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The New Atheists: How Do You See Them?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Jan 2010 at 21:40
arch.buff: You overlook I think Judaism, which, as far as I can see has all the qualities you attibute to Christianity. So in fact does Islam, though, agreed, that postdates Christianity. Otherwise the constellaton of qualities you describe do, agreed, add up to a picture of Christianity: but it seems to me somewhat circular to argue that Christianity makes a unique contribution by defining it uniquely. It's not far off saying that Christianity is uniquely good because it uniquely demonstrates the Christian virtues.
 
Well - it would, wouldn't it?
 
Ako: Chesterton is one of my favourite authors too, though mostly through the short stories, of which I have a complete collection I regularly re-read. On the other hand I cannot stomach Dawkins and Hitchens even first time through.
 
drgonzaga: I did not lust after Simone de Beauvoir any more than after Piaf. Juliette I quoted and Juliette I stand by (or wish I did). However that we are what we make ourselves to be, which is what Sartre strips down to bereft of all the Gallic nonsense and scupted into a nice Anglo-Saxon simplicity, still strikes me as a good axiom.
 
PS: Current research indicates I may have been wrong not to lust after Simone, not having taken far enough my consideration of what existentialism strips down to:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Jan 2010 at 04:30
Zagros wrote:
 
Well then I am afraid you've missed my point.  Apes were used as an example of just how primitive good natured behaviour and actions are and thus, such by atheists are not as a result of some notions dreamt up by the authors of the new testament, but intrinsic to human nature amongst many other things.  Hope that clarifies.

Well Zag, behaviour is not thought and what you perceive as good natured is hardly an intrinsic characteristic of "animal" nature or are we to go into the fineries of language that necessitated the elaboration of instinct vs. intelligence. I admit, I find research such as that conducted by the Yerkes or the current observation of the African elephant fascinating, yet sensing, communication, and even "tool" making does not give reason for the animalization of humanity. Nevertheless, pondering along these lines is hardly unique to "modern" science. It is encapsuled in various passages of Genesis itself, and before you go off running and screaming "Creationist, creationist!" understand the critical distinctions made in that text. They knew that they were naked. All of "creation" was alike until Man chose to distinguish itself apart.
 
Just some food for thought.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Jan 2010 at 03:30
Originally posted by Akolouthos Akolouthos wrote:

Sorry to interject, but I think this is as good a place as any to raise a topic I thought about starting a thread on. I think the guy happens to fit what I think of when I hear the term "New Atheist". Anyway, some explanation...
 
So I decided to pick up God's Defenders: What They Believe and Why They are Wrong, by some fellow named S.T. Joshi. I picked it up chiefly because it purported to address individual Christian apologists down through the ages, ranging from one of my favorite authors, G.K. Chesterton, to a man who wasn't exactly my favorite minister, Jerry Fallwell. Anyway, I opened it up to the section on G.K. Chesterton (and T.S. Eliot), expecting to find a thoughtful critique and was confronted with a dozen or so pages of ad hominem, condescension, and complete disregard. To be sure, there were the common arguments about religion not being factual, provable, etc. But the problem is, Chesterton's whole point is that it doesn't need to be. It seemed that Mr. Joshi had either completely missed Chesterton's unique style of argumentation and literary flourish, or had deliberately misrepresented it until the very end, where he dismisses the whole thing as wishful thinking. I lost count of the number of times the Joshi called Chesterton ignorant -- a hilarious claim to those who have ever read any of his work -- and if he said one more time, "Such an argument is not worthy of a response," I would have vomited all over the book (might have improved it). I thumbed through and the rest of the articles appeared to display the same dismissive, contemptuous, contemptible style, but he seemed to have an almost pathological hatred of Chesterton. I honestly wonder if he hates the man so much because he, for whatever reason, found it impossible to refute, or even to address him. But hey, if there is one thing that Joshi did throughout, it was to tell me repeatedly that he had demolished his opponent; an opponent who, very fortunately for Mr. Joshi, does not benefit from the opportunity to respond in this world.
 
Now Mr. Joshi is obviously well read, and seems as if he is fairly intelligent. Unfortunately, what could have been a thoughtful critique was obscured by arrogance and vitriol. This is generally how I would characterize Dawkins -- and Hitchens to a lesser extent. They are rather like clerics, and are rather like Inquisitors in that they possess a pervasive arrogance and contempt for those who do not agree with them. Now it's all well and good for them to live in their precious little world, where they get to self-select themselves and those who agree with them as intellectuals and to dismiss everyone else as ignorant, superstitious hacks, but I fail to see how anyone could sympathize with them when this same attitude pushes people away from listening to them.
 
Anyway, that's my take on it. There are quite a number of thoughful agnostics out there, just as there are quite a number of thoughtful religious. That said, the louder, more obnoxious people are the ones who sell books, and Dawkins, Joshi and their ilk increasingly find themselves at the helm of a growing, enthusiastic movement.
 
