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Nine Countries are on the Path to Atheism


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#21 william.scherk

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 10:22 AM

Scott, please forgive me for my earlier mangling of your authorship of the original article.

Are you going to respond to the criticism up above (by Robert, Angela and me) -- that you made a category error in mixing up 'unaffiliated' with 'atheist'?

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#22 Xray

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 11:17 AM

40% of U.S. citizens are strict young earth creationists.

My first thought was 'Nope. This cannot possibly be true.' So I headed to Gallup and had a look. Yikes:

Posted Image

Hard to believe, is it. What could be reason for the percentage of young earth creationists being that high?

But since I cannot claim to know there is no god, from a purely epistemological standpoint, I have to call myself an agnostic.

I wonder if you might get some value out of the irreligious PZ Myers' disquisitions about 'dictionary atheists,' and if you would have some epistemological fun with 'faitheist' and 'accomodationist' and other festive schisms in the non-believer community of thought . . .

Thanks for directing me to this interesting blog, William. I just left a comment there.
Quite an attack dog, PZ Myers, isn't he? :)

I hope atheists won't fall into the same pit as the theists did, fiercely fighting another about what constitutes "true atheism" ...

Still, 'dictionary atheism' (in its stripped-down, benign connotation) remnains a line of defence against boring and stupid discussions wherein the other party wants to rant about what I believe.

"Dictionary Atheism", is indeed a pretty smart position to choose in a debate since it makes it impossible to push the atheist into an epistemological corner.
For suppose the atheist made the mistake of claiming to KNOW there is no god, it is possible to challenge him by countering "No, you cannot know this."
Whereas the dictionary atheist remains epistemologically unassailable.

So, Angela, if anyone tries to hound you with the Peikoffian dicta that Agnostics Are Cowards, you can proudly counter that you are a [dictionary] atheist too . . .

I'll counter with that, no question. ;)

Edited by Xray, 15 May 2011 - 11:30 AM.


#23 Rich Engle

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 11:46 AM

God, as conceived by all modern religions, is a contradictory concept. Therefore, it cannot exist.


I can tell you that's a screwup right there.

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#24 Robert Campbell

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 11:59 AM

God, as conceived by all modern religions, is a contradictory concept. Therefore, it cannot exist.

The standard cannot be be "agnosticism" towards any arbitrary concept.


Scott,

Do you consider the God-concept to be contradictory, arbitrary, or both?

Robert Campbell

#25 Brant Gaede

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 12:39 PM

God, as conceived by all modern religions, is a contradictory concept. Therefore, it cannot exist.


I can tell you that's a screwup right there.

The idea of "God" is psychological-political genius. It is powerful epistemology feeding on a metaphysical fantasy. The "God" out there is actually the "God" inside but moral equivalency comes from that idea mitigating the need for complex and always controversial philosophies. That is why Rand went too far with man-as-God or man as a god or godlike man or even man as a heroic being. Politically that can only devolve into fascism or other forms of secular tyranny. This doesn't mean religious sects don't fight it out. Simply, man is man with a plethora of various attributes and various sometimes fluctuating emphasis on those and one must start there to find true individualism. The only way for secular commonality is the championship of individual rights and leave religion in the church along with cultural philosophy which Objectivism consists mostly of as represented by Miss Rand.

--Brant

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#26 william.scherk

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 01:40 PM

Angela, I am happy to lead you to read PZ Myers' Pharyngula! It is one of my favourite places on the internet, and the commentariat there runs the gamut from kookiepants ranters to careful reasoners. I am glad you caught the epistemological power of the simple 'lack of faith' answer to unreasonable challenges . . .

The problem Myers has with so-called dictionary atheists is that this rough grouping of opinion seems (to him) to have no agenda or rather disdains any agenda such as the ones he operates under; his dictionary atheists sometimes want to trump all other non-believers and pretend that ALL non-believers should simply say they 'have no faith in god[s]' -- and leave it at that -- as if there were no other useful arguments or actions to bring against religionauts.

I understand his being irked at the generality some of his targets use, which is something like this: "ALL atheism is simply a lack of faith in god[s] and to do anything with a lack of faith besides shut up is WRONG and Not Helpful."

-- you may or may not be familiar with a few notable science-promoting opinion-makers like (acknowledged atheists) Chris Mooney or (agnostic) Michael Ruse who quite fiercely attack fellow non-believers for Not Being Nice.

The targets of Mooney and Ruse and similar are Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris, who are characterized as The New Atheists. For Mooney/Ruse-ish folks, the basic problem is tactics -- they believe or seem to believe that attacking odious religion is Not Nice and will tend to drive away middle-of-the-roaders who would otherwise accept the need for a separation between science and state, or who would otherwise support teaching evolution in the schools, or who would join with atheist/agnostics in working against some of the pernicious effects of religious nutcases, laws, prejudices, etcetera.

