Magneto Denounces Theism – or – Why it is Good to Feed the Crow

For those who did not see it, here is the speech by Adam Savage mentioned by Lotdw in an earlier discussion in this place. I quote the final paragraphs:

Though a primary mover is the most complex and thus (given Occam’s razor) the least likely of all possible solutions to the particular problem of how we got here, I can’t prove it true or false, and there’s nothing to really discuss about it.

If Daniel Dennett is right — that there’s a human genetic need for religion — then I’d like to imagine that my atheism is proof of evolutionary biology in action.

There may be no purpose, but its always good to have a mission. And I know of one fine allegory for an excellent mission should you choose to charge yourself with one: Carlos Castaneda’s series of books about his training with a Yaqui indian mystic named Don Juan. There’s a lot of controversy about these books being represented as nonfiction. But if you dispense with that representation, and instead take their stories as allegories, they’re quite lovely.

At the end of The Eagle’s Gift, Don Juan reveals to his student that there’s no point to existence. That we’re given our brief 70-100 years of consciousness by something the mystics call “The Eagle,” named for it’s cold, killer demeanor. And when we die, the eagle gobbles our consciousness right back up again.

He explains that the mystics, to give thanks to the eagle for the brief bout of consciousness they’re granted, attempt to widen their consciousness as much as possible. This provides a particularly delicious meal for the eagle when it gobbles one up at the end of one’s life.

And that, to me, is a fine mission.

My Comment: The sentence “I can’t prove it true or false, and there’s nothing really to discuss about it” either is a run on sentence of two unconnected thoughts, or it supposes that those matters which cannot be proved true nor false merit no discussion.

Yet this second interpretation of the sentence surely cannot be correct, since the proposition (that we should not discuss matters unable to be proved true or proved false) is itself not vulnerable to being proved true nor proved false — it is a statement of opinion, preference, or obligation, not of fact — and therefore by its own logic is unworthy of discussion.

Mr. Savage surely means only that he is bored by the topic, not that the topic itself is unworthy of discussion. Because, if not, we are lead to an absurd conlcusion. Basically everything outside the physical and mathematical sciences would also fall into the interdict of being unworthy of discussion. Also, the final paragraphs report ideas that cannot be proved true nor false, and indeed are self-identified as mystical ideas. If they were unworthy of discussion, Mr. Savage would not be discussing them.

Mr. Savage holds it to be more discussion-worthy than speculations about Aristotle’s (or Aquinas’) Prime Mover to reflect on a myth or poetic metaphor he describes as a lovely allegory — which is, namely, that life is meaningless, but our attempts to expand our consciousness provide gustatory and transient pleasure for a anthropophagic if not Lovecraftian Demiurge who created us. The more we fill our brains and hearts and souls with wisdom and compassion, enlightenment and love, the more succulent it is when the Lowerarchy sups on our brains and souls. Our purpose in this purposeless life is to be food for the vermin.

That this, to him, is a finer mission than the attempts of, I am tempted to suppose, Mother Teresa of Calcutta to express the Love of God by caring for the utmost poor and laving the tortured limbs of lepers casts a doubtful light on his logic or his judgment.

I would be so bold as to venture that a Hedonist living for transient pleasures, who goes into the darkness of nonbeing surfeited with vice, wine cup sloshing in one hand and concubine giggling in the other by dying of a heart attack in an orgy; or else a Stoic living for the unsentimental exercise of his duties, and perishing, perhaps at his own hand as Socrates or Cato, or perhaps when facing fearful odds, as Horatio or Mucius Scaevola, but with dry-eyed indifference to pain and death; either or both of these hopeless philosophers pass away for a more noble cause than feeding the maw of a monstrous and sardonic Crow.

There are many modern thinkers who have neither the melancholy dignity of a pagan who dies for Odin, hoping to die a second time at Ragnarok facing without hope the roaring and stupid giants of ice and the triumph of the darkness; nor the divine grace of a Saint who dies for Christ, hoping to live a second time after Armageddon, facing with joy the bliss of eternity, and the final defeat of darkness.

