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Dawkins Fanboys, Please Read This

February 20th, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 60 Comments

In the context of heated arguments between Dawkins fanboys and freer thinkers :-P : can I request that everyone taking part in such debates first read Terry Eagleton’s review of The God Delusion, titled Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching? There is much material in it that is relevant to this kind of discussion. I would much love it if any further debates of that nature could be informed by every paragraph in that review.

I can just as easily deal in tired, overused, clichéd Dawkins-fanboy responses. They’re getting particularly boring and irritating. (Kinda like quoting Biblical truthisms? *ducks and runs*) That kind of rhetoric might work in certain fundie circles, it might even work on 95% of all Christians (I doubt it though), as most Christians are as “theologically illiterate” as Dawkins was when he wrote “The God Delusion”. (I prefer to believe Dawkins himself is a little more theologically literate than he lets on, or that he has learned quite a bit since the publishing of his polemic.) This blog isn’t a fundie blog though. If you want to spout fundamentalistic empiricism, please do so elsewhere.

Here’s an interview with Dawkins that might irk some fanboys: God… in other words. There is a lot of good stuff to read there. One little excerpt that is relevant:

“I do think that intelligent, sophisticated theologians are almost totally irrelevant to the phenomenon of religion in the world today. Regrettable as that may be.” Why so? “Because they’re outnumbered by vast hordes of religious idiots.”

Unfortunately for Dawkins, people often judge him based on the behaviour of those that look like his “followers”. These fanboys sadly lack Dawkins’ more admirable qualities. Jesus kinda has the same PR problem today.

Some thoughts from a review of Alister McGrath’s book, “Dawkins’ God”:

Throughout, McGrath maintains a balanced tone, treating Dawkins’ writing respectfully even when it is ignorant or nasty. He also contents himself by showing that Dawkins’ atheism is suspect rather than demonstrably wrong.

If that sounds odd, it is because we have been conned into the kind of over-simplistic thinking that Dawkins sometimes promotes and that McGrath criticises – specifically, the idea that unless something can be proved, it is false; that either you know something by proof or you don’t know it at all. McGrath shows that this is not so; that many theories are critically ‘underdetermined’ by evidence and that it is not just religious people who live by faith.

I’ve misplaced a link to another McGrath review that I quite liked. (It was more critical, and had a particular piece I wanted to quote.) Oh well.

Exercise to the reader, especially the atheistic ones: identify some of the things that you accept, despite them being “underdetermined” by evidence.

Categories: Religion and Science
Tags: · · · ·

60 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Terry Eagleton

    “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds”

    This is extremely biased. Looks more to me like Dawkins bashing instead of decent debating of what Dawkins is talking about. It seems more like people who are emotionally riled up and offended by his words, then they act like this. He assumes Dawkins has no biologists friends he can discuss things with and that he only reads books about birds. Terry is just being condescending.

    Hugu have you read the god delusion?

    Dawkins writings is extremely well written about the psychology of the god concept. His book is more in your face. I guess this is why you get the mixed responses. There is allot of things Dawkins say that i can not agree with but there are also allot of things i can agree with. I don’t see the point getting all emotionally riled up just because you find some sentences you dont agree with.

    You will always have atheist bashing theist literature. Now you have some theist bashing some atheist literature.

    *sigh*

    Nobody understands each other, we are more happy criticizing than really trying to understand.

  • 2 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I suppose I should have added a disclaimer. Yes, the review displays an anti-Dawkins bias. That is not the point. There is good material to be foudn in that review, that could serve to inform our discussions here.

  • 3 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Hugo it is all about personal biases, while reading through Terry’s review, i can see that he holds other definitions or knowledge about religion, faith and the hope it gives that those of Dawkins. Again i think Dawkins was more concerned with the psychology of the god concept than with the personal impact it has on a individual. He looked at everything holistically so of course he is going to miss the finer details. Witch terry is pointing out quite well. But that in itself does not make Dawkins wrong in the way he viewed it. Again one must place an atheistic mind frame towards his words(no evidence, makes probability of it existing small)

  • 4 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Wow should have reread my comment. allot of spelling and grammar faults. Hope you are good a deceivering

  • 5 gerhard // Feb 20, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    negate : hi , you rock !

    -negatefanboy

    hugo : almost every paragraph is irrelevant to this discussion :P j/k
    you must see McGrath and dawkins talking/debating … funny as fuck, McGrath ends up looking like such an idiot each time…
    eagelton wants dawkins to discuss _his_ god personal god, dawkins outlines exactly what he means by ‘god’ and discusses that :P poor him..

    -dawkins fanboy

  • 6 Bad Ben // Feb 20, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Gerhard you come across as quite arrogant.

  • 7 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    I listened to that debate now, Thx Gerhard. Dawkins put it well : its about truth not about the good religion did or the good religion did in persons life. This perfectly outlines atheistic mind frame. This is why theist and atheist can’t debate. McGrath spends his time trying to defend a god that dawkins did not talk about.

    Atheists want proof, an emotional defense of a personal god is not proof of god to an atheist and it will just cause atheist to think you are stupid, just as Gerhard pointed out. One can also hear in some instances in that debate that Dawkins wants to laugh because McGrath is totally missing the point.

    Two people talking at each other about two different gods. Ben, gerhard is not arrogant, i think it is you who is arrogant, because you wont spend time trying to understand atheistic mind frame, you are happier with personal attacks.

  • 8 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    McGrath spends his time trying to defend a god that dawkins did not talk about.

    And Dawkins is talking about a God that McGrath isn’t defending. I see the same absurdity happening here on this blog. Can we stop wasting time?

