Monday, October 29, 2007

Sir, (a + bn)/n = x, hence God exists. Reply!

It's often said that in polite society, there are two things that you never discuss - politics and religion. I've given politics enough of a go on the blog, so now it's God's turn.

Editorial comment - one side of this discussion is going to approach straw man status. However, this side often presents itself as a straw man, so this is precisely the problem. If you put up a piñata, I'm gonna take a swing.

Somehow in the YouTube-Google Reader-Friends' Blogs zeitgeist, I came across a series of articles and videos relating to religion and God's existence. They are as follows:

Richard Dawkins discussing The God Delusion at Macon Women's College and on the Beeb. (videos)
Christopher Hitchens discussing God Is Not Great at a Google Talk. (video)
"The Evangelical Crackup" in the New York Times Sunday Magazine (article)
"Should I get a tattoo??" on the St. Louis Archdiocese Youth Ministry page (article)

Dawkins and Hitchens are, for those who don't know, rather well known atheists who present their cases quite persuasively. They are articulate, both (but Dawkins in particular) use science and logic to present their arguments, and they are gracious and accommodating, within reason, when confronted with questioners who have opposing viewpoints.

Dawkins' (greatly condensed) argument goes something like this: An infinitely complex being responsible for the creation of the universe, and therefore you and me, cannot exist because the universe evolves from simple systems to complex systems, and not vice versa.

While I was watching Dawkins' MWC talk, which was infiltrated by Jerry Falwell's Liberty "University" students, I also found my way to the St. Louis Archdiocese's Youth Ministry page. One of my best friends is a seminarian at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and he mentioned that he had a new blog entry on the youth site. (As philosophy, it's actually quite good - possibly the best writing he's done in some time.) While I was on the home page, I saw a link right below his, asking "Should I get a Tattoo??"

At first, I thought, Whoa, this is awesome. Someone on a Catholic youth page is surveying his readers to see if he should get a tattoo? That's keeping it real, especially if people say he should, and he actually DOES it.

Then I read the article. He does not want a tattoo. He does not want you to get a tattoo, either, because God says no. After stumbling through the Design Argument, in which he says that "your skin is not a canvas for painting but a barrier for protecting against infection" (which, by extension means no one can wear make-up and all piercings, even the ears, are forbidden by God himself), he moves on to a doozy.

"Have you actually been to a tattoo parlor? You will find demon-worshippers [sic] who get branded with their gods in there. . . Satan enjoys seeing people go through pain to permanently scar their skin."

Are you f*cking kidding me?! Demons? Like horns on their head demons? Exorcist demons? You shouldn't get a tattoo because you'll get pulled into a den of demon worship? Oh shit, maybe that's why my Ba'al brand still burns three years after I got it! Do people actually believe this crap? The article was wrong from about paragraph one, but this is waaay through the looking glass.

The Times article I read talked about how religion is now known for what it is against (abortion, gay marriage, etc.), rather than what it is for (love, betterment of society, etc.). Let me recap the discussion in society right now:

Reasoned, logical, atheists calmly presenting their case and engaging in honest debate vs. Demons like tattoos, God told President Bush to invade Iraq, and dinosaurs lived three thousand years ago.

I'm not saying there aren't reasonable, principled, God-fearing people. I'd just like to know where the hell they are, because the public debate is being dominated by people who are just absolutely nutters. Note to the religious establishment: you cannot advance your position if you refuse to engage in honest and open debate. "Logical argument" beats "This book is true no matter what because God says so" every time, even if the logical argument is flawed. It's like sending a cripple into a UFC fight and wondering why he keeps getting the crap kicked out of him.

I know people who go to church every week, and they're calm, rational people who don't believe this outer space nonsense. Why are they letting others speak for them, especially when it's like this? Why doesn't a rational theist approach a Dawkins or a Hitchens and say, "Here are the logical flaws in your argument and here is my counterargument for your critique."

At the same time, I know atheists who are absolute morons, and you know what the principled atheists do? They ridicule the morons, because that's what they deserve in the marketplace of ideas. It's time for theists to do the same. I'll stay out of it and play skeptic, cause I'm good at that. If you're a rational human being, and you believe in God, I'm calling you out.

And to my religious friends, I'm not saying I'm an atheist - I just had to say something.

Comment away.


Dan said...

I'll make it brief:

I'm with Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.

And yes, there are moronic atheists and believers.

Counsel said...

Proof either of God's existence or of no God does not exist.

Yet, the atheists and religious folk tell us one of the above statements must be true.

While most atheists are not mathematicians, I think a math example might work...

Imagine a time after the "belief in God" but prior to the "mathematical revolution." If nobody could "prove" to everyone's satisfaction that 1+1=2 was false (using any means to meet with anyone's satisfaction), it would not mean that 1+1 did not, in fact, equal 2. Of course, nobody, at that time, could prove that 1+1 did equal 2 either...

Just because someone is unable to prove (mathematically or otherwise) that any equation is "true" does not make the equation false. It simply may make the idea a theorem or a hypothesis...

Whether or not there is a "proof" may be irrelevant to some--thus the leap of faith.

Omniskriba said...

We're here. We're just not very loud and quite possibly the polar opposite of being controversial unless someone actually gave us the time of day. But we're here. And we're waiting.

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