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June 17, 2008


Mark Harrison

My goodness. I can't help feel that your views are almost entirely the same as mine (down to, and including the Methodist upbringing and the preference for Dennett over Dawkins).

... except that I'm a practicing Christian, and hope I'm in the category of "reasonable" from question 10 :-)


I gather you haven't read Sam Harris.

I went to a poetry evening a while ago. There was a readaround in the first half, and there was this one guy who read this stuff... awful. Musing on the way home about how I'd describe him to my wife, I found myself saying "Awful" out loud, over and over again. The more I tried to be more discriminating, the more it seemed like I'd already hit on the perfect word. "Awful, awful, awful. Just... awful."

I feel pretty much the same about Sam Harris.


Your answers make me wonder how you define science, and why you think science not having all the answers is a theistic argument. (The fact that science doesn't have all the answers tells me absolutely nothing about theism.)


I have read only parts of Sam Harris's book on the internet, but I saw a video, and I found his talk the most appealing of the four. People often seem to have a different personality in print.



Maybe it is because we cannot stop putting the questions.

I remember Flanders, the Homer Simpson neighbour, saying that people of naturalistic persuasion are like the ones who ruin a film by explaining you how it ends.
Like Aristotle said, the older I get the more I like myths.


And Chris your answer to Q5 is clearly a strawman. As far as I know almost no-one is saying there aren't good and intelligent people religious people. It is just they are good and intelligent in spite of their beliefs.


1. A lack of belief in Gods
2. Orthodox Catholic including Catholic schooling. Having the Cathechism belted into me left me with an aversion to religion, only reinforced by being forced to listen in obedient silence to idiocy being spouted from the pulpit.
3. Devious.
4. Brain research
5. There isn't one, perhaps there should be one.
6. I think religion is evil. Can you live with that?
7. Can't think of any that appeal. My usual question, if one of the religions is true then all of the others are false. How can we know which one is true?
8. The community associated with religion is a virtue.
9. Harris has the most important argument. While all religious practice is not evil, the middle eastern religions are evil in their nature.
10. The Pope

James Hamilton

Very fashionable anti-Dawkins stand there: good to see you negotiating this meme without offending the accepted opinions of the British blogosphere.

People who would otherwise avoid playing the man rather than the ball make an exception in his case. Usually, this is on the grounds that he is rude and arrogant - a charge that his television documentaries dramatically refute. Yours is on the grounds that the bulk of his arguments have been made before. This is another common route. Those who disagree with his atheism - and I acknowledge that you're largely on his side in that respect at least - do what you do here and hint that the arguments are such old hat, dealt with so publicly and so long ago that comment is superfluous, whilst failing in any way to identify where this rebuttal has taken place or where the curious might find it.

One trope you don't employ - and you wouldn't, given your position - is the suggestion that academic theology has moved on somehow from these crude positions, and is now off somewhere else doing rather more sophisticated and mature thinking way beyond the ken of late-to-the-party yahoos like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Well, I do know academic theology, and it isn't and hasn't: the basic arguments put forward by Dawkins are the elephant in the room. They are considered uncouth and old fashioned, but effective rebuttals just aren't out there. The thrust of modern theology is philosophical and sociological, and contains many good things, but in a universe without God, it is just philosophy and sociology, and in that sense Dawkins is quite right to write it off.


I think that the correct argument is the contrary of the one used by Reason.
When religious people are good is because they are religious: they are doing what their religion told them to. It is when non believers, or better, believers in not, behave well that their only reason is that they happen, by sheer luck, to be good people. They have no reason to.


You ought to read the bible more carefully.


But there is a more substantial point. Making an unverifyable non-human the arbiter of morality, makes it inhuman. Hence lots of inhumanity becomes moral. At worst athiests are merely amoral.


"When religious people are good is because they are religious: they are doing what their religion told them to."
Do you have evidence for this? Are you sure this isn't ex-ante rationalisation?


" It is when non believers, or better, believers in not, behave well that their only reason is that they happen, by sheer luck, to be good people. They have no reason to."

First I object to being called a believer in not. I'm not keen on belief full stop. Secondly, athiest have a perfectly good reason to be good (essentially the same one religious people have) it pays off for a social animal.


if you want to test the quality of your arguments I suggest you go here:
You might find that you need to refine your ideas a bit.


"Maybe it is because we cannot stop putting the questions."

What has that got to do with accepting non-sensicle answers? What you really mean to say is "we cannot stop wanting answers".


"Like Aristotle said, the older I get the more I like myths."
Liking is not the same thing as believing.



Thank you for your attention to my words. As you rightly say, they need some refinement. In this subject, and for that matter in life in general, I move following the very name of that blog.
Allow me to say that I am not a theist. Maybe I could call myself an atheist christian. I see religion as having to do with this world and not another one and salvation with the present, not the future. In that way, I find more usefull thoughts, let's say in Chesterton than in Dawkins.
Thank you again and I will visit the link you offered me, as well as your own.


I see, you are Machievallian. I find that position very arrogant (you support religion because it is good for the masses, you don't really believe in yourself).
Don't bother visiting my web site, it is an empty shell.


Is only 'reason' allowed to comment here? That's not very reasonable.


Clearly not. Maybe everybody else is intimidated.


Just imagine the headline - Pope abdicates because of loss of faith. WOW. Would that cause a stir.

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