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New Documentary Chronicles Road Tripping Scientists Promoting Reason 674

Posted by Soulskill
from the which-one-is-the-sidekick dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dennis Overbye reports in the NY Times that two years ago Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss set off on a barnstorming tour to save the world from religion and promote science. Their adventure is now the subject of The Unbelievers, a new documentary. 'If you think a road trip with a pair of intellectuals wielding laptops is likely to lack drama, you haven't been keeping up with the culture wars,' writes Overbye. The scientists are mobbed at glamorous sites like the Sydney Opera House. Inside, they sometimes encounter clueless moderators; outside, demonstrators condemning them to hellfire. At one event, a group of male Muslim protesters are confronted by counterprotesters chanting, 'Where are your women?' 'Travelogue shots, perky editing and some popular rock music, as well as interview bits with such supportive celebrities as Woody Allen, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Silverman and Ricky Gervais, shrewdly enliven the brainy — but accessible — discourse,' writes Gary Goldstein in the LA Times, 'but mostly the movie is an enjoyably high-minded love fest between two deeply committed intellectuals and the scads of atheists, secularists, free-thinkers, skeptics and activists who make up their rock star-like fan base.' The movie ends at the Reason Rally in Washington, billed as the largest convention of atheists in history. Dawkins looks out at the crowd standing in a light rain and pronounces it 'the most incredible sight I can remember ever seeing' and declares that too many people have been cowed out of coming out as atheists, secularists or agnostics. 'We are far more numerous than anybody realizes.'"
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New Documentary Chronicles Road Tripping Scientists Promoting Reason

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:34PM (#45656457)

    Science doesn't need to disprove anything since there is no reason to believe in a god in the first place. Even if there is a god, it doesn't mean that any of the junk in the bible, koran, bhagavad gita, or harry potter is true.

  • Re:I'm an atheist. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by viperidaenz (2515578) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:35PM (#45656463)

    You may experience violence if you voice your views in some countries.

  • by Kwyj1b0 (2757125) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:39PM (#45656497)

    most Christians and Buddhists that I know understand the role of religion (and when to NOT use religion).

    Not so for the Muslims.

    And how many Muslims do you know? Most Muslims also know when NOT to use religion. There are more than a billion of them - if half a billion of them did not know when to use it, I think we might have a tad bigger problem that we currently do.

    Remember, the kooks you see on TV are like the kooks you see for other religions as well - they are the minority. Hell, the way faith is involved in politics in the US and informs policy decision (veiled as some other excuse) has done far more harm to the LGBT community than most other religions.

  • by GreatDrok (684119) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:43PM (#45656521) Journal

    "Science hasn't "disproven" the existence of *any* supernatural being, just as it hasn't "proven" the existence either."

    It isn't up to science to disprove the existence of god or whatever you want to call it. As Sagan so eloquently put it "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" and religion doesn't like to produce evidence.

    On other hand though, when you look at how many gods mankind has believed in over the millennia (approximately 3000) the odds that the one particular god currently favoured is the right one is pretty darn small so as far as disproving it, no you're right, the particular favourite god of the moment (and this will change as it always does) may not be disproven, but it in no way stands out any more than all these other gods ever did and as such the probability that this god is any more real than any of the others is very tiny indeed. I certainly wouldn't go betting my life on being right about which one to pick.

  • by hazem (472289) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:48PM (#45656561) Journal

    Science doesn't disprove anything.

    Isn't the only thing you actually can do in science? Disprove or fail to disprove, but there is no prove.

  • Re:I'm an atheist. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:48PM (#45656563)

    This is why I don't tell people I am an atheist. Most people who proclaim it make insulting comments about others beliefs, like "sky faery". I classify this not as atheism, but religion hating. I think there is a difference. I don't really talk about religion, or unicorns, or any number of things I don't believe in. It really never comes up in my day to day life with people.

    That being said, I don't believe I have a monopoly on the truth. I think I am right, but my views have changed time and again throughout my life. I don't know I am right, so how can I tell someone else with certainty they are wrong? I don't want people telling me I am wrong and arguing with me because they think they are right, why wouldn't I do the same for others. Mostly though, I don't care. Their lives are not mine to live.

  • by znanue (2782675) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:52PM (#45656595)

    Dawkins can be obnoxious.

