he needed to doubt the assumptions of naturalism. He could have found Christ the source of living water and still rejected the superstitions of Roman Catholicism.

September 5, 2011

Multiculturalism rests on the supposition—or better, the dishonest pretense—that all cultures are equal and that no fundamental conflict can arise between the customs, mores, and philosophical outlooks of two different cultures. The multiculturalist preaches that, in an age of mass migration, society can (and should) be a kind of salad bowl, a receptacle for wonderful exotic ingredients from around the world, the more the better, each bringing its special flavor to the cultural mix. For the salad to be delicious, no ingredient should predominate and impose its flavor on the others.

Even as a culinary metaphor, this view is wrong: every cook knows that not every ingredient blends with every other. But the spread and influence of an idea is by no means necessarily proportional to its intrinsic worth, including (perhaps especially) among those who gain their living by playing with ideas, the intelligentsia.

Theodore Dalrymple

This attitude is borne of relativism.

the all-powerful and all-benevolent state should weigh heavy in each person’s life

September 5, 2011

(Gordon Brown’s) real goal was to increase public expenditure…; he believed that the all-powerful and all-benevolent state should weigh heavy in each person’s life, and should be a presence in it as God was supposed to be in the Presyterianism of his upbringing.

Theodore Dalrymple, Not With a Bang But a Whimper

The state becomes a surrogate God once the real God has been ditched. The government becomes an idol as it was for the 20th C. absolute monarchies of the atheistic republicans. The state becomes the object of faith, a kind of benevolent Eternal Father who feeds, teaches and loves all indiscriminately.

People prefer comforting lies than harsh truth

April 24, 2011

But on 3 September 1941 a Jewish woman arrived in the city, bandaged, barefoot, and with dishevelled hair. Her name was Sonia. In the street she spoke to a Jewish doctor, Meir Mark Dvorjetsky – she had come she said from Ponary. No, it was not a labour camp, and then she told the doctor her story:     Corpses at  Rainiai  “She and her two children had been among the Jews seized, imprisoned and then taken out of the city on 31 August – how they were brought to Ponary, how Jews were trying to reckon with their own consciences, how they were trying to confess their sins before death, how she had heard shots and saw blood and fell.”      As the doctor later recalled:     She was among the corpses up to sunset and then she heard the wild shoutings of those who carried out the murder. She somehow or other managed to get out of the heaps of corpses, she got to the barbed wire entanglements – she managed to cross them and she found a common Polish peasant woman who bandaged her wounds, gave her flowers and said, “Run away from here, but carry flowers as if you were a common peasant, so that they shouldn’t recognise that you are a Jewess.”     And then she came to me. She un-wrapped the bandage and I saw the wound. I saw the hole from the bullet and in the hole there were ants creeping. Dvorjetsky hurried to a gathering of Vilna Jews to tell them the story. “This is not a labour camp where you’re going to be sent to, he said. “This is something else.”     But they could not believe him – “You are the one who is a panic monger,” they replied. “Instead of encouraging us, instead of consoling us, you are telling us cock-and-bull stories about extermination. How is it possible that the Jews will be simply taken and shot.”

Martin Gilbert, Holocaust, pp.193-4

Tolstoy – Meaninglessness without God

April 24, 2011

At about the age of fifty, Tolstoy relates that he began to have moments of perplexity, of what he calls arrest, as if he knew not ‘how to live,’ or what to do. It is obvious that these were moments in which the excitement and interest which our functions naturally bring had ceased. Life had been enchanting, it was now flat sober, more than sober, dead. Things were meaningless whose meaning had always been self-evident. The questions ‘Why?’ and ‘What next?’ began to beset him more and more frequently. At first it seemed as if such questions must be answerable, and as if he could easily find the answers if he would take the time; but as they ever became more urgent, he perceived that it was like those first discomforts of a sick man, to which he pays but little attention till they run into one continuous suffering, and then he realizes that what he took for a passing disorder means the most momentous thing in the world for him, means his death.

These questions ‘Why?’ ‘Wherefore?’ ‘What for?’ found no response.

“I felt,” says Tolstoy, “that something had broken within me on which my life had always rested, that I had nothing left to hold on to, and that morally my life had stopped. An invincible force impelled me to get rid of my existence, in one way or another. It cannot be said exactly that I wished to kill myself, for the force which drew me away from life was fuller, more powerful, more general than any mere desire. It was a force like my old aspiration to live, only it impelled me in the opposite direction. It was an aspiration of my whole being to get out of life.

“Behold me then, a man happy and in good health, hiding the rope in order not to hang myself to the rafters of the room where every night I went to sleep alone; behold me no longer going shooting, lest I should yield to the too easy temptation of putting an end to myself with my gun.

“I did not know what I wanted. I was afraid of life; I was driven to leave it; and in spite of that I still hoped something from it.

“All this took place at a time when so far as all my outer circumstances went, I ought to have been completely happy. I had a good wife who loved me and whom I loved; good children and a large property which was increasing with no pains taken on my part. I was more respected by my kinsfolk and acquaintance than I had ever been; I was loaded with praise by strangers; and without exaggeration I could believe my name already famous. Moreover I was neither insane nor ill. On the contrary, I possessed a physical and mental strength which I have rarely met in persons of my age. I could mow as well as the peasants, I could work with my brain eight hours uninterruptedly and feel no bad effects.

