Friday, May 16, 2014

Russell on Fideistic Faith: Pusillanimous and sniveling?

A redated post. 

There is something pusillanimous and sniveling about this point of view, that makes me scarcely able to consider it with patience. To refuse to face facts merely because they are unpleasant is considered the mark of a weak character, except in the sphere of religion. I do not see how it can be ignoble to yield to the tyranny of fear in all terrestrial matters, but noble and virtuous to do the same things where God and the future life are concerned.

Bertrand Russell, The Value of Free Thought (1944).

16 comments:

JD Walters said...

"To refuse to face facts merely because they are unpleasant is considered the mark of a weak character, except in the sphere of religion."

This passage reminds me, not of theists who refuse to face the facts about an impersonal universe, but of atheists who reject belief in God because he is a God of judgment as well as love and because of all the bad things God is supposed to have done in the OT.

JD Walters said...

Jesus did his fair share of condemning and consigning people to 'weeping and gnashing of teeth'. To focus only on the mercy he showed to (repentant) sinners is to forget that he saw himself as the harbinger of God's final judgment. The dichotomy between the OT God of Wrath and the NT God of Love is a false one.

Walter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GREV said...

"Jesus sought to save people; Yahweh just slaughtered those outside of his chosen tribe."

What do you make then of passages in Revelation where Jesus is clearly not in the saving business anymore?

Word verification -- pitypo

Bilbo said...

Walter: "Jesus sought to save people; Yahweh just slaughtered those outside of his chosen tribe."

I'm not sure that's an accurate portrayal of Yahweh's actions. The plagues are visited on the Egyptians because Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews go free.

The other tribes in the promised land are slaughtered, because they have been involved in the worship of other gods, especially those gods who require human sacrifice. Had the other tribes given up their other gods or left the promised land, Yahweh wouldn't have required that they be slaughtered.

We can accuse Yahweh of religious intolerance, if we wish. But if it is true that Yahweh is the one and only true God, and that all other gods are either demons or do not exist, then one can sort of see His point.

Why only slaughter idolaters in the promised land? Location, location, location. If you want to start a religion that you claim is universally true, having it at the center or near the major trade routes between Africa, Asia, and Europe, helps a lot.

Bilbo said...

Russell: "To refuse to face facts merely because they are unpleasant is considered the mark of a weak character..."

Ah, but to refuse to face the fact that one is dying of cancer can very often help one defeat cancer. Refusing to face the fact that one will be defeated by the overwhelming forces of the enemy can very often help one defeat the enemy. To refuse to face the fact that life is essentially an accident and has no eternal meaning, can very often help one to find meaning.

Walter said...

The other tribes in the promised land are slaughtered, because they have been involved in the worship of other gods, especially those gods who require human sacrifice. Had the other tribes given up their other gods or left the promised land, Yahweh wouldn't have required that they be slaughtered.

Did Yahweh "reveal" himself as the only true god to these other tribes, as he supposedly did with his favorite tribe? One can only speculate, but apparently he did not. Also, based on some passages in the Hebrew bible, I'm not so sure that the ancient Israelites did not condone and engage in human sacrifice, themselves.

Why only slaughter idolaters in the promised land? Location, location, location. If you want to start a religion that you claim is universally true, having it at the center or near the major trade routes between Africa, Asia, and Europe, helps a lot.

I would think that an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God might want to start a universal religion by revealing himself to people all over the globe. Imagine the first Europeans discovering the Americas, the Far East, or Australia only to find a fully developed, universal belief in Yahweh/Jesus. That would certainly abolish all doubts in my mind as to the one true religion.

Bilbo said...

Walter: "Did Yahweh "reveal" himself as the only true god to these other tribes, as he supposedly did with his favorite tribe? One can only speculate, but apparently he did not."

I agree that we can only speculate. If we assume, for the moment, that the Exodus story and the book of Joshua are historical, then we can say that Yahweh was revealing Himself through the miraculous events of redeeming Israel and bringing it into the promised land. People such as the harlot (Rahab?) in Jericho, or the prophet Balaam in Midian, recognized this. One of them made peace with Yahweh, while the other found a way to not to.

"Also, based on some passages in the Hebrew bible, I'm not so sure that the ancient Israelites did not condone and engage in human sacrifice, themselves."

Yes, and they are condemned by the prophets of Israel, and eventually the nation of Israel is judged for it.

"I would think that an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God might want to start a universal religion by revealing himself to people all over the globe."

Again, we can only speculate as to whether or not Yahweh tried this approach. Abraham is called the father of faith. Is it because he was the only one to whom Yahweh revealed Himself? Or was it because he was the only one (or the first one?) willing to leave his homeland and follow Yahweh wherever He led him? Either way, it seems that Yahweh wanted to accomplish His purposes in a way similar to a seed growing into a tree. It starts with one person and grows out organically to include all of humanity.

