Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Writer's Block

I've been stewing around for a few days with nothing much to say. Not here anyway. I've spent the last several posts either authoring silliness or taking trips down memory lane.

Since I haven't been able to come up with any of my own thoughts, I decided to delve into other people's ideas. Stealing material is good.

I have been slowly making my way through Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. It's not a particularly long book. I'm just a very slow reader. It's just full of goodies to quote. Let's see.

Actually, Dawkins quotes a lot of people, too.

Here's a couple for you:

"It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan

Yes!!!

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under god." - George H.W. Bush

Note that George Sr. is just as stupid as his son. Jr. came by it honestly.

Here is a lengthy quote actually written by Dawkins:

"Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don't have to make the case for what you believe. If somebody announces that it is part of his faith the rest of society, whether of the same faith, or another, or of none, is obliged, by ingrained custom, to 'respect' it without question; respect it until the day it manifests itself in a horrible massacre like the destruction of the World Trade Center, or the London or Madrid bombings. Then there is a great chorus of disownings, as clerics and 'community leaders' . . . line up to explain that this extremism is a perversion of the 'true' faith. But how can there be a perversion of faith, if faith, lacking objective justification, doesn't have any demonstrable standard to pervert?" (The italics and quotation marks above are Dawkins'.)

Dawkins takes a jab at even the "moderately" faithful in that they provide, in effect, a stepping stone to radicalism. Think of all the children in muslim schools learning the way of islam, that all not of their faith are infidels and, therefore, their enemies. These kids are the bulk seed of future muslim radicals, the fodder for suicide bombings. Think of American youth being brainwashed in fundamentalist christian schools. Think of the movie Jesus Camp. Those kids represent the next generation of "christian soldiers" marching onward.

Susan Jacoby, in her book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism cites results of a poll of Americans by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, that "the secularist minority is much larger than any non-Christian religious group" in the USA. Jacoby further notes that up to around 16% of the US population is "predominantly secular." Around 14% "have no formal ties to religion."

That given, Jacoby notes that while jews, muslims, hindus and buddhists among others are routinely encouraged to participate in public forums around the nation, secularists, humanists, agnostics and atheists are rarely invited to share the dais. Jacoby states "The message is clear: we may be a multicultural people, but we're all respectable [only] as long as we worship God in some way."

Of course, this last ties together with the Bush quote above. Doubters and non-believers have little cache' in this country. As I've stated, and as I believe, while gays remain a hated target of christians, the godless are generally tolerated even less. We are hated and feared because we question the very basis of believers' raison d'etre. As it happens, most American gays are religious, consider themselves christians, and believe in god. Non-believers represent the true threat to god's people.

It is true. Dawkins claims that "religion" is the problem. It is religion and, consequently, belief in any god, or some other "higher power" on which we non-believers must take aim. The godsters are gonna get us all killed.

TLS

9 comments:

jazzycat said...

Terry,
How's that global warming going up there in good ole Indiana? If you get some, send it on down here to Miss. as it has been a cold fall.

When those guys (Hawkins, Sagen, etc.) explain to me how something can come from nothing or how matter/energy can be self-existant, then I will consider their view more. I believe a super intellegent being (God) might be the answer to the problem. Do not forget there are brilliant scientists who do believe in God........

Gregg100 said...

jazzycat, I'm curious why you don't wonder how God began, and how whoever created God began and on to an infinite regression the same way you question the beginning of the "matter/energy". Let's hope the theoretical physicists are ultimately able to show that the "Big Bang" was really only a physcial phenomenon in a continuum of a Universe or multiverse that has always existed.

TerryS: "Open Campus" is back on the air.

Terry S said...

Gregg,

It's great to see you back at it. I have read your recent posts and have some comments that I will try to get to soon. We went out of town for a few days, and I've been away from all this during that time.

Jazzy,

I agree with Gregg on this. It is, in the end a question of probabilities. At this juncture of human existence, the question you pose, and which we have discussed in the past, is unanswerable. But the probability of their being a "super intelligent [and powerful]" god or some such, given what we DO know and understand about this universe we call home, is extremely low.

Regardless, what you and billions of others throughout the world have done is accept the fall back position of a god being the designer of all this.

To once again quote Richard Dawkins from THE GOD DELUSION I site the following which Dawkins states as "the central argument of [his] book."

"1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.

2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself. In the case of a man-made artefact such as a watch, the designer really was an intelligent engineer. It is tempting to apply the same logic to an eye or a wing, a spider or a person.

