Archive for the ‘Atheism’ Category
A mathematical theory places limits on how much a physical entity can know about the past, present or future…
David H. Wolpert, a physics-trained computer scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center, has chimed in with his version of a knowledge limit. Because of it, he concludes, the universe lies beyond the grasp of any intellect, no matter how powerful, that could exist within the universe. Specifically, during the past two years, he has been refining a proof that no matter what laws of physics govern a universe, there are inevitably facts about the universe that its inhabitants cannot learn by experiment or predict with a computation…
As Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, puts it: “That your predictions about the universe are fundamentally constrained by you yourself being part of the universe you’re predicting, always seemed pretty obvious to me…”
What is therefore the point to atheism? Even if there is nothing else but the physical universe, there is no way for any part of it to “learn it all by experiment” or “predict with a computation“. In other words, the physical universe is the only thing that can fully know the physical universe.
How far is that from the definition of Divinity? And what does that leave to the atheist? Absurdities like believing in the non-existence of the physical universe?
If Wolpert is right, there is no logic left in atheism. And Dawkins’ “Ultimate 747” proof of the non-existence of God appears quaint: the Divinity cannot be any part of the physical universe.
One of course can and will always be able to reasonably state agnosticism. But post-Wolpert agnosticism becomes simply the belief that the Divinity cannot be communicated with or experienced as such).
There is one thing we can be certain of, in any case: that there’s more out there than a collection of physical entities.
As then-Cardinal Ratzinger once said, “The affirmation [about] the Christian roots of Europe […] relates, first of all, to an historical fact that no one can seriously deny“.
And obviously not just of Europe, but of pretty much everything European, including of course all that has been born from European minds. Including, that is, the Enlightenment.
Why can’t anybody seriously deny that? Because philosophical movements cannot appear out of thin air. Of course, Locke, Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau and the others could not use Shinto or Zoroastrian ways of thinking, but Christian ones, because they were educated by, were thinking like and had to always confront themselves with Christian culture(s).
There are six sections dedicated to The Soul in Voltair’s Philosophical Dictionary. None to the Buddhist concept of Nirvana. QED.
Check the answers to my series of blogs on Atheism. All too often, all too tellingly people nominally “without-a-god” reply with a frame of mind that actually implies a personal, omnipotent God.
That is, the Christian God.
One thing I don’t understand is why something as obvious as the above should be controversial. Or perhaps I do understand: simply, the people that will shout the most against Christianity are bound to be the ones that despite claiming Atheism are actually Christian through and through, and they hate themselves for that.
Little hope to have a serious discussion with them.
But what does the above mean? Have we discovered the Last Stand for the Children of the Enlightenment? Should they be forced to honestly admit their roots are Christian?
I’m afraid not: because if Europe has Christian roots, those are not the only roots (Jewish and Islamic roots should be added of course, and that’s mentioning only the religious side…).
And if everybody should accept that the Enlightenment has (also) Christian roots, then everybody should accept that Christianity has (also) Pagan roots.
An enormous amount of time has been dedicated by people in the Church(es) to reconcile Jesus’ thoughts with Greek Philosophy, from the Gospel of St John onwards. Just as for the Enlightenment, the “new message” of Christianity had to be communicated by people to people.
The only way to do that was and is by using contemporary imagery, ways of thinking, categories of thought and historical philosophical arguments. Many of these were (“Pagan”) Greek at the time of Jesus, and so in our part of the world Christianity had to be built from Pagan Greek roots. QED once again…
One thing to clarify first. I wrote a blog, not a 100-page tome dissecting the question from all points of view. So it naturally had to come across simplified and blunt.
Anyway, as usual in discussions like this, the main point is not necessarily the topic of the blog. And so the contention, more than the beliefs of professed atheists, is on the exact concept of “Deity”.
Of course, usually “Deity” is associated (in the shared culture of most of the people reading this blog) with a “Personal, Sentient, Omnipotent and Benevolent God”. People are free not to believe in that God. Many of those will then develop the impression that that will qualify them as “atheists”.
According to my reasoning, that is a logical fallacy. And even if one doesn’t believe in Abraham’s God, or the Hindu “Pantheon” or whatever other organized religion, still one is not necessarily an “atheist”.
Actually, one cannot be a “logical atheist“. Since we are here there has to be something that caused us to be. Either we accept the agnosticist’s point, and that “something” is not knowable, or we have to accept the existence of some sort of Deity (or deity).
To explain it further I start with NF: “If ‘luck’ fills the ‘gap’ where you think a ‘god’ should be, it doesn’t mean that person views luck in the same way that you view God, or someone else views their gods, i.e raised to a level of a diety of some sort, to be revered and venerated”.
Well, I made in the blog the point that a deity doesn’t have to be worshiped, venerated, and may be uninterested to the world or completely lacking any conscience. There are plenty of examples one way or the other in hundreds of human traditions. And of course, it could be Nature.
