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Posts Tagged ‘bible’

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 [https://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.

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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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Dawkins
I arrived at this debate whilst it was still going on, the new atheist movement had already started going through the motions before I picked up my copy of the God delusion and the debate about lack of evidence of God has been going for hundreds of years. My life prior to the God Delusion, the book that is not my belief in God, had never really involved anything to do with religion to much extent or so I thought. However, after reading just half of the book I started to notice the things what were going on with a new kind of light such as suicide bombers, the conflict in the middle east, the conflict in Northern Ireland, the horrible & nasty things Muslims were doing to other Muslims in Iraq, these things really started to worry me even though they felt distant. This anxiety and worry did not stop there as I carried on reading; in fact I read almost everything I could get my hands on including news paper articles and watching recorded lectures on the subject. To my horror the threat of religion to me started to become so much clearer not just to me either, to all of us the role and place of religion is so intertwined with social norms, our laws and methods of daily living that if religion has anything other than the divine to do with it then we should all be very apprehensive.

So that left me the question; is there anything other than the divine about religion? So I came up with this, Christianity and Islam are very different, they have different laws and boundaries, so if I assume that one of these is right and one is wrong, how do I tell which is the correct religion. Both of these religions pretty much state that nonbelievers should be killed, this is taken from God’s word of either the Bible or the Koran, although conversion is also an option. If one is that of the divine and other a pack of lies, how would God direct me to make the right and noble choice? I feel a general level of distaste towards both of them really and this brings me to the most fundamental point I have ever considered – why do people never seem to really benefit from praying to the correct God and suffer from worshiping the one that happens to be wrong? I am of course, not a God, though I think that I would just at some point say that is enough I am going to give my true followers some weapon, ‘cause I don’t really want to get my hands dirty, which will help them kill off all the nonbelievers, that will be an end to all the fighting and everyone will know where they stand. The response to that by catholics at least is that God needs us to suffer and return that information in order to add towards the knowledge of God, still unless God has some serious special needs that information has already been served and what else can we take from that other than God wants us all to suffer in the most horrible manner possible.

I personally cannot tell the difference between a religion of the divine and the others that are just a pack of lies and no one has ever offered to take me on the journey of demonstrating the divine. There is no evidence of divine, other than some emotional reaction to the world and if all the things I mentioned at the start such as conflicts and attacks did not come from the divine then we need to attack the systems that allow these things to happen. This is the first justification to attack religion. The next justification is taken from Steven Pinker’s study on violent crime, I have used Pinker’s work before, this time it is about the things that we feel compassion towards and how we started to care for others. He used it in terms of why violent crime has been reduced, part of this is due to the circle of expanding empathy, first we only care about our family and others are seen as non-human. It expands over time to include clans, nations, races, both sexes, animals and so on. Each time the circle expands it includes greater numbers of people to whom we then consider the realm of their potential pain and suffering (Peter Singer). In essence we consider the possibility that we could be outside the circle and as a result probably suffer in this event and this changes how we approach & deal with others that are not like us. I carry this on to include people that happen to be born into religious families or societies; I can understand and empathise with them about the possible suffering they might have to endure. If religion causes harm then it is right to attack religion for this.

It is both very easy for me to state religion causes harm and also very difficult, the difficulty comes because often people will disagree with the statement choosing rather the idea that they only benefit. Part of the problem is that once people have purchased into a religion they don’t want to feel that their personal effort, time and suffering is simply the result of their own wrongness and large parts of their life has been wasted. Much like when Marxists argue that the capitalist revolution won’t happen as most people have already brought into the capitalists game, such as owning a house or having money, so they are unwilling to lose that even though they would ultimately benefit in the long run. I will not insult your intelligence here at least half, for a safe bet that is, of all religious activity can be seen as causing harm. The fact that stem cell research might be disallowed in America as the result of a religious debate would harm millions of people in the future who suffer from presently incurable diseases, it is perfectly acceptable to have the stem cell debate based on science and morality not that of religious morality since the law in America forbids this. If governments make decisions based upon their religious convictions this is wrong, it should be decided on by rational thinking and acceptable standards that society as a whole confirm with in an honest presentation of the information. The suffering that religious people could cause to others is great. In Pakistan a blind girl was sentenced to be stoned to death for being a victim of rape, in the end after much suffering and public humiliation she was acquitted, this suffering was the result of women being considered second class and thus outside the circle of compassion in Islam. Religion causes suffering, the humanists try to stop it and this is why attacks upon religion are justified. I care about others suffering and I want to see an end to it.

