Richard A. Shweder ??

Total Posts:  6
Joined  20-10-2006
27 November 2006 10:09

The NY Times editorial Page today11/27 ran a piece by one Richard A. Shweder intitled "Atheists Agonistes' please read it if you can or if someone knows how to reprint it here please do so ...  I was wrong ,and im converting to christianity tomorrow because according to him :
"Even some childern within the enclave are retreating from the Enlightenment in their quest for a spiritual revival;one discovers perfectly rational and devout Jews or Hindus in one's own family,or living down the block.If religion is a delusion,it is a delusion with a future,whichit may be hazardous for us to deny…."
I dont want to be left out of the delusional future
anyone know who this guy is?

Total Posts:  311
Joined  23-03-2006
27 November 2006 10:27

Atheists Agonistes
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Published: November 27, 2006

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Readers’ Opinions
Forum: Human Origins
ONE of the surest ways to bring a certain type of dinner party to a halt is to speak piously about “God.” Earnest reference to sinners, apostates or blasphemers, or to the promise of salvation offered in evangelical churches, is likely to produce the same effect. Among the cosmopolites who live in secular enclaves, religion is automatically associated with darkness, superstition, irrationality and an antique or pre-modern cast of mind. It has long been assumed that religion is opposed to science, reason and human progress; and the death of gods is simply taken for granted as a deeply ingrained Darwinian article of faith.

Why, then, are the enlightened so conspicuously up in arms these days, reiterating every possible argument against the existence of God? Why are they indulging in books — Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell,” Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation,” and Richard Dawkins’s “God Delusion” — in which authors lampoon religion or rail against the devout under the banner of a crusading atheism? Books dictated or co-written by God sell quite well among the 2.1 billion self-declared Christians and 1.3 billion self-declared Muslims of the world. What explains the current interest among secularists in absolutely, positively establishing that the author is a fraud?

The most obvious answer is that the armies of disbelief have been provoked. Articulate secularists may be merely reacting to the many recent incitements from religious zealots at home and abroad, as fanatics and infidels have their ways of keeping each other in business.

A deeper and far more unsettling answer, however, is that the popularity of the current counterattack on religion cloaks a renewed and intense anxiety within secular society that it is not the story of religion but rather the story of the Enlightenment that may be more illusory than real.

The Enlightenment story has its own version of Genesis, and the themes are well known: The world woke up from the slumber of the “dark ages,” finally got in touch with the truth and became good about 300 years ago in Northern and Western Europe.

As people opened their eyes, religion (equated with ignorance and superstition) gave way to science (equated with fact and reason). Parochialism and tribal allegiances gave way to ecumenism, cosmopolitanism and individualism. Top-down command systems gave way to the separation of church from state, of politics from science. The story provides a blueprint for how to remake and better the world in the image and interests of the West’s secular elites.

Unfortunately, as a theory of history, that story has had a predictive utility of approximately zero. At the turn of the millennium it was pretty hard not to notice that the 20th century was probably the worst one yet, and that the big causes of all the death and destruction had rather little to do with religion. Much to everyone’s surprise, that great dance on the Berlin Wall back in 1989 turned out not to be the apotheosis of the Enlightenment.

Science has not replaced religion; group loyalties have intensified, not eroded. The collapse of the cold war’s balance of power has not resulted in the end of collective faiths or a rush to democracy and individualism. In Iraq, the “West is best” default (and its discourse about universal human rights) has provided a foundation for chaos.

Even some children within the enclave are retreating from the Enlightenment in their quest for a spiritual revival; one discovers perfectly rational and devout Jews or Hindus in one’s own family, or living down the block. If religion is a delusion, it is a delusion with a future, which it may be hazardous for us to deny. A shared conception of the soul, the sacred and transcendental values may be a prerequisite for any viable society.

John Locke, who was almost everyone’s favorite political philosopher at the time of the founding of our nation, was a very tolerant man. In his 1689 “Letter Concerning Toleration,” he advocated a policy of live and let live for believers in many faiths, even heretics. But he drew the line at atheists. He wrote: “Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all.”

Instead of waging intellectual battles over the existence of god(s), those of us who live in secular society might profit by being slower to judge others and by trying very hard to understand how it is possible for John Locke and our many atheist friends to continue to gaze at each other in such a state of mutual misunderstanding.

Richard A. Shweder is a professor of comparative human development at the University of Chicago and a co-editor of “Engaging Cultural Differences.”

Not sure if the above link will work.  It will probably require a sign-in.  FYI - I get the NYT online version sent to me everyday.  It’s free.