In fact, I suggested that a “logical atheist” can only recur to “Luck” as the Source of Everything. Some people may not like that: call it “chance” then, or “the force of randomness”. Or “Nature” (a slightly different concept). The main argument does not change: there has to be a “Source of Everything”
And so to Joe, who writes “There is no reason to suppose that anything other than natural processes are the cause of our existence”; to SL, who says “we can at least conceive plausible explanations that do not require supernatural intervention”, and to MJP, who makes the point of being an “agnostic atheist”, saying “I see no reason to posit a supernatural cause”: my answer is that the rejection of “supernatural” is not necessarily the mark of an atheist.
One can only say that the Creator in that view of the world is “Natural”. There we go with Spinoza again.
Actually, as I wrote in my reply to Joe, a wholly-natural outlook of the Universe is very, very similar to animism. Under that, we are in the hands of Nature and all its constituents. Just substitute subatomic particles with the Spirit of the River, and the Spirit of the Mountain, etc etc.
Interestingly, this is a point that did not escape JB, as per his comment: “So how many quarks can dance on the head of a pin?”
And to finish: WV says “I no more consider myself an atheist for not believing in a supernatural being than I consider myself an aphilatelist for not collecting stamps”: but the situation varies considerably, if you believe or not in the nonexistence of stamps. It is one thing to be uninterested to them, another to actively argue they are not there.
Atheists have their Supreme Being too
“One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods”: that is the usually-accepted definition for an Atheist.
Paradoxically, though, it cannot be true.
What do Atheists believe in, in fact? By denying the existence of God or gods, they have to assume that the “world” just happen to exist, and that we are here to talk about it due to pure luck.
Or to say it better, due to Pure Luck.
The ancient Greeks themselves recognized the power of Luck, and they worshiped Her as the Goddess Thyke.
And so Atheists have to believe in something: they have to believe in Luck.
Perhaps Luck is not a personal deity. Perhaps She is not interested to the ways of the world (still, can’t resist dabbling into it) and perhaps there is no point in praying to Her.
That is besides the point. The point is that if one exists and there is no God, then Luck must exist, and Luck is the Creator: for all intents and purposes, a God.
This applies also if Luck gets out of the way, and Creation is a property of a Spinozian Nature.
Hence nobody can be a strict, logical “Atheist”.
Agnosticists, on the other hand…
Truly gone are the days of Epicurus.
Gone are the discussions about Free Will and the existence of Evil. Recently, some vocal atheists apper to be thinking it is time for puerile opinions instead.
Sure, many “persons without God” (including agnosticists such as “Breaking the Spell”’s author Daniel C. Dennett) have a healthy respect for the experiences and beliefs of fellow human beings, be them atheists or not.
But then what can one say when an otherwise brilliant thinker like Richard Dawkins publishes without a grain of self-awareness the “Ultimate 747” argument, a so-called “definitive proof” that God does not exist?
It is a sort of an updated “who created the Creator” question that anybody with a brain can beautifully, simply and quite obviously take apart (hint: the Creator doesn’t have to be part of the Creation).
In Italy, philosophy Professor Maurizio Ferraris finds it worthwhile to spend his time arguing that Jesus is akin to Santa Claus, whilst mathematician extraordinaire Piergiorgio Odifreddi can’t even think of belief in God as anything else than irrational superstition.
Things look like going even more downhill now, with Christopher Hitchens’ new book “God is Not Great”: apparently, a masterpiece with pearls of wisdom such as asking if the Jews did not know that murder and adultery were wrong before they received the Ten Commandments.
Obviously, the problem is not with Hitchens, a professional polemicist that utters outrageous statements for a living (sort of a male Ann Coulter with just a tad less smell of sulphur). The problem is not even with Dawkins’ anti-fundamentalist crusade that truly throw the baby (Faith) with the bathwater (religious establishments).
There is a much larger issue at hand: the blind acceptance of their half-backed arguments by people evidently in need to justify their atheism to themselves.
Take for example Michael Kinsley’s review of Hitchen’s book (“With brio and anger, an atheist takes on religion”, International Herald Tribune , May 12, 2007).
Mr Kinsley finds “entertaining” some blatantly silly questions such as “How could Christ have died for our sins, when supposedly he also did not die at all?” (Answer: please do read at least one Gospel, once).
Worse, Mr Kinsley is “satisfied” with (yet another?) “disproving” of the existence of God. Wow…it’s nice to know that age-old questions can finally be set aside: why don’t Messrs. Hitchens and Kinsley explain to us the Meaning of Life too?
Mr Kinsley is also quite happy to repeat Mr Hitchens’ thoughts on religious ecumenism. “if any one of the major faiths is true, then the others must be false in important respects – an obvious point often forgotten in the warm haze of ecumenism”. Boy, have they “obviously” squared the circle or what?