    But that in itself does not make Dawkins wrong in the way he viewed it.

    And did I ever say it did?

    Yes, Gerhard, Negate rocks and you suck. j/k.

    So here’s the point: lets drop the stupid jokes. E.g. this one:

    hugo : almost every paragraph is irrelevant to this discussion :P j/k

    To which discussion, exactly? The one you want my blog to be about? (That which I call hijacking.) If yo ucannot understand the relevancy of the review, please leave and don’t come back. You’d be wasting your time as well as my time.

    Children children, let’s stop the childish finger pointing and playground fights. Please.

    Gerhard is arrogant. Ben is a Shofarian. And Gerhard is not trying to understand the theistic mind frame either.

    So just shut up, the whole lot of you.

  • 9 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    So, what was your response to this?:

    So just shut up, the whole lot of you.

    Your first thought was “oh, I have been wronged! I must comment!” If that was your thought, shut up and go away. If your thought was “now why does he say that? What is he responding to?” – then you can stay. And you can tell me I’m offensive.

    Please stop responding to offensive stuff with offensive stuff, else we just escalate this to war and kill each other.

  • 10 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    lol

    Hugo i did not say you said that, i merely meant it as a statement. Dawkins is right in the mind frame he expressed his viewpoint and terry is also right in the way he expressed his viewpoint. But neither is talking about the same thing. There is a fundamental breakdown in communication because theist and atheist tend not to understand each other.

    When atheist talks to you about god, he asks you where is the evidence for god(because atheist mind frame seeks evidence) now everybody gets emotionally riled up. My conclusion is it is best not to debate the issues of god between atheist and theist because the term and process of search for god holds grossly different meanings for both parties.

    Gerhard is not arrogant. He again he is merely stating his opinion with an atheistic mindframe, ben as a shofarian is doing exactly the same i am doing exactly the same, then we all are just arrogant so wtf are we doing talking then?

  • 11 Ben // Feb 20, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Dunno if I would count as a Dawkins fanboy, since I’ve never been able to finish anything he’s written, but:

    Reading…Oh, jeez. it starts with a Courtier’s Reply. ‘Imagine one holding that the Star Trek universe is fictional, without reading the Annals of Star Trek Conventions, or the complete guide to ST spacecraft, or knowing what warp numbers represent…it’s ridiculous for someone to so Trekkie-illiterate to hold such an opinion.’

    Dawkins considers that all faith is blind faith, and that Christian and Muslim children are brought up to believe unquestioningly.

    He’s right. No Christian or Muslim instruction that I know of presents the ‘theological method’ and how it is used to arrive at conclusions (for one reason, there is no such method.) What is taught is what you should believe, not how we form more and more accurate beliefs.

    He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing.

    Is ‘He’ a something? Then ‘He’ doesn’t answer the question, since the question must be re-asked for ‘Him.’ If ‘He’ a nothing? Then ‘He’ doesn’t answer the question, since ‘nothing’ is not an answer.

    …incredibly long list of huge asswertions like ‘He is what sustains all things in being by his love; and this would still be the case even if the universe had no beginning’….

    How do you get from ‘energy can neither be created nor destroyed’ to ‘energy can neither be created nor destroyed but is sustained in being by god’s love’? Show your work. Oh, wait, there is no work. It’s the same old theological method of ‘make stuff up and assert it strongly.’

    But critics of the richest, most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive, rather than grabbing themselves a victory on the cheap by savaging it as so much garbage and gobbledygook.

    Considering that the ‘theologically illiterate’ make up the vast majority of Christians, Dawkins IS confronting it at its most persuasive – that which persuaded the most people.

    Sheesh this is dreck. Finished it.

    I would much love it if any further debates of that nature could be informed by every paragraph in that review.

    You think we haven’t read such things before?

    intelligent, sophisticated theologians

    follow the same method of making stuff up, but also tend to make sure that the stuff they make up is consistent with scientific knowledge. They also tend to avoid authoritarian ethics. As such, of course they tend to cause less harm than fundamentalists.

    identify some of the things that you accept, despite them being “underdetermined” by evidence.

    I can’t think of any ‘is’ claims that I accept that would fit. If I found one, it would become something I no longer accepted.

  • 12 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 20, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Above comment was mine, I forgot to fix the name.

  • 13 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    And so we go around and around and around.

    Hugo: this is my viewpoint.
    Ben: oh, well, this is my viewpoint.
    Gerhard: my viewpoint is this.
    Johan: I see things this way.
    Rudolph: this is what I see.
    Hugo: well, y’see, I don’t agree, because this is my viewpoint.
    Tom: you already said that. Well, this is my opinion.
    Hugo: I know I said that, but no one seems to listen.
    Negate: well my opinion is this.
    Gerhard: see, Negate sees it the same way I do.
    Hugo: well, he expresses it better. And you are all saying the same thing over and over again.
    Dick: Oh, friggen hell.
    Harry: I think we should just stop communicating. Because we’re clearly not communicating anyway.

  • 14 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Ben, you also missed the point. I’m not attacking Dawkins. I’m trying to give some background on what approach I want this blog to take. I’m not interested in debating atheists. I’m not attacking atheists.

    Gatvol,
    Hugo

  • 15 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Harry i Agree with your assessment here. Partly everyones fault don’t you think? Faith is clouding the judgment of a theist to understand truth in an atheist eyes? reliance on evidence clouding the atheist eyes to see the deeper spiritual meaning an theist holds. In the end harry this is what communicating is all about, the opportunity to express a viewpoint even if it contradicts or goes in circles. The point being when the circle comes back to you, you have another chance to just maybe express yourself better, to just maybe understand your own viewpoint better, yourself better, or another person better.

