Tuesday, June 25

After God: What can atheists learn from believers?


I have what can be called in Facebook speak as a complicated relationship with God throughout my life. I believed in him then became an atheist and then a firm believer when you two were born and have now settled into a situation which can politely be described as a secular spiritual humanist. 

Don't believe in religion. Hinduism is a good philosophy. It's great for historians and for people who want to exercise their mental muscles. All religions are powerful in terms of the hold they have on their worshippers. So whatever you decide to believe in, be careful of religions son. They are on the retreat and that's when they are the worst. 



After God: What can atheists learn from believers?

From the art series “A Place Beyond Belief, 2012” by Nathan Coley. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Jonathan Derbyshire writes: Jeremy Bentham, his disciple John Stuart Mill once wrote, would always ask of a proposition or belief, “Is it true?” By contrast, Bentham’s contemporary Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mill observed, thought “What is the meaning of it?” was a much more interesting question.

Today’s New Atheists –Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and the late Christopher Hitchens principal among them – are the heirs of Bentham, rather than Coleridge. For them, religion – or the great monotheistic faiths, at any rate – are bundles of beliefs (about the existence of a supernatural being, the origins of the universe and so on) whose claims to truth don’t stand up to rational scrutiny. And once the falsity of those beliefs has been established, they imply, there is nothing much left to say.

The New Atheists remind one of Edward Gibbon, who said of a visit to the cathedral at Chartres: “I paused only to dart a look at the stately pile of superstition and passed on.” They glance at the stately pile of story and myth bequeathed to humanity by religion and quickly move on, pausing only to ask of the benighted millions who continue to profess one faith or another that they keep their beliefs to themselves and don’t demand that they be heard in the public square.

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