March 4, 2012

"[A]theists have been too timid, fearing any contact with religion will leave them contaminated with unreason."

According to Alain de Botton:
He writes that the form of religion, with “its dogmatic aspects burned off”, can be repurposed in the service of our modern secular way of life, and we can separate what is “beautiful, touching and wise” from what “no longer seems true”. In a clever twist he calls this “re-appropriation”, reminding us how many of the apparent innovations of religion – Christmas, monasticism, sacred sites – were taken over from previous cultures by the rampant colonisers of the monotheistic religions. It’s time, he says, for us to take them back.

... “We should,” he writes, “be allowed to talk gibberish, fasten woollen penises to our coats and get out into the night to party and copulate randomly and joyfully with strangers, and then return the next morning to our partners, who will themselves have been off doing something similar.” We are prevented from realising this ideal, he argues, because our secular world offers too much freedom, is too individualistic and isolated, everything a matter of personal choice. So if you want to go carousing you have to do it on your own initiative and take the consequences yourself. If we take a leaf out of the religious book, he argues, and stick it in the calendar, schedule it like a bank holiday or a board meeting, then we can enjoy it guilt-free.
Here's the book: "Religion for Atheists."

99 comments:

bagoh20 said...

Hey, it's worth a shot. Who's with us? Let's go everyone!

bagoh20 said...

Why dos this remind me of a nude beach, where the participants are never the ones you wish were there.

Paddy O said...

What he forgets is that for the most part, especially in the first millennium, those supposedly merry pagans picked Christianity for themselves.

He also forgets the 20th century, where non-timid atheists were shown to be even more cheerless than the Christians.

It's like he's living in the late 1800s again, with its comfortable and deluded sense of human potentiality without religion, especially for those in leisure classes who could afford it.

Vive la Belle Epoque! If only those shy and timid atheists would finally speak up for themselves and end this tyranny of religion!

Lucien said...

Well, this may be all well and good for those atheists (maybe the French ones)who want religion as an excuse for sewing woolen penises onto their clothes, &c, &c, but lots of atheists don't want religion. (Hence, atheism.)

Not that there's a set of rules barring atheists from reading their horoscopes, or anything -- although it bothers ME that I live in the 21st century and there is nominally no 13th floor in the building I work in.

Frankly it's the True Believers (in the Eric Hoffer sense) devoted to non-religious causes who have given atheism quite a bit of bad press in the 20th century.

Quayle said...

I'm always amazed how the atheist secular Darwinians keep wanting to return to meaning and morals.

It's downright un-reasonable.

phx said...

“The real issue,” he writes, “is not whether God exists or not, but where to take the argument once one decides that he evidently doesn’t.”

If I decided I couldn't say whether God existed or not this would certainly be my next serious question. I think a lot can be found here.

Paddy O is probably right about some of the atheists in the 1800s and 1900s. But I think there can other ways of doing atheism or agnosticism (and with more cheer).

rwnutjob said...

I don't have a problem with atheists, but they seem to have a problem with my faith. The way they proselytize seems like a religion to me.

phx said...

And rwnutjob has a fair complaint.

mesquito said...

Once again we find that people whose main argument is "you can't legislate morality" can't help but address us in language larded with moral assertion and condemnation. We are all Calvinists but the worst are the atheists and humanists.

Zeb Quinn said...

The way they proselytize seems like a religion to me.

For the most part, atheism IS just another religion, faith-based and all. And it really gets that blood vessel in their necks throbbing when you point it out.

mesquito said...

In related news Austin, Texas, has decided to ban the use of plastic shopping bags, placing further hardships on people in the name Of Virtue.

Pogo said...

Well, shit.

Now I'll have to toss out all my Alain de Botton books.

Why?

If he said the things he is quoted as saying in this article, then I have been fooled. I liked his other works, but this suggests I was missing a serious flaw in thinking and character.

Shit.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

[A]theists have been too timid, fearing any contact with religion will leave them contaminated with unreason.

Um, no. Most atheists fear no such thing. Most atheists are too busy enjoying their own lives to give a flying fuck what religious people are doing.

In fact, most of us avoid the rabid atheists due to their unreasoning claims of theocracy and such.

bagoh20 said...

Oh, the penis goes on the outside? Dammit, I just can't do fashion right.

rhhardin said...

Nietzsche's God is dead meant that the trope no longer works for us, according to Cavell.

That seemed right to me.

rhhardin said...

Levinas _Difficult Freedom_ p.17

``Ethics is not the corollary of the vision of God, it is that very vision. Ethics is an optic, such that everything I know of God and everything I can hear of His word and reasonably say to Him must find an ethical expression. In the Holy Ark from which the voice of God is heard by Moses, there are only the tablets of the Law. The knowledge of God which we can have and which is expressed ... in the form of negative attributes, receives a positive meaning from the moral `God is merciful', which means : `Be merciful like Him.' The attributes of God are given not in the indicative, but in the imperative. The knowledge of God comes to us like a commandment ... To know God is to know what must be done.''

He's hardly shrinking from religion.

Jews are allowed to be athiests even within the religion.

Lyssa said...

We should,” he writes, “be allowed to talk gibberish, fasten woollen penises to our coats and get out into the night to party and copulate randomly and joyfully with strangers

Dare I ask how exactly he's being disallowed from doing this now? Other than, I suppose, the lack of willing partners.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...fasten woollen penises to our coats...

I always find the wollen ones to be too scratchy, but maybe that's just me.

Bender said...

What happens when one burns off the dogmatic aspects of militant, ideological atheism (including of the sort often seen here)?

