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Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion

MonkeyCatcher

New Member
I'd be interested in hearing too, Scott.

However, I have to add that I am always intrigued that non-believers claim to know so much, and with such certainty, about why people believe, what they believe, how they believe, how they should behave, and so on. That endless yadda of I-believe-what-I-believe-and-you-should-too is as boring in one direction as it is in the reverse direction -- and from Dawkins, especially. At least to me.
Why should non-believers not have access to that knowledge? You can understand another's viewpoint without sharing it.

The difference is that Dawkins provides facts and reason to explain why he believes what he believes.
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
Why should non-believers not have access to that knowledge? You can understand another's viewpoint without sharing it.
I think the intent of my comment was that non-believers claim to know more about what believers believe than believers themselves know. That's not impossible to imagine, I suppose. But I have not yet seen any comment, by any atheist or any agnostic, on any forum or elsewhere, that even comes close to understanding or stating correctly what my own faith and beliefs are, for example. And Dawkins especially fails in that regard.

The difference is that Dawkins provides facts and reason to explain why he believes what he believes.
I have no problem with that, and I'll leave the reverse implication alone if I may.

In any event, it is good to see you here on the forum.
:)
 

ylris611203

New Member
I'd be interested in hearing too, Scott.

However, I have to add that I am always intrigued that non-believers claim to know so much, and with such certainty, about why people believe, what they believe, how they believe, how they should behave, and so on. That endless yadda of I-believe-what-I-believe-and-you-should-too is as boring in one direction as it is in the reverse direction -- and from Dawkins, especially. At least to me.
Good point................... it's a bit like a train driver telling a pilot how to land an aircraft.
 

Bob Magness

Member
Good point................... it's a bit like a train driver telling a pilot how to land an aircraft.

Are you applying that analogy to Dawkins or non-believers in general. If you are talking about the latter remember, it is just as wrong to generalize non-believers as it is believers. Many of us non-believers, particularly in the US, were once believers. So we do have some insight into at least some reasons for believing.

When writing such a book there is no way to cover all the arguments. There are probably as many interpretations of gods as there are people who believe in them. But there are some broad reasons for believing that encompass significant portions of believers, even if it doesn't capture every nuance. MOST people's religion is largely determined by what country they are born in and what religion their parents are. There are exceptions, but it is true for the most part and these are the types of things that are examined in the book.
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
And I have heard it all before, many times. It is still boring.
It seems to me that Carl Sagan's book (The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God) is a more sensible and reasonable look at the topic, and nowhere near as polemical and adversarial as Dawkins'.
 

Bob Magness

Member
non-believers can't know what it is to believe; as non-smokers do not know what it's like to smoke. You are the equivelant of the smoker who has quit which is not the same thing.

You cannot possibly be telling me that someone who has gone through the pains of giving up smoking doesn't know what it is to be a smoker. Is that what you are saying?

I grew up Christian but more importantly when I was 21 I became a born-again Christian. I believed in the inerrancy of the Bible. I believed in Creation and the Flood and that the world was 6,000 years old. I believed Christ gave his life for my sins. I had a relationship with Christ. Had you put a gun to my head and told me to denounce my Lord and Savior or die I would have proudly taken the bullet. Do not presume to tell me that I do not know what it is to believe.
 

Bob Magness

Member
And I have heard it all before, many times. It is still boring.
It seems to me that Carl Sagan's book (The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God) is a more sensible and reasonable look at the topic, and nowhere near as polemical and adversarial as Dawkins'.

Well, Dawkins doesn't hold a candle to Sagan. Few do.
 

Bob Magness

Member
I tried to go back and edit post #148 because I felt it might be a bit too inflammatory for this particular board. Deconversion, regardless of the religion, is one of the most painful experiences one can undergo and can engender some powerful emotions when recalling it. Re-reading Chris's post I may have misunderstood him.

