The Violence of Atheism/Theism
Posted: 18 April 2006 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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Atheists often argue that faith in God is bad because it causes violence.  This is a vague claim since it does not define the faith in question.  Not all faiths are the same, and it is a logical fallacy (fallacy of composition) to group them together. 

But more importantly, arguing that faith in God causes violence fails as an arguement against theism because we can easily turn the argument back on atheism.  Athetistic theory applied in communist countries sponsored murder.  This is unassailable fact. 

The common denominator of man's inhumanity to man is neither theistic or atheistic.  Instead it is any ideology that allows us to dehumanize others, thus destroying our empathy for them.  Interestingly, when theists or atheists take power, we have gotten similar results. 

These facts should make us all a bit more humble, and it should definitely chill atheistic ranting on this site.  Many atheists express laudable goals that I support, but if you use this argument, you lose your credibility, like Sam Harris has done in his book.

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Posted: 18 April 2006 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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[quote author=“bluejway”]Atheists often argue that faith in God is bad because it causes violence.  This is a vague claim since it does not define the faith in question.  Not all faiths are the same, and it is a logical fallacy (fallacy of composition) to group them together.

While agreeing with your statement that it is something about human nature (if I may paraphrase - and correct me if I have this wrong) that causes violence, not necessarily faith, please do provide a definitive demonstration of your opening statement. It is possible that I talk to more atheists than you do (I don’t know) and I have yet to hear one make the claim that faith CAUSES violence.  I’m not saying that NO atheist has ever made this statement, but your qualifier, “often”, is misplaced.  On an atheist forum, let me suggest you start out with a question: Do most of you often argue that faith in god is bad because it causes violence?  Then you could collect evidence to bolter or refute your claim.

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Posted: 18 April 2006 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“veracitatus”] On an atheist forum, let me suggest you start out with a question: Do most of you often argue that faith in god is bad because it causes violence?  Then you could collect evidence to bolter or refute your claim.

Thanks for this advice.

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Posted: 18 April 2006 02:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Sam is not arguing that faith causes violence, per se, or that no avowedly atheistic government can be violent (you are correct that the former USSR was violent, and claimed to be atheistic).  What is claimed, however, is that belief is important, and it informs a person’s actions.

When a person believes that there are two afterlives that any given person can go to, one being bad and the other being good, and that the actions and beliefs of one’s life determines which afterlife one will go to, that is bound to have an effect on how that person lives.  If the basis of this belief has rational flaws, then it is likely that, at some point, their belief system will collide with reality.  When this collision occurs, a choice must be made, and that presents the person with a few options:

1. Believe in mutually contradictory things - This is actually how many people seem to deal with this issue much of the time.  I know many people who are conservative, religious right types, but who still “live in sin”, drink, etc.

2. Refuse to believe that reality does not conform to the cherished belief system - This is, in my opinion (perhaps someone more academically inclined can weigh in on this), very dangerous, as it leads a person down a delusional path.  I suspect that, given enough time, some people might be able to convince themselves that they see a tunnel in the middle of a brick wall.  No matter how well formed such a tunnel becomes, however, they will never be able to walk through it.

3. Acknowledge the discrepancy, and alter and/or abandon the belief system accordingly - This is what I obviously believe to be the most rational approach, and reflects what eventually happened in my own personal case.

So, back to faith and violence.  War and physical assault are the most obvious forms of violence, but I submit that any harm to a person’s body could be considered violent.  Thus, when the Christians (some of them, I’m not trying to lump them all together) attempt to deny young women a life saving vaccine because of their faith based morality, they are, in fact, engaging in a form of violence.  When people opt not to worry about global resource management because “the end of days is around the corner anyway”, they are engaging in a form of violence against the planet that is based on faith.  When an entire generation of potential biologists is lost due to a rigid stance on creation vs. evolution, the lost potential is a form of violence against the future.  I could go on, but I think that the point is clear.  What people believe is important.  It informs their actions.  Some of those beliefs are demonstrably wrong and demonstrably harmful.  Why should I tolerate them?

-Matt

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Posted: 18 April 2006 06:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Psiconoclast/Matt:

You wrote:

“What people believe is important. It informs their actions. Some of those beliefs are demonstrably wrong and demonstrably harmful. Why should I tolerate them?”

I totally agree with you.  Demonstrably false beliefs that also have clearly harmful logical consequences are bad and should not be tolerated.  This is a laudable goal of atheism. 

I would like to suggest that if the beliefs have harmful logical consequences that we should not tolerate them.  But even this becomes hard to define.  And I do not trust those in power, nor the media, to mediate the beliefs. 

Power will corrupt both the atheists and theists in power, so we also need to advocate tolerance.

Take care

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Posted: 18 April 2006 07:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“bluejway”]I totally agree with you.  Demonstrably false beliefs that also have clearly harmful logical consequences are bad and should not be tolerated.  This is a laudable goal of atheism. 

I would like to suggest that if the beliefs have harmful logical consequences that we should not tolerate them.  But even this becomes hard to define.  And I do not trust those in power, nor the media, to mediate the beliefs.

This “trust of those in power” issue is a red herring.  Take the issues (and the politicians etc.) one at a time.  Otherwise you have an intractable problem.

Power will corrupt both the atheists and theists in power, so we also need to advocate tolerance.

No, we need to advocate better safeguards against corruption.  Believe it or not, not all power structures are equally corrupt.  When there is transparency, amongst other things, the corruption is far less prevalent.

Take care

Certainly, and you as well.

-Matt

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Posted: 18 April 2006 07:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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You said:
This “trust of those in power” issue is a red herring.  Take the issues (and the politicians etc.) one at a time.  Otherwise you have an intractable problem.


It’s a red herring rearding what is true and false about atheism, but I don’t want the government making decisions about what is true and false about +god/-god ideas. 

That’s all I meant.

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