I do have a question: Is this Joshi guy always such an ass, or does he ever approach things thoughtfully?
 
-Akolouthos
 
That's the thing too: they are extremely obnoxius, even bitter. Isn't it Comm. 101 to state your position with control and without prejudice? Or, at least, try and hide that extreme prejudice a bit. Above all, these books are more self-congratulating than anything else. I haven't read the specific book you've read, and I am ignorant of the author, but I am familiar with the kind of book you've described. For instance, Dennett, in his Breaking the Spell, prophetically preached to his religious readers that in all likelyhood they wouldn't be able to finish his book; such was the ferocity of his devastating argument, an argument he wielded as a fatal sword to the God of faith -- hardly the case. In any event, I feel your pain. However, it's probably even more painful to realize that some of our religious brethren are just as bad, if not worse. Unfortunately, fanatics and fundamentalists occupy every camp.
 
On a side note, I love Chesterton too. He's definitely one of my favorites as well. It's hard to pick an absolute favorite -- largely depends on mood I guess. But I found it interesting that one of your favorite authors was Catholic; and one of my favorite authors was Orthodox -- David Bentley Hart. Just a bit of humor I guess.Big smile
 
-arch.buff
 


Edited by arch.buff - 17 Jan 2010 at 03:32
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Jan 2010 at 03:05
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:


I refer you to the two preceeding posts from Arch Buff and Reginmund respectively.
 
If you have taken notice, Zagros, in my previous post to gcle I more clearly tried to explain my position. That position being: with the advent of Christianity, in the midst of the pagan Roman Empire, this particular faith brought about a new way of looking at each and every individual human, emphasis on each and every. Sure, people before Christianity had compassion; mothers loved their children; virtue was something very much honored by the Romans themselves -- especially public displays of virtue (honor being a consequence of this virtue); nothing of this I would wish to dispute. What I would wish to dispute is this form of belief that states that the coming of Christianity did not alter the way every human -- the slave, the poor, the downtrodden -- was viewed. No pagan or mystical cult -- as far as I am aware -- ever posited that the lowest of the low were just as worthy of praise in the face of their faith as was the honorable kings and emperors. None preached to give to others more than you would of yourself, and here's the fine point: out of pure love. None preached that we were created out of the Imago Dei, and if they had, they didn't come to the same conclusion the Christians did, that is: that every single person, even the beggar, the leper, and the slave, were all inheritors of this Divine freedom, and the dignity of their person was just as worthy as any king. After all, the Christians' Savior, the one they called Christ, chose to make all these peoples his company. Their Savior himself was a simple Galilean. My contention has never been that compassion, love, virtue, etc. only came about with the coming of the Christian age. No, but it did indeed alter and change the way we conceived ourselves, an outlook that was based out of love. To my knowledge, nothing of the pagan Roman Empire offered that.
 
-arch.buff


Edited by arch.buff - 17 Jan 2010 at 03:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Jan 2010 at 02:37
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:

arch, I am very much interested in continuing the conversation, but first wish to revise what Dawkins said about meme theory. He condensed it into a chapter of his book The God Delusion, so once I have digested that I will respond fully to your previous post. Didn't want you to think I had forgotten, thanks for your patience. Smile
 
No problem, Constantine. Perhaps you can bring some new insights into the meme discussion; after all, aren't we all here to learn? Thumbs Up
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jan 2010 at 08:06
What makes you think Chimpanzees aren't religious? (That religion isn't an intrinsic human nature)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 22:43
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Quote I think what they are saying, by and large, is that the moral fabric of our society (the equal dignity of every human life, compassion for the weak and the poor, etc.) would have came about had Christianity never made its arrival. I don't agree with that; especially when so many atheists have asserted their aversion for the weak and downtrodden.


No one else other than a Christian is capable of such things?  Such good will predates Christianity by millions of years and is observable in our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, Chimpanzes.

 
Good will and chimpanzees? Zagros are you taking anthropomorphism to quite an extreme? Chimpanzees are about the most distasteful of all the simians. And, no they are not "our closest living "relatives" since such a contention has more Darwinism than Science in its proferance. I'd opt for the Orangutan if we are to be made "monkeys".Wink


1: Chimps are not monkeys, neither are orangutans, they are apes.  Two of four species of great ape, we are a third and gorillas a fourth.
2: Chimps are the closest animal to us genetically and socially speaking, more so than the orangutan.
3: Chimps display many, if not all, of the basic human emotions and impulses, both the negative and the positive (from deplorable savagery to gentle kindness).

This is not Darwinism, it is observable fact... unlike much of the tripe in holy books.