One is left with a mere state of disbelief. A state of disbelief where, instead of discovering and recognizing pre-existing truths, most especially the truths relating to the meaning of human life, one must necessarily create them himself.

And experience has shown, by the practitioners of the art themselves, that such atheistic existentialism invariably leads to existential angst.

Usually followed thereafter by nihilism. And occasionally thereafter followed by a gun in the mouth.

As for contact with religion and reason, while one cannot say this about all religion (and merely to lump them all together in that fashion is to betray an unreasoned ignorance of huge proportions), it would be welcomed by at least some of these religions if the atheists would partake themselves of this reason they refer to. In particular, that religion which is based upon Logos (a Greek word from which we get the word "logic") would be all too happy to move the discussion to the arena of reason and away from irrational animus and prejudice by anti-believers.

edutcher said...

Why do so many idiots feel it necessary to remove all doubt by writing a book?

bagoh20 said...

Why dos this remind me of a nude beach, where the participants are never the ones you wish were there

My theory is they don't want to be naked so much as they want everybody to see them being naked.

Kind of like the silver ponytail Radicals with the VW bus plastered stem to stern with bumper stickers.

The Crack Emcee said...

It irks me that y'all can't remember I'm supporting Santorum. Or that I go after any atheists (even for how they go after religion) as much as anyone else when they screw up. Don't forget:

Unlike these other guys, I didn't leave a parent's religion and start to attack it, I am the real thing and can't be anything else.

Religion exists, but it's outdated, and there's nothing more to be said.

pst314 said...

From the review:

"Other proposals include that we recognise, as religions always have, that art and our education have a purpose – art for art’s sake has been misunderstood, he says: it wasn’t about art having no moral message, but about freeing the artist from the yoke of the patron. We can keep the same books and pictures, but should reorganise the university around life themes, with Departments of Relationships or Centres for Dying. Art galleries would be similarly reshuffled into useful categories that would resonate with our life challenges and help guide us: 'there would be galleries devoted to the beauty of simplicity, the curative powers of nature, the dignity of the outsider', to make our experience more 'life-enhancing'."

Funny how so many of these atheist philosophers keep proposing totalizing theories of society. But then, Alain de Botton did say that we have too much freedom. Charming.

YoungHegelian said...

Couldn't De Botton look to recent history just across the channel to see what happened to folks who tried to "mine" their religious tradition?

The French Revolutionary government turned Chartres & Notre Dame (among other churches) into Temples to Reason, trying to replace the old Deity with one more conducive to state power.

How that work out? Well, if you lived in La Vendee, not too well indeed.

And let's not even get started on the "God-Builders" among the Bolshevicks, who even Lenin thought were wiggy.

Tim said...

Zeb Quinn said...

The way they proselytize seems like a religion to me.

"For the most part, atheism IS just another religion, faith-based and all. And it really gets that blood vessel in their necks throbbing when you point it out."

Yes, this is exactly right.

Atheists disbelieve all other religions not their own; their faith, that there is no God, is as much an unfalsifiable hypothesis as my faith is, that there is a God.

Ironic though, as Zeb points out, Atheist get really pissed off when this is pointed out to them.

Tim said...

I especially like the strained efforts to explain how everything came from nothing.

And they think themselves as living in "reality."

Too funny.

The Crack Emcee said...

Atheists disbelieve all other religions not their own; their faith, that there is no God, is as much an unfalsifiable hypothesis as my faith is, that there is a God.

O.K., fine - it's bullshit, but fine:

Only you carry the burden of proof.

Get to work, Mister, and pictures of the kid on toast don't count,...

JOhn said...

He seems to be suggesting that we'd all be better off if monogamy completely collapsed and it became socially acceptable to sleep with anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Well, when monogamy breaks down, you don't get "equality." What happens is that the strong are able to trample the weak. Rich and powerful men are able to horde all the women, and most of the other men are left out in the cold. When men are unable to marry, they tend to become dangerous, and thus the collapse of monogamy can tear a society apart. Be careful what you wish for...

bagoh20 said...

You don't have to be an atheist to eat the toast, but it helps.

SGT Ted said...

Actually, I try to live the good parts of religious ideas, as they inform individual Liberty and treating people right.

I don't need a special book or to join a group in order to do so.

The books are already written.

bagoh20 said...

If you want avoid divorce, join me as a committed nullogamist.

John M Auston said...

To paraphrase Schopenhauer, "all religions mock all other religions, and all are correct to do so."

Oh, and Alain de Botton is a terrific thinker and author.

Your loss, Pogo.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

"O.K., fine - it's bullshit, but fine:"

Crack, clearly you fundamentally misunderstand, or are ignorant of, or blinded by your own faith, or possibly too dim to understand, what "unfalsifiable hypothesis" means.

Until you do, please respectfully refrain from lecturing those of us who do understand what "unfalsifiable hypothesis" means.

Chip Ahoy said...

Hey, there's no thirteenth floor on my building either. I cannot believe those ignorant superstitionists stopped at eight.

The Crack Emcee said...

Tim,

Crack, clearly you fundamentally misunderstand, or are ignorant of, or blinded by your own faith, or possibly too dim to understand, what "unfalsifiable hypothesis" means.

Until you do, please respectfully refrain from lecturing those of us who do understand what "unfalsifiable hypothesis" means.


I looked it up on Google and it means a theory, but you're not contending God is a theory - you say he/it exists, period.

Now, lease respectfully refrain from lecturing those of us who understand what "diversionary tactics" are. Either put up or shut up and let it go:

The entire concept is tired,...

pst314 said...

