Owen had his Baptism a few days ago. As an atheist I struggled to make the vows. But my wife’s Christian, as are both of our families. So I willingly went through with it all, and it was a beautiful day. I even managed to get some history in by organizing the service in one of only 2 remaining Puritan chapels (think Oliver Cromwell). And I plan to introduce him to all religious teachings in any case.
Now however, I’m reading biblical stories to Owen at his bed time (presents from the godparents). This I absolutely do not mind doing, but I’m now half way through Genesis and I haven’t found a single passage where I don’t find myself judging God (sorry to say in a negative way). If this God truly exists, I would not worship Him. In fact I’d be tempted to try and find an alternative so I could fight Him. Now for an Atheist this isn’t so surprising. But am I right to think that I can make such judgements on a deity worshipped by millions? Further, am I right to write this post? Or where such blasphemous issues are concerned, and especially ones where I could offend so deeply, would I be better keeping my mouth shut?
St Augustin said that man was born into sin and incapable of saving ourselves I.e going from the city of man to the city of god without being lifted there by God. Sounds quite radical no the face of it. But there was a lot of reason in his argument. In today’s language one would probably say that man is selfish because we try to make the world in our image. We view things subjectively, not objectively. And we are not capable of standing behind rawl’s veil of ignorance. Put in such a modern way would you be inclined to agree or disagree with Augustin’s assessment?
In recent years the number of Atheists (believe there is no God, in the sense of an ultimate Being) and Agnostics (believe we cannot know whether or not God exists) have grown significantly, and the last couple of decades have seen churches founded for both religious groups. As this link shows (http://www.londonnet.co.uk/news/2012/jan/richard-dawkins-rejects-plan-%C2%A31m-atheist-church-city-london.html) there is also now discussion about buildings raised in the name of such religions.
Now if you read the comments on sites such as the one above you’ll see that mostly the reactions have been negative. But as an Atheist myself I completely agree with De Botton not only that Dawkin’s rhetoric has been symptomatic of a ‘destructive’ kind of Atheism, but also that there is a profound spiritual element to Atheism that should be celebrated and discussed. In fact I believe the case for spiritualism within Atheist beliefs is far stronger than the case for it existing within other major religions (with the exception of Buddhism, for which I would say there is a possible overlap with Atheism depending on your viewpoint). My reasoning for this is based on my answer to the following question:
Would you rather live in a world where you were created by one Being to accomplish one ultimate goal after which life would cease to exist or be utterly meaningless; or would you rather exist in a world where no one’s perception of value is any more important than anyone else’s, where everyone perceives wonder through their own eyes, and where everyone decides on not one but many purposes for themselves?
Surely the latter answer means more spirituality right, for rather than a rigid adherence to what you are being told from a certain source about a finite existence, you are exploring an infinite reality with wonder and purpose all around you.
Would you agree with me and De Botton about the merits of coming together to celebrate and discuss such spirituality? Or do you agree with Dawkins and most of De Botton’s critics that such efforts are futile, silly, and a waste of resources?
>In Shelley’s Frankenstein, first published in 1818, it was foreseen that man (Frankenstein) would be able to create life (the monster). This life, though abominable to Frankenstein, is fully able to feel and think as a human does. But of course this is fiction. Would it be possible in real life to create such a ‘monster’?
In previous posts we’ve talked about new research that has meant we now seem closer than ever to acheiving this goal. But what would we be able to achieve? Would we be able to create a biological machine that did what it was told and seemed devoid of what we usually call ‘life’? Or would such a biological machine be exactly like us? Are we merely complicated machines or is there something more, a soul perhaps? And if we’re merely machines then would it be possible to recreate any figure from the past, exactly as they were at the time? Would this not be just like recreating an old robot?
When critics of Western society actually have a point they usually draw parrallels to Ancient Rome and Greece. In recent years athiests, agnostics, and those believing in philosophies of religion rather than the supernatural, have boomed in number. Ferdinand Mount, who was once head of Thatcher’s policy unit in Downing Street, has written a book called “Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us”. In this work he paints: Anaximander, a pre-Socratic philosopher, as the first Darwinian; Lucretius as the Richard Dawkins of 55BC; Mithras and Mick Jaeger as the God and semi-God on the brink of satisfaction. Mental illness, and declining belief in what we had once said the West stood for: democracy, liberalism and freedoms; have resulted in apathy, depression and a feeling of pointlessness.
So how do we avoid/tackle this problem? If they followed from the lack of strong beliefs then how do we avoid the widespread immoralities often referred to throughout Ancient Greece and Rome?
I know this picture is a bit biased but imagine it correlated against a graph showing how many people felt life was pointless. And secondly, if Mount is right then might we be headed for a new Dark Ages?
>Do you believe the supernatural is possible? If so do you think it is probable?
Someone approached me today asking if I believe in Jesus Christ. I answered that I think he was a good person but not a supernatural being. I would add that he was a great philosopher who has had a profound impact on humanity’s social evolution. Do you agree? Is it possible that Jesus was in part supernatural?
In 1994 France began clamping down on religious symbols, including the Muslim headscarf, in state schools. In 2004 it banned all “ostentatious” religious signs, including the veil, from many public buildings.
Last year Sarkozy famously said that the Burqa (a head to toe covering with a narrow slit for the eyes) is “not welcome on French soil”. Since France banned it Belgium has also jumped on board, angering many human rights organisations because they didn’t launch any national consultations as did France.
Do you agree with Sarkozy? Do you think it should be banned in your country?
>If so then how wrong? Is it right about anything?
>Pascal’s Wager says that we should believe in God not because He exists but because the best possible outcome can be obtained by believing.
Let’s assume that we could just believe what we chose to believe. Was Pascal right? Do we lead better lives with religion? Or can we lead better lives without?