"It is a chilling fact that most of the world’s leaders believe in nonsensical fairytales about the nature of reality." -Cenk Uygur.
Uygur does not pull any punches but I strongly believe that what he says needed saying. After the post had been up about 12 hours there were about 175 comments, running about even for and against (however, many of "for" camp also object to Uygur’s offensive tone, feeling that it is counterproductive. I made posted about 5 comments myself, and (in my ever expanding quest to find words to stick in this blog) I am reposting those comments here in the continuation of this post. I don’t think they suffer horribly from being removed from their original context — most of them a responses to a poster who calls himself "Captain Video," and I quote the relevant parts of his posts in mind. In my fury to get these out I made many many grammatical and syntactical errors, but this is a good representation of my feelings on the subject of God. There are much better expressers of my type of argument available at the original post. But these are mine.
(To Cenk Uygur)-You forgot to mention that Jesus also had it in for fig trees. But seriously, thank you, thank you, thank you. I understand what some commentators say about "moderating your tone" — but look, sometimes these things need to be said, straight up, in clear, unequivocating language. What you’ve written here cannot be said openly today in America in any school, hall of government, share holders meeting, or printed in any mass-circulation newspaper or news weekly. Yet these same institutions regularly give time over to religious leaders, at least in lip-service. Billy Graham has an advice column in my local paper. You don’t have to read his column to know what his answer is to every human dilemma. Pray.
Many people do not even know that such thoughts as Cenk boldly and bluntly articulates here even _exist_. The closest we come to questioning religion in this country is to perhaps say something like, "I’m against organized religion, but Jesus I admire." Or something like that. That is our great taboo, to dispute that Jesus (who probably didn’t even exist by the way) & Mohammad, these ancient miracle men, are more like Santa Claus (good and supernatural), than they are like L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, Pat Robertson, Jim Jones, Sai Baba, Manson, and on and on … Human beings interested in power.
And to Reaniel, you criticize Uygur for not having citations(in a blog post! – this is not an academic forum. I don’t see citations in Deepak’s posts) but you do not have any citations in your rebuttal, so that hardly seems fair of you to bring up. You also state that "truth is relative." Well that is one thing that, by definition, truth in NOT.
There’s a quote I’ve run across in several different places the past couple of weeks. In one place it was attributed to Philip K. Dick, and in another place, to someone else. So the fact of who actually said it is a fact in dispute (from my limited research anyway). It’s not a relative fact. It isn’t true for me that Dick said this thing, but true for someone else that he didn’t say it. Opinions and beliefs about truth may be relative, but truth is not. By the way, the quote attributed to Dick? "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away."
For Captain Video:
"Enlightened Christianity recognizes that not everything in the Bible should be literally interpreted."
But how do you choose what to take literal and what to call symbolic? It seems everyone, or nearly everyone is free to pick and choose what they like in their religion. Andrew Sullivan the other week on Bill Maher saying that fundamentalists pervert religion. But fundamentalists would view his belief as the perversion. How useful is a philosophy if its rules and lessons can be endlessly revised and interpreted in any way that any believer can change them in order to be most comforted? This , to me, is the core problem. Religion divides us into "us (good,) and them (bad, misguided, wrong) and rewards the believer by allowing her or him to take comfort and self-satisfaction in that difference, which is a thing we would be better off if we were never self-satisfied with.
Another one for Capt Video. You do ask good questions.
"What if one is a Buddhist, Hindu, Shintoist, Zoroastrian, or Bahia? Is everyone but the Atheists really wrong?" I would say that yes, everyone but the atheists (small ‘a’) is really wrong. But suppose I am wrong about that. Buddhist, Hindu, Shintoist, Zoroastrian, or Bahia are five religions. They contradict each other in many particulars, so not all five of them can be right unless you believe in relative truth. But if ‘true’ for me and ‘true’ for you can be completely different sets of things, then I don’t see how the concepts "true" or "right" have any useful meaning.
Last one, I promise.
You write "Since the existence of God cannot be either proven nor disproven, all beliefs with respect to this issue are held on faith. Atheism is a faith as much as any religious belief."
No. That is often claimed by religious people but it is not correct. Atheism does not require faith, only clear understanding in the lack of evidence for any supernatural forces or beings. A religious theist answers the questions "why is there something instead of nothing" with the faith-based statement "because of God." An atheist (no cap "a" really, really.) answers the same question "I don’t know." All the evidence, ALL the evidence, points to a naturalistic universe. No miracle, no supernatural phenomenon (ugh, my horrible spelling) has EVER been verified. Therefore it is extremely likely based on everything we know, that there are no supernatural events or beings. To believe otherwise is just to make things up out of whole cloth. No I cannot prove a negative such as that there is no god for certain. (God could prove himself by revealing himself however). But no one can prove such a negative and that is one of the physical limitations of the universe that we are stuck with. But if I were to say to you that somewhere out in space there is a planet that is entirely composed of used fishing poles (that has always been there and always will be there, and is ruled by Fonzie) you cannot disprove that either, because you cannot be in all points of the universe to dispute it. However, if you were to say that such an idea is absurd, and contradicts all known understanding of all natural laws you would be right. That is precisely the same measure with which the atheist reasonably disputes the existence of god.
To a Poster recommending Armstrong as an unbiased source for information about Islam.
Karen Armstrong strikes me a very biased toward Islam among the 3 major sky-god religions. I did not read her short history of Islam, but I read her book on the Crusades, she quite rightly indicts Christianity for its crime but excuses Islam’s. For her the Muslim military conquering and oppression of its neighbors is always seen as a positive civilizing force — much the way 1950’s text books looked at the roman empire I imagine. I’ve also read Armstrong’s excellent memoir "The Spiral Staircase" which shows the traumas she endured separating from Catholicism. She has good reason to be angry and resentful of Christianity, but that does not make her unbiased on Islam. Many people, when they experience disillusionment with their own local faith, embrace and often idealize one that is more "exotic" to their own culture. That is the whole crux of the New Age movement in this country after all. I tend to put more credence into what Salman Rushdie has to say about Islam than a supposedly unbiased outsider like Armstrong. She is clearly still enamored of religious feelings and faith.
Btw, there is no god. All religions are equally false.
more than a few commentators have decried this post on the basis of bigotry. Get real. I think this quote from the sitting President has been pretty well circulated:
"Bush: No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
Imaging a President saying anything like that about any religious group. However, I don’t give much credence to this President’s hate speech. He does not possess a level of introspection necessary to think deeply about the thoughts that pop into head and spill out his mouth.