Sunday, April 12, 2015

Imagine the secular paradise? That really worries me!

I'm perfectly willing to see this is as a pretty idealistic song. But if someone is serious about trying to bring it to pass, then I get worried. I can understand someone being an atheist, believe me. What I find insane and dangerous is the idea that somehow the departure from religious belief will lead to some sort of secular paradise. With a religious paradise, it takes God to bring it into being. With a secular paradise we can, and are supposed to do it ourselves. If you take a vision of the secular paradise, and then you accept a combination of "everything is permitted" and "the end justifies the means," and you have a formula for bloodshed that will permit you to outstrip the body count of all the religious killings in the history of the human race.

27 comments:

John Moore said...

Paradise is an inherently religious idea. After all, paradise is an extreme kind of notion - the idea that everything is perfect. In paradise, it's not just that most things are good.

Religions talk about extreme things, about infinities and perfections and ultimate causes for cosmic origins, and about eternal fates. In response, atheism says we simply don't know about such matters.

See, atheism isn't a positive certainty that God doesn't exist, but instead atheism is just a lack of certainty and a lack of belief. Certainty is another extreme kind of notion, which I think of as inherently religious.

Of course there are self-proclaimed atheists who had extreme and utopian ideas, like Karl Marx, but to me (modern) atheism is akin to pragmatism.

B. Prokop said...

(I posted this below, but thought it belonged in this conversation as well.)

As a useful thought experiment, just "imagine" what it would take in the Real World to realize Lennon's vision:

- Armies of confiscatory agents to expose people refusing to surrender their possessions, empowered to seize any they find (shades of the Bolsheviks requisitioning grain throughout the starving Ukraine in the 1930s)

- Reeducation Camps set up to brainwash (excuse me, deprogram) people from any undesirable beliefs, such as religion (shades of the Cultural Revolution in China)

- Strict and pervasive censorship to ensure that no one writes, talks, or (especially) thinks about Heaven, Hell, or God (shades of what the USA is about to become in a few years, as evidenced by this chilling New York Times editorial "Church leaders must be made to take homosexuality off the sin list." (emphasis added))

- An all-powerful World State, which is the real meaning of "no countries" (shades of the European Union imposing its Brussels-based bureaucracy upon formerly sovereign states)

- (Bonus Bullet Point) An end to proper grammar, as in "Imagine there's no countries." Really? A singular verb conjugation with a plural subject? (shades of W's "Is our children learning?")

Just imagine.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

" atheism isn't a positive certainty that God doesn't exist, but instead atheism is just a lack of certainty and a lack of belief

Wrong, John. What you're describing is agnosticism. Atheism is in fact the positive certainty that there is no God.

True, the definition of atheist has mutated significantly over the years. In fact, during the English Reformation the term was used to describe anyone who denied the efficacy of the Sacraments, and said nothing about one's belief (or non-belief) in God. Nowadays, you almost have to add not just positive certainty about there being no God, but also a positive (and often active) hostility to said belief.

If you yourself are unsure, then I hope you're not calling yourself an atheist - because you're not. (And that would be a good thing.)

Jezu ufam tobie!

im-skeptical said...

If Victor is worried by the idea of a secular paradise, why isn't he worried by the idea that his capricious god intends to condemn billions of people to an eternity of hell? Which is worse?

And by the way, Victor, in Lennon's imaginary world, there are none of those ideologies that lead to the kind of horrors that you postulate. it's his imaginary world, not yours.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Atheism is in fact the positive certainty that there is no God.

This isn't quite correct. You are correct that atheism, as defined by most English language speakers, is the belief that there is no God and not just the lack of belief that God exists.

But atheism, by itself, says nothing about the degree of belief that God does not exist. An atheist could be absolutely certain that God does not exist. But an atheist could also be uncertain. They might that God's existence is extraordinary unlikely, but still lack absolute certainty.

A parallel point applies to theists.

B. Prokop said...

Ah, but Jeffery. Your comment brings up a case where the "No True Scotsman" fallacy actually does not apply.

