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Moral Behaviour Vs. Religious People

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In the London Review of Books, reader Anthony Buckley (“God and Human Behaviour”, Letters, LRB, 30 June 2011) wonders what “would constitute evidence” for or against the statement that “religious people…are more likely to behave in virtuous ways than non-religious people“.

That is an interesting question. And it can be easily answered in Christianity. The Gospel of Luke (chapter 5, verses 30-32) says:

“But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples,saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

It seems logical to conclude that, according to the Messiah Himself, “people who have [Christian] religious convictions” will be “on the whole morally worse than people who lack them“.

Written by omnologos

2012/Jan/26 at 12:10:14

Posted in Christianity, Religion

Tagged with

New Logical Fallacy: ‘Argument Ad Providentiam’

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Only the most careful readers of my quasi-live blogging about President Vaclav Klaus’s GWPF Inaugural Annual Lecture in London on Oct 19 will have noticed a quick remark I wrote, inspired by what Pres. Klaus was saying at the moment: argument ad providentiam.

That’s a concept I have mentioned sometimes in the past in some part of the web, not under that name of course. Very briefly, it goes like this: philosophically speaking, an interpretation of the world is fallacious when it implies the existence of divine, or divine-like intervention.

And so for example, AGW is logically fallacious as it has providential undertones.

Why? Because for (catastrophic) AGW to be happening right now, several amazing coincidences must have recently happened:

  1. Relatively widespread availability of computer power just enough strong to simulate the right climate projections on a multi-decadal scale
  2. Climate science developed just beyond the minimal level needed to understand how to simulate the right climate projections on a decadal scale
  3. Novel statistical approaches devised just in time, and correct from the get-go, for Mann’s Hockey Stick to emerge from the jumble of dendro- and other proxy data
  4. Governmental willingness to co-operate together all over the world (after the end of the Cold War) just in time for a worldwide problem like AGW to happen
  5. AGW recognized as an issue just as heavily-populated places such as India and China start getting their living standards on track to reach the Western world’s

I am sure one could continue a lot longer.

So in a sense, belief in AGW implies belief in a highly-improbable series of lucky discoveries and developments to happen just at the right time. That is called “Providence” and it is strong evidence for the existence of a Divine Being. But since such “evidence” is a contradiction in terms, then catastrophic AGW to be happening right now, that’s a logical impossibility.

Written by omnologos

2010/Oct/20 at 10:19:07

Posted in Climate Change, Religion, Science

Tagged with ,

The Christian Roots of Marxism (and Secular Thought)

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It turns out, Pope Benedict was not so wrong after all.

Excerpts from “A Rescue of Religion” by John Gray, The New York Review of Books, Volume 55, Number 15 · October 9, 2008 – reviewing “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?: 23 Questions from Great Philosophers” by Leszek Kolakowski, Basic Books:

It is part of Kolakowski’s achievement as the greatest living intellectual historian to have tracked the ways in which religion has shaped Western thought. His work is, in effect, a sustained argument for the irreducible presence of religion in intellectual life and in society. In Kolakowski’s view the secular movements of the last century, such as communism, […] deployed categories of thought, including a view of history as a narrative having a consummation or end-point, which are inheritances from Western monotheism. […] Religion was not in truth superseded, either in Marx’s thought or in the movements Marx inspired. Instead, the promise of salvation reemerged as a project of universal emancipation.

The renewal of religious categories of thinking in avowedly secular systems of ideas […] continued in the ideology of neoconservatism. The notion of the end of history […] derives from religious traditions of apocalyptic myth. […] Presupposing as they do a teleological view of history that cannot be stated in empirical terms, all such theories are religious narratives translated into secular language. […]

Religion has had a formative influence on our categories of thought, which it is the task of philosophy to examine. Excavating the archaeology of our concepts is a part of philosophical inquiry. For us, that inescapably involves tracing their debts to Judaism and Christianity. Any way of doing philosophy that neglects these traditions is unhistorical and impoverished.

There are some philosophers for whom the only place for religion in philosophical inquiry is that of a bogey, a specter of irrationality that must be exposed and expelled so that philosophy can be an entirely secular discipline. As Kolakowski has argued, however, a good deal of secular thought has been shaped by Western religion. Exorcising religion is harder than it seems.