I think it is fair to say that non-believers come from every background and demographic. I find it a little bit depressing that Mooney, Ruse et al use unfair arguments, hyperbole, derision and other unreasonable rhetorical strategies to essentially curse the more activist atheists like PZ. One of the most interesting critics of the Mooney/Ruse cohort is the wonderful Ophelia Benson (who writes at the talkshop Butterfies and Wheels and its challenging blog Notes and Comment**).

There is a good take on 'dictionary atheists' at the Urban Dictionary.

You might also get a sense of a certain disdain some Objectivists have for 'militant atheists' or 'rabid atheists' in an exchange between Barbara Branden and Roger Bissell.

I often sigh inwardly that the central, supreme, most important value of Ayn Rand (which I share), Reason, is in all its difficult operation and multiple methodologies simply a badge a few Objectivish folk stick on their breast, rather than an active, constant, challenging and central driving force in their mental lives. Coupled with ignorance and emotion, the Badge of Reason all too often tells you zero nada squat diddly bupkes jack about the actual intellectual integrity of its wearer.†

_________________________________

** the mission of B&W:

Butterflies and Wheels was established in 2002 and has (not surprisingly) evolved since then. At the beginning it focused mainly on various kinds of pseudoscience and epistemic relativism, aka postmodernism. The latter prompted an increasing focus on moral or cultural relativism and a defense of universalism and human rights. This in turn led to concern with the chief opponent of universalism and human rights, which is religion. This then led to interest in the backlash against overt atheism.

Why Butterflies and Wheels?

Because Mary Midgley borrowed Alexander Pope’s witticism about breaking a butterfly upon a wheel, only she did it wrong.

† one of the stupidest and most unreasonable Objectivish blowhards is Lindsay Perigo, who combines an immunity to criticism with a tetchy, hateful reaction to anyone who dares criticize him. One of the stupidest of his many stupid and unreasonable rants against me was the idea that I was a 'pomowanker.' He just did not have a clue what postmodernism actually comprises and how opposed to its baleful consequences I was and am.

Edited by william.scherk, 15 May 2011 - 01:41 PM.

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#27 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 03:03 PM

40% of U.S. citizens are strict young earth creationists.

My first thought was 'Nope. This cannot possibly be true.' So I headed to Gallup and had a look. Yikes:

Posted Image


The statement "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so" doesn't assign an age to planet earth. Are you assuming that people giving this answer are "strict young earth creationists"?

I don't know if I've ever personally met a young earth creationist. I don't recall anyone with whom I've discussed evolution proposing young earth creationism.

However, I've talked with many people who believe that there was divine intervention in the hominid lineage bestowing "the gift of reason and free will" on modern humans a short time ago by evolutionary standards -- more usually about 40,000 years ago, but among the choices option #3 is closest to that time frame. Wallace himself thought that God intervened at some point to produce the present human brain. I estimate that about a third to half of the physicists I know retain a belief in God as doing the trick of bestowing reason and free will on humans via some mysterious special intervention. I don't know nearly as many chemists and biologists, but I've occasionally gotten into a conversation with a chemist or biologist who likewise expressed a belief in some special interventionary divine act producing modern humans.

Thus I wouldn't assume that only young earth creationists would give answer #3 among the options provided by the poll.

Ellen

PS:

Nine Countries Are on the Path to Atheism

atheists need to provide an effective systemic counter to religion


Scott, I think you meant "systematic" not "systemic."

#28 Scottmkiv

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 12:31 PM

Are you assuming that people giving this answer are "strict young earth creationists"?


Yes, I 'm not sure I've ever heard someone espouse the belief that the world was created 4.5 billion years ago through natural processes, but that god created mankind within the past 10,000 years. I haven't even heard the claim that god created the world 4.5 billion years ago, but didn't bother getting around to "intelligently designing" humanity until a few thousand years ago.

Scott, I think you meant "systematic" not "systemic."


Systemic: of or pertaining to a system.

Systematic: having, showing, or involving a system, method, or plan.

I think either works.

#29 Ellen Stuttle

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 05:26 PM


Are you assuming that people giving this answer are "strict young earth creationists"?


Yes, I 'm not sure I've ever heard someone espouse the belief that the world was created 4.5 billion years ago through natural processes, but that god created mankind within the past 10,000 years.

The wording of options #1 and #3 isn't clear as to God's supposed degree of intervention, but the first option -- Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process -- sounds to me as if someone selecting that would be denying "natural selection" as the dynamic of evolution and instead would be proposing continual divine overseeing.

What I'm indicating is that there are scientists who accept natural selection as the dynamic of evolution with the exception of an interventionary act at the final stage of humans acquiring reason and free will. I'm just cautioning against assuming that everyone who selected #3 is a young earth creationist. (I'd be really surprised if there is that high a percentage -- 40% -- of young earth creationists in the American populace.)