"I looked it up on Google and it means a theory"

No.

The Crack Emcee said...

pst314,

My goodness, believers are tired.

So, based on your "no," I went back - this time to wikipedia - and the root of the word "hypothesis" is "to suppose".

That still isn't positing a fact, like in the declarative statement "God exists."

Now, if you guys are going to keep on with this malarky, I won't want to play with you any more. Either prove God exists or let it go as the fanciful bit of received gullibility that you've absorbed, and had reinforced by others, over your lifetime. Anything less and you're nothing more than either fools or charlatans and, in case you haven't noticed, they ain't my type of people to hang with.

Lucien said...

@Chip:

8floors? When FD laders only go to 7? Some architect's way of saying that those 1%ers on the top floor can all roast to death.

pst314 said...

"My goodness, believers are tired."

You might be making an false assumption about what I believe, you know. :-)

Jeff with one 'f' said...

" In a clever twist he calls this “re-appropriation”, reminding us how many of the apparent innovations of religion – Christmas, monasticism, sacred sites – were taken over from previous cultures by the rampant colonisers of the monotheistic religions. It’s time, he says, for us to take them back."

They were taken from OTHER religions. I his arrogance he's classifying monotheism as the only form of religion. I guarantee that the pagan Greeks, Phoenicians, etc considered their beliefs as religious, even if the monotheists did not.

pst314 said...

"Now, if you guys are going to keep on with this malarky"

The malarkey that I was responding to was your misunderstanding of "unfalsifiable hypothesis".

It does mean merely "theory".

It means, briefly and casually, "unable to be proven false".

See Karl Popper, for instance, on the philosophy of science and the proposition that a hypothesis cannot properly be regarded as scientific if it cannot be disproved--if it cannot be properly tested then it isn't science.

Fen said...

But they already worship Gaia and Obama.

Saint Croix said...

We're reading a very provocative and cool book in my Sunday school class. It's called The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller.

The prodigal son is a fascinating Christian parable. Jesus was accused by the Jewish leaders of being a bad Jew, because he was hanging out with whores, pagans, and atheists. And Jesus responded, like he often did, with a parable.

Keller's entire book is about this parable. Basically there are two sons, a younger son who is a pleasure-seeker, and an older son who is moralistic and self-righteous. And Keller points out that both children are cut off from God.

Keller uses this parable, and Christianity, to attack organized religion and moral self-righteousness. Very provocative and interesting book. Atheists might want to check it out.

The Crack Emcee said...

pst314,

It means, briefly and casually, "unable to be proven false".

Then it's a crazy (and useless) thing to bring up because it's not on me to prove it false - I'm not the one asserting it's true.

Now please stop. Truly, I get as bored with this as seeing a thread featuring Andy R, Garage Mahal, or any of the rest of the loonies,...

John Lawton said...

You are strangers here, no? Are you here for Festival? You must make ready. It's almost The Red Hour.

I hear and obey the voice of Obama.

pst314 said...

Crack, I wasn't particularly interested in your argument with Tim, but I'd like you to use words accurately--know what they mean before you use them...or are you Humpty-Dumpty?

Tim said that belief in the existence of God and belief in the non-existence of God are both non-falsifiable, which is fair enough: He will have trouble coming up with proof that God exists, and you will have trouble coming up with proof that God does not exist. Why not leave it at that?

Now, if you don't like to debate theology, why did you jump into the conversation? Could it be...ego? (Your first post here was "It irks me that y'all can't remember I'm supporting Santorum....Don't forget: Unlike these other guys...I am the real thing" Nobody had mentioned you up till then. Maybe you felt ignored. Or maybe your dislike of debates about religion really is a dislike of people who don't concede your greatness. The only thing I'm certain of is that you don't always read with care and comprehension.)

Writ Small said...

Ted Talk Alain do Botton gave on this very subject.

Coincidentally, I listened to this a few days ago. My thought at the time was that in England, where organized religion has been in decline for much longer than in the U.S., they're starting to see more of the negative externalities of a nearly religion-free society.

I found his listing of what religion provides a society compelling but his application of that to atheism highly unpersuasive.

Rusty said...

Religion exists, but it's outdated, and there's nothing more to be said.

Since religion is just a construct of what we think the object of out ultimate concern should be, it will never be outdated. We will continuously fill the void with other things. Politics, environmentalism,scientology, atheism, etc.
So a better question, rather than, does god exist,which is non nonsensical from a theological point of view. would be, why do we exist.
Not for nothing did the Hebrew scholars refuse to write, let alone utter the name of their god. To do so removes god from the infinite and places it with fail-able humans.

The Crack Emcee said...

pst314 said...
Crack,

Tim said that belief in the existence of God and belief in the non-existence of God are both non-falsifiable, which is fair enough: He will have trouble coming up with proof that God exists, and you will have trouble coming up with proof that God does not exist. Why not leave it at that?

Because the burden isn't on me, and you can't treat that position as the same as his - it's a dodge designed to let him off the hook he's hung himself on - which points to an obvious bias against accepting the atheist position, which is self-evident.

Now, if you don't like to debate theology, why did you jump into the conversation? Could it be...ego? (Your first post here was "It irks me that y'all can't remember I'm supporting Santorum....Don't forget: Unlike these other guys...I am the real thing" Nobody had mentioned you up till then. Maybe you felt ignored.

