Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The God Thing

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  • Malcolm 141,

    I agree Russell. I find it amazing that our bodies are constructed from materials made in Nova and SuperNova star explosions. That is incredible enough for me.

    But for others, if you believe that our existence can only be explained by Intelligent Design, you can find out who made us by visiting the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    Why don't we have a referendum on whether or not there is a god?

    And if there is one we can ask him to build us a waterfront stadium on time for the next world cup.

    Since Nov 2006 • 879 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    I say "him" because only a bloke would be stupid enough to have allowed a stadium to remain standing in a blooming suburb for so long.

    Since Nov 2006 • 879 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Why don't we have a referendum on whether or not there is a god?

    Nah. Let's have a dumb self-selecting mail-in campaign. We'll ask if there's a God, everyone who believes in Him will write in to say yes, absolutely, and that'll settle it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Janet Digby,

    No takers on sting theory here...

    Years ago, as a small child, I was convinced, although nobody had told me that this was the case, that our local butcher was God. Sounds like a joke but I think the belief came from a children's bible my grandmother gave me which had lots of pictures in it. One of the guys had a pretty significant beard and so did my butcher. You see he used to give me saveloys for free. (I am sure different people will draw very different conclusions from that wee anecdote.) He seemed like a really nice person from my POV as someone who was scared of almost everything and everyone.

    The whole religion thing has never excited me personally, but if others feel it helps them be a better person, in ways generally agreed upon by me of course, then all power to them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    Oh, I should point out that there's one group: I think should be mercilessly mocked: Satanists.

    They're hilarious.

    Or am I being unfair?

    Well, I'd be curious to know why Satanists are inherintly more risible than other religious groups.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    You're right Michael, there would be some debate on the social cohesion question.

    Well, it's a case that could be made, and both the Romans and Greeks were very big one it (and Gibbon, of course, was scathing about the effects of Christianity on the Roman Empire in that regard); of course, watching men grab each others' bottoms while chasing an oval ball can fullfil the same function, too.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    The whole religion thing has never excited me personally, but if others feel it helps them be a better person, in ways generally agreed upon by me of course, then all power to them.

    I'm not so comfortable about playing along with other people's little delusions. I have been thinking about this discussion off and on all day. Russell, I suspect you were feeling a bit bored with stadiums (BTW - that's a deliberate English plural) etc, and thought you might just have a bit of fun and see what trouble you could stir up.

    So, a number of thoughts:

    I would be utterly bemused if someone spent a great deal of time trying to say that fairies or unicorns or the Flying Spaghetti Monster were the creator of the universe, and that I owed those entities respect. I would be thoroughly pissed off if that person demanded that I should show respect for their beliefs. Why then, should we be polite about what seem to be delusional beliefs in god (Jesus, Mohammed, Tane, whatever)? Perhaps this explains Richard Dawkins' impatience with theists.

    Wht kind of people are so scared of science that they retreat to belief in some kind of supernatural secret friend? Frankly, if you want to hide under your blanket because that will keep you safe in the dark instead of facing the mysteries of the universe standing on your feet, then you have no right whatsoever to demand that I live up to your moral standards. You, dear cowards, have none.

    On whether Bertrand Russell was nicer, and better to read than Dawkins - don't forget that Russell was writing in a very different rhetorical environment.

    And while I'm at it, I'm no happier about attending powhiri with religious prayers (to whatever god) than I am about attending events that reference the god of the Christians.

    Morality doesn't depend on some supernatural entity telling us what to do. Morality is hideously complicated, as any basic course in Ethics, taught at a reputable university, will tell you.

    Euthyphro dilemma, anyone? Is something good because god says it is good, or does god say it is good because it is good. If you choose the former, then you may just have endorsed child sacrifice, or rape, or war (Crusades, anyone?). If you choose the latter, then you admit that morality does not come from god.

    Cheers!

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1326 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Well, I'd be curious to know why Satanists are inherintly more risible than other religious groups.

    Perhaps it's the fact that Satanism is really a Christian heresy, and therefore contingent on that which it claims to abhor. That's pretty lame.

    Satanists are also just funny.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Janet Digby,

    Ah, but by saying that you are implying that you know them to be delusions. Disproving anything scientifically is very difficult and even if you believe the chance of some kind of 'god' to be small and that therefor the existence of the bearded omniscient 7 day creator to be very very small, surely by saying those people are deluded you are falling into the same trap as those that say athiests are going to burn in hell? Supposing that somehow, you know the answer and those that believe otherwise are idiots.

    I don't think it is people's fear of science that causes them to turn to religion. Perhaps it is just fear of the unknown i.e. what comes after death, surely I am more important to just die and that is it?

    I do agree that morality is horrendously complicated though. Religion may (along with a heap of negative effects that some may say are attributable to some bastardisation of whatever the pure essence or intention) provide a framework to hang things on. We all have our frameworks...?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Dealing with death is an over looked role of religion, we get a bit fixated on the moral thing. Religion does provide ways of dealing with death. I'm more in the Woody Allen school on this, but it's one of those Big Issues there's no good answer to.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Malcolm 141,

    There are many disproofs of religious beliefs. But every time one is offered, a special new reason is invented why it doesn't count.