Are you saying that it is impossible for someone like me to know what it is to be a believer, or are you saying that since I was once a believer that you do not classify me as a non-believer? If it is the latter than I don't think that is a valid argument as most people take the term "non-believer" to be one who does not currently believe. The term itself says nothing of one's past experience. I don't think we can just redefine words to fit our own argument.
 

silverseason

New Member
I grew up Christian but more importantly when I was 21 I became a born-again Christian. I believed in the inerrancy of the Bible. I believed in Creation and the Flood and that the world was 6,000 years old. I believed Christ gave his life for my sins. I had a relationship with Christ. Had you put a gun to my head and told me to denounce my Lord and Savior or die I would have proudly taken the bullet. Do not presume to tell me that I do not know what it is to believe.

Maybe we have a problem with the word "belief". As a born-again Christian your beliefs had very specific content, such as that Christ gave his life for your sins. Some of us have beliefs which are much more fuzzy but nonetheless sincerely held. An example is the belief that the universe has meaning even if we do not understand what that meaning may be. This is a belief in that it is not provable, but very different from the belief that the universe has no meaning.
 

MonkeyCatcher

New Member
I think the intent of my comment was that non-believers claim to know more about what believers believe than believers themselves know. That's not impossible to imagine, I suppose. But I have not yet seen any comment, by any atheist or any agnostic, on any forum or elsewhere, that even comes close to understanding or stating correctly what my own faith and beliefs are, for example. And Dawkins especially fails in that regard.
I disagree - I don't think that non-believers do claim that. I think that non-believers do have a more clarified view of what religions actually hold to be true, because they have to need to fuzz over "outdated" details in order for the beliefs to seem more acceptable in this modern age. Believers pick and choose - non-believers see it as it is. And it's this picking and choosing between conflicting teachings that make it impossible for any writer to accurately depict the exact belief system of any one individual.


I have no problem with that, and I'll leave the reverse implication alone if I may.
There was no reverse implication. I was contrasting Dawkins' style of argument with the people that you mentioned argue only via "I-believe-what-I-believe-and-you-should-too". It was not meant to be a low-blow at religious people, who I know have formed their own arguments based on their beliefs.

In any event, it is good to see you here on the forum.
:)
Good to see you too :)
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
"Pick and choose" is a famous and not entirely accurate or complimentary broad-brush phrase which I think gives short shrift to how belief and faith are formed -- at least for some people, and perhaps many more than one might suppose. However, it is one of the phrases from the atheist arsenal which I think indicates exactly the atheist lack of insight that I take exception to.

Am I supposed to understand that atheists "think" and "reason" while believers only "pick and choose"? Or that only atheists have brains and others don't? Shorthand pejoratives don't really further understanding in a discussion such as this.
 

pontalba

Well-Known Member
I think the intent of my comment was that non-believers claim to know more about what believers believe than believers themselves know.

I disagree - I don't think that non-believers do claim that. I think that non-believers do have a more clarified view of what religions actually hold to be true, because they have to need to fuzz over "outdated" details in order for the beliefs to seem more acceptable in this modern age. Believers pick and choose - non-believers see it as it is. And it's this picking and choosing between conflicting teachings that make it impossible for any writer to accurately depict the exact belief system of any one individual.
Bolding above mine.

MC,
How does your statement differ from Peder's comment?
To my eyes it is the same difference, but I'd like to understand your analysis of why it is different.

p.s. long time, no see. :flowers:
 

Sybarite

New Member
"Pick and choose" is a famous and not entirely accurate or complimentary broad-brush phrase which I think gives short shrift to how belief and faith are formed -- at least for some people, and perhaps many more than one might suppose. However, it is one of the phrases from the atheist arsenal which I think indicates exactly the atheist lack of insight that I take exception to.

Am I supposed to understand that atheists "think" and "reason" while believers only "pick and choose"? Or that only atheists have brains and others don't? Shorthand pejoratives don't really further understanding in a discussion such as this.

Let's take Christianity as a way of studying this point.

According to the Bible, Jesus is supposed to have said that he wasn't on Earth to usurp the old law, but to develop it.

So one could start by pointing out that Old Testament law is still supposed to be relevant for Christians today (unless, of course, 'times change' and certain things have become irrelevant in our modern world – which leaves a different problem, of whether the Bible could thus be viewed as divinely inspired, since it would then seem that God did not plan or have control over what would happen in the future, and the Bible is not, therefore, a totally trustworthy or relevant book for today). But I digress.

