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Passions in Poetry

From Hitch

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Brad
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0 posted 04-22-2011 09:22 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

This is an open letter.  If you're a believer, don't read it.

Christopher Hitchens was scheduled to appear at the American Atheist convention, but had to cancel because of his illness. He sent this letter instead.

    Dear fellow-unbelievers,

        Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice) which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death. Nobody ever wins this argument, though there are some solid points to be made while the discussion goes on. I have found, as the enemy becomes more familiar, that all the special pleading for salvation, redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before. I hope to help defend and pass on the lessons of this for many years to come, but for now I have found my trust better placed in two things: the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family, all of them immune to the false consolations of religion. It is these forces among others which will speed the day when humanity emancipates itself from the mind-forged manacles of servility and superstition. It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency.

          That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private.

        Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.

           As the heirs of a secular revolution, American atheists have a special responsibility to defend and uphold the Constitution that patrols the boundary between Church and State. This, too, is an honor and a privilege. Believe me when I say that I am present with you, even if not corporeally (and only metaphorically in spirit...) Resolve to build up Mr Jefferson's wall of separation. And don't keep the faith.

        Sincerely

    Christopher Hitchens
Stephanos
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1 posted 04-23-2011 03:17 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Sorry Brad, I eavesdropped after all.     

First impression: We'd be hard pressed find something that sounds less like the final address of a cultic high preist to his flock.

Maybe after this thread we'll discuss Peter Hitchens as well.  Strife among brothers always makes an interesting story.      

Stephen
Brad
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2 posted 04-23-2011 04:46 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Yeah, people break God's commandments all the time (all 613).  Why would anybody listen to me?

The brothers angle sounds like a good idea.  I had hesitations before and after posting this because I wasn't sure what direction this thread would go.

By the way, I think your assessment is accurate.  I don't think atheism is a cult but this is a call to arms (metaphorically speaking).

Given Hitch's history, it would be surprising if it weren't.

Is it justified?  Sometimes I think yes (usually after watching Fox News), sometimes no (Hitch mentions solidarity, that's there in some form regardless of religion or lack there of).  

Atheism is the fastest growing group in the United States. In the world, it is probably either the second or third largest group (it depends on how you count the Chinese).

I don't think silence is an option anymore.  

Whether or not atheists can organize themselves for more than three days of fun is anybody's guess.

Herding cats?
Brad
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3 posted 04-29-2011 01:15 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

This is probably one of Hitch's best statements:

Better edited Hitch at his best

Hitchens at his best

Curious if anybody has noticed that I'm building up to . . . you know.  I hope it doesn't happen but . . . you know.

Stephanos
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4 posted 04-30-2011 06:04 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad, "best" in what sense?  

Vitriolic arrogant rhetoric that routinely abandons his literary intelligence?  

For example, he won't have Nazism called a secular regime, for the reason that Hitler made references to God in "Mein Kampf".  And yet, it's obvious that Hitler's use of religion was solely propaganda, especially if he was to appeal to a German populace with a religious history.  Hitler's "Aryan" historical revision of religion, where Jesus of Nazereth is said to be Nordic, and the Old Testament mostly denounced because it is Jewish, should not be used as an example of German religion, as much as of oppression of religion by a Totalitarian state.  (Metaxas' Biography on Bonhoeffer, is a good book to get an overview on how the Third Reich approached the Church).

Has a mind as agile and subtle as Hitchens, actually missed this, or is he on a dishonest tirade against anything religious?  

And yes Brad, as always, I am curious of what you're leading up to.    
Brad
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5 posted 04-30-2011 05:33 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Wow, that's all you get out of that?

Hitch is reacting to the charge that Hitler was an atheist and therefore the Holocaust happened.  While I agree that the situation is much more nuanced than Hitch lays out, I do not think Hitler was an atheist.  Whether he was a Christian is certainly open to debate, the fact that he never left the Catholic Church is not.  Yes, he saw it as a tool.  But the two points, opportunism and belief, are not mutually exclusive.

This is not to say that some Catholics did heroic things.  They did.  Some Catholics did atrocious things as well.

Stalin on the other hand was an atheist and his relationship with the Greek Orthodox Church was also, um, nuanced.

Hitch's overall point is that Christianity, Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox, have always been at best opportunistic:  choose your date and look.

Conversely, never forget Orwell: that, at root, all forms of totalitarianism are theocratic.

