Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What is NOT acceptable?

Let me make something clear. There are ways on the atheist side of keeping things civil. Before I ran into new atheists I had many, many, respectful discussions with nonbelievers, and that includes passionate nonbelievers. What I have noticed, and it's something I trace back to Dawkins, is a shift in the nature of the discussion. I remember being surprised by it in a couple of discussion groups I got into before I even opened this blog. There are people on the other side who see the disagreement between belief and unbelief to be not just a debate but a war, and who want to mobilize a people who use ridicule, not in a offhanded way, or a way that is aimed at entertainment, but aimed at providing people with a social, not an epistemic, motivation for abandoning belief based on fear of ridicule. This ridicule is not for the benefit of the believers they are debating. They are written off as hopeless. No, it is used as a tool to demotivate religious belief amongst the low-information believers in the flock, who might be influenced by "naked contempt." Your debating partner is a pawn in a game, the end justifies the means. 

Now, it is quite true that Christians have not always, historically, been willing to leave an open marketplace of ideas and have not always treated nonbelievers fairly. How Christians got to the place where there were willing to use the power of government to uphold their beliefs raises some difficult questions. I think the lessons of history have taught Christians, the hard way, that using force on behalf of one's beliefs is a self-defeating enterprise.

Violence on these matters is only possible when it looks to us as if our cause will benefit from it. Even if I decide that Dawkins is the worst influence on society possible, it would be silly to kill him, that will prove his point on a number of issues and benefit his cause. But even if that were not the case, it would violate the teachings of my religion to kill him. That was an important part of my point, that the failure to engage or not engage in violence is partly a function of what one sees as useful, and this is true of both theists and atheists. One response to the recommendation that the Pope be assassinated in the name of atheism would be that it doesn't work. But that better not be the only reason. 

I am willing to ask anyone who thinks whether one believes or not really matters, what means they are willing to use to get people to get the right answer. The charge I am responding to is the charge that RELIGION leads to violence. The road to violence, however, is open to everyone. I think, if anything, Christianity has some safeguards that limit the damage, which may be why, as Dinesh D'Souza points out, the death tolls are actually lower in the religious cases. For Christians, it is hard to argue that the end justifies the means, that the course of history is really in our hands. My claim is that you get ideological violence when you have the power to commit it, when you think the end justifies the means, and when you really think it will benefit your cause to commit it. 

When I hear that religion is a mind virus, when I hear that everything depends on curing that mind virus, then I have to wonder what means are NOT acceptable in achieving that goal, should the opportunity arise. That is the basis of what I said here.

54 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

Reppert: "When I hear that religion is a mind virus, when I hear that everything depends on curing that mind virus, then I have to wonder what means are NOT acceptable in achieving that goal, should the opportunity arise."

You should read The Selfish Gene sometime, particularly the last part of the book where Dawkins puts forth the concept of memes. I think that might make you less frightened of the virus analogy. (The original idea put forward by Dawkins doesn't bear much relation to the idea of the internet meme, so I would caution you against jumping to the conclusion that the modern day term is all you need to know.)

Also, please consider that some viruses are beneficial -- weakened versions of viruses are used to inoculate, for example. So stating that something acts like a virus isn't necessarily a call to eradicate or wage a cold-hearted war -- it can also be an analogy that helps us understand, and consider measures that take into account behaviors, etc.

Hugo Pelland said...

"I am willing to ask anyone who thinks whether one believes or not really matters"
It doesn't matter. Humans are more than just their religion; more than just god believers or atheists. The others things matter more and actually influence religious beliefs more than religious beliefs influence them. For instance, with the rise of the 'nones' or whatever we call secular-perhaps-atheists folks, we still see lots of false beliefs such as accepting homeopathy and rejecting vaccines, perhaps even 'more' such false beliefs in certain individuals, who used to follow smart religious leaders, but are now secular autonomous gullible idiots.

"When I hear that religion is a mind virus, when I hear that everything depends on curing that mind virus"
Religion is certainly a mind virus; any kind of false belief that propagates through generations is. But just like viruses range from 'Flu' to 'HIV', not everything depends on curing every single kind of virus. Some should be cured, others can just be ignored as they come & go with the seasons...

Therefore, I wonder how the use of violence can relate to any of this. It's actual violent actions, or serious specific threats, from violent groups that should trigger violent responses in return. Not just what they believe in general.

Hugo Pelland said...