For instance, a person may claim to be a Catholic, and yet deny the True Presence in the Eucharist, or completely misconstrue fundamental doctrines such as that of the Holy Trinity or the Virgin Birth. And although he may yet be a "Catholic", his erroneous beliefs change the actual teachings of the Church by not one whit. (Just what is a "whit" anyway?)

In like manner, a person may very well self identify as an atheist, and yet profess to many things contrary to that belief system. He may acknowledge the existence of the soul, objective morality, the immaterial world in general, even the efficacy of prayer, or may simply say he's unsure about it all, and yet claim to be an atheist. And so he may be. But his muddle headed beliefs do not change what atheism is in essence - the denial of the existence of God.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

"But his muddle headed beliefs do not change what atheism is in essence - the denial of the existence of God."

I don't understand your point. We agree that atheism in essence is the denial of the existence of God. I was objecting to your claim that an atheist must be absolutely certain that there is no God.

im-skeptical said...

Atheism, materialism, communism, whatever. It's all the same to Bob. And of course, he's much more knowledgeable about these things than Jeffery.

B. Prokop said...

"I don't understand your point. We agree that atheism in essence is the denial of the existence of God. I was objecting to your claim that an atheist must be absolutely certain that there is no God."

We may be in what is known as "violent agreement". Perhaps I did not make myself clear (as improbable as that sounds, it is still possible). The "atheist" may not be absolutely certain, but "atheism" is nevertheless the absolute certainty that there is no God. Just as, in my example above, a particular Catholic may not believe in the True Presence, but Catholicism most definitely does.

Another example could be Tea Party members who label various Republicans in Congress as RINOs. They self-identify as Republicans, but their actions belie the party philosophy.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

I was hoping we were in violent agreement, but, alas, my hopes were dashed.

The "atheist" may not be absolutely certain, but "atheism" is nevertheless the absolute certainty that there is no God.

I'm glad you agree that the atheist doesn't have to be absolutely certain. And atheism is NOT the "absolute certainty" that there is no God just as theism is NOT the "absolute certainty" that there is a God. To claim otherwise is to make theism and atheism claims about the lack of uncertainty regarding God's (non)existence.

Example:
Bob: Are you an atheist?
Jeff: Yes
Bob: So you have the absolute certainty that God does not exist?
Jeff: No. I think God's existence is improbable, but I am far from certain about that.
Bob: As an atheist, you can be uncertain about the nonexistence of God, but atheism is the absolute certainty that God does not exist.
Jeff: An atheist is someone who thinks atheism is true. According to your definitions, saying I am an atheist without certainty translates to:

"I believe it's probable, but not certain, that it's absolutely certain that there is no God."

I think that's think confusing. It is much less confusing to separate whether someone believes there is a God from how much uncertainty they have about that.

A parallel set of points would apply to theism and theists.

B. Prokop said...

Like I said, violent agreement.

Think of theism and atheism as two ideal states. Various individuals may approach one or the other of those states without achieving perfection, but whatever their respective personal stands relative to the ideals, the two belief systems remain absolutes. Theism is the (unqualified) belief that God exists. Atheism is the (unqualified) belief that He does not.

Insofar as you, Jeffery Jay Lowder, have any doubts as to the non-existence of The Almighty, that part of you is not atheist, but agnostic. You've blended the two together.

Understand that for the sake of discussion, I'm making a huge compromise here. I would prefer agnosticism to be understood as the belief that reality is not only not known, but that it is unknowable. However, only a distinct minority of philosophers use the term in that manner. Pity - they should.

Also, keep in mind that some months back I declared my intention to never again defend "theism" - a term I regard as too insipid to bother with. I'll gladly proclaim a full-blooded Incarnational Christianity, but could not possibly care less about some "Mere Theism" (Potential book title, anyone?).

Blessed Father Sopocko, Pray for us!

Chris said...

It seems to me that many atheists today claim that atheism is the "default position" that naturally flows from agnosticism. We can't "know" therefore we must conclude "no God".

B. Prokop said...

"many atheists today claim that atheism is the "default position""

A very strange claim - very strange indeed. Were that the case, one would expect that at least a majority of the 100 plus billion people who have lived to date would have been atheists. But not only is that not the case, the exact opposite is so. The overwhelming majority of humanity has believed in and actively worshiped God. At all times and in all cultures (other than one notable exception *), atheism's adherents have been a single digit minority, or even a rounding error. Strange, if that were truly humanity's "default" position.

