Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Religion in its purest form... is a vast work of bunkum

Dana at En Tequila Es Verdad discusses an interview in Salon with James Carse.

He (Carse) condemns Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for not being "historians or scholars of religion" and so "it's too easy for them to pass off a quick notion of what religion is."

This is a common argument; PZ called it the "Courtiers Reply". The fact is, when atheists engage with less sophisticated versions of religion, they're doing it because that's what people believe. Was Dawkins' aim to engage with esoteric, sophisticated versions of religious belief? No. Indeed, it's a pointless effort, because the apologist can simply keep moving their goalposts, and refusing to pin down exactly what it is they would expect the atheist to engage with. Carse's difficulty in defining religion in the interview is a case in point.

What these atheists do is argue with veiws on religion that people actually hold.

My first thought on reading this was "he's got a double standard there - he's not asking Christians to study sophisticated versions of other religions, to be historians or scholars of religion before they reject other religions".

But actually, what made me write this is that I realized it's worse than this. There's an even worse double standard.

Carse says:
"To be an atheist, you have to be very clear about what god you're not believing in. Therefore, if you don't have a deep and well-developed understanding of God and divine reality, you can misfire on atheism very easily."

Apparently, the meaning of atheism is lost on him, since, of course, we lack belief in any gods (unless gods are defined so weakly that the term becomes, essentially, pointless).

That's funny, because Carse is apparently attempting "to find some underlying unity to all religions".

His understanding of atheism is laughable. He also says:

"To be an atheist is not to be stunned by the mystery of things or to walk around in wonder about the universe."

So while he berates atheists for failing to have the sophisticated understanding that would come from being an historian and religious scholar, he can't even do us the courtesy of engaging with an everyday relatively unsophisticated version of atheism. Instead, he makes up his version of atheism out of whole straw.

That's an astounding double standard.


Anonymous said...

Ouch. The ideas that people insist on carrying about atheism amaze me; if only because in proclaiming our ignorance they reveal their own limitations.

I don't have enough faith to be an atheist is another witty claim from theologians and apologists, one that any freshman in high school could recognize for its stupidity.

Sure fooled the agnostic who wrote the review, didn't it?

Valhar2000 said...

"I don't have enough faith to be an atheist"...

Well, I guess it does make them feel good to think that, and it's cheaper than crack...

Dana Hunter said...

Fair took my breath away, he did. I'm glad I wasn't the only one.

People are incredibly idiotic when they're trying to defend religion. Even the smart ones end up sounding like blathering fools.

Bill Davison said...

As the human mind is fundamentally prone to the generation of illusions we must try to visualize in a realistic manner, the birth & ramose nature of Religiosity. Everyone is infected with an imaginative ‘spiritual’ tendency, sentimentally induced, that is nothing more than the natural wonderment of our existence & surroundings. Elemental reasoning is needed to place all ‘fantasial’ thoughts in true perspective.

‘Heavenly’ visions need to be truly assessed & not allowed to sabotage the prevalent common sense & research that seeks to counter Life’s ongoing problems. Unrealistic ‘Beliefs’, a cause of so much mayhem & mortality of past & present, are all very basic Man-made creations - - - devious proclamations of a false & tedious nature, incessantly filling shallow minds with absurd religious dogma.

Unease can result in the mind having a very distorted & tormented view of one’s situation, with an urge to look skywards for help. In order to form a valid judgement on ‘figmentary’ Gods & ‘Heavenly’ matters, a reasonably healthy state of mind is essential.

Nearing the end of a long life, not without bother, the need to rely on any absurd ‘belief’ has never really entered my consciousness! It’s all too apparent that religious ‘Faiths’ are pure humbug, blessed with existence by Impostors & their largely naive followers.

Bill Davison said...

It has always been obvious that our only way forward is in the utilization of everyday experience & research - ie - pure evidential communal common sense.

The need to consult Biblical, Koranic or any other crap-laden fairy-tales in order to pursue a decent & considerate existence beggar belief!

It is truly amazing that some individuals still refuse to acknowledge the misguided roots & routes of their primitive ancestors & continue to credit a silent & invisible presence with guidance in human conduct.