    Rush Limbaugh is simultaneously obnoxious, obviously devoid of integrity in his stated purpose, and doesn't listen to the people he is meant to interview or debate. Oh, and he's a demagogue, intentionally playing against the passions and prejudices of his audience for personal gain.

    Rush is worse

  • Reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Empiric (675968) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @08:57PM (#45656635) Homepage

    First thing one should focus on to learn reason is logical fallacies, and the False Dichotomy, for example, "Reason versus religion", is right up toward the top.

    What Dawkins et al are selling isn't reason, it's Logical Positivism, which has rather thoroughly run aground as of about 30 years ago. Not all questions are resolvable by empiricism and scientific method. Epistemology is far wider than that. Is rock music good? Prove it.

    I'll get into the Reification Fallacy, that "not-X" is not something, it is nothing, regardless of what "X" is--including theism--another day.

  • Re:I'm an atheist. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kheldan (1460303) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:03PM (#45656673) Journal

    Should I expect violence? Condemnation? Whatever.

    If I understand the Quran correctly, if what it says was strictly enforced, you'd be "invited" to convert to Islam, and if you refused you could eventually be killed.

  • by pitchpipe (708843) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:16PM (#45656749)

    If they are SO REALLY CONCERN about religion ... Why don't they take their tour into the Middle East, maybe to countries such as Yemen or Saudi Arabia or Egypt ?

    Maybe because atheism doesn't require martyrs? How is this +1Insightful?

  • by weilawei (897823) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:23PM (#45656809) Homepage
    If someone presents me with a well-formed logical argument that proves B (within an axiomatic framework obviously), but I believe A, I change my belief. This is what a rational being does. I don't get emotional about it, I simply adjust my model of reality. If there is no well-fomed logical argument within an axiomatic framework, I either ignore or refute it with a well-formed logical argument based in an axiomatic framework. (Phew, someone should invent a shorter way to say that...)

    The sad part of this is that you're absolutely right. The vast majority of the people in the world lack the ability to think critically when it directly confronts a long-held viewpoint.
  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:47PM (#45656957)

    I disagree with the idea that religion is merely a collection of beliefs (I would suggest that your definition is a necessary but not sufficient component of religion), but I do agree that atheism is a religion. After all, how can one believe that a supernatural power does not exist except through faith? We have no proven means for detecting supernatural powers. At best, we can provide a lack of evidence of a supernatural power in order to support the idea that one does not exist, but if a supernatural power exists in such a way that is not measurable or quantifiable (and, by its very nature, it would make sense that a supernatural power could not be readily measured by our natural instruments), that lack of evidence means absolutely nothing.

    So, at the end of the day, while I would classify atheism as a religion, in that it is founded on a faith-based belief in the lack of a supernatural power, I would not classify agnosticism as such, since agnosticism merely acknowledges that we do not know, rather than making a claim to the contrary. Put differently, both theism and atheism make active claims, though in opposing directions, whereas agnosticism, in its simplest form, makes no claim, other than that it lacks sufficient knowledge. Some forms of agnosticism make the additional claim that we not only lack the knowledge, but that we are incapable of attaining it, which would mean making a faith-based claim, since we have no way of proving that we are incapable of attaining that knowledge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:49PM (#45656967)

    Arguments about proof or disproof, or the burden of proof, miss the point. To Christians, "proof" of God's existence is irrelevant. It's like asking a parent to prove that they love their child, or like asking J K Rowling to prove that Harry Potter is a good read. The proper response is a blank stare, with options on laughing out loud at the extent to which the questioner just doesn't get it.

    I have no interest in proving whether God does or doesn't exist. But why does it matter?

    If that sentiment still baffles you, try substituting "free will" for "God". It's still true, and for precisely the same reasons: the concept itself is so poorly defined that proof one way or another would require so many assumptions and caveats that anyone who didn't want to believe it, would immediately laugh it out of court.

  • by umafuckit (2980809) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:51PM (#45656975)

    The statistics from Britain, where something like 30% Muslims want the UK to become a SA-like theocracy, speak a little different. Or are you suggesting that the majority of Muslims in other countries is less extreme than those living in the relatively liberal UK?

    That sounds like crap to me. Is there a credible, robust, citation to that?

  • Re:Reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:14PM (#45657113)

    First thing one should focus on to learn reason is logical fallacies, and the False Dichotomy, for example, "Reason versus religion", is right up toward the top.

