Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Atheism's Real Child Abuse

Suppose someone were to make the following argument.
Atheists are guilty of child abuse. People who die in their sins without knowing Jesus Christ are condemned to hell, yet atheists do worse than nothing to insure that their children are saved from this terrible fate. Exposing children to everlasting punishment is child abuse if anything is, far worse than any abuse they might suffer through being sexually abused. So not only are atheists child abusers, their child abuse if far worse than that inflicting on children by child molesters.
There is an obvious rebuttal to such a claim of course. It is that atheists, ex hypothesi, do not believe that eternal punishment is real, so of course they can hardly be criticized for failing to prevent their children from being eternally punished.
But, by the same token, can Dawkins criticize Christians who believe that there is eternal punishment, and present Christianity to their children as true to prevent them from being eternally punished? Given what they believe, what else does he expect them to do? Isn’t Dawkins open to the same rebuttal that could be given to child abuse charge issued by the above hypothetical Christian.
Now, of course, Christians come in different varieties with respect to the doctrine of hell. There are exclusivists, inclusivists, and universalists. But most Christians think that teaching one’s children Christianity will make it more likely that one’s children will be saved. 

Penn Jillette wrote: 

“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

32 comments:

B. Prokop said...

I don't care for this line of thought at all. For me, it is enough that we are basically commanded to proselytize (the "Great Commission"). To keep one's faith to oneself, you basically have to say "Yes, I believe that Jesus is God incarnate, and yes, I believe that He told me to spread the Gospel... but I'm still not going to do it." How does that work?

Cal Metzger said...

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”

Shouldn't it trouble any religious believer that this seems to be what the 9/11 hijackers thought?

bmiller said...

Don't think the hijackers were trying to convert anyone unless you mean convert living people to dead people.

Legion of Logic said...

"Shouldn't it trouble any religious believer that this seems to be what the 9/11 hijackers thought?"

To the same extent it should trouble a liberal that people have killed in the name of leftwing political ideology.

Cal Metzger said...

@bmiller, @Legion

My point is, when is it okay to take drastic steps in reality based on religious beliefs about another one?

Doesn't it strike you as kind of reasonable that in our modern, western societies we expect people to not inflict their religious beliefs (no matter how strongly held) on those of us who do not share them?

I could go into more detail about what I think of each of you is referencing, but do you not agree with my question above?

B. Prokop said...

"do you not agree with my question above?"

Well, you asked two questions, so I'll answer them both.

As to your first question, since when is proselytization a "drastic step"?

As to your second question - No, it does not strike me as reasonable. Not even "kind of reasonable". Your use of the term "inflict" is interesting. So you consider someone telling you about his faith an infliction?

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Well, you asked two questions, so I'll answer them both."

Sorry, I meant my question immediately above; should have been clearer.

Prokop: "As to your second question - No, it does not strike me as reasonable. Not even "kind of reasonable". Your use of the term "inflict" is interesting. So you consider someone telling you about his faith an infliction?

From my original question: “I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point WHERE I TACKLE YOU. And this is more important than that.”

Um, when it involves tackling. And worse.

That's my point.

Legion of Logic said...

"Um, when it involves tackling. And worse."

It can certainly be problematic, but it can also be used for great good - I feel God has called me to devote my life to helping autistic children learn to cope and function in society, as a true example of someone I know.

Whether you agree that God called this person, or whether you believe that's a terrible reason to do something, it is this same mindset about a calling from God that led this person to devote her life to autistic children.

And not only can it also be a force for good, but the basic mindset does not even require a religious component. All it requires is a strong belief coupled with moral imperative...Black Lives Matter comes to mind, both the legitimate highlighting of problems and the pathetic violence also perpetrated by segments of the movement.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Victor Reppert said...

Again, a lot is built into the idea of "inflicting." If you inflict a wound on me, I desire not to be wounded, but you cause me to be wounded anyway. There are a number of things that people in our society have concluded we don't have the right to do to one another in the area of religion. We can't make it illegal to practice a religion, we can't prevent others from teaching our religion to our children, we can't force people to practice a religion or penalize people with extra taxes if they don't practice a religion.

In general the truth, in the area of religion, no matter what side it's on, does better when we trust free and democratic methods of transmitting it. That is the hard lesson of history. But that includes keeping the public square open for religious ideas we don't like.

