Balls and Strikes
Posted: 14 March 2007 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Harris’ Argument

Harris begins the book declaring that Christians reject Islam for the same reasons atheists reject Christianity “The truth is, you (the Christian) know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the belief of Muslims…..Understand that the way you (the Christian) view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity.  And it is the way I view all religions.”

My Response

Before the argument is addressed there is an observation that needs to be pointed out.  It is true that Muslims and Christians disagree.  Harris neglects the fact that most religions agree on many principals.  I know this is not the thrust of his arguments.  However, it is important to mention that while all religions disagree on some aspects we agree with many aspects of life.  For the atheist, completely disagrees with all religions on almost all areas.  Yet you see, just for example, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and African indigenous religions all believe

There is only one God;

God is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient;

God is personal;

God created the world and is not dependent on it;

God is transcendent;

God is imminent;

God is a moral standard.

Where most religions declare a god as the creator of the world, atheism takes a much different creation story.  To the atheist the creation story goes something like this

“In the beginning were the particles and the particles became complex living stuff and the stuff imagined god.”

The above is the philosophy of atheism in the most simple format, here is a more complex view of atheism by Peter Van Inwagen in his essay “Quam Dilecta”

“There is no God.  There is, in fact, nothing besides the physical cosmos that science investigates.  Human beings, since they are a part of this cosmos, are physical things and therefore do not survive death.  Human beings are, in fact, animals among other animals and differ from other animal only in being more complex.  Like other animals, they are a product of uncaring and unconscious physical processes that did not have them, or anything else, in mind.  There is, therefore, nothing external to humanity that is capable of conferring meaning or purpose on human existence, in the end, the only evil is pain and the only good is pleaser.  The only purpose of morality and politics is the minimization of pain and the maximization of pleasure.  Human beings, however, have an unfortunate tendency to wish to deny these facts and to believe comforting myths according to which they have an eternal purpose.  This irrational component in the psyches of most human beings-it is the great good fortune of the species that there are a few strong-minded progressives who can see through the comforting myths-encourages and confidence game called religion.  Religions invent complicated and arbitrary moral codes and fantastic future rewards and punishments in order to consolidate their own power. Fortunately, they are gradually but steadily being exposed as frauds by the progress of science (which was invented by strong-minded progressives), and they will gradually disappear through the agency of scientific education and enlightened journalism.”

When a Muslim and a Christian disagree over their religion it is like two baseball coaches arguing over balls and strikes, however when an atheist and a Christian disagree over religion it is like two people arguing over the rules of baseball.  A Christians rejection of Islam is not even close to an atheists rejection of Christianity.

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Posted: 14 March 2007 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Perhaps Sam should have been less polite.

He could have said that Atheists reject Christianity for the same reason Christians reject Zeus or Odin.

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Posted: 14 March 2007 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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When a Muslim and a Christian disagree over their religion it is like two baseball coaches arguing over balls and strikes, however when an atheist and a Christian disagree over religion it is like two people arguing over the rules of baseball. A Christians rejection of Islam is not even close to an atheists rejection of Christianity

I think it’s more like the Christians talking baseball and the atheists talking football - or hockey.  There is no common frame of reference whatsoever.  Once you believe in the supernatural, reason is of no use.  An answer for anything can and has been contrived by the theist.  There are no “rules” to follow once “god did it” becomes a “reasonable” explanation.

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Posted: 14 March 2007 06:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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[quote author=“fletch_F_Fletch”] here is a more complex view of atheism by Peter Van Inwagen in his essay “Quam Dilecta”:

“There is no God.  There is, in fact, nothing besides the physical cosmos that science investigates.  Human beings, since they are a part of this cosmos, are physical things and therefore do not survive death.  Human beings are, in fact, animals among other animals and differ from other animal only in being more complex.  Like other animals, they are a product of uncaring and unconscious physical processes that did not have them, or anything else, in mind.  There is, therefore, nothing external to humanity that is capable of conferring meaning or purpose on human existence, in the end, the only evil is pain and the only good is pleaser.  The only purpose of morality and politics is the minimization of pain and the maximization of pleasure.  Human beings, however, have an unfortunate tendency to wish to deny these facts and to believe comforting myths according to which they have an eternal purpose.  This irrational component in the psyches of most human beings-it is the great good fortune of the species that there are a few strong-minded progressives who can see through the comforting myths-encourages and confidence game called religion.  Religions invent complicated and arbitrary moral codes and fantastic future rewards and punishments in order to consolidate their own power. Fortunately, they are gradually but steadily being exposed as frauds by the progress of science (which was invented by strong-minded progressives), and they will gradually disappear through the agency of scientific education and enlightened journalism.”