 
Zagros, did you not note the quotation marks around certain terms. Chimpanzees are not monkeys and had we been discussing zoology rather than theology I would do the academic schtick; however, for our purposes be they monkeys, simians, or Pan troglodytes they are not humans and no matter the cant over DNA, with or without a tail the general adjective "monkey" shall suffice. Nor do the chimpanzees have any "leg up" over gorillas in the DNA department, and even if we consider the orangutan as odd-monkey out, it is not by much.
 
 
However, you are making more of DNA than permissible and what is usually left unsaid covers just exactly how we are not "related" to chimpanzees any more that we are "related" to the first primate...
 
 
No matter the aside, the intrusion of good willed chimpanzees, aside from being a stretch--is irrelevant until the "if and when" moment. The humanization of the "ape" is an aspect of Darwinism. Hence you will have to accept my scepticism over "monkeys" hanging from the branches of my tree of life. Particularly since the topic at hand is the humand mind and its capacities. And in this sense you are confusing behaviors for the conceptualization of morals and values.
 
 


Well then I am afraid you've missed my point.  Apes were used as an example of just how primitive good natured behaviour and actions are and thus, such by atheists are not as a result of some notions dreamt up by the authors of the new testament, but intrinsic to human nature amongst many other things.  Hope that clarifies.


"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 22:33
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

And that is exactly the problem.  In this case, Christians with a primitive mindset are so afraid of their spell being broken that they invent baseless conjecture such as Intelligent Design and demonise any proponent of a different theory. 

However, I find the arrogance in the supposition that good will and kindness etc to have come about as a result of Christianity to be a very shallow, because it very clearly shows very little consideration to anything outside the scope of Christianity.
 
I do not recall anyone bringing either subject up


I refer you to the two preceeding posts from Arch Buff and Reginmund respectively.
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 19:11
Perhaps we may ask if the two "opposite positions", "religious" vs. "atheism" are in some way artificial? One question is wether the word "religion" covers such a diversity of different ways of thought and living that any discussion of "religion" as such become problematic? And what does atheists have in common? Atheists are as I see it united in "denial" or what they not believe in or claim to now is untrue. There is a lot I as well as everybody else see as untrue, but that does not "define" any particular common ground.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 14:56
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

To be specific I would have included Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, the Dutch-speaking Netherlands, and parts of Germany: how else could I quickly define such a group? The ideas for instance of the common law, jury trial, the kingship in the gift of the people, while not unique to those traditions, were common ground among both Germanics and Celts before they converted to Christianity (or even heard of it).
 
I didn't actually say 'rich' nor did I claim the traditions were all 'unbroken' - things sometimes disappear before reappearing again, especially following a period of conquest. However, in those countries today much political debate is couched in terms that antedate Christianity.
 
I don't know why you say 'even' the political field, unless for some reason you think politics does not involve ethics.  "Render unto Caesar" is good Christianity, but skips over a lot of difficult ethical questions.
 
arch: I see the distinction you are drawing between Plato's and Aristotle's concepts of the "One" and so on and Aquinas' concept of "God" and you have a case. I'm a little unconvinced though of the proposition that if you directly asked Plato whether the "One" was an instance of an Ideal One, or itself an Ideal, he would have given you a straightforward "Yes".
 
Sartre and Co believed that existence preceded essence a position I tend to agree with, though that's probably a generation thing. Late 'forties teenagers were somewhat susceptible to Sartre (and even more to Juliette Greco).
 
Aha, gcle admits he lusted after Simone de Beauvoir! Sorry, old boy but the best things that French charlatan wrote (if you can muddle through his tendentiousness) came from SimoneWink, when he wasn't busy plagiarizing others or ranting against Camus. However, after having had to suffer an education that forced us to read such niceties as the Lex Visigothorum, whatever concept of law and justice--besides brute violence and stultifying conformity--the so-called Barbarians held was not pleasant. Late antiquity had quite a task when it undertook to inculcate civility upon the Germanics. But then, old antiquarian that I am, I happen to agree with Grotius that it was the Church that preserved the elements of justice from the ancient Roman world and fought a winning battle through Christianity during the course of the "Dark Ages". Although admittedly, we can see the Germanic through the persistence of belief in witches. Said in jest naturally but with sufficent grains of truth to be viable.
 
Now as inapplicable to the central theme as the above aside might sound, it does touch upon the prattlelings of the New Atheists with regard to the irrelevance of Christianity within a so-called scientific context. Moral spirituality is not an ingrained attribute of being just as personal autonomy does not flow from a grouping, any grouping. In a way, it is a product of experience transmitted through tradition.  Yes a somewhat "tired" term but memory is a product of the mind (or if you wish that old Greek nous) and therein one must analyze in terms of experiential values and learnings. To wipe all clean as some pristine tabula rasa under the pretense of Science is little more than suicidal nihilism. When such is attempted by the New Atheists with their prattling replete with strawmen that caricature the true nature of theology their efforts actually become tiresome.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 14:35
arch, I am very much interested in continuing the conversation, but first wish to revise what Dawkins said about meme theory. He condensed it into a chapter of his book The God Delusion, so once I have digested that I will respond fully to your previous post. Didn't want you to think I had forgotten, thanks for your patience. Smile
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Sorry to interject, but I think this is as good a place as any to raise a topic I thought about starting a thread on. I think the guy happens to fit what I think of when I hear the term "New Atheist". Anyway, some explanation...
 