"Imagine the first Europeans discovering the Americas, the Far East, or Australia only to find a fully developed, universal belief in Yahweh/Jesus. That would certainly abolish all doubts in my mind as to the one true religion."

Yes. Maybe Yahweh is much less interested in abolishing your doubts and more interested in your reaching out to Him, as Abraham no doubt had to do on many an occasion, or at least wrestling with Him, as Jacob did.

Anonymous said...

I read the Old Testament very allegorically (as I think it should be read in that manner), so this alleged "Cruel and Despotic Yahweh!" stuff doesn't bother me in the least bit.

Walter said...

I read the Old Testament very allegorically (as I think it should be read in that manner), so this alleged "Cruel and Despotic Yahweh!" stuff doesn't bother me in the least bit.

That's one way of reconciling the belief in a benevolent God with the fairly nasty deity found in the Hebrew bible. Only problem with that method is: one can allegorize away anything they have a hard time with in the bible. Don't believe in miracles like a literal resurrection? No problem. Just read the story as an allegory.

BenYachov said...

You disappoint me Walter are your back to this Theistic Personalist mishigoss about a "god" who is a moral agent?

Was all my effort in vain that you are back too hawking this dumb idol and identifying him with YHWH when it is clear YHWH is a Classic Theistic God?

Didn't you at one point concede God if He exists given his relation too us has the absolute right of Life and Death over us?

It seems what bugged you was YHWH commanding the Israelites to exterminate people & you somehow imagining God commanding you to do the same.

As opposed to God doing his own "dirty work".

>Also, based on some passages in the Hebrew bible, I'm not so sure that the ancient Israelites did not condone and engage in human sacrifice, themselves.

Except there is no archeological evidence to support this hypothesis which has been cited as evidence the Canaanites didn't practice human sacrifice either like the Rabbis and OT claimed BTW.

Granted as Kitchen tells us a lack of evidence is not evidence of absence.

OTOH the OT tells of the Israelites falling into idolatry & practicing human sacrifice before some reforming Prophet or divine judgement comes along to rebuke them.

The "textual" argument that the Hebrew Bible condones human sacrifice presupposes Israelites always used & interpreted language the same way as their Canaanite friends did. That is silly.

Consider the following?

Article 52 of the Soviet Constitution:

“Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda.”

Now if you interpreted the above in light of western Kantian post enlightenment tradition it would seem freedom of religion as we understand it in the USA would have been recognized by the USSR.

Yet it wasn't? Maybe because they interpreted the above language threw the lens of Dialectical Materialism and Communist ethical theory & not western post enlightenment tradition.

Ya think?

In a like manner(Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; Deut. 12:31) clearly condemn human sacrifice thus the language of Ex. 22:29 means something different to a Jew then a Canaanite pagan.

The difference being giving your child to the LORD did not involve killing him/her.

Perspicuity and Sola Scriptura it amazes me how many religious skeptics, Deist Skeptics and Atheists hold fast to these Protestant doctrines with more enthusiasm then a son of the Reformation.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

>I would think that an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God might want to start a universal religion by revealing himself to people all over the globe.

Technically God doesn't have to reveal anything. He can give extra-ordinary Grace to save the non-believers by negation.

He doesn't have to give us the Beatific Vision He could just send us to Limbo upon our deaths where we might have mere perfect natural happiness.

He can do it anyway Hhe likes since technically being omnipotent terms like "hard" & "easy" have no real application to Him.


Walter you need to be free of any theistic personalism when thinking about God.

A Theistic Personalist "god" is just gay! Super Gay! Totally Super Gay! Wanda Sykes Gay!!!! *

*Naturally by Gay I don't mean homosexual. I mean Gay as in any particular bundling plain offered too you by Time Warner Cable.

Papalinton said...

Responding to a three-year old comment as if it was made yesterday. Oh Dear.

Knee-jerk reaction driven by 'blind faith' comes to mind.

amorbis said...

This passage reminds me, not of theists who refuse to face the facts about an impersonal universe, but of atheists who reject belief in God because he is a God of judgment as well as love

If your "God of judgment" sentences people to be burned in unimaginable, screaming agony for all of eternity, then you unequivocally believe in a God who is the ultimate embodiment of pure evil and hatred, not a "God of love". If you seriously think *anyone* could do *anything* to deserve such an unimaginably cruel punishment, you need to seriously re-examine your moral intuitions.

Doug said...

"sentences people to be burned in unimaginable, screaming agony for all of eternity" -- no doubt your position is enhanced by considering a medieval strawman of a "God of justice", but do yourself a favor and read "The Great Divorce".

amorbis said...

Yeah, I know that there are positions on what Hell is that are different (and much more just) than the traditional "burning in a lake of fire forever" conception - it was wrong of me to assume that JD Walters was referring to that conception rather than to one of the more sophisticated conceptions. My comment was merely a kneejerk reaction and I admit that it was inappropriate. I apologize.