“And yet I could give no reasonable meaning to any actions of my life. And I was surprised that I had not understood this from the very beginning. My state of mind was as if some wicked and stupid jest was being played upon me by some one. One can live only so long as one is intoxicated, drunk with life; but when one grows sober one cannot fail to see that it is all a stupid cheat. What is truest about it is that there is nothing even funny or silly in it; it is cruel and stupid, purely and simply.

“The oriental fable of the traveler surprised in the desert by a wild beast is very old.

“Seeking to save himself from the fierce animal, the traveler jumps into a well with no water in it; but at the bottom of this well he sees a dragon waiting with open mouth to devour him. And the unhappy man, not daring to go out lest he should be the prey of the beast, not daring to jump to the bottom lest he should be devoured by the dragon, clings to the branches of a wild bush which grows out of one of the cracks of the well. His hands weaken, and he feels that he must soon give way to certain fate; but still he clings, and sees two mice, one white, the other black, evenly moving round the bush to which he hangs, and gnawing off its roots.

“The traveler sees this and knows that he must inevitably perish; but while thus hanging he looks about him and finds on the leaves of the bush some drops of honey. These he reaches with his tongue and licks them off with rapture.

“Thus I hang upon the boughs of life, knowing that the inevitable dragon of death is waiting ready to tear me, and I cannot comprehend why I am thus made a martyr. I try to suck the honey which formerly consoled me; but the honey pleases me no longer, and day and night the white mouse and the black mouse gnaw the branch to which I cling. I can see but one thing: the inevitable dragon and the mice- I cannot turn my gaze away from them.

“This is no fable, but the literal incontestable truth which every one may understand. What will be the outcome of what I do to-day? Of what I shall do to-morrow? What will be the outcome of all my life? Why should I live? Why should I do anything? Is there in life any purpose which the inevitable death which awaits me does not undo and destroy?

“These questions are the simplest in the world. From the stupid child to the wisest old man, they are in the soul of every human being. Without an answer to them, it is impossible, as I experienced, for life to go on.

“‘But perhaps,’ I often said to myself, ‘there may be something I have failed to notice or to comprehend. It is not possible that the condition of despair should be natural to mankind.’ And I sought for an explanation in all the branches of knowledge acquired by men. I questioned painfully and protractedly and with no idle curiosity. I sought, not with indolence, but laboriously and obstinately for days and nights together. I sought like a man who is lost and seeks to save himself,- and I found nothing. I became convinced, moreover, that all those who before me had sought for an answer in the sciences have also found nothing. And not only this, but that they have recognized that the very thing which was leading me to despair- the meaningless absurdity of life- is the only incontestable knowledge accessible to man.”

To prove this point, Tolstoy quotes the Buddha, Solomon, and Schopenhauer. And he finds only four ways in which men of his own class and society are accustomed to meet the situation. Either mere animal blindness, sucking the honey without seeing the dragon or the mice,- “and from such a way,” he says, “I can learn nothing, after what I now know;” or reflective epicureanism, snatching what it can while the day lasts,- which is only a more deliberate sort of stupefaction than the first; or manly suicide; or seeing the mice and dragon and yet weakly and plaintively clinging to the bush of life.

Suicide was naturally the consistent course dictated by the logical intellect.

“Yet,” says Tolstoy, “whilst my intellect was working, something else in me was working too, and kept me from the deed- a consciousness of life, as I may call it, which was like a force that obliged my mind to fix itself in another direction and draw me out of my situation of despair…. During the whole course of this year, when I almost unceasingly kept asking myself how to end the business, whether by the rope or by the bullet, during all that time, alongside of all those movements of my ideas and observations, my heart kept languishing with another pining emotion. I can call this by no other name than that of a thirst for God. This craving for God had nothing to do with the movement of my ideas,- in fact, it was the direct contrary of that movement,- but it came from my heart. It was like a feeling of dread that made me seem like an orphan and isolated in the midst of all these things that were so foreign. And this feeling of dread was mitigated by the hope of finding the assistance of some one.”

in William James, Varieties of Religious Experience

What atheism doesn’t answer

January 20, 2010

If sub specie aeternitatis there is no reason to believe that anything matters, then that does not matter either, and we can approach our lives with irony instead of heroism or despair.

The Absurd Thomas Nagel. The Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 68. No. 20. Sixty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division (Oct. 21, 1971). pp. 716-727. Journal of Philosophy, Inc.

What Nagel is saying is this: ultimately there is no meaning in life, in the grand scheme of things (from his atheist perspective he is correct) but the statement itself is without meaning. Therefore we can approach this issue with irony.

He may choose to adopt that posture. But his response does not answer a further question we might ask: why do we instinctively rebel against the notion that all of my life is ultimately meaningless? Why do we, moment by moment, actually ascribe significance to what we do?

Many skeptics frequently hurl the charge that God is just a projection of your own imagination…God is just a crutch, and Christians have psychologically projected God to fulfill their needs

January 6, 2010

Many skeptics frequently hurl the charge that God is just a projection of your own imagination…God is just a crutch, and Christians have psychologically projected God to fulfill their needs…(But) the Biblical God is not the type of God we would make up. People create a god in their own image…The average secular American creates a god who is a mellow combination of Santa Klaus, Bewitched, The Force, and Shirley McClain. The holy and awesome God, who makes men tremble, is not the type one would invent.

Michael A. Robinson, God Does Exist!, Author House 2006, p.150