Ted Shepherd
Ted Shepherd
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Joined  20-02-2006
27 November 2006 10:58

I saw that article and was a little disgusted by it. The author quotes Locke. I have this quotation expressing my own opinion:

Christianity has such a contemptible opinion of human nature that it does not believe a man can tell the truth unless frightened by a belief in God. No lower opinion of the human race has ever been expressed.
—Robert Green Ingersoll, discussing the practice of not allowing atheists to give testimony in court: “In most of the States of this Union I could not give testimony. Should a man be murdered before my eyes I could not tell a jury who did it.”—quoted from the book Ingersoll the Magnificent, edited by Joseph Lewis, which does not cite references

The idea that atheists are not trustworthy stems from the belief that people are inherently wicked and will behave properly only if they believe that the Cosmic Snoop monitors their every thought, word, and deed. People who behave morally only out of fear of punishment or hope of reward do not find guidance in morality but in simple hedonism or utilitarianism. In that sense, only unbelievers ever act out of purely moral considerations.

Refusing to trust atheists is not the policy of my government. President Eisenhower, with the advice and consent of the United States Senate, commissioned me an officer of the U. S. Navy, without asking me about my religion or lack of religion. I had been an atheist for some years by then.

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Joined  03-11-2006
28 November 2006 04:44

The author makes this about science vs. religion as opposed to what it is truly about: differing world views.  The book, The Intelligent Persons Guide To Atheism, does a great job of pointing out the differences of looking at the world between religious and non religious people.

And although this op-ed claims the evils of the 20th century were perpetrated by non religious means and motives, he fails to acknowledge that the mindset that spawned those acts is the same mind set that spawns religion.

Total Posts:  37
Joined  14-03-2006
29 November 2006 08:51

I have written a letter to the editor in reply to Shweder’s tripe. You can read it here:

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Joined  28-11-2006
30 November 2006 01:00

[quote author=“MichaelLewchuk”]
And although this op-ed claims the evils of the 20th century were perpetrated by non religious means and motives, he fails to acknowledge that the mindset that spawned those acts is the same mind set that spawns religion.

I know.  It amazes me how often we see this canard raised.

First and foremost, the reality about fascism and stalinist communism is that both systems performed horrific things in the service of an overarching ideology which was to be accepted as an article of faith.  Sam touches on this in “Letter” (and his touching on it has caused some irate criticism), to the effect that unquestioning faith in any ideological system is what is problematic, and what fascism and stalinist communism share completely with religious faith and motivations.  Both fascism and stalinist communism essentially set up state religions, where the prevailing ideology was to be accepted by all as explaining all, freethinking was not valued (to put it mildly) and dissent was crushed to preserve fidelity to the state and ideological orthodoxy.  In many ways, the state *became* the church under these systems, and very much a quasi-religious system was set up (albeit without god).  So to point to Hitler and Stalin as being examples of the evils of atheism is rather rich, when in fact what they both did was simply replicate the machinery of faith and religion, and put it to a different ideological use. 

Second, the main reason why the “isms” of the 20th Century were so horrifically bloody in comparison with other historical periods is that technology had advanced to facilitate this bloodiness.  It wasn’t for reasons of restraint or lack of wanting to kill that wars and internal repressions in earlier centuries were less bloody, it was simply because the 20th Century provided the technology to extreminate millions of people in a way that was not available in prior centuries.  So, again, the typical canard to the effect that the atheist “isms” of the 20th Century were worse than anything else in history is simply an ahistorical statement because it doesn’t adjust for technological levels.

Third, focusing the microscope on Hitler and Stalin is really an exercise of ignoring the forest in favor of the trees.  Both the broader sweep of history and the current news pages reflect, everywhere, everywhere, how religious conflict is at the heart of many violent confrontations.  We like to label these as “ethnic conflicts”, but in reality there isn’t an “ethnic” difference between Serbs and Croats, for example: they simply have different religions, and their religion has therefore become a proxy for ethnic identity by becoming the main vector for each determining its “in group”.  The dispute is not an ethnic one, it’s a religious one, and the fact that they were not fighting about religious dogma misses the point that they were fighting about religious identity.  The pattern repeats itself again and again all over the world, from Northern Ireland to Palestine to Iraq.  The current chaos in Iraq is not a “communitarian” problem, it’s a religious problem.  No, it’s not a fight about religious dogma or ritual, it’s a fight about religious identity, about “religious tribalism”, in a way, and in fact this is one of the most pernicious aspects of religion, namely that it creates and perpetuates an “us” and “them” dichotomy with a supernatural basis, creating a virtually perpetual and insoluble “in group” vs. “out group” problem .... this naturally leads to violence, despite the protestations of religious leaders that their religions are about peace and everyone should really be joining hands and singing Kumbaya.  In practice it doesn’t work that way because religion is extremely good at fostering the sense of belonging to a larger “in group” or tribe, and this inexorably leads to conflicts with the “out group”, and these conflicts are based in religious identity.

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Joined  14-03-2006
30 November 2006 02:11

Somehow, with the focus on the horrors of Hitler and Stalin, WWI has been forgotten.  It easily equalled their blood letting, as novaseeker points out, since the belligerents were blessed with modern weaponry.

They were also blessed by their penates. The dogmatism that bamboozled the cream of European youth to immolate itself was good old fashioned Christianity.