Breaking the spell 44

We very seldom quote from a Leftist atheist site.

Today we do.

At Patheos, Shem the Penman writes in praise of Daniel Dennett. (You can find the whole thing here.)

We won’t discuss his contention that Dennett writes better on atheism than Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris, all of whom he apparently despises (although all of them were to some degree, or at least for a certain time, on the Left). We have given our opinion of their writings elsewhere. (See eg. our reviews of some of their books under Pages in our margin.)

It is something he says that Dennett says that we choose to examine.

He writes:

It may not be as popular on nonbeliever reading lists, or as packed with quotable quips about religion as God Is Not Great or The God Delusion, but Daniel Dennett’s 2006 book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon gives us a scheme for a scientific study of religion: how it developed and what it means to society today. Even on my first reading of it, I recall being impressed with Dennett’s thoroughness and seriousness in his task, which was much more subtle and empathetic than the standard demolition of religion delivered by cheap polemicists like Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins.

Such a study is important, Dennett knows, because religion represents a significant investment by believers in time, effort, and resources. Whether we think religion is a good thing or not, we have to come up with some sort of explanation for its development and survival throughout human history. In Darwinian terms, it has to justify its cost at every step of its evolution. …

Nowadays, the custodians of religion have come up with ways to ensure its survival that represent defense mechanisms for the meme complex. The first is the “spell” Dennett refers to in the title: the admonition against examining religion the same way we’d examine other human phenomena like sexuality or language. But there’s a more significant way that religion perpetuates itself in our era, and that’s through the belief-in-belief. In other words, whether people believe in the deities and tenets of their religion, they profess belief that the belief in them is a good idea. Religion perpetuates itself not by the belief it inspires, but by the behavior it motivates. Professing religious belief, in particular, is a behavior that significantly contributes to the perpetuation of the meme complex of religion.

This is the feature of Dennett’s thought that distinguishes him from a critic of religion such as Dawkins: while Dawkins focuses on the literal beliefs of religious people, Dennett points out that from the meme’s-eye-view, there’s no difference between a Muslim who prays five times a day because he truly believes in Allah and the truth of the Koran, and a Muslim who prays five times a day because that’s what Muslims do. …

There is a difference. The difference is as stated – that the one truly believes and the other merely conforms. And it is a fairly significant difference, because there is a better chance that the conformer can be dissuaded from his conformity than that the believer can be dissuaded from his belief.

In sum, what Dennett is saying (according to the writer) is that religions continue through the ages because they become conventional in this or that society.

True, and not a revelation.

In most societies, throughout the Third World, the notion that ideas can and should be critically examined did not arise. Only the West was taught this marvelous and simple exercise; first very early in its history, by Socrates in the 4th century BCE, and then, after hundreds of years of dogmatic Christian tyranny, by the Enlightenment thinkers of the 17th and 18th centuries CE.

With the Enlightenment, religion in the West began to die. To quote from our own Articles of Reason: Many a belief can survive persecution, but not critical examination.

It did not happen that everyone who was told to reason became a rationalist. For many who preferred to feel rather than to think, religion was replaced by Romanticism. But almost everyone came to accept what Science revealed and what its child, Technology, put to use. Almost everyone, that is to say, who was taught some science and whose lives were transformed by technology; those  who were TOLD about those ideas, who experienced their effects.

Sure, there are still millions in the West – mainly in America – who learn some science, use technology, and nevertheless continue to believe that their religion is true. But their number is dwindling.

Religion must be argued against. Especially, now, Islam must be argued against. Argument is the best weapon in our arsenal to use against Islam – without excluding any others – precisely because so many Muslims pray five times a day for no better reason than that “that’s what Muslims do”.

That is why Muslims fear critical examination, so much so that they are trying to get it banned by law in Western countries, and by the UN, where they have a bullying majority.

We quote a few passages from the essay Tell them listed in our margin under Pages

Why do millions of Americans “think” that economic equality is morally desirable? …

Why do millions of university students in America admire intellectuals who hate America, such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and make an icon out of the sadistic mass-murderer Che Guevara?

Why? Because they’ve been told to. They’ve been told that good people do and “think” these things. They want to be good. They believe what they’ve been taught. …

Now millions of conservatives are waking up and are asking, how did this happen? It happened because people patiently, energetically, persistently planned it and made it happen.

What can we do about it, they ask themselves and each other.