Oh and by the way, if the 'worse' atheist example you can find is Dawkins... isn't that the confirmation that today's New Atheist are anything but a danger to society? You're talking about a calm scientist who just say bad things about religion. Some of his words are strong, too strong in my opinion, but this is so freaking far from religious cult leaders, ISIS, or irrational ideology-driven atheists like the North Korean regime. Kim Jung Un is not interested in discussing philosophy or what science teaches us about the world; he wants to kill anyone getting in his way...

Legion of Logic said...

Hugo, I find your wording interesting. If any false belief that propagates through generations is a "mind virus", who determines which beliefs are false and therefore mind viruses?

Also, would that make false beliefs that arise spontaneously, such as the New Atheist movement, a mind cancer?

Victor Reppert said...

OK Cal, would you say that atheism is a mind virus?

Hugo Pelland said...

@Legion, Victor,
Nobody determines which beliefs are false; they are true or false objectively. We need to do our best to determine which is which. Should atheism contain some false beliefs, it should definitely be labeled as a 'virus', or even some 'mind cancer', if you can show links between these false beliefs and negative consequences, such as more false beliefs or irrational actions.

Legion of Logic said...

Hugo, so if you were to think that Christianity was objectively false, and I thought atheism was objectively false, and we both ran around accusing the other of being infected by a mind virus, how is that even remotely helpful to either of us? Makes both of us look like petty jerks, if you ask me. The only benefit I could think of would be accolades from those who agree with us, but that's hardly justification for such ridiculous rhetoric.

Crude said...

Since someone decided to throw around the 'mind virus' talk, let me give a link:

Susan Blackmore no longer believes religion is a mind virus.

A choice quote:

So it seems I was wrong and the idea of religions as "viruses of the mind" may have had its day. Religions still provide a superb example of memeplexes at work, with different religions using their horrible threats, promises and tricks to out-compete other religions, and popular versions of religions outperforming the more subtle teachings of the mystical traditions. But unless we twist the concept of a "virus" to include something helpful and adaptive to its host as well as something harmful, it simply does not apply.

Just one problem with Blackmore's analysis.

See, most of her conclusion is based off comparative data: 'Well, look how the religious perform against secular/non-religious populations. Oops, looks like the religious populations perform better! I guess it's not a virus after all.'

But, here's the trick. If the data is comparative, and having the 'better' stats exonerates a belief system as being a 'virus'... then what does that say about the poor performance of the irreligious?

By Blackmore's reasoning, religion may not be a mind virus, but irreligion apparently is.

Hugo Pelland said...

Right, I agree that it's not really useful to point that false ideas are like virus, especially not with malicious intentions; but it's an interesting comparison nonetheless and it can apply to literally anyone with some false ideas that persist over a long time. The difference with religion and why I think it fits the analogy is because it does get 'transmitted' from parents to children, evolves over time, and even does provide some benefits, all that to make itself more successful.

Crude said...

Right, I agree that it's not really useful to point that false ideas are like virus, especially not with malicious intentions;

Sure it is. In fact, it's useful even if you can't demonstrate the ideas are false, or are likely to be false: it's called rhetoric. You antagonize, belittle, humiliate, and encourage others to do the same. Why, it's yet another form of cultural warfare. Call it a meme if you prefer.

But hey, if you'd like majority religious countries to start talking casually about the sickness irreligious parents infect their children with, rock on.

Hugo Pelland said...

Ok so you say 'sure it is' but you agree that it's 'not' by writing some sarcastic sentence as to how it's not useful, because it's nothing but rhetoric meant to humiliate. Did I miss your point?

Cal Metzger said...

Reppert: "OK Cal, would you say that atheism is a mind virus?"

In the sense that a "meme" can propagate and benefit those who hold it, sure. I would also agree that atheism, per se, is not necessarily a winning meme from an evolutionary / competitive perspective. It may closer approximate reality, but it doesn't seem to benefit from the group benefits that are better served through religion.

B. Prokop said...

"The difference with religion and why I think it fits the [virus] analogy is because it does get 'transmitted' from parents to children"

You say that like it's something bad. But all kinds of things are passed along from generation to generation: language, customs, nationality, sports team loyalty, holiday traditions (in fact, all traditions), cuisine, fashion, that stupid "Happy Birthday" song, toilet training techniques, architecture, home remedies, what side of the road you drive on... Oh, and religion.

Big deal.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Hugo Pelland said...

Right, great points, it's bad only when talking about unquestionable yet unjustified beliefs.

Victor Reppert said...

Religious beliefs are constantly questioned by the religious (how else do you explain things like the Protestant Reformation and Vatican II), and certainly extensively by me. I've probably spent more time questioning my religious beliefs than most atheists commenting here. The only difference is that I didn't reject them.

Hugo Pelland said...

