Skip to comments.Atheism's Army Of The Smug
Posted on 12/23/2006 7:01:57 AM PST by Clive
This time of year makes atheists especially cranky; O Little Town of Bethlehem, played in a shopping mall, does nothing to lift the spirits of an unbeliever. But even by seasonal standards, the letters attracted by my column last week on The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, demonstrate astonishing vehemence. They leave the impression that atheists are sensitive about their non belief and easily hurt by criticism.
A friend of mine, who used to run a radio program about religion, noted recently that "militant atheists were our most intolerant and angry listeners." The atheists I've lately heard from bring such passion to their hatred of religion that they can be fairly classed as religious fanatics.
Dawkins and people like him pour ridicule on believers. But, as evolutionists, they can't credibly explain why hundreds of different civilizations across the globe have felt the need to believe in a divine force. Billions of people have accepted what Dawkins considers are stupid, easily refutable and harmful ideas. How did those beliefs evolve? Were they an evolutionary advantage?
Dawkins thinks they may be the result of a misfiring or by-product similar to the reason moths immolate themselves in candles. Over eons, moths evolved a system of navigation based on light from the moon; this still usually works, but sometimes light from a candle (or another source) fatally tricks them. In the same way, Dawkins suggests, humans evolved a system of thought that has led them astray.
Children who obey adults have a "selective advantage" in evolution. They are more likely than disobedient children to survive because they won't have to learn on their own that, for instance, crocodile- infested rivers are dangerous. "Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them." But this valuable quality can go wrong, allowing parents to pass on their crazy religious ideas to the young. Dawkins has more trouble explaining how, in each civilization, the first wave of parents acquires religious convictions.
Atheists (my atheists, anyway) think that if you do not accept atheism outright then you're likely to accept the Bible literally -- which hasn't been true, in the case of most Christians and Jews, for generations. One reader demands to know whether I believe human life began 6,000 years ago when God created the first man and woman. No, I don't, and I hardly know anyone who does.
Atheists are arguing against a literalism that has never been accepted by anyone who is likely even to hear of Richard Dawkins. One reader demands I ask myself why I'm so sure of my beliefs. But I'm not. In fact, my beliefs hardly deserve the word "beliefs" and I'm certainly not religious in any traditional sense. My strongest belief is that a gigantic mystery still dominates this entire realm of thought.
Dawkins, and apparently most militant atheists, don't seem even slightly interested in the fact that something almost inconceivably mysterious happened at the birth of the universe. As a result, they can bring little of interest to any conversation about the origins of life.
Last March, astronomers (working with data from a NASA satellite circling the Earth since 2001) concluded that time began 13.7 billion years ago, a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. At that instant the universe (as a New York Times writer put it) expanded "from submicroscopic to astronomical size in the blink of an eye." Why would it want to do that?
I have no idea, but we now know that at least one planet that developed in the universe, Earth, would develop elements of genetic material that would make life possible though not, of course, inevitable.
Thomas Nagel, the philosopher, recently pointed out that if we are to believe evolutionary explanations, and therefore that the necessary seed material existed at the time of the Big Bang, we have to realize that there is no scientific explanation for the existence of that material in the first place. A complete understanding of evolution would involve answering a question as complex as evolution itself: "How did such a thing come into existence?" We have done nothing but push the problem one step back.
Or, as Stephen Hawking put it, "Why does the universe go to the bother of existing?" On that point we are all ignorant -- and only a little closer to knowledge than our ancestors who believed that sacrificing a goat would bring good crops. The profound intellectual failure of atheists lies in their fundamentalist-like aversion to the words, "We don't know."
That "too-easy" answer took several thousand years of development. Abraham did not think that his God was the Creator--just the God who spoke to him. If you want to understand how the answer was arrived at, start reading the Bible and then follow up with what Jewish and Christians thinkers have said about the matter right up until today.
One thing I know, nothing in "Origin of Species" tells us anything about cosmology, and cosmology precious little about the origin of the universe.
Apples and Oranges. Would those guy have flown those planes into the building if they knew their beliefs were false. That is what you are saying. I think not. Just as the apostles would not have died for something they knew was a lie. They were eye witnesses these guys flying the planes are not.
The differ3ence is that one tests reality, the other assuages existential angst if taken unexamined.
Reality as perceived by one man.In "origin" he was drawing conclusions based on years of personal investigation, but that does not means he was not swayed by ideas that had only accidental connection, such as the British gentry's preference of gradual change to revolution.
You know HOW God made himself?
Muslims are followers. They did not create the religion, they have faith that what they are told is the truth. They will die for their faith because they can believe it is the truth. The apostles were in a very different position. If they were lied, they let themselves be beaten, beheaded, crucified and inprisoned for something they knew was a lie. They are the only people in the history of the world who would not be able to believe if it were not true.
Well for starters, The deaths of the apostles are only known from Christian legend, there's no collaborating evidence of them dying in the way the legends say they did.
The martyrdom of the apostles could simply be a way of making the story more exciting. Heroes should die heroic deaths.
But even it is is true that they did die in the way reported it's still a bad argument, people have died all throughout history for things that were not true and/or lies. For example
Joseph Smith never recanted even when faced with death by an angry mob. So does that prove Mormonism true?
Why did Jim Jones kill himself, when he knew that all he had been preaching was false?
The Waco Branch Davidians died believing David Koresh to be the next Messiah, does this make him so?
What about the early Muslims who volunteered to die in Muhammad's cause (i.e. The Battle of the Trench), according to your logic they wouldn't have if they knew that Muhammad had not been visited by Gabriel, so he must have right?
I think you've got a point there - I wonder how many Muslims would die if they KNEW their "religion" is a hoax.
Thanks for pointing that out.
However, the cult comparison fails for the simple fact that the disciples don't fit the standard model. They went on espousing their story for decades, often isolated from each other - their group.
Because madmen and charlatans exist in this world, that doesn't prove that there is no truth - agreed?
Joseph Smith died a long time ago, as did Mary Baker Eddy. The founder of the modern Krishna movement died almost 30 years ago.
Been there, done that, not convincing.
Evolution is about genetics. That we can think at a higher level and organize complex societies in partially negates the effects of evolution. On a simple level, the weak are no longer are left to die out; someone being born with a genetic defect in his leg not allowing him to escape predators can easily thrive in human society and pass on his genes.
The point, sir, was that the "easy" answer was not easily obtained.
So much for the selfish gene meme.
Merry Christmas aR.
On the other hand, it allows a weakling such as Descartes to spend much of his childhood in bed while going to school. It is certain that the human mind produced evolution; nor so certain that evolution produced the human mind, unless by evolution we mean simply the development of humanity from unknown brutish ancestors.
The basic answer has been around since ignorant primitive tribes thought their god threw lightning at them because they did something wrong. It has only been changed over the years through various religions.
I am also certain that the human mind produced God.
This is the narrow vision of many religious. Why does there have to be a god? Just because you can't imagine a world without some kind of god figure doesn't mean others can't.
That's merely a matter of better killing and transportation technology, and a much higher population to kill. If Mohammed had access to machines guns, artillery and tanks he would have killed far more unbelievers than he did.