What they have to do about it is change the minds of the believers. First they must be sure that they want the free republic the founders established; that they want to maintain free markets; that they don’t want a welfare state; that they do want to preserve national defenses; that they want indoctrination in the schools to stop; that they want to forbid the application of foreign law; that they do not want to go on funding an institution – the UN – that consistently works against their interests. Then they must decide that their political philosophy is right, uniquely right, and must be implemented at any and all costs. Then they must start teaching it. With energy, persistence, patience and fiery enthusiasm. It will take time. But that is the only way. Teach, preach, argue, use every method that works.  …

How badly does the conservative right want to win [and hold on to] power in America? How important is it to them that they should?

If it is important, tell the voters, tell the children that the free market is the only means of creating general prosperity, and why. Tell them that central planning of an economy cannot work, and why. Tell them why competition is good for everyone, producers and consumers alike.

Tell them what profit is and why it is essential for ensuring abundance.

Tell them that only where people are free can there be discovery and innovation, improvement in everyone’s daily life, better technology, the advance of civilization. Explain why. Show them the proofs of history.

Tell them the truth about life in the Third World. Not politically correct sentimental drivel, but the actual awful facts about life in most other countries.

Tell them why impartial judgment is the only means to justice; why all sane adult citizens must be treated equally by the law; why people must be judged by their actions, not their intentions or feelings.

Tell them why government should be kept small and its powers limited. Tell them what the essential tasks of government are: protection of the nation, of the individual, of liberty, of the rule of law itself. And why governments should not be allowed more power and money than it needs to fulfill its few essential functions.

Shout down the shouters.

Tell Muslims what is wrong with their creed and why American secularism is better. Don’t allow them … to shut out criticism of their absurd and savage beliefs.

Tolerate only the tolerant and tolerable.

It will take time. Start now. … Tell them.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Thursday, April 19, 2018

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The lure of the West 3

A possible and excellent solution to the Islamization of the West presents itself: Muslims leaving Islam.

Having encountered the far better life, the far richer culture of the West; having felt the freedom; having seen the opportunities –  especially for women – many Muslims are daring to become apostates.

At least in America it is happening to a significant extent.

The Economist reports:

As the number of American Muslims has increased by almost 50% in the past decade, so too has the number of ex-Muslims. According to the Pew Research Centre, 23% of Americans raised as Muslims no longer identify with the faith. Most of them are young second-generation immigrants who have come to reject the religion of their parents. Some, however, are older when their crisis of faith arrives, already married to devout Muslim spouses and driving children to the mosque to study the Koran at weekends.

The vast majority, whether young or old, are silent about their faithlessness. One Muslim college student, who came home drunk one evening, was confronted by his father. Not thinking clearly, the son confessed to his father that he was an atheist, whereupon the father revealed that he too had lost his faith many years ago. Yet he still admonished his son for not hiding his secret well enough.

Publicly leaving Islam is difficult because many Muslims live in tight-knit communities. Many apostates are left closeted, afraid to put at risk their relationships with their parents, on whom they may still depend, or with their siblings and their friends. Non-believing Mormons, Hasidic Jews and evangelical Christians find themselves in a similar predicament. Within Somali enclaves in Minneapolis and Pakistani ones in Dallas, renunciation of Islam is tantamount to renunciation of an entire social circle. “The most frustrating part is living knowing that my life has to be guided by the rules I don’t agree with,” says one still deep in the closet.

Apostasy is different from apathy, but that is also growing among Muslims. Among believers aged 55 or older, 53% say they perform all five of the mandatory daily prayers — no easy feat, considering that the first must be done before dawn. Among Muslim millennials, that proportion falls to 33%. Few would be ostracised for missing a prayer, or not fasting during the month of Ramadan — so long as those misdeeds were not made public.

In broad terms, there are two types of ex-Muslims. Those who are from less religious families simply drift away and face fewer repercussions. “It was a progression,” says one such ex-Muslim, who stopped praying at the age of eight after noticing that nothing cataclysmic happened when she missed a prayer one day. Then she starting sneaking meals during Ramadan, before moving on to alcohol and premarital sex. At 18, she was an atheist.

Then there are those in more religious households. They tend to have cleaner breaks, sudden realisations while studying the Koran or the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Often the verses that trigger this are controversial ones about slavery or gender that family members and imams cannot explain satisfactorily. Coming across the writings of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens sometimes has the same effect. Some chafe at sexism or homophobia. “I remember one Halloween, I wasn’t allowed to go trick-or-treating because I had to clean up after dinner, but all my male cousins and brothers got to go,” says one female ex-Muslim who is not out to her family (nor will ever be, she fears).

