I see Angels. Angels in this very room. Now I may be mad, but that doesn’t mean I’m not right.
Those were the words of Battlestar Galactica’s decadent atheist/radical empericist after, perhaps, a series long conversion.
Here is William James about a hundred years earlier towards the end of his first talk on The Varieties of Religious Experience.
In the natural sciences and industrial arts it never occurs to any one to try to refute opinions by showing up their author’s neurotic constitution. Opinions here are invariably tested by logic and by experiment, no matter what may be their author’s neurological type. It should be no otherwise with religious opinions. Their value can only be ascertained by spiritual judgments directly passed upon them, judgments based on our own immediate feeling primarily; and secondarily on what we can ascertain of their experiential relations to our moral needs and to the rest of what we hold as true.
Is it possible that the writers of Battlestar Galactica were into William James, or is this such an obvious notion that it’s sentiment is bound to pop up at least a couple times every hundred years?
I have never given the New Atheist movement a whole lot of time and thought. I generally don’t comment on it, because I have never read any of their books, and I probably won’t. I have taken the time to watch some debates on Youtube, and have read commentary from others who have taken the time to read and summarize much of what has been put forward by Dawkins, et al. But that’s about as far as I have gone, because based on the little bit that I have been exposed to, I know that there is material out there that my time would be better spent on. It’s not that the new atheists are a complete waste of time. After all, they have influenced a lot of people with their hostile and somewhat arrogant approach, and those people that they have influenced seem to pop up in my life from time to time. Hence, the reason for this post.
It was quite a few beers into the evening when an atheist friend of mine brought up some statistic that 95% of people who belong to a religion do so because it’s the religion of their parents. Therefore, people who are members of a religion are not thoughtful about the religion they belong to. This kind of statistic is annoying for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it has absolutely no bearing on the truth claims of a particular religion. Additionally, my friend was unable to answer such questions as, “what was the sample populations demographics?” By this I mean – were the people questioned high school students living at home? Were they college students, or married, have kids, elderly? Did they consider themselves active in their faith, go to church every Sunday. He didn’t really seem to know any details about this statistic, but he had no problem wielding it as an instrument that invalidates anyone’s claim to religious truth. Most people can see that this is a complete non sequitur, yet it seems to me that this is the kind of argumentation that runs rampant in atheist circles.
It also seems to me that this approach is fueled by both hubris and laziness. For starters, it is not good enough to conflate the beliefs and actions of all religions, and then deem them irrational and dangerous. The only fair approach is to take a systematic look at a particular religion and refute its truth claims. This is because each religion believes to have an internal consistency that exists independently of any other religion. So the validity of their religion cannot be refuted on the basis of some criticism of some other religion. That’s only fair, but I don’t think it will happen any time soon, because that would take an awful lot of work. After all, if Dawkins is comfortable equating the belief in a spaghetti monster with a belief in God, then it is obvious that he has not done the work necessary to come to an understanding of what orthodox Christianity means when it refers to “God”. But this is not at all unexpected from people whose world view is formed only by a mechanistic materialism.
The idea that only that which is empirically verifiable is real necessitates a certain laziness. What’s the point in actively searching for answers through reason if I can’t know something until I actually witness it, or at least have sufficient evidence that someone else has witnessed? Then irony here is that if all that is real is only that which my five physical senses have access to, then how would any of these people justify a belief in photons. No one has ever directly experienced a photon through sensory data, but only its effects. Then by its effects have merely theorized about what must be true of the photon.
I would never seriously suggest that it is unreasonable to believe in photons, yet the belief in a photon cannot be based on any direct interaction that I’ve had with it. My senses are just not sensitive enough to pick-up on a photon, but it’s considered completely valid to believe in one. So I guess what I’m trying to say amidst this ramble is that if the atheists want to decide on what are legitimate grounds for belief, they better be careful not to move themselves into a radical empiricism that arbitrarily turns their own rational beliefs into irrational ones.
And for the record…I don’t believe in spaghetti monsters, or cosmic tea cups, because neither provides a reasonable explanation for existence. A final cause cannot be attributed to either, but then again one would have to actual think about final causation to realize that. An a priori dismissal of such things can only leave one held in the grip of materialism.
This will be the last I have to say on this subject, because I’m at a place where it just doesn’t interest me that much, and I just find the attitude of most atheists rather trying. However; I do have a lingering thought on ex-mormons and atheism, but we’ll see if I feel compelled to comment on that later.
…for weight loss.
It started with an early morning snowshoe followed by a consistent mix of running and biking. Apparently my body was not ready for consistent exercise as I am now too sick to do anything but sit around and feel sorry for myself.