Do people like Kinsley and Hitchens realize how deeply, reactionarily catholic (with small “c”) is such a limited view of Faith (one God, one Truth, one World)?
How much was the Mahatma a “moron, lunatic or liar” then? That’s their definition of a modern believer. After all he did say “Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man” and “One’s own religion is after all a matter between oneself and one’s Maker and no one else’s.”
Doesn’t anybody remember Quintus Aurelius Symmachus? One of the last pagans in ancient Rome, Symmachus protested the removal of the Altar of Victory from the floor of the Roman Senate by a Christian Emperor by saying “We contemplate the same stars, the Heavens are common to us all, and the same world surrounds us. What matters the path of wisdom by which each person seeks the truth?”.
(No need to waste your breath on our activist atheists, o civis Symmachus! They wouldn’t even know what you’re talking about).
Anyway, there is just the faintest of hope of some reasoning capability left in the activist atheist’s mind. Mr Hitchens writes that a sustained argument about the (non-)existence of God shouldn’t be either necessary, nor sufficient. I am sure only the most fundamentalist believers and atheists will disagree with that.
What is for atheists then the point of writing books belittling something they do not have?
Perhaps, just perhaps, one day people like Mr Hitchens and Mr Dawkins will realize that they may as well uselessly ponder on mysteries such as why a wonderful person as my wife ever fell in love with a less-than-perfect guy like me. Good luck with that!
Is this really what millennia of debates between believers and atheists have gone down to? Somebody will rightly point out that there are plenty of idiots that believe their Faith should be expressed by insulting, outlawing, threatening and killing others.
Yes, there are!
But two wrongs don’t make one right: weren’t Dawkins et al. supposed to be the Brights, the superiorly intelligent humans capable of shedding silly arguments and superstition from their lives, and from the lives of anybody that would follow them?
Why are they then switching off their brains whenever the conversational topic is Religion?
If theirs is the Light, we live in a very dim world indeed.
Like the Conquistadores in the Americas, these Brights are fighting to destroy what they can’t understand in the belief of improving the human lot. The bringing down of anything spiritual, it has become their spiritual quest. The attitude of the vast majority of their fellow humans, they consider it a primitive relic unworthy of their own perfection. Several thousand years of contributions in logic and philosophy, that doesn’t mean a thing to them.
Having discovered the “definitive arguments” for the double impossibility of proving the non-existence of any Divinity, they put themselves outside of human history. And they even gather around their books of wisdom, to accept with little sense of critique anything that is said to belittle the very idea that human being can believe in God.
It’s a hubris extravaganza.
Contemporary (activist) atheists truly set themselves in competition with God: here’s a hint of why they find so compelling to make however flawed an argument against the scandal represented by anybody not believing in their “religion of atheism”.
There is plenty of people more qualified than me to debunk yet another “contribution” to the Atheism-Faith debate, just published on Italian Sunday newspaper “Domenicale Sole24Ore” (Maurizio Ferraris, “Not knowing What To Believe“, October 29)
Anyway, here I propose a classification, from the point of view of the Person of Faith, of Contemporary Atheism in four categories: Indifferent, Devout, Faraway and Economic
(1) Indifferent Atheist is a person with no interest whatsoever in the Divinity and Religion: and with whom the only meaningful dialogue for the Believer will be about sport, cinema or television
(2) Devout Atheist sees religion as a series of moral precepts useful to manipulate this or that social reform: in a sense, the Devout Atheist resembles more the Antichrist than a person with whom to start a serious conversation on Religion
(3) Faraway Atheist thinks like Ferraris, and whilst not possessing faith, pretends to reduce it to a fairy tale for children and/or idiota. This view of the world makes no distinction between Jesus Christ and Father Christmas; comes out with monstruosities such as “He who believes in an Infinite God, believes in everything“; reduces religious tradition to an accountant’s sheet of dogmas to follow in order not to be “heretical” (a naive point that will sound ancient to Roman Catholics, and completely stranger to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc etc). One would expect Ferraris to burst into laughter at the mere presence of a Person of Faith in the same room as him: hardly the best and most rational attitude (Ferraris is obviously not alone: see Richard Dawkins in “The God Delusion” and Daniel C Dennett in “Breaking off the Spell: Religion as Natural Phenomenon”)
(4) Economic Atheist finally, understands that a serious non-indifferent Atheism that aims at least to understand the why Believers exist, must learn from the recent revolution in Economics: where the hyper-rationalist Homo Economicus of the old theories has been replaced with a person who follows a systematic logic, simply not mathematical logic
And it is only with the Economic Atheist that there is any meaning, for the Person of Faith, to discuss Religion. Not having the prejudice of considering Faith as synonymous of irrationality, the Economic Atheist will indeed be open to an exchange of ideas (sadly, not a given as it should be)
Facile discourses in religious topics by Atheists of other types, are worth as much as a women-only bathroom on Mount Athos, the famous Greek monastery on whose territory only men are allowed