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  1. #1
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    Default The Intellectual Snobbery of Conspicuous Atheism

    Some good food for thought.

    From The Atlantic: The Intellectual Snobbery of Conspicuous Atheism

    Beyond the argument that faith in God is irrational—and therefore illegitimate

    ...... All of this leads to Watson’s conclusion: Religious belief is simply insufficient to explain the complexity of the modern world. It has led to violence and intolerance, yes, but more fundamentally, the idea of God—a unifying, singular lens for understanding everyday life—has been debunked, six ways to Sunday. Or, to mix metaphors: Modern people can pick their poison for killing God. But die He must.

    ***

    The problem with Watson’s argument is not that it lacks evidence—there’s a lot of history crammed into his book. Rather, it’s that Watson assembles anecdotes into a scatterplot that undeniably points toward the impossibility of God in the modern world, or so he claims. And this is where the intellectual snobbery comes in: Watson assumes that because a group of smart, respected, insightful people thought and felt their way out of believing in God, everyone else should, too. Because intellectual history trends toward non-belief, human history must, too.

    This is problematic for several reasons. For one thing, it suggests that believers are inherently less thoughtful than non-believers. Watson tells stories of famous thinkers and artists who have struggled to reconcile themselves to a godless world. And these are helpful, in that they offer insight into how dynamic, creative people have tried to live. But that doesn't mean the average believer's search for meaning and understanding is any less rigorous or valuable—it just ends with a different conclusion: that God exists. Watson implies that full engagement with the project of being human in the modern world leads to atheism, and that's just not true.

    We know it's not true because the vast majority of the world believes in God or some sort higher power. Worldwide, religious belief and observance vary widely by region. It’s tough to get a fully accurate global picture of faith in God or a “higher power,” but the metric of religiosity serves as a helpful proxy. Only 16 percent of the world’s population was not affiliated with a particular faith as of 2010, although many of these people believe in God or a spiritual deity, according to the Pew Research Center. More than three-fourths of the religiously unaffiliated live in the Asia-Pacific region, with a majority (62 percent) living in China. In other regions, the percentage of those who say they have no religious affiliation are much smaller: 7.7 percent in Latin America; 3.2 percent in sub-Saharan Africa; 0.6 percent in the Middle East.

    Arguably, Watson wasn’t writing for the whole world—he stuck to Western thinkers and artists. But even if we focus on Europe and North America, his implicit argument isn’t supported by statistics. Eighteen percent of Europeans are religiously unaffiliated, but again, many of those people believe in God—30 percent of unaffiliated French people do, for example. And even though Christianity is growing fastest in Latin America and sub-Saharan African, as of 2010, Europe was still home to a quarter of the world’s Christians—the largest population in the world.

    In America, which sociologists often describe as a uniquely religious country compared with the rest of the Western world, a vast majority of people have faith. According to Pew, 86 percent of Millennials, or people aged 18-33, say they believe in God, and 94 percent of people 34 and older say the same. It’s true that a growing group say they’re “not certain” about this belief, and it’s also true that affiliation with formal religious institutions is declining. But in terms of pure belief, self-described atheists and agnostics are a small minority, making up only six percent of the population.

    The Western world in particular is probably less religious than it was 150 years ago, and the dynamics of belief and observance have certainly become more complex—the growing number of people who are unaffiliated with a specific religion is especially fascinating. But if the age of atheism started in 1882 as Watson claims, most people still haven't caught on.

    The Age of Atheists will likely stay confined to certain intellectual circles: The casual philosopher, the dogmatic non-believer, the coffee-table book collector. But insofar as its argument represents a broader pathology in contemporary conversations about belief, this book matters. Most people form their beliefs and live their lives somewhere in the middle of the so-called "culture divide" that outspoken atheists and believers shout across. The more these shouters shout, the more public discourse veers away from the subtle struggle of the average person's attempt to be human.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Alea_iacta_est's Avatar
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    Militant Atheism is problematic, and about as just as the spread of Christianity to Africa and Asia under Imperialism. Tolerance is paramount, in all forms, for we have little evidence to discredit any belief system or lack of belief system.

  3. #3
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    I converted my agnostic friend into an atheist last night.

    Took about two sentences.

  4. #4
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    What a laugh!

    Mbti cuts across our humanity.

    Mbti reifies seven and a half thousand million people into sixteen types.

    MBti turns us into objects in order to find the right person for the right job.