    If that isn't delusional, I don't know what is.

    Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    <quote> Well, I'd be curious to know why Satanists are inherintly more risible than other religious groups.

    Perhaps it's the fact that Satanism is really a Christian heresy, and therefore contingent on that which it claims to abhor.
    </quote>

    Well, you be dealing with Satanists that are harking back to a more Manichean view of the universe; and heresy is pretty much in the eye of the beholder.

    Satanists are also just funny.

    Yeah, but how are they just funnier than, say, Catholics. Or that whole "this is my bllod, this is my body" routine - if a bunch of Goths told you they eat the flesh and drink the blood of their Darj God, you'd piss yourself laughing. I'm not sure why a bunch of middle aged people who at least ought to be old enough to know better should be taken at face value when they do the same in the weekend.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    (This is less a direct dig at you, I might add, and more an indirect dig at the people who get foam-at-the-mouth furious about "millitant athiests" who won't "respect peoples' beliefs" and then are quite happy mocking modern Pagans or Mormons and their magic underwear or whatever)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • rodgerd,

    Damn, I gotta make better use of Preview.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 512 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Hogan,

    Is morality all that complicated? Or do we just make it that way? Our limited frameworks of right/wrong, good /bad are often where the dialogue moves, and where the whole religion v science argument ends up. Like a cerebral 5-Day Test draw. We play our hardest for days(or years),and in the end, we are no further along the road to enlightenment (or victory, as the case may be).

    Consciousness is one of the great mysteries in this life, and isn't it a Grand Mystery? Or are we a society that is pretentious enough to think we must/will/do know everything?

    Neuroscientists have recently labeled humans as inforvores; our opioid receptors are stimulated by accessing information. What do we do with it all?

    Waiheke Island • Since Nov 2006 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Disproving anything scientifically is very difficult and even if you believe the chance of some kind of 'god' to be small and that therefor the existence of the bearded omniscient 7 day creator to be very very small, surely by saying those people are deluded you are falling into the same trap as those that say athiests are going to burn in hell? Supposing that somehow, you know the answer and those that believe otherwise are idiots.

    Religion may ... provide a framework to hang things on. We all have our frameworks...?

    This is a weasel argument. It consists of throwing up your hands, and saying that no one really knows, so we better all just agree to disagree, and moreover, all the positions on which we disagree have equal standing (intellectual, moral, whatever).

    We can do better than that. We can demand that those who assert something need to prove it. Those who believe there is some giant teapot floating between Jupiter and Saturn need to provide evidence (tested according to scientific standards, which means testable hypotheses, wth results that can be replicated, consistently). Those who want to asset some kind of god need to provide evidence (testable hypotheses, with results that can be replicated, consistently).

    As it turns out, in the absence of evidence (testable, replicatable, available to all) of the existence of god, it is surely delusional to persist in the belief, and immoral to demand that others follow it.

    If you continue to believe in god because it's comforting, you end up believing in something because it's pretty, and it's nice to believe in it. Well, it's nice to believe in Santa Claus too.

    As for frameworks - well, maybe we do, but some are demonstrably better than others. For example, a paedophile's framework might consist in the belief that children want to have sex, and that it doesn't hurt them, and that he or she is entitled to whatever kind of sexual gratification he or she wants. Defend that framework! A framework that depends on delustional beliefs must be very, very fragile.

    If Christianity provides a moral framework, then given the murder and mayhem that seems to follow in its wake, it's a damn poor framework.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1326 posts Report Reply

  • anjum rahman,

    as one of those "delusional" people, i've found this thread really interesting. last sunday night i gave a speech to the theosophical society about the islamic understanding of God, and no such challenging debate ensued. i guess those guys (and they were almost all male!) must believe in a God of some sort.

    on another sort of related note, the human rights commission has its draft national statement on religious diversity (yup, that's what it's called) out for consultation. i can't do those cool link thingy's (being technologically challenged as well as delusional), so here is where you can find it:

    http://www.hrc.co.nz/hrc_new/hrc/cms/files/documents/17-Oct-2006_11-45-30_Draft_National_Statement_on_Religious_Diversity.doc

    in trying to organise a consultation meeting on this, i've found you atheists and anti-theists etc are the hardest group to connect with. you don't congregate in a church, you have no common meeting point (such as a sermon where notices are announced), no non-spiritual leader, so how does one get your collective attention??? i would have suggested that you organise yourselves better, except that organised non-religion is probably not a concept that would take off...

    anyway, since the draft statement affects atheists as much as it does the faith communities, it would be really useful to have your feedback.

    cheers
    anjum

    hamilton • Since Nov 2006 • 129 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    Hmm... for a second I thought Russell was being horrid about my surname there. Interesting hi-res monitor induced delusion.

    Since Nov 2006 • 525 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Litterick,

    Re the Draft National Statement on Religious Diversity, the two secularist groups in NZ are the Humanist Society of NZ and the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists. Whether either is going to contribute to the discussion is anyone's guess. Getting non-believers to agree on anything is like herding cats.

