Friday, July 27, 2007

Answers, expansions, and clarifications

   There have been some really great comments made on the last entry I posted, wherein I answered some common questions posed by the religious to the irreligious. I wanted to reply to some of them, and to expand on some of my answers in response to requests by a few people.

Dan,
   Thanks for the compliment re: the "is sobriety an addiction" line. When I wrote my first draft of those answers I had the old "if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby" adage penciled in, but I have never really liked that statement's use of the word 'not.' I preferred to make a more actively positive statement, and after a little thought I hit upon that. I'm glad you like it. Use it unattributed and your ass is grass.
   Regarding my answer about the world being better off (or not) without religion, I have to point out that there have been dark periods in the history of the western world. There have been times when the church has acted as a guardian of knowledge against a rising tide of barbarism. I believe it was called 'the dark ages.' During the long crawl out of that pit of chaos that peaked in the rennaissance, the church acted as a driving force in both education and scientific inquiry. There have been periods in our relatively recent history when the only people who knew how to read and write were the priests and monks of the Christian church. People who wanted their children to get an education, sent them to the seminary, or to live in an abbey somewhere.
   At some point that all changed. I suspect the tipping point was the increasing politicisation of the Catholic church during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century. The whole inerrancy of The Bible idea was set in stone at about that time, and we all know what happens to things set in stone. They stay put. For centuries.

Simon,
   Ours is a corporeal existence. "Ugly bags of mostly water," we are little else. I touched upon this in two different answers yesterday, but only in passing, and not explicitly. When we die, that thing which we percieve as "us" ceases to exist. We have no non-corporeal segment of ourselves. No part of our consciousness survives our bodily death. This I believe. When I die, "I" will be completely gone, except in the hearts and minds of those who remember me. So it goes. (I was going to tap your chestwith a glowing finger and whisper, "I'll be right here," but I thought that would be over dramatic.)

Jenny,
   Did you have no exposure to religion in your childhood? Did you never attend church with your parents, or grandparents, or the Girl Scouts? Were you completely absent any kind of belief in God before you "met the living Jesus?" Somehow I doubt it. (By the way, what's this Jesus guy like? Tall, short? What colour are his eyes? Is he clean shaven or does he sport a little soul patch? What colour is his hair? What was he wearing? What does his voice sound like? I know you think these questions are flippant, but I ask them in all seriousness.)
   I have to say I found your resources interesting. I also found your angle of approach fascinating. When you talked about evidence supporting The Bible, I naturally assumed you meant evidence supporting what The Bible is about - the existence of God. I didn't think you meant evidence supporting the accuracy of what is essentially background information.
   I have never questioned the historical accurracy of The Bible. I'm sure some of the personages and events described therein are highly fictionalized. I also accept that a great many of the people and places mentioned actually existed. But this is all beside the point. The fact that archeological evidence supports much of the historical background of The Bible in no way supports its prime claim - that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being directing our lives. Where is your evidence supporting that?
   Your comments also bring to the fore one of my biggest pet peeves: the intellectual dishonesty of religious apologetics. Those websites to which you provided links are lying to you. Sure, every single piece of information they provided is factual. Their falshood is one of ommission. By presenting a list of things in The Bible that can be shown to be accurate, or 'true' if you like, they are, without ever saying so, implying that the rest of The Bible is true as well. Even though they know this is not the case, when they are called on it, they can feign innocence by saying, "we never said everything was true." They are lying just as surely as those who claim there is strong evidence to suggest humans and dinosaurs coexisted.
   Regarding myth. Many mythologies have factual elements. In fact, adding factual elements to a story to lend it an air of "verisimilitude" is an age-old literary technique. For example...
fact: A fellow named Yeshua (Jesus) was executed by the Romans by means of crucifixion during the early first century.
myth: He rose from the dead three days later and walked around showing people the holes in his hands, feet, and side, then bodily ascended into the sky.
fact: The Israelites conquered, sacked and demolished the city of Jericho with a mighty military force.
myth: They blew their horns and the walls all came spotaneously tumbling down.

Tags:
, , , , ,

16 comments:

princesssaurora said...

Oooh... I want to see you kick Dan's ass.. because except in writing online, you know he is SOOOOOO going to use that in person with people and take all the credit because it is a fabulous... genius analogy.

be well,
Dawn

plittle said...

Just remembered this: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/07/we_all_seem_to_be_in_an_arithm.php
-Paul

princesssaurora said...

Cute link Paul...

be well,
Dawn

dpoem said...

Sorry Dawn.  The only lines I use on people are the quality lines I've learned from Larry on Three's Company.  

-Dan
http://thewisdomofadistractedmind.blogspot.com/

simianfarmer said...

Paul, I think I'm a relatively handsome sack of water, but I take your point.

The only real exception I take to both these last two posts, and which Brent has already stated, is that you're making claims or stating opinions in a manner that comes across fully as incontrovertible as the religious dogma with which you take issue.  And the tone, impersonal as writing often seems, has an element of belittling at times, sort of like you can't believe you have to explain this to grown adults.

