Sunday, October 22, 2006

God knows why faith is thriving

God knows why faith is thriving:
A group of leading atheists is puzzled by the continued existence and vitality of religion.

As biologist Richard Dawkins puts it in his new book "The God Delusion," faith is a form of irrationality, what he terms a "virus of the mind." Philosopher Daniel Dennett compares belief in God to belief in the Easter Bunny. Sam Harris, author of "The End of Faith" and now "Letter to a Christian Nation," professes amazement that hundreds of millions of people worldwide profess religious beliefs when there is no rational evidence for any of those beliefs. Biologist E.O. Wilson says there must be some evolutionary explanation for the universality and pervasiveness of religious belief.

Actually, there is. The Rev. Ron Carlson, a popular author and lecturer, sometimes presents his audience with two stories and asks them whether it matters which one is true.
An interesting article...

Dinesh D'Souza suggests that, since religious people have a strong sense of purpose, and secular people are not even sure why they are here, that the question should rather be focussed on a Darwinian explanation for why atheism can exist. D'Souza goes on to say this:
It seems perplexing why nature would breed a group of people who see no purpose to life or the universe, indeed whose only moral drive seems to be sneering at their fellow human beings who do have a sense of purpose.

Not all atheists and agnostics "sneer" at religious people, but those that do, I fear, are disproportionately represented in the press. But it does make intuitive sense to me that it is better to go through life with a sense of purpose, than to muddle along with no sense of purpose or meaning to one's existence.

I'd like to see more discussion on the topic of purpose and its effect on the "quality" of life.

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Andrew Quinn said...

Interesting points, sir.

As an atheist myself, however, I would amend your language that those without a definite sense of purpose "muddle" along. Indeed, I believe that it is the believers who are muddling along. While I live a less philosophically comfortable existence (admitting to not knowing what exactly I'm doing here), I feel liberated saying what I see as the only true answer - I'm Not Sure.

In any case, even if atheism doesn't make Darwin sense, let us not pretend that humanity has not moved beyond Darwinism in other ways (such as medicine, science, etc.) It doesn't make evolutionary sense that we should explore space, understand that something is better with democracy than facism, or even CONTEMPLATE faith . . . all this wondering about the universe just gets in the way of food and shelter production, right?

Denis Hancock said...

I have a couple observations:

1. We proceed from different assumptions, so our conclusions are likely to be different.

2. And, if I may presume, you seem to shade a little toward agnosticism (ala Stephen J Gould) rather than hard-core atheism (ala Richard Dawkins)

So, with observation 1 in mind, I feel that if believers puts their faith into practice, it can affect the people around them in a positive way.

With observation 2 in mind, I appreciate your willingness to post a comment in a rational way. We may not agree, but we can at least have a productive discussion.