It's a marriage made in hell.
Stephanos
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6 posted 04-30-2011 07:29 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
Wow, that's all you get out of that?


No, of course not.  But it was good place for me to start, since it's all essentially the same song, different verses.  Remember Hitchen's motif is that "religion poisons everything" ... ev-er-y-thing.    

quote:
This is not to say that some Catholics did heroic things.  They did.  Some Catholics did atrocious things as well.
  

A point that Hitchens does not concede for a moment.  Or at least he will not concede that they have ever done good because of their Christianity.  And this, I find to be evidence of an emotionally-driven campaign rather than anything close to reasonable critique.  No one is saying we shouldn't critique religious failure (or at least many religious would never say such a thing).  

quote:
Hitch's overall point is that Christianity, Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox, have always been at best opportunistic:  choose your date and look.


Sorry Brad, but that's a point you just contradicted in the word 'heroism', however infrequently you think that may have occurred (or occurs).  At their best, these religious movements have not been opportunistic.  I mean come on, Hitchens is angry and embittered, and we all know its not the most accurate lens to see through, though we can sympathize and even join in at times with his disapproval.  But the dirt he slings has simply not been ubiquitous.  It may hit all the mitred, but doesn't always stick.    

quote:
But the two points, opportunism and belief, are not mutually exclusive ...

Conversely, never forget Orwell: that, at root, all forms of totalitarianism are theocratic.


Yep, especially when the worshipped and worshipper is the same, with or without religious trappings.

quote:
It's a marriage made in hell.


Yep, you're getting it.


Stephen    
Brad
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7 posted 05-01-2011 04:00 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Well,  I don't think I contradicted myself but I did screw up the grammar.

And yet isn't it simply obvious that some Catholics do good things and some Catholic do bad things?  Can't we just keep the sentence frame and substitute some other group there?   Do we really have to preface every remark we say with such banal phrasing (kind of like saying "in my opinion" after every sentence)?

As much as I want to scream no we don't, I'm stuck with the idea that we do, we do have to clutter our comments with such detritus.

I had to make sure that you stated just such a similar remark considering atheists.  Why?  Because I've had to counter the idea that atheists, by definition, are lacking a morality.  In some areas, this seems to be an axiom:  No God, no morality.

I don't think Hitch sees the same need there that I do.  And while I think he often misunderstands some more subtle theological arguments on morality (or rather he might say obfuscatory remarks on morality), I also think he gives us, the audience, a certain respect by not endlessly, mind-numbingly repeating the bloody obvious.
Brad
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8 posted 05-01-2011 05:15 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Why ev-er-y-thing?

Hitch often uses chess as an example, but what about football?

If you pray before a game and win, did you cheat?

If you pray and lose, were you bested or were you tested by God?

Yeah, it gets that trivial.

Humility?

How can preachers and priests makes statements about God's intentions when it comes to natural disasters?  

When scientists make hypotheses, they are tested and checked by other scientists.

This does not seem to be the case with preachers and priests.  

What are the consequences when proselytizers of the absolute change their mind?

Goodness?

God's bar is impossibly high, is it not?  

How do we assess the less than perfect good by that standard?  I can use Hitch here.  

Hitch has argued that Auden's 1930s poetry is better than the post-return-to-Christianity work.

He's wrong.  Auden's best poems are from the 1940s and 1950s.  How do we reconcile these two positions?

We don't have to.  We can discuss it, debate it, do exhaustive analyses on the work and there is value, there is something to be gained by that, in and of itself.

Isn't there a suspicion with Hitch's pronouncement, that he dislikes the later work precisely because they do deal with, are influenced by, Auden's eclectic return to Christianity?

Knowledge?

Religion sacrifices the joy of new knowledge, the achievement of understanding, with the comfort of already knowing, the complacency of "I've learned all I need to".

Charity?

Helping or advertising?

Morality?

Agent or automaton?

------------------

Now, Stephen, I know you won't accept all these points.  Hitch wouldn't either.

But that's the point.  You don't have to, he doesn't have to, and I don't have to.

I can change my mind.  

Brad
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9 posted 05-01-2011 05:30 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

Don't worry about a time lag.  I don't know how much longer I can keep this up anyway.  Also, neither the morality thread nor the teleological thread are finished. I just don't have the time to get to them right now.