To cope, some look online, seeking solace in anonymous forums. One, hosted on Reddit, has nearly 30,000 followers. Here ex-Muslims trade stories of families kicking their children out after they confess their disbelief. But they also traffic in lighter-hearted fare, like taking pictures of booze-and-pork meals during Ramadan — enjoyed in the daylight, of course

Despite all the pressure of family and community, more ex-Muslims seem to be going public. Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), an advocacy organisation, has pushed for those who safely can to publicly declare their renunciations. “The goal is to change things enough so that we no longer need to exist,” says Sarah Haider, EXMNA’s director. The group launched a university tour, entitled “Normalising Dissent”, which has attracted angry critics and required extensive security preparations. Though she must contend with death threats, and has to be quite vigilant about infiltrators to her organization, Ms Haider persists. “Condemnation is still acknowledgment,” she notes.

While the penalties for apostasy can be high in the West, they are much more severe in the Muslim world. In Pakistan, blasphemy carries a death sentence. In Bangladesh, atheist writers have been hacked to death by machete-wielding vigilantes. An atheist who recently appeared on Egyptian television to debate a former deputy sheikh from Al-Azhar University was dismissed by the host and told that he needed to see a psychiatrist.

Millions who were so fortunate as to have been born into freedom in the countries of the West, now despise and even hate their country and their culture. The Left’s grip on education has meant that they have been indoctrinated to feel guilty over their own history and heritage. But the truth is, thanks to the Enlightenment the West is the superior civilization. The West is civilization itself – fighting an intense political battle for its survival against the destructive ideologies of the Left and encroaching Islam.

The more Muslims who come to appreciate our civilization, the more who abandon their religion and adopt our ways, the better for us, for them, for all humankind.

Berkeley values Islam more than science 3

Richard Dawkins is inarguably a great scientist. His books on evolution are beautifully written and packed with fascinating information that every educated person should know.

Richard Dawkins is an atheist and an influential propounder of atheism, reaching a vast audience.

For all of that we highly value him.

Politically, he is a man of the Left. We regret that very much. But of course it makes no difference to our respect for him and our gratitude to him.

The Left is not so tolerant. Because Richard Dawkins, as an atheist, dismisses and despises the religion of Islam, he is in trouble with his fellow Leftists, who have embraced Islam as a Third World victim of (fictitious) Western colonialism, imperialism, and oppression.

From Legal Insurrection:

“I make no apologies” for condemning “the misogyny, homophobia, and violence of Islamism” – Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins was slated to give a talk with a radio station in the city of Berkeley to discuss his latest book: Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Atheist.

However, the talk was canceled.

KPFA, the Berkeley radio station that sponsored the event gave the following reason:

Dear Richard Dawkins event ticket buyers,

We regret to inform you that KPFA has canceled our event with Richard Dawkins. We had booked this event based entirely on his excellent new book on science, when we didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam, so many people.

KPFA does not endorse hurtful speech. While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech. We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins views much earlier. We also apologize to all those inconvenienced by this cancellation. Your ticket purchases will automatically be refunded by Brown Paper Tickets.

Sincerely,
KPFA Radio 94.1 FM

So Islam ranks higher than science on the value scale of the Left.

A whimpering about the “hurt feelings” of  Muslims makes progressive compassioneers all over the West hang their heads in shame.  

Jihadis throw “hurt feelings” around as freely as they throw bombs. It’s the weaponization of emotion. Fake emotion, of course.

It would be good if this episode caused Professor Dawkins to change his political affiliation. But we don’t expect it will.

Posted under Islam, Leftism, Science by Jillian Becker on Sunday, July 23, 2017

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Richard Dawkins: mostly right but rambling 3

Richard Dawkins was unable to attend the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. on June 4, 2016.

Here’s the speech he would have given:

There are those who fear reason as cold, bleak, cheerless, unpoetic. That’s not just untrue; it’s the very opposite of true. Science is the poetry of reality.

The fact that you exist should brim you over with astonishment. You and I and every other living creature are machines of ineffable complexity. This complexity and its powerful illusion of design is why so many people succumb to the God temptation. The temptation to evade, by invoking a designer, the responsibility to explain. The God temptation is an evasion of responsibility because it invokes the very kind of thing it’s supposed to be explaining.

I’m a biologist, so I speak first of the biological version of the God temptation, the false argument destroyed by Darwin. There’s also a cosmological version. The fundamental constants of physics are said to be “fine-tuned” so that, in the fullness of time, eyes and peacocks, humans and brains will come into existence. The God temptation here is to invoke a divine knob-twiddler to adjust the dials of the physical constants so that they have the exquisitely precise values required to bring evolution, and eventually us, into being.

“God did it” can never be an explanation for anything. It is sheer intellectual cowardice. If you’ll stoop to magicking into existence an unexplained peacock designer, you might as well magic an unexplained peacock and cut out the middleman.

