The question remains: how can we manage the common human needs religions purports to address, if we can do so, without positing some unseen god to do so? Maybe we’re stuck with “Dadda, please love me,” but I’d sure hope that we can eventually evolve propositions a little less simplistic and a little more resonant with the frontal lobes rather than just the hind brain.
To repeat, the “fallacy of atheism” is NOT the argument that an unseen god is mythical. The argument for some unseen god by all rational considerations is nonsense. Atheists, or at least many of us, seem to ignore a common human need for personal significance. Religions speak to that need, and we must it seems to me acknowledge that “significance” need and address it.
It is a fallacy IMO to consider that (1) religion is pathological, though some expressions of it sure are, and (2) that science and rationality can at this point adequately address what 80% of the human populations seek in terms of defining themselves in relation to the universe, and their own mortality. That is NOT an argument for theism or for any religion, it is an argument that suggest we need to address some of the common human needs that theism addresses.
but I’d sure hope that we can eventually evolve propositions a little less simplistic and a little more resonant with the frontal lobes rather than just the hind brain.
I am not sure what propositions you have in mind Dennis.
Unless you want to venture into the domain of consoling untruths or pretty nonsense you will always be stuck with the unpleasant (to some) knowledge that we are apes with fine Italian shoes.
I am starting to understand how pervasive the woo-woo is.
This was rammed home to me whilst reading a magazine selling $ 300 cream that will make you ‘appear’ younger.
Substitute any advertisement featuring a pretty young woman and a car or a hunky guy and some aftershave and my point is exactly the same.
Hope is a commodity. A multi-billion dollar one.
In my book it is not so different from religious faith.
Somewhere in the back of their minds these ladies who fork out 300 bucks for a little pot of fancy grease know it doesn’t work, but they buy it anyway.
Are we to give these ladies another false hope that makes them feel a bit better (does it really?) about losing their youth or shall we teach women that there is life beyond 40 and that there is some dignity in growing old gracefully?
Death, or the fear of it, is surely one of the most powerful drivers behind religion’s success.
Are we to invent another fairytale or shall we teach people to grieve and appreciate the time they have here so they don’t waste it on a career in marketing and American Idol re-runs but spend it instead loving their friends and writing books?
We embrace our significance to each other—to ourselves as a species.
As you have said twice now, but I’m not sure anyone has grasped it. Let me try and run with it a bit and you tell me if I’ve missed your pass.
Relationship is the stuff of life - for humans as for eukaryotes. No living unit can live in isolation. Without relationship there would be no life, at least none of the experiences life contains.
The opposite of relationship in human terms is dissociation, a compensation for a perception of the world (relationship) as painful. If the world is painful and untrustworthy, we will typically look for safety and security in dissociation, and religion fits that bill perfectly. An imaginary construct that is perfect, loving and omnipotent and will make us safe.
But it doesn’t make us safe, as all of history proves. The only real safety - or happiness - is in relationship, ie partnership with, trust in and commitment to the people around us.
This basic psychological fact is borne out by any number of studies, and would be a much better model than religion to live by, not least because it works (either with or without religion, thus proving the dispensability of religion).
We are social or “herd” animals, if not to the cow or horse degree, and having a sense of our “place” in the tribe can either be a source of considerable solace, or a source of continuing anxiety, if we’re somewhere on the edges peering in. There’s a few of us who’re quite happy wandering off all by ourselves, but the more common human disposition is to have some degree of contact with others.
Given the assumption that our need for “significance,” and that may not be the best term but it’s what occurs to me now, underlies theism. Fear of death is mitigated to some degree by a sense of being “a part of,” either some unseen god’s flock, or as a valued part of a social community. Attacking theism might be akin to attacking or criticizing the common human desire for significance (please, there’s got to be a better term), and if so those attacks are doomed to failure.
Sanders asked what propositions I have to replace religion, or at least I think that’s what he was asking, and I do not have any ready-made conceptual propositions. Seems to me that any such propositions must include and encourage what we call science and critical thinking, while at the same time addressing the common human emotional needs for a sense of their place in the world. That’s a daunting challenge. In that respect, I envy my remaining Sheltie, she does not appear all that troubled by such abstract issue, as long as she has her food, water, and pets on a regular basis.
If atheism has a fallacy, it is that too many atheists over-estimate the power and sufficiency of rational thinking, and under-estimate the fact that we’re basically irrational, feeling animals who sometimes think more than the reverse. That IS NOT a backdoor argument for religion, it is an argument that any world-view needs to accommodate both the rational and irrational makeup of human beings.
... to assume that it stands in opposition to a coherent set of concepts called “theism”. There is no coherent set of concepts the lack of belief in relation to which “atheism” orients itself.