Leave it to van Inwagen to formulate a definition of atheism such that it captures the mindset of very few people. 

Take the second sentence: “There is, in fact, nothing besides the physical cosmos that science investigates.”  Probably many atheists think this, but not all.  I myself and agnostic about the existence of non-physical phenomena.  It certainly does not follow from atheism that physicalims is true.  Similar things could be said of life after death.  It is surely compatible with the rejection of God that people surivive in some sense after death (I must admit my own extreme skepticism of this possibility.  But again, the existence of life after death is completely compatible with atheism). 

Van Inwagen ought to have stopped after the first sentence.

By the way Fletch, van Inwagen is an example of a Christian philosopher who rejects the Divine Command Theory.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 14 March 2007 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Peter van DemocritusLOL  8)  rolleyes

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Posted: 14 March 2007 08:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“fletch_F_Fletch”]religions all believe:

There is only one God;

God is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient;

God is personal;

God created the world and is not dependent on it;

God is transcendent;

God is imminent;

God is a moral standard.

The first six items have nothing to do with the price of tea in China.  However, the last point, “God is a moral standard” deserves attention, since you do not claim God to be the moral standard.  You may want to clear this up since there are valid moral standards that have nothing to do with a divinity, such as Aristotle’s Nicomacean Ethics, and the standard for East Asian ethics for 2,000 years by Confucius and Mencius, which then begs the question, “Why should I follow your religion when there are other moral systems that don’t make threats if I don’t follow them?”  Did you forget that human history and society encompass more than the Bible?

[quote author=“fletch_F_Fletch”]When a Muslim and a Christian disagree over their religion it is like two baseball coaches arguing over balls and strikes, however when an atheist and a Christian disagree over religion it is like two people arguing over the rules of baseball.  A Christians rejection of Islam is not even close to an atheists rejection of Christianity.

But that doesn’t stop Christians and Muslims from killing each other over their disagreement.  How does the morality of religion apply here?

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Posted: 14 March 2007 08:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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God is a moral standard.

But for whom?  Certainly not for humans.

My dog has a moral standard, but it doesn’t do much for my cat.

Religions don’t believe anything. They just hate humanity.

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Posted: 15 March 2007 02:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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[quote author=“fletch_F_Fletch”]Before the argument is addressed there is an observation that needs to be pointed out.  It is true that Muslims and Christians disagree.  Harris neglects the fact that most religions agree on many principals.  I know this is not the thrust of his arguments.  However, it is important to mention that while all religions disagree on some aspects we agree with many aspects of life.  For the atheist, completely disagrees with all religions on almost all areas.  Yet you see, just for example, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and African indigenous religions all believe

Well… well… my oh my… whenever atheist claim that “there is no god” all religions unite to support the ideea of god. They enter the philosophical teritory and try to present God as a possibility that cannot be dismissed totally. As soon as the atheist lives the room the theist split and attack each other, poking their eyes about how their ideea of god is wrong and they are right.

The fact that christians and muslims agree on some aspects of god doesn’t mean they are principal. Why did you rulled out the fact that the muslim god will send christians in hell and the christian god will send muslim to hell. Isn’t that a principal attribute of god? After all for you this attribute will determine where you’ll spend your eternity. It seems pretty important to me.
I don’t want to go further about the fact that before Vatican 2.0 all ortodox christians would have been sent to hell by the catholic god.

Also many of the attributes claimed to be accepted by the major religions are contradicted by their holly books
1. How can an omniscient god forget about his people? (Jehova forgot about the jews in Egipt)
2. How can an unchangeble god send a set of laws to Moses and another to Jesus?
3. How can a god be omnipresent (present everywhere) and transcendent (not here)?
4. Why does god require us to worship it if it doesn’t depend on this world?
5. Since when is killing babies a moral standard?

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