    I disagree. Anyone who actually reasons about their religion will shuck it in a heartbeat. There's not the slightest evidence to support one religion's claims vs. another's, so the only rational choice is to set your standard for evidence low and believe all of them, or set it high and reject all of them. And since they are mutually contradictory, reason requires you to throw one of those options out.

    Religion is a culturally transmitted phenomenon, almost like language. It's no accident that if you know when and where a randomly selected person lives or lived you can predict both their language and religion with fairly high accuracy. Reason indicates that religion all about tradition, not about some objective reality.

  • Re:I'm an atheist. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xous (1009057) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:22PM (#45657159) Homepage

    I am an atheist. It's not an organization, it's not a belief, and it certainly is not a fucking religion.

    If they start annoying me with it I'm gonna troll the shit out of them. I do this all the time and if they don't want to be screwed with they should keep their trap shut and leave me the fuck alone.

    I'd have no problem with it if they managed to keep their 'beliefs' to themselves but it seems they have to drag it into school, government, and every-fucking-where else they seem to think they have a right.
    My problem with them is large majority vote whatever way their pastor tells them and believe whatever crap they interpret out of their religious text. There is nothing more dangerous that stupid people in large numbers with a book that tells them whatever they do is right and the will of whatever deity they worship.

    Religion is a disease and sooner or later it will be destroyed or mankind by it.

  • by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:29PM (#45657215)

    I think this is a lot more simple. What complicates it are people's egos that demand they aggressively defend a position, and that's incredibly frustrating when it's a position derived from faith. No wonder they get so upset. The ego can't lose, yet it has nothing to defend itself with at all, and that's an animal backed into a corner. Reason solves that problem, but requires maturity at several levels to implement.

    Even positions derived from science and reason can be fanatically defended by scientists that don't want to listen to any arguments that may just force them to reevaluate their position. Scientists can have huge egos in that regard, and I think we see quite a bit of problems evidenced by all the articles about publishing and reproducibility problems. They are not perfect either, and subject to the same periods when they lack reason as well.

    Faith is actually a very simple thing to deal with once you remove ego from the equation. Easier said than done, I know.

    I personally believe such and such to be true, despite the complete lack of evidence supporting it. I know there is nothing to support the position, therefore I don't attempt to hold anyone else to the code of conduct that the position demands. It's my faith. Go get your own.

    I'm not atheist. I believe in many, many, concepts and abstract ideas derived from decades of ontological excursions into my inner self, and attempting to use that knowledge to explain the world.

    Quite often I don't feel included in Dawkins movement against reason having been replaced with religion. That's a shame, because they're is not all that much we disagree on at all. I do feel that reason must be used in our governance and construction of our "base" reality, and faith can be a personal thing not regulated or subject to governance.

    It's not required that I reject everything not solely based upon reason to participate in such a movement, yet I experience quite the opposite. Even around here.

    Those that make the fanatical demand to only adhere to reason are just as much a problem as the religious fanatics IMHO.

  • by JesseMcDonald (536341) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:45PM (#45657293) Homepage

    ... but I do agree that atheism is a religion. After all, how can one believe that a supernatural power does not exist except through faith?

    There's your problem, right at the beginning. You're assuming that atheism means a belief that no supernatural power exists, rather than merely the lack of belief in the existence of a supernatural power. Lack of belief does not require faith and is not a religion any more than not collecting stamps is a hobby (to coin a phrase).

    You refer to agnosticism "in its simplest form". The simplest form of atheism is the absence of belief, not belief in absence. To be completely general, there are actually four possible combinations: gnostic theist, agnostic theist, gnostic atheist, and agnostic atheist. An atheist can be gnostic or agnostic, and an agnostic can be theist or atheist. Using either word alone inevitably leads to confusion.

    The term "agnostic" refers almost exclusively to agnostic atheists, while "atheist" by itself is more flexible. In general practice "atheist" also refers to the agnostic atheist—just with different emphasis (lack of evidence for a supernatural being, vs. lack of knowledge). Of the two, the emphasis on lack of evidence is more scientific. We don't emphasize how little we know about invisible pink unicorns when faced with the complete lack of evidence in favor of their existence. We require evidence of existence, not evidence of absence.

