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Old 11-20-2009, 10:03 PM   #1
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What the New Atheists Don’t See

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The British parliament’s first avowedly atheist member, Charles Bradlaugh, would stride into public meetings in the 1880s, take out his pocket watch, and challenge God to strike him dead in 60 seconds. God bided his time, but got Bradlaugh in the end. A slightly later atheist, Bertrand Russell, was once asked what he would do if it proved that he was mistaken and if he met his maker in the hereafter. He would demand to know, Russell replied with all the high-pitched fervor of his pedantry, why God had not made the evidence of his existence plainer and more irrefutable. And Jean-Paul Sartre* came up with a memorable line: “God doesn’t exist—the bastard!”
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I first doubted God’s existence at about the age of nine. It was at the school assembly that I lost my faith. We had been given to understand that if we opened our eyes during prayers God would depart the assembly hall. I wanted to test this hypothesis. Surely, if I opened my eyes suddenly, I would glimpse the fleeing God? What I saw instead, it turned out, was the headmaster, Mr. Clinton, intoning the prayer with one eye closed and the other open, with which he beadily surveyed the children below for transgressions. I quickly concluded that Mr. Clinton did not believe what he said about the need to keep our eyes shut. And if he did not believe that, why should I believe in his God? In such illogical leaps do our beliefs often originate, to be disciplined later in life (if we receive enough education) by elaborate rationalization.

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This sloppiness and lack of intellectual scruple, with the assumption of certainty where there is none, combined with adolescent shrillness and intolerance, reach an apogee in Sam Harris’s book The End of Faith. It is not easy to do justice to the book’s nastiness; it makes Dawkins’s claim that religious education constitutes child abuse look sane and moderate.

Harris tells us, for example, that “we must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it. Given the present state of the world, there appears to be no other future worth wanting.” I am glad that I am old enough that I shall not see the future of reason as laid down by Harris; but I am puzzled by the status of the compulsion in the first sentence that I have quoted. Is Harris writing of a historical inevitability? Of a categorical imperative? Or is he merely making a legislative proposal? This is who-will-rid-me-of-this-troublesome-priest language, ambiguous no doubt, but not open to a generous interpretation.

It becomes even more sinister when considered in conjunction with the following sentences, quite possibly the most disgraceful that I have read in a book by a man posing as a rationalist: “The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.”
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It can be summed up in Christopher Hitchens’s drumbeat in God Is Not Great: “Religion spoils everything.”

What? The Saint Matthew Passion? The Cathedral of Chartres? The emblematic religious person in these books seems to be a Glasgow Airport bomber—a type unrepresentative of Muslims, let alone communicants of the poor old Church of England. It is surely not news, except to someone so ignorant that he probably wouldn’t be interested in these books in the first place, that religious conflict has often been murderous and that religious people have committed hideous atrocities. But so have secularists and atheists, and though they have had less time to prove their mettle in this area, they have proved it amply. If religious belief is not synonymous with good behavior, neither is absence of belief, to put it mildly.

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The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.

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No doubt it helps that Hall lived at a time of sonorous prose, prose that merely because of its sonority resonates in our souls; prose of the kind that none of us, because of the time in which we live, could ever equal. But the style applies to the thought as well as the prose; and I prefer Hall’s charity to Harris’s intolerance
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What the New Atheists Don’t See by Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal Autumn 2007
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Old 11-20-2009, 10:17 PM   #2
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I don't agree with the tone of the 'new' atheism either.
Why answer one dogma with another?
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Old 11-20-2009, 10:25 PM   #3
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Why answer one dogma with another?
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Old 11-21-2009, 12:02 AM   #4
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Some of what he says in that article is exactly what I have attempted, less eloquently, to say to you, financeguy. It's not someone's personal atheism I have a problem with, it's the vocal, public 'new atheism' (for lack of a better term... and no, I doubt I agree with Dalrymple, a noted fogey, on all matters).
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Old 11-21-2009, 09:36 AM   #5
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And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.
heh, what a load of bollocks.
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Old 11-21-2009, 10:14 AM   #6
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Yeah, I agree with his opposition to Atheist lunatics, like that Mr Harris. But his view about atheism in general shows the same bullshit you often hear. Oh, without religion the world will be doomed as those people don't have values and morals and live like there is not tomorrow.
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Old 11-21-2009, 10:35 AM   #7
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I have yet to see any statistical evidence that people who profess a religious belief behave any better than people who profess none--with the possible exception of donating to charity and I haven't observed much of a difference. I've seen many religious people who are the kindest people imaginable. I've also seen many religious people who are horrible. Seems to be more the person than the belief. I'm not arguing that a religious belief doesn't help ground some people's sense of morality in a manner similar to some other value system grounding a non-believer's sense of morality. Nor do I disrespect religious belief. It is often quite beautiful. But for me, I'm going to watch the behavior, not the belief.
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Old 11-21-2009, 11:40 AM   #8
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Belief doesn't necessarily say the darndest thing about a person. Some people who just go to church because of 'going to church', and then claim to be better people because they have, are truly as bad as people who don't have good morals/values. Why is a belief said to be to make sure there's more good in this world? It's about the persons. Of course there's a lot of religious waves which can cause good things and make sure there's some structure in certain social patterns. Also, in a personal view, some forms can enrich your life and being as an individual a lot. But that doesn't say it's the 'best' way. And then despising a 'new' view which couldn't make sure the same good things from the past will be kept and held high in the future just because there's no religion anymore is absolutely nonsense.
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Old 11-21-2009, 07:50 PM   #9
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Bonossaint-
plenty of people who arent religious still donate to charity and are volunteers ,
in fact i think it makes a better society to exist in this kind of community framework, where people are community minded without the bigotry that the religious lense can bring,
like you said its about the behaviour not the belief.
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Old 11-21-2009, 11:10 PM   #10
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I was referencing a study that indicated that religious people generally donate more to charity and that was the only statistic I recall on this subject. (whether that study was accurate or not, I have no idea, but it seemed disingenuous not to reference it) I'm pretty much aware that nonreligious people donate to charity.
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Old 11-22-2009, 09:31 PM   #11
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The only 'dogma' I've found in those new atheist books is a strong commitment to freedom of religion, free speech, and freethinking.
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Old 11-27-2009, 08:56 PM   #12
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I have yet to see any statistical evidence that people who profess a religious belief behave any better than people who profess none--with the possible exception of donating to charity and I haven't observed much of a difference. I've seen many religious people who are the kindest people imaginable. I've also seen many religious people who are horrible. Seems to be more the person than the belief. I'm not arguing that a religious belief doesn't help ground some people's sense of morality in a manner similar to some other value system grounding a non-believer's sense of morality. Nor do I disrespect religious belief. It is often quite beautiful. But for me, I'm going to watch the behavior, not the belief.

I understand your point, but don't judge the Christian faith by behavior,
it's about grace.

Christians should follow the teachings of Jesus.
There are those who claim to follow, but they are false.
True followers try, but sometimes we fail.

g r a c e
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Old 11-27-2009, 11:36 PM   #13
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The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies.
I'm not judging Christianity. I am responding to this quote.
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Old 11-28-2009, 12:06 AM   #14
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Christians should follow the teachings of Jesus.

I have no idea how old you are IronHorse but why do you feel @ your age whatever it may be that you need a book to "tell" you what you should do?

When I was a child the idea of a "Heavenly Warden" to keep me in line may have worked & to a degree may have been needed but like The Apostle Paul said "when I became a man I gave up childish things...."
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Old 11-30-2009, 08:04 PM   #15
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YouTube - The Intelligence² Debate: Atheism is the New Fundamentalism? (1 of 10)
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