Nobody – not even the most fundamentalist Christian – takes the entire Bible as (forgive the phraseology) as gospel. Nobody abides by all the rules and regulations. People pick the bits that they consider convenient to them. So they might remember the stuff about homosexuality in Leviticus – but conveniently ignore the other stuff from the same book, about owning slaves, offering doves to priests after your period etc.

Let's go further – set aside the Old Testament and let's just examine the New Testament. Take Christ's teaching on money. How many Christians heed the advice that: "it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God"? How many Christians do as Jesus instructed the rich man who wanted to be a disciple – sell all their possessions, give the money to the poor and return to follow Christ? Tithing isn't what Jesus mentioned – but giving away all possessions. Once you say: 'well, that's not realistic in today's world', you say that you know better, to some degree or other, than the son of god. In making such a decision, you show, equally, a lack of faith in god's ability to look after you on Earth. It's a pragmatic decision, certainly, but it's not based on faith, and it is a choice to not take on board something that is quite clear in the Bible.

Let's take another little point – how many Christians actually believe that capital punishment is a good thing? In the US, I suspect that that's a particularly salient point given the numbers of Christians on the political right. Yet Jesus quite clearly told his followers to "turn the other cheek". So, some followers just dump that bit of teaching, because it's not convenient.

One might suggest, in terms of the US and its foreign policy, that quite a few Christians also dump "blessed are the peacemakers" – although perhaps that wouldn't be as good for the military-industrial complex? For a country whose leaders have, in recent years, proclaimed Christianity, they also seem to forget that "the meek shall inherit the Earth" and the "merciful shall obtain mercy".

Those are just a few points, but they illustrate that very, very few people who describe themselves as Christians really live out the teachings of the Bible to the full, as they appear in that supposedly divine book. People pick what they find convenient and easy-to-do, and quietly forget the rest.
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
Sounds good. You can't call what believers do 'reason', that's 'faith'.

Sounds good to me too, Stewart, in a different sense, although I would not suggest that believers don't reason.

However, the distinction between "reason" and "faith" has been with mankind for a long time and the issue even surfaces in the Bible, with the suggestion: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

It's an age-old issue and I suspect it will always remain unresolved, except to note that faith and reason are two different kinds of things and have difficulty talking to each other.
 

Sybarite

New Member
Peder, perhaps you could explain to us why substantial numbers of Christian seem very bothered about homosexuality – which, according to the Bible, Christ never seems to have seen fit to even mention – while they seem less keen to, as I suggested before, abide by his teachings (plural, note) on wealth?

non-believers can't know what it is to believe; as non-smokers do not know what it's like to smoke. You are the equivelant of the smoker who has quit which is not the same thing.

With respect Chris, I'm rather with Bob Magness on this. Like him, I went through a 'born again' experience. I was around 14 at the time. And I continued to believe, in one way or another, until I was 37. So again, with respect, I do have a clue. Which is partly why I also have a clue about what is actually in the Bible. I can discuss theology from the perspective of someone who learned a lot of it and read the Bible a lot (daily) for many years. I also had the 'advantage' of having a clergyman as a father. :)
 

Peder

Well-Known Member
Peder, perhaps you could explain to us why substantial numbers of Christian seem very bothered about homosexuality – which, according to the Bible, Christ never seems to have seen fit to even mention – while they seem less keen to, as I suggested before, abide by his teachings (plural, note) on wealth?

Sorry, Syb, I'm not the person to explain why substantial numbers of people, Christian or atheist, behave as they do. I think there are more than enough atheists who would be more than glad to provide their explanation to you about why Christians behave as they do, and many atheists as well.
 

Sybarite

New Member
Sorry, Syb, I'm not the person to explain why substantial numbers of people, Christian or atheist, behave as they do. I think there are more than enough atheists who would be more than glad to provide their explanation to you about why Christians behave as they do, and many atheists as well.

But do you not think that that is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they talk of 'pick 'n' mix religion'? I'm sorry if I misunderstood your earlier post, but I thought that you were asking for an explanation of what that phrase meant ...
 
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