Three more ideas:

1. I still want to get a cosmological thread going.

2. I also want a thread on the multi-verse.  Believe it or not, there is some controversial evidence for the idea (in quantum computing).

3. An apologetics thread: I don't have much to add here but I'd love to hear other people's takes on, at least from my point of view, the more bizarre statements made these days.

It never ends so don't worry about finishing.    

PS Here's the start of the H v H debate:

Hitchen versus Hitchens
Local Rebel
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10 posted 05-01-2011 10:16 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Sorry Brad.  I know you have an admiration for Hitch but, I still don't understand the impetus to proselytize agnosticism.  

The evidence more supports the positive role the religious mind has played in the development of human civilization than the negative.  I can drill a hole in a two by four -- I can drill a hole in baby's head.  It isn't the drill's fault what I do with it.
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11 posted 05-01-2011 11:17 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
Can't we just keep the sentence frame and substitute some other group there?   Do we really have to preface every remark we say with such banal phrasing (kind of like saying "in my opinion" after every sentence)?

As much as I want to scream no we don't, I'm stuck with the idea that we do, we do have to clutter our comments with such detritus.


Um, Brad, I have no idea where this came from or how it refers to any response of mine.  Could you help me?

quote:
I had to make sure that you stated just such a similar remark considering atheists.  Why?  Because I've had to counter the idea that atheists, by definition, are lacking a morality.  In some areas, this seems to be an axiom:  No God, no morality.


That may be so, but it's faulty in those areas.  Christianity is not the same as moralism, though it should have a high moral standard.  Besides, the Christian apologists I know of who have answered Hitchens (John Lennox, Alister McGrath, and Dinesh D'souza- come to mind) have never said such a thing.  Believer or non-believer, we are all moral beings, because created so, and therefore sometimes capable of "common moral decency".  But common moral decency is just that.  

quote:
And while I think he often misunderstands some more subtle theological arguments on morality (or rather he might say obfuscatory remarks on morality), I also think he gives us, the audience, a certain respect by not endlessly, mind-numbingly repeating the bloody obvious.


I would say that he give us, the audience, a certain disrespect by mind-numbingly (entertainingly of course, due to his sharp invective and wit) repeating the bloody preposterous, namely that religion is useless and always poison.  I would of course be interested in knowing what you consider to be "bloody obvious" that is so oft repeated by proponents of the faith ... but not without reminding you that Hitchens is also quite repetitive, as his delivery is comprised of but a few ideas, "religion is poison" being chief.  And I'm sure that because of our respective views, we're going to disagree on which sounds more like an ostinato and which sounds more like a scratched phonograph.

quote:
Why ev-er-y-thing?

Hitch often uses chess as an example, but what about football?

If you pray before a game and win, did you cheat?

If you pray and lose, were you bested or were you tested by God?

Yeah, it gets that trivial.


(sigh)

yeah, it gets that trivial because it was framed that way.  

First off, from a Theological view, God is patient.  And those whose highest prayer and chief desire is to simply "win the football game", may be tolerated in the same way that I tolerate my youngest son always wanting to be "first".  I deal with that mindset, though I am not overly concerned that it occurs.

And then there is real experience ... I have found (though not a highly athletic person myself) that many if not most prayers among athletic events I've heard, have had to do chiefly with other concerns altogether, such as safety of the team and of the opposing team, issues in the lives of players totally outside of the arena, being a good example on the field (as is asking for help not to resort to playing "dirty", and showing courtesy as well as competition), and many other things besides "let us win".  Though I certainly wouldn't be so pseudo-sanctimonious (or pseudo-egalitarian in some cases) to say that's not allowed.


Anyway, though its a tasteless provocation, it could otherwise be a good discussion.  But have you not figured out that Hithcens is not looking for discussion?  The potentiality for triviality (in any setting he so chooses) is focused on to the exclusion of all else, and assumed to be both common and intrinsic to the subject.  No qualifiers are allowed. It is rhetorically settled beforehand ...


Now if you want to raise the problems of evil, unexplained suffering, unanswered prayer, or even the allegations of divine favoritism or capriciousness, then you've raised some worthy questions ... but they are not, and have never been, trivial.  Nor are they trivial just because the same questions could be asked about a football game or even chess.  

Just like the question of materialistic determinism is not a trivial one just because it could be applied to football or chess.

quote:
How can preachers and priests makes statements about God's intentions when it comes to natural disasters?