Nevertheless, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for such cowardice. The complexity of a living body, every one of its trillion cells, is so mind-shattering to anyone who truly grasps it, the temptation is overwhelming. It’s like when you see a really brilliant conjuring trick. You have to smack yourself and say, “No!” However largely my senses and my instincts are screaming “miracle”, it really isn’t. There is a rational explanation. In the case of the conjuring trick, we know it’s not a miracle. And honest conjurers like Jamy Ian Swiss, James Randi, and Penn & Teller tell us so.

In the case of nature’s apparent miracles, Charles Darwin plays the role of honest conjurer.

But conjurers only tell us that it’s a trick. Darwin tells us exactly how nature’s trick is done: cumulative natural selection. Darwin’s brilliant explanation has withstood 150 years of sustained attack and emerged without a scratch.

Physicists are well on their way to disposing of the cosmic God temptation, too.

My book The God Delusion, celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2016, provoked a score of what came to be called “fleas”: religious books with plagiaristic jacket designs and parasitic titles like The Dawkins Delusion or Deluded By Dawkins. The flea name came from a line of W. B. Yeats: “But was there ever dog that praised his fleas?”

Some of our best theologians, if indeed theology is a subject that can be good at all, if indeed theology is a subject at all, some of our best theologians pathetically tried to argue that, far from being complex, God is simple. There is no limit to the explanatory purposes to which the simple God’s infinite power is put. Is science having a little difficulty explaining X? No problem! Don’t give X another glance! God’s infinite power is effortlessly wheeled in to explain X. Along with everything else. And it’s always a simple explanation, because, after all, there’s only one God. What could be simpler than that?

The effrontery of it is beyond astounding. This supposedly simple God had to know how to set the nuclear force 1039 times stronger than gravity. He had to calculate with similar exactitude the requisite values of half a dozen critical numbers — the fundamental constants of physics.

Do you, with your prodigiously complex brain, understand quantum mechanics? I don’t! Yet God, that paragon of ultimate pure simplicity, not only understands it but invented it! Plus special and general relatively. Plus the Higgs Boson. And dark matter.

Finally, the icing on the cake: On top of being the ultimate mathematics and physics genius, this “simple” God has enough bandwidth to listen to the prayers of billions of people simultaneously, in all the world’s languages. He hears their confessed sins and decides which would be forgiven. He weighs up which cancer patients shall recover, which earthquake victims shall be spared, even who shall win a tennis match. Or a parking space.

God may be almighty, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, but the one thing He cannot be, if He’s even minimally to meet His job description, is “all-simple”. The statistical argument against the divine designer remains intact and inescapably devastating.

God also presents a temptation to laziness that may define our allegiances.

I am Christian! Well, of course I don’t believe in any of that supernatural stuff, but I was baptized, we go to church at Christmas, and I’m certainly not Jewish or Muslim, so I guess that makes me Christian!

By 2050, the population of Mauritania will be predominantly Muslim. It’s simple demography. Just compare the birthrates of the different communities in Mauritania.That makes the lazy assumption that a child of Muslim parents is defined as a Muslim.

Would you define a child of logical positivist parents as a logical positivist?

Would you define a child as a Keynesian on the basis of her parents’ economic school of thought?

One of the reasons I formed the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in the United States is to combat America’s legendary religiosity, a form of obstinate backwardness that has serious implications for the rest of the world.

What church do you go to? The question is presumptuous to the point of rudeness, yet informant after informant tells me how often it’s thrown at newcomers to certain neighborhoods in America, as casually and automatically as a comment on the weather. That the newcomer might not attend the place of worship at all simply doesn’t cross the friendly neighborhood mind. It doesn’t cross the mind of a typical American politician, either, which is why they drag God into every speech, why they bend over backwards to appease religious lobbies when taking important decisions on abortion, stem cell research, and the teaching of evolution.

The Reason Rally is the antidote to all this. Today, in Washington, we celebrate science and urge the retreat of superstition. It is people like you, people who have traveled far to be here, who support secular organizations with your time and money, who are courageous enough to make their atheism known, that are the hope for the future.

I’m sorry doctor’s orders stop me from being in Washington today, except by this minor miracle of science, but I hope to see you at the next Reason Rally!

Although we agree with him by and large (of course), we don’t think it’s a very good speech. It is not sufficiently coherent.

The population of Mauritania is right now 100% Muslim. The children of Muslims are defined as Muslim by Muslim tradition and law. If Dawkins wants to say that the child of Muslims does not have to remain a believer in Islam, he should say so, but he doesn’t make the point. In fact from then on his speech rambles.

We like best the part we have emphasized in bold.