So I decided to pick up God's Defenders: What They Believe and Why They are Wrong, by some fellow named S.T. Joshi. I picked it up chiefly because it purported to address individual Christian apologists down through the ages, ranging from one of my favorite authors, G.K. Chesterton, to a man who wasn't exactly my favorite minister, Jerry Fallwell. Anyway, I opened it up to the section on G.K. Chesterton (and T.S. Eliot), expecting to find a thoughtful critique and was confronted with a dozen or so pages of ad hominem, condescension, and complete disregard. To be sure, there were the common arguments about religion not being factual, provable, etc. But the problem is, Chesterton's whole point is that it doesn't need to be. It seemed that Mr. Joshi had either completely missed Chesterton's unique style of argumentation and literary flourish, or had deliberately misrepresented it until the very end, where he dismisses the whole thing as wishful thinking. I lost count of the number of times the Joshi called Chesterton ignorant -- a hilarious claim to those who have ever read any of his work -- and if he said one more time, "Such an argument is not worthy of a response," I would have vomited all over the book (might have improved it). I thumbed through and the rest of the articles appeared to display the same dismissive, contemptuous, contemptible style, but he seemed to have an almost pathological hatred of Chesterton. I honestly wonder if he hates the man so much because he, for whatever reason, found it impossible to refute, or even to address him. But hey, if there is one thing that Joshi did throughout, it was to tell me repeatedly that he had demolished his opponent; an opponent who, very fortunately for Mr. Joshi, does not benefit from the opportunity to respond in this world.
 
Now Mr. Joshi is obviously well read, and seems as if he is fairly intelligent. Unfortunately, what could have been a thoughtful critique was obscured by arrogance and vitriol. This is generally how I would characterize Dawkins -- and Hitchens to a lesser extent. They are rather like clerics, and are rather like Inquisitors in that they possess a pervasive arrogance and contempt for those who do not agree with them. Now it's all well and good for them to live in their precious little world, where they get to self-select themselves and those who agree with them as intellectuals and to dismiss everyone else as ignorant, superstitious hacks, but I fail to see how anyone could sympathize with them when this same attitude pushes people away from listening to them.
 
Anyway, that's my take on it. There are quite a number of thoughful agnostics out there, just as there are quite a number of thoughtful religious. That said, the louder, more obnoxious people are the ones who sell books, and Dawkins, Joshi and their ilk increasingly find themselves at the helm of a growing, enthusiastic movement.
 
I do have a question: Is this Joshi guy always such an ass, or does he ever approach things thoughtfully?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 06:13
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

To be specific I would have included Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, the Dutch-speaking Netherlands, and parts of Germany: how else could I quickly define such a group? The ideas for instance of the common law, jury trial, the kingship in the gift of the people, while not unique to those traditions, were common ground among both Germanics and Celts before they converted to Christianity (or even heard of it).
 
I didn't actually say 'rich' nor did I claim the traditions were all 'unbroken' - things sometimes disappear before reappearing again, especially following a period of conquest. However, in those countries today much political debate is couched in terms that antedate Christianity.
 
I don't know why you say 'even' the political field, unless for some reason you think politics does not involve ethics.  "Render unto Caesar" is good Christianity, but skips over a lot of difficult ethical questions.
 
I admit I have some suspicion that ideas of pre-christian "freedom traditions" living on into modern ages, perhaps even today are as much some sort of "romantic" mind product or "myth", especially from 19.th century nationalism, as anything supported by strong evidence. Or there may be several myths, not least of "wiking traditions" in norway and denmark(Not that I say "vikings" are purely fantasy, but we should be a bit cautious claiming any "pure" nordic pre-christian culture, since some of the most famous "vikings" were in fact baptised, and those who wrote about them were so in general).
At least regarding Western and Southern Scandinavia this scepticism is strong.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 05:44
Originally posted by fantasus fantasus wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

 
But the cultures of north-western Europe, for instance, are still permeated by pre-Christian values especially with regard to political freedom - not something about which Jesus has much to say, and not something that the Christian tradition has notably contributed to.  
I am curious: What kind of "pre-christian values" permeates the cultures of north-western Europe?
I admit I am probably not seen as proper "north west european" in this context (I suppose it is meant the low Countries, England, part of Western Germany and northern France since the Countries to the north are defined as "Scandinavian" or "Nordic", and there is of course cultural differences). Anyway I am not aware of this supposedly rich unbroken, "pure" pre-christian( or "pagan") intellectual or cultural heritage and traditions - not even when we regard the political "field". Perhaps there are some specific examples?
To be specific I would have included Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, the Dutch-speaking Netherlands, and parts of Germany: how else could I quickly define such a group? The ideas for instance of the common law, jury trial, the kingship in the gift of the people, while not unique to those traditions, were common ground among both Germanics and Celts before they converted to Christianity (or even heard of it).
 