I don't mind debating theology - I dislike stupid debates of any kind. (Like that idiotic insertion of the "unfalsifiable hypothesis" when it does nothing to advance the dialogue or make his case.) And i mentioned my being "irked' because these guys know me. How can they let the claim "[A]theists have been too timid, fearing any contact with religion will leave them contaminated with unreason." without saying/thinking "Crack doesn't do that"? I would think, as often as I'm here, they would find it impossible (Lord knows, no one can mention NewAge without "Crack Bait" coming up) but, instead, they fly off with a discussion that accepts the lie on face value.

This is why I go off so often on the subject of truth. It's like people want to deny, or at least resist, the idea there is one. Like the acceptance of religious dogma, they are comforted by discussing this atheists-are-afraid-of-religion lie, even though (through my example) they know better. It's reality - and the truth of this reality - that scares them.

That atheists AREN'T as they think and say. That we DON'T share - or want or need - a religion as they do. That we DON'T fear contact with religion. That it is THEY who are bigoted. That it is THEY who are afraid. That it is THEY who are gullible/delusional/vulnerable, etc.

They put their desire for their own comfort above the truth they know, condemning others to live in a lie of their creation. Like they get off on groping people in the dark. You tell me:

Is it egotistical for me not to want to do that?

Shit, for Ann to even make this post without screaming this guy is full of shit because I am proof to the contrary is a deception. She knows better. You all know better. And you should say so without getting lost in these silly, pointless, black hole debates over lies you merely like repeating to make YOURSELVES feel good.

I get accused of being egotistical a lot, but I can assure you - whether you consider that good or bad - it's one hell of a lot better than being THAT insecure,...

The Crack Emcee said...

Writ Small,

My thought at the time was that in England, where organized religion has been in decline for much longer than in the U.S., they're starting to see more of the negative externalities of a nearly religion-free society.

i don't think so. They have the same problems with NewAge, there, that we have here, so to claim they're religion-free is a stretch. They've just congratulated themselves on kicking the habit, since moving from heroin to crack.

Paddy O said...

Crack, oddly enough I find debating religion to be boring too. Not that I think you're right. I don't. But I think it takes more than blog comment sections to help make that more of an interesting conversation. All we have here is talking points thrown back at each other.

Those of us who take God as reality, then, develop lives and thoughts that proceed according to God's reality, which is not yet proven, but which we think will ultimately be so and in ways that reflect certain patterns.

In other words, I can't prove God to you, especially as I suspect not even a dead man who comes alive and walks out of a grave would actually be convincing to you. I think there could be convincing acts, but that's God's business with you. You're suspicious of religious words, and rightly so, but that's all that can be had hereabouts.

We can testify to what we have experienced. That's all. You're wrong, I know and will live in a way that testifies to that, but wrong for all the right reasons.

Which is why it would be much more fun to talk in a setting where we could more share our experiences in proving or disproving God. Soundbites make for very boring theological discussions indeed.

Who really likes tracts? Or, for that matter, woolen penises?

The Crack Emcee said...

Rusty,

A better question, rather than, does god exist,which is non nonsensical from a theological point of view. would be, why do we exist.

I agree, and I'm pretty sure it's not to deceive,...

The Crack Emcee said...

Crack, oddly enough I find debating religion to be boring too. Not that I think you're right. I don't. But I think it takes more than blog comment sections to help make that more of an interesting conversation. All we have here is talking points thrown back at each other.

Like I said, debating religion doesn't bother me. What bothers me is people who can't concede a point, engage in diversions, etc. THEN it becomes "talking points thrown back at each other" because somebody's being dishonest - and that's usually the believer who also claims they have an interest in truth.

Those of us who take God as reality, then, develop lives and thoughts that proceed according to God's reality, which is not yet proven, but which we think will ultimately be so and in ways that reflect certain patterns.

I'd ask "why?" considering religion's long history of failure to justify itself, but I'll let it go.

In other words, I can't prove God to you, especially as I suspect not even a dead man who comes alive and walks out of a grave would actually be convincing to you. I think there could be convincing acts, but that's God's business with you. You're suspicious of religious words, and rightly so, but that's all that can be had hereabouts.

You know extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and though people coming back to life may have been seen as miraculous in the time of the illiterate desert people of the bible, it's too common now to be considered anything of the sort. I'm not a hard ass about this, but as you said, all we're left with is words, and I have every reason to doubt them.

We can testify to what we have experienced. That's all. You're wrong, I know and will live in a way that testifies to that, but wrong for all the right reasons.

Have you ever read The Man Who Thought His Wife Was A Hat? if so, then you'd realize how fallible your own experience is. Not to question it is unjustified egotism personified. What's the problem? Can't face the idea you're wrong? Take God out of it - isn't that the problem with most people? They simply can't handle that idea? I've seen people completely come apart dealing with that, on various subjects, so hanging on to the God delusion has to be a real identity crusher to the weak.

Which is why it would be much more fun to talk in a setting where we could more share our experiences in proving or disproving God. Soundbites make for very boring theological discussions indeed.

So do hearing such experiences because even I've had transcendent episodes - big deal. The difference is I have enough respect for grey matter, and reality, to investigate the possibilities beyond the simple-minded idea that "God did it."

Who really likes tracts? Or, for that matter, woolen penises?

Titus.

Blue@9 said...


In fact, most of us avoid the rabid atheists due to their unreasoning claims of theocracy and such.


Very true. The rabid ones (actually anti-religionists, as opposed to just atheists) give us all a bad name.

Unfortunately those are the noisy ones always trying to start fights.


And experience has shown, by the practitioners of the art themselves, that such atheistic existentialism invariably leads to existential angst


I don't agree with this at all. You are free to seek fulfillment in spirituality, but others are perfectly content finding a meaningful life without god. I have family and friends, neighbors, work, hobbies, etc.--these are the things that make life rich and meaningful. Works for me, anyhow.