I haven't even heard the claim that god created the world 4.5 billion years ago, but didn't bother getting around to "intelligently designing" humanity until a few thousand years ago.

I think the Intelligent Design theory pertains to the origins of life, the idea that abiogenesis is impossible. I'm not aware of Intelligent Design advocates who are also young earth advocates, though I suppose there might be such.




Scott, I think you meant "systematic" not "systemic."


Systemic: of or pertaining to a system.

Systematic: having, showing, or involving a system, method, or plan.

I think either works.


Generally, "systemic" refers to something affecting an organic or organic-like whole - see, e.g., Dictionary.com and Wikipedia -- whereas "systematic" refers to ideas or method or classification -- see, e.g., merriam-webster.com. I thought the "systemic" was probably a typo.

Ellen

#30 Rich Engle

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 07:25 PM


God, as conceived by all modern religions, is a contradictory concept. Therefore, it cannot exist.


I can tell you that's a screwup right there.

The idea of "God" is psychological-political genius. It is powerful epistemology feeding on a metaphysical fantasy. The "God" out there is actually the "God" inside but moral equivalency comes from that idea mitigating the need for complex and always controversial philosophies. That is why Rand went too far with man-as-God or man as a god or godlike man or even man as a heroic being. Politically that can only devolve into fascism or other forms of secular tyranny. This doesn't mean religious sects don't fight it out. Simply, man is man with a plethora of various attributes and various sometimes fluctuating emphasis on those and one must start there to find true individualism. The only way for secular commonality is the championship of individual rights and leave religion in the church along with cultural philosophy which Objectivism consists mostly of as represented by Miss Rand.

--Brant


That is not "God." There are, by the way a billion other ways of saying it, I'm UU so I am sure of that. All that is, The Dao, The Mother, oh, the list goes on and on.

It is a way of looking at what is sacred and beautiful in the Universe. Science is nothing without the love and reverence that informs it.

Without that, it is just fucking data.

Real insightful writing though, Brant. You're getting even better in your old age.

Best,
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#31 Rich Engle

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Posted 16 May 2011 - 09:13 PM


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"There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick." -- Robert A. Heinlein


#32 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 07:54 PM

I've been looking at a bit of Joseph Campbell's stuff recently (he's the guy who wrote The Hero With A Thousand Faces). In one video I saw, he claimed that the notion of God throughout history has worked more like an epistemological tool than something that is worshiped for real. I take him to mean "worship" as a master-slave relationship where the slave actually serves most of the time and is constantly grateful.

This was not the way he said it, but it is the way I understood his words, which I do not recall well enough for an exact quote.

Campbell did not mean "epistemological tool" as faith, either, like in a reason versus faith dichotomy. He meant it as myth, which he says enlarges man's mental vision so he can grasp in an understandable form how he fits in the universe and in society.

He also believes the patterns of myths come from man's reality and psyche, which is why they have such similar frameworks across all civilizations.

Whether atheism grows or not, I believe myths are going to be with mankind for a long time to come. (Hell, even Atlas Shrugged is full of myths, both antique historical ones and and new modern ones Rand created).

The myth function of religion might be one of the reasons Objectivism is easily seen by many as a religion with Atlas Shrugged as the Objectivist Bible.

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#33 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 08:30 PM

I've been looking at a bit of Joseph Campbell's stuff recently (he's the guy who wrote The Hero With A Thousand Faces). In one video I saw, he claimed that the notion of God throughout history has worked more like an epistemological tool than something that is worshiped for real.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyK1KKi1QPM
Try from 1 through 5 minutes in.
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#34 Brant Gaede

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Posted 17 May 2011 - 08:31 PM

You're getting even better in your old age.

Middle age.

--Brant
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#35 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 07:10 AM


I've been looking at a bit of Joseph Campbell's stuff recently (he's the guy who wrote The Hero With A Thousand Faces). In one video I saw, he claimed that the notion of God throughout history has worked more like an epistemological tool than something that is worshiped for real.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyK1KKi1QPM
Try from 1 through 5 minutes in.


Campbell had beautiful handwriting. After seeing it a was ashamed of my semi-literate scrawl.

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#36 Xray

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 02:20 PM

All quotes from scottmkiv's article:
http://www.rationalp...to-atheism.html

As positive a move as that will be, let me give a word of caution. However flawed it may be, religion does provide a philosophical outlook on life. It tells people how to see the world, what is right, and what is wrong.

A non-religious society would also have its rules and taboos.

I believe that all of the messages religion teaches on these subjects are disastrously mistaken, but it would be equally disastrous to drop that framework without replacing it with something else. Just saying science, and follow the golden rule aren't enough.