Dawkins was apparently kept from making the speech in person by “a small stroke”. We hope the stroke has not permanently impaired his fine brain. While we have always opposed him on political issues, we have read his books on evolution with much pleasure and learnt a lot from them.

Posted under Atheism by Jillian Becker on Friday, June 10, 2016

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Openly secular 0

Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science is a new book by Richard Dawkins.

It is mentioned in this video as a sequel to an earlier book, An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist.

They are two parts of an autobiography.

Not much about either is said in the discussion filmed here. There is much more about his first book The Selfish Gene. 

As always when he talks about evolution, Dawkins is rewarding to listen to.

Posted under Science, Videos by Jillian Becker on Thursday, October 15, 2015

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Dawkins disproves design 2

The last argument for the existence of a creator god is that the material universe is intelligently designed.

Richard Dawkins demonstrates that it isn’t, in this fascinating video from November 2013.

Posted under Religion general, Science by Jillian Becker on Friday, December 26, 2014

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Speaking of atheism 0

A chat about atheism, religion, and science. Recorded December 14, 2010.

Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens.

Beware the church militant redux! 28

A writer by the name of Enza Ferreri has written an article against Reason. She probably doesn’t see that that is what she’s done. But that is what she’s done. She writes:

It’s all very simple. We can’t fight Islam in the West without fighting the enablers of Islam in the West, namely the Leftists.

So far, so good.

And, since the Left has many different and separate aspects, we have to fight against each one of them. Secularism, environmentalism, global warming alarmism, homosexualism, militant feminism, sexual relativism, multiculturalism, anti-Christianity, Islamophilia, post-nationalism, internationalism are just as important targets to attack as Marxist economics, the expropriation of the capitalist class (or, in its modern reincarnation, redistribution of wealth), and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The words we have put in bold mark the issues we dispute with Enza Ferreri.

We don’t know what “homosexualism” is, or “sexual relativism”.

We consider sexual choices to be private matters (unless they involve children). They are certainly not dangerous threats to the survival of the West.

But while we agree with the author on her other “targets”, we emphatically disagree with her when it comes to secularism and anti-Christianity.

First, secularism:

Secularism is not the same as Leftism. Between the founding of the United States of America and the dawning in the 1960s of this Leftist age, there was a very long stretch of secularism, liberty, and prosperity.

But in those times and those countries where a church (in the widest sense) has been the ruling power, there has always been tyranny. What greater tyranny can there be than the imposition of an orthodoxy on every mind?

Communism and Nazism also impose orthodoxy, and punish dissent as cruelly as a theocracy. That is one of the reasons why we class these ideologies as religions. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China were not secular states; they were orthodoxies, as tyrannous as the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the newly declared Islamic State now.  

The secular state, and only the secular state, is a free state.  Secularism is freedom. Freedom is only possible in the secular state. 

Next, anti-Christianity:

In a free, secular society, people are free to be Christians. But people are equally free to criticize Christianity.

Neglecting any of these fronts is like fighting a war leaving a battleground to the enemy, like fighting on the Western front and leaving totally undefended the Eastern one.

Secularism and atheism are certainly the first lines of important wars.

So she contends that the prime enemy in her war is freedom. That being so, she has no case to make against Islam or Marxism.

For all that she seems to be speaking for tolerance (being against Islamophilia) and reason (being against environmentalism, global warming alarmism, “militant feminism”); and against Islam (aka multiculturalism) and Marxism (redistribution etc.), she is actually speaking for her own choice of intolerant, irrational, orthodox tyranny.

A secularist West will always lose to Islam, because it will have enough compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence that are the remnants of its Christian heritage, but it will have lost the ideals, the passion and certainty of fighting for a just cause that were once part of Christianity and have disappeared with its erosion.

Her assumptions are arrogant to an extreme. Compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence are not the legacies of “a Christian heritage” but of enlightened reason.

It is pointless to try and fight one irrational belief, such as Islam or Marxism, by setting up another irrational belief, such as Christianity, in opposition to it. There is no better reason to believe in the Trinity than in Allah or the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Two quotes here serve as epigrams. Robert Spencer wrote in his great work Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t: “People who are ashamed of their own culture will not defend it.” And Dennis Prager said during one of his radio broadcasts, “Only good religion can counter bad religion.”

We admire much that Robert Spencer and Denis Prager write. And we think Spencer makes a point here worth thinking about. But to Prager’s assertion we say, nonsense!

Some people claim that there won’t be a religious revival in Europe because we are past believing in God. That this is not true can be seen by the high – and increasing – number of Westerners who convert to Islam. Many of them give as a reason for their conversion the need for absolutes, boundaries and well-defined status. A journalist writing for The Spectator on this subject explained why she is Catholic:

But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.