    It is because of understanding of other peoples feelings where we build our morals upon. We need to understand each other in a group context don’t you think Hugo?

    The whole point of people expressing there opinions is for the hope that someones sees and understands there opinion and that will allow for an opportunity of deeper communication.

  • 16 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    I’m not attacking Dawkins. I’m trying to give some background on what approach I want this blog to take.

    I didn’t take the article as a personal attack on Dawkins or as a group attack on atheists. I took it at face value as someone claiming certain of Dawkins’ viewpoints were wrong and responded in kind.

    I don’t understand. In what way do you want the article to inform debate? When I read it, what should I take away from it and why?

  • 17 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I understand the atheistic viewpoint. I’m sick and tired of people thinking I don’t.

    This is not a theism-vs-atheism blog. I’m trying my damndest to explain the theistic viewpoint so that I can get on with the blog. But we’re so busy reiterating and reitering “this is the theologically-informed theistic viewpoint” “this is the atheistic viewpoint” “this is the theologically-informed theistic viewpoint” “this is the atheistic viewpoint”, I don’t even know where we are disagreeing. Because we keep on shouting from our islands, instead of coming to some point where we can continue talking about real stuff.

    I have never, on this blog, tried to convert any atheist. I’m biting my tongue to stop me from swearing about the friggen defensive nature of every second comment. If we can stop attacking, we can stop defending, and have an actual conversation about something interesting.

    $#!@%^#$

  • 18 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Sorry guys, I’ve just had a very frustrating day. Everything seems to be fighting me at every single turn. Especially my computer and my cellphone.

    And clearly I’m failing miserably at communicating.

    I’m breaking here. And I hurt the people around me because of it.

    Maybe I should just disable commenting completely?

  • 19 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    What Dawkins did well in his book was to express the kind of feelings an atheist holds. The problem is, when a theist reads those feelings they feel something is attacking there belief and they automatically switch to biased defense mode like Terry did. I love reading this blog because Hugo is good at seeing patterns. I kinda reminds me of young Buddha, the story went, Buddha would either have been a great king or a spiritual leader. lol Where will your talents go Hugo?

    >Dawkins has an enormous amount in common with Ian Paisley and American TV evangelists. Both parties agree pretty much on what religion is; it’s just that Dawkins rejects it while Oral Roberts and his unctuous tribe grow fat on it.

    Consumerism, both parties saw a niche gap in the market they could exploit. We as humans are easily fooled by our desires. Smart people/kings/dictators easily take advantage of this. The question is, do they knowingly do it, or do they do its out of a passion they found? Did hitler kill millions because he is psycho or perhaps he responded enthusiasticly to a passion of a super race?

    >Dawkins considers that all faith is blind faith, and that Christian and Muslim children are brought up to believe unquestioningly.

    This is true, the culture we are born in kinda in doctrines us to believe in a certain faith? Does it matter though? It is faith that is important, because it is faith that gives hope. I once wathced at a documentary on a poor African country, faith in god meant so much to people that don’t have allot. There faces absolutely moved me.

  • 20 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    I request that everyone taking part in such debates first read Terry Eagleton’s review of The God Delusion, titled Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching? There is much material in it that is relevant to this kind of discussion. I would much love it if any further debates of that nature could be informed by every paragraph in that review.

    I took this to imply that you wanted us to read the review because there were a lot of true things in it that ‘Dawkins fanboys’ were wrong about. Your later comments are telling me that my impression was wrong.

    In what way do you want the article to inform debate? When I read it, what should I take away from it and why?

  • 21 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Thanks Negate.

    I don’t know what I want. It’s as if I want everyone to comment in precisely the way I want them to comment. What nonsense.

    Negate’s comment here invites a discussion/debate. What to do?

    “Does it matter though?”

    Here’s where I agree with Dawkins: fundamentalistic extremism is dangerous, and needs to be addressed. He is doing what he thinks is best. He is making his best contribution. Whether a good idea, or misguided, isn’t really relevant right now.

    What I want from people, is understanding. I’d like people to understand Eagleton’s perspective. Don’t think for a moment that Eagleton doesn’t understand Dawkins’, you’d be making a big mistake. Ditto here.

    So what is Hugo up to? I’m trying to help. And I want people to understand. Theologically speaking, whether God exists or not, is very much a matter of definitions. This is one of the things I wanted you to see in the Eagleton article. So never mind theism-vs-atheism silliness. That is not relevant to me. If I say “I consider every human to have a God”, I’d love it if atheists don’t take that as an attack, but rather understand what I mean by it. Because *then*, we can continue communicating.

    OK, another blog post coming up, hopefully this can give a better idea of where I’m headed. Note: hopefully. I still have hope. However, I’m beginning to lose faith. Hope without faith doesn’t get you anywhere. I need faith here. I need hope and faith to keep me sane. Hope and faith that there is a future for humanity. Y’know?

  • 22 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    >God is not an obstacle to our autonomy and enjoyment but, as Aquinas argues, the power that allows us to be ourselves. Like the unconscious, he is closer to us than we are to ourselves

    Wow These words of Terry kinda remind me of Buddhism. Buddha said exactly the same. The answers to life’s deepest questions(enlightenment) lies in the silence of our mind. Perhaps Aquinas argues used god as a middleman to get in touch with himself(his humanity his spirituality whatever you want to call it)

    >This false consciousness is overthrown in the person of Jesus, who reveals the Father as friend and lover rather than judge. ..