3. The temptation is a false one, because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. The whole problem we started out with was the problem of explaining statistical improbability. It is obviously no solution to postulate someting even more improbable."

Dawkins goes on to site evolution as the strongest evidence against intelligent design saying "that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that - an illusion."

Now I know the heart of ID is a rejection of evolution. Ann Coulter among others, poses an extensive argument against evolution primarily by siting apparent gaps in the fossil record.

Creationists tend to declare that "If there are no fossils to document a postulated evolutionary transition, the default assumption is that there was no evolutionary transition, therefore God must have intervened.

It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of any narrative... Only a tiny fraction of corpses fossilize, and we are lucky to have as many intermediate fossils as we do.

Evolution makes the strong prediction that if a SINGLE fossil turned up in the WRONG geological stratum, the theory would be blown out of the water... No such anachronistic fossils have ever been authentically found...

Gaps, by default in the mind of the creationist, are filled by God."

By the way Jazzy, the global warming is doing fine up here. The temperatures today and for the coming week are predicted to be in the mid to upper 50s - some 20+ degrees ABOVE normal.

We flew to Florida last Friday. We left Indiana in a deep freeze with the temperature around 10 degrees. That night in Gainsville, the temperature went down to around 28. It was damn cold.

Go figure.

As to "brilliant scientists" believing in god. I don't dispute that, but I do see it as an awkward disconnect for them. Unlike Stephen J. Gould's assertion, I do not ascribe to the notion that religion and science can comfortably co-exist. I reject the notion that science should not nor cannot delve into areas of morality and faith. It is, rather, imperative that it does so.

TLS

Nate said...

Of course, this last ties together with the Bush quote above. Doubters and non-believers have little cache' in this country. As I've stated, and as I believe, while gays remain a hated target of christians,

Sorry, I split that into two sections because I wanted to make a point. Gays are not a hated target of myself and many Christians I know. Not all, of course, because they are the majority. Perhaps this makes me a non-Christian because I don't believe in targeting anyone with hatred.

the godless are generally tolerated even less. We are hated and feared because we question the very basis of believers' raison d'etre. As it happens, most American gays are religious, consider themselves christians, and believe in god. Non-believers represent the true threat to god's people.

I agree. Although I had to look up the French to be sure.

I completely agree. I watched the Bible Code or whatever the name of that "heresy" is called. And I must say that it wasn't a bad movie. And, yes, I realize I'm late on the band wagon :D.

I thought it was quite interesting. I've heard that it was a bad movie just for the sake of being a bad movie and nothing to do with the whole anti-Jesus thing. I was surprised by it actually. I don't know that it is truth or false but it was definitely a decent movie.

But I believe that most Christians had the reaction to this specific movie because it scared the crap out of them if it turns out to be true. Or that there is no God. I wonder if those who are like this actually do believe in God. If they did, would they be so afraid of God's disappearance? Would the absence of God completely destroy them?

And I would have to answer honestly, yes it would. It would completely destroy many of them.

I think that this is why evolution scares them as well. The idea that it would take away from their deity and they would be left looking foolish and empty. It would scare anyone.

"It is true. Dawkins claims that "religion" is the problem. It is religion and, consequently, belief in any god, or some other "higher power" on which we non-believers must take aim. The godsters are gonna get us all killed."

Here's my biggest problem with this statement. What are you going to do when all the non-godsters begin taking aim at the believers who show no threat at all? Or, on the other hand, maybe it is those of us who don't really fit into the mode of fundamental Christianity that are the real threats.

Don't get me wrong, I understand self defense to a point but when you actively seek to destroy another who is moderate and, God forbid (or un-God forbid :D), tolerant, then I question the motivation. Especially in the case of the hated moderate Christian, one of which I am. Which I found out recently is hated more so than the fundamentalist Christian or even the wonderful Rev. Phelps. Of whom I happen to believe that a lot of Christians are secretly agreeing with, they just don't have the cajones to come out and say it. Did you know that guy was a civil rights attorney? For them, by the way, not against. Strange.

And can we really use the same phrase that my children use when they end up fighting over something? You know, the ol' "But he kicked me first!" routine.

I can only quote our favorite LCD addict who drove a Hyundai: "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" -- Rodney King.


-------------------------


And a belated Merry Xmas to you. I'm sorry I got long winded in your comment section. Blame it on my upbringing. :D

Terry S said...