  • by wazzzup (172351) <astromac AT fastmail DOT fm> on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:48PM (#45657313)

    I have no qualms against atheists nor people who believe in the supernatural. It doesn't bother me that either group of people exists. I do have an issue with those in these groups that ascribe to a system of hate and exclusion in order to identify the who's with them and who's against them. Ironically, the most extreme members of these particular types of folks so often fail to see they are what they hate. They operate in the same ways - they identify themselves as part of an enlightened, exclusive group that is superior to the other and engages in spreading that belief to others.

    I was recently at our local high school football game and an older couple was passing out Richard Dawkins DVDs to the crowd. How is that any different than a holy roller passing out Bible tracts at a football game? How is Richard Dawkins going off on a barnstorming tour to save the world from religion different than Billy Graham going on a world tour to save the souls of the lost?

    Science tells me that its understand of the laws of physics stops at a black hole's singularity? Does that mean I disbelieve the singularity exists because science has no way of describing the singularity? Superstring theory tells me that 10 dimensions of spacetime exist and bosonic string theory 26. Is it then possible that, if true, we can't (yet? ever?) comprehend events or life that takes place beyond our 3 dimensions of existence or that events from these dimensions can affect the reality of ours? Why is it when we speak of entangled quantum particles separated by billions of miles affecting each other instantaneously as a valid theory yet the very real experiences a significant amount of humanity have had and can only explain that it was God (does it matter that they call that experience Buddha, Jesus, Marduk, or Zeus?) as ignorant ramblings? That is, why exactly hasn't religion gone away after all this time?

    I guess all I'm saying is, ignoring the veracity of the content of Dawkin's beliefs, simply recognize Dawkin's actions for what it is: I'm better than those folks over there and if you're smart you'd join my side and liberate yourself from your current misguided life. Personally, I choose to keep a more open mind to possible explanations of reality than Dawkins and (insert religious fundamentalist figurehead here) choose to.

  • by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @11:23PM (#45657503)

    In a way, you're as fanatical, as is everyone. Everyone thinks that morality is something. I'm a relativist, so the only point I'm fanatical about is that morality is different for everyone, and we should keep that in mind when constructing social contracts and trying to be good to each other. Yet, I'm absolutely fanatical about this point, because I live by it, and think other's should, too. Whatever it is, you have an actionable belief that you think is the proper one, which you have clearly indicated by suggesting that Dawkins is just as fanatical as "religious fanatics".

    I don't think you need to be fanatical at all. The truth does not require cheerleaders. I believe that there is a level of maturity such that a reasoned person is making the decisions, and will choose based up on reason.

    That happens when you remove ego, and emotions, from the decision. I think the truly great leaders of our time acted exactly like that at least some of the time.

    So I agree with you about what you want to be fanatical about. That's kind of the ideal world anyways. One in which people employ such reasoned decisions the majority of the time. That would be awesome.

    Once again, you don't need to be fanatical at all. Embrace the fact that faith exists. Champion the good effects that come from it. Accept it for what it is. After that, just be passionate about explaining to people how they balance their faith in their decision making process.

    Even atheism is faith. Oh yes it is. You can't prove or disprove the existence of deities and the various frameworks created around them. It isn't falsifiable. An atheist is not inherently correct even when you only apply well reasoned logic to it. It's the choice to only make decisions upon that which is falsifiable . That is a matter of faith that nothing else is operating that can affect your conclusion.

    You might think that is a stretch. I'm only championing neutrality here. True neutral defaults to only that which we can work with in a tangible sense. When you employ that in your reasoning process, I think many things become self evident in nature.

    The problem is you don't agree, 100%, with Dawkins method, and you don't think he should be trying to convert people to his method.

    Not at all.

    I think converting people over to the "method" is fine. It's not really belonging in a group of people anyways. What you are teaching is logic itself. Just teach the concepts of logic in its various disciplines. Can you imagine having that as 2 hours a day required for all children while in school? Yeah, holy shit. You would have some very smart people out there.

    Applying logic can create a person that is beyond atheism. They just recognize what they know, and what they don't know. Everything else is logic. Even faith in a sense.

    What I disagree with, is that Dawkins thinks he has to convert me in the first place. He doesn't. We are on the same team so to speak already.

    I feel this way because quite often I get that reaction any time I discuss my faith (being asked) with so-called intellectuals that become a little bit condescending once you step outside of falsifiable territory. It's hypocritical to me.

