Postmodernity and christianity

vimothy

yurp
Well there are gods and there are gods, aren't there? I mean, a Christian, a Muslim and a Sikh all agree that something they call 'God' exists, but beyond that, opinions as to who or what He really is diverge wildly. Hell, you don't even have to go outside a single religion to find big disagreements about the nature of God and how He wants us to live - look at Catholics/Protestants, Sunnis/Shi'ites, Mahayana/Theraveda...whereas there's never going to be a violent schism between rival sects of atheists.

Yeah, it's not as simple as atheists vs. believers. In some sense, atheists have more in common with believers than believers do with each other. Believers are also non-believers. The Christian doesn't believe in all gods but one: her/his own. Likewise for the Jew, the Zoroastrian, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Druze, etc, etc.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Academic rigor?

If you want to compile an exhaustive list of things that don't exist, you're welcome to try, but you're gonna be here a looooooong time. ;)

Yeah, it's not as simple as atheists vs. believers. In some sense, atheists have more in common with believers than believers do with each other. Believers are also non-believers.

But I think the categorisation that groups believers, of any religion, into one set and atheists into another is much more important. In the same way that, while a Spurs fan and an Arsenal fan may consider themselves rivals (or even, in the case of some of the thicker ones perhaps, enemies), they nonetheless have much more in common with each other than either of them does with someone who couldn't give a shit about football.
 
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vimothy

yurp
If you want to compile an exhaustive list of things that don't exist, you're welcome to try, but you're gonna be here a looooooong time. ;)

Tenure?

But I think the categorisation that groups believers, of any religion, into one set and atheists into another is much more important. In the same way that, while a Spurs fan and an Arsenal fan may consider themselves rivals (or even, in the case of some of the thicker ones perhaps, enemies), they nonetheless have much more in common with each other than either of them does with someone who couldn't give a shit about football.

In some sense, yes. Relative to (the perception of, at least) an atheistic society, believers can consider that they share the bond of faith. However, fans of football teams can all agree that football exists, even if they disagree on who plays it best. A Christian doesn't agree that Amitabha exists or that Allah exists (even if they acknowledge common ancestry) -- there is no god, but God: religions are mutually exclusive, and if they aren't (New Age, e.g.), they aren't coherent. (And we know how 'brotherly' religions have been to one another through history).

Point is, it's not my non-belief in Shiva, Jesus or Zues that marks me out, but my positive belief in Aiwass (or whoever) that does. Saying "oh but atheism is a religion/belief system too" just obscures the fact that pretty much everyone is an atheist from the right perspective, even if religious (as per your earlier examples).
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
If you want to compile an exhaustive list of things that don't exist, you're welcome to try, but you're gonna be here a looooooong time. ;)
"In the Universe as a whole, the conserved constants (electric charge, angular momentum, mass-energy) add up to/cancel out to exactly 0. There isn't any net electric charge or angular momentum. The world's positive mass-energy is exactly cancelled out by its negative gravitational potential energy. (Provocatively, cryptically, elliptically, "nothing" exists)"
'Dangerous' David Pearce
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Pearce_(philosopher)
But I think the categorisation that groups believers, of any religion, into one set and atheists into another is much more important. In the same way that, while a Spurs fan and an Arsenal fan may consider themselves rivals (or even, in the case of some of the thicker ones perhaps, enemies), they nonetheless have much more in common with each other than either of them does with someone who couldn't give a shit about football.
Someone like Dawkins wants everyone to disavow the value of football.
I agree. It's a shame because some of his ideas are quite beautiful, mystical even, but he does come across as overly dogmatic these days.

I can see how he has issues with the ID posse, but for the most part science and 'religion' don't have to be mutually exclusive do they. In fact that kind of vociferous atheism could be seen as, if not a religion, then at least a category error. Some of what he would probably describe as 'non-scientific' ways of conceptualising and interacting with the world can be effective and rewarding, is it really so 'rational' to insist on ignoring that whole area of human experience?

The rules of football can not be 'proved or falsified' by science, it doesn't really make sense to speak of them in those terms, they are a creative construction, but they work to shape reality and experience and serve many functions for many people. And those same people are also free to play table-tennis, study chemistry and write bad poetry.
 

vimothy

yurp
Can agree with you to an extent, Noel, but I'm not sure that's all of it. For example, the world was created in seven days: fact. Humans did not evolve, they were created by God: fact. When you die, you go to heaven: fact. Homosexuality is wrong: fact. Etcetera...
 

