At the tail of this 10 minute video, Glenn Greenwald discusses violence and religion with Bill Maher. This is well worth watching. I admire both Bill Maher and Glenn Greenwald, but Greenwald has the more accurate view in this lively exchange.
Why would someone invent a god? There are lots of conceivable reasons. One might be lonely, scared or feeling lost, and belief in could provide comfort. Two books I’m reading have provided a different but consistent perspective on this question of why people invent gods. One of the books, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel [...]
I’m almost finished reading Matthew Hutson’s new book, 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane. I’m feeling fully engaged, in that Hutson addresses many of the issues that I’ve been grappling with at this website, and does it insightfully in a book that is easy to understand. There’s no jargon in Hutson’s book, and his main idea is the explosive one often addressed by Friedrich Nietzsche: our understanding of the world is dominated by false ideas that are sometimes useful. Hutson takes this idea to a new level, incorporating modern cognitive science and evolution, as well as many of his own observations: In Hutson’s words,
Most of the world is religious, and millions more are openly superstitious, spiritual, or credulous of the paranormal. But I argue that we all believe in magic—luck, mind over matter, destiny, jinxes, life after death, evil, and heavenly helpers—even when we say we don’t.
I draw on cognitive science, neuroscience, social and evolutionary psychology, and cultural observation to show that we engage in magical thinking all the time—and that it’s not all bad. Supernaturalism leads us to think that we actually have free will. It makes us believe that we have an underlying purpose in the world. It can even protect us from the paralyzing awareness of our own mortality. Irrationality makes our lives make sense.
I’m going to be repeatedly referring to 7 Laws of Magical Thinking in the coming months from a variety of angles. In the meantime, I recommend this video interview of Hutson.
At Alternet, Valerie Tarico argues that the Internet is shriveling memberships in religions. She gives six reasons:
1. Radically cool science videos and articles.
2. Curated collections of ridiculous beliefs.
3. The kinky, exploitative, oppressive, opportunistic and violent sides of religion.
4. Supportive communities for people coming out of religion.
5. Lifestyles of the fine and faithless.
6. Interspiritual okayness.
In 2011, Salon published a serene meaning-of-life article by Roger Ebert. Here is an excerpt:
Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow’s “Herzog,” I say, “Look for me in the weather reports.”
Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it.
To what extent do elements of Islamaphobia reside in new atheism? Fascinating and intense exchange between Glenn Greenwald and Sam Harris. I’m tempted to sum it up, but I’ll hold off, given that these two highly articulate writers have expressed themselves with precision.
Here’s the Al Jazeera article that ignited this debate.