I didn't actually say 'rich' nor did I claim the traditions were all 'unbroken' - things sometimes disappear before reappearing again, especially following a period of conquest. However, in those countries today much political debate is couched in terms that antedate Christianity.
 
I don't know why you say 'even' the political field, unless for some reason you think politics does not involve ethics.  "Render unto Caesar" is good Christianity, but skips over a lot of difficult ethical questions.
 
arch: I see the distinction you are drawing between Plato's and Aristotle's concepts of the "One" and so on and Aquinas' concept of "God" and you have a case. I'm a little unconvinced though of the proposition that if you directly asked Plato whether the "One" was an instance of an Ideal One, or itself an Ideal, he would have given you a straightforward "Yes".
 
Sartre and Co believed that existence preceded essence a position I tend to agree with, though that's probably a generation thing. Late 'forties teenagers were somewhat susceptible to Sartre (and even more to Juliette Greco).


Edited by gcle2003 - 15 Jan 2010 at 05:52
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 05:43
Sorry guys. Our wonderful little site of learning here can make me quite mad sometimes! I wasn't aware that my previous post was actually posted. So basically there's a double-post. The page told me that I had reached my limit of posts in a certain time span and labelled it "spamming," so I assume it didn't allow the post; apparently it did. Sorry
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 05:39
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

How do you see a difference between Aquinas' view of being actualising essence and Plato's view of the instance actualising the ideal? Isn't that line of thought independent of Christianity?
 
(PS I'm used to seeing the general idea being expressed as 'the material instances the ideal' - with 'idea' here of course having no connotation of 'best' - which sounds more like matter actualising form but I don't think the words matter very much.)
 
Well, Aquinas was more Aristotelian than Neoplatonist.
 
The theory of Forms (or Ideas) is a sticky one; one that carries different interpretations. If you've read Plato (of which I'm sure you have) then you will be familiar with this. However one interprets these ideas (and however one sees Plato interpreting it as well), it is clear that Plato's "The One," or his "The Absolute," and Aristotle's "Unmove mover," are really all one and the same. These 'Divine Craftsmen" did not bring the world into existence ex nihilo (out of nothing); but rather worked it out of material as ancient as themselves. So, when Aquinas states that for God His essence is His existence, he is doing something that neither Plato nor Aristotle would have agreed with. Aquinas does take from both Plato and Aristotle, bu this philosophy goes farther than both philosophers in that he tries to apply some of these principles to God himself.
 
Now, for your question regarding these things developing prior to a Christian context, I would absolutely agree. No sane Christian would assert that deep learning and questioning only came about by way of the inauguration of the Christian age; quite the contrary, the Cappadocians, St. Augustine, St. Maximus, and countless others were all influenced by Aristotle, Plato, and Plotinus. In fact, all of these aforementioned are generally considered to be Neoplatonists (Neoplatonist in the sense of being influenced by the Neoplatonists, and not strictly considered so. They are all first and foremost Christian). So yes, Christians did take much from the great thinkers that came beofre them. There were a lot of things they rejected, but there were also many things they felt they got right.
 
-arch.buff 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 05:23
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

 
But the cultures of north-western Europe, for instance, are still permeated by pre-Christian values especially with regard to political freedom - not something about which Jesus has much to say, and not something that the Christian tradition has notably contributed to.  
I am curious: What kind of "pre-christian values" permeates the cultures of north-western Europe?
I admit I am probably not seen as proper "north west european" in this context (I suppose it is meant the low Countries, England, part of Western Germany and northern France since the Countries to the north are defined as "Scandinavian" or "Nordic", and there is of course cultural differences). Anyway I am not aware of this supposedly rich unbroken, "pure" pre-christian( or "pagan") intellectual or cultural heritage and traditions - not even when we regard the political "field". Perhaps there are some specific examples?


Edited by fantasus - 15 Jan 2010 at 05:25
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Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

How do you see a difference between Aquinas' view of being actualising essence and Plato's view of the instance actualising the ideal? Isn't that line of thought independent of Christianity?
 
(PS I'm used to seeing the general idea being expressed as 'the material instances the ideal' - with 'idea' here of course having no connotation of 'best' - which sounds more like matter actualising form but I don't think the words matter very much.)
 
Well, Aquinas was far more Aristotelian in his philosophy, rather than Neoplatonic.
 