... to assume that its purpose is to rid the world of woo-woo. Although many anti-theists approach woo-woo believers this way, it is a strawman argument to attack the concept as a “fallacy”.
... to assume that rationality and irrationality can be reconciled by rationalizing irrationality as a “psychological need”.
These are mistakes that some people make, and they are fallacies about lack of belief that some people level against “atheism”.
Woo-woo is not going to be supplanted by any philosophy that pretends to cater both to rational perception that we are apes with fine Italian shoes and to some irrational “need” for “significance”. Such a philosophy is just as much woo-woo as any philosophy it seeks to supplant. If people cannot “connect” with one another unless they both agree that woo-woo is a tolerable part of the conversation, then people who eschew woo-woo will have something else in lieu of woo-woo. They’ll have each other, as Sander points out. Even people who talk about incoherent projects to reconcile rationality with woo-woo will have the company of other people who talk the same incoherent nonsense. They’ll be practicing their own brand of woo-woo, and if it is really good stuff, they won’t be bothered by those who disagree with them in either a rational or aesthetic sense.
Given all that, that we’re rare and unique, having survived the incredible odds against that survival, how does that address the issue(s) of developing a worldview that makes more sense than to postulate some unseen god or other manipulating strings? Obviously there are multiples of worldview offerings out there, almost all some form of theism or other, and given the lack of any reasonable alternatives, they’re subscribed to by most people.
I’ve more questions than any pat answers, but I’ve no sense of urgency in creating answers, even for myself. Religion often does that, it says you must come to believe else you’ll be roasted after death; some even offer to provide the death somewhat ahead of time if you do not subscribe. I’m just trying to articulate some conditions that I’d expect to be met in any worldview as an alternative to theism, such as the incorporation of at least the rational and the irrational or emotional needs most people have.
Tell you what, as soon as I come up with a finished product, for a mere 10% of your life income, I’ll allow you to join up.
Scanned SC’s as usual pithy and sarcastic, not to mention condescending post above. He’s like a pinch of red pepper to a meal, a little bit adds to the flavor, but few munch on a whole bowl of red peppers.
Maybe what appears to be a basic human “need” to posit some overseeing god as a replacement for fallible parents, and as a means of avoiding the fear of having to face an indifferent universe alone with all of the sense of inadequacy we have in so doing, can be assuaged with replacement beliefs. That replacement is what happens sometimes with fanatics who endorse and subscribe themselves to some political ideologies; they’re replacing the comfort of theism with the comfort of that non-theistic ideology.
Dennis, you touch here on theory that may have some validity, but I tend to see things differently in my theoretical framework. First, humans, and of course other animals as well, come equipped with sophisticated chemical factories of sorts. Let’s call it the chemical happiness system. This system acts within each of us independently of course, but on another level of function, it operates in connection with friends, family members, police officers, teachers, and others.
Throughout our lives, we at times struggle to maintain feelings that equate to happiness, and we’re often—sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly—led by our chemical happiness systems toward what benefits us. Your analysis seems to me an attempt at micro-management which is unnecessary, as our systems of happiness are completely adequate to take care of most of our psychological needs. Problems enter the picture when we live in a society that values innately false and potentially damaging notions about the world. The U.S.A. is perhaps the most obvious major nation affected by this condition, as “we” tend to place great value on certain religions and many of their notions. Even quite a few atheists seem to me to be working to maintain much of what religions offer, due to the simple and obvious fact that we’ve all been brought up to see things through some religious filter or filters. All of us have, though of course some more than others. Such a condition can set up an unhealthy assortment of expectations. One of the most unhealthy expectations we inherit through our ancestors’ screwball cognitive ways is hope for more years than we have coming to us. I could come up with many others, but for the sake of this discussion, consider the significance of such an expectation and how it can play itself out in people’s lives.
I feel that religion can deeply wound a person’s—as well as an entire society’s—chemical happiness system, and that many individuals in many nations today are experiencing the result. I don’t feel that our chemical happiness systems are capable of providing us with constant pleasure and good cheer, because that’s not how they operate. They nudge us
along in many ways, some of them terribly negative, or apparently so while we’re experiencing their effects. What I am attempting to clarify is that superstitious systems of describing the world can throw our happiness systems for an enormous loop, and that it’s easy to lose sight of that fact, and try to come up with elaborate solutions to problems that don’t exist in the way they may seem to.
Copy that, just not sure at this point if and how to respond. The chemical happiness function does not function independently of (1) environmental stimuli, and (2) ones perception of that stimuli. A belief system however evolved, does impact perception and that impacts “happiness,” an elusive concept itself. Anyway, at this moment I’m not grasping some of what you’ve posted, which is of course my deficiency.
