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Ch. 5: The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False 
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Post Ch. 5: The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False
God is Not Great

Ch. 5: The Metaphysical Claims of Religion Are False

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Mon Mar 02, 2009 6:09 pm
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Superficially, Hitchens appears to be the most in-your-face of the well known atheist writers. My view is that he might be the most reasonable (I haven't read Dennett). I think his expertise (even though he modestly would not claim that) in literature and history gives him a broader, and I would say more humanistic, perspective than those other writers. The title to this chapter is a case in point regarding his style. In it, he really doesn't go after proving that the metaphysical beliefs of religion are false. (that would not be possible, anyway.) What he does is to show us that these beliefs have become entirely optional and irrelevant. They are not needed to explain matters that, in previous eras, needed religious explanations. He says that for most of history, belief in god or supernatural agency was nearly universal because of the abysmal state of our knowledge. That has been no longer true for quite some time, but it takes a long while for the reality to sink in. I think it slowly is.

When I say that Hitchens is more humanistic than other writers on atheism, I mean that he doesn't anathematize all thinking done by religious scholars. He accepts some of it as representing the best that could be produced considering the limits of knowledge. It was, therefore, a contribution to the humanities:

"But it is better for us not to fall into relativism, or what E.P. Thompson called 'the enormous condescension of posterity.' The scholastic obsessives of the Middle Ages were doing the best they could on the basis of hopelessly limited information, ever-present fear of death and judgment, very low life expectancy, and an audience of illiterates. Living in often genuine fear of the consequences of error, they exerted their minds to the fullest extent then possible, and evolved quite impressive systems of logic and the dialectic." (p. 68)

We are now able to understand our universe in a very limited way that is still, however, light years ahead of the time of the event by which we all date our calendars. Hitchens says, "we can now do this while dropping (or even, if you insist, retaining) the idea of a god. But in either case,
the theory works without that assumption. You can believe in a divine mover if you choose, but it makes no difference at all, and belief among astronomers and physicists has become private and fairly rare." (p. 70)


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Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:51 am
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I read the God Delusion before God is not Great and i expected that many of the same points would be made, but with different language, but the more personal approach Hitchens takes exposes different possibilities when examining belief.

Hitchens does have a more emotional way to evaluate religion, even hostile. I admit that my own stance has gone beyond atheist to anti-theist. I think that belief in the supernatural is not just pointless but harmful, however the way that Hitchens engages the reader has a polarizing effect and thereby is a style that will reach fewer minds.

All the same, this book contributes and expands on the argument against religion precisely because of this passionate writing.

I rather thought at the time of reading that Dawkins was the fuel for the rational mind and Hitchens was the examination of the personal offense religion has committed on humanity.



Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:11 am
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But why does Hitchens ignore the extent to which religion contains an internal critique? There are various calls in the gospels to religious authenticity, for example "woe to you scribes and pharisees for you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" and "build your house upon the rock rather than upon sand". 'Swallowing a camel' and 'building on sand' seem to be metaphors for accepting the lies of supernatural belief. Building upon rock means having a solid foundation for our lives and beliefs. In modern terms this can only mean using the evidentiary principle of science.

Hitchens later derides liberation theology as laughable and incoherent, because he is so fixated on his critique of religion as a source of oppression. My view here is that the task should be the reform of religion, along liberationary lines, rather than its abolition. However, in my own idiosyncratic way I see it as liberation through capitalism rather than against it, but that is a separate issue.

In this overall approach I rather follow the idealistic view of my mother, who headed a commission on the status of women in the uniting church in Australia. Mum started out with the naive view that the gospels provide a liberatory message, but came to the sad conclusion that the church is a main bastion of patriarchy. However, she observed that this traditional oppressive cultural stance on the part of the church was grounded in pure hypocrisy.

The hypocrisy is that if we actually used the gospels as a basis for life then we would be on a liberatory path for the world. A starting point for such a liberatory ethic is that we need to apply the evidentiary principle in formulating our beliefs. The grossly unethical and corrupt nature of traditional religion seems to me to derive primarily from its theory of faith, ie that some statements should be believed even though there is no evidence for them, and in spite of evidence that they are false. Once this corruption of faith is accepted people will believe anything because they will put the political authority of the institution before the evidence of science.