The theory of Forms (or Ideas) is a very sticky one; one that has many different interpretations. If you've read any of Plato (of which I am sure you have) then you will understand why. However one chooses to interpret this (or postulate how Plato interpreted this) it is clear that Plato, as well as Aristotle, viewed "The One," "The Absolute," or "Unmoved Mover" as one and the same. These "Divine Craftsmen" did not bring the world into existence ex nihilo (out of nothing), but rather worked it out of materials as ancient as themselves. So, when Aquinas states that for God His essence is his existence, he is doing something that neither Plato nor Aristotle would have agreed with; even though Aquinas took much from both Plato and especially Aristotle.
 
As for your question of these things developing outside of a Christian context, I would answer absolutely yes. I don't think any Christian with a sane mind would assert that only real thinking started with the inauguration  of the Christian age; quite the contrary, the Cappadocians, St Augustine, St Maximus, and countless others, are all considered Christians who were strongly influenced by Plato and Plotinus and are generally considered Neoplatonist themselves (but, of course, Christians first; Christians, nevertheless, influenced by Neoplatonism). 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 05:03
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

And that is exactly the problem.  In this case, Christians with a primitive mindset are so afraid of their spell being broken that they invent baseless conjecture such as Intelligent Design and demonise any proponent of a different theory. 

However, I find the arrogance in the supposition that good will and kindness etc to have come about as a result of Christianity to be a very shallow, because it very clearly shows very little consideration to anything outside the scope of Christianity.
 
I do not recall anyone bringing either subject up, neither fundies nor Christianity the catalyst of kindness, and the assertion is more distraction from discussing the flaws in the constructs and arguments of the so-called New Atheists. Neither Dawkins nor Wilson would get a blip on the radar were they not intent of forging new demons of their own and in a way, their behavior almost makes the musings of Nietzsche presciently prophetic. Their version of "science" as the new totem leading us from the wilderness is not that attractive and if you do not understand the consequences of technology rather than the mind governing the definition of values and morals, then I am glad my days in the asylum are brief.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 04:47
Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Quote I think what they are saying, by and large, is that the moral fabric of our society (the equal dignity of every human life, compassion for the weak and the poor, etc.) would have came about had Christianity never made its arrival. I don't agree with that; especially when so many atheists have asserted their aversion for the weak and downtrodden.


No one else other than a Christian is capable of such things?  Such good will predates Christianity by millions of years and is observable in our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, Chimpanzes.

 
Good will and chimpanzees? Zagros are you taking anthropomorphism to quite an extreme? Chimpanzees are about the most distasteful of all the simians. And, no they are not "our closest living "relatives" since such a contention has more Darwinism than Science in its proferance. I'd opt for the Orangutan if we are to be made "monkeys".Wink


1: Chimps are not monkeys, neither are orangutans, they are apes.  Two of four species of great ape, we are a third and gorillas a fourth.
2: Chimps are the closest animal to us genetically and socially speaking, more so than the orangutan.
3: Chimps display many, if not all, of the basic human emotions and impulses, both the negative and the positive (from deplorable savagery to gentle kindness).

This is not Darwinism, it is observable fact... unlike much of the tripe in holy books.

 
Zagros, did you not note the quotation marks around certain terms. Chimpanzees are not monkeys and had we been discussing zoology rather than theology I would do the academic schtick; however, for our purposes be they monkeys, simians, or Pan troglodytes they are not humans and no matter the cant over DNA, with or without a tail the general adjective "monkey" shall suffice. Nor do the chimpanzees have any "leg up" over gorillas in the DNA department, and even if we consider the orangutan as odd-monkey out, it is not by much.
 
 
However, you are making more of DNA than permissible and what is usually left unsaid covers just exactly how we are not "related" to chimpanzees any more that we are "related" to the first primate...
 
 
No matter the aside, the intrusion of good willed chimpanzees, aside from being a stretch--is irrelevant until the "if and when" moment. The humanization of the "ape" is an aspect of Darwinism. Hence you will have to accept my scepticism over "monkeys" hanging from the branches of my tree of life. Particularly since the topic at hand is the humand mind and its capacities. And in this sense you are confusing behaviors for the conceptualization of morals and values.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 04:11
How do you see a difference between Aquinas' view of being actualising essence and Plato's view of the instance actualising the ideal? Isn't that line of thought independent of Christianity?
 
(PS I'm used to seeing the general idea being expressed as 'the material instances the ideal' - with 'idea' here of course having no connotation of 'best' - which sounds more like matter actualising form but I don't think the words matter very much.)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 03:56
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

The problem isn't seeing memes as some kind of metaphor. It's assuming they actually in some way exist and are tenacious. Maybe basically it's using the word as a noun at all, since it has no observable referent (unlike a gene).
 
