This is worthwhile, right here.
This evening I stumbled across a pretty interesting read from our pals across the pond at The Guardian, an article entitled “Atheists, Please Read My Heathen Manifesto” by Julian Baggini.
While I appreciate his effort to give most sensible nonbelievers one common constitution to operate under, I don’t much agree with his arguments. For one, and it’s a trivial matter, he claims that we need to all unite under the label “heathen.” Because, according to him, that label doesn’t have as negative connotation as “atheist.” I think it does. I think the phrase “heathen” is on a lot of people’s mind when they start killing in the name of their god. It’s synonymous with “infidel” in a lot of ways.
Anyhow, Baggini also goes on to claim that “heathens,” as he’s calling us all now, have “belief in Naturalism” and pursue Truth with a capital T and that heathens can actually be religious in some degrees. The bit about naturalism reads like a rancid pile of mumbo-jumbo to me, but his talk about Truth with a capital T and toned-down religious belief doesn’t sit with me at all.
I don’t think nonbelievers/atheists/etc. should be concerned with Truth, I think they should be more concerned with Fact. Indiana Jones taught me the difference between Fact and Truth a long time ago, and it’s been a guiding principle ever since. The “Truth” can waiver, but facts remain firm. I acknowledge that when he’s talk about “Truth” he means something on a emotional level that can’t be qualified by facts, but my point still remains. People live and die for something they think is a truth, and often that truth get muddled over the course of history or it even ends up fading away.
I appreciate Baggini’s attempt to give the nonbeliever culture a few central points to rally around, because I think most of us can agree we need it. We need to become organized and more involved and unashamed. That’s what last weekend’s Reason Rally in D.C. was all about. However, I think he missed the mark here.
This is worthwhile, right here.
So the Reason Rally happened in D.C. this past weekend and “Mythbusters” host Adam Savage, whom I’ve had the pleasure of hearing speak in person before, was a highlight from the event. While Dawkins, Hitchens, & Harris get a lot of credit, and rightly so, I connect with Savage much more because he brings a clearly more positive vibe, and I dig it. ~ M.B.
A few days ago I stumbled across Alain de Botton’s new book Religion for Atheists at my local big box bookstore and picked it up for an admitedly brief moment. The title caught my eye because, as I’m sure most atheists would agree, religion and religious practice is a notably absent factor in atheism. The premise behind the title was so ill-informed and outdated to me I didn’t think it could possibly be a new publication, but yet I’d never seen it on the shelves of the philosophy section before.
That should have been my clue that it was in fact a new publication. I stumbled across a review of the book today on NPR, and was compelled to get a more detailed insight into this book. I should have known better than to judge a book by its cover in the first place, right?
After reading the review and checking out a bit more about “Religion for Atheists,” apparently the gist of this book is to explore exactly what there is that’s valuable in religious practice and whether or not it’s worth saving. But don’t take my word for it, let Alain explain his curiosity to you:
“the real issue is not whether God exists or not, but where to take the argument once one decides that he evidently doesn’t. The premise of this book is that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling –- and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm.”
It’d be good for a laugh to put on the “Snarky Hat” and make some comment about what a great idea it is to import ideas about illogical dietary habits and the spiritual merit of hot cutting your hair into secular society, but let’s be a bit more constructive.
This premise is fundamentally flawed because one of the primary functions of religion is to promote and maintain tradition. This, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, starting from there, you’re already entering into contradictory territory to want to include ancient religious practice, ritual, or morality into the modern discourse. Progress and tradition constantly struggle against each other in a bid to determine human destiny. Religion isn’t concerned with progress because change is thematically and inherently oppositional to tradition. Allowing outdated, inefficient traditions to continue just because we have difficulty accepting change and feel nostalgia for them isn’t justifiable to me.
He states that religion taught us how to work together as a community and that it helped us find a way to cope with suffering. As compelling an argument as that might be, you can make just as strong an argument that agriculture and science did far more for normalizing society and giving us a greater understanding of physical and emotional pain.
For as long as we’ve been able to think and rationalize, humanity has come up with ideas and then adapted new, better ones to replace the old. Religion was a great idea for keeping us from slitting each other’s throats when civilization was in its infancy, but we’ve moved on from those times.
Nevertheless, I’m willing to give this guy a chance to state his case. This is going to get added to the reading list for the near future.
“The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man’s plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.”
~ Albert Einstein, Religion and Science, 1930
Happy Birthday, Albert. Born today, March 14th, 1879
This one is extra funny because actor Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) is a socialist. No, really, he admitted it to the Internet. Meanwhile, Inigo Montoya’s wit and wisdom echoes through the ages.