* The single exception has been under totalitarian regimes, such as Stalinist Russia or contemporary North Korea, in which atheism was/is compulsory. Again, if atheism were somehow "default", why must people be compelled to embrace it?

Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Pray for us!

Chris said...

To be fair, if atheists do, indeed, regard atheism as the "default position"- they do so because of their (so they would say) commitment to science and evidence.

People of the past did not have access to modern science, so they regarded gods/spirits/magic as the "default" position.

Papalinton said...

There is no secular paradise, Victor. Such persistent mischaracterisation of secularism by religious woo-meisters is simply tiring and boring.

Secular, as used in Christian Latin is to mean 'the world' (as opposed to the Church).

One could properly infer secular to mean universal as distinct from the Church, which is parochial.

B. Prokop said...

"To be fair, if atheists do, indeed, regard atheism as the "default position"- they do so because of their (so they would say) commitment to science and evidence."

Not buyin' it, Chris. The same people who claim atheism to be Mankind's "default" position, also make the statement, "We're all born atheists." So tell me, how is an infant's knowledge of science any more advanced than that of an adult a couple of centuries ago?

The claim is bogus.

Saint Maxmilian Kolbe, Pray for us!

Victor Reppert said...

I don't think atheism or theism entails absolute certainty.

Victor Reppert said...

Atheists don't believe in the secular paradise? Really.

Sheahen: You've said that baptizing a child or saying "this is a Jewish child"—that is, pasting a religious label on a child—is child abuse. In your letter to daughter, you ask her to examine what she's told based on evidence. What do you hope the world would be like if all children were raised without religion, according to your theories?

Dawkins: It would be paradise on earth. What I hope for is a world ruled by enlightened rationality, which does not mean something dull, but something of high artistic value. I just wish there were the slightest chance of it ever happening.

im-skeptical said...

Victor, it was a figure of speech. Certainly not the kind of paradise you believe in. Just a better place to live.

Victor Reppert said...

But it still seems to me that he could support coercive measures on the grounds that the end justifies the means.

im-skeptical said...

"coercive measures"? "the end justifies the means"?

This is getting so tiresome. Why don't you start criticizing Dawkins for the things he actually supports instead of your own fantasy strawman vision of the evil monster you suppose him to be?

Victor Reppert said...

When I read something like the interview, I can't decide whether to laugh or cry. You would have to be incredibly naive to believe what he does.

im-skeptical said...

You have to be incredibly naive to believe in your super omni-max pie-in-the-sky god who dangles the carrot of eternal paradise in front of your nose in exchange for suffering the trials and tribulations of the one and only life you have.

Victor Reppert said...

Why is it an exchange for suffering the trials and tribulations of the only life we have. We have to deal with those anyway, with or without God or heaven.

im-skeptical said...

"Why is it an exchange for suffering the trials and tribulations of the only life we have. We have to deal with those anyway, with or without God or heaven. "

Why are you asking me? You're the one who submits to this bargain.

But It seems clear that the hope of this future fantasy is the lure that gets people to settle for their current condition instead of trying to make the most of their life. This is how the church kept the masses under control for centuries, while their political and religious leaders exploited them.

Victor Reppert said...

I don't see this at all. It seems to me as if when we see people as created by God, and as being whom God has an interest in making happy for an eternity, then we will be more, rather than less likely to take their interests seriously here on earth. "Endowed by their creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "Endowed by evolution with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" makes no sense whatsoever.

Christian homophobia, for example, has to be limited by the fact that, given Christianity, homosexuals are human beings created in the image of God for the purpose of eternal salvation. That are not just biological accidents doomed to drop out of the gene pool since they can't reproduce.

im-skeptical said...

"Endowed by evolution with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" makes no sense whatsoever.

It doesn't make sense to me, either. Not any more than your theistic alternative. What makes sense is being responsible for my own life, and not just submitting to some higher authority, and not bending over when the priest tells me to.