Sure, that's great, but is everything up for debate though? I doubt the topic of 'Does God exist?' or 'Should we trust the Gospels?' were discussed during Vatican II...

And as for whether Atheists commenting here, I can only talk for myself of course, but the fact that I am here is precisely because I question my beliefs, or lack thereof... I go through life without ever needing to explain why I dropped Catholicism. It's purely by choice that I participate in such discussions and because of my interest in establishing as many true beliefs as possible.

Bill said...

On the question of whether religion produces violence, as bad as it is now, religiously motivated violence and murder are far less common today than they once were. The religious wars in Europe (predominantly Catholic versus Protestant, but with assorted crusades, pogroms, inquisitions and witch-hunts as well)continued on and off for centuries and left MILLIONS dead. So when the last and most devastating of them ended (the 30 Years War--8 million dead) many were so disgusted with religion that they turned to science and the promise of the Enlightenment as a better way forward. And it could have been. But by the 20th Century we had genocide, world wars, Gulags, potential nuclear annihilation--more terror and slaughter than ever, even if sans religion.

As I see it, sure religion can motivate violence. But Stalin was an atheist and oversaw the most murderous regime in history. Eliminating religion will not eliminate violence but it would eliminate something that tends to act as a historical check on violence (particularly today).

At the risk of being overly reductionist, pluralism is the solution in my opinion. We're going through an unprecedented time of assimilation and blending of cultures and we're seemingly hardwired to fear and distrust those from other tribes. When we come through it I expect we'll have a more peaceful society, populated by unbelievers and believers of all sorts who have learned to live in harmony with one another.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "Religious beliefs are constantly questioned by the religious (how else do you explain things like the Protestant Reformation and Vatican II), and certainly extensively by me."

This is like saying that astrologers are constantly questioning the validity of their beliefs -- why else are there so many different horoscopes?

VR: "I've probably spent more time questioning my religious beliefs than most atheists commenting here."

But beliefs aren't judged by how much time people fritter away on them; they're judged by reasonableness -- which really just boils down to validity plus evidence.

B. Prokop said...

"plus evidence"

Ah, the old "evidence" canard. This is essentially a meaningless demand, because what is evidence for one person is not for another. There used to be a frequent poster to this site, who no matter how many times you presented cartloads of evidence to him, would immediately fire back with a demand for evidence, as though none had already been presented. After quite literally months of this, I realized that this person had a very different, far narrower, definition of what constituted evidence than mine.

But to cut through hours of argument, and in the sake of preserving precious ones and zeros for our children, I will cut to the chase. Material things require material evidence. If you claim there is a dish in the cupboard, then when I open the door there'd better be one in there. So for things in nature we use observation, experiment, and the scientific method to determine what is or isn't true.

Non-material things require non-material evidence. Asking for scientific evidence for the Redemption is like asking what is the color of your favorite song, or how much does love weigh. "Evidence" for such things consists of logic, reasoning, argument, historical record, and life stories (a.k.a., "testimonies"). Broadening the definition, it can also include art, music, literature, and architecture, among other things.

Now Christianity is a special case, unique among philosophies and religions. Founded as it is on historical events (the Incarnation and Resurrection), it can also be "tested" by historical evidence, like any other question in that discipline. I happen to think that it stands up pretty well. I have yet to see an explanation for the events of A.D. 33 which denies the literal, physical, historical, and verifiable Resurrection of Christ that can stand up to the least bit of serious scrutiny. What did Sherlock Holmes say? "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth!" (emphasis in original)

Jezu ufam tobie!.

Legion of Logic said...

Ah, the old "evidence" canard. This is essentially a meaningless demand, because what is evidence for one person is not for another. There used to be a frequent poster to this site, who no matter how many times you presented cartloads of evidence to him, would immediately fire back with a demand for evidence, as though none had already been presented. After quite literally months of this, I realized that this person had a very different, far narrower, definition of what constituted evidence than mine.

Their definition of evidence is whatever supports their position, imaginary or not. What I enjoy about the evidence arguments isn't so much the predictable impossibility of meeting their ridiculous standards, but the fact that they treat the argument like a binary option. Attack Christianity all the live long day, atheism is still irrational. You'd think people who live their lives online preaching reason and evidence would be able to defend their own position through evidence, but I have yet to see it from an atheist.

B. Prokop said...

"would be able to defend their own position"

Ah, but don't you see? They claim they have no position to defend! After all, all they are doing is "not collecting stamps". Over on Debunking some months back, John Loftus went so far as to claim he doesn't believe anything!

So what is there for them to defend?

Legion of Logic said...