At least a pagan can say “all men, being mortal, must die; therefore spend your life in preparation for death, that you might leave behind, for a season, a name worthy of recollection, which is the only part of you that can survive the grave.”  That sentiment has a certain cold gravity to it.

In contrast, to affirm the worthiness of being more yummy to vermin that eat you if you have lived your life worthily and well is a frivolous, perhaps even the most frivolous of affirmation of worth.

And “expanding one’s consciousness” is one of the few means recognized by moderns of achieving worthiness of life. It is a narrowly selfish conceit of worthiness, without the heroic love of glory of Horatio, or the sacrificial love of Mother Teresa, or the sagacious integrity of Socrates, who at least taught love of wisdom, helped the poor, or defended the ashes of his fathers and the altars of his gods. It is, in other words, a most narrowminded and closedminded approach to living a worthy life, an expansion that never reaches anywhere worth going.

There also may be an error (if I understood him correctly) in Mr. Savage’s application of Occam’s razor to the problem discussed: Occam’s razor is that an explanation which does not multiply entities unnecessarily is to be preferred to one that does. The question here is whether the complexity, order, harmony, and beauty of creation, including man and the moral and intellectual nature of man, is more elegantly explained by a creator who has these properties which He shared into His creation, or is more elegantly explained by a blind natural process which brings forth all laws of nature (this natural process somehow existing logically and causally prior to all natural processes, including itself). For the first explanation, we need to posit a God, whom every theologian from Aristotle to Aquinas assures us is simple and eternal; for the second we need to posit something like the Hypertime of Hawkman comics, so as to have a natural place for the processes of nature to reside during the “time before” the Big Bang, or “time beyond” or “time aside from” the Big Bang, since the Big Bang apparently started time.

At first glance, the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle seems a simpler explanation, and gives a place where all things, including the beauty and moral order of the universe, to come from. In the second explanation, all things come from nothing for no reason, and things that seem to exist in the universe, such as moral order and beauty, are illusions produced by accident by a defect of human consciousness. This is not a simpler explanation.

Mr. Savage also briefly mentions, as a list of the things the ‘intolerant’ religions oppose, and by this display their bigotry and lack of enlightenment, ‘birth control education.’ Without going into the logic behind sexual reproduction and sexual morality, I will here only raise the question whether birth control indoctrination is a policy that serves even a secular state, in these days when the West is suffering from cataclysmic underpopulation.

I also will propose that Daniel Dennett’s theory that religion is an epiphenomenon of an innate genetic need is (1) unscientific rubbish (2) arrogant rubbish (3) fails to explain how atheists, such as C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and yours truly, went from being opponents of theism to apologists for Christianity without suffering a corresponding genetic change. Since the agnostics and atheists of the world are being outbred by the sinister forces of Islam and Catholicism, at first blush it would seem that atheism, if it is a genetic mutation, is not something natural selection selects. Mr. Savage would like to pretend, like a character from a comic book, that he is Homo Superior, a New Man, a Magneto, who has made a genetic breakthrough into the realm of the Superman or Ubermensch.

I leave it to others to determine, each man to his own satisfaction, whether the postcapitalist Soviet Union or postmodern England, or any other officially anti-religious or non-religious society has equaled the accomplishments of pagan or Christian lands and centuries, either by the cold standards of Darwin, which measures only fecundity and fitness to survive, or by the more human standards of examining the fruits of their civilization, sublime arts, superior sciences, productive industries, virtue, decency, peace and justice, including the virtue of toleration. Those not wedded to the dogma of the inferiority of Christendom can see the contrast with no further urging from me; those so wedded will not see it no matter my words, therefore I need say no more on this point.

