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The Forum > Article Comments > New atheists or new anti-dogmatists? > Comments

New atheists or new anti-dogmatists? : Comments

By Benjamin O'Donnell, published 25/1/2008

One gets the feeling that the real target of the 'new atheists' isn't religion at all.

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An interesting article. My atheism leads me to put Islam and Christianity in the same category as astrology, witchcraft and Stalin's cult of personality. An elclectic mix I know but what they all have in common are belief systems I find as having no use in the real world, are contradicted by scientific logic and are often positively harmful. So I guess I'm anti-dogma as much as I'm anti-religion.

But isn't a belief in, say, the theory of gravity a dogma I hear you ask? No, because like all scientific theories it is taken as given until (this crucial) something that obviously contradicts that theory comes along. In contrast, when did you last hear of an Islamic fanatic say they go by the Koran but something later may disprove it?

For the religiously devout there is also the problem of who to believe. Why should I believe in the Mormons' Imaginary Friend rather than the Jews? Or just put my faith in tarot cards instead? Decisions, decisions...
Posted by DavidJS, Friday, 25 January 2008 9:40:40 AM
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One could say that the heliocentric solar system, Darwinís theory of evolution and the organisation of the elements into the Periodic table are scientific dogma. That is they are hypotheses that have been established over many years and although, like all theories, there is a chance that they may be overturned or modified this seems very unlikely.

This may be compared to the dogma of the Christian Church that the name of God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that this name indicates the truth of the past, present and future of what happened between us and Jesus. This dogma of the Church does not rely on irrational hypothesises like the existence of an all powerful nonmaterial being. Rather, it is an interpretation of a particular event in history whose meaning continues to form human life, to call it into being. Certainly many of the stories told about this event have characteristics that do not fit with our mechanistic view of the world but that can be excused to a prescientific people who were more intent on getting a message across than obeying scientific laws they knew nothing of.

I agree with the new atheists, religion is a problem, it distorts our view of the world. However Christian faith, in its purity cannot be confused with religion. After all, the history of Israel, as illustrated in the Old Testament, is a history of a nationís flirtation with religion to its peril. Likewise, when Christianity entered the Greek world it encountered all kinds of religious notions that it had to deal with. The tragedy of Christianity is that from being the religion to end all religions it eventually succumbed and is now popularly counted as only one among the religions. A deeper analysis will reveal otherwise
Posted by Sells, Friday, 25 January 2008 10:09:50 AM
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I don't see conflating religion with faith and dogma as an unreasonable position, given that they have been the basis for the world's most powerful religions for thousands of years, and still remain so today.

If you want to keep the worthwhile aspects of religion then it's surely preferable to call it something else.

I will allow that the wiktionary definition of religion includes:

4. Any system or institution which one engages with in order to foster a sense of meaning or relevance in relation to something greater than oneself.

...which is a broad enough meaning to be useful without the need for faith and/or dogma. But it's not clear what the corresponding definition of "religious" would be. I highly doubt those who attend, say, secular humanist gatherings, or science/nature appreciation societies would call themselves religious on that basis.
Posted by wizofaus, Friday, 25 January 2008 10:17:32 AM
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What a waste of time and effort.

If atheists are correct then we are all nothing but worm food.

Nothing we do causes any 'harm' or does any 'good' nor is anything we do 'right' or 'wrong'. These are all non-scientific social constructs.

Of course people will squeal that, for example, nuclear warfare would destroy the planet and this would somehow be 'wrong'.

Sure everybody and everything might die, but everything dies anyway, so, so what?

If atheists are correct then everything came into existence unintentionally by random chance and there is absolutely no purpose for our or anything elses existence.

Again, we are nothing but worm food and the worms don't matter either.

Articles like this and the rantings of Dawkins, Harris, et al, are if they are correct about atheism, a complete waste of time.

But then I guess people have to do something before they die and go to oblivion.
Posted by GP, Friday, 25 January 2008 10:26:17 AM
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1. Yes, the world is open, uncertain, unfinished, and unfinishable. But so many people crave a closed world, for which one needs a closed mind, in which everything is known or knowable, controllable, certain, and above all closed, no more need for argument (bad) or debate. So one's declared opinion is all, the end, no more discussion, and anybody disagreeing with an opinion is not playing the game, making trouble, threatening to open up a properly-closed subject. But, the world is still open .....

But no, it's not true that the Devil has all the best tunes - God has by far the better ones, even those written by non-believers like Brahms and (I presume?) Beethoven. Even atheists like myself can fall in love with the beautiful music of devout believers like Elgar and Mendelssohn and, of course, Bach. Devout believers can, in their work, inspire even non-believers: from what I have read of the dedication and efforts of many of the missionaries in Aboriginal communities, fanatically-devout as they may have been, I am full of admiration for their contributions (at least, most of them), for their love of humanity and concern for the poorest and most abandoned. There is, after all, this humanitarian thread all through the Christian myth, perhaps creatively embellished over time, of course. But there are parables in the bible that are even more urgently relevant today, the lessons of the good Samaritan, for example, or Adam and Eve bucking God and getting thrown out of Eden, the woman at the well, Job cursing God, etc., admirable stories with a lot to teach us. More later.

Joe
Posted by Loudmouth, Friday, 25 January 2008 10:26:56 AM
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2. In reference to my earlier post:

But of course, none of these cases are particularly religious in the sense of requiring belief in an outside deity, more likely (in the sense that Spinoza would have used it) that these are examples of the inner godliness in all of us, in everything, not an externalised God overarching all, but a divine essence IN everything in the universe, including us, nothing outside. In that sense, we are all self-determining in how 'divine' we want to be, and there is no-one outside and above us to appeal to for guidance. It's up to us. As an atheist, I'm quite comfortable with the notion that we are all metaphorically divine, all to an extent in control of our own lives and how to live them, our one-and-only life, and how we use our one-and-only life for the benefit of others (and gain eternal life, in a sense) or just for ourselves (and go straight to Hell when we die, so to speak). Do we make a difference, and for the good of at least some others ? Or will we vanish from the Earth with nothing more than bad memories left behind ? It's up to us.

It's not just an open world, it's an unguided world too, no God who sorts everything out for us, who keeps it all safe and closed off for us. It's a world that demands that we all concern ourselves about each other's welfare, doing good, if you like, for its own sake but also for our mutual survival.

Joe
Posted by Loudmouth, Friday, 25 January 2008 10:28:53 AM
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