Thursday, August 06, 2015

You can't have your Kate and Edith too

The song, by the Statler Brothers, is here

I don't think defining religion as a perspective on ultimate reality is uninteresting or useless.In particular in America one of our guiding concepts is keeping matters of religion free of compulsion. Some people on the atheist side want to engage in what I consider to be compulsion, but this often tries to fly under the radar because on the face of things it isn't religion. But, in the sense that matters for things like the Establishment Clause, atheism is very much a religion. 

For example, it is hypocritical to use the Establishment Clause argue against the teaching of intelligent design on the grounds that those who advocate it intend to undermine materialism and support religious belief, but not use the Establishment clause to argue against the use of evolution to attack religious belief and promote materialism.


John B. Moore said...

To me, religion isn't a matter of what you believe, but how you believe. Religion means passionate, committed belief in an authority. Atheism, by contrast, means rebellion against authority or refusal to accept the authority's statements by themselves. Atheism means lack of commitment to a particular doctrine.

Of course you can say that atheists are committed to their principle of non-commitment, but the important thing is that no authority commanded the atheist to refuse to obey. That would be kind of absurd anyway, wouldn't it?

So the key difference has to do with authority. Religion means submission to authority, and atheism means rebellion.

When it comes to the Establishment Clause, the question is which authority we should obey, and the answer in the Constitution is that everyone is free to obey whichever religious authority they want, or none at all. The government shouldn't tell people which religious authority to obey.

So when it comes to teaching evolution, the key point is that intelligent design is an authoritative doctrine, whereas evolution is an empirical, testable theory.

Schools can't teach evolution as an authoritative dogma. Schools must teach critical thinking. Science class needs to show the evidence, and then the students can decide what they want to believe. It just seems unfair to ID because if the school teaches critical thinking and evidence, then no student in their right mind would accept ID! The only way to embrace ID is by submitting to the authority of the ID doctrine.

B. Prokop said...

"Atheism, by contrast, means rebellion against authority or refusal to accept the authority's statements by themselves."

You are kidding, right? You've never watched on Youtube one of those Nuremberg Rallies.. excuse me, I meant to say "Reason Rallies", featuring the atheist prophets Dawkins, Harris, C'mon, just scroll through the thousand comments that im-deluded used to post on this site, jumping all over anyone who dared to question the infallibility of his heroes. Heck, go to any comments section on (ironically) any religious blog or news article* and observe the lock-step non-thinking that goes on under the shameless label of "free thought" or "skepticism".

* It still fascinates me that so many atheists spend so much time poring over every word written by people of faith, and are so quick to respond to them. It's strong evidence that they don't really believe a word of their non-belief, and beneath their bluster and blasphemy, there is something in their souls desperate to be free of the self-imposed prison walls erected around the minds and hearts of atheists everywhere. It's a good reason why the ridiculous charge of "hatred" against atheists is so profoundly untrue. How can you hate the prisoner? They deserve (and get) our pity - a far cry from hatred.

Jezu ufam tobie!

planks length said...

This is as good a place as any to post this. For the past several months, I have been attempting to hold a rational, productive conversation with "im-skeptical" over on his own blog. Sad to say, this has proven itself to be impossible. Starting his own blog has done nothing to cure Skeppy's seemingly total severance from reality and reason. You can be as patient as ever, and clearly lay out where he is mistaken about various subjects (such as his complete misinterpretation of Psalm 14), and it's like nailing jello to the wall. Nothing sticks. You might as well be talking to a rock.

But the final straw (for me) came with his self-unmasking as a confirmed Know-nothing. Not only did he without the slightest embarrassment announce that he had never read Dante’s Divine Comedy, he belittled what is universally acknowledged as perhaps The Single Greatest Product of Human Genius of all Time, proudly declaring, "I don't have time to read every bit of superstitious hokum out there." Not only that, despite his admission that he had never actually read the thing, he nevertheless tried to lecture me (who’s read it in full more times than I can count) on what Dante actually said, and pathetically pointed me to a couple of websites. You can read the whole sorry exchange here.

