Posts Tagged ‘ atheism ’

Faith: The Obnoxious Word Part 2: Faith in the Humanist Communities and Why I’ll Stick With “Skeptic”

In Part 1: The Common Tirade, I waxed poetic about what many have waxed poetic about before. Go read it if you’d like. In Part 2, I’d like to delve a little deeper into the obnoxious word, beyond its meaning to most science circles as “religion”. We’re going to look at a more general meaning from and Merriam Webster:

-A belief that is not based on proof
-A strong or unshakable belief in something especially without proof or evidence.
-Allegiance or duty to a person.

How much “faith” is there in the skeptical, humanist and atheist community? I would say a lot. Now I’m not talking about Dawkins, Meyers, Hitchens, Dennet, or Harris. They are scientists writers, philosophers, who have through their experiences, thought, reading, education and experiments come to their conclusions. They are well vetted. What about the rest of us who’ve decided to take on one of these labels? What’s the difference between the new Christian that doesn’t really understand the Bible, but trusts his pastor and some of us, who don’t really understand the science, but just trust in the famous atheists, humanists, and scientists of today? A good number of us have just found refuge in the community and have taken a lot on a sort of faith that especially matches the second and third definitions above, or we basically have made the decision that the supernatural is extremely unlikely.

A lot of us would say that we had studied the evidence and that we had made informed decisions in direct opposition to those definitions above, and maybe it’s true. I still tend to agree with PZ Myers first line in this post:” Most of you don’t understand evolution” (You should continue on with the post, because he goes on to explain the basics in a beautiful concise style, that only inspires you to want to delve deeper into the subject. I sometimes wish PZ would start a separate science writing only blog, not that I think he should stop criticizing religion and culture on Pharyngula.)

In the above mentioned post, Myers mentions how most of his readers (a radical anti-religious bunch) either don’t understand evolution or have a very half-truth sort of understanding of it. Which means his followers (and there are many, he gets anywhere from 300 to 1000 comments on his posts and according to Google Reader he has 6600 subscribers) in his indirect view are relying on faith, or an allegiance to PZ Myers’ work and thought on the subject, or have a strong belief in evolution without knowing the evidence, or a faith that Dawkins, Gould, Myers ect really know what they’re talking about. Faith.

To some extent all of us in the community are guilty of this. I’m one of the few who admit it, and who are actively working and trying old school polymath style to understand the science (and the human condition in general, which goes beyond just science).

Whether right or wrong, or whether you like it or not, most of us are just like the new Christian that doesn’t really understand why they don’t sacrifice animals to God anymore like they read in Leviticus. We have faith that our side is right, because of some good persuasive writing by people who have done the leg work and come to their more humanist conclusions. This is the main reason why I like to refer to myself and probably always will refer to myself as a skeptic.

Should we be more like crazy ranting high school kids or should we be more like the people who post on Research Blogs?


The God Delusion Best Most Interesting Review Ever!


Recently and ironically “The God Delusion” has become the bible of the atheist communities on the internet and around the world   Richard Dawkins, in the same metaphorical manner, has become that movements messiah, bringing in the good news:  You don’t need religion and God almost certainly does not exist.”  I hesitate to use the word “conversion”, but the point of the book is to convert you, to change your mind to make you an atheist.  He writes a very entertaining book that touches on social issues, history, philosophy, logic and of course science.  Science, no surprise, is the area done best in the book.

If I were to judge the book solely on how much it entertained me, how well it was written and how interesting it was to jump from modality to modality (social issues to philosophy to science and back to social issues), whether or not it was in the context of atheism, I’d give the book a big fat A+.  It was a very entertaining read.  He was able to explain difficult concepts in an easy to understand concise language.

Judging his work based on how well it accomplishes its objective, which is to create atheists, then it gets a more mediocre grade.  The work is more likely to change the mind of a person on the fence, or someone that was on the way to calling themselves an atheist.  The work is certainly strong enough to get them.  The more religious readers that picked the book up would have already made their decisions before starting page one, a lot like Dawkins I would imagine if he sat down with a bible tract.

The main problem with the book acting as a conversion piece, is that it is too rational.  Most people, when it concerns religion, don’t care to hear about anything rational.  Since the piece isn’t propagandistic in nature it won’t change the minds of anyone reasonable, the religious need slogans and one liners, Dawkins provides very few (one good one is: We’re all atheists, you don’t believe in Allah or Zeus either, I just go one god farther).  Something Dawkins should have been more careful with for a book meant to convert, are some of the polls he cited, that weren’t scientific (some were just internet polls) and he also more than once assumed what an unfinished study would produce.  These things are not good science and certainly have no place in a book that is going to be scoured for any mistakes that could possibly discredit him.

My final impression is that the book isn’t really for changing minds, but a book for other atheists and to a lesser extent humanists and skeptics in order to give them a common ground for discussion on the topic of the existence of the supernatural. It’s had a major effect on today’s culture and on the fight between religion and science, therefore it’s a must read, but thank… natural selection? god? that it’s a fun read.