Penny said...

Here's the thing, Crack. Some folks have more trouble than others at the thought of dying. Some people struggle more than others in finding "purpose" or "meaning" in their lives. And sometimes, really bad things happen to really good people. Hanging on to SOMETHING, nearly anything, is preferable to drowning.

Wikipedia says "A personal flotation device (abbreviated as PFD; also referred to as, lifejacket, life preserver, Mae West, life vest, life saver, cork jacket, buoyancy aid, flotation suit, etc.) is a device designed to assist a wearer, either conscious or unconscious, to keep afloat."

I like that they specifically included "the unconscious", since most of us have been so, at least figuratively, at one time or another.

Just a reminder that not everything we hang on to is an anchor.

wef said...

There is nothing more pathetically superstitious than a self-proclaimed atheist who believes in right and wrong.

Bender said...

Crack --

Surely you can appreciate the difference between (a) a good faith non-believer (of which I understand you to be) who seeks truth and has reasoned that God does not exist, and (b) what we might call an anti-theist, one who is not interested in a sincere search for truth (and probably does not even believe in truth), but instead has arbitrarily refused to even consider, no matter what, that God might exist.

(Of course, on the other side, there are also some -- some -- whose belief in God is based entirely on unthinking "blind faith," who are arbitrarily willing to accept even an irrational God. But there is also an entire history of religious thought that takes a look at all the evidence, all of the world, and has concluded as a matter of reason, that the existence of God is the better hypothesis.)

Peter said...

Althouse thread cites Stanley Cavell on Nietzsche? Can't say I saw that one coming!

Thanks, rhhardin. Made my day.

Bender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bender said...

Truth is what is. It is objective and universal reality, which is valid in all times and places. Thus, it is seen as transcendent, eternal, and absolute. Indeed, if something lacks truth, it lacks reality and existence. This Truth is the first principle, from which all else follows.

Truth thus exists independently of man and is merely discovered by him by reason and/or being revealed to him by observation, experience, or the testimony of others.

Truth, then, is necessarily absolute, fixed, and unchanging. Truth is not subjective; it is not a matter of feeling, a matter of opinion, or a matter of the will. One cannot choose their own truth, their own reality. Truth is not relative or malleable. Moreover, Truth exists and is relevant. Truth matters. It is something which is absolutely necessary for order to exist in the universe. Truth cannot be dismissed as merely theoretical or irrelevant or immaterial. This is so, not only with respect to scientific truths, mathematical truths, and psychological truths, but moral truths as well. That is, there are absolute standards and truths against which moral questions can be judged, and certain actions are per se right or wrong, devoid of the context of the act.

Truth, especially the highest Truth, has everything to do with life, even specific contexts of it. Moreover, the human person is drawn toward the Truth. Knowledge is for man, but man is for truth.

Even if you do not believe in God, know this -- Truth is central to the concept of the Catholic Church.

Faith and reason are not contraries or incompatible. They both belong to the desire for truth and it is precisely because of this common root that they are compatible sisters who need one another. Only a rational animal can have faith and, in a certain sense, must have it. Indeed, the very work of reason is based on belief.

Faith helps reason to discover itself. As Pope Benedict has pointed out, the search for truth in any endeavor never starts from zero, but always presupposes a trust in knowledge, ideas, and data which we cannot always control by ourselves. Faith implies reason and perfects it, and reason, illuminated by faith, finds the strength to rise to knowledge of the transcendent, God and other spiritual realities.

Human reason loses nothing when it is open to the contents of revealed faith. Indeed, the tendency to consider true only that which can be experienced constitutes a limitation for human reason.

Bender said...

The unavoidable question of life is whether or not God exists. To arrive at a correct answer to that mystifying question, one must, of course, have a proper conception of whom or what God is. It is quite easy to reject any belief in God if all you know is a caricature of Him, rather than the reality. The problem is that, while the mere existence of God is knowable by reason, reason is necessarily limited by what is already known or by what can be imagined. However, reason can be enlightened by revelation -- someone simply revealing truth to us -- helping us to know who and what it is that we seek, that is, helping us to have that proper conception of God, at least to the extent that we can comprehend, conceding that the full extent of the nature of God is beyond our limited human comprehension, which we call "mystery."

From the beginning, Christianity has understood itself as the religion of the "Logos," as the religion according to reason . . . it has not identified its precursors in the other religions, but in that philosophical enlightenment which has cleared the path of traditions to turn to the search of the truth and towards the good, toward the one God who is above all gods. . . . Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the "Logos." . . . A reason that springs from the irrational, and that is, in the final analysis, itself irrational, does not constitute a solution for our problems.
--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, April 1, 2005

Bender said...

Bender - And experience has shown, by the practitioners of the art themselves, that such atheistic existentialism invariably leads to existential angst
Blue - I don't agree with this at all.


It was Jean-Paul Sartre -- an atheistic existentialist -- who wrote on the propensity to existential angst. “Existentialism is nothing else than an attempt to draw all the consequences of a coherent atheistic position,” said Sartre, and a central proposition of his atheistic existentialism is that existence precedes essence, that is, that a human being's existence precedes and is more fundamental than any meaning which may be ascribed to human life.

That is, because there is no God to design mankind, he has no blueprint, no essence or soul. His essence or nature comes not from a Creator but from his own free choice; “man is nothing else than what he makes of himself.”

This idea that existence precedes essence thus strongly rejects the belief that human existence has inherent meaning. And a common theme of such existentialist thought is the focus on the feelings of anxiety and dread that we feel in the face of this radical freedom and our awareness of death.