My own view is that it is possible and necessary to delete all supernaturalism from Christianity, formulating a theory of faith that is compatible with scientific knowledge. I know on face value this looks absurd, but, as Hitchens demonstrates, supernaturalism is among the greatest sources of evil in the world. Its acceptance by the church has in my view rested on false literalist interpretations of ideas whose real meaning is compatible with science.

Logically, if faith is to become something good, it needs to be based on truth rather than lies. Hence a theory of God that is a lie (or has been proven false) is not good. As Einstein argued in support of Spinoza, this means the replacement of the personal God of traditional religion by the pantheist vision which equates God and nature.

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Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:58 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
But why does Hitchens ignore the extent to which religion contains an internal critique? There are various calls in the gospels to religious authenticity, for example "woe to you scribes and pharisees for you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" and "build your house upon the rock rather than upon sand". 'Swallowing a camel' and 'building on sand' seem to be metaphors for accepting the lies of supernatural belief. Building upon rock means having a solid foundation for our lives and beliefs. In modern terms this can only mean using the evidentiary principle of science.

They may seem to be such metaphors to you, Robert, but I will still never see, I'm afraid, how Christianity remains after the supernatural part is drained out. What you then are left with is something from which to draw inspiration, maybe at best christianity with a small "c." I don't think, either, that Hitchens ignores those who fought for more enlightened beliefs while still being in the Christian fold. It's important to understand that he doesn't trash everything associated with Christianity. He admires, for instance, the power of theologians such as Newman and Pascal.

Quote:
Hitchens later derides liberation theology as laughable and incoherent, because he is so fixated on his critique of religion as a source of oppression. My view here is that the task should be the reform of religion, along liberationary lines, rather than its abolition. However, in my own idiosyncratic way I see it as liberation through capitalism rather than against it, but that is a separate issue.

But where does he call for the abolition of religion? "I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could" (p. 12). His argument is geared toward establishing the irrelevance of beliefs associated with a creator God..

Quote:
The hypocrisy is that if we actually used the gospels as a basis for life then we would be on a liberatory path for the world. A starting point for such a liberatory ethic is that we need to apply the evidentiary principle in formulating our beliefs. The grossly unethical and corrupt nature of traditional religion seems to me to derive primarily from its theory of faith, ie that some statements should be believed even though there is no evidence for them, and in spite of evidence that they are false. Once this corruption of faith is accepted people will believe anything because they will put the political authority of the institution before the evidence of science.

Again, one might draw inspiration from aspects of the gospels, on the way to a synthesis of sorts that should not take the name Christianity.

Quote:
Logically, if faith is to become something good, it needs to be based on truth rather than lies. Hence a theory of God that is a lie (or has been proven false) is not good. As Einstein argued in support of Spinoza, this means the replacement of the personal God of traditional religion by the pantheist vision which equates God and nature.

Stuart Kauffman, in Reinventing the Sacred, equates God with the creativity in nature. He makes a case for the use of the word God, even though this is for him actually a purely naturalistic concept. Christ is nowhere present, thus his concept is no more Christian than it is Buddhist. He is suggesting a synthesis of faiths.


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Mon Mar 30, 2009 8:37 pm
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johnson1010 wrote:
Hitchens does have a more emotional way to evaluate religion, even hostile. I admit that my own stance has gone beyond atheist to anti-theist. I think that belief in the supernatural is not just pointless but harmful, however the way that Hitchens engages the reader has a polarizing effect and thereby is a style that will reach fewer minds.

I think you're right that Hitchens will get few believers or even weak believers to read the book by seeming to be so over the top. But I've argued that behind this pugnacious stance is a quite reasonable man who is hostile when it is appropriate to be hostile, but not hostile about every manifestation of religion. He has a firm sense of proportion. Where in the book does he go after the people filing into the Methodist church on Sunday? Sure, this religion is distasteful to him, and he is unsparing in exposing the fallacies of Christian doctrine, but he does believe in leaving people alone who are not forcing their beliefs on the rest of us or causing havoc.
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All the same, this book contributes and expands on the argument against religion precisely because of this passionate writing.