Nate,

I know that "all" christians do not hate homosexuals. But a significant number of mainly fundamentalist and evangelical christians in fact do hate gays. It is largely owing to their efforts that legislation prohibiting same sex unions have enjoyed such success in all but a couple of instances. Fundamentalist ministers damn gays from their pulpits and deamonize them as being abominations before god.

Yet, the general acceptance of gays by more moderate christians has allowed many of them the ability to integrate into the larger society - mainly in larger, urban communities with relative ease.

My point, of course was that non-believers feel it necessary to remain circumspect regarding things religious. More so, perhaps than gays willingness to "come out" regarding their sexuality.

It took a moment, but I realized you were referring to "The DaVinci Code." I both read the book and saw the film. Actually, I liked the film better. It was slick - a true Hollywood thriller. Having Tom Hanks and doe eyed Audrey Tatou of "Amalie" fame as the two leads didn't hurt.

I feel that the hoopla surrounding both the movie and the book was grossly overblown. Dan Brown stated repeatedly that what he wrote was fiction. He took a certain amount of historical data, added some controversial legends and embellished it all with fictional material.

The movie watered all of this down a good deal, even going so far as to offer what were, in effect disclaimers at the end of the film.

Now, the most important thing I want to address concerning your comments: I regret that in my initial post I used the the phrase "take aim." That is suggestive of some kind of violence.

It is not my intent to "destroy" anyone - certainly not moderate christians. I do not hate them, nor I believe do Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or others claiming a dis-belief in god, hate anyone. The word "hate" is bandied about far too much.

I strongly disagree with the notion that god exists. I believe that religious organizations have done perhaps as much, if not more harm than good in the development and maintenance of human civilization. There are a few individuals - many of them the high profile fundamentalist evangelists and others who I believe are despicable opportunists. I don't hate them. I hate much of what they do. I certainly don't seek to do any of them violence.

I'm not familiar with Rev. Phelps.

By the way, I love that you took the time to write at length here. That's just what I am after in this effort. Hope to hear from you again.

TLS

Nate said...

My point, of course was that non-believers feel it necessary to remain circumspect regarding things religious. More so, perhaps than gays willingness to "come out" regarding their sexuality.

And that I completely understand. Even though I feel that I am a Christian, I still keep my blog anonymous due to the fact that I don't want to have to deal with the religious bigots that would have a problem with me just because I use expletive and partake of the spirits (not the holy one either). So, I can only imagine the way someone who believes totally opposite from the religious would be.

Frankly, I'm not sure where I fit into the equation. I'm not "worldly" enough to be really accepted by the non-believers and I'm not "holy" enough to fit in with the believers. And the funny thing is that I feel a closer bond to the non-believers than I do the believers. Except for those morons who are out to annihilate anyone who doesn't believe as they do. And that is a human trait, IMO, not a religious trait. 'Course, I'm one who believes that what a person is will show up in their ideologies. In other words, I believe that people who killed in the name of God would have killed anyway and used whatever excuse to do so.

I believe that people should have personal responsibility across the board, no matter what God or non-God they believe in. If they aren't committed to humanity as a whole (not just those that they feel are actually human) then they have a problem. I think that blaming religion for the ignorance of people is, in a way, letting them off the hook of personal responsibility. But that's just me.

It took a moment, but I realized you were referring to "The DaVinci Code." I both read the book and saw the film. Actually, I liked the film better. It was slick - a true Hollywood thriller. Having Tom Hanks and doe eyed Audrey Tatou of "Amalie" fame as the two leads didn't hurt.

I feel that the hoopla surrounding both the movie and the book was grossly overblown. Dan Brown stated repeatedly that what he wrote was fiction. He took a certain amount of historical data, added some controversial legends and embellished it all with fictional material.

The movie watered all of this down a good deal, even going so far as to offer what were, in effect disclaimers at the end of the film.


Yeah, that's the movie. Sorry, I was lazy yesterday and didn't actually open a new window to look up the real name. I kind of pull a bushism there for a few minutes. :D

I guess I need to read the book as well. I didn't read, or watch, The Davinci Code, during the hoopla, because everyone was either tearing it down or building it up. I just have no time to really jump on any band wagon for anything.

Now, the most important thing I want to address concerning your comments: I regret that in my initial post I used the the phrase "take aim." That is suggestive of some kind of violence.

It is not my intent to "destroy" anyone - certainly not moderate christians. I do not hate them, nor I believe do Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or others claiming a dis-belief in god, hate anyone. The word "hate" is bandied about far too much.