And like I said, this existential angst has led not a few existentialists to despair and end up committing suicide.

The Crack Emcee said...

wef,

There is nothing more pathetically superstitious than a self-proclaimed atheist who believes in right and wrong.

Spoken like someone who's never saved a life, put their own on the line for others, or had someone do the same for them. It's EASY to say that when you're soft. When you actually have to physically fight the battle between good and evil, there's no need to "believe" in them:

They are real.

The Crack Emcee said...

Bender,

Crack --

Surely you can appreciate the difference between (a) a good faith non-believer (of which I understand you to be) who seeks truth and has reasoned that God does not exist, and (b) what we might call an anti-theist, one who is not interested in a sincere search for truth (and probably does not even believe in truth), but instead has arbitrarily refused to even consider, no matter what, that God might exist.


I do - and I put links, earlier above, to me taking on all types.

The Crack Emcee said...

Bender,

Jean-Paul Sartre

I hate that guy!

Bender said...

I do - and I put links, earlier above, to me taking on all types

Sorry. I must have overlooked that what with so many comments in so many posts.

Penny said...

And no response for me, Crack?

That's a good sign.

So far, the personal flotation device gets the nod over the anchor.

Writ Small said...

Alain de Botton said . . .

In the early 19th century, church attendance in western Europe started sliding down very, very sharply and people panicked. They asked themselves the following question. They said, “Where are people going to find morality? Where are they going to find guidance? And where are they going to find sources of consolation? Influential voices came up with one answer. They said “culture.” It’s to culture that we should look for guidance, for consolation, for morality. Let’s look to the plays of Shakespeare, the dialogues of Plato, the novels of Jane Austen. In there, we’ll find a lot of the truths that we might previously have found in the Gospel of Saint John.

That’s a very beautiful idea and a very true idea. They wanted to replace scripture with culture, and that’s a very plausible idea. It’s also an idea that we’ve forgotten.


The argument for the non-existence of God is straightforward. The elimination of religion in a single enlightened individual is of no serious significance. Heaven help us if our popular culture replaces religion in providing “guidance, morality, and consolation.”

Johah Goldberg said the other day that there is copious evidence to “prove” the “internet” is uplifting and that it is a cesspool. So too, if you go looking, can you find evidence of the failure of religion. However, secular society cannot be trusted with providing guidance, morality and consolation. New Age, environmentalism, the self-esteem movement, and Hollywood are poor, poor substitutes. Religion has its place and we dismantle it at our peril, my lack of belief notwithstanding.

phx said...

I especially like the strained efforts to explain how everything came from nothing.

And they think themselves as living in "reality."

Too funny.


"...the strained efforts to explain how everything came from ________."

Fill in the blank friend. Nothing? God? The Great Unknown? It's a strained effort no matter what you fill it in with.

What's funny is that you don't have the imagination to see it from someone else's point of view. You think your answer takes away all the strain.

Saint Croix said...

“We should,” he writes, “be allowed to...copulate randomly and joyfully with strangers, and then return the next morning to our partners, who will themselves have been off doing something similar.”

Of course we have rules in regard to sex because sex leads to babies. And if you don't know who the father is--which is common in the orgy--you're going to kill that baby.

Reproduction, and hostility to infanticide, is why Jews and Christians require monogamy in the first place.

Birth control gives us the illusion that none of this bad stuff will happen. He seems to be calling for a faith in technology, and our use of technology, that no mistakes will happen because we are infallible.

This seems, to me, woefully inadequate as a moral philosophy.

phx said...
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Saint Croix said...

The parable I spoke about earlier actually deals with sexuality. In the parable, the younger brother demands his inheritance from his father. And he takes the money, and spends it all on prostitutes.

The younger son runs out of money. So he goes back to his father, to ask him for a job. But he's surprised when his father joyfully accepts him back into the family.

Now the older son, who does not go to prostitutes, is really pissed. "This son of yours has squandered your property with prostitutes!"

What's remarkable about this story, to me, is that there was no birth control 2000 years ago. Infanticide was widely practiced, and legal in the pagan culture.

So you have to imagine the younger son as a baby-killer for the power of this story to really hit home.

In the parable, of course, the older son is good in that he follows Jewish law. Presumably he's married, doesn't go to prostitutes, and hasn't killed any of his babies.

He's a good, righteous man. And he's very, very angry.

And the point that Jesus is making is that it's not enough to be right. It's not enough to marry. You have to have love in your heart.

Jesus seems to be rejecting the idea of morality or righteousness as a path to God. He is saying God requires more than that.

Penny said...

Morals are simple enough to understand when we're not fighting over precisely which moral should be added or excluded.

Blue@9 said...


It was Jean-Paul Sartre -- an atheistic existentialist -- who wrote on the propensity to existential angst


I really don't care what Sartre thought--empirical proof beats theory. And it wouldn't surprise me that he suffered existential angst--he was a selfish asshole.

The reality is that millions upon millions of people manage to live their lives without faith and yet live happily and without going on killing and raping sprees.

I wish people would quit suggesting that atheists are doomed to die unhappy or they'll eat their babies from a lack of morals--it just isn't true.

Penny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
phx said...

The reality is that millions upon millions of people manage to live their lives without faith and yet live happily and without going on killing and raping sprees.

I wish people would quit suggesting that atheists are doomed to die unhappy or they'll eat their babies from a lack of morals--it just isn't true.


People often believe all these incredible things about atheists, as in ALL atheists. They believe that stuff. Then we're supposed to take those people as experts on "belief".