I suggest that Occam’s Razor urges a simpler explanation, which is, namely, that man’s genetic nature, also called his fallen nature, or his innate predisposition to pride and sin and arrogance and folly, leads him to reject that belief in a supernatural judgment of moral norms which is otherwise universal among all men of all nations and generations.

I submit that I have just as much scientific evidence for my theory that atheism is a genetic defect than for Mr. Dennett’s theory that theism is a genetic defect —in both cases, the scientific evidence that any genetic factor alters the non-instinctive and cognitive content of thought is exactly zero. It is a myth the dim among the Brights delight to tell themselves to buoy up their intellectual and ethical inferiority to the saints and sages of Christian and pagan history. Since a myth cannot be proved true nor false, it is not worth discussing.

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Reasonings. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Magneto Denounces Theism – or – Why it is Good to Feed the Crow

  1. AndyMo says:

    Since a myth cannot be proved true nor false, it is not worth discussing.

    I love it.

  2. Joe Cool says:

    I find it interesting that he talks about birth control education in the same speech as natural selection. If behaviors such as atheism and theism are in fact explained through genetics and, therefore, subject to natural selection, wouldn’t behaviors that limit the number of one’s offspring and, therefore, disadvantage the chances to passing on one’s genes be a genetic defect doomed to be bred out of existence?

    If there really is a genetic need for god, then I really have no need for atheism, even on its own grounds. If everything is a product of natural selection, and natural selection tends to select those with a belief in god, how does rejecting my genetic programming by adopting a disadvantageous belief help me?

    • Mary says:

      Ah, it allows you to escape the misery of conscious existence without perpetuating it!

      Evolution has nothing to say about whether those who live are somehow better. Most of us think so, but Schopenhauer would think you were definitely the winner by dealing yourself out of the game.

  3. GeekLady says:

    Two comments.

    First: it is shameful that a man who makes his living performing the scientific method has such a poor grasp of logic.

    Second: perhaps it’s only because I just finished The Golden Age trilogy last night, but I think this speech of Savage’s is chillingly similar to those of the Nothing Sophotech.

    • Oddly enough, the speech of the Nothing Sophotech was written by an avowed atheist. However, I was not then, nor have I ever been, an irrationalist.

      • GeekLady says:

        *sigh* I’d like to retract my second point anyway, I read the text of the speech too quickly and transposed two words, which completely changed the meaning of a sentence.

      • GeekLady says:

        Tangent:
        While I think it’s quite clear that The Golden Age was written by an atheist (you weren’t too preachy about it, which was refreshing) why would your personal beliefs impact your characters? There wouldn’t be much point to writing if authors could only write characters that parroted their opinions.

        Anyway, I thought the point of the Nothing Sophotech was that it was a sentient machine capable of human irrationality. And so its speeches had the same sense of “I know there’s something wrong with this logic but I can’t quite pin it down” as I get frequently get from Mr. Savage’s ilk, although less strongly in this case now that I’ve reread the original essay without transposition errors.

  4. cricket says:

    If it were a crow we’re feeding this, JCW would be onto something, but, C’mon! It’s an Eagle! Cooler by orders of magnitude.

  5. Maureen says:

    But at bottom, the guy (Castaneda and/or Savage) is confusing the “eagle” with Christianity. He thinks that “it is right and just” to “give thanks” to one’s Creator. He desires to give all of himself to God. He believes himself to be some kind of unworthy Calvinist worm, except with Arminian moral obligations.

    As a mystical atheist motivation, it makes no sense whatsoever. It doesn’t even work as worship of a world-spirit or animating principle. Only as a Christian (or Jewish) heresy does it make sense.

    • Maureen says:

      Oh, and I notice that Savage seems to be confusing prayer with visualization and planning skills. This total nonsequitur makes my brain hurt. A lot.

      I mean, do non-engineers spend a lot of time thinking that you can replace math equations with chanting poetry*, or that you don’t need arms if you have a chicken sandwich? Hopefully not.

