Sunday, August 31, 2008

Yet another fisking...

While looking at the collection of news stories and opinion pieces that regularly displays, I had the good fortune of coming across this wonderful little screed.

organized religion not only divides humanity into believers and infidels, it authorizes the former, with a beatific smile, to extinguish the latter. Often religion claims to be doing so for the good of the infidel.

But at least he has a good start :)

Modern would-be Voltaires such as Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins are just as strident in their hatred of religion in general and revealed religion in particular.
Apparently calling Richard Dawkins and company "strident" is passing the threshold into cliche. Nothing revolutionary here.

For my money, their arguments don't amount to a hill of beans. They simply oppose one dogma with another.

Calling atheists dogmatic? Wonderful. The classic "no, you" defense. Particularly hilarious when you are talking about a group of people defined entirely due to their lack of beliefs, as compared to a group of people unified by their adherence to a specific set of beliefs and rules. Please, tell us about the dogma of political moderates and those with no position on the economy as well.

Their questions like those of the village atheist are just plain silly: can an omnipotent God make a rock bigger than he can lift?

It is silly because the idea of omnipotence, in of itself, is silly. That is the entire point of the question being brought up. Omnipotence is a self-contradicting concept unless redefine what it means (all-powerful within the confines of what is possible to do, or all-powerful enough to override the rules of logic, and even overcome its own omnipotence).

why are they shouting so loudly?

The two most obvious explanations are, first, that they think their opponents are so powerful that they must amplify their own arguments just to get a hearing.

It's not about power, it's about their ability to plug their ears and pretend that they didn't hear a thing. But, of course, now that we have gotten their attention, even if it is through a particularly belligerent crowd, we are suddenly assumed to be vicious attackers of religion, regardless of the actual content of what they are saying. They are vicious and belligerent merely by merit of being heard.

Second, they know full well that their own arguments are so weak that they have to obscure this fact with a high-decibel diversion
That describes must religious debaters I have seen (i.e. "no, you!"). But, I am not sure how well that would work in print, and must of these loud, strident atheists tend to keep an indoor-voice while speaking publically. So, what exactly are you responding to?

, do think religion is both powerful and malign. They can point to Islamists for contemporary proof, but add that the current crop of fanatics has hordes of angelic predecessors, stretching back to antiquity.
Religion is indeed powerful, but not necessarily malign. It is just an undue distraction that can serve to alienate even in its most ideal forms, and can serve to justify the worst atrocities in its least. It does serve good, in much the same way that a pacifier and a security blanket can do good. As for "angelic predecessors", I would hardly think that they would be anything but, even without religion.
Every faith, the dogmatic atheists say, contains a seed of violence and torment, even (or especially) among those who see in their religion a command to love their neighbours, including neighbours as obnoxious as these atheist critics.

No, not every faith....just the ones that are popular. Which happen to be the ones that also have those oft forgotten commandments about love, forgiveness, and tolerance. As for being obnoxious....guilty as charged, mofo.
In short, the atheists' dogmatism is as much an expression of the weakness of their position as is the dogmatism of the believers.
Facepalm. Please show me how not liking religion counts as 'dogmatism', and tell me how this position is weak.
What Dawkins and his pals don't seem to get is that religious people are quite happy to think of themselves, for purposes of genetic biology, as survival machines for genes.
They should be, since it does nothing to deprive them of their social existence, or their mental existence, to explain the nature of our physical self to them.
They wonder, for example, where the first gene, selfish or not, came from. Or, if it came from the soup, where did the soup come from? Or the universe as a whole?
Well, the "soup" was just a liquid-suspended selection of chemicals, and the first gene may have been the result of proteins formed in such an environment attaching to one another. Of course, I am not personally educated on that subject. As for where the relevant chemicals came from, we don't know, and neither do you. At least we have the intellectual honesty to not base our entire lives and ideology off of one person's guess about the subject. When it comes down to it, origins are of a nominal interest to atheists in general, because even if it were consistent with a creator deity, then only deism, devoid of doctrine pertaining to the charcacter of the creative agency, would be given credibility. It is an essentially pointless issue in regards to an objective view of possible supernatural entities.
Karl Marx, who was equally dogmatic regarding such questions, said that even raising such questions was a waste of time. They were, he said, "abstract."

Gosh, I need to know this bloke's definition of "dogmatic", because it only takes a few minutes exploring the matter to discover the question of origins is currently unanswerable, and thus, pointless at our current point in time.
And then he told his inquirer to shut up. "Socialist man," he famously declared, "does not ask such questions." That is probably true. Socialist man does not wonder about where it all came from.
Am I the only one seeing the not-so-subtle jab, here? Didn't think so. How original, to imply atheists to be amongst the ranks of Marxists. As for your actual statement: it is perfectly fine to "wonder about where it all came from". It's when you think that you have the answer, posit an unknown and unknowable entity as that answer, and force others to change their lives and accept that answer, without any evidence, that you should rightly be dismissed. But, of course, your "wonder" inevitably falls waist deep into such dogma; real dogma.
The problem, however, is that some people find raising the question, even if they don't know the answer, a meaningful act. They are going to wonder about such things whether Marx or Christopher Hitchens approves.
As above: continue to wonder freely, but just realize that it is not going to necessarily result in an answer, and that if it steers its way into a pile of tangential doctrines and unverifiable beliefs beyond the realm of fanciful speculation, we reserve the right to criticize you.
Wondering means tolerating mysteries. Interestingly enough, it was Socrates, not some religious fanatic so pilloried by the evangelical atheists, who said that philosophy begins in wonder.

Wonder is something enlightened atheists never could abide. No wonder they shout so much.

Atheists can "wonder" and tolerate mysteries just fine. In fact, I would argue that they are the only ones who can truly wonder with sincerity. The only who sincerely want to protect the real mysteries of this life from misrepresentation. Because, it is when mysteries are subverted to further an unverifiable system of beliefs, draining the wonder from all of existence by claiming certainty in regards to a glorified guess, that atheists get most vocal.

And finally, on the issue of why we [apparently, in some hyper-religious version of reality] shout so much: people as "strident" as yourself don't help a hell of a lot.

Til' next time, folks!

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