    Terry beautifly explains these wonderful feelings that a passioned theists holds, it makes me wonder why i don’t long for such feelings? anybody?
    Terry does have a great perspective especially when i made it past his biased part. I understand those feelings(I hope) I just don’t see the importance or change for the better it could have on my life. Maybe later in my life when I need it more will I understand it better.

  • 23 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    I took this to imply that you wanted us to read the review because there were a lot of true things in it that ‘Dawkins fanboys’ were wrong about.

    I want people to break free from thinking in terms of “right and wrong” here. I’m implying there’s something that “Dawkins fanboys” do not understand. When they make sweeping statements, yes, I think they are “not quite correct”.

    Ugh.

    The main aim here is to try to make people realise that simple boxes are not adequate. I don’t fit in a neat box, for one. We’re still arguing about how the boxes should be defined. I consider such arguing not relevant and counter productive. And I know not everyone agrees with this sentiment of mine. I’m sorry that I cannot motivate why it is counter productive in one short blog post.

    Frustration. At my inability to communicate.

  • 24 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 20, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    I want people to break free from thinking in terms of “right and wrong” here.

    When it comes to is claims, I very much want to think in terms of ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Actually, I consider it immoral to not value having one’s picture of what is as right as it can be made. Andrea Yates, for example, made exactly the right decisions to maximize her children’s welfare in light of her beliefs about what is. So, I would vehemently refuse to ‘break free’ from thinking in terms of right and wrong about is claims. It’s a horrible idea. I can’t really articulate how much I dislike it.

    When they make sweeping statements, yes, I think they are “not quite correct”.

    I’ll agree with that. Many of the times I got fed up and threw down the GD were after reading overly broad or poorly worded statements.

  • 25 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Wow These words of Terry kinda remind me of Buddhism

    Liberal Christianity sees much in common between the Buddhist and Christian traditions.

    Theologically speaking (having talked to theologians from the local seminary), “God” serves as a mirror in which you see yourself. Grrr, I don’t like the wording of that statement. I don’t have enough knowledge of this kind of thing to communicate it well. Take the changing views/understanding of God through the Old Testament. (Ignore the fundie claims for a moment.) From a vindictive genocidal God, all the way through to a loving God, different understandings of what it means to live this life. “God” as the thing that drives you, would thus point out that Hitler had a terrible “God”, Jesus a beautiful one. A different Meh with which to describe an aspect of the human condition. The “humanist God” (if we could talk about something like that) would be a God of compassion and reason…

    Having yourself as your God though, is not good. That basically means you can do whatever you want, including killing people. In this kind of sense, atheists (99.9% of them) do not take themselves as their own Gods. (OK, Hitler played God over many people, but anyway.)

    To draw from the Christian tradition for a second, this is a post I have in the long pipeline, two commandments: “love your God, love your neighbour as yourself”. The latter is the golden rule. The former is an important addition though. If you want someone to kill you, the Golden Rule would urge you to go kill other people. The “loving your God”, and “worshipping” a good God (a God of compassion and love), is an important part of the equation. The secular equivalent of not having a God, or being God to yourself, would be narcissism.

    Atheists are not narcissists. From a theological perspective, they “have a God”. This is the point from which Alister McGrath is trying to communicate. This is the language that Dawkins doesn’t want to accept, because he prefers the atheistic language. (See my “language differences” post, maybe. Um, here:

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/10/12/language-differences-3-of-3/

    This was part three in a series that started with a provocably titled post “How to Convert an Atheist”. Let me know what you think of the language differences post.)

    it makes me wonder why i don’t long for such feelings? anybody?

    Hmm, one potential answer: most Christians. ?

    Ben-Jammin’, you’re no Dawkins fanboy. Just so that you know. I hear what you say about is claims.

  • 26 Sad Ben // Feb 20, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Hugo(2posts ago): The main aim here is to try to make people realise that simple boxes are not adequate. I don’t fit in a neat box, for one. We’re still arguing about how the boxes should be defined. I consider such arguing not relevant and counter productive. And I know not everyone agrees with this sentiment of mine. I’m sorry that I cannot motivate why it is counter productive in one short blog post.

    Ben is a Shofarian.

  • 27 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Hmm, so what was I trying to communicate with this, exactly? :

    Gerhard is arrogant. Ben is a Shofarian. And Gerhard is not trying to understand the theistic mind frame either.

    That’s definitely not clear communication. It was also a rather unfortunate set of labelling/boxing, yea.

    That statement was meant as a direct response to Negate, with respect to this:

    Two people talking at each other about two different gods. Ben, gerhard is not arrogant, i think it is you who is arrogant, because you wont spend time trying to understand atheistic mind frame, you are happier with personal attacks.

    Oh, I don’t know how to further explain it. Just, um, don’t judge Ben by the label I gave him. It wasn’t about the label, it was meant as an attempt to discourage Negate from making sweeping statements with regards to arrogance. (And there I go and make the same statement. How arrogant of me.)

    Hmm, so we’re all arrogant. Let’s put that behind us and move on. (Sorry, no, sweeping statement. Only some of us are arrogant. And that includes me.)

  • 28 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I’m sucking with my communication right now. Basically, I want us all to take each other’s context into consideration in our communication. That is all.

  • 29 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    >views/understanding of God through the Old Testament. (Ignore the fundie claims for a moment.) From a vindictive genocidal God, all the way through to a loving God, different understandings of what it means to live this life.