Good question.  And another one is, considering the wickedness of sin in humanity, how can it be that we've already decided that God could never express himself through nature, whether in wrath, mercy, or by sending trials that end up making us ultimately stronger (even in the same event)?  Though not difficulty free, are any of these ideas reasonable?  


You may think I've dodged your question about the accountability of preachers.  I haven't exactly done so.  Or, more accurately, I haven't done it to merely dodge the question.  I've asked you questions to show that there are good questions to be asked from all sides.  But I don't sense that recognition (at all) in anything by Christopher H.  


quote:
When scientists make hypotheses, they are tested and checked by other scientists.


If you believe this to be invariably true, then may I recommend "The Devil's Delusion" by the agnostic mathmetician Berlinski?

And no, this doesn't mean that I'm against science.  But still for me, the myth of the objective and disinterested unity of science is no longer thinkable.  

But religious statements, like scientific statements, are tested on many levels, though the interpretive sieves and social filters may be different.  "Heresy" by Alister McGrath is a good book that touches on this subject.

quote:
Hitch has argued that Auden's 1930s poetry is better than the post-return-to-Christianity work.


I haven't read much of Auden.  Though I am interested since I have read about him through the author Alan Jacobs, and since he was part of the "Inklings".  But since I haven't read him, I can't really comment on the question.  

quote:
Religion sacrifices the joy of new knowledge, the achievement of understanding, with the comfort of already knowing, the complacency of "I've learned all I need to".


It does ... or it can?

quote:
Charity?

Helping or advertising?


Great question, one that I would best like to ask of my own actions.  Jesus certainly spoke of this slippery distinction in the human heart.

quote:
Now, Stephen, I know you won't accept all these points.  Hitch wouldn't either.

But that's the point.  You don't have to, he doesn't have to, and I don't have to.

I can change my mind.


Okay.  But why is this interesting or other than obvious?


Maybe I'm just missing something Brad.  You're probably a better writer than I.  I feel I am more direct (though maybe frustratingly simplistic).  With you I have to read between the lines, and follow your dance.    


And Brad, all your ideas about new threads sound great.  Just take it easy, and introduce one at a time.  I think, for the sake of the discussion, it would be best.  I certainly couldn't respond meaningfully to more than one or two at a time.  


Stephen    
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12 posted 05-02-2011 09:38 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     If I understand correctly, the core of the discussion is that Hitchens says about God, ďThere isnít one,Ē and Brad more or less agrees with Hitchens.  Hitchens also says that the whole ideaís a bad one and causes shingles, gout and bad breath, not to mention bad feeling amongst people.  Stephanos, breaking president, says, ďNo, really, there is one.  He can express his moods through weather, only we havenít yet stumbled upon the key to deciphering exactly what the code is, so you canít tell for sure which theologians are calling the game accurately.Ē

     I am very sorry Mr, Hitchens is ill.  He is a sharp cookie, for the most part, except for those times when he thinks that Bob Dylan is a poet and not a very fine song-writer.  I disagree with him here.  I tend to like most of Auden, except the later Auden on the whole.  I notice neither Mr. Auden nor Mr. Dylan made much of a habit of trying to force a point of view down anybodyís throat, however, unlike many of the authorities so far cited, including Mr. Hitchens himself, who comes across as a bit of a bully, albeit a very bright and articulate bully.

     Certainly decent things have come from religion, including the preservation of most of the ancient manuscripts that have managed to survive through the efforts of various monks and occasional pieces of literature written by religious folk as well.  Donít be silly.  Certainly rotten things have come from religion as well, such as the persecution of the Jews and interfaith wars.  Again, donít be silly.  Decent things have come from atheism as well, including the plays of Marlowe and a lot of scientific research.  Allowing oneís self to get trapped into making patently false statements such as these furthers nobodyís cause.

     Yes, Hitler was born Catholic and as far as I know, died a Catholic as well.  Other than being excommunicated, there seem to be very few ways of getting one self Un-Catholicked as far as I know.  It was to the advantage of the Church to keep him officially in the fold in the hopes of influencing the man in some fashion during his lifetime.  I hope they werenít foolish enough to consider excommunicating him when there was the possibility of influencing him in some small fashion to do some measure of good or at least some measure less evil during his life.  Grand gestures are satisfying to contemplate, but may not be to the good of the greatest number in the long run.

     I should also point out that it didnít hurt Hitler any either.  