As an aside, your physiological viewpoint reminds me of my great grandmother, who had been a staunchly fundamental Christian all of her life. She’d even take offense at the mostly clothed maidens that in the 1950s were sometimes found cavorting on shower stall doors. Never did a word of profanity pass her lips. One day she had a stroke. From that moment on, she was cracking coherent dirty jokes that would make a longshoreman blush. That upset her fellow church members a great deal, while cracking the rest of us up.
The U.S. may be more influenced by religious precepts than some other Western countries, especially in the political arenas, but most of the world’s populations express some form of theism, and in a place like Iran, certainly a major country, it dominates everyday life much more than it does here. Theism in one form or another is arguably a common human trait, and that to me suggests common human needs partially addressed by those religions. I’d not suggest that somehow inducing strokes is an answer, but regardless of our anti-theistic attacks here, some form of theism is likely to remain a common expression across the world for most people, unless and until some alternative “worldview” evolves, if it ever does.
If theism is a symptom and not so much a “cause,” although it certainly is antecedent to lots of problematic behavior, then what are the natural emotional needs shared by most people that predate religious beliefs, and what if anything can be proposed that might better address those normal needs?
Conception is complicated. The average male produces 200 million - 600 million sperm per ejacula. One of these sperm may find and fertalize an egg in a woman’s fallopian tube, thus creating some cascading changes to the (now) zygote. Its shell thickens and over 24 hours it travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus where it may implant and start the chain reaction of pregnancy. During this stage, many different things may occur. The zygote may ‘miss’ and not be successfully implanted - resulting in no pregnancy. The zygote may become lodged in a fallopian tube, resulting in an ectopic pregnancy (which cannot be saved) resulting in a failed conception. The zygote may split - becoming twins. The split zygote may re-join after splitting to form a chimera. The zygote may fail to form normally resulting in a failed pregnancy. The zygote may simply be re-absorbed by the woman’s body (for reasons largely unknown) resulting in no pregnancy. IF all goes well, there is something like a 1 in 400 000 000 chance (on average) of any of us (as specific individuals) being present to discuss our individual distinctiveness.
If we consider that our parents are also the results of an (on average) 1 in 400 000 000 chance of even being here, let alone the other chaotic factors that may have had an influence on whether or not they met, got together, hooked up, managed to conceive on just the right day at just the right tome to result in “us”, we’re looking at an incredible series of happenstance to lead to us being present here today.
Run those statistics backwards through all our genetic ancestors as far as you care to and it becomes clear that each and every one of us is a distinct and special snowflake - just like everyone else on the planet. We’re the lucky ones (as Richard Dawkins put it in “The Ancestor’s Tale”. Each and every individual on the planet is a distinctive and special case of “beating the odds” so to speak, so in that regard, from a secular, scientific perspective alone, we’re all pretty darn special.
Just a little something, on that note,
that I picked up, (as slightly re-wrote)
from the book; “A Short Story of Nearly vEverything”:
“..If your parents hadn`t bonked…erm..bonded just when they did- possibly to the nanosecond- you wouldn´t be here.
And if their parents hadn´t ...bonded in a precisely timely manner, you wouldn´t be here either.
If their parents hadn´t done likewise, and their parents before them, and so on, obviously..and indifinitely you wouldn´t be here.
Go back 8 generations, to the time of Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, and already there are over 250 people on whose timely (to the nanosecond) couplings your existence depends.
Go back to the time of Shakespeare and you have no fewer than 16,384 ancestors exchanging genetic material in a way that would eventually and miraculously, result in you.
At twenty generations back it´s 1,048,576.
Another 5 generations it´s 33,554,432.
Another five it´s 1,073,741,824.
Go back to the time of the romans and it´s
aproximately 1 million trillion,
whose co-operative efforts your eventual existence depends.
Thats more than the number of people who ever lived.
The math doesn´t ad up; the reason?
A little, no a lot of “incest”.
With so many ancestors in your background
there will have been many occasions when a relative from your mothers side of the family procreated with some distant cousin from your fathers side.
If someonee tells that he is descended from Shakespeare or The Buddha you could answer at once : Me too!..”
McCreason has a point. Religion is objectionable in part because it seeks to convert and control others. If many of the people who are theists would leave the rest of us alone, I could care less what they believe. But Islamic and Christian fundamentalists have a mission to convert the rest of us, and some of them are quite willing to kill to do so. They seem to think, if think is the operative word, that somehow their beliefs are threatened because others do not share those beliefs.
We could not be having this discussion in some parts of the world without literally risking our lives. We have as well people in this country who’d quite willing apply all sorts of sanctions against us if they could get away with it. To, of course, “save” our souls. It is not their “god” who demands such compliance on pain of death or injury, it is people who do so.