Archive for May 12th, 2009
For now, I shall leave alone the good knight’s contention that Hitler was a “Darwinist atheist” (certainly not a Darwinist and arguably not an atheist, given his obsession with Nordic mythology and the occult, not to mention those SS belt-buckles that said “God is with us”), as well as his claim that “Atheists struggle with morality, it just doesn’t sit well on their worldview, even though they sense God’s law on their hearts, like we do.” Both are baseless and false and not worth any decent person’s time. I shall answer his questions though, and with as little snark as I can muster, given that I know I’m answering someone who believes I may have “fascist tendencies” (bah – I’ve never once advocated a merger of state and corporate power) and struggle with morality even though I apparently really do believe in God, even though I say I don’t – but obviously I’m just rebelling against our heavenly father like I did against my real one when I was 15. Really, if Christians wish to have an open dialogue with atheists, these tiresome myths must be left at the door.
Anyway, on with The Interview (I have sent this post as an email to the good knight and eagerly await his reply:
1) Do you believe that the universe was brought into being out of nothing by a person (agent)? Is it possible that this agent could communicate to us, or that we could discover something about that agent? (i.e. – does God exist, is he knowable)
No. However, if an agent powerful enough to create the universe existed, you’d expect such an agent to be able to communicate with us in some way we could all understand, all at the same time. Also, if such an agent wanted anything about itself to be discovered, surely that agent would know the best way for us to do so. Revealing himself to a small number of people and letting them fight amongst themselves about who was right about what for two thousand years doesn’t make a lot of sense.
2) Explain to me in which religion you were raised by your parents, if any. How did your parents approach religion in the home? (strict, lax, etc.)
My parents didn’t raise us in any faith. I became a Christian at a young age after being exposed to it at primary school (age 5-12). Religion didn’t come up in conversation at all at home (let alone positively or negatively). We were, however, taught the importance of empathy, politeness, generosity, respect and decency (both directly and indirectly, by our parents’ examples). Both my parents are fine moral people, having proudly served their family and community their whole lives. My father was a public school science teacher (now retired but continuing to serve with Meals on Wheels). My mother was a long-time public servant and both parents were tireless social campaigners in our local area, defending our community hospital and local bushland reserves against corporate and government interference.
3) What events in your past affected your beliefs about God’s existence and knowability? (e.g. – I studied biology, comparative religions or anthropology, or I met a girl I liked)
In my never ending quest to understand more about why we are currently in a recession and why my house is worth less than a brace of Latte’s from Starbucks, I seek insight from teh intertubes. I found such insight at the Church of the Apocalyptic Kiwi – (who were also inspirational during the presidential race, fyi)
Reading through my back issues of the Economist, I came across this article from March. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association religious people seem curiously unwilling and unready to die.
According to the study, by Andrea Phelps and her colleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, religious people seem to use their faith simply to cope with the pain and degradation involved in treatment, and that they are more willing to experiment with more aggressive treatments, even though such treatment rarely makes much difference to the outcome or their life expectancy.
Dr Phelps and her team followed the last months of 345 cancer patients. The participants were not asked directly how religious they were but, rather, about how they used any religious belief they had to cope with difficult situations by, for example, “seeking God’s love and care”. The score from this questionnaire was compared with their requests for such things as the use of mechanical ventilation to keep them alive and resuscitation to bring them back from the dead.
According to the study, three times as many ‘religious’ people requested aggressive life extension measures (mechanical ventilation and resuscitation) versus the least religious.
I would expect that the religious would be happy to eventually ‘meet their maker’ – but I suppose this is yet another aspect of the cognitive dissonance we find among religion and it’s adherents.
P.Z. Myers concurs with Charles Pierce that Americans are turning into idiots. Myers’ post springs from this passage from a new book by Pierce, How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free:
The rise of Idiot America, though, is essentially a war on expertise. It’s not so much antimodernism or the distrust of the intellectual elites that Richard Hofstader teased out of the national DNA, although both of these things are part of it. The rise of Idiot America today reflects — for profit, mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power — the breakdown of the consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people we should trust the least are the people who know the best what they’re talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.