Friday, September 04, 2009

Finish What You Start

Lately instead of posting to my own blog, I've been reading and commenting on others. In particular I've been pretty active at the Atheist Experience blog. I had a great discussion with others in a couple recent posts there. The first post was a discussion about the moral/ethical implications actions of professed gods. I made the first comment to that post so if you're interested, read it through and follow where the discussion led (there was at least one theist who participated in the dialogue). Also in that post someone shared a quiz called "Religion 101" which I enjoyed. I don't agree with the wording, fairness, or relevance of some of the questions on there, but in general I think its great. The quiz can be found here. I have a Christian friend I've been having some religious discussions with off and on in the past few weeks and I'd like to ask if she would mind taking it and then we can have a discussion about the answers that she selected. The second post I commented on was about the "end times" doctrine in Christianity found in the Book of Revelation. The original topic was a discussion of how sick and disturbing it is to see believers actually express their desire for the end of the world to come and to observe all the non-believers suffering in agony, but the discussion in the comments went all over the place.

If you recall, earlier this year I mentioned that I had put together a selection of various video clips from The Atheist Experience that I wanted to watch together with my religious friend. And when our discussions broke down and she no longer wished to talk about the subject anymore, I started sharing the clips on my blog. The last time I shared a clip was way back in March and I'm not even half way through my list, so I need to finish what I started. Here's the next clip in the series on how the concept of "sin" is a control mechanism. In my notes I wrote to watch only the first four minutes and thus will only comment on that length, but feel free to watch the entire 10 minute clip.

The commentary by the co-host Don is rather acerbic, but I do think he makes an interesting conjecture on how sin is used to exploit people, and how ridiculous the concept of original sin is. If you don't know, original sin is the idea that you are guilty for all the "sinful" actions of your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etcetra all the way back to the original two human beings, Adam and Eve (of course, I don't believe that two homo sapiens spontaneously popped into existence from nothing in the first place). I don't have much else to add here.

Link to google video (Sorry, blogger isn't accepting the embed code for some reason)

This is actually a full 90 minute episode, not a single clip. The portion of this episode I want to discuss is the segment from 6:00 to 35:00. Yes, its nearly 30 minutes long. In my notes I wrote that this segment is about the following. "A dialog on what motivates people to believe in Christianity, reasons for beliefs, reasons for disbelief, and touches on young Earth creationism". At 12:00, the hosts discuss a Christian blogger who told atheists why they are atheists, and gave two reasons (both reasons he gave require the atheist to believe in God). I've seen this many times before, on both sides of the aisle. Rather than listen to why the other person believes or disbelieves in something, they assert their own reasons on that person and assert them. Sometimes they do this because its easy for them to refute. Sometimes they do it because it makes them feel more comfortable about their own beliefs. But regardless of why they do this, its wrong for them to do so. The hosts also mention that some people, such as Ray Comfort, claim that there are no atheists. Rather those that call themselves atheists do believe in a god (particularly his god), but are in denial about it or reject the god for some reason. Its quite an ignorant assertion.

Between about 14:00 and 22:00, the hosts divulge into a good summary of the difference between theism, gnosticism, and weak/strong atheism. Around 24:00 the co-host Tracie provides a great example of contrast between the reaction of two fundamentalist Christians when they are presented with conflicting evidence that the Earth is 6,000 - 10,000 years old. One believer is open-minded at looking at the scientific evidence and as a result, becomes convinced that that particular belief they hold was wrong. The other is adamant that nothing can nor ever will change their beliefs. The latter believer is the type that I have serious problems. They proudly boast about being close minded and either uniformly reject or ignore contradictory evidence. Regardless of what you believe or disbelieve, whether its gods, UFOs, or political ideology, I think it is a horribly awful thing to be dogmatic and close minded to contradictory arguments, evidence, and opinions. And religion, particularly many forms of fundamentalism, are excellent and promoting this maligned view.

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Blogger Sean Leather said...

Speaking of starting something, I just started reading A Brief Guide to Islam, a book I found in an airport when I needed something to read. I'd like to learn more about this "other" religion about which I feel so ignorant.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Jastiv said...

Do what thou will shall be the whole of the Law.

I used to be an Athiest. I read Bertrand Russell, and listened to all the reasonable Athiest arguments against blind faith. What I didn't realize at the time was how I was just trading one authority figure for another. That I was exchanging one form of blind faith, for another forum of blind faith. It seemed like the evidence that I experienced fit the Athiest picture of no god, however, the hardcore anti-mysticism of materialist Athiesm got to me when I had a period of depression.
I know how easy it is to want to bow down to authority figures within the so called sciences. That is how academia is set up. Anyway, it is more important for you to find out who you really are in life and do your true will. Thelema provides ritual tools and structure for you to work within to achieve this.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Tyler Olsen said...

Sean: let me know how you like that book when you finish it. It sounds interesting.

Jastiv: I don't follow any authority figures when it comes to religious views. I never have. And I would never classify what I believe as "blind faith". I took an honest and hard evaluation of the available evidence and arguments and came to my own conclusion. I can understand how atheism failed to comfort you during your depression, but really that's to be expected. Atheism is nothing more than the rejection of the claim "there exists a god or gods". It doesn't teach you how to cope with life, it doesn't comfort you in times of hardship, and it doesn't tell you what to do or what not to do. Many religions claim to be able to teach you how to handle all your problems, and for some people it may work. There are secular means to achieving these things too, such as counseling groups.

8:32 PM  

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