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The antitheists argue from three areas of concern; the first is that of Truth, then proof and finally harm although I have not found anyone yet that speaks with intelligence that is simply attacking religion for the sake of doing so. It comes from deep concerning worry that religion is causing things to happen that would not be so justifiable without followers believing in versions of God and if the books of God has anything other than the divine to do about it then it always needs to be questioned. There are of course problems with the new atheist movement. Part of the issue has to do with the argument that I have often found myself in that people tend to look at the worst of religion and then make decisions about it, still I have found that this is as such is still a fair way of addressing the issues after all the support of religion appears to still grow. Those that support it are as much a problem as the more fundamental believers, if you believe in a certain level of religious belief then they support the irrational thinking at a certain level and this is the cause of the problems in the first place. No one is ever saying that moderate religious people are incapable of doing good things, this I suggest is because they are good people even if I disagree with the method of thinking of how to be good and this is not an admission that they don’t do harm by their belief, they do, just they don’t mean to! Humanism is the solution to our problems as I will later show, religion even as a pure force of good – is not. The four horsemen is a discussion involving some of the biggest names in the movement and you can watch it online for free. It is about two hours long but it covers all the issues that are presented by the books. Note that I use to term antitheist rather than atheist although I think it is a question of semantics rather than issue of difference in most intelligent people at least.

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.rationalunderstanding.co.uk/religion/a-short-introduction-to-the-rather-new-%e2%80%98atheist%e2%80%99-antitheists-movement/

This is a rewritten version of an earlier post -

These three phenomena cover a wide array of activities and beliefs but share the same broad sense that they break away from what could be considered to be ‘natural’ and move towards trying to produce or support events that cannot be explained unless there is an unsupported theory behind the curtain. They use a selection of common defences in order to make sure of their own continuation, these are claims that are often made outside of the sorts of other logic and reasoning that perhaps every other part of our lives are subjected to. If I were to claim that I was in fact the best stock broker in the world (I know that in these times of financial melt down that most likely is not a difficult claim to make) then you would expect me too to back it up with at least something. If however, I were to claim to have the ability to speak to a family member of yours who has died, if I were really good at reading you and had been through some sort of education which might include Barnum statements & showmanship, I could actually make you believe that I was doing it. Based not on my actual ability but because you are vulnerable (primed even) and you were brought up in a society where even the slight possibility of these things being real means something to you! These three things which I will refer to as general superstitions rely on at least these five common defences that have to be in place or they will simply fail. There are two wider questions; are such superstitions true (the answer is no) and why do they even exist at all, of course these have very complex answers. Part of the reason behind this post was a promotional video for the Centre of Inquiry which describes superstition as ‘uneducated answers’ and how science makes it possible to have educated ones. Still I think it should go further; superstitions are failures in reasoning, as René Descartes promoted – reason & rationality are the sources of truth and the guarantors of progress.

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.rationalunderstanding.co.uk/superstition/the-common-defences-used-by-superstitions-religion-and-sometimes-conspiracy-theories-rational-thinking-pushed-aside/

Please don’t mistake this as anything other than an examination of the gay gene and by far this is not the rejection of the ontological worth any individual places on their inner world that includes the belief that they were born gay. If anyone does truly believe that they were born gay then of course this holds immense value to them by which no method should it ever be undermined. This follows on from a conversation that I had with someone who does believe that. Whilst they were citing functional magnetic resonance imaging and genetics, the strange notion came across that there were simply two choices. The first is that people are born gay and the other that through learning & being brought up in a certain fashion or perhaps by some bad experience with the opposite sex, that they have chosen their sexuality. This in itself is a fallacy, a product of thinking more about reductionism than complexity. There is much more to understanding sexuality than these two opposing perspectives. While I cannot reproduce the complexity of this issue, maybe the suggestion of the combination of both nature and nurture is valid. Still that is not my point, I don’t know where sexuality really comes from but here I reject the notion of being born gay on two grounds.

Read the rest of the post here!