      * Okay, so Vedic math poetry is equations. I meant more like the Iliad.

      • Maureen says:

        The sad thing here is that his expressed thoughts don’t agree with the actual wisdom of his life. He earns his bread, and visibly delights, in finding out the truth of all sorts of abstruse matters. He also spends his life tying events to scientific principles, experimenting, and protecting the lives of his fellow experimenters and adventurers.

        If he really believed in his heart that he was just struggling against nothingness, he wouldn’t do this stuff with all his heart.

        • DmL says:

          And here we have one of the two main cruxes of the athiest absurdity. NO ONE lives as if athiesm was true.

          • bear545 says:

            I know what you mean. Although atheism was practically de rigeur at my university, there were very few of what I would call real atheists. I found that the so-called atheists didn’t not believe in God as much as they believed in practically anything but God. Spirits, energies, crystals- you name it. Try as they might, they simply couldn’t believe in nothing.

          • John C. Wright says:

            “NO ONE lives as if athiesm was true.”

            I am not sure I agree. Back when I was an atheist, I lived according to the precepts (as best I could) of Stoicism, preparing myself for a death of utter oblivion by attempting to control my passions and emotions with virtuous habits. Noting within my life had any reference to anything supernatural, neither any fear nor any hope.

            One might argue, perhaps, that there were influences buried in my mind that I myself was unaware of, but then one would be on the same ground of uncertain speculation as atheists are on, when they say no Christian *really* lives as if Christ were real.

          • Gary Keith Chesterton says:

            There are really three broad categories of atheist, in my experience: (1) the “pony atheists,” those who are angry at God because they didn’t get a pony or something; (2) the “groin atheists,” those who don’t want some pesky God to tell them what to do, or worse, what not to do; and (3) the real, honest-to-goodness, cold-blooded steely-eyed atheist, of which type our gentle host was presumably an example.

          • No One lives as if atheism were true?

            I have to ask what your conception is of a person who would live as if atheism were true. What do you conceive his actions would consist of?

            I suspect that you have an image of a psychotic brute who kills everything he meets, pursues every hedonistic pleasure 24/7 and ends life at 20, a complete and wasted hulk.

            I have to add your comment sounds very similar to someone on JCW’s livejournal page. I think I have tangled with you before. Do you perhaps like John Oates?

          • Joseph A. says:

            John,

            “Back when I was an atheist, I lived according to the precepts (as best I could) of Stoicism, preparing myself for a death of utter oblivion by attempting to control my passions and emotions with virtuous habits. Noting within my life had any reference to anything supernatural, neither any fear nor any hope.”

            Well, I wonder what you mean by virtue. If you mean something like a real and objective good, then that’s arguably supernatural*, or at least “outside of nature”. And it wouldn’t just be theists saying as much – see GE Moore on goodness and naturalism.

            (* Though that word, and natural, seem to be harder and harder to define nowadays. There are dualists who insist they are naturalists, and naturalists who insist that the only naturalists are materialists. And materialists who insist that materialism is compatible with panpsychism, which is dualism. Go figure.)

    • Mary says:

      He’s a Christian atheist.

      There are a lot of them. You can tell because they argue solely and simply against Christianity, which they think the only form of Theism (and of Deism they have never heard).

      Sometimes they get more specific, and you get Calvinist atheists, or Catholic ones, or fundamentalist ones.

  6. bear545 says:

    I started to write a longer comment, then decided to just stop and go with Mark Shea’s standby: sin makes you stupid.

  7. DmL says:

    Well, I love Mythbusters, and I used to think the hosts were pretty cool but now I realize they are just guys on TV, and like most guys on TV… …

  8. Randall Randall says:

    “fails to explain how atheists, such as C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and yours truly, went from being opponents of theism to apologists for Christianity without suffering a corresponding genetic change.”