Exactly! Though I wonder why, since I don't believe in the Loch Ness monster, I don't spend all my time attacking those who do, based solely on my lack of belief in Nessie. I must be lacking belief incorrectly.

Hugo Pelland said...

@Legion
I know you were replying to Bob, but your comment sounds quite funny after I said just 6 comment before: "I go through life without ever needing to explain why I dropped Catholicism. It's purely by choice that I participate in such discussions and because of my interest in establishing as many true beliefs as possible."
So much for 'I don't spend all my time attacking those who do'; as if that's what Atheists do...

And tell me, when was the last time a Loch Ness monster believer knocked at your door with flyers, or tried to change the school curriculum to include Loch Ness studies in the curriculum, or argued for a Loch-Ness-monster-based government policy?

Basically, most Theists and Atheists act the same way; we don't spend our lives discussing this topic... but you can certainly not pretend that Atheists do it more; this is absurd. Atheists are, by default, people who don't care about religion. They are literally non-stamp collectors as mentioned above. You just find it annoying that some of them come to talk to you, basically to 'reply' back, and tell you 'you know, collecting stamps is useless, why do you do it?'

Legion of Logic said...

So much for 'I don't spend all my time attacking those who do'; as if that's what Atheists do...

I was actually talking about the Richard Dawkins type of atheist, which is all sound bite-esque quotes, tired talking points, juvenile posturing, while hiding under the guise of "seeking evidence", even though they have demonstrated no ability to recognize evidence. I haven't read all of your writings by any means, but from what I have seen, and from our interactions, I would not classify you as one of these. My apologies for not differentiating between atheists in general and anti-theists.

That said, regarding

And tell me, when was the last time a Loch Ness monster believer knocked at your door with flyers, or tried to change the school curriculum to include Loch Ness studies in the curriculum, or argued for a Loch-Ness-monster-based government policy?

I would point out that if a Loch Ness monster believer was trying to force his beliefs onto me or society in general, were I to speak out it would be because I oppose such tactics, not because I didn't believe in the monster. Again, my motivation is based on what I DO believe, not what I DON'T. Not believing in God is not motivation to attack religion.

Hugo Pelland said...

@ Legion
Thanks for the comment; looks like we totally agree on the principles, but interpret some situations/comments differently.

My understanding is that even the most outspoken Atheists, perhaps including Dawkins, are first and foremost in favor of a science-based worldview, the use of critical thinking in decision making, and a secular society where everyone is free to think, to believe what they want, and live their life on their own terms as long as it respects the freedom of others to do the same.

As an example, I have followed the show the Atheist Experience for many years now and, even if the show's title has 'Atheist' in the name and they promote 'Positive Atheism', they are not particularly in favor of promoting Atheism on its own, and certainly not in favor of attacking religious people using insults on their intelligence. Most hosts were Christians themselves before and did not gain IQ points when they became Atheists, to paraphrase them. They also mentioned several times how their ideal scenario would that the show becomes obsolete; and that would not be the day that religions disappear, but rather when faith-based ideologies stop informing governments' policies and infringing individual liberties.

Legion of Logic said...

My understanding is that even the most outspoken Atheists, perhaps including Dawkins, are first and foremost in favor of a science-based worldview, the use of critical thinking in decision making, and a secular society where everyone is free to think, to believe what they want, and live their life on their own terms as long as it respects the freedom of others to do the same.

I would disagree with this. I believe anti-theistic bigots like Dawkins are motivated primarily by their desire to get rid of religion. They promote science insofar as they believe it is effective against Christianity, but will abandon it instantly if it means doing so will score a hit against religious beliefs. One does not encourage one's followers to go out and mock other people in order to promote science and critical thinking.

Another example is Sam Harris' opposition to Francis Collins, a far more respectable scientist than any of the prominent New Atheists. I've encountered this myself when speaking with anti-theists. If science-based critical thinking was the main issue, these atheists would be pointing every young-earth creationist and every evangelical they could find toward people like Francis Collins, or Ken Miller, who try and point out that Christians do not need to be opposed to science in order to maintain their faith. Not only do anti-theists not want to direct Christians toward Christian scientists, they slam them heatedly. They insult atheists who want to bridge the gap between science and religion, calling them "faitheists" or "accommodatheists" or whatever. Their goal, their dream, their primary motivation, is the destruction of anything they deem religious. I'm not saying they advocate violence (yet), but they want it destroyed nonetheless.

Cal Metzger said...

A lot of (unfounded) aspersions being thrown at atheists here.