    Mbti gives us a brand of four letters so we can be easly sorted.

    Mbti commodifies us so we can be sold to the highest bidder.

    And mbti is part of the New Age religion.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alea_iacta_est View Post
    we have little evidence to discredit any belief system or lack of belief system.
    We have lots of evidence to credit or discredit any belief system.

    We simply ask what are the fruits of that system.

    If the fruits of that system are violence, the subjugation of women, the abuse of children, and an inability of self criticism, then we know the fruits are rotten.

  6. #6
    Senior Member cafe's Avatar
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    Most of the time the atheists make a lot of sense to me. More than a lot of religious folks do. I can enjoy them even knowing they'd think I'm a loon for being religious most of the time. And most of them aren't obnoxious about it. Unlike a lot of my co-religionists.
    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”
    ~ John Rogers

  7. #7
    Senior Member BlackDog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mole View Post
    What a laugh!

    Mbti cuts across our humanity.

    Mbti reifies seven and a half thousand million people into sixteen types.

    MBti turns us into objects in order to find the right person for the right job.

    Mbti gives us a brand of four letters so we can be easly sorted.

    Mbti commodifies us so we can be sold to the highest bidder.

    And mbti is part of the New Age religion.
    This doesn't make sense. You're taking a particular use of a series of definitions, and attributing action to the definitions rather than to the user who takes the action/uses the definitions for a particular purpose. MBTI may well be used for this purpose; any series of definitions can be.

    If I decided to divide the world into people who can lift 25 lb.s to shoulder-height for a minute, and people who can't, I have just created a measurable distinction that can be used to aid in division of labour. We could call the people who can lift the weight L, for 'lifters', and NL, 'not lifters' can be assigned to the people who can't lift the weight.

    In any industry where the ability to lift 25 lb.s to shoulder height for a minute is relevant, L vs. NL could be an important tool. Likewise with MBTI.

    Nevertheless, if it is wrong to label people this way, it is wrong to function in society. All of us make distinctions in order to live. Giving an orderly terminology to these distinctions is amoral.

  8. #8
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    Default La Lutte Continue

    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    struggle of the average person's attempt to be human.
    From the moment of conception we are homo sapiens, that is, we are human beings.

    Naturally some of us struggle to be human rather than zebras. I myself have had a lifelong struggle to be human rather than a Mole. And as you can see, la lutte continue.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lion 4.5 View Post
    Nevertheless, if it is wrong to label people this way, it is wrong to function in society. All of us make distinctions in order to live. Giving an orderly terminology to these distinctions is amoral.
    And if it is wrong to label people as Aryan, Negro, Asian, Slav, Aboriginal, and Jew, it is wrong to function in society.

    These labels are simply tools we use in order to live.

    So giving an orderly terminology to these distinctions is neither moral nor immoral, simply amoral.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Forever_Jung's Avatar
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    it suggests that believers are inherently less thoughtful than non-believers. Watson tells stories of famous thinkers and artists who have struggled to reconcile themselves to a godless world. And these are helpful, in that they offer insight into how dynamic, creative people have tried to live. But that doesn't mean the average believer's search for meaning and understanding is any less rigorous or valuable—it just ends with a different conclusion: that God exists. Watson implies that full engagement with the project of being human in the modern world leads to atheism, and that's just not true.

    We know it's not true because the vast majority of the world believes in God or some sort higher power.
    I don't necessarily disagree with the point, but the argument for it doesn't really hold water for me. Just because a lot of people believe in God, doesn't mean those people are fully engaged with the project of being human. A lot of people are religious, just cuz. Indoctrination, laziness, etc. They believe in God, but they're not particularly engaged with making sense of the world.

    As annoying as some atheists are, I do find their beliefs to be a bit more accountable to real criticism. I also resent the way the Catholic Church tries to be all smiley with Jesus strumming folk tunes on an acoustic guitar, whenever they're criticized for being dogmatic/opressive/etc. It's disingenuous. In debates, Religious people just try to shrink their territory to something so small and unobjectionable, that it becomes difficult to take them down. But as soon as you let up on them and give them power, they start being oppressive dickwads. They remind me of the bad guy at the end of the film who gravels and makes excuses for all his past misdeeds, and as soon as you spare his life, he stabs you in the back and takes over the world.

    I don't know what to think anymore, I find religion/spirituality very appealing, and a valuable source of wisdom, but it comes with so much baggage.

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