    My mind tends to go in evolutionary terms when i see this. Social needs evolved, communication evolved, our understanding of what is important and moral to us as humanity evolved and so did our god, oh crap, there my dogmatic thoughts goes again. Ill try pulling it back abit. “humanist God” I like this term because it kinda fits into my mind of social systems and morality evolving while incorporating god. We are in a constant struggle to be in equilibrium with the enviorement(including fellow humans) when you build a god with a foundation of compassion it helps equilibrium with fellow humans, thus making us evolve more peacefully, lovingly and efficiently. What do you mean by “humanist god” I kinda have conflicting thoughts about it?

    >Having yourself as your God though, is not good. That basically means you can do whatever you want, including killing people.

    I’m kinda agreeing and disagreeing. I think humanity has a social intuition of morality by observing family and our fellow groups. Even if you are brought up to think you are your own god, if it is morally accepted in your group not to kill i don’t think that desire will manifest itself. Does it not come down to rejection. Nobody want to be rejected, automatically if you do something that is not accepted by the group you will be rejected. Thinking you are your own god also has some good points, for example a stronger sense of who is in control could develop that helps, pushes or motivates you to do something great. By including humanist god here What emotions or part of humanity do you think you are including in a persons life?

    >Atheists are not narcissists. From a theological perspective, they “have a God”. This is the point from which Alister McGrath is trying to communicate. This is the language that Dawkins doesn’t want to accept, because he prefers the atheistic language.

    I agree, I believe it comes down to what each of us perceives what our reality should be. Dawkins has already made up what is his truth in life and what is his reality. It is hard to convince someone of another way of looking at something if he has already made up his mind. He’s shows the same passion on his sense of truth that allot of theologians show.

    >Hmm, one potential answer: most Christians. ?

    Most Christians are perhaps the cause not the reason, or perhaps i don’t wont to forgive god for a certain feeling he caused me? I found something else to cling on (*sigh finally after years of searching) I’m happy now, so i feel that i don’t need him and that feeling ;-)

    I think the language differences posts was more aimed at theists, so that they could regonize the atheist god. The image a atheist has of god is not the image a theist has of god. Most theist try throwing there god at us, without trying to talk to us in terms of our understanding of what god is.

  • 30 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    >It wasn’t about the label, it was meant as an attempt to discourage Negate from making sweeping statements with regards to arrogance.

    And my response was a attempt to discourage ben from calling gerhard arrogant, I meant no offense ben, i just found it kinda rude that you judged gerhard so easy. His statements was adequate in the context he meant it.

  • 31 Sad Ben // Feb 20, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Gerhard you come across as quite arrogant.

    my exact statement.

    It is an attempt at stating an observation without coming across with absoulute certainty.

    Negate, I obviously did not make this clear enough. Is it far-fetched to assume you read my statement unfairly because I am a Shofarian?

    Ai, I knew when I wrote it that that comment would be misconstrued. ai. I kind of set myself up for that one. A bit of wanhoop set in i guess.

    Moving swiftly along…

  • 32 Sad Ben // Feb 20, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    No worries though. Misunderstandings I guess. I did not mean to judge. no sir.

  • 33 Negate // Feb 20, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    No not at all did i read you statement unfairly because you are Shofarian. I know nothing of Shofar to make judgments.

  • 34 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    our understanding of what is important and moral to us as humanity evolved and so did our god, oh crap, there my dogmatic thoughts goes again.

    Hehe… How about you rather say “our understanding of ‘God’ evolved” (or developed)? That sounds much better. ;-) This “evolution” of our understanding does change in leaps and bounds though. Jesus’ teachings on “God” was ground breaking. And then we have the enlightenment, which had another impact on our understanding of “God”.

    CS Lewis’ argument for the existence of God was based on the existence of morality. I.e. he kinda defines our “morality” as “God”. Evolve yourself a set of “altruistic” and “fairness” genes, and you’d typically have a God-concept containing elements of altruism and fairness. Note I’m not really talking about causality here. Cause-and-effect is an enlightenment-era western scientific approach to things. I’m talking more of the human condition, the human state, than about how we got here.

    Now yes, this is a stretch for an atheist. Check the Eagleton article again, on how atheists define God. Well, yea, they define God the way the majority of Christians define God, I know that. But we’re playing theology here. Anyway, the point is, atheists also have their “God” in an anthropological or theological sense, but it has so little in common with the fundamentalist’s God, that it does indeed not make much sense to them to call it “God”.

    So yea, the atheistic opinion is typically a rejection of this understanding of “every human has a God”.

    I hope you understand what I mean. I do understand the atheist’s sentiments as well.

    Anthropology: all human tribes have a “religion”. Hmm… now I won’t go and stretch that definition/understanding as well. I’d much prefer to do a thoughtful post on “religion” some time. Ditto actually for “God”.

    So note: my comments do not reflect my whole view, they often focus on a particular element. I’d love to bring in some thoughts on the “creator God” some time soonish, and what that means in terms of morality. (Another approach to the golden rule does flow from an understanding of “God”, or a “meeting with God”. That last bit is rather hard to write about though. Hmm…)

  • 35 Hugo // Feb 20, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    I found something else to cling on

    In some senses, a new “God”. And yes, I understand that it makes no sense to an atheist to call that new thing you cling to “God”. I’m not trying to advocate changing your language, really. I’m just trying to help facilitate an understanding of theistic and theological language. (And that from the position of my rather limited understanding.)

  • 36 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Can we have a blog entry about modes of reality?

    I want to hypothesise the idea that we keep missing each other because we talk different languages that pertain to different expriences of reality.

    I want to say that I am also a lover of Science, even though I am grossly ignorant to the myriads of theories out there. But science refers to empirical reality.

    I postulate that religion per sé refers to a different mode of experience reality which science can not account for.