     I would seriously doubt, however, that he was a religious Catholic, and anybody with any familiarity with that faith would probably have serious doubts about that as well.  Mr.  Hitchens would have to be disingenuous to toss an accusation like that, though there were certainly pro-nazis in the church, just as there were and are folks with pro-communist sentiments in the church with serious dedication to land reform and other important issues.  Most of these folks are Catholics first and foremost, and to think their loyalties would lie elsewhere would probably be a mistake.  Yeah, there could be exceptions, but not enough to matter.

     At some point, itís easy to lose sight of the basic decency that itís possible to have in treating each other.  Itís not there all the time with everybody in all situations, of course.  But what areas do you guys see as areas where you differ, and where do you see yourselves having areas in common?

    

Brad
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13 posted 05-03-2011 12:18 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Agnosticism:

quote:
Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle.  Positively the principle may be expressed as, in matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it can carry you without other considerations.  And negatively, in matters of the intellect, do not pretend the conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable.  It is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty.


--Thomas Huxley, 1889

Maybe I'm wrong but this seems like a good thing to proselytize.

Brad
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14 posted 05-03-2011 12:31 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

All those points revolve around theism as a form or totalitarianism and totalitarianism as form of theism.

Sorry for being so vague.

Bob,

Pretty good summary.  I suspect that Stephen and I have but one disagreement: what I just said to Stephen.

Later Auden: I'm thinking of Nones.
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15 posted 05-03-2011 02:16 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

By Huxley's definition (though vague in the way it effortlessly intersects rationalism and empiricism, and sidesteps the personal/existential) an "agnostic" can be a Theist.  It almost sounds like agnosticism in this sense is indistinguishable from something like critical thinking or incredulity.  But I daresay that this "method" is not unique to atheists at all, though we've come to different conclusions.  Anyway, my own reasoning and empirical observation makes me believe that Hitchen's proselytizing is about more than promoting a epistemic method.

Stephen
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16 posted 05-03-2011 10:23 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Christopher Hitchens vs. John Lennox- Is God Great?

Here's a debating opponent who is at least up to par with Hitchens' acumen and accent.  
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17 posted 05-03-2011 07:16 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

Sure, it's simple.  Did you think there was some mystery to this stuff?

But you're right.  Hitch doesn't stop there.  

His four pillars:

1.  the agnostic position
(We cannot prove that there are no gods)

2.  the secular life is both more fulfilling for the individual and for society
(Humanism)

3.  religion is archaic
(analogies: alchemy to chemistry; astrology to astronomy)

4.  religion is immoral
(antitheism)

If you want a concession from me, I find it difficult to endorse pillar 4.  It's not that what he says is wrong or even inflated, it's, and I'm going out on a limb here,  that we can make a distinction between belief in the supernatural and bibliolatry (broadly defined).

Of course, that determination can only ever be made by us.  

Historically, We should never forget the French Revolution and the Thirty-Years War.
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18 posted 05-03-2011 10:19 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

Yeah, we all know these issues are as lucid as water.        


This came to mind:

quote:
1.  the agnostic position (We cannot prove that there are no gods)


This position is uninteresting, strictly technical, and goes for all.  We can't strictly prove there isn't or that there is a God.  This says nothing of whether there is, or of reasonable evidence, or of the inexorable involvement of the human will when it comes belief and commitment.

quote:
2.  the secular life is both more fulfilling for the individual and for society (Humanism)


Again, none can prove this valuation.  Arguments can be made either way.  Of course, I find it interesting that believers will invariably say that humanistic culture has value because fallen human beings are created in the image of God, and that non-believers will invariably say that religion has value because it is ever a human(istic) construct.  In other words, in a humanistic framework, religion is always secular, and in a religious framework, secularism is never rid of religion (both in its own commitments beyond reason, and in its conformation with theological ideals)

quote:
3.  religion is archaic (analogies: alchemy to chemistry; astrology to astronomy)


Something religion concedes too (excepting that the analogies fail at many points), though archaism should not be confused with mere age, nor considered intrinsic to the foundations of all religious beliefs.

quote:
4.  religion is immoral (antitheism)


Pretty much the same answer as for 3.  Possible, but not necessary.

quote:
Historically, We should never forget the French Revolution and the Thirty-Years War.