He is passionate, and I admire the passion. I agree that he sets himself apart in this way in the book. Dawkins and Harris are very capable writers as well, but Hitchens has them beat in my opinion.


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This is a problem i have with more refined takes on Christianity. Those who have looked at the bible with a keen eye will see that the book is full of blatantly impossible events, or contradictions within itself.

Those that see these errors and maintain faith usually do so by parsing out the readings that might be taken as allegorical from those that are to be taken literally. Why spend so much energy tryng to rationalize this hodgepodge into coherence? The bible doesn't make sense because it doesn't make sense! not because you are incapable of understanding it's deeper meanings.

Still others reject all the paraphernalia of Christianity excepting only Jesus and God.

If your concept of a supernatural being is rooted in a work of literature which you have already rejected as fallible, or even mostly false, then why cling to that one teaching?

The point being, if you can point at a part of the bible which is supposed to be the inerrant word of god and say "This part is not literally true" then what is the sense in keeping any of it?

Speaking of strictly moral point of view, anything found in the bible could be, and is taught regularly in households across the planet without ever referring to the bible. If these lessons can be got from less ambiguous, more honest places than a two thousand year old tome that claims to be infallible then by all means that is where those lessons should come from.

Removing the supernatural, or the obviously incorrect portions of the bible leaves you with just a straw-man set of morality tales with lessons that can be better illustrated with real-world teachings.

This is working against Ockham's razor. Stick with the simple explanations. if we can teach our children to be just adults without introducing layers of complexity, and nonsensical leaps of reasoning then that is the way it should be done. Maintaining the non-supernatural plot points of the bible and passing them on only adds noise, especially considering the in-accuracy of those elements.

The genealogy section, for instance might be considered non-supernatural, yet it is most obviously fabricated. Consider the ludicrous length of time certain of the bible's characters lived. P.I.S. stands for Plot Instigated Stupidity. The family tree illustrated there is for the purpose of organizing plot elements in the bible, not for historical record.

We would do no service to our children to impregnate their imaginations with these obvious false-hoods and tell them they are the literal truth.



Mon Mar 30, 2009 10:47 pm
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DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
.. strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" and "build your house upon the rock rather than upon sand". 'Swallowing a camel' and 'building on sand' seem to be metaphors for accepting the lies of supernatural belief. Building upon rock means having a solid foundation for our lives and beliefs. In modern terms this can only mean using the evidentiary principle of science.
They may seem to be such metaphors to you, Robert, but I will still never see, I'm afraid, how Christianity remains after the supernatural part is drained out. What you then are left with is something from which to draw inspiration, maybe at best christianity with a small "c."
It is not just me that uses these biblical metaphors as a basis for rational critique. “Swallowing the camel” is the name of a blogspot with the mission of “examining hoaxes, scams, controversies, rumours, schemes, bizarre ideas, bogus products, disinformation, misinformation, impractical jokes, literary fraud, and anything else that smells bad.” They take their scepticism straight from the mouth of Jesus. Building on rock rather than sand has a similar philosophic role of demanding rational foundations for thought.

Bill, your argument amounts to saying that Christianity must be entirely false by definition, and any effort to find a true kernel amongst the dross is doomed to failure, that the whole enterprise is for nothing and an irredeemable fraud. My view is that the ignorant ancients were, at least in part, pointing towards something real, dressing it up in terms they could understand. The idea of the incarnation, even though largely historically false, expresses a deeply valid philosophical conception of the meeting between human life and eternal truth.

