- We are all atheists with regard to the vast number of deities ever proposed
- A world with God is very different to a world without God
- Being good in order to get heaven is perverse
- Suffering is real
- Religion is a terrible slavery
- “God” is a monster (Hitchens’ god anyway!)
Posts Tagged ‘atheism’
In this episode we discuss the crucial questions: Which Atheism? and Which God?
In future episodes, we’ll cover “What atheism gets right”, “What atheism gets wrong” and finally “Hot Topics”.
SUBSCRIBE (and view show notes)[audio http://revivalmedia.org/medias/audio/TEP017.mp3]
Last year I was in a kind of debate with Andrew Copson – Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association (BHA). His final line of the evening was a plea for us all to “be good for goodness sakes.”
The line sounds twee but there’s a genuine point that deserves our attention: Goodness for the sake of ‘spiritual reward’ is neither necessary, nor desirable. In fact it’s pretty ugly. If a religious person is motivated towards goodness simply by celestial carrots and sticks (which some are) then you can understand a humanist’s protest. I hear the criticism loud and clear, and I wrote these four posts called “Why be good?” as a response. Only the gospel saves us from immorality and moralism.
But if you’re unaware of the gospel, then your view of religion will probably sound that of like BHA President Jim Al-Khalili:
I have often felt offended by the misguided notion that people require a religious faith to provide their moral compass in order to lead a good life. Reason, decency, tolerance, empathy and hope are human traits that we should aspire to, not because we seek reward of eternal life or because we fear the punishment of a supernatural being, but because they define our humanity.
We might want to be curious about why such traits define our humanity, and who gets to say, and why the ones mentioned by Al-Khalili are so darned anaemic, and why he didn’t also identify deep-seated characteristics like greed, hypocrisy and violence. We might want to point out that Christian faith brings far more to the table than ‘a moral compass’. Actually it’s a vision for the whole terrain and an accounting for why and where we fit into a moral order that is very old and runs very deep.
But we’re not going to mention those things. We’re just going to point out the terrible danger of moralism here.
Suppose that I’m a humanist who has unplugged the celestial CCTV and now I’m free to be good for goodness sakes. What will that look like? Well I’m still going to get outraged by ‘inhuman’ behaviour – good. But now God isn’t the ultimate court of appeal and dispenser of perfect justice. No, the ‘moral-outrage buck’ stops with me. Since God has been deposed, I’m going to have to mount the highest horse.
And, as far as godless high-horseing goes, get a load of this: [Read from the bottom upwards. RD was responding to this]
Dawkins has never let ignorance of a topic prevent him from weighing in with the full weight of his moral indignation. But feel the indignation.
When one tweeter asked him whence his moral compass (given Darwinism and all), he responded:
Darwinism, Mr Allnut, is what we were put into this world to rise above. Oh & do show a little intelligence & refrain from quote-mining this
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 13, 2013
Idiot that I am, I’m mining the quote – but I think it unearths a deep problem for those who let go of “God” but want to be “Good.” The problem is not in acting morally- of course not. The problem comes in adjudicating the morals and in acting The Moral One. Wonderfully for the Christian, the Father adjudicates and the Son is the Moral One, but what’s the situation for the humanist?
They are above the non-existent ‘God’, they are above the religious who (they claim) are only good for dubious reasons, and they are above nature (‘red in tooth and claw’) and their own selfish genes. They have risen above everything else in all reality… in order to be good.
How does a humanist not avoid hubris at this point? How do they not avoid moralism?
Dostoyevsky famously said “If there is no God, everything is permissible.” But nihilism isn’t the only danger. Dawkoyevsky’s dilemma is this: “If there is no God, everything is puritanical.”
Mehdi Hasan admits to believing Muhamed flew to heaven on a winged horse. And New Statesman sees fit to print him as a serious journalist
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) April 21, 2013
Andrew Brown of the Guardian tells of the fall-out.
Seems to me one response would be to point to this Dawkins tweet from last month:
“Something from nothing” sounds absurd? You can’t do physics by common sense. If you could, we wouldn’t need physicists.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 21, 2013
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander I’d have thought. The supernatural (for want of a better short-hand) might seem absurd to the naturalist, but, well, it would. But you can’t do theology by common sense either – and certainly not naturalistic common sense!
Anyway, perhaps the best response is just to list some of Dawkins’ other clangers from the last few weeks and let them speak for themselves…
[now deleted] What kind of person throws chewing gum in the streets, where it sticks to shoes? What kind of person chews gum in the first place?
Greetings to all atheists. But please, not so many athiests, aethists or aetheists. Greek theos: god. Hence theist. Hence a-theist.
I re-tweet for a reason. I know not everybody likes it. They are free to unfollow.
Comparisons often made of Jesus with Horus, Dionysus, Krishna etc. Any real scholars out there confirm each one? pic.twitter.com/IuN1u7McNq
then, when called on such tired and lazy comparisons…
Was it seriously not obvious that I posted that set of other gods because I was SCEPTICAL of the alleged similarities to Jesus?