Pelland: "They promote science insofar as they believe it is effective against Christianity, but will abandon it instantly if it means doing so will score a hit against religious beliefs."

Example?

B. Prokop said...

"Example?"

I think Legion just gave you one - the treatment of Francis Collins by Harris*, et.al. A clear cut case where a person's impeccable scientific credentials were dismissed because he was also a believer. (Collins is especially despised by the gnus because he is an "apostate" - a former atheist who dared to embrace Christianity.)

* Here is a quote from Harris's 2009 editorial in the NYT, urging that Collins not be appointed as Director of the National Institutes of Health. "Francis Collins is an accomplished scientist and a man who is sincere in his beliefs. And that is precisely what makes me so uncomfortable about his nomination." (emphasis added) He then goes on to skewer Collins, not for his scientific acumen, but for his belief that God created the universe and that Jesus Christ is the Savior of Mankind. For Harris (and those who think like him), such beliefs trump scientific expertise.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "He then goes on to skewer Collins, not for his scientific acumen, but for his belief that God created the universe and that Jesus Christ is the Savior of Mankind. For Harris (and those who think like him), such beliefs trump scientific expertise."

Um, Christian religious beliefs ARE unscientific. Pointing that out is, well, scientific.

So, you and Legion seem to be (surprise) calling white, black. Harris doesn't abandon scientific principles to call in question Collins' religious beliefs, but he employs them.

It's funny; I can almost always every time re-write the opposite of what you or Legion assert about the differences between Christian and atheist positions, and then when I look down at that, it's then actually correct. I feel like there should be a way to make money from this or something.

Legion of Logic said...

A lot of (unfounded) aspersions being thrown at atheists here.

Anti-theists, not atheists. Those comments aren't directed at Hugo, for example, despite his being an atheist.

Besides the treatment of scientists like Collins, you get the standard attacks on the compatibility view, refusing to endorse Christian scientists who further scientific knowledge, accusing Christian scientists of intellectual dishonesty, and scientific organizations as cowardly when they officially claim no conflict between science and religion.

New Atheists are constantly harping on the inherent animosity between science and religion, even though the majority of science historians (experts in the field, unlike New Atheists) reject the conflict thesis.

New Atheists seem to be more and more universally Jesus mythicists, even though the vast majority of reputable scholars (experts in the field, unlike New Atheists) agree that Jesus physically existed.

New Atheists make tons of unscientific claims presented as truth claims, such as religion is worse than child abuse, belief in God closes down people's minds to investigation and discovery, religion is the number one cause of wars, etc.

I've been told that I do not understand evolution because if I did, I would not believe in God. I've been told the same thing about physics. These are gross misunderstandings and applications of science by New Atheists.

The reason all of these matter is because these guys are not promoting science, they are attacking religious belief, which is their primary motivation. That's why they attack the compatibility argument from both Christians and atheists so stridently, because it destroys the narrative they want to present. Not pro-science, but anti-religious.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion, I would modify and walk back most everything you say, but I get your gist.

And I would agree that no atheist or scientist scores perfectly in their every response to religion.

B. Prokop said...

"Christian religious beliefs ARE unscientific."

Cal, that has got to be just about the most ignorant thing you've ever posted to this site (and the competition for that honor is fierce). Time and time and time again, the Church has proclaimed, insisted upon, and defended the proposition that all truth is truth, and no truth can contradict another. There is no such thing as "scientific truth" over here and "religious truth" over there. Truth is one. To make a statement like yours, you have to ignore what every competent religious authority since St. Paul has said, written, or lived on the subject. Were they all wrong, and only you are right in this matter? You also have to studiously ignore the inconvenient little fact that there are and were thousands upon thousands of scientists who are/were devoutly religious - to include the majority of "envelope pushers" throughout history, those individuals responsible for opening up whole new realms of scientific inquiry and knowledge, from optics to chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, cosmology, mathematics, cartography, medicine, physics... you name it. Science as we know it today would not exist without their contributions - believers all. They would scratch their heads in bemused incomprehension at your ridiculous comment.

Science is not only "compatible" with religion, it is actually dependent upon it. Without a philosophic grounding in the idea of objective reality (a theological concept), science couldn't even operate.

Also, there is the Parable of the Cart to keep in mind. Science and religion are like the right and left wheels on a single-axled cart. You need both to move forward. Lose either one, and you fall into a ditch. Religion without science is superstition. Science without religion can all too easily (and apparently always does) result in Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and the Gulag. As The Catechism states, "It is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its applications ... guiding principles cannot be inferred from simple technical efficiency, or from the usefulness accruing to some at the expense of others, or even worse, from prevailing ideologies, Science and technology by their very nature require unconditional respect for fundamental moral criteria." (paragraph 2294, emphasis added)

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

@Bob, your paragraph above is a potpourri of misrepresentations, fallacious reasoning and unsupportable assertions. There are so many that I don't know where to start, and I am certain that it would have no effect on you if I dismantled any one of them.