I was probably a bit overboard with my reaction to that. I don't like to be disliked. Which is a problem I have. I love people in general. Yes, even the evil atheists :D. And love is another word that is thrown about quite a bit so maybe that is a wrong word. I'm interested in people and that is due to the fact that I really like people. I'm not trusting of people, but I like them... if that makes any sense.

And as I said earlier, I'm not sure where I fit into the equation. I agree with you on most of your points. I dislike religion as much as you do. BUT I don't blame God for that (and I realize that you don't believe in any higher entity so bear with me). I do separate God from religion and I do so by realizing that one can't really judge God by those who do things in his (or her) name. If I believe in God, then I also believe that God created humanity. And if I believe that God created humanity, then I also believe that humanity can't completely comprehend the will of God. And what humanity does as their worship to their God isn't necessarily what God wants or desires, it is what humanity thinks God wants and desires. Which is why I believe that if people killed in the name of God -- had there been no belief in God, they would have killed anyway... God was just their excuse.

I guess it doesn't make sense to me to blame God for what people do. It shifts the blame from the people and allows them off the hook. And, too, it's like telling everyone I smell like shit when I just farted. My fart doesn't dictate what I really smell like. I know, it's crude, but I think it gets the point across.

Which all of that can be logically dismantled by certain questions, one of them for instance:

Why would God, if there is one, allow humanity to do what they do?

And there are a ton of others, I'm sure. None of which will change whether I believe in God or not. I take leave of logic occasionally. :D

I strongly disagree with the notion that god exists. I believe that religious organizations have done perhaps as much, if not more harm than good in the development and maintenance of human civilization. There are a few individuals - many of them the high profile fundamentalist evangelists and others who I believe are despicable opportunists. I don't hate them. I hate much of what they do. I certainly don't seek to do any of them violence.

And I completely agree.

I'm not familiar with Rev. Phelps.

He's the www.godhatesfags.com, www.godhatesamerica.com, and one other one about priests raping boys. His group is the one that goes around telling everyone that they are thankful that the troops are being killed in Iraq because it is the will of God due to the fact that America is a Sodomite nation. Buncha idiots.

By the way, I love that you took the time to write at length here. That's just what I am after in this effort. Hope to hear from you again.

TLS


Thanks. I'm always good for a longwinded sermon. Did I ever tell you I used to preach? Some people tell me I never quit. :D

Terry S said...

As to where you do or do not fit in, I would say all that's important is what it is you believe. Carefully consider whatever evidence you have and make your decisions intelligently. You then should accept who it is you are and pick your moments as to when or if you open up to others. I think you'll find that most of the time, it's not necessary or even preferable.

I agree to some extent about your assertion that people would kill with or without god. Often god is usually used as a motivator, an inspiration to kill supposedly for his glory. In my opinion all that nonsense is just that - nonsense. God is used to manipulate people. If god is not available, or considered to be the proper motivator, other sources are found such as the state - "the Fatherland," among others.

As I mentioned, "The daVinci Code" book is, in my opinion not as good as the film, but it has more detail. It's not a bad read, just not a great read. Of course the uproar was its questioning the emaculate conception and virgin birth of christ. I couldn't get too worked up about all that.

It's not a matter of "blaming god" for bad human behaviour. It is humans who invoke god to support all manner of misdeads and horror.

I now know who you are referring to - Rev. Phelps. That group of assholes protested at the funerals of a # of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan with their "god hates america" signs. They give ultra right wing conservative evangelical fundamentalists a bad name.

I went to their web site earlier today. It begins with a notification of all the people and organizations they intend to file suit against. One could, perhaps come to hate some of those buttheads.

Later,

TLS

tina said...

Well, I had a great time just reading the comments! Sorry, I'm not that gifted to make such long eloquent comments. That would be my son, Larro. He would be the one to make an interesting comment. But I do enjoy your posts.

Terry S said...

Tina,

Thank you for stopping by and daring to wade through all this. It is good to know that some of this effort is getting our there beyond the confines of my little PC screen.

Larro? Is that correct? If so it's an interesting name.

The fellow who is most eloquent that occasionally visits here is gregg100. He is a retired theoretical scientist who is working on developing a philosophical system (for lack of a better way to describe it) which would, in effect, describe what an atheist "is," not merely what he or she is not - or more precisely, what he or she believes as opposed to being defined by what he or she does not believe.

It's at times difficult to follow, but he is a very intelligent and thoughtful writer well worth the read.

Thanks again and welcome always to this little corner of the blogosphere.

TLS