If you’re used to the obscurantist smokescreens of religion, the sudden shock of the unambiguously clear voice of reason can SEEM aggressive
Dear Americans, please understand that “grade” as in “7th grade” is not part of the English language. Please state the child’s AGE in years
People outside America truly don’t know what “7th grade” means. In Britain we’ve “Year 10” but don’t expect others to know what that means.
If you only care about communicating to Americans, “7th grade” is fine. But there’s this obscure little place called The Rest Of The World
I’m NOT arguing for British English. “Year 10” not part of the language either, which is why I wouldn’t use it in an international medium.
“Hit a home run” great metaphor, understood internationally. But “7th grade” conveys precision. Don’t you WANT to be understood outside US?
Struggling with London tube notice: delays because “customer” taken ill on train earlier in day. Sorry for sick passenger, but why DELAYS?
- One rationally comprehensible universe.
Not just any universe. You’ll need to be particular here. It must be a rationally comprehensible, rationally ordered cosmos. Not a chaos, a cosmos, I must insist on this point.
Next, you’ll need
- One consistent set of discoverable laws.
Some of the boys and girls will claim that you don’t need the laws yet – science will produce them for you later. But that’s just silly, isn’t it children? You might not know the laws yet but you need there to be laws. And you need to trust that they’re out there and that you have ways of approaching them.
Thirdly, you’ll need
- At least one rational scientist.
This one ought to go without saying, but you’d be surprised how often it gets left out of the ingredients list!
And finally – this is the one you were all waiting for…
- A scientific method by which to proceed.
Now if you’ve been following us for a while, the good news is you’ll have a scientific method left over from yesterday’s activities. If you haven’t already got a scientific method, please don’t just “borrow” one from the other children. That really isn’t fair. You should go back to the original episodes and build it up from first principles. A scientific method is made from very expensive ingredients, and if you haven’t bought them yourself, then using someone else’s method is stealing.
So there you have it – the four ingredients you need to do science. Now before you all complain… before you all complain – yes I know… I know that none of you can afford the ingredients. I’m sorry about that, but that’s the way it is. When we’re dealing with such valuable things, there’s no way around it.
All I can say to you is this: If you want to do science – and I sincerely hope that you do – you can’t take shortcuts, you must have these ingredients. If you don’t have them – and you don’t – then you’ll have to ask Mum or Dad.
Below you can watch Richard Dawkins speaking in advance of the 2011 KJV celebrations. He makes the case for being steeped ‘to some extent’ in the King James Bible. If we don’t know the KJV we are ‘in some small way barbarian.’ But he ends by saying:
it is important that religion should not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource.
Notch it up as another Dickie Dawkins classic. But before we laugh and point, let’s make sure there aren’t three fingers pointing back.
You see, because he’s talking about the bible the stupidity of his position is obvious. Of course it’s ridiculous to view the bible as first a cultural resource that religion then hijacks. Any fool knows that the bible is originally, purposefully and most meaningfully a religious text (or if you don’t like ‘religious’, say ‘spiritual’ or ‘theological’ or even ‘Christian’). It is evident (but not to Dawkins) that the essence of the bible is appreciated only when it’s treated according to its true theological nature. And that to read it through atheistic lenses is the real hijacking.
But Dawkins’ inability to appreciate the bible according to its true nature is only one more example of his inability to appreciate the world according to its true nature. The whole atheistic project follows exactly the same line. It says that everything is most ultimately a physical, chemical, biological, historical or cultural artefact, let’s not allow ‘religion’ to hijack it. But to pretend you are honouring the world by treating it non-theologically is just as ridiculous as pretending to honour the Word by treating it non-theologically.
The only reason we don’t see its foolishness is because we have, to some extent, bought the double-decker atheistic approach. When it comes to the world around us we pretty much assume along with the atheists that there are brute facts that are perfectly understood in non-theological terms and that we then work with this raw data to make our theological (or atheistical) pronouncements. And even if we do dare to wear some theological lenses to view the world, we have a slight guilty feeling that maybe we are hijacking a properly non-theological reality.
But no. You’ve got to begin by treating the Word theologically. And you’ve got to begin by treating the world theologically. And it’s best you do so in that order.
It’s those who fail to see the world according to its essentially theological character who hijack it.
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Here are some other responses to cultural phenomena:
Living beyond the end of the world (a reflection on the Mayan apocalypse)
This was probably my favourite post of the year. I had a pop at some other evangelical shibboleth’s in these:
Here were the others in that series:
Exciting things happening with 321, I’m looking forward to developing them in 2013. Here’s some of the philosophy behind it:
On the subject of preaching, here are posts on my three favourite preachers
Paul wrote some other excellent guest posts for me this year:
This read-through was very popular and Matthias also organised a Greek audio bible too. Download it for free:
Other more thematic sermons of mine:
This was a provocative post looking at the interaction between pastoral care and evangelism. If your “gospel” can’t help you deal with life it’s no gospel. And if you have to borrow Christian convictions in order to care for people, that might point you to the good sense of Christianity.
On the theme of pastoral theology, here are some posts that were close to my heart.
I’m a big fan of Derren Brown but his claim to have shown God as the ultimate placebo was just silly. Here are some more posts about atheism:
There you have it. Thanks for making blogging so enjoyable. And don’t forget to LIKE ME, LIKE ME, LIKE ME!