The archetypal question of the gospel is ‘what would happen if a man lived purely by the will of God?’ The answer, crucifixion and resurrection, though larded by mythology, remains of high psychological human importance even when stripped of all magical content. Your insistence that this Christological essence of faith is ‘supernatural’ implies that the Christian message has nothing to say to modern rational humanity.
Quote:
where does he call for the abolition of religion? "I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could" (p. 12). His argument is geared toward establishing the irrelevance of beliefs associated with a creator God.
Of course Hitchens is generous in his liberal pluralist tolerance, but the steel fist in the velvet glove is in the idea that the world should not tolerate intolerance. The claim that metaphysical religion is intrinsically intolerant, through its fundamentalist claim to unique access to absolute truth, therefore holds the implication that such pre-modern arrogance should not be tolerated. That which we cannot tolerate should be outlawed and abolished, as we seek to prevent all illegal activity. It is about Hitchens’ vision of an ideal future of an atheist world. My trouble with this vision is that I believe the concept of God remains a helpful way to synthesise a vision of an ultimate purpose and meaning for human life. The fact that this synthetic vision has been articulated badly and incorrectly by fundamentalist religion does not invalidate the idea of a creator.

A second angle here is that if somebody’s beliefs are demonstrated as absurd, they have the choice of the mad fanaticism of Tertullian “I believe because it is absurd” or changing their beliefs. If as you say, Hitchens seeks to show that all “beliefs associated with a creator God” are irrelevant, then any advocates for such beliefs are peddlers in irrelevant absurdity. Draining the swamp is a better way to get rid of mosquitos than slapping them when they bite you. It would be hard for religion to maintain itself if the whole world rejected the idea of a Creator God. My view is that this simply will not happen because far from being irrelevant, the myth of a Creator has a powerful and useful purchase on human psychology. Again, the core idea of Christology, that entities in our lost world can be in tune with ultimate reality, establishes a theory of creation with an intensely ethical resonance.
Quote:
One might draw inspiration from aspects of the gospels, on the way to a synthesis of sorts that should not take the name Christianity.
So Bill, you argue that the deluded, the frauds and the liars of Christian tradition have a monopoly on interpretation of that tradition. This is just another example of the invalid argument by authority. You seem to be trying to hold Christianity into a small pre-modern box, insisting that effort to find meaning in it for the modern world is invalid because it is irrevocably fossilised in false past conceptions. Such ‘inspiration from aspects of the Gospels’ is precisely what the Gospels themselves demand, for example in the parables of the wheat and tares.
Quote:
Stuart Kauffman, in Reinventing the Sacred, equates God with the creativity in nature. He makes a case for the use of the word God, even though this is for him actually a purely naturalistic concept. Christ is nowhere present, thus his concept is no more Christian than it is Buddhist. He is suggesting a synthesis of faiths.
Kauffman’s equation as you describe it may be incompatible with traditional faith in God as a supernatural entity, but I suspect his deletion of Christ from his cosmology is more about his pain at the delusory behaviour of the church than any effort to engage with the question of whether the idea of Christ can be rehabilitated.
RT



Tue Mar 31, 2009 1:50 pm
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Bill, your argument amounts to saying that Christianity must be entirely false by definition, and any effort to find a true kernel amongst the dross is doomed to failure, that the whole enterprise is for nothing and an irredeemable fraud. My view is that the ignorant ancients were, at least in part, pointing towards something real, dressing it up in terms they could understand. The idea of the incarnation, even though largely historically false, expresses a deeply valid philosophical conception of the meeting between human life and eternal truth.

Robert, I have not expressed myself well at all if you think I believe that the efforts of the past to understand human life and to live morally were all nonsense just because a large part of these efforts involved gods, demons, and spirits. As a humanist, I MUST believe that at the basis of such attempts were good faith and wisdom, and that in our age we have not necessarily gone any farther toward enlightenment than they did. There are true kernels in all Western mythologies, including the Christian. However, I would disagree with you if your thinking is that we should select particular kernels to delcare as ultimate truth. This is not the way forward, in my opinion.
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The archetypal question of the gospel is ‘what would happen if a man lived purely by the will of God?’ The answer, crucifixion and resurrection, though larded by mythology, remains of high psychological human importance even when stripped of all magical content. Your insistence that this Christological essence of faith is ‘supernatural’ implies that the Christian message has nothing to say to modern rational humanity.