    I’m not sure if you’re joking… Humans have a builtin need for food, too, but Richard Simmons’ transformation from fat guy to health nut requires no corresponding genetic change, even though I’m sure you’ll agree that the source of hunger is ultimately genetic, analogously to Dennett’s postulating a genetically-driven need for religion.

    • Quoting me “fails to explain how atheists, such as C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and yours truly, went from being opponents of theism to apologists for Christianity without suffering a corresponding genetic change.” I’m not sure if you’re joking… Humans have a builtin need for food, too, but Richard Simmons’ transformation from fat guy to health nut requires no corresponding genetic change, even though I’m sure you’ll agree that the source of hunger is ultimately genetic, analogously to Dennett’s postulating a genetically-driven need for religion.

      Not joking. Far from it.

      If the genetics for fat Simmons and thin Simmons are the same, and the difference is diet and exercise, then it is no explanation of the leanness of Simmons to say he has a genetic disposition to be thin. To whine that Simmons is thin because of his genes is an excuse a fatty makes because fatty does not want to diet and exercise: it is not a scientific belief, or even a rational one. It is rhetorical trick, a ad hominem.

      You see, the point of the claim that we have a genetic predisposition to theism is ad hominem.

      What we have, as rational animals, is a genetic predisposition to thinking. Some people think about the world and come to the conclusion that there is no God. This conclusion cannot be dismissed merely by scoffing that we have a genetic predisposition to thinking. Some people think about the world and come to the conclusion that there is a God. This conclusion cannot be dismissed merely by scoffing that we have a genetic predisposition to thinking.

      Now, the theory that we all have a genetic predisposition to theism requires an explanation as to why one person can change from atheist to theist without suffering a genetic change. You have analogized the genetic predisposition to a hunger, a hunger which somehow influences the content of our minds and souls rather than the content of our stomach. But when I was an atheist, I had no such hunger. I did not feel the magnetic pull of mystical nonsense and strive ever against it: I was not running from continual visions of fiery angels by throwing my cloak over my head. No. It was nothing like that. It was a conviction I had based on the evidence I had.

      The only point of the analogy is to dismiss the claims of theism by claiming that such claims spring from a genetic defect, an innate inability of the human mind to see reality. But no one ever takes the theory seriously enough to dismiss the claims of atheism in the same way — ” you cannot see God because the XYZ enzyme released by chromosome 123 causes you spiritual color-blindness” Come now! Would even a single atheist feel the need to defend himself from such an absurd and arbitrary and unscientific slander? It is beneath contempt. Why, then, is there a double standard for theists?

      Come, let us apply this same reasoning to other cases! (1) Mr. A believes in the death penalty because he has a genetic predisposition toward vengeance. Obviously the rough life in the history of early man on the African plains, when every stranger was an enemy, led modern man to be bent on revenge on offenders. (2) Mr. B believes not in the death penalty, because he has a genetic predisposition toward mercy. Obviously the rough life in the history of early man on the African plains, when small bands had to stick together in cooperation, led modern man to cooperative survival strategies, such as mercy for offenders.

      So if Mr. A changes his mind after seeing an innocent man hanged, that is merely like a man with a genetic disposition to eat adopting a program of diet and exercise. And if Mr. B changes his mind after seeing the Manson Family murders, um, er, that is also like a man with a genetic disposition to fast adopting a program of visiting McDonalds and getting a desk job.

      You see the problem? In neither case does any ask Mr. A or Mr. B what his real reasons for changing his mind are. Such reasons are dismissed as nothing but genetic dispositions, or, having it both ways, dismissed as acting despite genetic dispositions, or, in the case of a theological innocent like Adam Savage, is vaunted as a beneficial mutation.

      Since this type of argument can prove everything and nothing, it is contemptible. Since this type of argument is only used by atheists to denigrate theists, and give themselves a cheap feeling of superiority over men who (at least in some cases) are their intellectual betters, it is beneath contempt. Can you imagine a know-nothing like Chris Hitchens, lovable socialist drunk, denigrating a towering genius like St. Thomas Aquinas, whose depth, subtlety, and breadth of learning has no modern parallel, with this kind of dreck?