Exactly.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 03:53
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Here is an example of the danger that comes from not understanding the implications of theology within a philosophical context:
 
Dawkins is notorious in the academic community as being far out of his league when he tries to argue his point philosophically. This is why you will find one person praising his work God Delusion, while another will find the same work amusing. The reason is he tries to argue his points philosophically. Leaving aside the fact that Dawkins brings the non sequitur to an almost astonishing level (He assumes his premises will do for conclusion), this is just one of his arguments: Because we as humans are complex, the Being that created us must be even that much more complex; therefore, if we as humans are improbable, then the Being who made us must be that much more improbable.
 
First, it's a wonder why Dawkins automatically assumes that God is complex. I wonder where he's learned this, seeing as how Catholic theologians don't posit a "complex" God; it's quite the opposite: He is simple. St Thomas Aquinas posited an absolutely simple God; the same can be seen from the time of (and a bit before) St Augustine. Aquinas posited that for us humans, composed of accidents, essence and existence are really distinct. In other words, what we are is not the same thing that we are. The essence of an orange that exists, and the essence of an orange that doesn't exist, are absolutely the same, viz.: orange-ness. None of this, however, accounts for its existence (act of being). As form actualizes matter, Aquinas sees this "act of being" as actualizing potency, or actualizing essence. Now, all of this applies to us, but does not apply to God in that He is truly simple. God's essence is his existence.
 
Now, there very well may be much Dawkins could say about this, but he doesn't even try. He basically asserts a God that Christians (Catholics, at least) don't assert, and then proceeds to "tear down" this god by way of bad philosophical arguments. The book (God Delusion) is just a bad reasoned and argued book altogther. No wonder it was so popular, it's the avergage American's dream book.
 
-arch.buff 


Edited by arch.buff - 15 Jan 2010 at 03:55
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote arch.buff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 03:17
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

I agree that the modern Western world would in many ways be ethically different without its Christian heritage. I don't see how that's deniable. But the cultures of north-western Europe, for instance, are still permeated by pre-Christian values especially with regard to political freedom - not something about which Jesus has much to say, and not something that the Christian tradition has notably contributed to. Ethical views and standards differ widely across Europe even though they are all heirs of Christianity, and much of that difference has to be put down to pre-Christian traditions.
 
Moreover of course I don't accept that Christian standards are necessarily any better than anyone else's. I don't see any great correlation between religious belief (or lack of it) and what I would consider ethical behaviour. For one thing Christianity and similar religions put far too much emphasis on doing what God wants, rather than benefitting humanity now. (cf e.g. the attitude to divorce and homosexuality in many cases).
 
Hello gcle,
 
I hear a lot of what you're saying, and I agree with a lot of it. Perhaps it has been my own fault for not more clearly stating what exactly I mean when I say that Christianity did effectively alter the ethical environment. I am not positing that before the coming of Christ everyone was just blind murderous trolls; I don't think that at all. What I do think is that what Christianity brang to the pagan Roman Empire was I very different way of viewing every single human being.
 
For instance, Constantine oulawed gladitorial games (when there was peace, and domestic peace) and stated that those that had been condemned to the gladitorial arena, now were to be sentenced to the mines, so that blood may not be shed. Moreover, he even (perhaps more remarkably) delared that those sentenced should not be tattooed on the face (which was the normal custom) because to do so would be to defile the face, which represents the divine beauty.
 
This is something remarkable in the mid fourth-century, I time when the Empire by all accounts quite probably was still majority pagan (although it almost impossible to reliably tell). It is unfortunate that Constantine would later contradict his own words, and his heirs at times were no better, but the main point is that Christianity was having its effects on the pagan climate that it lived.
 
Now, a lot can be said of this. Namely, that this sort of set of morals is set on the transcendent. Again, something Nietzsche would have disliked (this-worldly values rather than other-worldly). Perhpas that is what you are alluding to when you say that Christianity worries about too much of what their God wants. Those that really and truly believe in a transcendent truth, others that do not; at the expense of sounding overly-simplistic, that seems to be what it comes down to.
 
-arch.buff
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 01:49
Originally posted by Goban Goban wrote:

Hi all,
 
I've read above that the idea of 'memes' is difficult to accept, or as Const. stated, that he doesn't hold much value to them. But, from what I remember (correct me if I am wrong (it's been some time)), these memes where 'coined' as analogs to genes (hence the name play) in that they are both inherited. 
 
 
The problem isn't seeing memes as some kind of metaphor. It's assuming they actually in some way exist and are tenacious. Maybe basically it's using the word as a noun at all, since it has no observable referent (unlike a gene).  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Jan 2010 at 01:40
Originally posted by arch.buff arch.buff wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

I'm not sure what this means. Group moral environments are contingent on history, just as individual moral environments are contingent on upbringing (which is not to deny free will, merely to assert it operates within a preset context). And upbringing is contingent on the group moral environment. And so it goes.
 
To deny otherwise seems to be about the same as claiming the universe was created six thousand years ago or that species don't evolve.
 