I of course agree.  But Hitchens would never concede that the bloodshed of the French Revolution had anything to do with rationalism or secularism, in the same way that Christians would never say that Jihadism has anything to do with "pure and undefiled religion", though they would certainly admit that religious ideas are not inherently virtuous, and are often connected with vice.  Secularists think that human good is possible, and from a Christian understanding have a misguided Pelagian view of things.  Christians think that human good without God is impossible, and that what good we see here and now is gratuitous and points to a higher good, and from a secular point of view are delusional.    

I'm rambling.  But I guess that given the presuppositions of either view, it's no wonder that things must be interpreted in this fashion.


Stephen
Brad
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19 posted 05-04-2011 09:31 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad


quote:
This position is uninteresting, strictly technical, and goes for all.


I disagree.  The agnostic position should be put into practice much more often than it actually is.  I agree that anybody can use it, so let's use it more.

quote:
Of course, I find it interesting that believers will invariably say that humanistic culture has value because fallen human beings are created in the image of God, and that non-believers will invariably say that religion has value because it is ever a human(istic) construct.  In other words, in a humanistic framework, religion is always secular, and in a religious framework, secularism is never rid of religion (both in its own commitments beyond reason, and in its conformation with theological ideals)


I like this so much I wish I had said it.

What this means is that we can argue on Monday and work together on Tuesday, that you're not going to the guillotine on Wednesday and I'm not going to be burned at the stake on Thursday.

Let's try to keep this in mind for the weekend.

Brad
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20 posted 05-04-2011 10:41 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

And now I've thought about it and realized that I could never say that.

Stephen,

Do you think this is the more or less standard way that theistic people see things?  Is the idea that atheists are moral monsters a caricature of an opinion and not the reality?

Are atheists really the least trusted minority?

I find it difficult to believe that one in five Americans doesn't know the earth revolves around the sun but that's what polls say.

Do you think that's accurate?

[This message has been edited by Brad (05-05-2011 01:11 AM).]

Bob K
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21 posted 05-04-2011 11:09 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


     Interesting turn of discussion.

     Interesting four pillars; do I have them right?

    
1.††the agnostic position
(We cannot prove that there are no gods)

2.††the secular life is both more fulfilling for the individual and for society
(Humanism)

3.††religion is archaic
(analogies: alchemy to chemistry; astrology to astronomy)

4.††religion is immoral
(antitheism)


     1.  I donít understand the double negative.  English can be very subtle, and few times more confusing than when dealing with multiple negatives.  Is this Hitchenís locution, or somebody elseís?  As a ó mostly ó agnostic, Iíd say that the position is a statement of uncertainty in the face of incomplete and unconvincing evidence in either direction and a statement of lack of knowledge.  Gnosis meaning knowledge, Ag meaning a pain in the butt.; ergo, the whole question is a pain in the butt and canít be concluded on grounds other than faith.

     I may have taken some minor liberties.  If we canít prove the absence of a God or Gods, we canít prove their presence either in a way that is as kinetically convincing as, say, a punch in the nose, a standard that is short of martyrdom but difficult to sidestep on a regular basis.  Agnostic is not Atheistic, as both Stephen and Brad seem to understand, but which others sometimes do not.

     2.  Iím quite fond of Humanism, myself.  I would remind folks that the term came into cultural awareness as a result of the work of Erasmus, potentially at least the first Humanist; and, more than incidentally, a monk.  I am uncertain as to whether such a thing as a Secular Humanist is a distinction without a difference or not, but I believe it may well be.

     The assertion that a secular life is more satisfying for the individual and the society leaves open the question, More satisfying than what?  At what point has there been a clear distinction drawn for other than clergy between the secular and the religious life?  I have known quite religious people who live quite satisfying daily lives with all the dimensions that non-religious people seem to have, plus a dimension of faith that seems to add something quite special to the way they go about leading  their lives as well.

     I have also known rigid and difficult people with whom religion serves to block a lot of important elements that they would quite possibly be happier for experiencing, in my opinion.  That seems to be a function of the rigidity and difficulty with which they experience the world, however, as much as it does their religion, since Iíve known Atheists and Agnostics to display the same characteristics.  The characteristics seems to adhere to the person and not to the religiosity of the person.  Thatís my observation, at least.  Obsessional behavior is obsessional behavior regardless of what the content  of the obsession may be.