Richard Dawkins where art thou?

Written by omnologos

2008/Oct/24 at 19:18:17

Fitna: Anti-Koranic Freedom of Expression It Ain’t

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What to say about Fitna, the anti-Koran movie by far-rightist Dutch MP Gert Wilders who’s enjoying his spot in the limelight in these days?

First of all, the fact that it has had a difficult time getting published is not a serious matter of censorship and/or an attack on freedom of expression. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean playing up polemic for the sake of polemic: I’ll defend Rushdie’s right to write literature that some may find offensive, but I won’t waste a second to defend the author of Fitna or anybody that publishes something with the one and only intent of causing offense.

On the other hand it is simple historical truth that Christians and Jews have been able to prosper in Islamic states: the opposite, unfortunately, is much harder to argue (just think at the Armenian genocide, that follows the de-islamization of the Ottoman State).

The Qu’ran is quite explicit about this:

2,62: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

5,69: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

22,17: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allah is witness of all things.

One should compare that for example to Roman Catholic exclusivity: at least until the Second Vatican Council, there was no path to Heaven to anyone that was not a RC. All sort of Christians have managed to kill each other (and others) for centuries, on the basis of some sort exclusivity. Compared to that, the Qu’ranic text verges on the ecumenical:

2,135: They say: “Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation).” Say thou: “Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.”
2,136: Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
2,137: So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
2,138: (Our religion is) the Baptism of Allah: And who can baptize better than Allah? And it is He Whom we worship.
2,139: Say: Will ye dispute with us about Allah, seeing that He is our Lord and your Lord; that we are responsible for our doings and ye for yours; and that We are sincere (in our faith) in Him?
2,140: Or do ye say that Abraham, Isma’il Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Do ye know better than Allah? Ah! who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah? but Allah is not unmindful of what ye do!

To anybody talking about Islam as “intrinsically fascist” I can then only answer that as far as I am concerned they can write that on the surface of the Moon, but all they’ll show is ignorance (and unwillingness to learn).

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/29 at 21:50:52

Head Scarves? Islamic Veils? What about Western Trousers…

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It is always amusing to see how much debate can be generated by a single piece of cloth (“Much ado about head scarves“, IHT, Feb 19).

But what I find even more amusing, is to hear in those debates opinions expressed by men in the “civilized West“…themselves having been forced to wear trousers every single day of their lives for the past four, five, six or even more decades.

Let’s see if and when anybody will start a Liberation Movement to give male human beings too, the chance of choosing the way they dress.

Written by omnologos

2008/Feb/21 at 22:36:12

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, or How Much Can the Media Distort Opinions

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So what is Roman Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s opinion on the “Sharia Law” brouhaha around the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Who knows? Because from a look around the internet, it’s hard to tell…

(a) BBC News
(a1) Carey weighs into Sharia law row
Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 08:11 GMT

Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said he was “saddened” by the way the archbishop’s comments had been misunderstood. “I think he did raise a point of considerable interest and concern at the moment, namely, the rights of a religious groups within secular state. “Everyone in Britain must obey the law and therefore the question of how one can be a loyal British citizen and a faithful member of a religious group is a very pertinent question,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme.

(a2) Sharia row persists for Williams
Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 18:53 GMT

Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is one of the many to come out in defence of Dr Williams. “I feel he may fear that people with a Christian conscience will be put to the sidelines and not allowed to say what they believe to be true for the common good,” he told the BBC.

(b) AFP
Anglican leader ‘horrified’ by Sharia law row: predecessor
6AM Sunday

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of the 4.5 million Catholics in England and Wales, weighed into the debate, saying there were aspects of sharia that were not wanted in Britain. “I don’t believe in a multi-cultural society,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “When people come to this country, they have to obey the laws of the land,” said the son of Irish immigrants.

(c) The Independent (Ireland)
Sharia law comments leave bishop in hot water

In an interview, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said that government promotion of multiculturalism has destroyed the unity that used to hold British society together. Immigrants must “obey the laws of this country”, he said

(d) Sunday Telegraph
(d1) ENGLAND: Sharia law may result in ‘legal apartheid’
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent
9/02/2008

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said that the Government’s promotion of multiculturalism had destroyed the unity that used to hold society together. Immigrants must “obey the laws of this country“.