  • by MachDelta (704883) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @11:35PM (#45657569)

    I think Dawkins would say the role of religion is not to exist. That he would say that theism works against our interests more than it helps, so he would say no Christians understand the proper role of religion.

    I'm not sure he would go that far. Remember that Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, and to him, there is always an explanation for why some feature or trait persists in a species. I think Dawkins would more likely qualify your statement with "now that we have science, we no longer need religion." I've read some of his books and there's a sense that you can justify the existence of religion as a socio-evolutionary trait of humans. Our early society demanded something, an idea both simple and powerful, to germinate around. Something that promoted beneficial traits, like a strong sense of community, and not to ask too many questions, all while "explaining" the natural world. This was religion's role. Something which would promote the survival of one tribe over another, so that the most devout tribe was likely one of the strongest. But, now that we have science, logic, and rational thought, we no longer need religion as the very core of our societies. The social nature of humans is both well established and self-sustaining (barring global catastrophe, of course), and I believe his opinion would be that we're long overdue to jettison the booster-rocket of religion, and rely solely on science and logic to be our main engines from here on out. Pardon the rocket metaphor.

    That's my take on him, anyways.

  • False equivalency. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @11:59PM (#45657701)

    (1) Simply because science has no definitive means to describe a particular phenomenon does not disprove the whole of science, or any particular theory or hypothesis, nor represent evidence for a deity or set of deities. Nor does it mean science will forever not have a way to.
    (2) The older couple passing out DVDs are not trying to tell you what legally consenting adult you can or can't fuck, or that you should remain indoors on a particular day, or that you should devote any amount of time to praying in a particular direction every day, or whether or not you can eat meat on a particular day, or that the members of the other gender are less than you, etc. What they might push is a stay in school mentality. The horror.
    (3) Of course there are bad apples among atheists as with any group, but no soldier has ever killed a man, woman or child in the name of atheism. Aside from greed, God is the only other cause of war.
    (4) For all the intellectualism you would no doubt like ascribed to your post, from the undeserved rating to the overt "I'm above even he" mentality, you are owed none of it. For one thing, the nonsensical "atheists are just as bad" view you've adopted / espouse is the common neckbeard position on forums and imageboards the world over. For another, whoever originally came up with the view was clearly not aware of Dawkins' actual views or work. He freely admits his errors. He freely points to where science has gotten things wrong.

    Have a lovely day.

  • Re:I'm an atheist. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by readin (838620) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @12:23AM (#45657821)
    There seems to be some biological revulsion to homosexuality since since the visceral animosity to it cuts across so many cultures. I think that, if anything, the Christian ideas of hating the sin while loving the sinner, not casting the first stone, recognizing that we're all sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God, and forgiveness can make treatment of homosexuals much better in societies based on Christian values than in other societies,

    The earlier statement about most arguments against homosexual rights and freedoms coming from religion has some truth (even if sometimes they're attempts to hide simple revulsion), but it also true that most of the arguments for homosexual rights and freedoms come from Christian ideals. For example, one of the most successful arguments has been homosexual rights are similar rights for black people, and civil rights for black people - indeed even the elimination of slavery - had deep religious roots and motivation.
  • by EdIII (1114411) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @12:45AM (#45657937)

    I don't think it is a stretch, I think its irrelevant. I think calling it a faith when the word is used to describe methods clearly exclusive to empiricism is a malapropism, but nonetheless, I do believe empiricism is the only correct way to seek "truth".


    I still think its relevant. If you exclusively limit yourself to empiricism, you negate an entire domain based upon non falsifiable statements. Logic precludes you from operating entirely upon empiricism without possessing some qualities and properties of faith.

    To think otherwise is just as dismissive as those adhering to dogmatic belief systems dismissing our shared belief in empiricism being the foundation to cooperating with another.

    Do you think people are condescending if they think you're wrong?

    No, I think they are condescending when they instantly refute my statements without actually refuting them at all. The moment any aspect of non empiricism comes into discussion they can effectively Godwin the discussion.

    That's frustrating. It makes any kind of lively discussions of an ontological nature difficult to have, and any kind of socio-political statements to be instantly without worth.

    Yes, perhaps those are the militant people. I've got to be honest though, they are about as prevalent as the Tits-or-GTFO crowd. The level of arrogance present with strict empiricism is above average at least.

    I'm not directing that at you specifically either.