Blue@9 said...

Morals are simple enough to understand when we're not fighting over precisely which moral should be added or excluded.

Well, human beings will always fight over what other people should be allowed to do.

Religion's claim to hold some exclusive dominion over morality is silly, Imo. The morals that count, e.g. don't kill, don't steal, etc., make sense for anyone regardless of whether you believe in God.

phx said...

Jesus seems to be rejecting the idea of morality or righteousness as a path to God. He is saying God requires more than that.

Jesus also seems to be saying something important about compassion and forgiveness too. Its beauty seems ineffable.

Yet I don't believe in the Bible the same way that the believers do.

Penny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saint Croix said...

If we take a leaf out of the religious book, he argues, and stick it in the calendar, schedule it like a bank holiday or a board meeting, then we can enjoy it guilt-free.

But can we divide our life this way?

It seems, at best, hypocrisy, and at worst, sociopathy.

Of course there are Christians who go to church, and then forget all that stuff during the rest of the week.

I've done that. Everybody's done that.

But this behavior is recognized and attacked by religious people.

Religion doesn't actually require its adherents to limit their goodness to a couple of hours on Sunday. In fact the hope is the opposite, that your goodness will spread and affect the rest of your world.

Alain de Botton seems to be arguing the opposite. He's suggesting that you be your normal self during the week. And then, on a Sunday, you put on a black robe and go to Evil Church, a place where you can sodomize strangers and kill puppies for kicks.

He's attempting to license bad behavior, to regulate it and control it. "I'm scheduling my evil for Sunday. Can't be evil today. It's not in my schedule."

John Lynch said...

Pagans had their time. It led to the Dark Ages.

Saint Croix said...

I don't believe in the Bible the same way that the believers do.

I think you might get a real kick out of Keller's book.

We think of the parable as being about the forgiveness of a bad son, who ran off to have sex with prostitutes.

That's only half the story.

It's a parable about two sons.

Yes, there's a bad son who left the Jewish faith, who was lost and then was found.

But there's also the self-righteous son. Indeed, Jesus is telling this parable to the righteous, the Jewish leaders.

It's a parable for sinners and self-righteous alike.

I feel like this parable speaks to both sides of my character. I am the bad younger brother. And I am also the self-righteous older brother. I veer back and forth, all the time.

Keller writes: There are many people today who have abandoned any kind of religious faith because they see clearly that the major religions are simply full of older brothers. They have come to the conclusion that religion is one of the greatest sources of misery and strife in the world. And guess what? Jesus says through this parable--they are right. The anger and superiority of elder brothers, all growing out of insecurity, fear, and inner emptiness, can create a huge body of guilt-ridden, fear-ridden, spiritually blind people, which is one of the great sources of social injustice, war, and violence."

phx said...
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Bender said...

I wish people would quit suggesting that atheists are doomed to die unhappy or they'll eat their babies from a lack of morals--it just isn't true

Hey, argue with Sartre dude, not me. He and Kierkegaard, et al. are the ones who said it.

jimbino said...

Ha, the 13th floor comment reminds me of the time a couple of young guys came around asking to spray-paint house numbers on the curbs. I said I didn't want my real house number, but would pay double for for "666." They refused to do it!

Blue@9 said...

In my case, the dominant religion in my cultural background is Buddhism, but my parents rejected it because back in Asia it's no different than megachurches here--it just feels like a big institution. It's hard to get the feel of spirituality when there are departments and committees and political wings and bureaucracy, all requiring big sums of money. I imagine this is what drives many people away from big church religion here.

My parents still believe in a god, even if it's a rather vague belief. They don't ascribe to any particular religion, only that there's some creator out there and he's a good god--a pretty pure form of spirituality, imo.

I think one reason I could never join a religion is the exclusivity... I guess it's mostly just Christianity--can't abide by the notion of hell or that people are sent there simply for being unbelievers. One would hope Gandhi could get into heaven.

Bender said...

I wish people would quit suggesting that atheists are doomed to die unhappy or they'll eat their babies from a lack of morals

By the way, that is a bit of a strawman there, I'm not sure that many people are arguing that atheists do not and cannot have morals.

But it is a faulty logic that says --
I am an atheist.
I have morals.
Therefore God is not the source of moral truth.

Bender said...

can't abide by the notion of hell or that people are sent there simply for being unbelievers

Again with the faulty logic.

Heaven is being with God. Hell is being apart from God.

You can't abide the notion that people would be apart from God simply for not believing in Him?

God can't win, can He? What do you want? You want God to force non-believers to be with Him in eternity even though they do not believe, did not want to be with Him in this life, and do not want to be with Him after this life?

Tim said...

"What's funny is that you don't have the imagination to see it from someone else's point of view. You think your answer takes away all the strain."

You might think so, but excuse me for thinking it funny too that you presume my imagination so limited.

As noted above by another commenter, these comment threads don't exactly lend themselves to much insight, especially for more nuanced discussions, but oh well.

My point remains; the unfalsifiable hypothesis requires faith; some, like me, have faith God exists, others have faith He does not.

Fine. I recognize you are free to choose, regardless of how you might ascribe that freedom for yourself or even me. This, of course, extends to the creation, however it happened, or did not happen but just was, or whatever.

As for Crack, bah. You're much too caught up in your own drama to spend any time discussing this, other than to say my burden of proof is absolutely no greater than yours. And, if one wishes to take the common human understanding of Man and his relationship with God throughout time into account, one might conclude the burden of proof lies with those who deny or disclaim the existence of God (or a of superior being(s)), but I won't hold you to that, in light of the fact one could not impose such a limitation as "common human understanding" upon such a man as yourself.