Following the golden rule combined with accepting scientific data (instead of ignoring them as e.g. the Creationists do) - that would be a lot already.

In my experience, the golden rule is a most effective tool when it comes to applied ethics.
I don't know what I'd do without it in my work with children. I use it all the time (and not only with children).
Applying the golden rule is so satisfying because it works with human nature instead of against it.

According to Hitchens, "Conscience, is innate, and everybody but the psychopath has the “feeling” that this is so.

I don't know whether you have have quoted Hitchens correctly; I would formulate it a bit differently: humans have a disposition to develop conscience, but the process can be disturbed by various influences.

Intuition isn't an objective reality based way to tie ethics to the real world.

Intuition is closely connected to objective reality. For example, an intuitive person will find it easier to grasp what makes others tick, what their feelings are.

Similarly Harris argues there is "a point at which we must anchor our ethical and other ideas to reality by taking “irreducible leaps” via “intuition.”

.....

Dawkins posits poorly defined "altruistic urges" implanted by evolution. However the essence of morality is making choices. A biological impulse is neither a choice, nor a sound basis for making a choice.

The only sound basis for an ethics which works is to examine what constitues 'man's nature'.
Is the moral ideal of man as a fully rational being grounded in reality?
We are not only rational beings. We are also emotional beings. Very much so.

Edited by Xray, 18 May 2011 - 03:35 PM.


#37 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 03:50 PM

Dennis,

That's the one. "God is a metaphor" is the way he put it. Here the quote from the video.

Do you believe in God?

God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all human categories of thought. Even the categories of being and non-being. Those are categories of thought. I mean, it's as simple as that.

Interestingly, the video cut out his definition of mythology in that sequence, which I found on Google:

A mythology is an organization of symbolic narratives and images that are metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and fulfillment in a given society at a given time.

Michael

Know thyself...


#38 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 04:53 PM

The myth function of religion might be one of the reasons Objectivism is easily seen by many as a religion with Atlas Shrugged as the Objectivist Bible.

Here’s an interesting thought, Campbell discusses how a mythological system serves to help people with the difficult transitions we all have to go through in the different stages of life. The earliest, thus most important, is that of moving from the dependency of childhood into independent adulthood. I think this is where Rand’s fiction works best, I’m thinking particularly of the contrast between Peter Keating and Howard Roark. Keating is still ruled by his mother when he needs to be making his own decisions about what he wants to do with his life. Somewhat problematic is the contrasting portrayal of Roark, who isn’t shown to have ever needed individuation, or rather, to have in any way struggled with it. But, it still works just by portraying the sharp contrast.

I think this is why Rand appeals so much to people in their late teens and early twenties, her work resonates with the struggles we all go through then.

Now consider where she doesn’t serve, I think the best example is the transition from unencumbered producer to caregiving parent. Christian myth does a good job there, giving us baby Jesus, unto us a child is born, etc. It’s really not such a big factor in biblical Christianity, but in practice Christmas is easily tied for first place (with Easter) in importance in the Christian ritual calendar. I'd say it was grafted on later because it was needed. Also, there's the baptism ritual, and may as well add marriage.

So, if Objectivism is to serve as a mythological system, what else is missing from it? Which other important transitions does it not supply metaphors for?

Edited by Ninth Doctor, 18 May 2011 - 07:49 PM.

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#39 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 07:55 PM

So, if Objectivism is to serve as a mythological system, what else is missing from it? Which other important transitions does it not supply metaphors for?

I was thinking some more about this, and thought of the example of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote a very influential book on education, called Émile. But in life, Rousseau never raised any children, by his own report having delivered all of his to a foundling’s home. So, he was writing about something he didn’t know much about, certainly not from experience. I guess my point is maybe it’s a good thing Rand didn’t write about her heroes taking on the challenge of bearing and raising children, since that wasn’t something she did, or wanted to do.

http://en.wikipedia....r,_On_Education

Edited by Ninth Doctor, 18 May 2011 - 07:56 PM.

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#40 Chris Baker

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Posted 18 May 2011 - 09:46 PM

According to the study, Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland, have ever increasing levels of atheists. The Netherlands had the lowest population of atheists at 40%, and the Czech Republic was the highest at 60%.


In 100 years, are these countries going to have any people left?

http://en.wikipedia...._fertility_rate

Australia 1.79
Austria 1.42
Canada 1.53
Czech Republic 1.24
Finland 1.83
Ireland 1.96
Netherlands 1.72
New Zealand 1.99
Switzerland 1.42

Meanwhile, let's look at some religious countries:

Afghanistan 7.07
Yemen 5.50
Mauritania 4.37
Iraq 4.26
Sudan 4.23
Haiti 3.54
Saudi Arabia 3.35




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