    It's about the empirical method I used to start and maintain a belief and my continual willingness to examine and synthesize new beliefs with the method. I also believe that I, and everyone else, would be better off if most people agreed with me.

    I do agree with you. I just also believe that it doesn't preclude faith. You really can have your cake and eat it too.

    Dawkins is of course going to be a net positive. That's a given. I just think that the movement would be far more efficient if it put more effort into the formal sciences around logic. They would reach more people, and find that they have allies they've been dismissing unfairly.

  • by wazzzup (172351) <astromac AT fastmail DOT fm> on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @12:48AM (#45657941)

    Was there a way to measure the mass of a black hole or the level of gamma radiation released from it in 1589? Did black holes exist in 1589?

  • Re:I'm an atheist. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @12:58AM (#45657975) Journal

    Well, one question:

    how much longer do you think that will be true? []

    Certainly, Atheism has no formal organization, but neither do many religions (see also "Wicca" as an example), so that cannot be a usable guideline. But there is even more damning evidence here: Atheism does have "saints" and "preachers" (e.g. Mr. Dawkins), it does have a dogma (centered around a fairly particular definition of "reason" as its central coda, I believe, yes?), and it certainly have its zealots (oftentimes more irritating than Mormon/JV missionaries, truth be told.) Also, they seem to have the same smug self-assurance that many religious folks carry.

    Finally, your very post says (without specifically saying) point-blank that Atheism has very little tolerance for anything that may intrude into the full exercise of its tenets.

    I daresay that there are times when Atheism is just as much of a religion as, well, a mainstream religious organization; with some people, it is even moreso.

    Now, here's the deal from my POV: I happen to be Catholic, by birth and creed. I don't advertise it beyond disclosure here in this post, or when specifically asked - and I certainly don't go door-to-door or jam it down anyone's throat. I say as much because I'm here to tell you right now that you and I are only really different in philosophies, and in what we believe about those things which are beyond our 5-dimensioned realm (six if you count mathematics ;) ).

    I guess I should also inform you that it gets "dragged" into {$arena} because at one time, it resided there. Take the schools for instance. Given the rise in violence, the fall of scholastic performance, and the outright degradation of character in our youth since religion left said schools says way too much about what its replacement has wrought, IMHO. Can't blame someone for thinking that maybe its return might fix a few broken things. If you have a better idea or two about how to fix these mounting woes, then let's hear them...

    Finally, your statement that the Bible is "a book that tells them whatever they do is right and the will of whatever deity they worship." tells me that you have never actually read it, and are thus speaking in ignorance. The book is nothing of the sort, in spite of too-often being used as such by people with ill intent.

  • by chihowa (366380) * on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @12:58AM (#45657979)

    If I can try to sum up your position, you chose your religion because some things are currently unexplainable and you need to have an explanation, any explanation, for those things. Instead of admitting that we don't, and may never, know how the universe began, you've adopted a belief system that makes assertions about things that can't be proven (similarly, speculation about what preceded the birth of our universe isn't [absent any evidence or falsifiable claims] real empirical science). You don't seem to have any problems with any of the things that science does explain well, so is it safe to assume that your god is one of the gaps?

    You've given no particular reason to have chosen Christianity, so it makes sense to assume that if you were born to Muslim parents, you would presumably be Muslim, and likewise for any other religion. Most people inherit the religion of their parents or communities, which doesn't paint a picture of religions representing universal truth. It's a learned behavior (addressing each unknown with "God did it."), just like eating, driving, and hygiene habits. If you hadn't been taught Christianity by your [parents, community, etc], would you have come up with it on your own? Then how can it be the truth?

  • Re:Reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @01:53AM (#45658213) Journal

    Not all questions are resolvable by empiricism and scientific method

    That's true. But there are zero questions resolvable by faith. Not if you care about accuracy. There are lots of things that are going to be unknowable. That's OK, we don't need to make up answers.

    Epistemology is far wider than that. Is rock music good? Prove it.

    That's an opinion. The theist makes a factual claim.

  • by Copid (137416) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @02:01AM (#45658239)

    I have no interest in proving whether God does or doesn't exist. But why does it matter?

    If God is telling me what to do and what not to do, the question of whether or not God exists seems pretty important.