Here's what I see over and over on sites like these; apologists who assume their premises (that there must be a god, that they are truly good people and that therefore what they do and believe must be good, that reasoning is only possible by believing in god, etc.) and then work forward from there WITHOUT EVERY ACTUALLY QUESTIONING THEIR PREMISES.

It ends up being a lot of predictable rationalizing, revealed by the fact that the apologist seems incapable of looking at the elephantine premise in the room and considering reasoning forward without it.

And before anyone here tries the inevitable, "Well, I have looked within myself and can now declare myself not guilty of your observation," please consider that introspection is definitely NOT how one can determine whether or not my observation is accurate. My observation merely is, and my explanation (that apologists appear unwilling to truly examine their premises in ways that are necessary to justify their beliefs) is consistent and predictive. Take yourself out of the equation, take me out of the equation, and what I state above is objectively, reliably, and verifiably correct.

B. Prokop said...

Cal,

As was posted elsewhere on this site, "God is not a conclusion to be arrived at, He is a person to be encountered." And I might add that He is not a "premise" either. Your comment is therefore wide of the mark. As Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli famously said, "it's not even wrong" (Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!).

Ilíon said...

"As was posted elsewhere on this site, "God is not a conclusion to be arrived at, He is a person to be encountered." And I might add that He is not a "premise" either. "

Nonetheless, that God is is, indeed, a conclusion. And, after all, one can conclude that a person *is* and still not know (nor desire to know) the person himself.

B. Prokop said...

True indeed, Ilion. But as C.S. Lewis pointed out in (I think) The Great Divorce, "As if all God had to do was exist!" or something like that. Or perhaps more to the point, "You believe in God. Good for you! But so do the demons." (James 2:19, somewhat paraphrased).

All these internet atheists could "conclude" tomorrow that God does indeed exist. Yet without actually encountering Him, it wouldn't do them a lick of good.

Ilíon said...

So ... you're violently agreeing with everything I said?

Angra Mainyu said...

Victor,

You say: "Even if I decide that Dawkins is the worst influence on society possible, it would be silly to kill him, that will prove his point on a number of issues and benefit his cause. But even if that were not the case, it would violate the teachings of my religion to kill him."
If those were not the teachings of your religion, do you think that you wouldn't have a reason not to kill him?
More generally, do you believe that people who do not have a religion whose teachings involve refraining from violence in that fashion, have no good reason to do that?
Take, for example, the case of someone raised as a Sunni Muslim in rural Afghanistan, and told that women who commit adultery deserve to be stoned to death, and it's proper to participate in that punishment.
Surely, it's wrong of them to willingly take part in the stoning of a woman for adultery, even if their religion does not teach otherwise. They have a good reason not to do it: She does not deserve such punishment, and it's wrong to implement it, and they should realize that even against their religion.

Well, the same goes for your scenario. The violent act in question is wrong, because it hurts innocent people. Or because of something else. Or maybe it's not wrong. It's hard to tell, because you don't explain what the act might be. In fact, given that you don't explain what the act in your unrealistic scenario consists in, then I don't know. I mean, when it comes to unrealistic scenarios, of course I can think of scenarios in which I would do it.
For example, if aliens from another planet credibly promise me to give me an AI that will debunk all arguments for theism and any particular religion, as many times as needed and in a matter of seconds, and also will argue with superhuman intelligence that God (i.e., an omnimax being, or the Thomistic version) does not exist, etc., on the condition that I violently kill a mosquito on the wall, then I will be inclined towards engaging in that violent act.

Yes, I know that you don't have in mind the killing of a mosquito, but then what do you have in mind, specifically?

As for whether the end justifies the means, that depends on the circumstances, i.e., on what the end and the means in question are.

B. Prokop said...

"So ... you're violently agreeing with everything I said?"

Now let's not be too hasty! I do agree with what you wrote here, but as to everything you've ever said... now that's another story!

Dave Duffy said...

"faith-based ideologies stop informing governments' policies and infringing individual liberties."

Hugo,

Understanding your comments in terms of politics does help me to make more sense of what you are writing.

Here's the best I could find for the passion behind your arguments: https://www.aclu.org/feature/using-religion-discriminate

Is this what you fear? Or are you talking about Islam?