Slothrop

Tight but Polite
On a vaguely related note, I've recently discovered that pretty much all of Jonathan Meades' TV work is up on youtube, and apart from the fact that it's nice to see someone who isn't afraid to use long words on TV (and refer to medieval holy wars as "faith based belligerence initiatives"), it's incredibly refreshing to see someone just taking atheism as a given and not bothering to pretend that he thinks other people's beliefs are an entirely reasonable stance for them to take that just happens to differ from what he believes.

Even if you don't agree with him entirely, it's nice to have a temporary exception to the rule that religious types say that people not believing (without evidence) in the right invisible superheroes in the right way will cause society to (literally) go to hell in a handcart, while atheists mostly stick to saying that while they respect your beliefs and can see that religion has been responsible for many great things, they don't feel that religious values should neccessarily guide society as a whole.

I think this is part of the reason that Dawkins initially got the respect he did.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I can see how he has issues with the ID posse, but for the most part science and 'religion' don't have to be mutually exclusive do they.

Hmm, well I'd say the scientific/rational/empircist worldview or mindset (take nothing for granted, make observations to gather data, analyse your data using the language of mathematics and logic...) is inherently incompatible with the religious mindset (accept scripture as revelation provided by God, privilege faith above scepticism and intuition above reason...). Though that's not to say some religious people haven't also been (good) scientists.

In fact that kind of vociferous atheism could be seen as, if not a religion, then at least a category error. Some of what he would probably describe as 'non-scientific' ways of conceptualising and interacting with the world can be effective and rewarding, is it really so 'rational' to insist on ignoring that whole area of human experience?

Well, I think 'non-scientifically' when I think about things other than science! When I think about music or literature I like, or the people I love, or stuff that makes me laugh...it's another category error, I think, to place science in oppostion to any kind of thought or mode of being that isn't based entirely on reason and logic. That does not, by any means, have to imply the existence of some nebulous deity wafting around the place.
 
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noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
vimothy said:
Can agree with you to an extent, Noel, but I'm not sure that's all of it. For example, the world was created in seven days: fact. Humans did not evolve, they were created by God: fact. When you die, you go to heaven: fact. Homosexuality is wrong: fact. Etcetera...
Of course that gets back to the 'ignosticism' position - we can't realistically discuss religion without defining what it is we are talking about. I did say 'some' ways of conceptualising and interacting with the world.

Perhaps those things you list could also be seen as where religion over-reaches itself? None of those statements are directly about the existence of or nature of deity, for instance.

Also it's interesting to me to note that of those beliefs 'Humans did not evolve, they were created by God' is, with a little imagination, the least difficult to reconcile with a scientific position.
 

vimothy

yurp
Also it's interesting to me to note that of those beliefs 'Humans did not evolve, they were created by God' is, with a little imagination, the least difficult to reconcile with a scientific position.

Reconciliation misses the point, though: it's not up for debate!
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Reconciliation misses the point, though: it's not up for debate!
So what. My point is that it's interesting to me from the point of view of seeing the lack imagination and creativity demonstrated by 'creationists' that they can't reconcile these two things specifically. You know, if God is omnipotent and exists outside of time then why should He not be involved in the process of evolution. It's not a problem unless you have a childlike conception of your God.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
A mate of mine at uni was a Christian creationist - and a student of palaeobiology. :D Of course, he wasn't a literal seven-day creationist; he believed God created the universe, and the natural laws that govern it, in such a way as to allow stars, planets, life and ultimately human beings to evolve, without requiring the intervention of His hand once the whole process was set in motion. Which is pretty much what I believe, only without the God part.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Hmm, well I'd say the scientific/rational/empircist worldview or mindset (take nothing for granted, make observations to gather data, analyse your data using the language of mathematics and logic...) is inherently incompatible with the religious mindset (accept scripture as revelation provided by God, privilege faith above scepticism and intuition above reason...). Though that's not to say some religious people haven't also been (good) scientists.
That's a rather specific and limited characterisation of a 'religious mindset' you've drawn there, although it might apply to a percentage of religious people. I think for many they are quite able to separate how they approach different aspects of their lives, same as everyone else in the modern world. So the two things can no more be said to be incompatible than to say that you can not appreciate music because you 'know' that it is merely vibrations in the air bouncing off your eardrum, interpreted by your brain and perceived by...;) But I think we are of course back to needing to define exactly what we mean by a 'religious mindset.'
vimothy said:
And religion > belief in a supernatural being
Hmm, I think that at their cores most religions are essentially concerned with ontology. The other stuff tends to come later and is more socially, geographically, historically and politically specific. I dunno, is that the definition of a religion? I don't think so...
 

