Honest Atheists

Love this article on New Atheism vs. the time honored Nietzsche and Camus and Larkin:

http://theweek.com/article/index/241108/where-are-the-honest-atheists

In addition to the authors insight that a secular world is not all progress and roses, I would like to add that I have trouble envisioning a moral world without religion. I simply do not have that kind of faith in humanity. The edicts and mores of ancient texts are, as the atheists claim, methods of control. I don’t see that as a bad thing. And I don’t see a replacement for these guiding forces in science and secularism.

Perhaps in 1000 years, our population’s intelligence will increase to the point of folks being able to embrace and understand the work that lies behind creating a value system in an existential vacuum. I don’t think most of those up for parole in the current US prison population can do that. Whereas, I do think Mohammad and Jesus can help them turn their lives around.

And then there’s the rest of us. I don’t think 95% of Humans can or WANT to do this as we’d rather spend our free time watching TV, hiking, or going to our kid’s sporting events. So why not look to ancient text for wisdom on how to live our lives? Why not go to the Salvation Army when you need free lunch? Besides my local atheists don’t have a soup kitchen.

And that’s my other pet peeve. If secularists want religion to go away, they must do more than criticize it. They must offer the secular equivalent to meet society’s suffering and needs. This will take time and effort. But if religion is poisoning the well as they claim, it’s worth it. Crowd source that secular soup kitchen… stat.

 

 

14 Comments

  1. One last thought on the topic, then bed! Religion and religions may deal with the issue of the transitory nature of life, but somewhere in most theologies is a nod to the permanent nature of the spirit. Religion may not mean that that permanence involves the ego or the id at all, but I think most people believe it does, and therefore believe that they will somehow individually exist in the “afterlife”. By individually, I mean as an individual, not just part of a whole or a unity. Religions allow one to believe that your self or a part of your self will go on.

    But perhaps the most important thing to grasp in life is our complete lack of permanence, at least in any way that we way can fathom. I believe it is this understanding, though I personally may shirk from it at times, that is what allows us to lead the most gracious possible life. Philosophy 1, Religion 0.

  2. Holly, I appreciate that religion is perhaps more about behavior than belief, but without the “belief in JWH [insert whatever word doesn’t bother you or has remained undefined enough]”, what is religion?

  3. First thought while skimming the comments: why do we need to have one or the other–religion or politics or science? Seems like there is lots of room for corrections and complimentarity from each.

    on a side note, I get really bored with “belief in God” as the de facto definition of religion or the boundary to being religious. First, behavior, not belief, is the boundary to most of what constitutes religion (i.e. attendance to regular worship services). Second, “God” can be variously defined and has been revised throughout history and is hardly a consistent concept among even monotheists, let alone henotheists or animists.

    In the case of the comments about government providing meaning: religion does a great job of both putting out universals while giving expression to them through practices (worship, service, etc). You can have that without religion, too…. like bowling. And many people take that option.

  4. For me it’s to and too. The thread proves were not idiots. Misguided, in love with ourselves and our words, but idiots? Too harsh. 😉

  5. Rocky, you have always had the ability to enhance and refine my opinions and thoughts through discourse. Thanks, always, for the mental stimulation!

  6. The world MAY indeed be based only on cold scientific fact and deductive reasoning. And yet, dude doesn’t jump. Just because the world and it’s inhabitants are bound by the laws of physics, believing otherwise does not make it so. Believing otherwise may keep the dude from jumping, or something else might. We do have an innate and voracious desire to survive. I guess I’m just suggesting that one should choose one’s opiate very carefully. A philosophy absent of beliefs in higher beings is better than religion in this regard, in my opinion. And it CAN address the same needs that religion attempts to.

    When I started becoming an atheist, I didn’t want to annihilate the church I belonged to. I wanted to reform it. Or at least a few people’s opinions that were a part of it. My inability to do so led me to continue down the road of a “belief” in the absence of God.

    If I believed that religion offered as much solace as it does destruction, I could be more pro-religion. And yes, governments fail in this regard too, especially ones that seek Utopia.

    End Religion! End Government! Viva la Revolucion!

  7. I am having so much fun talking with you about this BTW. Thanks for reading and caring enough to comment. 🙂

  8. Power always oppresses and your Utopian secular government would do so as well. Lots of atrocities have come from both secular and religious forces in power and I don’t see why both sides are not entitled to move forward together into an uncertain future that hopes for more within society. There’s lots of unethical science going on in Pharmaceutics and GM foods, but no one calls for an end to science.

    New Atheists don’t lean on wisdom from mystics (you’re out of the club), only science. That’s why I like the old atheists. They didn’t adhere to this high mission of learning to live gracefully (or functionally) in the face of uncertainty. They saw it for what it was, an ugly reality.

    And no one is saying that accepting religion as a useful force in society means YOU must embrace it. But New Atheists call for its annihilation. I don’t get. In addition to being an improbable mission, I believe it’s short sighted and pulls the rug out from under human dignity and compassion because those things are hard to “justify” in the case of my heroin addict. Face it. In a world based only in deductive reasoning. Dude should go jump off a bridge.

  9. I can only imagine that, on the local level, there are many secularist social workers who seek to offer that very thing. Are there people who slip through the safety net? Yes. As we have it now, both religion and government try to assist, and it’s still way beyond perfect. Again, I don’t think that alone makes an argument for ignoring religion’s lack of evidence to support it’s claims. It doesn’t make an argument for supporting religion that has a spotty track record of efficacy. And it definitely can’t be used as an argument to blindly ignore what the universe may be telling us. Yes, that language is intentional. There may be no higher mission, no greater accomplishment, than learning to live gracefully in the face of complete uncertainty. Nothing offers that opportunity like pure atheism, whatever that might be! 🙂

    I am not a pure atheist. I lean on the wisdom of the mystics from many ancient traditions. Including Christianity. But it doesn’t mean I have to accept a defined belief and prescribed demoralizing morality. I can’t justify any morality that seeks to enforce its tenants through oppression. And power always oppresses.

  10. True, but what does/can the government offer a heroine addict who’s been to rehab 4 times is at the end of his rope, hopeless and suicidal?

    Will his social worker tell him he has a place in the world? That he can offer people something and is not a waste of skin and a drain on society. That he is here for a reason he and she may not yet understand.

    Who in government will offer this human dignity when they give nothing back to the secular world?

  11. A secularist’s answer to meeting society’s suffering and needs is a government with social “safety-net” programs. How well would any of these religious charities work without tax exemption? I’m not advocating using the government as a replacement for religion. Just as a replacement for crowd-sourcing the soup kitchen, as anyone who has ever accepted an unemployment check can attest to. I don’t think there’s a religious institution that offers this same kind of assistance. One added benefit: to accept this assistance, I don’t need to fear being shamed into believing and praying.

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