However, it is you yourself who castigate belief in the supernatural, which is the same as "magical content." It is really not that I have such an animus toward a belief that can't be explained rationally. Given the ability of the human mind to compartmentalize, it is common for people to say they believe in impossible things while remaining quite normal to all appearances. Not all belief in the supernatural makes people act crazy, far from it. My criticism of your proposal to make a newly reformed Christianity the ultimate truth is simply that it seems a bit arbitrary to elevate one tradition which-- for you-- has a rich metaphorical validity over all others. Yes, Robert, this is where relativism comes in again! To many other minds, I daresay what you find so compelling in the ressurection and incarnation simply doesn't resonate. So your insistence that others must accept this as the ultimate truth strikes me as quixotic.
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My trouble with this vision is that I believe the concept of God remains a helpful way to synthesise a vision of an ultimate purpose and meaning for human life. The fact that this synthetic vision has been articulated badly and incorrectly by fundamentalist religion does not invalidate the idea of a creator.

When you talk about "the concept of God," or using the name in some way, you are not speaking about the same God that Hitchens takes apart in his book. This is also true of Dawkins in his own book. I know you have read Hitchens' book, but you apparently disagree with me that Hitchens makes a distinction between "god" and a "religious god." The notion of god that you are promoting is one that can exist in "societies that [have] learned to tame and sequester the religious impulse" (p. 280) I'm sure that Hitchens doesn't personally subscribe to even these "tamed and sequestered" versions of god, but he does not jump on people who do (well, okay, other than to imply they're irrelevant). In short, I think that your disagreement with Hitchens might not be so fundamental.
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It would be hard for religion to maintain itself if the whole world rejected the idea of a Creator God. My view is that this simply will not happen because far from being irrelevant, the myth of a Creator has a powerful and useful purchase on human psychology. Again, the core idea of Christology, that entities in our lost world can be in tune with ultimate reality, establishes a theory of creation with an intensely ethical resonance.

I understand your feeling that irrelevance is not such a mild charge, either. But here again, you use the words "myth of a creator God," which is far different from belief and places this myth in the optional category, however intensely you believe it should somehow serve us. I do not even know what you mean by 'the core idea of Christology." If I did, I suspect it would not resonate with me.
Quote:
So Bill, you argue that the deluded, the frauds and the liars of Christian tradition have a monopoly on interpretation of that tradition. This is just another example of the invalid argument by authority. You seem to be trying to hold Christianity into a small pre-modern box, insisting that effort to find meaning in it for the modern world is invalid because it is irrevocably fossilised in false past conceptions. Such ‘inspiration from aspects of the Gospels’ is precisely what the Gospels themselves demand, for example in the parables of the wheat and tares.

No, "finding meaning in it" is simply entirely different from acting as though "Christianity", which is undeniably a product of history, should be our reference point. If we have to make excuses and apologies for much of the foundational literature, what is the point?

I'm just giving my own take here, Robert. Who knows, there could be many others who could see their way clear to accepting such a transition.


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Fri Apr 03, 2009 8:58 am
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God is a magical creature. There is no way around it, unless your definition is so warped as to become meaningless. If you're attempting to drain the superstition and magic from christianity, you'll also be draining away the christian god.



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in adition, new age-y ideas of god as the universe or god as love are similarly meaningless.

We can dispense with the term God if we are not refering to anything other than the universe itself. In that case we are talking about wonderment at existence, which is essentially the same feeling described as "spiritual" but with no magic.

If we are pointing to something other than God as the universe, then we are talking about a being, or presence that is supernatural. This is often either the diety of the monotheistic religions, or a knock off, so to speak, where a person from a christian background rejects the church and even the bible to a degree but keeps the God.

If you have rejected the bible, the birth place of this god, then what leg does he have to stand on?



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Interbane:

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God is a magical creature. There is no way around it, unless your definition is so warped as to become meaningless. If you're attempting to drain the superstition and magic from christianity, you'll also be draining away the christian god.


Ahem!! Excuse me! There is a way around it. I don't think my definition is warped and meaningless. Well, it might be, because the trouble is with basket cases, is, that we don't think we are basket cases.