    Someone said that even though sociological (read emirical) can explain religious phenomena, it cannot explain it away…

    Chew on and ponder this for a moment.

    Could it be that there is merit in both?

    Wher to from here then?

    What I am not trying to say is that science is the “primitive” and religion th “advanced modes. simply that they are different.

    How do we reconcile the two if possible (it seems there was a time when these two specific modes where able to co-exist)?

  • 37 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 8:07 am

    I want to side with Hugo on this: I can understand the atheist stance.

    How about we assume that none of us are correct; that reality is too big for us to grasp, and that we can in fact learn from other systems of “knowledge”.

    Lets start from the bottom up and be rigorously self critical in an attempt to toss our grand narratives and start from the bottom up.

    we are all “guilty” of believing we are right.

  • 38 Negate // Feb 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Hugo I must admit some of the things you said confuses me a bit.

    >Hehe… How about you rather say “our understanding of ‘God’ evolved”

    The way I am interpreting this, is you are saying humanities progress is gods progress. The more we learn the more “god” learns. Tell me if i’m interpreting it correctly?

    >Well, yea, they define God the way the majority of Christians define God

    What you also must remember, although the defenition is the same, an atheist mind frame concerns itself with truth. Does such a being exist? Does such a being exert any power over our life? These questions leads one to search for evidence, the evidence one finds is that the Fundy god is very much a psychological manifestation. I know you knew this, i just want you to remember that atheists really want to grasp a natural truth more than a spiritual one, if that makes sense. So it indeed does not make it sense to call it god, but for the sake of understanding what you mean better im trying to throw away my biased feelings. I think perhaps you should try and explain the ” meaning” of “god” better. Is it morality, progress, a tool, a platform or perhaps everything if everything then why?

    >I’m just trying to help facilitate an understanding of theistic and theological language.

    I believe that i understand theistic language, I also believe my “god” as you call it is different from that language. In a sense if i should try and explain it, theist language uses god as platform to understand his creation, while atheist language removes to platform and dives right into the creation. Please let me know if you have something to add on this?

  • 39 gerhard // Feb 21, 2008 at 11:10 am

    negate: i like to think of it as atheist have a framework to work from , and theists have a framework to work within.
    the meaning of what god means keeps changing[is obtuse] because of our framework (which is also shared by theists sometimes) keeps changing the boundries of their ‘within’.
    Theists _will_ mostly take offence to what is produced by the framework we work from because it isnt within or derrived from theirs. (hence some people take offence to being ‘reduced’ to ‘animals’ when they emotionally believe being an animal is beneath them)…

  • 40 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Sad Ben, with regards to “realities”, I was writing about “Meh” and “Lah” earlier, with Lah being empirical reductionistic investigations that science does, and “Meh” being the level on which we experience things. That’s the level on which emotion and interpretation and meaning is found.

    Does such a being exist? Does such a being exert any power over our life? These questions leads one to search for evidence, the evidence one finds is that the Fundy god is very much a psychological manifestation.

    Negate, don’t throw out everything you already know in the process of trying to remove your bias. We’re pretty much talking definitions here.

    Right… so… many aspects to “god”:

    You have probably heard that the alcoholic has alcohol as his “god”. It rules his life. It has a definite effect. The “evidence” is there. This is the personal god. “God” works on that level.

    Then there’s the tribal god, the one that wins wars. We’re thinking war gods in the Old Testament. The sentiment that people win wars, not gods, well, that’s kinda Lah. On the Meh side of things, i.e. on the psychological side of things (psychology is the Lah investigation of Meh), a particular tribe’s God concept does have an effect. Their understanding of “God”, often given to them by their leader in war, has a big influence on how well they’re inspired, or how well they fight. Oh, think “Gladiator” here, a belief in a wonderful afterlife has a big effect on taking away the edge of “fear”. Yes, we’re talking psychology here.

    With regards to the “creator God”, I’d have to talk about Imago Dei, etc. The idea that there’s a bit of God in each of us. (The “created in God’s image” idea.) If God is the creator, and we create, y’know? Another Meh/Lah post is needed.

    So…. what’s the difference now? The atheist doesn’t believe in a God that interferes supernaturally, doesn’t believe in a “personal” God, a conscious entity that cares. Well, I don’t know what level consciousness is on. Pull in a pantheistic notion, and I’d ask, is the Universe conscious? We are here… in a sense, we are the Universe’s consciousness. But anyway, that sounds all newage.

    If you believe there is no conscious interaction, you might end up at deism.

    Um… ok, I’m going to end this here. I don’t want to go into explicit detail. Lah-speaking, it’s psychological. Atheists speak mostly about Lah. Um, about “reality”, y’know? Meh-speaking, or pre-modernistically speaking, there is something in everyone’s life that could be labelled their god.

    Definitions.

    More interesting questions then, instead of debating the existence or non-existence of God, would deal with things like miracles and the effect of prayer.

    And I’m getting ahead of myself. Posts about nearly all of this is in the pipeline for this blog. A long, slow journey. Targeted at regular readers that don’t have time to read much more than a post per day.

    So how do we avoid sinking all our time into discussion? I dunno… Some attempt at staying on the topic of the post? A limit to the number of comments each person makes? Naah, none of that… I’m just going to comment less myself. I suppose you can discuss it all you like in the comments. I’m just trying to get the foundations laid for me to be understood from all sides. That’s kinda difficult, as you all know.

    Primarily speaking with theists, I’m primarily speaking theistic language. Until now, I’ve been trying to get the atheists here to understand that.