You didn't notice who the quote about tackling was from? It was atheist Penn Jillette.

CM: Doesn't it strike you as kind of reasonable that in our modern, western societies we expect people to not inflict their religious beliefs (no matter how strongly held) on those of us who do not share them?

Yes, and that includes the religious belief called atheism.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "It can certainly be problematic, but it can also be used for great good - I feel God has called me to devote my life to helping autistic children learn to cope and function in society, as a true example of someone I know. / Whether you agree that God called this person, or whether you believe that's a terrible reason to do something, it is this same mindset about a calling from God that led this person to devote her life to autistic children."

Two things:

1, I don't think of "helping autistic children" as being in the same category as tackling, so that's not activity I'd characterize as (my words) "inflicting."

2. I don't have a strong stance on how much religion creates a sense of purpose and meaning that compels people to help one another, as opposed to without it. I feel a compulsion to help others (as much as I can) and I am not religious, but I don't know that others would feel the same way as me if they became irreligious. I think that this kind of conservatism (concern about how others might act without the purpose and meaning they find in their religion) is a reasonable stance."

Legion: "And not only can it also be a force for good, but the basic mindset does not even require a religious component. All it requires is a strong belief coupled with moral imperative...Black Lives Matter comes to mind, both the legitimate highlighting of problems and the pathetic violence also perpetrated by segments of the movement."

I would agree that a moral compulsion doesn't require a religious component. And I agree that it seems like (from the little I know about it) the BLM movement encompasses both the legitimate identification of a real moral crime (police brutality on blacks going largely unpunished while the same brutality on whites is punished) and also 2) adopts some of the hypocritical positions of both leftists and rightists who believe that their legitimate moral grievances exempt them from their responsibility to adhere to fundamental moral principles (like fairness, and doing unto others, etc.).

Make sense?

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "You didn't notice who the quote about tackling was from? It was atheist Penn Jillette."

I have never head of Penn Jillette.

It always astounds me how apologists seem to assume that atheism is built on the influence of personalities and hierarchies, as opposed to ideas and education.

B. Prokop said...

"as opposed to ideas and education"

Hmm... and the spreading of which would be, uh, proselytization?

bmiller said...

@Cal,

Penn Jillette's context was "should a believer proselytize?".
Here is a paraphrase of how I interpreted his statement in that context:

A decent person would intervene to save someone from death if he could.
If Hell is worse than death, then that decent person has even more of an incentive to intervene.

So yes, a believer should proselytize according to Mr. Jillette.
I personally haven't met the tackling type of evangelist.

BTW, do you believe you are taking drastic steps by hanging out at this blog and sharing your beliefs with those of us who do not share them? ;-)

planks length said...

hanging out at this blog

Hey, don't scare him off. Dangerous Idea may just be Cal's only encounter with rational thought the whole day long!

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "Yes, and that includes the religious belief called atheism."

I agree that atheism shouldn't be inflicted on anyone. I disagree that atheism is a religion. (Words mean something.)

bmiller: "I personally haven't met the tackling type of evangelist."

Neither have I. Which is a good quo to status, no?

Victor Reppert said...

Whether we call atheism a religion depends on the context. Religion is notoriously difficult to define. Buddhism is a religion that does not have a god-concept. Ancient Judaism had a very limited concept of an afterlife.

Of course, by themselves, theism and atheism not religions. However, they can be component parts of religions. In one important sense, a religion is a comprehensive perspective on the world. And that is the sense of "religion" which underlies the idea of not using force of any kind to establish religion, and idea I subscribe to. And in that sense, there are certainly atheistic philosophies, such as communism or humanism, which are atheistic, and which ought to observe the restrictions on establishment as much as does, say, evangelical Christianity. It is possible to shove the theistic component of religion down people's throats in violation of this constraint, but it is also possible to shove the atheistic component down people's throats.

bmiller said...

@Cal,

Agreed about tackling. My knees aren't what they used to be.

A question regarding philosophy and religion.

Would you consider the Socratic lineages of philosophy religions? Specifically, Neo-Platonism or Aristotelianism? Reasons for thinking so?

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "Would you consider the Socratic lineages of philosophy religions? Specifically, Neo-Platonism or Aristotelianism? Reasons for thinking so?"

Interesting question, thanks.