Hey gcle,
 
I think what they are saying, by and large, is that the moral fabric of our society (the equal dignity of every human life, compassion for the weak and the poor, etc.) would have came about had Christianity never made its arrival. I don't agree with that; especially when so many atheists have asserted their aversion for the weak and downtrodden. A lot of what has to do with Christianity is the Imago Dei, the fact that we humans are made in the image of God. There are certain unfortunate historical realities -- such as the long process to abolish slavery, even in Christian countries -- but the Western world, in my mind (and to many atheists), was effectively transformed in many ways by the coming of the Christian age.
 
-arch.buff
I agree that the modern Western world would in many ways be ethically different without its Christian heritage. I don't see how that's deniable. But the cultures of north-western Europe, for instance, are still permeated by pre-Christian values especially with regard to political freedom - not something about which Jesus has much to say, and not something that the Christian tradition has notably contributed to. Ethical views and standards differ widely across Europe even though they are all heirs of Christianity, and much of that difference has to be put down to pre-Christian traditions.
 
Moreover of course I don't accept that Christian standards are necessarily any better than anyone else's. I don't see any great correlation between religious belief (or lack of it) and what I would consider ethical behaviour. For one thing Christianity and similar religions put far too much emphasis on doing what God wants, rather than benefitting humanity now. (cf e.g. the attitude to divorce and homosexuality in many cases).


Edited by gcle2003 - 15 Jan 2010 at 01:41
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jan 2010 at 22:21

Though such discussions in principle should be important and potentially give insights in the real world one may often ask "why". If there is no sort of "meeting ground" - and even no will to find any (or sometimes even will to sabotage any ?) what then may the purpose of discussion be?

My remarks above should not be taken as attwempt to "forbid" anything or even "stop free speech". rather to find some purpose in discussing - or if that is impossible not vaste time on it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jan 2010 at 21:54
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

My position is: why care?  It is blatently obvious that any given holy scripture/gospel/evanglism is the end product of man's imagination - there was never any divine input into it, so I can ignore what they say, despite all the threats and blackmail.
 
The problem is, once you see it like this man becomes a sad and pathetic being, so sad and pathetic in fact, that to overcome his fear of nothingness he is willing to wrap himself inside a comfortable, imagined world and hate anyone who threatens to break the spell.


And that is exactly the problem.  In this case, Christians with a primitive mindset are so afraid of their spell being broken that they invent baseless conjecture such as Intelligent Design and demonise any proponent of a different theory. 

Believing in religion gives many people some meaning to life and there is nothing wrong with that and a lot of positive things come about from religion because otherwise one does have a tendency to get depressed.

However, I find the arrogance in the supposition that good will and kindness etc to have come about as a result of Christianity to be a very shallow, because it very clearly shows very little consideration to anything outside the scope of Christianity.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jan 2010 at 21:43
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Originally posted by Zagros Zagros wrote:

Quote I think what they are saying, by and large, is that the moral fabric of our society (the equal dignity of every human life, compassion for the weak and the poor, etc.) would have came about had Christianity never made its arrival. I don't agree with that; especially when so many atheists have asserted their aversion for the weak and downtrodden.


No one else other than a Christian is capable of such things?  Such good will predates Christianity by millions of years and is observable in our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, Chimpanzes.

 
Good will and chimpanzees? Zagros are you taking anthropomorphism to quite an extreme? Chimpanzees are about the most distasteful of all the simians. And, no they are not "our closest living "relatives" since such a contention has more Darwinism than Science in its proferance. I'd opt for the Orangutan if we are to be made "monkeys".Wink


1: Chimps are not monkeys, neither are orangutans, they are apes.  Two of four species of great ape, we are a third and gorillas a fourth.
2: Chimps are the closest animal to us genetically and socially speaking, more so than the orangutan.
3: Chimps display many, if not all, of the basic human emotions and impulses, both the negative and the positive (from deplorable savagery to gentle kindness).

This is not Darwinism, it is observable fact... unlike much of the tripe in holy books.

"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jan 2010 at 21:02
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Here is an example of the danger that comes from not understanding the implications of theology within a philosophical context:
 
Originally posted by Carcharodon
What give us a reason to belive in any gods? Is there any irrefutable obsevations or any traits of the universe that suggests the precence of such beings?
 
God is not a "being" just the use of the term underscores misunderstanding of what is meant by theology. God "is" and all else lies beyond objective knowledge. Strangely enough if you know your Greek (as well as Greeks) Xenophanes of Colophon in the 6th century BC could already write "God is one, an eternal that affects all things of the mind alone, and bears no resemblance to Man whatsoever as entertained in the Olympians." Nor do we really want to take a close look at the fundamental meaning of Kosmos (this one fully escaped that publicist Sagan): That which always was, is, and shall continue. The honest "mind" can never be atheistic since such is always an escape from the despair of "being".
 
In many  images and imaginations and definitions of the gods they are very much perceived as beings.
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