  • Re:I'm an atheist. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joelleo (900926) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @05:32AM (#45658845)

    Certainly, Atheism has no formal organization, but neither do many religions (see also "Wicca" as an example), so that cannot be a usable guideline. But there is even more damning evidence here: Atheism does have "saints" and "preachers" (e.g. Mr. Dawkins), it does have a dogma (centered around a fairly particular definition of "reason" as its central coda, I believe, yes?), and it certainly have its zealots (oftentimes more irritating than Mormon/JV missionaries, truth be told.) Also, they seem to have the same smug self-assurance that many religious folks carry.

    Finally, your very post says (without specifically saying) point-blank that Atheism has very little tolerance for anything that may intrude into the full exercise of its tenets.

    I daresay that there are times when Atheism is just as much of a religion as, well, a mainstream religious organization; with some people, it is even moreso.

    One very important point you're missing here is that Atheism/Agnosticism and other rationality-based belief systems generally base their 'dogma' on a scientific system - their 'dogma' is a variable, not a constant.

  • by dave420 (699308) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @05:54AM (#45658885)
    The cultural revolution which replaced all previous gods with new gods - Mao & the state? If you think they were atheist you really should read more.
  • by TuringTest (533084) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:10AM (#45658921) Journal

    I change my belief. This is what a rational being does

    In that case, that "rational being" thing must be a mythical creature. Most of the time, human beings create rational explanations that match their pre-existing beliefs and subsconscious decisions they've taken, based on the emotions they evoke; not the other way around.

    The shorter way to say that is rationalization [], and it has a biological basis that has been studied through magnetic resonance imaging. There are some beliefs that can be discredited by careful assessment of axiomatic frameworks, looking for inconsistencies in them, but certainly the scientific method does not apply to non-falsifiable ideas like core religious beliefs; if you apply logic to them, you only get more and more complex and convoluted scholastic theories.

  • Re:I'm an atheist. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by devent (1627873) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:07AM (#45659239) Homepage

    That's BS. I can agree that there is a revulsion against anything different, i.e. something that goes against the moral norm. In ancient Rome and ancient Greece homosexuality was openly and accepted until the Christian fundamentalist took over. You see the "revulsion to homosexuality" because Christianity took whole Europe over for over 2000 years with their dogma that homosexuality is "sin". But before that nobody cared about homosexuality and was even openly practices.

    > For example, one of the most successful arguments has been homosexual rights are similar rights for black people, and civil rights for black people - indeed even the elimination of slavery - had deep religious roots and motivation.

    Eh, no. Religion was always used to enforce and justify slavery and to suppress woman and black rights. []

    Historical records show that Islam and Christianity played an important role in enslavement in Africa. The Arab-controlled Trans-Saharan slave trade helped to institutionalise slave trading on the continent. And during the age of expedition, European Christians witnessed caravans loaded with Africans en-route to the Middle East.

    For many of these early European explorers, the Bible was not only regarded as infallible, it was also their primary reference tool and those looking for answers to explain differences in ethnicity, culture, and slavery, found them in Genesis 9: 24-27, which appeared to suggest that it was all a result of sin.

    In the Genesis passage, Africans were said to be the descendants of Ham, the son of Noah, who was cursed by his father after looking at his naked form. Moreover, in Genesis 10, the Table of Nations describes the origins of the different races and reveals that one of the descendants of Ham is Cush - Cush and the Cushites were people associated with the Nile region of North Africa.

    In time, the connection Europeans made between sin, slavery, skin colour and beliefs would condemn Africans. In the Bible, physical or spiritual slavery is often a consequence of sinful actions, while darkness is associated with evil. Moreover, the Africans were subsequently considered heathens bereft of Christianity

  • Re:Reason (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@gd a r g a> on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:36AM (#45659339) Homepage
    It's not evidence if it's so easy to find debunking information about it: failed biblical prophecies []
  • Re:Reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Copid (137416) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @02:43PM (#45662403)
    Seriously? Maybe I didn't make the analogy clear. The reasoning is circular. You're assuming that it went like this:

    1) Prediction of what people will experience when they nearly die.
    2) People nearly die and experience it. Prediction validated!

    The problem is that people have been dying and nearly dying for, like, a really long time. That means that "what happens when you nearly die" is not so much a prediction of the future as an observation of the past and present. So it's more likely that it went like this:

    1) Person nearly dies and experiences trippy things.
    2) Person describes trippy things and creates mythology around them or incorporates them into popular mythology.
    3) Later people nearly die and experience similar trippy things. Therefore, mythology in (2) is validated!