There are of course religious people that are kind and also humanists this leads me to the next justification, which is the power that is handed over to officers of religion, be it priests or whatever. I have already written about how a Muslim cleric, in my post about Karen Armstrong’s case for compassion gone wrong, that claimed that the polio vaccine was a plot against Islam and this resulted in 2005 in another outbreak and the deaths of children. Why did this happen and for that matter why did the rape of children occur within the Catholic Church by priests? Why are the only people in the UK that are allowed to make public hate speeches about Jewish people and gay people Muslim clerics? Why is the choice of contraception taken away from women who would have under the concept of equal rights be would allowed to choose for themselves? It is at some point that people have handed over their freedom and allowed the officers of religion to have it. You could counter my argument that these officers reflect God’s word; it is however, a false statement to make since God’s word is never all that clear in the first place. It is God’s word to stone children if they talk back to their parents, this as far as I know does not happen in Christian societies which leads me to believe that either the officers made the choice this is unacceptable in which case morality of nonbelievers is greater than that of God or they have made the decision that other matters are more important and that if they try to convince parents of this they are likely to lose them for their other causes. If this is the case why do we allow these officers to tell us what to do in any situation? If you see it like I see it, these officers are not from God but from their own greed for power or money or both. This is why it is justifiable to attack religion.

I fear that this is the point where most will start to strongly disagree with me, let me explain the last point but perhaps in a somewhat clearer way. I have often come across the situation where people claim that God will save them. What I think is happening here is either the event they are going through is either at no point controlled by them, which makes it somewhat understandable or the situation appears to be too difficult for people to deal with. Relying on God to save me, how disempowering is this notion? To accept that God is the only force in the world that could change the events in your life leaves people powerless. I have written about this in one of my earlier posts, the empowerment of people is one of the most important things anyone can do whether this means women taking their power back from men or everyone taking back power from God. As soon as people do this the world becomes a better place and a place were more good things happen than bad things. I remember a Fr. Benedict Groeschel telling this story, it is not word for word but the general direction is the same. There was going to be a great flood and this old couple said to each other, ‘don’t worry God will save us’, so they stayed in their home. The police asked them to go with them to get them out of danger; still the couple ignored the police because they thought God was going to save them. The flood waters started to rise; the fire people came along in their boat and tried to get the couple in the boat and away from danger. Still they refused to leave because they thought that God was going to save them. The flood waters got higher and the couple had to climb onto the roof, then a rescue helicopter came along and the crew tried to get the couple off the roof, still they refused because they thought that God would save them. The flood waters got higher and the couple died! When the couple got to heaven they asked God why he let them die and God replied, ‘you fools, I sent the police to take you to a safe place but you refused. Then I sent the fire service to get you out of the flood waters, still you refused. Last of all I sent the rescue helicopter in my last attempt to save your lives but again you refused. What fools you are!” I could not help thinking the moral of the story was wrong; God took credit for the people’s actions. It was not God rather the police officers, the fire service and the crew of the rescue helicopter who all took part because they were compassionate people that wanted to make the world a better place. How dare God take that away from people? I will vote on the side of empowerment and this is the justification for my attack on religion. It’s proven that people can make the world a better place.

