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penfold



    Posts: 678
  • Darwins +63/-4

You think people should wake up and stop believing, because religion is irrational and God is scientifically impossible (according to current state of science). That won't happen, because the benefits religion gives people will compensate for any "contradictions". There are answers for all your "contradictions", some are more, some are less logical, but it doesn't matter, either. Believers will choose to believe these answers, rather than your contradictions, because the only thing atheists can do (regarding religion of course) is negate and abolish. You don't really have any alternative, anything to give people instead of religion. Or have you?

I think there is a certain amount of truth in this; people do find in religion a way to deal with the absurdity of being. To my mind this is fair enough; William James in Varieties of Religious Experiences makes a compelling case that we should not spend too much time looking to the origin of religious experience; but focus instead on the effects. He makes the point that many people (who he designates as 'sick souls') find the complexity and terror of existence too much. In religious belief and practice this 'sickness' can be overcome and we can be recast as 'healthy-minded'. However what is interesting about James is that he is not dogmatic about this. For him the religious sentiment is merely the 'taking seriously' of life, something he allows even a humanist could achieve. Moreover while James himself did believe in a God he admitted that he may be mistaken and that much of religious experience could be caused by the subconscious. This pragmatic approach to religion is one I have a deal of sympathy with. Especially as it allows us to distinguish between 'good' and 'bad' religion by looking at outcomes: so we applaud the alcoholic whose faith allows him to control his addiction, but we do not the homosexual who uses their faith as a route to self-loathing.

Just as I think all theists should read Hume in order to engage with intelligent atheism, I think all atheists should read James in order to engage with intelligent theism.

Having said that I do think there are many alternatives which are non-religious. Apart form the already mentioned humanism there are many other intellectual traditions which attempt to provide the same solace as religion without the metaphysical baggage: existentialism, philosophical Taoism, Epicurianism, Stoicism, Eudaimonic ethics, to name a few. It is fine to claim that these systems of thought are not for you, I have no issue with that, but it is wrong to discount these rich intellectual traditions as 'not alternatives'.

I think James (and from what I understand of you from your posts) is right to be suspicious of the claim that a bare 'scientism' can be truly satisfying. However I think this charge, often made, that science is somehow life-denying is a bit of a straw man. In my limited experience scientists live just as rich lives as everyone else. Even the most die-hard scientist usually has, at minimum, an aesthetic (thus non-scientific) appreciation of her subject - to quote one example; Dawkins' lyrical eulogies to nature so moved Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury that he used them for his Christmas Sermon a few years ago. Moreover while science may understand humans (correctly) as mere organisms, there are few scientists, in my experience who do not attach moral and personal weight to the individuals in their own lives.

There are those who use God to make sense of the world and find ways to be 'healthy-minded'; however there are many others who achieve the same goal walking different, non-religious, paths.

Anyhow thanks for the OP and interesting discussion.
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