vimothy

yurp
So what. My point is that it's interesting to me from the point of view of seeing the lack imagination and creativity demonstrated by 'creationists' that they can't reconcile these two things specifically. You know, if God is omnipotent and exists outside of time then why should He not be involved in the process of evolution. It's not a problem unless you have a childlike conception of your God.

Or if you don't believe in 'god'. But I was thinking of your comment that "the rules of football can not be 'proved or falsified' by science, it doesn't really make sense to speak of them in those terms". Obviously at times they are competing for the very same constituency*.

Hmm, I think that at their cores most religions are essentially concerned with ontology. The other stuff tends to come later and is more socially, geographically, historically and politically specific. I dunno, is that the definition of a religion? I don't think so...

I would describe the above as thoroughly secular and indeed borderline atheism.

*EDIT: Sorry, horrible mixed metaphor. "At times footballers want to book rugby players for handball". Or something. I'm sure you get what I mean ;-)
 
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noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Mr Tea said:
it's another category error, I think, to place science in oppostion to any kind of thought or mode of being that isn't based entirely on reason and logic.
I wouldn't say it's a category error - it's just erroneous. But I'm not doing that, when I said 'non-scientific' I suppose I should have said 'religious'. This is about Dawkins' rather broad approach to discounting the value of 'religious' thought.
Mr Tea said:
That does not, by any means, have to imply the existence of some nebulous deity wafting around the place.
Well of course not, who said it did? Also that is another very particular idea about deity - some are not at all nebulous or floaty.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Or if you don't believe in 'god'.
Yeah, it's just interesting that of all those contentious religious issues, God vs. Evolution has become the big match for some reason when really science doesn't make any assertions in this area that should bother most Christians as far as I can see.
"At times footballers want to book rugby players for handball".
I suppose the moral is that we should be able to use our feet AND our hands freely as the situation requires?
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
That's a rather specific and limited characterisation of a 'religious mindset' you've drawn there, although it might apply to a percentage of religious people.

Well it seems to include the major aspect of religious thought as I see them: accepting revelations as authenticated either by their extreme age or by the authenticity of the 'divine experience' of the person to whom they were 'revealed' (and let's not forget that one man's prophet is another man's delusional schizophrenic...), as opposed to empirically gathering information about the world and building theories about how it works by rationally analysing this information.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
I would describe the above as thoroughly secular and indeed borderline atheism.
I'm just describing religion as I understand it. I think it is the case that in some religions, and/or schools thereof, ideas about Deity and other tenets are intended to be regarded as essentially metaphorical. That isn't to say that they're not taken seriously or based on strong traditions of spiritual enquiry. And I think that these can address some aspects of existence and being more successfully and pragmatically than science can in it's present state.
 

vimothy

yurp
Yeah, it's just interesting that of all those contentious religious issues, God vs. Evolution has become the big match for some reason when really science doesn't make any assertions in this area that should bother most Christians as far as I can see.

My parents are born again xtians (Dad is prof of astrophysics) and believe in evolution.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Well it seems to include the major aspect of religious thought as I see them: accepting revelations as authenticated either by their extreme age or by the authenticity of the 'divine experience' of the person to whom they were 'revealed' (and let's not forget that one man's prophet is another man's delusional schizophrenic...), as opposed to empirically gathering information about the world and building theories about how it works by rationally analysing this information.
I refer you to my post above. I don't think this is really true of many, if any, religions at their core. The basis for most religions is philosophical, ontological and based on much enquiry into the nature of the world and being I would say. They do actually come out of people sitting down and thinking about things, and arguing about them, and trying them out. The fact that they've been at it a very long time probably does mean that some of that stuff is worth listening to as well. I suppose I have in mind the 'eastern' systems like Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism but even Christianity at heart can be said to be based on philosophical enquiry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influence_of_Hellenic_philosophy_on_Christianity
 
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