Bender said...

Tim --

Remember Paul in Athens.
Acts 17:16-23

Tim said...

Bender,

Yes, an excellent point, in so many different ways. Thank you.

Blue@9 said...

But it is a faulty logic that says --
I am an atheist.
I have morals.
Therefore God is not the source of moral truth.


Sure, if you include the word truth. But morals predate the religions we're talking about. And I don't really see it as a straw man, insofar as the argument is constantly made that without god-given morals we'll devolve into rapacious criminals. As I said, most of the useful moral rules you can figure out without religion.


can't abide by the notion of hell or that people are sent there simply for being unbelievers

Again with the faulty logic.

Heaven is being with God. Hell is being apart from God.


I'm talking doctrine. I'm talking about heaven as a Good Place and hell as a Bad Place. And according to most Christians you go to hell if you don't accept Christ. Ergo, Gandhi went to hell. Stalin might have gone to heaven if he converted on his deathbed.

The Crack Emcee said...

Penny,

And no response for me, Crack?

That's a good sign.

So far, the personal flotation device gets the nod over the anchor.


Yes, Penny, for the most part I agree with your excellent post. The differences weren't big enough to mention. Sorry not to say so.

Saint Croix said...

Stalin might have gone to heaven if he converted on his deathbed.

That's what is so mind-blowing about Christianity, in my opinion. It's that any sin can be forgiven and washed away.

I'm talking about heaven as a Good Place and hell as a Bad Place.

That's why the metaphor is so powerful. The good son could not wrap his head around the idea that his father would love the bad son.

"All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders."

I'm good!

"You never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends."

Where's my reward?!

"But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes..."

He's bad!

"...comes home, you kill the fatted calf for him!"

He gets a reward?

The point of the parable is that heaven is not a reward for righteousness. You do not earn your way.

The Crack Emcee said...

Tim,

My point remains; the unfalsifiable hypothesis requires faith; some, like me, have faith God exists, others have faith He does not.

I don't have faith he does not - I just look around and it's pretty clear he ain't here, has never been here, and never will be. There's no record in history, there's never been an intervention in any of the deaths I've witnessed or at any time in the modern world, and no reward for anyone I've ever known for believing. As a matter of fact, their lives have been diminished, greatly, for doing so - and many of them were wonderful people. I'd be a fool to deny what I know. I have a brain. I've always been told to use it, and I have. I can't be bothered with fairy stories, Easter Bunnies, or adult versions of Aesop's Fables. it's bullshit.

As for Crack, bah. You're much too caught up in your own drama to spend any time discussing this, other than to say my burden of proof is absolutely no greater than yours.

Your saying it's so doesn't make it true - put up or shut up.

And, if one wishes to take the common human understanding of Man and his relationship with God throughout time into account, one might conclude the burden of proof lies with those who deny or disclaim the existence of God (or a of superior being(s)), but I won't hold you to that, in light of the fact one could not impose such a limitation as "common human understanding" upon such a man as yourself.

The argument to popularity wins you nothing. The multiple of "anecdote' is not "data." Lots of people believed slavery was right. Lots of people believe homeopathy is medicine. Lots of people believe Obama is a good president. Lots of people are fools.

If joining the ranks of such as those is your claim to fame, so be it, but you're a fool.

Bender said...

Blue -- sorry, but you have been sorely misinformed as to Christianity (well, Catholic doctrine certainly).

So it looks like you are spending an awful lot of energy objecting to something that no one is proposing.

Again, by definition --
The essence of "heaven" is to be one with God and in God. See CCC 1023-29

And the essence of "hell" is eternal separation from God. See CCC 1033-37

And it is not the doctrine of the Catholic Church that non-Christians (or non-Catholic Christians) are automatically consigned to hell. Rather, it is the teaching of the Church that "every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved." CCC 1260

Indeed, non-believers can know Him even without realizing it, as Jesus Himself recognized. See Mt. 25:34-40

The question is --
Do you have a sincere and good faith desire for truth? If you do, then you are on the right road.

Bender said...

Sure, if you include the word truth. But morals predate the religions we're talking about

Yes. Truth, including moral truth, predates religions, including both Judaism and Christianity.

But they do not predate God. Rather, they are co-extensive with Him. The nature of God is Truth. It is not the case simply that "God is," but as His name ("I am") indicates, "God Is." He is "the Is" itself, He is Being itself. (Ex 3:14, Jn 1:1).

Simply because one does not know where he got moral truth does not mean that morality does not come from God.

Bender said...

Like I said the other day regarding the conscience -- God speaks even to the hearts of atheists and they can hear that voice if they are open to truth.

Jesus walked the earth for about 33 years without hardly anyone recognizing Him as God. Every day people would pass by Him, say, "Hello, Joshua, how are you today?" They would eat with Him, socialize with Him, laugh with Him, talk about this and that with Him. They were friends with Him and knew Him intimately, all without realizing that it was God who they were such good friends with.

Tim said...

"I don't have faith he does not - I just look around and it's pretty clear he ain't here, has never been here, and never will be. There's no record in history, there's never been an intervention in any of the deaths I've witnessed or at any time in the modern world, and no reward for anyone I've ever known for believing."

Actually, you are quite ignorant of the recorded history of miracles, but, presuming good faith on your part, I suppose that's more about wilfulness and confirmation bias more than anything else. Otherwise, the multiplicity of your own anecdotes aren't data, so there we are.

One last thing - did you figure out what unfalsifiable hypothesis means?

It's easy if you try.