"it's bad only when talking about unquestionable yet unjustified beliefs."

If only you could have sold tickets into this little yum-yum world when I was taking my complaining/questioning teenage kids to church in the morning and then bought additional tickets into that world when driving my questioning/criticizing teenagers home after church. You could have made more from me than the family doctor. (Meant as VR wrote, "use ridicule, ...in a offhanded way, or a way that is aimed at entertainment")

Hugo Pelland said...

@Dave
I would like to understand what that means:
"Is this what you fear? Or are you talking about Islam?"

Daniel Wilcox said...

You wrote, "Christianity has some safeguards that limit the damage..."

I think a long study of history shows just the opposite.

It was only the influence of the Enlightenment and a few heretical groups and the horrific results of many Christian wars that finally
sometimes
reduced the millions slaughtered.

I doubt that I need to list the all wars (and the death totals)Christians have fought in and supported, since you are an academic and probably have read more books than the thousands I've read. But take a moment and do the listing. It's horrific, unless a person is the sort of Christian who thinks God foreordained every slaughter.

Check out the last 100 years of the killing fields. Atheists probably come in first, but Christians are a close second.

And Muslims a distant third, but that's not because their beliefs are less destructive, but because they didn't have the weapons and the power to do their worst.

B. Prokop said...

Daniel,

That's some bit of historical revisionism going on there! As they say on TV, "Let's look at the tape."

A.D. 1-312: Zero wars initiated by Christians
312-633: Zero wars fought "in the name of" Christianity
634-1094: Countless defensive wars against militant Islam, or marauding Norsemen fought by Christians (none started by them)
1095-1192: 3 totally justifiable counterattacks against aggressor Islamic states (First 3 Crusades)
1202-4: Tragic and damnable hijacking of 4th Crusade by Venetian merchants. No excuse for this atrocity. Two whole years out of 2000.
1223-94: Defensive actions against Mongol hordes (none started by Christians)
1295-1617: Numerous wars fought with Christian participants, but all for non-religious purposes
1618-48: Thirty Years War - Yeah, this one's on us. Won't contest this sorry mess.
1649-1788: Back to many wars with Christian participation, but none with a (primarily) religious motivation.
1789-1989: One atheist assault against Christianity after another.
And since then, it's been defending ourselves against militant Islamic terrorists.

So let's see. That's 32 years out of 2000. Not such a bad record, wouldn't you say?

Jezu ufam tobie!

Dave Duffy said...

Hugo,

Sorry for the clumsy way I asked the question. When atheists are asked why they bother trying to convince Christians to give up their faith, I find a frequent answer to be something like, "religious people have too much influence over the government." Therefore, religion is dangerous. I think the real answer to the question is we want to persuade people to be more like ourselves.

I quoted you, "faith-based ideologies stop informing governments' policies and infringing individual liberties." This is the reason you gave for trying to persuade Christians to give up their faith. When I went looking for ways faith-based ideologies inform the the government, the best complaint I could find was from the ACLU .

I was wondering if their list of complaints is what you fear from Christian citizens. If this is not what you fear, is it the influence Islam has over the governments where Muslims are a majority.

Hugo Pelland said...

@Dave

Thanks for clarifying and I think I see where my choice of words might have been inadequate. When I said that I would like "faith-based ideologies stop informing governments' policies and infringing individual liberties" it does not mean that this is a "reason you gave for trying to persuade Christians to give up their faith", so I guess it was not written clearly... Let me give you a Hindu-related example that might make it easier to explain since it does not have the Christian aspect to it.

The current prime minister of India and his BJP party are more Hindu-centric than most, generally secular, parties that were sharing the power until recently. Because of that, there has been some confrontation in part of the country over the consumption of meat, which is banned by conservative Hindus, but not all Hindus. Now what's interesting with meat is that there are actually 2 completely different ways to justify the ban; 1 secular and 1 religious. Because of that, it helps to express my position more clearly.

First, someone can claim that eating meat is unhealthy, let's say they have statistics on longevity and heart diseases on their side (I honestly don't know, but I think it's the case...), and meat also uses a lot more resources to produce. So they have environmental impact along with health concerns as arguments. Next, you have purely religious reasons: Hindu texts say that eating meat is bad; so it's bad.

Now, both beliefs can lead to two distinctive action plan; personal choice versus legal action. Both groups can work towards influencing others to be like them, because they think it's the right thing to do, and both groups can go further by trying to actively use government to force their eating choices to be the only legal option.