Short answer is no, I do not consider philosophical schools to be religions. I understand the question, because religions and schools of philosophical thought both struggle with how to organize and explain the world, and both (usually) explore metaphysics (which I understand to be speculation about causes that can't be tested or explored, but help organize how we organize our thinking).

Here are some of the differences that I see:

Religions tend to indoctrinate before people are developed enough to consider its tenets, whereas philosophical schools tend to argue to mature thinkers.
Religions tend to promise something to adherents as a consequence of joining, whereas philosophical schools tend to promise only understanding of its tenets as its own reward.
Religions tend to offer rewards post-death, whereas philosophical school are focused on rewards in the reality we know about.

I'm sure there are others, or that I could be persuaded to modify the above slightly, but that's a basic answer.


oozzielionel said...

Defining terms requires navigating the complexity of connotations. "Religion" carries some negative connotations that most wish to disavow. No one is happy with "indoctrination" in the sense of manipulation. Even the most religious would not wish to create false believers without depth of conviction. Even "argue" has a negative connotation that those dedicated to reason would disavow in place of "discuss" or even "debate" or "convince." "Religion" often speaks of future rewards but not at the cost of "reality we know about." Based on your definition of religion, even established faiths would not want the label.

Religion, philosophy, world view, metaphysics, belief system, are all the same thing but slightly different in connotation. Your comments are helpful to identify some of the connotations that you disavow.

bmiller said...

@Cal

Historically metaphysics were concerned what Aristotle called the "first philosophy". He thought that natural science (physics) should be taught first and then with that background, one could study (after physics) "first philosophy".

But then yes, it's pretty much a how to divide up reality, provide a framework and categorize things to make sense of it and how things change.

The reason I asked was because being children of the West, so much of Platonic and Aristotelean philosophy is baked into our culture, we are already indoctrinated with the basics from birth. Many of the basic axioms of science are rooted in these philosophies such as the "reality is objective", "change is not an illusion", how cause and effect are to be thought of etc. Aristotle is credited with developing formal logic that is the basis of what we consider key to coming to logical conclusions.

Both branches came to the logical conclusion that the "Unmoved Mover" or "The One" was the ultimate cause of the cosmos or the universe. Yet no one considers them religions.

Of course my point is that one does not have to have a special experience, believe in any particular miracle, be indoctrinated into a religion to reach the conclusion that there must be God, there must be only one, He must be the ultimate cause of everything, He must be uncreated, etc.

The other point is that this is the same philosophy that set the framework for science as we know it today. If we want to get rid of one of it's conclusions then be prepared to get rid of some of the very same premises that are foundational for science.


Cal Metzger said...

bmiller, what makes you think that I'm unschooled in Western traditions and world history?

Why would you think that logic leads to a first mover argument instead of an endless regress?

Do you think that Aristotle must be right about all things that stem from the use of logic because he is credited with some of its development?

What do you think is the premise that science has to disregard if it ignores Aristotle's concept of a first mover?

bmiller said...

@Cal

Cal:"bmiller, what makes you think that I'm unschooled in Western traditions and world history?"

Why would you ask that? Just laying a foundation for my argument.

Cal:"Why would you think that logic leads to a first mover argument instead of an endless regress?"

For the same reason Aristotle did.


Cal:"Do you think that Aristotle must be right about all things that stem from the use of logic because he is credited with some of its development?

Nope. But he must know something.

Cal:"What do you think is the premise that science has to disregard if it ignores Aristotle's concept of a first mover?"

It depends on the scientist as to which part of the argument he would attack. I've seen objections to 3 listed in my post.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "Why would you ask that? Just laying a foundation for my argument."

Okay. It just seemed kind of weird to me.

bmiller: "For the same reason Aristotle did," and "Nope. But he must know something."

Then why not just bring up the reason, and the the something, instead of the name? I'm kind of a fan of Aristotle, but I think everyone who appreciates his contributions would be disappointed to find out that there are devotees who adhere to whatever he thought, rather than continue to refine the processes he helped advance.

bmiller: "It depends on the scientist as to which part of the argument he would attack. I've seen objections to 3 listed in my post."

Can you be more specific, starting with what you think is the weakest objection? I just don't know what you mean.

bmiller said...

@Cal

Cal:"bmiller: "For the same reason Aristotle did," and "Nope. But he must know something.