 

To start off with I did talk about the idea of truth, as in there is no evidence to suggest that there is a correct religion, this issue could be explored for pages, I won’t though. A lot of religious speakers point to a lack of intellectual honesty on behalf of those that speak against there being a God, this situation is the wrong way around. An example of this is when Rabbi Shmuley Boteach said in a debate with Christopher Hitchens that circumcision is good since many HIV infected countries are considering it in order to prevent the disease spreading. The argument was ha ha you see circumcision of babies is a good thing; this lacks intellectual honesty, since the reason behind religious circumcision is not the prevention of being infected with HIV it is for other reasons. If circumcision is argued for other reasons then it must be for those arguments which are dealt with when talking about this issue, to side line into other arguments is wrong. It is like me trying to make a bomb to destroy an entire country and in the process creating a free source of energy, no one can deny the benefit of my discovery of free energy but to claim that it was always my intention to do so is not from intellectual honesty, it is a lie, I was trying to create a massive bomb that would kill millions in one go. This is the type of dishonesty that goes around and is presented by religious speakers, dinosaurs on the Noah’s ark is an example of post hoc quick thinking that religious people try to teach as fact. Let me say when I was young and I learnt about Noah I certainly never made any paintings with dinosaurs on his ark. For this reason it is justifiable for me to attack religion.

These are my base reasons for why I attack religion and I have found that most in the atheist movement have similar concepts or combinations of these reasons. Dawkins is very much based on the idea of truth whereas Hitchens is very much based on the idea of religion doing harm. The motive for the attacks on religion is not based on the notion that we should simply attack religion, there are reasons and at the heart of those reasons is a deep caring for others.

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www.writespirit.net

It is a bit of No – Since I have never believed in the idea that religion should receive special treatment I don’t understand the argument to why reading the religious books is necessary in order to understand religions. Let’s take this from a different perspective most people use technology everyday whether it’s a computer or a mobile phone, how many of those people really understand what makes it work? Most will have a rough understanding of the components that fix together to make it work as a whole, this is about were the knowledge stops. When expressing an opinion about a mobile phone it is done on the usefulness, the attractiveness, what is new and how it makes things easier, so in other words the opinion is not the result of a technical view of the mobile rather the end result, whether its benefits or services that it provides are good quality. This I suggest is also possible with Religion, to understand Christian’s and their beliefs we can look at the end result, there actions or inaction, from this we understand what religious people are all about and how they are different from us. I recently blogged about how Islamic law in Pakistan prevented a rape victim speaking out and bringing the police officer that raped her to justice. Many Muslims that I know in the UK have found this shocking, so can we blame this on religion? Yes even though many Muslims would find this distasteful, the Koran has to answer for its end results. If the Koran is allowed to exist then it has to answer for what people do within the elevated position the Koran provides them. A lot of my earlier understanding of religion has come from the end result of how people act in accordance with their belief.

The answer is also a bit of Yes – I will use another analogy, if you go to a psychologist you can sit there and have the process pushed upon you, the only understanding is that you’re having something done to you. If it’s a good psychologist they will include you in the process and from that you’d learn the methods which you could then later use yourself. You never learn the whole body of knowledge of psychology rather you learn some of its rationale & methods and this is in part what religious teachers do. In particular those teachers are a good source of information, they present an argument based on the idea of A for the reason of B and this allows you to see the process which was involved and in turn start to understand their logic & internal world. Unlike in the No part of this answer, if I wanted to criticise religion you can present evidence or an alternative of A for reason C. I do accept that here I am making a jump because as a non-religious person I would want to criticise religion, still the same is true if you wanted to learn about another religion or more about yours. I am personally fed up of religious text or quotes that are basically unclear and wishy washy in the first place being used to promote religion as a good thing. Especially, when it seems there are as many negative evil religion text or quotes that really does present religion in a bad light.

The point of this post is to confirm to everyone that at a certain level the you can judge religion by its followers; after all I am not a Christian, Muslim or Jew so why should I have to read their religious books. They should and then I will be able to judge what those books are say by watching religious people and their behaviour. It is about what is happening in the real world which is more important than the words, if the words are wrong we will be able to tell.

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Daily Mail
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Ok lets have it out, I don’t like the Daily Mail most of the time its these bloody foreigners taking our jobs or something like that, still one article I read was very interesting. And no I did not buy the paper, I just read it and put it back on the shelf and yes, it was a bloody library. Anyway, Benny Shannon from Hebrew University of Jerusalem points out that perhaps the biblical stories are a result of drug use, Professor Shannon even points out places in the bible where it actually mentions drug use. This is of course, is not a very new theory and its’ not clear evidence. Could mind altering drugs be the cause behind biblical stories?

Source: Daily Mail 2008

Full story : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=525993&in_page_id=1770

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