I don't try to define 'God' because that is ridiculous. But I do think of it in terms of 'the force' like in 'Star Wars'. And the more I see of life, the more I think it is a good metaphore. The 'dark side' and the 'light side' - still the same force. It depends which you want to concentrate on.

Anyway, the Buddhist idea of Brahma - fits this metaphore very well.

(I keep thinking, I won't lose any more friends, and I'll keep out of these discussions, then I see a statement like yours Interbane, which is so provocative, that I can't just stand by and look.)

Anyway, I'm keeping my light-sabre sheathed. :neutral:


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Fri Apr 03, 2009 1:48 pm
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:P Penny!

Jake answered your definition quite well above. The 'force' in Star Wars actually had a scientific explanation given in the new third episode. There are otherwise four forces known to science. Adding a fifth force for your own understanding is okay, but it is still magical.

1. Gravity - This force acts between all mass in the universe and it has infinite range.

2. Electromagnetic - This acts between electrically charged particles. Electricity, magnetism, and light are all produced by this force and it also has infinite range.

3. The Strong Force - This force binds neutrons and protons together in the cores of atoms and is a short range force.

4. Weak Force - This causes Beta decay (the conversion of a neutron to a proton, an electron and an antineutrino) and various particles (the "strange" ones) are formed by strong interactions but decay via weak interactions (that's what's strange about "strangeness"). Like the strong force, the weak force is also short range.



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Jake? Who he? Am I correct in assuming you mean johnson?

I have a son named Jake. Also I have been having a conversation with a young newbie bloke named Danny, and I have a son named that too.

The queer thing is, my sons both talk to me in the same way as the two on here. They try to be patient! They wish I would just 'knit' like a normal Mum. Now, what's your name? It can't be the name of my eldest child, which is Emma! :laugh: and I know you've just become a father!!!

Sorry, just needed a bit of an interlude. Listen more, talk less, me.

But, thank you. I'll carry on lurking now.