    In that sense, it's no different from:

    1) We observe that the sun crosses the sky daily.
    2) We tell a story about Helios and his chariot crossing the sky daily.
    3) Everybody observes the phenomenon of the sun crossing the sky daily. Everybody! All subjects in the study saw it! Prediction validated! Helios is real!

    Not so much. I don't discount that people experience very similar things during near death experiences any more than I discount their observations of the sun crossing the sky. I just dispute the conclusions that can be drawn from it.
  • Re:Reason (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Copid (137416) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @03:07PM (#45662657)

    Your argument would be plausible if what one experiences after death were the -sole- line of evidence for theism.

    My argument would be plausible? Dude, I'm saying that you can't use observation X as evidence to support your explanation of observation X. If I a scientist said, "The reagents react together to produce a jelly. I hypothesize that angels are creating the jelly. The jelly is produced, therefore the angels hypothesis is supported," We'd all say he was nuts. And I wasn't arguing that it was the *sole* argument for theism. I was addressing just that one because it's a particularly bad argument.

    Fulfilled prophetic claims are another.

    How does one keep score on fulfilled prophetic claims? Like, how does, say, the Bible stack up against Nostradamus or the Koran?

    Willing martyrdom of contemporaries is another.

    The fact that people believe in something hard enough to die for it also isn't really very strong evidence that it's true. Are we saying that Islam is getting more plausible by the day?

    I will say this--if a religion says that you experience X when you die and X looks nothing like the near death experiences people report, that's good evidence that the religion in question is not true. But failing to reject a hypothesis when the hypothesis was written to explain the observation is not exactly a big win. As they say, you can kill sheep with witchcraft if you also feed them arsenic.

  • by chihowa (366380) * on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @03:56PM (#45663137)

    ...but there is a reason that I don't find the atheist position workable.

    I think that this may be once place that our communication is breaking down. A scientific position is not the same thing as an atheist position. Since God is metaphysical and unmeasurable, science has no applicability with regard to its existence. Science is a method for testing measurable aspects of the world around us. It shares no ground with spirituality at all.

    Dawson et al's statements are not coming from a place of science, but from a place of logic and reason. They are saying that believing something of which you have no proof is irrational. Logic and reason are the foundation of science, but they are not the same thing. Their position is best described as agnostic, anyway, which is how I would describe myself. I don't maintain that there is no God, I'm simply not in a place to know if there is.

    That's not quite the Christian position; the position is that you stand condemned because of the very substantial bad that you (and all others) do and have done. If the standard on a test is to get a 100% or fail, its no good to point at all of the questions you got right while ignoring the many you got wrong. And if in fact there is a Christian God who is responsible for your very existence, it stands to reason that your ignoring and refusal to acknowledge or honor that God would be a very serious thing indeed.

    This is just more of the capriciousness that I was talking about before. I'm judged for the actions of another and good deeds and intentions aren't enough to redeem me? But if I honor (appease) the angry God, I will not be punished? That's not justice. If our courts worked that way, we would decry them as irredeemably corrupt.

    Why does God (an omnipotent, omniscient being) need to be acknowledged and honored by its creation in order to not torture it? This is the very description of a petulant child, not a wise God. In this view, The Gnostics's description of Yahweh as the demiurge was very apt. No perfect being acts like that.

  • Re:Reason (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2@gd a r g a> on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @04:20PM (#45663385) Homepage
    Haaaa, that's a good question. There are actually entire religions which are based on drugs. Siberian shamans who use Amanita Muscaria to induce hallucinations (but don't eat them directly because they are toxic, instead they feed them to cattle and drink their urine to filter out the toxics while keeping the hallucinogenics). To the greek religion which seems to have used drugs during the Eleusinian Mysteries []. To many others (berserkers, ashishins, etc). So what makes you think that it is not the other way around: some guy eats up the wrong mushroom, has a bad trip, convinces others that he's seen heaven or other religious aspect, and organized religion runs with it, even long after the original bad trip has been forgotten ? Like they say:

    "Christianity, as many religions, was just dreamed up by a couple people with really good imaginations, a lot of time on their hands, and even some 'herbal' help. I mean, who would dream up half of that crap without being totally baked ?" -- Jillian A. Spencer.

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