      No. Not kidding. Not kidding even a little bit.

  9. lotdw says:

    I must say, I had hidden purpose when I posted that link, and it was exactly in the hope that you would write something like this. You did not disappoint.

    • I almost did not bother writing anything: it is like using the wheel to break the butterfly.

      Let me return the favor and offer you a link here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/04/believe-it-or-not

      David B. Hart argues, and convincingly, that while atheists will be with us always, even to the end of the age, the ‘New Atheists’ those strident but empty-headed screamers of narcissism and sneerers at their superiors, are a temporary fad, like see-through plastic pants or disco.

      In order to prove his point, a number of people posing as New Atheist crowd his comments board and make the weakest possible arguments, displaying fumbling inability to grasp a simple syllogism, or the most obvious technical distinction, while vaunting and preening like some misbegotten crow who thinks himself a peacock, spreading his shabby, dun feathers.

      Or it could be that these are real atheists, merely ones who are too dull witted to realize when they are casting dishonor on what (I, at least) regard as a perfectly honorable philosophical position. Would that the real atheists, the men of the mind, would bestir themselves and silence the clamor of these new atheists, the men of the mouth.

      • >> “Would that the real atheists, the men of the mind, would bestir themselves and silence the clamor of these new atheists, the men of the mouth.”

        I feel presumptuous to answer as a real atheist, but away I go.

        As I’ve raved on your livejournal page many a time, I cannot stand the New Atheists (although I still like Adam Savage and his show). I think most of them have never looked at the Bible or the writings of any philosophers. Coupled with the fact that they seem to think atheism implies something further. It implies nothing further – it is a negative position of one question leaving wide open their positive positions including, in some cases, even more mystical beliefs.

        Unlike in my philosophy, where atheism is a consequence of prior truths and nothing more issues from it, the New Atheists take their atheism as their starting point. And hilarious folly ensues! That is why there is such a bewildering mixture of twisted together belief systems within what could be called “modern atheism” if considered as a group. Atheism as an axiomatic starting position is a dead end.

        If provoked into a serious discussion against a religious position or belief, I can and will certainly engage, and have some hefty guns under my belt. By provoked into a serious discussion I mean a question posed in a reasonable and thoughtful manner, it is not usually something I seek. Although I find the existence or non-existence of God argument to be a real snoozer.

        I also think they are part of the modern psyche, they have been brought up to express themselves, not to seek truth.

        The real atheists are usually busy focusing on real problems, like religious people who KILL (Islam) or the deplorable state of… everything culturally.

        If I could silence them, I would. It taints my discussions. So loud do they yammer, I am assumed to have their viewpoint, and then am usually accused of not being an atheist. Materialist, determinist, Marxist, irrationalist, Darwinist, nihilist – I am automatically all of those things, and am none of them.

        I am sure Christians have similar plights. What reasoned Christian wouldn’t want to put a sock (or foot) in Fred Phelps’ mouth?

        • You and me both, brother. Back when I was an atheist, I was not a philosophical materialist, nor a nihilist, nor a know-nothing. I was someone who held, as a philosophical principle, that the only real knowledge knowable to man was rooted in (1) empirical evidence of the senses and (2) rational deductions from self-evident first principles. I held that supernatural things, being invisible, outside the universe, and outside of time, could produce no natural evidence to present to the senses; and I held and that rational deduction cannot lead from first principles to any conclusions about things in the realm of the mystical and ineffable, not even the conclusion that the realm of the mystical and ineffable existed or not. To me, that was the sum of the discussion. Any further argument would have to be something bringing my epistomology into question — the theist would have to prove, or at least to make a prima facea case, that there was another avenue to knowledge open to the human mind aside from sense impressions and rational deductions.