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Fri Apr 03, 2009 3:06 pm
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DWill wrote:
Robert, I have not expressed myself well at all if you think I believe that the efforts of the past to understand human life and to live morally were all nonsense just because a large part of these efforts involved gods, demons, and spirits. As a humanist, I MUST believe that at the basis of such attempts were good faith and wisdom, and that in our age we have not necessarily gone any farther toward enlightenment than they did. There are true kernels in all Western mythologies, including the Christian. However, I would disagree with you if your thinking is that we should select particular kernels to declare as ultimate truth. This is not the way forward, in my opinion.
Hi Bill, thanks for engaging on this difficult material. It seems we disagree on the value we should give to modern theories of enlightenment. I agree with Hitchens that modern science is far more enlightened than ancient magic. We see absolute proof of this in comparing modern and ancient life expectancy, knowledge, productivity and opportunity. The question I am asking is what in the ancient world view is compatible with modern knowledge. Obviously quite a bit, for example the beautiful idea from Saint Paul that the truth will set you free. Paul acknowledged that his grasp of truth was dodgy, for example his comment that we see as through a glass darkly, but later writers ignored this major caveat by claiming that partial and false ideas were absolutely true. For example, the virgin birth is a belief which I don’t think is grounded in your “good faith and wisdom” as it primarily served to cement the institutional power of the church, detracting attention from the underlying Christian theme of a connection between the temporal and the eternal. Hitchens is right to draw attention to the disgraceful behaviour of the church, but I disagree with him in claiming that more of the religious worldview is legitimate and redeemable than he argues.
Quote:
However, it is you yourself who castigate belief in the supernatural, which is the same as "magical content." It is really not that I have such an animus toward a belief that can't be explained rationally. Given the ability of the human mind to compartmentalize, it is common for people to say they believe in impossible things while remaining quite normal to all appearances. Not all belief in the supernatural makes people act crazy, far from it.
Again, we must remember Voltaire’s profound observation that ‘who believes absurdities permits atrocities.’ You are right that supernaturalism can be compatible with rational action, but you have to admit that irrational belief presents a much higher risk of irrational behaviour than does rational belief.
Quote:
My criticism of your proposal to make a newly reformed Christianity the ultimate truth is simply that it seems a bit arbitrary to elevate one tradition which-- for you-- has a rich metaphorical validity over all others. Yes, Robert, this is where relativism comes in again! To many other minds, I daresay what you find so compelling in the resurrection and incarnation simply doesn't resonate. So your insistence that others must accept this as the ultimate truth strikes me as quixotic.
The story of Easter resonates not just for me, but for the whole of Christianity. It is perhaps ironic that the Easter passion story of Christ is rather quixotic, with the cross in place of the windmill. I do not have animus towards irrational belief, only towards the claim that such belief has the same status as scientific knowledge, for it manifestly does not. For example the passion story finds its meaning in the parable of a person who was despised and rejected proving to be the source of salvation. This meaning does not depend on any actual miracles, any more than the proverb ‘slow and steady wins the race’ depends on Aesop’s fable of the hare and the tortoise being about an actual foot race. The lack of resonance you describe is in my view largely due to the over-inflated claims of fundamentalism. A realistic scientific assessment of the tall tales from the hills in the Gospels should indicate these stories are worth a second look as a source of moral teaching.
Quote:
When you talk about "the concept of God," or using the name in some way, you are not speaking about the same God that Hitchens takes apart in his book. This is also true of Dawkins in his own book. I know you have read Hitchens' book, but you apparently disagree with me that Hitchens makes a distinction between "god" and a "religious god." The notion of god that you are promoting is one that can exist in "societies that [have] learned to tame and sequester the religious impulse" (p. 280) I'm sure that Hitchens doesn't personally subscribe to even these "tamed and sequestered" versions of god, but he does not jump on people who do (well, okay, other than to imply they're irrelevant). In short, I think that your disagreement with Hitchens might not be so fundamental.
One of the most interesting comments in the chapter under discussion here is on page 63 where CH says “faith… that can stand up at least for a while in a confrontation with reason is now plainly impossible.” Yet this is what Einstein presents in his Spinozan faith. Again, Hitchens employs the debating tactic of saying that if religion redefines itself to be possible then it is not religion, that the bad necessarily drives out the good. I agree with Hitchens in deriding literal belief in impossible ideas, but disagree regarding whether those impossible ideas are a metaphor for something true.
Quote:
you use the words "myth of a creator God," which is far different from belief and places this myth in the optional category, however intensely you believe it should somehow serve us.
A similarly “optional myth” is that all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is a belief which cannot be proved scientifically, nor is it a ‘self evident truth’ as the founding fathers called it. However it is extremely useful and beneficial that people should believe it. Calling something optional is a way to subtly deride its value. The idea of a creator god has a valuable mythic status because its existence in the classic formulation as a purposive entity appears implausible, but the idea that love and grace have a cosmic foundation has great practical utility.
[/quote] I do not even know what you mean by 'the core idea of Christology." If I did, I suspect it would not resonate with me.
Quote:

The core idea of Christology is the claim that Jesus Christ brought together two natures, a human nature (the man Jesus of Nazareth) and a divine nature (the eternal logos or Son of God) into one person. In terms of archetypal mythology, the story of the Gospels is the supreme imagination of what Bonhoeffer called the beyond in the midst of the world – the eternal in the midst of the temporal. The idea is that ordinary life (Jesus) conceals a deep connection to ultimate reality (Christ), and that this connection provides a real meaning and purpose. A range of gospel texts express this Christological vision. For example, the last (Jesus) will be first (Christ), the servant (Jesus) will be king (Christ) and the stone the builder rejects (Jesus) will be head of the corner (Christ). We do not have to believe that the Gospel account is true to find this cosmology meaningful.
Quote:
"finding meaning in it" is simply entirely different from acting as though "Christianity", which is undeniably a product of history, should be our reference point. If we have to make excuses and apologies for much of the foundational literature, what is the point?
The point is that within the gospels there is a vision of an ultimate reality, a story of human identity with immense meaning for human adaptation to life on our planet. As I have argued previously, core texts such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord's Prayer can usefully be reinterpreted as an ecological message, with a story of salvation that is actually useful for a modern scientific context.

RT



Sat Apr 04, 2009 8:11 am
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