Confusion and compromise is inescapable. How can dogma – which is to say being incurably wrong –  and “impossible ideals” be better than admitting the truth of scio nescio: I know that I do not know? It is as if the culture on which such persons as the quoted Catholic and the author of the article have been raised was never affected by Socratean doubt, the Enlightenment, the assumption of ignorance upon which all true science proceeds.

William Kilpatrick, in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West – a book I thoroughly recommend reading -, writes: Brian Young’s friends said he was troubled by the decadence of Western society. David Courtrailler’s lawyer said, “For David, Islam ordered his life.” These are the sorts of reasons ordinary converts to Islam give. A common refrain from converts is that Islam provides a complete plan for life in contrast to the ruleless and clueless life offered by secular society. As Mary Fallot, a young French convert, explains, “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.” If you look at the convert testimonials on Muslim websites, they echo this refrain: Islam brings “peace”, “order”, “discipline”, and a way of life that Christianity and other religions fail to offer.

Islam brings peace!  He – and she – can say that with a straight face? While IS (ISIS, ISIL) is rampaging through Syria and Iraq mass-slaughtering, impaling, crucifying, decapitating, raping, enslaving; while Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into Israel; while civil war rages in Syria; while Yezidis, Kurds, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other Muslims are being daily killed and constantly persecuted by Muslims?

Astonishing that some women crave the “order” and “discipline” of subjugation; when the “discipline” is exerted by enslavement, beatings, whippings, stonings, legal discrimination.

Human beings will never be past the need for believing in something bigger than themselves, because that need is part of the human mind.

Where are there human beings who do not know that natural forces are “bigger than themselves”? Who among us does not know that we are mortal?

She continues in the same vein. We’ll not irritate our readers with all of it. She is a true believer. And what she believes is that Christianity is good and true.

We will skip to what she quotes as wisdom from a Catholic primate:

A clear direction was given by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy. As early as 30 September 2000, before 9/11, when very few in the West even thought of worrying about Islam, he delivered a very forward-looking speech, which included this premonition:

… Either Europe will become Christian again or it will become Muslim. What I see without future is the “culture of nothing”, of freedom without limits and without content, of skepticism boasted as intellectual achievement, which seems to be the attitude largely dominant among European peoples, all more or less rich of means and poor of truths. This “culture of nothingness” (sustained by hedonism and libertarian insatiability) will not be able to withstand the ideological onslaught of Islam, which will not be missing: only the rediscovery of the Christian event as the only salvation for man – and therefore only a strong resurrection of the ancient soul of Europe – will offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.

The culture of reason is not a “culture of nothing”. It is a culture of rational humility; of admitting ignorance and trying to find the truth, even if one can never be certain one has found it. Skepticism is the only engine of discovery.

“Freedom without limits”? Freedom of action always has a limit. In a free society, everyone’s freedom is limited by everyone else’s under the rule of law. But indeed the freedom of the mind has no limits, nor should it have any.

Notice the snide swipe at riches and “hedonism”. Do you think that he, as a cardinal, pigs it in some hovel?

By “truths” he means the  patent absurdities of Christian theological belief.

“Libertarian insatiability”. What the heck does that mean?

If the Western culture of reason, secularism, liberty, skepticism, science, cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, it will be because that culture has been abandoned by people like Enza Ferreri.

She goes on to blame shrinking birthrates on secularism.  Then she ends with this:

Militant atheists à la Richard Dawkins have not really given enough thought to the long-term consequences of their ideas, which we are beginning to see.

And of which we are reminded whenever, for example, we read in the news of doctors and missionaries who die of Ebola while assisting affected patients for Christian charities. Not many atheist charities are involved in that work.

How many cures for diseases have been found by scientists among whom atheists are in a huge majority? The medical researchers who eliminated smallpox; those who found how to detect the beginnings of cancer and treat it before it becomes lethal, and how to restore wholeness to lepers and replace a faulty heart or kidney …. the list could run on for hours … cure more people than all the martyrdom-seeking self-righteous preachy Christians out to save their imaginary souls by “assisting affected patients” have ever done or could do in a thousand years.

As a reminder to readers who have a strong stomach of what happened when the Christian Churches provided “order” and “discipline” to Europe and wherever else they could reach, we recommend The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual by Jonathan Kirsch, and our own post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity by Jillian Becker, April 25, 2010. (Put the title in our search slot.)

Nothing IS (ISIS, ISIL) is doing now in the name of Islam is worse in type or degree than what those Christians did in the name of Christianity.