To really understand this documentary slash movie you have to first understand how Intelligent design came about, after all it should at least in theory be different from the theological understanding of why we are here since such a theological argument would never be considered to be science. The whole point of intelligent design is so it could be included within science, mostly the aim is to get it taught in schools as the counter point to evolution, in other words to lift the creationists into the remit of science along the way acquiring the objective weight of true knowledge. At some point I was happy to concede that perhaps Intelligent Design is pushed out to easily, this was the first point made by Ben Stein, no one should be afraid of discourse on any subject. Freely expressed opinions and views are exactly the things that have allowed secular societies to become better for everyone. Now to be honest, after some thought, I want to claim that Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence allowed is simply a dishonest representation of the truth and I will explain why that should be the conclusion. Please do watch the documentary otherwise this won’t make sense even though the first issue is understood if you already know a little about the dispute. Sadly Ben Stein does not appear, at least from his documentary, to understand the argument at all.

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.rationalunderstanding.co.uk/religion/%e2%80%98expelled-no-intelligence-allowed%e2%80%99-is-completely-correct-there-is-no-intelligence-in-it/

In matters of justice the statement ‘There but for the grace of God I go’ should never have to apply, we should demand the same result from any legal ruling to uphold the same standard. Our laws are designed to be fair, just and most importantly to apply to everyone on equal terms, this is important because the statue of justice outside of the Old Bailey Central Criminal Courts in London wears a blindfold to represent something. Not only is justice inescapable it also means that it should never depend upon who is seeking justice and who has committed the crime, it should be blind to these things and only consider the facts of the case. Sharia Law in the UK is already being used through the Arbitration Act 1996, involving both civil and criminal matters. To a certain extent rather than both UK law and Sharia Law working together, the normal form of justice is being removed all together. No one should have a problem with any community seeking justice still everyone should have a problem when they use laws to make unfair judgements legal which are only justifiable to those who follow certain religious beliefs. Most importantly it’s not about taking power away from just courts, Sharia courts have every right to apply British law as long as it remains just, fair and the right thing to do.

Read the rest of the post here: http://www.rationalunderstanding.co.uk/religion/help-stop-sharia-law-in-the-uk/

I don’t really understand why I am even having to write this post, still the subject keeps coming up in debates that religious people have with Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens to name a few, the disbelief is that some people consider this an argument against atheists when it clearly is not. The thing that really gets me is people also use the notion that Hitler had about the idea of “survival of the fittest” as demonstrating that science without religion can only lead to completely negative things. This is not true and please don’t for any moment consider what I am saying as support for the crimes the Nazi’s committed against all of us. Let’s first decide that the term atheist does not mean much at all, read my earlier post [http://therationalunderstanding.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/there-is-no-church-of-atheism-%e2%80%93-what-does-atheism-mean-with-the-help-of-sam-harris/], in short everyone is an atheist about something and Harris puts it right when he rejects this term. Just because you apply the term atheist to describe yourself it does not mean you belong to some sort of group, on the other hand if you are a catholic and you do certain things which are mostly justifiable because of that faith then you do belong to a group and the group should be held accountable. Ignoring the technical definition of atheist let’s just use the idea that it just means you don’t belong to a group as a working hypothesis, the only thing that atheists agree upon is the rejection of religion. I like to also consider what “science” means, for a start it is not an alternative belief system and there is no church of science. Although science can provide a reason to why religion is wrong, it does not aim to replace it as it deals with a completely different set of constructs. Although the rejection of the ideas of science and atheism in certain terms makes the point, what I want to argue is that rational understanding is the best way, something which includes the rejection of magic (religion) and unfounded ideas but includes in part accepting the tools of science as long as it is rational.

 