(d2) People here ‘must obey the laws of the land’
Last Updated: 1:16am GMT 10/02/2008

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, leader of the 4.5 million Catholics in England and Wales, begs to differ. He is adamant that such a move would only make segregation even more entrenched. “I don’t believe in a multicultural society,” he says firmly. “When people come into this country they have to obey the laws of the land.” He has a mellifluous voice and an affable manner, but the cardinal becomes steely when discussing the problems facing British society, and the issue of sharia law.

(e) Evening Standard
Two of the most powerful clergy in Britain launch stinging attack on Archbishop over sharia row
Last updated at 20:37pm on 10.02.08

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor added his criticisms and went on to urge Muslims to do more to integrate. “The extent to which multiculturalism has been encouraged recently has meant a lessening of the kind of unity that a country needs.
“There are common values which are part of the heritage of this country which should be embraced by everybody.
“I don’t believe in a multi-cultural society. When people come into this country they have to obey the laws of the land.”

===========

Notably (alas, I haven’t kept any evidence…) the BBC (a1) article mentioned the Cardinal’s criticisms at first this morning, then around 9AM switched to a more supportive note (Radio 4’s Sunday Programme was broadcast today between 7.10 and 7.55AM).

So what can we be sure of?

(1) Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has expressed complex thoughts, and felt the need to clarify them

(2) Those thoughts were anyway too difficult to translate into a soundbite

(3) Every media source opted to pick-and-choose whatever pleased them

(4) Even after the Cardinal’s change of tones between the Telegraph’s interview and the Sunday Programme’s appearance, most if not all stuck to their first choice

(5) Only the BBC made any significant change, but more or less “under duress”: to avoid ridicule, that is

The end result is that whatever the Cardinal’s opinions, his words were and still are just fodder for the Media animals. And whatever is read via one source or another, is very very unlikely to communicate the nuances of the Cardinal’s actual opinions.

===========

The question then becomes, given the above, how should one relate to the British media to avoid continuous distortions of one’s thoughts?

Written by omnologos

2008/Feb/10 at 22:30:14

On the Nature of God

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“(God) leaves you (on purpose) in doubt… were He to speak out the Truth, stating “I exist” or “I do not exist”, the world would end”
Roberto Benigni

So where is this God (or gods) that can elicit strong passions not only in the believers, but even in those avowedly opposed to the very idea that such a thing as Faith exists? Why doesn’t He (or She) just show up in front of everybody and settle the question once and for all, instead of appearing obsessed on concealing His/Herself?

An answer can be elaborated starting from two basic hypotheses: (1) God actually exists; (2) is the Creator of the Universe (or Multiverse).

As a consequence, God is not part of the Universe/Multiverse, because the Creator obviously cannot create the Creator.

Therefore, there is no way to relate to God in a scientific manner, i.e. objective, observable and measurable under repeatable, controlled conditions: in a word, impersonal.

Hence, it is a waste of time to look into Nature for evidence of the existence of God. Physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology will never show anything of the sort, just as there can be no soup on the fork.

And just as radio waves do not “hide” from the human eye, but simply can only be transformed into images and sound with a TV set: so God does not “hide” from scientific research, but can only be experienced using the appropriate tool.

That tool is Faith, a very personal endeavour made up of belief, trust, commitment and conviction in a combination that is the very opposite of impersonal and objective

===

God the Creator, if He/She exists, is extraneous to scientific reality.

Does that mean that for all intents and purposes, God does not exist at all? I would advise against taking such a strong science-is-everything stance.

Science by definition can only deal with scientific stuff. But there is a lot that can and does happen to each one of us, that cannot be repeated nor written about in a scientific article: probably, most of one’s life, and definitely, all of one’s dreams.

I am afraid I cannot repeat my dreams in a controlled situation.

===

How can Faith function then, between a Divinity that is quite literally outside of this world, and the physical brain?

A topic that will deserve its own blog.

Written by omnologos

2007/Aug/22 at 21:00:48

Posted in God, Religion

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