          But nihilism? God forbid! Even asking the question “what is truth?” presupposes a duty to ask honestly and answer manfully. Philosophers may not fight on the battlefield, but if they lack intellectual courage, temperance, moderation and justice, then they are not philosophers. Philosophy is primarily the study of virtue, the study of how best to live, and only secondarily about these other things. One cannot call yourself a “lover of wisdom” and spend your words and your life denigrating the idea that wisdom exists.

          Atheism is the opposite of nihilism. Atheist argues that it is morally wrong, if not self-delusion and cowardice, to believe in God. Atheism calls on men to stare into the ever-hungry grave clear eyed and unafraid and say that there is no back door into The Happy Hunting Grounds or the Long-Ago Dreamtime out of that hole in the cold earth: therefore no matter what else atheism stands for, it must support the notion of mental clarity and intellectual courage.

          Nihilism says nothing is anything, nothing is worth doing, only your Will makes meaning in the meaninglessness of life. But if it is true nothing is worth doing, then it is not worth making meaning in the meaninglessness of life, because that is a thing. If nothing has meaning, the philosophy called nihilism has no meaning. This is not a philosophical stance, it is a rhetorical trick, a thing you say when you have run out of logic, and you want to shut up your wife who has just found the damning pictures of you and your mistress.

          • I wish to reply on one point but I am 2 hours late going to bed and then to serving drunks, so it will have to wait until 6 tomorrow morning.

          • “I wish to reply on one point but I am 2 hours late going to bed and then to serving drunks, so it will have to wait until 6 tomorrow morning.”

            Huhn. We must be brothers. I used to tend bar back in the day.

          • >> “Atheist argues that it is morally wrong, if not self-delusion and cowardice, to believe in God.”

            Belated in reply, sorry.

            While I am sure that such could be attributed to some people believing in God, I do not think this applies to all cases. And I don’t think atheism demands such a view of people who believe in God.

            It does demand that I view such people as mistaken – obviously. Else my position would not be atheism. But to extrapolate any further would be psychologizing in a vast majority of cases as I do not have direct evidence of their motives, knowledge, metaphysics, nor reasoning.

            I can say at this time that it would be all three of those motives for me to suddenly believe in God. So it may be a form of projection if an atheist ascribes such things to believers in general.

            >> “Atheism calls on men to stare into the ever-hungry grave clear eyed and unafraid…”

            True, but if I focused long enough I may need to look away at something else. I simply do not look, or at least not very often. But I have a rather elaborate view of the grave.

            To cook up the illustration. Suppose I was on the operating table and went under for the surgery. Something went wrong and I died while under anesthesia. I have built a laboratory where my body is preserved and is shuttled off to some black hole. Days, weeks, months, years, millennia, trillions of years pass, the universe crunches back upon itself (to borrow this theory) and bursts forth again anew, and billions upon billions of more years pass by. Somehow (let’s say the black hole I was “in” became the vertex or center of the universe’s crunch and rebirth) because I was such a good mad scientist, my body survives as a body and the cool scientists from the super-future revive my very ancient body. I will have thought I had just woke up from the operation. Click – from one end of eternity to the other. Maybe I stayed under during five iterations of the universe comprising numbers only communicated through scientific notation. Same click.

            That is only for mortality, the eventuality that must take place. You stick a gun in my face today, or cancer strikes tomorrow, all the above is out the door.

          • “(quoting me) “Atheist argues that it is morally wrong, if not self-delusion and cowardice, to believe in God.” While I am sure that such could be attributed to some people believing in God, I do not think this applies to all cases. And I don’t think atheism demands such a view of people who believe in God. ”

            I concede the point. Not every atheist necessarily believes all theists are morally wrong. Some atheists can think some theists are merely innocently mistaken. Of course you are right.

            A lesson in humility for me! I just fell into the same trap I so often complain about in others, or attributing to the opposition something not necessarily present.