     There are Clergy or Religious who can be unfulfilled and clergy and Religious who can be very fulfilled indeed.  Iíve had the same experience with Dentists and Lawyers and Psychiatrists.  My understanding is that the dentists and psychiatrists, at least, have a higher suicide rate.  One doesnít make the same statements about Dentists and Psychiatrists, whose alienation seems to be at least as severe, if not more so at times.  

     It seems Mr. Hitchens may be venturing onto difficult ground here.  

     3.  Is religion archaic?

     Iím fond of a lot of archaic things myself, such as classical greek sculpture and poetry and mythology.  It seems that somebody is trying to use ďarchaicĒ as a synonym for ďobsolete,Ē which it assuredly is not.  Certainly not in a discussion of Alchemy, which is not as well understood as our contemporary scientists assume it to be.  Simply because a scientist is a fine chemist does not mean he or she understands Alchemy.  The attitude of contempt should, given the basics of the scientific method, be understood as ignorance pretending to knowledge.  The basic information about Alchemy was knowledge that was designed to be hidden from fools, and statements made about the subject should take that into consideration.

     This doesnít mean Alchemy is the answer to the worldís problems, or is even anything but hogwash.  It simply means that we are making statements as though we had knowledge that we plainly donít have.

     That is also the case, sad to say, about our discussion about religion.  My own foolishness is at least as monumental as anybody elseís in this matter.

     4.  Religion is immoral.

     You can make that statement about pretty much anything you are willing to take an absolute and unwavering stand against.  I must admit that making the statement about Religion has a bit more going for it in terms of style points than, say, bad breath or world peace.  I think bad breath is more venal than evil, and I happen to be basically in favor of world peace, you see, while believing that Religion itself is evil merely leaves you with the tricky position of having to prove it to people who may be wavering one way or the other.

     The people who are basically indifferent to the subject are a tough audience to sway.  

     I have a lot more against people who are rigid and obsessional on hobbyhorse subjects, myself.  Like those folks who call people who think Shakespeare wrote his own plays ďStratfordians.Ē  I am a Stratfordian.  

     As long as nobody beats me over the head with religion, I think it does some people a lot of good.  And this whole loving one another business seems like a pretty good idea to me.  After all, it is a Wednesday.  
    
Brad
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22 posted 05-05-2011 12:18 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

One definition of archaic:

quote:
forming the earliest stage; prior to full development: the archaic period of psychoanalytic research.


I can't remember if Hitch used that word himself (which doesn't mean anything, I'm constantly rediscovering where I get my own ideas from).

The essence I was shooting for there was Hitch's claim that religion was our first stab at explaining the universe.

I should have been clearer though.

_________________________

On the double negative:

For some people, it all seems to depend on the phrasing.

To say "I am an atheist" means different things:

I don't believe in God (or gods).

I don't believe in a particular god.

I lack belief in a God or gods.

I lack belief in a particular god.

I believe that there is no God (or gods).

Often enough these debates degenerate into arguing who has the burden of proof.

Personally, I think it should just describe the way you live your life.  

But that's a minority position.
  
Bob K
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23 posted 05-05-2011 01:24 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



quote:


For some people, it all seems to depend on the phrasing.



     Alas, it's one of those things that poets, philosophers and scientists all seem to have in common.  Normally, you'd expect such folk to quarrel about things like clarity and precision of expression.  Turns out that all of them are quite concerned about being exact expression, mostly.

     I was told that they were playing around at Iowa in the late seventies with taking a good poem and seeing what the smallest thing was that they might do to it to ruin it.  I wish I could have seen some of the examples.

     In this case, I wasn't trying to nit-pick, I simply couldn't understand what lay behind the double negative.  I didn't understand; I wasn't being coy, though heaven knows I'm not above being coy from time to time.

     As for the tug of war on the question of the existence of God and the burden of proving their case, why should it matter?  You can decide who has the burden any way you want.  Perhaps both parties should have the burden of proof.  I have trouble imagining a proof from either side convincing somebody who is convinced the other side is right at the beginning of the discussion.  It certainly happens when a pistol is held to your head, of course, but the change is not one that is seriously trusted by anybody afterwards.

     And often even the pistol is not enough.

     Belief will frequently trump logic in my experience.  
Brad
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24 posted 05-05-2011 07:09 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

If the world ends on May 21st?

That would be a pretty good proof.

I also think that we'll have a pretty good proof on May 22nd for the other position, but most people won't see it like this:

That that particular God doesn't exist.
 
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