    I am going to blog about the Draft soon. My thoughts are not very positive.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1000 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    How odd that the week a 'Jesus Camp' torrent finally appears on the wires, Jesus Camp announces it's closing.

    I have mixed feelings about the camp's enforced closure. On one hand those lunatics were perpetrating something akin to child abuse. On the other, they're closing because their compound was vandalised and they don't feel safe, and that's creepy too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Hamish Fraser,

    I asked you this once before, and you didn't want to answer, but it is a sincere question: why do you believe what you do?

    Well I am not Craig but I like the question and wanted to answer.

    The problem with being asked to prove what I believe removes the me from the equation instantly because scientific proof is required and I don't make good scientific proof.
    Rather you asked "Why?" which is more along the lines of "tell me about yourself". The problem here is talking about one's self in a public forum is a little embarrassing - easier to keep it in the third person. This is obviously more embarrassing when there are a number of healthy, nicely groomed atheists around and you're the one in a hoodie that happens to believe in a god. But greatly magnified when you can't seem to convince this god to show up in person with his driver's license as the needed scientific "proof" which the atheist demands. All your left with is your own very-human experiences, your own thinking and the impending mocking if you were to lay those precious personal experiences out to be dissected.

    My answer to the "why?" has to be for all its foolishness this: because of the reality it makes of me, because of the result of all of my life's equation, the miracles, the science, the study, and the holistic mind blowing answer (not so much like 42) that I find in relation to my imaginary friend. To the Mr Dawkin's - it's not so much just enough for me, it's an incredible starting position, and not only that I also get to enjoy all the science.

    For the record:
    I do not consider myself religious and am certainly not affiliated with any organised religion. I believe all "organised" (is there any other?) religion to be an awful counterfeit of everything I have found to be good.
    Not like Elton John who would like to see organised religion banned - I would prefer to see it die a wholesome natural death - for the sake of those still relying on it.
    Also not like Mr Dawkins rather than religion, I believe greed, pride and fear to be more the real cause of the worlds woes/wars. Honestly Mr Dawkins your being to generous to religion there :-).

    I really love science and follow as closely as I can - especially I love the pursuit of the base unifying theories and have my own theory that that pursuit could last forever. It will of course involve teasingly short periods of time like with Newton's answers where we will keep fooling ourselves that we have it all very nearly sorted.

    Hello, my name is Hamish and I have an imaginary friend.

    Since Nov 2006 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Well, I'd be curious to know why Satanists are inherintly more risible than other religious groups.

    Because it's the only religion founded solely on the principle of upsetting your parents.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 902 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    There's a great piece on moral relativism by Simon Blackburn on the Butterflies and Wheels website.

    Here's an extract from it:

    It concerns a friend of mine, who was present at a high-powered ethics institute which had put on a forum in which representatives of the great religions held a panel. First the Buddhist talked of the ways to calm, the mastery of desire, the path of enlightenment, and the panellists all said ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great’. Then the Hindu talked of the cycles of suffering and birth and rebirth, the teachings of Krishna and the way to release, and they all said ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great’. And so on, until the Catholic priest talked of the message of Jesus Christ, the promise of salvation and the way to life eternal, and they all said ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great’. And he thumped the table and shouted: ‘No! It’s not a question of it if works for me! It’s the true word of the living God, and if you don’t believe it you’re all damned to Hell!’

    And they all said: ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great’.

    If you are a believer, then you really must believe. It's not a matter of picking something pretty, and saying, "That willd o for me."

    As it turns out, most religions makes claims about their beleif being the right one. So you can't just shrug your shoulders, and say, "Each to their own", or "Doesn't everyone have their own set of beliefs and we should respect that."

    Dawkins is doing this from the atheist position i.e. he is thorough going about his atheism, and pushing the obvious conclusion that atheism necessarily entails that other people are wrong.

    No wonder people get upset by him. He's a very uncomfortable thinker, especially for those who woudl rathter not acknoweldge that being a Christain / Muslim / Jew / Buddhist / Hindu / whatever necessarily entails the belief that other religions are wrong.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1326 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    In a recent New Scientist podcast (I don't know how to link to it) physicist Paul Davies discusses the problem of how the universe appears to be just right for life. If any of the fundamentals of the universe were just a fraction different then no life could have evolved.

    There's a couple of ways of dealing with this but what Davies puts forward is interesting in terms of the relationship between science and morality. He suggests a possible explanation for the Goldilocks universe is that life, having evolved, changes the way the universe originated - so making life possible. It sounds too bizarre to be taken seriously but we're dealing with quantum physics etc where the bizarre is true and more bizarre than we can imagine.

    So, if this could occur then it would presumably be ongoing. i.e. life can continue to change the structure of the universe. And as we have evolved consciousness we can now chose how to act and so chose how to influence physical reality. There's a lot of speculating going on here but there's nothing unscientific about this. Our actions could have consequences far greater than we imagine and what drives our actions - our morality.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Damian White,

    All praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster . . .

    . . and may we all one day be touched by His Noodly Appendage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17 posts Report Reply

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