The world needs saving from religion.

Religion in the twenty-first century? 7

This video, published in February 2013, is a film of a debate held by the Cambridge Union on the proposition: “This House believes religion has no place in the twenty-first century”. (Organized religion only is meant.)

It is over an hour and a half long. Is it worth watching?

We think it’s worth hearing what Richard Dawkins has to say in support of the motion. And also for what another eloquent atheist says – Douglas Murray, who surprisingly opposes it, but for quite different reasons from those of the other two opponents. They are a pair of downright villains: the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who campaigned for sharia to be introduced into Britain; and his friend Tariq Ramadan of the Muslim Brotherhood. You’ll only get an earful of pious poppycock from each of them.

There is no argument over theology. No one mentions the wars of religion raging in the Middle East.

We came to one certain conclusion: religion may linger on a while yet, but Oh, it will be dull!

 

Posted under Religion general, United Kingdom by Jillian Becker on Sunday, August 17, 2014

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Why not be cruel? 8

Why do believers ache to argue with atheists? Why does it bother them that others do not believe what they believe? Especially if they have radio shows and can propound their beliefs to their hearts’ content.

Although Dennis Prager is religious (an observing Jew), there was a time when we considered him intelligent – which is a way of saying, he agreed by and large with our political views. Not so lately. And today he has produced an article which has us laughing aloud.

He calls it a response  to Richard Dawkins, to statements the scientist made in an interview with CNN. He also intends to make a general answer to atheism. His theme is that “God” is necessary to humankind, because without belief in such a being we would not know good from bad.

We greatly respect Richard Dawkins as a proponent of atheism who is listened to by millions. He has probably convinced many believers that they were wrong. We enormously enjoy his highly readable books on evolution. We do, however, have our reservations about him. We disagree with his ill-thought-out political views – fuzzy leftist notions. We excuse these to some extent on the grounds that he is concentrating on science and so hasn’t bothered to inform himself adequately about political issues. Whether that’s true or not, of course we don’t know. We also think he is under-informed on the religions he has written about. But that doesn’t much matter. (We review his book The God Delusion here.)

Prager complains that Dawkins will not debate with him. Since what follows is Prager’s argument, we can see why. Prager makes no good case to answer. But we will comment on what he says to show what’s wrong with it.

This past Friday CNN conducted an interview with Richard Dawkins, the British biologist most widely known for his polemics against religion and on behalf of atheism.

Asked “whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass,” Dawkins responded: “The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible.”

This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists – that not only do we not need religion or God for morality, but we would have a considerably more moral world without them.

This argument is so wrong – both rationally and empirically – that its appeal can only be explained by a) a desire to believe it and b) an ignorance of history.

That’s when we started laughing. Prager the believer, accusing atheists of believing what they do or do not only because they want to believe it!

But on we go:

First, the rational argument.

If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions. They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not objective realities.

That’s the rational argument? It implies that at some point  in history – or perhaps at many points – a god has issued definitions of good and evil. Or launched them as forces among us, so they are “objective realities” outside of the human mind.

The religious claim that Jehovah dictated laws, in words, to Moses; that God the Father, through Jesus, gave instructions on moral behavior; that Allah told Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel all that has been recorded as his will and law in the Koran. What sane adult can believe that such events actually happened? The plain fact must be that, since we have the written laws of Judaism, the records of Jesus Christ’s sayings,  and the Koran, at some points in time human beings formulated those statements of morals and law, and wrote them down. To believe otherwise is laughable.

Laws against murder, theft, the breaking of oaths, adultery, defaulting on contract were common around the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor long before the period of Moses. The Hammurabi Code predated the Hebrews’ putative law-giver by at least five hundred years, and while it chiefly deals with punishments for crimes and how disputes should be settled, it assumes the existence of laws on the same moral principles as underlie the laws of Moses. And they were not issued as the commandments of a god. Not to know that is ignorance of history.

Prager persists:

Every atheist philosopher I have debated has acknowledged this. For example, at Oxford University I debated Professor Jonathan Glover, the British philosopher and ethicist, who said: “Dennis started by saying that I hadn’t denied his central contention that if there isn’t a God, there is only subjective morality. And that’s absolutely true.”

The ethicist should get out more. If he hasn’t yet become aware of the power of social conventions, cultural pressures, public opinion –  all in addition to enlightened self-interest, which very much needs to take account of how other people react to one’s self-will –  he has spent too much time closeted in his ivory tower.

And the eminent Princeton philosopher Richard Rorty admitted that for secular liberals such as himself, “there is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?‘”

Because you may be punched on the nose, Richard.  And if someone is cruel to you, you may understand why cruelty is so widely abhorred as to be kept in most societies as punishment for crime or treatment for enemies.