So the point here is that there is absolutely no reason, in my opinion, to even consider the Hindu-only approach to banning meat eating. It does not matter whether I agree with them or not; if the argument is 'Hinduism say eating meat is bad', I really don't care for it, and no government should be based on such belief. But the secular vegetarians can make a rational case though, and they could be Hindu as well, it doesn't matter.

Therefore, I have no fear at all of neither any Christian citizen nor their ideas, or any religion actually. Religiously driven ideas are not better/worse because Christians/Hindus/Muslims are proposing them. I just want to make sure we never give special treatment to religious ideas just because they are religious; religions don't deserve respect by default. If Hindus want to fight for banning meat because of their religion, but use the environmentalists' arguments in the process, fine, let's discuss it; but if all they are doing is claim that their religion says so, I hope we'll always keep our rights to call bullshit on them and move on with a quick dismissal, because I wish that... "faith-based ideologies stop informing governments' policies and infringing individual liberties". Unfortunately, that real-life example shows that our rights, as human beings, are not equal everywhere, even if here in the US it's much better.

Dave Duffy said...

Hugo,

I read your thoughts. Thanks.

Ilíon said...

"1618-48: Thirty Years War - Yeah, this one's on us. Won't contest this sorry mess."

Even the Thirty Years War wasn't really *about* "religion" (as the Irish "Troubles" isn't), but rather was about dynastic ambitions, primarily of the French dynasts, with the Swedes in second place.

Cal Metzger said...

Any claim for Christianity containing unique or adequate restraints that prevent war based on doctrinal (let alone religious) differences or prevent the slaughter of innocents has to ignore (as Bob did) things like the Albigensian Crusades and the Massacre at Beziers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albigensian_Crusade

Christianity is not uniquely violent, nor is it uniquely pacifist. Its history is spotted and complex, like all of humanity's, because (surprise!) there is no god, but humans are certainly human.



B. Prokop said...

"like the Albigensian Crusades"

The Albigensian Crusades, like the vast majority of so-called "religious" wars, were fundamentally and ultimately economic in nature - a land grab by the nobility of Northern France at the expense of those in the South, newly fallen under the under the control of the French monarch after his victory over the English king at Bouvines. Phillip II (the French king), finding himself unable to provide adequate compensation for the powerful barons who helped defeat the English, encouraged them to seek new fiefdoms in the south. The Cathar heretics were simply a convenient target of opportunity, since they could not count on any allies.

So no, there was no "ignoring" going on. The example is simply irrelevant. It falls under the same category (as pointed out by Ilion) as the Irish "Troubles".

Jezu ufam tobie!

Joe Hinman said...

I trace to Dawkins too. I theory that he thinks atheism can catch on if they use the tactics he perceives the church to have used. I'm sure in his view that means being stupid and narrow minded.

Joe Hinman said...

Meme is a silly concept. It has been debunked lots of time. I have a friend from MIT who shows that its not the least bit analogues to a virus. It's self defeating since the concept itself would be a virus too. Dawkins book is not some kind of great discovery and it has not produced great scientific agreement. Dawkins is considered a popularizer in science not a great scientist.

Joe Hinman said...


November 20, 2015 11:51 PM



Blogger Daniel Wilcox said...
You wrote, "Christianity has some safeguards that limit the damage..."

I think a long study of history shows just the opposite.

It was only the influence of the Enlightenment and a few heretical groups and the horrific results of many Christian wars that finally
sometimes
reduced the millions slaughtered.

>>>:Christian thinkers made the enlightenment. It was in uk before it was in France.
Christians also stopped the witch trials. It was secular counts that ki9lled all the witches.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "The Albigensian Crusades, like the vast majority of so-called "religious" wars, were fundamentally and ultimately economic in nature - a land grab by the nobility of Northern France at the expense of those in the South..."

versus the Encyclopedia Brittanica, which writes:

"Albigensian Crusade, Crusade (1209–29) called by Pope Innocent III against the Cathari, a dualist religious movement in southern France that the Roman Catholic Church had branded heretical....By the middle of the 12th century, control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land was no longer the only goal of the Crusades....The Roman Catholic Church had attempted for years to root out the heresy from southern France, where it remained popular, particularly among the nobility. St. Dominic, who was sent to the region to preach to the people and debate the Cathar leaders, formed his Order of Preachers (Dominicans) in response to the heresy....The Albigensian Crusade was immensely popular in northern France because it gave pious warriors an opportunity to win a Crusade indulgence (a remission from punishment in the afterlife for sin) without traveling far from home or serving more than 40 days."

Etc., etc.

Joe Hinman said...

There's a book, Monteaou Promised land of error. I probably I screwed up the spelling on that. Examines documents from the inquisition against the Cathari.