Thursday, January 8, 2015

558: A Philosopher looks at Atheism

First of all  I like to welcome you and share with you my wish that this will be an interesting and educating year again.

Just last week, December 30, there appeared an article in my newspaper with the heading “God is alive and kicking in modern philosophy”.

This made me frown, since it hasn’t been the case since The Enlightenment, say since 1650. And hadn’t Nietzsche not told us, that god was dead?

Well,  some was explained when I checked who the authors of the article were: two teachers of the Department of Philosophy of the “Vrije Universiteit”, the protestant university in Amsterdam. (I am Dutch, by the way:-)

January second there were, of course, two articles as a reply to this article. The fist one opens with the sentence: “Funny how two philosophers of the VU can claim that God is alive and kicking in modern philosophy”.

The second is even funnier. The author opens with the story of the Japanese soldier Hiroo Ononda,  who stayed on his post till 1974 although the war was over since August 1945.

His former commander had to talk to him personally to convince him that the war was over. Onoda died in peace last year, 2014.

The author criticizes the article of the VU philosophers regarding “the war” against god and ends with the sentence: “ Could somebody be so kind and inform the VU philosophers that  the war is over?

I decided to start this project as a consequence of my previous project on philosophy of science. When you read my lectures 538, 539 and 540 you’ll see, how the seed is planted there already… :-)

And as you may have concluded from the newspaper articles I referred to, there seems to be a debate going on right now, even such a debate that my newspaper is willing to publish such articles.

I know that for some people atheism is a very sensitive subject, so we have to find a way to deal with it even tho it may strike some sensitive chords.

This is the reason, why I explicitly have named this project “A Philosopher looks at Atheism”. The emphasis will be on the philosophical method to address this subject.

It means that we are not at all interested in whether you are a believer in god or not or even hate or love religion. Philosophy begins with wonder and in my case, I wonder about the  question “Why is there atheism?”

And believe me, it is a question that makes sense. Especially because in relation to atheism there are so many weird things philosophically and mutatis mutandis in relation to religion as well.

With “weird things” I mean issues that are beyond rationality or logic or even common sense. Take for instance this report, “Freedom of Thought 2014”. Free download here

Take the subtitle “A Global Report on the Rights, Legal Status and Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheist and Non-religious”. 

Isn’t that weird: Humanists, Atheist and Non-religious. Are these three different but yet equivalent categories? I mean, I assume that humanists and atheists are non-religious by definition, and yet they are mentioned as separate categories.

Does that mean, that you can be non-religious and yet not a humanist or an atheist? And isn’t a humanist by definition an atheist? And why is the agnostic not mentioned here?

I think, we have to sort this out philosophically, for in my opinion something isn’t right here. We HAVE to dig into the semantics here and analyze the meanings of these terms in relation to one another.

But you can get it even weirder. In my introductory lecture before the Holidays I quoted Joseph Lewis, what he said in 1960 in  an address over the radio:

“Atheism is a vigorous and a courageous philosophy. It is not afraid to face the problems of life, and it is not afraid to confess that there are problems yet to be solved.”

Philosophically this sounds really weird, but I regarded it as some amusing caricature: “vigorous and courageous” ?
So weird, but I had to discover that I was wrong.

Just take this quote: “Being an atheist is nothing to be apologetic about. On the contrary, it is something to be proud of, standing tall to face the far horizon, for atheism nearly always indicates a healthy independence of mind and, indeed, a healthy mind.”

This you can read in the preface of Richard Dawkin’s “The God Delusion” (2006). Nothing has changed since 1960 here, it seems.

As a philosopher, I think I would call myself an empiricist, who cherishes logic and rationality as tools of philosophical method.

But to call empiricism or any philosophy a vigorous and a courageous philosophy…. or to tell myself that I should be proud of being an empiricist. Totally nuts :-)

This leads for me to the question “Is atheism something more than a philosophical stand, based on clear logic and arguments?”

And this is only the tip of the iceberg.But let me show you what I’d like to regard as my down to earth starting point.
Let me quote Frans de Waal frorm the first chapter of “The Bonobo and the Atheist”

“Why not assume that our humanity, including the self-control needed for a livable society, is built into us? Does anyone truly believe that our ancestors lacked social norms before they had religion?”