      • lotdw says:

        I have read it! I think he is completely correct (and shares my fondness for Nietzsche), but he does invite the criticism I knew Dawkinsian atheists would make: that his article proves very little for his position. That he did not intend to prove anything passes by those trained in postmodern, atheistic critique because they are incapable of reading anything sympathetically, that is, with an eye to the author’s purpose.

  10. James Herenvardo says:

    To quote another MarkSheaism: That crock of nonsense was an illustration of the principle “All religions are equal[ly superior to Christianity]“

  11. Annie Gerard says:

    Having been a humanist all my life, and, like Adam, from at least 4 generations of non-believers, I can’t pretend (nor would I want) to be an expert on religion of any kind or monotheism in particular. But many here seem to be committing a huge logical error in postulating that it’s a simpler explanation to say that god created everything than that there was a big bang whence something came from nothing. In your version, at some point god came from nothing. Same difference. Further, all this huffing about how Adam should have been more rational and rigorous in his ‘argument’ – against theism?! Why? Following the terms of any religious argument, any atheist/pantheist/humanist is free to express the mythology of their lack of belief as evocatively or ridiculously as the theists do (which is not to say I find his speech ridiculous).
    And finally, as I commented on boingboing, it seems that behavior and temperament have evolutionary weight; in a given bird population, there may be a survival advantage under some conditions for bold characters, yet in other circumstances the more retiring birds have a better chance of reproducing. We noe know that variety in many forms is necessary for the survival of any community; it’s not about individuals. Believers and skeptics may be hard-wired in their nature and I think the survival of the species, or at least the human community, needs both kinds. It needs a body of believers to follow, to participate, to bolster institutions. And it needs the questioners, the skeptics, gadflies who keep things from going too far in a totalitarian direction. I believe it’s in our genetic code, and that’s a beautiful, simple explanation. Much neater, logically, than an argument that god created skeptics, or sinners, as some nasty tease or test to the faithful.

    • “In your version, at some point god came from nothing.”

      Not my version. You may be mistaking the eternal and timeless God of the Abrahamic religions with Uranus or some other pagan god born from Chaos and Old Night.

      The Christians conception is that God is the author of time, not a member of time. He stands in the same relation to events in time, such as the Big Bang, as, for example, Professor Tolkien stands in relation to the creation of Middle Earth by the Music of the Ainur as described in THE SILMARILLION. No character inside the world of Middle Earth, if given a time machine, and able to travel from the Third Age back to the Second Age and the First would ever find Professor Tolkien, much less baby Tolkien when he was young.

      If that analogy seems odd, the Christian (and Aristotelian) conception is that God is something like a number line. Triangles in a flat plane have and always have had three sides, and always will. There was not a point in time before which triangles did not exist, nor did triangles spring out of nowhere for no reason, nor do triangles grow old, nor will triangles someday die, and after that sad death three-angled figures will no longer have three sides. That is not the way it works.

      “And it needs the questioners, the skeptics, gadflies who keep things from going too far in a totalitarian direction.”

      With all due respect, what history of philosophy have you ever read?

      My reading of the history of philosophy is that the so-called skeptics and gadflies are men like Socrates, who daydreamed of a perfect Republic of perfect totalitarianism; or men like Rousseau, who urged a democracy armed with total and unchecked power; or men like Marx, who daydreamed of reducing the entire earth to a cross between a monastic commune and a slave camp.

      Turning to modern history, I note that lands and eras where the belief in the Christian God is mocked, or outlawed, are those with the quickest creeping bureaucracies or the most bloodthirsty dictators and oligarchies.

      Surprising, is it not? If our concern is truly for the preservation of liberty, we should be the staunchest support of the Church, just out of a sense of rational self-interest, even if one is not a believer oneself.

      If this result does not match your expectations, check your axioms. Be a little more skeptical about what you’ve been taught.

Leave a Reply