More on Atheism Though vs. Christianity–Dueling Philosophies and Ideologies?
This is part of a dialog I had on Quora and thought I would share it here. I’m sorry its incomplete. If you would like to read more like this, use the search box to search for “atheism” or “new atheists” and you should find more:
All ideology which is abused and manipulated is an enabler–that doesn’t mean we get rid of ideology–just warped fanatics who want to do violence. In the case of all the abuse you were talking about there are pretty specific passages which take issue with the act taken. See Just War theory, which was hackneyed in a recent decision by the US Airforce training. And certainly, you can make the case for non-violence as well. Either way, religion serves as a check on unjustified abuses of power and violence.
Cheney wanted to go to war. If you’ve watched any documentary about the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the time leading up to those conflicts. There were multiple reasons the administration had to go to war, including checking tyranny (i.e. Saddam as a tyrant) and the War on Terror.
Lets return to the original argument that all ideology has that problem. People manipulate normative justifications to accomplish their goals, that doesn’t mean we should give up on normative values–after all normative values gave us a standard of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness which progressively in about 200 years led to full emancipation. That’s a historical triumph and it was grounded in faith, if you’ve read the Declaration of Independence. They aren’t founded on science, or technology, or dirt, or government, but rather our nation was founded on inalienable rights by our creator. The roots of the American liberation, which has been modeled elsewhere are fundamentally wedded to these principles.
Fourth, I don’t have to defend Muslims or Muslim fundamentalism. That’s a particular ideology that I don’t agree with. In the same way that I won’t suggest someone who believes in science to defend the fundamentalists use of technology that came from science (i.e. bombs, AK-47s, landmines, etc..).
This concept that your final argument seems to rely on seems a bit dubious & methodologically flawed:
The problem is that a person, when he questions that which is heard from God, firsthand or secondhand, there is no objective standard against
which to weigh it, simply because the standard (like the bible) also requires a goodly dollop of faith in order to be believable.
Is really only a real problem when its a choice of war or survival–and pretty much only when its the president. However, the assumption that you seem to have, that people can’t say that, even if they feel it, seems to be equally problematic. You don’t have access to their subjective experience. I can believe that you have experienced God and don’t know it–but I’m not 100% in a position to argue with you if you say you have. Similarly, you aren’t in a position to deny their subjective experience. Similarly, I’m not in a position to deny what if feels like to be a woman–and so for you to suggest “God hasn’t talked to me…therefore God doesn’t talk to anyone” is perhaps a little short sighted.
I suggest reading Alister McGrath or NT Wright if you want more on this issue. Alister is probably a better place to start. Both have spent time at Oxford as teachers. Also, I recently picked up “An Atheist Defends Religion” by Bruce Sheiman, which also answers the war, science, liberty, and health questions in a very scientific and rational way. It has about 170 cites from my best guess.
If you ground your beliefs that reason and science are the only meaningful human values–I think you’ve pre-figured your decisions. Its like looking only at quantitative data when you know qualitative data exist as well. Faith, relationships, and love are a rather subjective experience therefore looking beyond the strict realms of science may be a first step toward enlightenment. Happy reading and journeys!