In the News: An Open Letter to the Atheist Community

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In the News: An Open Letter to the Atheist Community

I stumbled across this item a few minutes ago...

My dear atheist friend,

I have been actively involved in the education of Jews of all stripes (especially those with a built-in apathy or antipathy to theology) for the last 11 years. I have had a lot of time to reflect on your position and I'd like to offer a few general observations that I've culled from my experience over the years - not to convince you to change your mind (which, I've discovered, is close to impossible) and not to judge your choices, but rather so that we can understand each other better and possibly "walk back" some of the clamorous dialogue. Certainly we can open by agreeing that all human beings should be respected and, assuming no egregious misdeeds, treated with civility.

The first point I'd like to explore is that there really are no true atheists. It seems to me that in order to claim with certainty that there is no God you would have to have knowledge of the totality of the universe - seen and unseen - and I don't think any of you guys are ready to make that claim. You have not observed an overarching creative force, a God ... yet. Being a rationalist, of course, you know that failing to make such an observation is different from proving that there isn't one, which, by its very nature, is an impossible task. (You will counter that definitively proving the existence of God on purely rational grounds is similarly impossible, which, for the sake of argument, I will concede.) Given this, your assumption of the title, "atheist" isn't so much a statement of fact as it is a statement of principle, or intent -- a nom de guerre. To define oneself as simply agnostic (which I believe you truly are) sounds unsatisfingly wishy-washy and degrades your ability to take a firm stand against deism, in its various forms. While this is certainly understandable, I suspect that you have traded accuracy for titular intensity.

You may want to counter that you have many well-regarded and brilliant personalities who have provided more than sufficient evidence to knock theism back to the Bronze Age where it belongs. Hitchens, Dawkins, Weinberg, et al are big time, unapologetic, capital "A" atheists. I've read many of their books and found much of them to be polemics against Christianity and ill-conceived take downs of classical philosophical and scientific arguments that make the idea of a Creator seem more than plausible. See here for a great rebuttal of Dawkin's "The Ultimate 747 Argument." But even if the arguments were more persuasive and comprehensive, surely you are aware that believers are ready to parry with many philosophers and scientists of our own, people like Anthony Flew, the Oxford philosopher and sparring partner of C.S. Lewis (who was a pillar of academic atheism until he reversed his position late in his life), theoretical physicist Dr. Andrew Goldfinger, and the mathematical physicist and cosmologist Frank Tipler. You will quote your expert and I will quote mine. Strangely, they disagree ... utterly. At the end of the day, it's always going to be a draw, each of us convinced that our own arguments are superior and that the other is (perhaps willfully) missing the point.

Having spent a sizable portion of my life as an atheist, I understand your perspective. What I have found hard to understand from my new vantage point, however, is why so many of you spend so much time trolling around the comments section of religiously-themed blogs or spend good money to buy billboards on the Jersey Turnpike asserting a negative. Wouldn't it make much more sense to just chuckle knowingly to yourselves and shake your heads at our folly in the way you might with children who believe they have magic powers? Yet, many of you seem to have a big axe to grind, and I only recently realized why. You believe that we are ruining the world and stunting its progress. You will point out all of the violence carried out in religion's name. We will point out that equally severe evils have been perpetrated by secularists such as Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot. You deride us as anti-science, to which we respond that we're really not, but, rather, see scientific proof and inquiry as subject to certain inherent limits. You do not find our responses any more compelling than we find your criticisms to be insightful.

To me, however, the crux of the matter is incontrovertible. It is not the product of rational argument, nor expression of faith, but simple historical fact. The faith to which I ascribe has brought substantial light and unique meaning to the world. Some great thinkers readily embrace this idea. Have a look at this quote from British historian Paul Johnson:

"To them (the Jews) we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of human person; of the individual conscience and so of personal redemption; of collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind. Without Jews it might have been a much emptier place."

Given this historical reality, since you're a rationalist who bases your world view on empiric evidence, could you be open to the possibility that religion isn't inherently bad?

As an empiricist, you are only prepared to believe in that which can be seen or measured. You don't enjoy my conviction that there are aspects of existence that are, by their nature, beyond the reach of science. Fine. So when we Theists look carefully at the astounding complexity and improbable fine-tuning of our universe and conclude that there's no way that this happened randomly, you then turn around and ask us to accept that it is the result of undetectable organizational forces or of an un-testable (and thus non-scientific) multiverse. Isn't your argument every bit an assertion of faith, rather than knowledge? Maybe we can at least agree that forces unseen, however we conceive of them, seem to be playing a major role in our lives?