    What a minefield. ;-) Time to rest and recover. Um, and refer you back to the Eagleton article, with regards to definitions and understanding of “God”.

  • 41 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Gerhard.

    To state that God is beyond our compreshension seems to me like a non-limiting framework: one that should actually inspire our change. No?

    Rob Bell Beautifully describes this idea in his book Velvet Elvis.

    Anyways what is more, and I think Hugo might also agree, that I feel like I become the scapegoat for the “stupid theologians”. I do not wish to be known as SHOFARIAN only to be dismissed on the basis of presumption that I too am an uncritical creationist.

    Some things I still haven’t made up my mind on.

    I do not in turn wish to practise this gross dismissiveness on you guys: I want to know more about why you believe what you believe: your personal backgrounds etc. Those of you who are offended by the church, I wanna know why. Is it because of bad doctrine in need of revision? is it because of young believers misinterpreting and being fundamentalistic about certain beliefs? Is it just one persons stupidity and misrepresentation of Christ? There are obviously other possibilities, who do not draw so heavily on my framework. I want to know them aswell.

    However all of us seem to be working from and relying heavily on our own frameworks, even for description thereof. I don’t agree Atheists are free from working within a framework. Lets try at least to break it down to as grassroots as possible talk. Lets get basic and build on that, maybe?

    I dunno, any ideas?

  • 42 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Anyways what is more, and I think Hugo might also agree, that I feel like I become the scapegoat for the “stupid theologians”. I do not wish to be known as SHOFARIAN only to be dismissed on the basis of presumption that I too am an uncritical creationist.

    Amen to that…

    May our labels not carry much meaning, other than describing the place in which we find ourselves? Just a small piece of context, not an all-encompassing defining label.

    So… how about a good sequence of testimonies then? I actually already have Negate’s testimony in my inbox. And I have more of my past I want to sketch out.

    Can we take this slow and patient though? I cannot handle a higher posting rate, I have a queue of things I want to post, and I seriously need to reduce the quantity/regularity of my commenting.

    No rush, right?

  • 43 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    YES!

    Testimonies, I was about to do that anyway!!!

  • 44 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    YES!

    Testimonies, I was about to do that anyway!!!

    Also how about we get together for a bit of “COFFEE VS TEA” in keeping with the tradition of this blog, ey NeGATE, GERHARD and HUGO?

    that should be interesting…

  • 45 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Tea. Definitely tea. Rooibos if you don’t want caffeine, otherwise Green Tea or English for late night work. And anyone who disagrees is wrong. Coffee tastes bad. How can you not realise this?!

    Hehe. Comic relief would be good every now and then. It would be useful as a reminder not to take ourselves too seriously. Life isn’t that serious. However, let’s keep the majority of the comic relief on topics where it is obvious for everyone, including newcomers.

    Something like BMW vs Mercedes is way too serious. We all know a debate between coffee and tea is light hearted and not meant seriously. And we all know BMW is better than Mercedes, but that the Mercedes fans get defensive over this fact. I suggest we don’t discuss this truth therefore. Just to keep emotions in check.

  • 46 gerhard // Feb 21, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    To state that God is beyond our compreshension seems to me like a non-limiting framework: one that should actually inspire our change. No?

    sad ben, i wish i could agree on this point, the thing is , defineing something as limitless is very limiting in itself and i also find that a very arrogant thing to say. (not saying u’re being arrogant , saying the meaning is.. ) it translates to ‘anything goes and we could never understand it because we’re too limited’. to me, it is saying that the teapot exists but we’re too stupid to ever understand the complexity ..

    btw, i dont see you as a shofarian , i see you as a theist. so no specific bias , just the general one.

  • 47 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 21, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    How about we assume that none of us are correct; that reality is too big for us to grasp, and that we can in fact learn from other systems of “knowledge”.

    We are fundamentally in a state of ignorance, and all our learning leads to tentative conclusions only. That said, all my beliefs – my tentative conclusions – are the results of our best methods: scientific, historical, etc.

    I want to know more about why you believe what you believe: your personal backgrounds etc. Those of you who are offended by the church, I wanna know why. Is it because of bad doctrine in need of revision? is it because of young believers misinterpreting and being fundamentalistic about certain beliefs? Is it just one persons stupidity and misrepresentation of Christ?

    My ‘testimony’ can be found here. In short, the priests and religion class instructors never gave a remotely satisfying answer as to ‘how’ they know what they taught.

  • 48 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks Ben! I assume I can duplicate that on my blog some time? (Probably not soon. I’ll keep the bookmark for later.)

  • 49 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    And then I wonder how many read the “God… in other words” article. Here’s an interesting, hopefully thought-provoking piece, mostly for the atheists:

    His main beef is in fact with fundamental-ism. I suggest that the people most likely to take his arguments on board are the intelligent, enlightened people in the middle ground. If he takes them out of the equation by virtue of intellectual supremacy, he leaves the space vacant for fundamentalists to take over the centre. This has to be one of the arguments for continued establishment, so the Church of England can act as a kind of buffer against extremism, a buffer lacking in the US.

    “What you mean is that institutions like the Church of England would be taken over by fundamentalists because all the intelligent people would have left.” Or the institutions would cease to exist and the fundamentalists would become the centre. “I can see that and I think it’s certainly a sensible and arguable position that, short of vaccination, a weakened strain of the virus should protect against the virulent strain.” For a moment, I had forgotten I was talking to a biologist.

    In South Africa, many people think the Dutch Reformed church is doomed. Personally, I really hope not. There is much work to be done, much contribution to be made. But to survive, it will probably need some serious renewal. Renewal that is taking place in the theological faculty, renewal that is taking place in churches in Stellenbosch, I still have much hope.