Did religion play any part in the final solution? It would be wrong to assume that just because Hitler rejected the Catholic Church as something very distasteful that it had nothing to do with it, after all he wanted to be the God so there was no need for any others, the centuries of discrimination towards Jewish people was a feature of religion. There are many reasons to why the regime came about but it must have not been helped by this, it actually becomes a justification in one of Hitler’s speeches about why the Jewish people are the cause of all known problems it ended in ‘… as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people’, he also cited Christian Love and the need to fight the Jews in the same speech (Cited in Letter to a Christian nation, Harris). It was yet another reason to why the politics of Germany could be helped by religion, has religion ever been outside politics? Well no this time, the Catholic Church agreed to make Hitler a saint upon his death and also ordered that on his birthday all churches in Germany to offer prayers for him. Why would the church care about the final solution since it achieved more in a few years than they had gotten done in centuries, it’s clear that between 40 & 50% of the SS, the ones that were responsible for the most killing and the final solution, were practicing Catholics none of them got kicked out of the church because of their part in such crimes. It is important to remember that Hitler was just one man and the SS were about 6 million strong, so the reason to why the Jewish people were considered subhuman thus making them not treatable as humans is in part due to the Church. The dogma helped to create the regime and their inaction against such a thing speaks towards what would have been the moral thing to do.

 

image.guardian.co.uk

image.guardian.co.uk

 

Were Hitler and the Nazis rational? The German archaeologists of the first part of the 20th century fronted the way offering new methods and massive advancements, still during the time when the Nazis were in power none of these scientists would dare speak out against the notion of the Arian race. Nazi racial theory believed that the Arian race were descendants of the lost city of Atlantis, the blonde blue eyed survivors were the pure race, Atlantis was destroyed when the earth went through its last cycle and the moon crashed into the earth. When it comes to science the evidence must support the theory, it did not and this moves the theory away from rational belief and towards dogma. There is also another side to the wrongful claim of science and that is the notion of “survival of the fittest” which is also claimed that Hitler in particular was thought to believe in strongly and which also went towards the racial theory. This is an assumption based on the idea that we are still subject to that rule, which we are not in most part. Humans have been outside of this natural law for a long time; we take care of our grandparents for example, even past the point where they don’t provide a use. Altruism is common enough and is also outside of this simple survival of the fittest model of explanation. From this we can conclude that racial theory is not rational at all, it’s based on assumptions and fear which is never a real reflection of things. Science is often seen as rational and powerful, still science means knowledge and this is useful when trying to understand other regimes. For example Hitchens argues that the people of North Korea are kept away from knowledge as this is dangerous to the leadership. The knowledge that the Nazis did not want people to know is that there are no genetic differences between groups of people. Neither true science nor rational thought played much of a part in the Nazis creation of racial theory.

The new atheist movement is not just about pointing out that religion is wrong it is also about inquiry, Sam Harris in a debate with David Wolpe said something which was very powerful; the sorts of regimes that cause endless suffering and death are not the result of vast inquiry rather none at all. So to point the finger at atheists blaming them for such regimes is wrong since it is not what the discussion is about, the atheist discussion is examination. Religion is closest to the regimes than it is to the inquiry provided by the new atheist movement, most religious people feel more comfortable about just accepting and using speculation rather than trying to find the real answers. There are lots of examples of this; one is that of Stem Cell research, people that argue that it is wrong are often concern for a small number of cells than about human suffering because they have not been through the inquiry that strongly suggests stem cells are just cells and don’t have a soul. Religion helped create the final solution, it certainly did not help to stop it and of course rational understanding is not promoted within religion. These are the reasons to why not only atheism cannot be criticised for such regimes and more guilt, although admittedly not all, can be placed upon religion. Last of all Dawkins puts it like this, such regimes are not performed in the name of atheism, and in fact they are done in the name of unchallenged belief. So it is up to us all to challenge the non-rational and that includes religion.

Koukl is a religious man and the main point of disagreement is based upon the idea the new atheists make assumptions in order to make their argument work. In particular he attacks Dawkins in the God Delusion based on the summary on page 188, although it is clear that most likely a summary of what is being said is only as strong as the arguments that precede it, he does not concern himself with that in this presentation. Unlike Koukl I’ve actually read the argument before I got to the summary so I understood where these comments came from. By the same measure I would be guilty of committing the logical fallacy of ‘straw man’ by suggesting that Christianity is appalling as it teaches that it does not matter what actions you perform, no matter how morally wrong they are, after all if you say sorry then you will be forgiven. Of course this is not true and is an oversimplification based on not knowing enough about Christianity. Koukl is making it seem very easy to discount what Dawkins is trying to put across, the fact that people are listening to him worries me greatly since he does not actually show why it is wrong. Saying “this does not advance the argument” over and over again as a criticism of Dawkins is at least hypocritical since, as Robin Ince puts it, the suggestion is the religious argument is “the magic man done it”. For this reason I think it is fair to cite religion has an inhibitor of generating knowledge as it is normally the end of the conversation never the start. Let’s go to Koukl’s points:

Dawkins summary point 1 is “One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how one of the complex, improbable appearances of design in the universe arises” Koukl responds to this by saying that statement does not advance the argument, it’s just an opening assertion and has nothing to do with the conclusion [post hoc: god does not exist]. This is really relevant, to give you a taste of it what Dawkins meant, he wrote about why it took us so long to see evolution as the possible creator of the complex things that are in our environment. That first makes it clear that it is difficult to understand the place we find ourselves in and also that we have the need or want to understand it at least in some form. In particular God is one of the possible answers, it fills the need that we all have. Dawkins highlights the argument of the worship of the gaps, in other words when we cannot explain something either by lack of intelligence, knowledge or ability then it is very simple to argue God did it. From what we do understand about our place in the universe it seem so difficult to us to imagine the forces that created the complex objects in it. I think this speaks to our psychology and it is relevant because it shows us explaining things is not only difficult it also goes to explain that we often get it wrong. This is why religion is here, not as a true account for things but as a useful tool set (to an extent).

Dawkins summary point 2 is “The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design with actual design itself…” Koukl responded by saying it is natural to assume design when things look like they have been and therefore, again this does not advance the argument. Dawkins is very clear on this point, mostly because Koukl missed out the second half of this statement. We see complex objects that are designed by us, for example a watch or computer, using this same form of logic we can then assume that in order for humans to exist therefore, something more complex than us must have designed us. In other words we cannot see that the horseshoe could have made the blacksmith, it is not how our experience allows us to think. Just because something comes to us naturally that does not result in it being true. Taking an example from another Dawkins book, the blind watchmaker, it is perfectly logical to see a beach where the large stones are set further away from the water and the smaller stones closer to it. If you don’t understand roughly the ideas of wave power and gravity then how could you assume anything other than someone sorted the stones out to make that pattern. Just seeing something which appears to be designed does not mean that it has been designed, that is just another assumption. It advances the argument because it challenges our assumptions of the forces that could have created living things, including us and the universe.

Dawkins summary point 5 is “although we currently have no natural explanation for the appearance of design but we should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.” Koukl responded by saying we don’t have evidence but maybe we will get some, these are irrelevant features of the dispute because yet again this does not advance the argument. Dawkins and Koukl, at least I think Koukl is, referring to the key numbers that allow for the right chemical and physics conditions which allow for living things to exist, such as the power of certain forces that appear to be constant everywhere. I have a problem with Dawkins, which I don’t have with many other writers, rather than sticking to the subject Dawkins talks about science as almost the replacement for religion. Don’t get me wrong it is and I can see how this argument is formed, it is just most people don’t understand science and it creates comments like Koukl’s. I think the correct response to Koukl is in the summary point made by Dawkins; we as yet do not know how the universe was created to which we may not have answers for a long time. Still the point is before evolution we did not see how the complex objects on earth could have been created without a creator, so the door is open for an explanation similar to that of evolution to explain the universe. This I suggest is much more of an honest approach than God done it. If we can get to an explanation for the universe which is equal to evolution in terms of its power, then the requirement for God is once again reduced.

Koukl misses out large parts of the summary points, there is of course 187 pages before Dawkins makes the summary points so no one is better to explain how Dawkins got there than Dawkins. The point is missed and although I have only highlighted certain issues you can see the general direction and how it does provide the all important advancement to the argument. Koukl argues that all these points of at fault due to Circularity still this is not how I see it. Go and read the book for yourself because the answers are all in there, it is a shame that Koukl did not really bother to do that. Stating Dawkins summary point 1 is the start of the argument does show that he either did not read or did not understand all the pages leading up to summary points on page 188. Koukl is guilty of not advancing the argument and circularity, he does not understand critical thinking and reasoned thought, and that is what is wrong with Christian views – they are unable to see how other people don’t think like them! Dawkins added something to the debate, Koukl did not!

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