To conclude my lecture you have to do some homework. It will take you 16 minutes and 32 seconds. Take your time and watch a video now and after that we can have some discussion.

After the discussion you have real homework and HAVE TO watch video 2

Watch now video 1:
Watch later video 2:

The Discussion

herman Bergson: Mandatory!
Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Between the lines... he was in Masterclass (Dutch tv) this year... and a delight to listen to
herman Bergson: of course!
jaynine Scarborough is online.
Chantal (nymf.hathaway): (Bookmarked nr 2 as well, I need to turn in Herman, was a rough day for me, Huggles)
Chantal (nymf.hathaway): Waves at everyone and poofs
Roger Amdahl: seen it ...
Daruma Boa: me too
herman Bergson: ok :-)
Gemma Allen throws cucumbers at everyone
Daruma Boa: *GIGGLES* :)~~~~
herman Bergson: lol
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): book marked the other
herman Bergson: HAVE TO watch the other too....
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): bookmarked it too
Roger Amdahl: I like to start with explaining my opinion that for any religion it is absurd to claim they the inventors of morality. I think of religion ( not faith) as an institution that poisons everything with their false claims about truth and morality
herman Bergson: it is essential evicence...
herman Bergson: Hold on Roger...;-)
Roger Amdahl: ok :))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i don’t think that most religions set out to do that tho but
herman Bergson: Those words of yours are classics....of course :-)
herman Bergson: But an important point in them is indeed the relation between morality and religion....
herman Bergson: When you have seen the second video you’ll have clear proof that that relation is not justified by facts.
herman Bergson: As de Waal you really believe that our ancestors hadn’t social values ?
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): cain and abel sure didn’t
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): well cain didn’t
Daruma Boa: no of curse i don’t believe that. never did.
herman Bergson: couple and easily forgotten by christians...
herman Bergson: nice
herman Bergson: But one the the claims against atheism is...that there can be no morality without god...
Roger Amdahl: How would Moses ever had reached the foot of Mount Zion, (10 commandments) it the people didn't know that they should not steel, kill and betray each other. do you really think when Moses got down with the tablets they says: Oh .. that is how we do it .. it is absurd
herman Bergson: you read that everywhere as one of the refutations of atheism...
Daruma Boa:  the christians had a lot to write to make everyone believe in what they want them to believe
Roger Amdahl: That is a truly false statement Herman .. Morality is not from the church .. it is our need to survive as a group
herman Bergson: lol....I havent read that one Roger...but it is a good one :-)
herman Bergson: Waal shows in his experiments that even primates have some sense of fairness...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): of course or they could not live in groups
Roger Amdahl: Look on you tube for "Chistopher Hitchens".. He has some neat things to say about religion.. He can say it in a way I never could .. this is a must see too
herman Bergson: Just watch the second will be surprised!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): not sure we will
Roger Amdahl: BTW Christopher Hitchens is a very good friend of Richard Dawkins you mentioned before
herman Bergson: yes Rogr, Hitchens is on my list, don’t worry :-))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): he has died tho yes??
Roger Amdahl: Good :)))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): did he not die last year ?
herman Bergson: yes in 2011
Roger Amdahl: Yes .. Chistopher is no more amongst us
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ah that long
herman Bergson: Gott cancer....
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): he is still often quoted
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): there must be some kind of God fear instilled in people not to do wrong and evil. yet i don't believe in any. Religions make people hate each other and kill and fight with each other. So this is the big paradox.
herman Bergson: keep this a clear and open discussion....
herman Bergson: One of my problems with atheism is that all debates you read...or watch on youtube are debates about a christian god...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): very polluting truck train passing
Roger Amdahl: The fear involved is the bad thing about the church .... Unless you literaly believe what they say, there is no place in heaven for you. That is cheap blackmail.
herman Bergson: which means for instance that for a Hindu these debates are utter nonsense...
Roger Amdahl: The Islamic God is not much better either
herman Bergson: So...I do not waste time on debating what the christian church and its god means in realtion to atheism....
Arabela (aarrabella) is online.
Daruma Boa: some religion people dont think about their religion as we do.
Daruma Boa: in india it is totally common to believe what all believe
herman Bergson: What I want to analyse is what is the meaning of our behavior in general....the inclination to believe in something supernatural....
Daruma Boa: what is that in detail? the supernatural?
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): it is in our dna to believe in the higher realms.
Roger Amdahl: The reason why I became an atheist is simple .. the unbelievable ignorance of any church to claim they have some knowledge not available to us, the repression of free thought, and the repression of women ( 1/2 the world population)
herman Bergson: THAT, Shaycy , is the real fundamental question....