I think this is a problem far greater than Skep’s militant ignorance. It’s an entire generation who somehow imagines that the sum total of human wisdom can be found at the end of a google search. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, ought to ponder the following:

"The value of fiction was clear to Virginia Woolf, who argued that nonfiction consists of half-truths and approximations that result in a "very inferior form of fiction." In Woolf's terms, reading ambitious fiction isn't comfortable or easy. Far from it: "To go from one great novelist to another-from Jane Austen to Hardy, from Peacock to Trollope, from Scott to Meredith-is to be wrenched and uprooted; to be thrown this way and then that." The illuminations that fiction offers are gained only with considerable effort. "To read a novel is a difficult and complex art," Woolf wrote. "You must be capable not only of great fineness of perception, but of great boldness of imagination if you are going to make use of all that the novelist-the great artist-gives you." When we read actively, alertly, opening ourselves to unexpected discoveries, we find that great writers have a way of solidifying "the vague ideas that have been tumbling in the misty depths of our minds." For Woolf, fiction provides an essential kind of knowledge that can only be acquired by careful reading." (Joanna Scott, in The Nation)

(Which is why the materialist atheist will never understand that not all knowledge is the product of empirical evidence.)

At any rate, the Bottom Line is that I am done with him and his pathetic blog. Check out the comments to all of his postings so far, and except for my own contributions, the only regular commenter has been Papalinton. I will leave the two of them to their comfy echo chamber, where no sound from the outside world can beheard.

planks length said...

That should have read, "can be heard."

Victor Reppert said...

The biggest lesson I have learned over the past few years is that dialogue between radically opposed viewpoints is very desirable, but it is only possible if the parties in the dialogue accept, in addition to their partisan purpose of advancing their own view, also accept a common goal of understanding one another better, and promoting an understanding those differences.

Chris said...

I don't think John Moore's criteria of authority is correct. For example, Buddhism is neither authoritarian nor dogmatic and yet, a very strong case can be made for it's classification as a religion.

B. Prokop said...

For that matter, several branches of Protestantism, such as the self-styled "Progressive Christianity" have an aversion to both authority and dogma. But you won't find a single atheist who would deny they are a religion!

Victor Reppert said...

When I was a freshman in high school, I think, I was doing a paper on the Divine Comedy. Someone looked at what I was writing and asked, "Wow, was that guy high on acid?"

(To date me, this was in the heyday of better living through chemistry).

Edgestow said...

"True religion is this: to ease the sufferings of orphans and widows, and to preserve one's own purity in the midst of the world."
(James 1:27)

David Brightly said...

John, I think Victor is playing down the many asymmetries between religion and atheism and emphasising the few symmetries. If a religion is a perspective on ultimate reality it does not follow that every perspective on ultimate reality is a religion. I don't see atheism as one religion among many, rather, in many people, an attitude towards religion. I think you may be getting at this. But I'm not sure that you are on firm ground distinguishing them along an 'authority' dimension. If we think that people are led to atheism through the study of science then we have to admit that most scientific knowledge has to be taken on authority too.

To say atheism is a religion, even in some restricted sense that might be relevant to the Establishment clause, is to profoundly emasculate religion. I will accept atheism as a religion when it produces a Michelangelo, a Bach, and a Dante.

I don't think it is hypocritical for a group of people who do not accept this equivalence to seek redress under the constitution. It's open to those that do see an equivalence to make their own case. But one of the asymmetries that Victor neglects is that it is far easier to construct an argument that the decisions of the Dover school board were an attempt at establishing a religion than to show that teaching evolution is or can be an attempt at establishing an anti-religion religion. There is a pre-established case for teaching biological science and evolution is a major pillar within that discipline. Indeed you cannot have your kayak and heat it---you will drown in contradiction.

planks length said...

Once the Supreme Court gets around to legalizing (a.k.a., "mandating") polygamy (as we all know is just a session or two away), then you will be able to have your Kate... and Edith, too!

Crude said...

To say atheism is a religion, even in some restricted sense that might be relevant to the Establishment clause, is to profoundly emasculate religion. I will accept atheism as a religion when it produces a Michelangelo, a Bach, and a Dante.

Then religion is already emasculated, because that association is not accepted by the public at large.

There is a pre-established case

If there's one thing the SCOTUS has taught us, it's that if you don't like pre-established cases or consider them to be unfair, they mean nothing.

And no, it's not 'far easier' to establish that, especially since it requires saying "Okay, what you did was technically alright, but grr, I don't like your motivations so that's that." Once we're playing the motivations game, anyone can win.