Charles Darwin added three interesting quotes to later editions of the Origin of Species. Of these, the third, from Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning, is especially revealing:

"To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain that a man can search too far or be too well-studied in the book of God's word, or in the book of God's works; divinity and philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficiency in both."

If Darwin himself could find room for belief in a God and stay faithful to his discoveries, maybe the common ground is much bigger than we currently imagine. We still have a lot to discuss. Let's do it with a caring heart, and open mind and a spirit of appreciation for our shared humanity.



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Watch me, I can do that too!

Watch me, I can do that too! Sticking out tongue

2. paragraph:
 - No true Scotsman?
 - Fallacy of ignorance?
 - Burden of proof?

3. paragraph:
 - Appeal to authority?
 - Mentioning the good Catholic Hitler?
 - 93% scientific societies in USA reject the concept of God, so where's a draw?

4. paragraph:
 - Because 6th article of american constitution
 - Because of rights of sexual, racial, religional and non-religional minorities
 - Because praying in public schools
 - Because doubtful government projects and public spending
 - Because Churches are free from taxes
 - Because Westboro Baptist Church

5. paragraph:
 - appeal to authority again

6. paragraph:
 - Read the damn Old Testament to learn something about Jews.

7. paragraph:
 - no historical confirmation from contemporaries, just another myth book

8. paragraph:
 - fine-tuned universe designed exactly to destroy biological life on almost all planets

9. paragraph:
 - That Darwin quote suggests a compromise, but theists don't want to settle for that.

Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.

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 I stopped reading at

 I stopped reading at Hitler.  Religious atrocities are committed by people (atheists and theists) in the name of RELIGION you f*cking idiot (I'm addressing this to the original author not the OP).  Even if Hitler was an atheist, which he wasn't, he didn't commit atrocities to fulfill some atheistic irrationality.  I am so sick of this argument, it is so simplistic and idiotic and oh so f*cking common.  I mean, come the f*ck on... I don't normally swear either, but this is pissing me off.

"Don't seek these laws to understand. Only the mad can comprehend..." -- George Cosbuc

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Let's see here.- Don't

Let's see here.

- Don't necessarily need to know everything. If God is logically incoherent, then he is impossible. So, depends on the God.

- An atheist is someone that doesn't believe in God. We don't believe in God. Ergo, we are atheists.

- Appeal to authority.

- You don't understand our perspective; if you did, I wouldn't have to keep correcting you.

- Correlation does not equal causation.

- Totalitarian regimes are not "secular." That's church=state.

- Naked assertions.

- Appeal to consequences.

- Strawmen.

- Appeal to wonder.

- Fine tuning is bunk.

- More strawmen.

- More appeal to authority. We don't care what Darwin believes. He's not our Jesus. You're projecting. Sorry. 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare

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So you have to believe in

So you have to believe in every idea ever proposed that you cannot disprove...

Zeus, Ra, Shiva,  the Fling Spaghetti Monster, every alien civilization on a planet that is too far away for us to study, etc.

There are an infinite number of propositions that we cannot disprove without access to "every corner of the Universe", especially if you allow in the "Supernatural".

Many of them would be mutually contradictory, for example, they posit different scenarios on the same planet, so lack of disproof is the most stupid argument for anything, especially things that are said to possess attributes totally beyond anything so far observed.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology

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Fucking arrogant bastard!

Paul Johnson, professional dumbass wrote:
"To them (the Jews) we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of human person; of the individual conscience and so of personal redemption; of collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind. Without Jews it might have been a much emptier place."

I would put money on this Paul Johnson guy being Jewish himself, or a Christian.

Oh, what a surprise! If this is him, then I would have made a safe bet with that assumption! And a Thacherite to boot! Just copy and pasting his bullshit leaves a bad taste in my mouth!

Leave it to a religious person to think that either their tribe, or the tribe which formed the basis for their tribe, is the one that gave humanity goodness, peace and justice. And those words are being used about a religion who's religious texts glorify and attempt to justify genocide...

Fucking asshat!

[EDIT] Link added

"This may shock you, but not everything in the bible is true." The only true statement ever to be uttered by Jean Chauvinism, sociopathic emotional terrorist.
"A Boss in Heaven is the best excuse for a boss on earth, therefore If God did exist, he would have to be abolished." Mikhail Bakunin
"The means in which you take,
dictate the ends in which you find yourself."
"Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme leadership derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!"
No Gods, No Masters!

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B166ER wrote:Fucking

B166ER wrote:

Fucking asshat!

[EDIT] Link added

asshat, I'm gonna use that lol