Daruma Boa: true roger, " ignorance of any church to claim they have some knowledge not availavble to us," and they can not explain most of the things in the bible
herman Bergson: Slow down Roger.....:-)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): but roger is it necessary to express such contempt alll the time about religion then???
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): i believe it is so. some people call me an atheist. but in not one. i bleive in a source of all. A creator of the universe and all
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i know some who have left this class over the years because of that
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): im*
herman Bergson: In my lecture I said that I was not at all interested in whether you believe in a god or not....
Roger Amdahl: Sparkle... We are almost all afraid to die, it is something strange to us, something unknown... getting anwsers for that situation is in our genes.. it is called intelligence. The need for religion is no where
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i suggest it be left alone then
Daruma Boa: thats fear
Daruma Boa: not intelligence^^^
herman Bergson: equally I am not al all interested either in who is an atheist here or not....
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): fear or intelligence or both
herman Bergson: My philosophical question was WHY is there atheism?
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): i think both
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yes
Daruma Boa: because we start to think about
Daruma Boa: and we started to choose different
Daruma Boa: beter believing nothing than anything
Daruma Boa: perhaps also fear?
herman Bergson: Ahhh the idea of being afraid to die....a classic....
Roger Amdahl: thinking freely about religion, I became an atheist .. too much nonsense in religion..
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): we get that
herman Bergson: The funny thing Dawkins writes....who are most afraid to die...the religious people or the noon-religious people...
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): unknown is always scary but also exciting
Daruma Boa: religion is a process of human beings. a try to explain the world
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hard to say
Daruma Boa: but now we are on the way to find other answers
herman Bergson: As arelious person you should believe that you go over to a better life....
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): some religious accept it as a new life with god
Roger Amdahl: How about : We all made in the image of God , but not you, you are a homosexual, you are an evil person .. ( Catholic church until today) how is that for religion ?
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): non religious accept it as just life and the end
herman Bergson: as a non religious one you should realize you end up in nothingness
Roger Amdahl: as you was before you were born, nobody seems to bother with that Herman
herman Bergson: But statisticallly....the religious people were more afraid to die
Daruma Boa: no wonder^^
herman Bergson: no...they are scared like hell for hell :-))
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): because realize are always breaking the rules
Daruma Boa: when u read the bible, u are the most time of your life afraid to do nothing wrong.
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): right
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hopes i can make it Thursday
Roger Amdahl: Hell is a story that same church put into world without proof... to blackmail people... But you could still go to heaven if you donated a years salary
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ers have to watch the video
herman Bergson looks at his watch....
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yes
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate) GIGGLES!!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ...LOL...
Daruma Boa: overtime^
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): late !
herman Bergson: I guess youhave plenty of time till then Gemma :-))
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): interesting lecture Herman
herman Bergson: thank you Beertje...
Daruma Boa: yes indeed!
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yes
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and the video was good
Daruma Boa: thank you for that
herman Bergson: Well we stil have a lot of ground to cover...
Daruma Boa: we have now 12 months...
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): the prof looked better now than when young
herman Bergson: Watch the second IS an eyeopener...!
Roger Amdahl: Thank you Herman , sadly I can't be here next time, because of work ..
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
herman Bergson: and will give you some hope regarding the future possibilities of mankind :-))
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): as always no answer to really anything
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): maybe the next video
herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation again..
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): lol'
herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): but lot's to think about again:)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Bye, Bye   
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): for now
Daruma Boa: see u thursday. i do my very best to appear°°
Daruma Boa: happy wednesday to all tomorrow
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): me too
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): have a goodnight all
Sparkle Kingston (shaycy): i don't know u but bye to all

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