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Posts Tagged ‘Hitchens’

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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Don’t get me wrong I really like these books and the world is a much better place with people like Dawkins and Hitchens in it. The attack on religion is an important one; it challenges yet again the position of religion and the role that it should take in our societies. It enables non-believers a position to argue against and reject those that force religion upon them. They also offer a method of causing a debate with your friends. Still they only attack religion and never God, if we assume that God is different to that presented by religion. There are two problems with these books, the first is that the books are only written for those that are against or are not sure about religion in the first place. While watching many religious people attack the likes of Dawkins (et al) it’s clear that the debate will never be won. Yes they produce awareness and they are interesting but I don’t see the removal of the Pope in the near future or the end of religious violence through the acceptance of the atheists’ model. It just does not work like that, people will not abandon religion through the attack of faith it’s more likely they will become disillusioned with religious false promises. It is then the atheist’s gang that will get a new member! I will write more about the abandonment of religion in the near future so I will not go into depth here. It is difficult to see the progress that Dawkins and Hitchens make in their attack although this might be different across countries. They should attack religion but not religious people there is no point, there is a point however in making sure that religion is different from government as much as we can, this should be our right which we all need to fight for. By religious people I mean your friends or people you meet, this does not include those that make public comments or talk about their religion as they are in public view and demand to be answered.

*http://richarddawkins.net

There was a video clip I watched, I have forgotten the name of the author, it made the impression that it was pointless entering into a discussion. In other words there is as much point in arguing about the rights & wrongs of religion with a religious person as there is trying to teach string theory to a really f**king stupid monkey. You will never get anywhere, this does not mean I think religious people are stupid (well everyone can be stupid at times), it just means at some point you are just wasting your energy. Where does that leave us non-believers? There still needs to be challenges to religion, however this is not a new thing and it’s been happening for longer than you think. If it was not challenged then it would destroy everything and I mean that, it would crash into our lives and everyone should be angry about that. It is also right that Hitchens should name and shame religious practices that are wrong, if it keeps happening maybe they will change or maybe everyone else will start to look down on religion and that would be a good thing. Other than fun the new atheists’ books might help atheists plus the general group of semi-believers, this is a useful and good step. I don’t really think it should ever be addressed at religious people though. I would also suggest that you must keep the good name of atheists, although I disagree with that term, answer religious people with thought and consideration.

The second error: Melvin Konner illustrates an impressive analogy, although he suggests it is a poor one but I think it explains a lot. To paraphrase it; the books of the new atheists are very much like writing a book about water. You could have chapters on floods, tornados, hurricanes and you could also state that most of the water on the earth has salt in it thus making it poisonous to humans. From this you would conclude that water does more harm than good, since all you have read is about the harm water does rather than the good things it can do. Much like the new atheists books, there is a focus of harm and that would of course make you angry about the ideas that have been presented. There is no balance, Konner suggests, to the approach that has been taken and this is the case when reading some of Dawkin’s work on evolution and how it is being attacked by Christian America. It would worry me more if that this was the standard Christian approach to evolution, although the Pope, who in my book is not a man of pure good, finds that evolution is not in conflict with Christianity. This is perhaps the error of new atheists, to simply assume that religion is just a force for evil and even though it can be that never should mean we should focus only on that aspect. There has been a very strong reaction towards these books, strong is good but sometimes its also important to remember that balance is important. I am also guilty on no balance, but being an atheist & hopefully a rational person I will also listen to the other side of the argument when it is shown. So should you! An argument is different from the ‘I am right, you are wrong’ approach.

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