    And then there’s schools. They need much help, they have a long way to go. But science education is picking up, and critical thinking with it. The future looks bright. Even if only because of cognitive bias, I prefer to see brightness rather than doom and despair.

    Um, enough random off-topic banter from me.

  • 50 Rinus // Feb 21, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Coffee is better. Then again, I might be biased…

    BMW vs. Mercedes: I think you might just stick to religion; it’s a much less emotional topic :p

    Did I say coffee is better? Tea is good, when there’s no coffee… and saying coffee tastes bad is like saying red wine tastes bad… ;)

    Seriously, but somewhat cryptically, I do agree with Hugo. On every post so far. Even the ones you are contradictory. Maybe even especially those ones. And hopefully to ease the frustration, I think I understand what you are trying to say/do.

    Oh, but I don’t agree on your post about coffee though, cause coffee is better.

    – Hugofanboy

  • 51 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 21, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    This has to be one of the arguments for continued establishment, so the Church of England can act as a kind of buffer against extremism, a buffer lacking in the US.

    See, I’m more interested in ‘humanism for dummies’ – a KISS version of humanism.

    I assume I can duplicate that on my blog some time?

    It’s publicly available at the link, so quote it at will. Internet Infidels have gone authoritarian, unfortunately, so I no longer post there. But that’s the short version (I have a longer version on my computer at home) of my best recollection of my early thinking on the topic.

  • 52 Sad Ben // Feb 21, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    VIDA FOR LIFE!!!

  • 53 Hugo // Feb 21, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    See, I’m more interested in ‘humanism for dummies’ – a KISS version of humanism.

    We’ll hack on humanism as well, I’m keen to investigate parallels and diverse traditions, building bridges every which way. At some point, I’ll start reading Paul Kurtz.

    My concern with TGD-type sentiments is the destructive nature, the breaking down of bridges, when I prefer to be constructive and build bridges. Of course, both are needed. I’d maybe like to say TGD is more about breaking down rickety and dangerous bridges, in order to make room for building new sturdy multi-lane highways?

    OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but the river is wide, often too hard to cross. And yet, we so often walk down to the river and peer over to the opposite side… What is it that we are looking for?

  • 54 Ben-Jammin' // Feb 22, 2008 at 12:35 am

    My concern with TGD-type sentiments is the destructive nature, the breaking down of bridges, when I prefer to be constructive and build bridges.

    I’m not social enough to look at things that way. But my own perception of TGD-type sentiments still might be similar. I’m particularly underwhelmed by TGD because it doesn’t lay out or defend any particular epistemology. I’ll take Richard Carrier’s Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism over it any day, even if the author goes on about inconsequential things and comes across as a bit arrogant.

  • 55 gerhard // Feb 22, 2008 at 9:31 am

    hugo, TGD-type sentiment is about breaking down the rotten bridges, the ones that actually theaten the ones you want to build :)

    ok, not sure if this fits into the conversation but after seeing this i was amped ;)
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/article,2287,DLD08—Life-a-gene-centric-view,Richard-Dawkins-Craig-Venter
    they discuss the reduction of life to information..
    richard gets asked a question about us ‘playing god’ then he uses exactly the same argument i do!!! which is .. we’re already playing god when we change the enviroment, which is also ‘touched’ in TGD but more as reasoning why we should be moral. personally , i can’t wait for the day when my head gets put into a flask ala futurama while i wait for my new v6.0 body to arrive. beats the hell out of oblivion or cancer :)

  • 56 Hugo // Feb 22, 2008 at 10:22 am

    We play God every time we do something creative. ;-) We play God when we help each other, we play God when we have sex. We play God when we write fiction…

    But yea, that’s messing with “playing God”, I guess. I’m basically agreeing that calling something “playing God” is a bad way to discuss ethics and morality. Much like “Goddidit” is not a good answer in science. For understanding and progress we need to dig a little deeper.

  • 57 RobertD // Jan 30, 2009 at 9:30 am

    “What Dawkins did well in his book was to express the kind of feelings an atheist holds.”

    Not really. There are alot of atheists that have a problem with his book (You know of Michael Ruse, even Shermer said the book wasn’t that great). I was an atheist that had a problem with this book.

    I wasn’t raised in a religious home and I sort of viewed religion in the way Dawkins did (or so I thought), until I read his book. Shortly after reading it, I realized I wasn’t really buying the atheist argument anymore and later converted to Christianity. It’s as simple as that.

    Am I trying to convert people? Hell no, I don’t care if you are an atheist, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a scientologist. Christians do not think that way, as many would like to think. Atheism is just as easily described through neuropsychology as theism, so in truth, the arguments for both boil down to personal belief systems, not science.

  • 58 Bendul // Jan 30, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I like the way you think RobertD. Kind of “neo-fundementalist” ;)

    I am reading an absolute ripper of a book by Lesslie Newbigin “Proper Confidence”, which particularly deals with the “myth of subjectivity”. Basically; We have become masters of exposing the myth of “objective knowledge” while ignoring the fact that there is no such a thing as perfectly self-referent knowledge.

    Subjective/Objective is a false dichotomy: Newbigin argues convincingly that ANY exchange of knowledge requires a Subject AND and Object.

    Cool huh? Kind of levels the playing field on a philosophical level; similar to your idea about neuropsychology.

  • 59 Bendul // Jan 30, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Hugo: please correct – “Subject AND an Object

  • 60 Highho // May 12, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    I understood theology as an atheist at 15 better than Dawkins did when he wrote that book.

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