And why do eminent philosophers choose to forget the moral philosophies that owe nothing to religion? The Stoics. The Epicureans. True, some of them were religious, but few were adherents of a moral religion, and their ethics were not ascribed to a revelation from a god. The religion of ancient Greece was not a moral religion. Nor was that of Rome until the 4th century. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 C.E.) was not a Christian. He was a Stoic. Yet Christians admire him as a good man and a good emperor.

Hear Prager again:

Atheists like Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.

None of this means that only believers in God can be good or that atheists cannot be good. There are bad believers and there are good atheists. But this fact is irrelevant to whether good and evil are real.

To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, “Do not murder,” murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.

The Afrikaner nationalists who imposed apartheid on South Africa, justified themselves with reference to their bible. “The sons of Ham must be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water.” They were most of them devout members of one or another of the Calvinist churches.

The Germans who carried out the will of the Hitlerian regime were almost to a man and woman raised in the faith of either Protestant or Catholic Christianity.

The slave traders and slave owners of Europe and America were Christians. The present slave traders and owners in North Africa and Asia are almost all Muslims, as are honor killers everywhere.

So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?

Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?

My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins’s reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church’s teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.

Just as Islamic terrorists do now, shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

And those old tribes were not without their gods. Most gods in those bad old days required human sacrifices.

In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That’s why we have the word “rationalize” — to use reason to argue for what is wrong.

What would reason argue to a non-Jew asked by Jews to hide them when the penalty for hiding a Jew was death? It would argue not to hide those Jews.

In that regard, let’s go to the empirical argument.

Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners’ lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.

I asked Samuel Oliner, “Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?”

Without hesitation, he said, “a Polish priest.” And his wife immediately added, “I would prefer a Polish nun.”

That alone should be enough to negate the pernicious nonsense that God is not only unnecessary for a moral world, but is detrimental to one.

At this point one might smile, for the irony of it – but it is no joke. Yes, among the Poles who sheltered Jews during the Nazi occupation there were priests and nuns. But has Prager forgotten that for 2ooo years Christianity has been persecuting Jews? That Poland was a land of pogroms? Does he imagine that priests and monks took no part in them? Is this just forgetfulness or – yet again – ignorance of history?

And what of the Papal and Spanish Inquisitions? Has he forgotten that in exactly the same way “God” tells men anything, he told the Inquisitors that burning people at the stake was good? 

But if that isn’t enough, how about the record of the godless 20th century, the cruelest, bloodiest, most murderous century on record? [?] Every genocide of the last century — except for the Turkish mass murder of the Armenians and the Pakistani mass murder of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was committed by a secular anti-Jewish and anti-Christian regime. And as the two exceptions were Muslim, they are not relevant to my argument. I am arguing for the God and Bible of Judeo-Christian religions.

Only now he tells us that he discounts Islam. Though why he believes the words of Allah are necessarily less true than the words of Jehovah or Jesus he does not say. Nor does he seem aware that much of the moral law putatively taught by Jehovah was discounted or even contradicted by the Christians’ triune God.  

And we repeat: the Third Reich was not anti-Christian. And Hitler himself was raised a Catholic. As for Stalin, he was thoroughly instructed in the morality of Christianity when he attended a Russian Orthodox seminary.

Perhaps the most powerful proof of the moral decay that follows the death of God is the Western university and its secular intellectuals. Their moral record has been loathsome. Nowhere were Stalin and Mao as venerated as they were at the most anti-religious and secular institutions in Western society, the universities. Nowhere in the West today is anti-Americanism and Israel-hatred as widespread as it is at universities. And Princeton University awarded its first tenured professorship in bioethics to Peter Singer, an atheist who has argued, among other things, that that “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee” and that bestiality is not immoral.

At last we can agree with Prager! Western universities have become moral cesspools. Not because they are secular, but because they teach socialism, collectivism, egalitarianism, political correctness, environmentalism; and because they deliberately misapply the principle of diversity to race and gender and not to ideas.

Dawkins and his supporters have a right to their atheism. They do not have a right to intellectual dishonesty about atheism.

No charge of intellectual dishonesty has been proved against Dawkins with these shallow arguments.

I have debated the best known atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss (“A Universe from Nothing”) and Daniel Dennett. Only Richard Dawkins has refused to come on my radio show.

If four smart atheists were unable to reason you out of your irrational beliefs, Dennis, why should another have a go? We don’t expect that you would be persuaded by our arguments even if you read them, which you probably will not. But we want to share our amusement with fellow non-believers.

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