Then why not just bring up the reason, and the the something, instead of the name? I'm kind of a fan of Aristotle, but I think everyone who appreciates his contributions would be disappointed to find out that there are devotees who adhere to whatever he thought, rather than continue to refine the processes he helped advance. "

Regarding the "Nope" first: I hope this is a typing mistake, right? Otherwise you're asking me to write a library in this combox.

Regarding infinite regress: Do you want to discuss the possibility or impossibility of an infinite regress of causes ordered per se? Is that the only objection you have to the argument?

Cal:"bmiller: "It depends on the scientist as to which part of the argument he would attack. I've seen objections to 3 listed in my post.

Can you be more specific, starting with what you think is the weakest objection? I just don't know what you mean."

Cal, I'm more interested in what you think is wrong with the arguement and and leave out Lawrence Krauss and company. Once I understand what you specifically object to in the first mover argument, then it will help both of us to focus. Don't you think?





bmiller said...

BTW, "Aristotle for Everybody" by Mortimer Adler is great for an introduction to Aristotle for anyone who is interested.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "Regarding the "Nope" first: I hope this is a typing mistake, right? Otherwise you're asking me to write a library in this combox."

Okay. If you can't distill it, then you can't distill it.

biller: "Regarding infinite regress: Do you want to discuss the possibility or impossibility of an infinite regress of causes ordered per se? Is that the only objection you have to the argument?"

No, it's more of a determination that this "argument", while it may be formed in a way that's logically valid (I'm not even sure of that), reaches a metaphysical conclusion -- a metaphysical conclusion is one that might be true, but isn't knowable / testable. And I'm not a fan of taking metaphysical conclusions as premises in my subsequent arguments, because they are just building on air castles on air castles. In other words, I don't see why an unmoved mover is any more likely a conclusion than an infinite regress.

Also, while I agree that infinity is "weird," so are other things in reality. Just because our intuitions are uncomfortable with a concept doesn't mean that reality must conform to something we find more comfortable.

Etc.

bmiller: "Cal, I'm more interested in what you think is wrong with the arguement and and leave out Lawrence Krauss and company. Once I understand what you specifically object to in the first mover argument, then it will help both of us to focus. Don't you think?"

See, above.

Lastly, I think it's odd that concepts and descriptions about the nature of reality as formed by Aristotle would ever be preferred over more specific and accurate descriptions offered by scientific language.

bmiller said...

@Cal,

OK, looks like you don't want to think to much about the "Unmoved Mover" argument.

My broader point was that the metaphysical foundations of "science" are intertwined with the conclusion of the existence of God. You also may notice that leprechauns, pink unicorns or flying spaghetti monster were not mentioned ;-)

Cal: "And I'm not a fan of taking metaphysical conclusions as premises in my subsequent arguments"

I assert that we all assume a metaphysical background, you, me, all rational people whether we realize it, admit it, or not.
For instance above you puzzled if an argument was logically valid and if things are knowable. The first assumes that logically valid arguments are some sort of test for truth while the second assumes that objective reality is knowable. Both are metaphysical assumptions.

Cal:"Lastly, I think it's odd that concepts and descriptions about the nature of reality as formed by Aristotle would ever be preferred over more specific and accurate descriptions offered by scientific language."

Perhaps the main reason for this is because talk about the philosophy of science and philosophy in general is not the same as performing science. Truth, beauty and love are likewise missing from scientific language....disregarding particle physics that is :-)

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: " The first assumes that logically valid arguments are some sort of test for truth while the second assumes that objective reality is knowable. Both are metaphysical assumptions."

I'd correct you to say that both are axioms, and that it's productive to accept them.

I know that we must accept some axioms. I am not a solipsist, for example.

bmiller said...

@Cal

Darn! It's so hard to meet fellow solipsists.

Cal Metzger said...

bmiller: "Darn! It's so hard to meet fellow solipsists." :)

I like the one about the philosophy professor who is a dedicated solipsist. His secretary explains that she feels a special responsibility to take good care of him, because "If he goes, we all go."

bmiller said...

Ha! Pretty sad...nerdy philosophy Dad jokes.

David Brightly said...

It's a mistake to see Dawkins' remark as anything other than playing to his gallery by tarring religion with the brush of genuine abuse cases within the Church that have come to light in recent times. To offer an intellectual rebuttal is to give it a credibility it doesn't deserve. A derisive snort is best.

I don't know the context of the Jillette quote. I suspect he is implying that some religious folk don't really believe what they say they believe.