"You just don't recognise where that is."
"I mean, really, why is it so important to you?"
"I don't know, and neither do you."
"If there is a God, there's no way he's going to accept that kind of provisional belief."
"Why should I respect yours?"

Now, you've said in the past that you assume the same sort of evangelical tone for your posts pimping atheism as can be found in similar religious posts promoting a certain type of belief in a god.  I can appreciate the intent behind that, but the effect on me, at least, in promoting reason and the scientific method with such unyielding language weakens, marginally, the argument as a whole.

I'm taking issue with this because I buy into most of what you have to say, and friendly debate is a lot more fun than silent agreement or a little obligatory head-nodding.

Simon
http://simianfarmer.com

plittle said...

Simon,
  I sometimes do feel frustrated, because, much like the "militant atheist" example in the Pharyngula post I linked to below, these things all seem so self evident to me. I've understood that God is nothing more than an adult analogue of Santa Claus since I was about nine years old. I've never had that nebulous feeling that there is *something more* than just this life. Some would say that I've never been blessed to experience the holy spirit. I prefer to believe that I've never suffered that hallucination that seems so common to our species (and that scientists can now recreate in the lab, by the way).
-Paul

grwighter said...

The manner in which you have chosen to reply to Simon re-inforces his point. Most enjoy lively and respectful discussion but endure lectures.

jennyp51 said...

Of course i had exposure to religion as a child, every child of my age did, we had prayers and a hymn every day at school.  My parents were never church goers and only went for hatch, match and dispatch.  I didn't really believe in God so never got married in church or had my kids baptised.

Like you i sometimes feel frustrated at times and think somewhat like Simon.  I feel that your arguments loose something when you make assumptions and state beliefs as facts.  Things that seem self evident to you are not to people who have different experiences or collection of evidence to sift through.

You say that the websites i found are lying to me.  I don't except that, i believe they are just answering people who say there is no archeological evidence, or the bible has the facts wrong.  I think we all have to be careful that we don't fall into the trap of using emotional manipulation or value judgements when we try to get our points of view across.

I will try to explain how i 'know' Jesus at a later date, i must do some work.
Jeny <><

simianfarmer said...

Pharyngula link is blocked at work.  Must be language.  

Since these things all seem so self evident to you, you must obviously understand that an entirely different batch of things would seem evident to any another person.  In the same way as your example of our morals coming from society in the previous post, so too do many of our religious beliefs.  Or non-belief, as the case may be.  What became obvious to you at nine may have been an epiphany to somebody else, raised in a different tradition, the foundation of which provided reason for a different belief given the exact same data.

When I say "you must obviously understand", I mean that I know how intelligent you are and assume you take into account how various perspectives skew the interpretation of events.

The more I think about it, the more important I think the issue of respecting various beliefs.  (Harking back to your comment, "Why should I respect yours?")   Respect, not for the belief you don't share, but for someone who espouses it.  The very slippery slope that exists here is the extent to which this can, and has been, abused.  Most obviously by the Intelligent Design movement.  Even if we don't share the belief, we ought to respect it enough to allow it to be taught in school, right?

No, I disagree with that.  The danger lies in respect for your opinion evolving to where you assume entitlement to foist it on others, thereby reneging on the implicit claim of respecting their belief in turn.  It's the presumption that you know better and therefore have a right - nay, an obligation! - to enlighten the ignorant.

(I use 'you' generically here.)

Everyone has a right to their own belief for whatever reasons make sense to them.  It's when someone pipes up and says, "No!  You're wrong, and should not hold that belief," that I think a line has been crossed.  Pimp your stuff all you want, but don'

simianfarmer said...

To finish that incomplete thought below:

Pimp your stuff all you want, but don't diss mine.

Simon
http://simianfarmer.com

Dude, comment number 7 was your dad, wasn't it?  You just got PWNed!

princesssaurora said...

Paul,

As Simon said in #5... you do get a bit preachy and chosing to do so because 'they did it first' is really a bullshit excuse.  I mean really.  And, your dad soooo rocks!  he he

be well,
Dawn
http://journals.aol.com/princesssaurora/CarpeDiem/

fisherkristina said...

Paul,

Did you erase my comments that I just sent you, and if so, why?

Krissy :)
http://journals.aol.com/fisherkristina/SometimesIThink :)

fisherkristina said...

I'm sorry Paul, mea culpa, you did not erase my comments, LOL.  My bad!  Please forgive me.  :(

Krissy
http://journals.aol.com/fisherkristina/SometimesIThink

bpslider45 said...

OK Krissy, I'll bite.
What are your comments???
Ya can't just leave us hanging now!
Brent

plittle said...

 Krissy's comments appear two entries back, on the post prior to the one in which I answered the questions.
-Paul

bpslider45 said...

Ahhhh.
Now it all makes sense. Sort of.
Thanks Krissy.
Nice to know I'm not the only one to goof up now and then.
Brent