Tuesday, July 03, 2007

God-Botherers Where Are You?


Just started The God Delusion, really enjoying it.

In fact I'm now desperate to run into a 'faith-head' so I can have a good argument with them.

Problem is, I don't know any. Maybe there aren't any in our accursed industry...

18 comments:

lazbash said...

I'm a 'faith head', now working in-house so don't know whether I count as being 'in the industry', there are a few 'Jesus freaks' about but not many.
I heard it was a good book, haven't read it yet my self. If you want to argue to your hearts content go to Alpha... just up the road to JWT. http://uk.alpha.org/

Jon Howard (Living Brands) said...

Hey why argue! But I'm just round the corner. You may be disappointed tho. As someone at the opposite end of the spectrum to the hard line fundamentalists, you may find I annoyingly agree with you on a lot of points. But might also offer some different POVs to the usual knee-jerk anti perspectives of the equally fundamentalist atheists.

Anyway, here's what I had to say...

http://jonhoward.typepad.com/livingbrands/2007/01/the_god_delusio.html.

JP Li said...

Why not go and see the "Are you a Sinner or Winner?" guy that used to stand around Oxford Circus tube?

Haven't seen him around recently though.

Scamp said...

Hi Jon! Wow, this is so exciting. I post a lament about the lack of religious arguments in my life, and bam, a few hours later, I've got one! Love the internet.

Even better news, I learned a rebuttal to one of your points already, even though so far I've only read the preface and the first ten pages of Dawkins's book!

It's this: basically, you shouldn't accuse atheists like Dawkins (and me!) of being "equally fundamentalist". Although our views are held just as passionately as those of many religious believers, there is one very important difference.

I'll happily change my views when evidence for the existence of God comes out. But despite all the evidence for evolution, the religious fundamentalists don't change theirs.

p.s. sorry to anyone wanting to talk about advertising, this post has no relevance to it, except enabling me to skive off it for five minutes.

unless there is some link between religion and advertising?

richard huntington said...

The Sinner or Winner Guy at Oxford Circus got Asbo'd - right old pain in the Arse when I worked at HHCL as you could hear him from our board room.

May be he was the last christian voice to be heard in advertsing.

Which is fine by me given the nonsense they are spouting about the current flooding being god's punishment for us all leading such terrible lives.

Keep reading the good book Scamp - Dawkins' one that is.

FishNChimps said...

Re "unless there is some link between religion and advertising?"

An unsympathetic atheist might suggest "making money from the gullible".

I wouldn't say that though. Wouldn't dare.

T said...

Scamp that's not a valid argument, because you are using the word evidence to mean 2 different things. You say "I'll happily change my views when evidence for the existence of God comes out. But despite all the evidence for evolution, the religious fundamentalists don't change theirs." I'm sure some religious types would argue that there is already evidence for God, and of course they would dispute the validity of yours.... So you are accepting 1 type of evidence is irrefutable and objective, and 1 as circumstantial....

Scamp said...

Well, scientific evidence is at least testable and repeatable under laboratory conditions. Unlike miracles, which always seem to happen in remote regions of Brazil.

FishNChimps said...

t, evidence is accepted if it is scrutinised using the Scientific Sethod, something that is central to Dawkins' argument.
The SM is the series of techniques by which all scientific theories are tested and found to succeed or fail.
Nobody has yet to produce evidence for God that survives the SM.

Jon Howard (Living Brands) said...

OK, in non particular order, lets bounce some of these ideas around oh atheistic ones (and here I can only speak for myself, not all those ‘other’ Christians we always read about)...

Let’s get this clear up front, the sinner-or-winner guy, the rent-a-nutter.com people the media always drag up to make pronouncement on things like the flooding, and Republican Bible Belt America, are not representative of Christians, and in no way speak for me or reflect my beliefs. A small minority does not represent the whole. That’s the same as saying all football fans are hooligans and everyone from the middle east is a terrorist. So call it what it is, and move on – prejudice

It's OK to believe different things. And even to passionately disagree. But that doesn't mean you have to fight about it. One person loves Coke, another loves Pepsi. I believe there's a spiritual dimension to life, you guys don't. That's fine. But we have to accept this different philosophical basis for how we see the world, otherwise amicable discussion can never happen. And anyway, surely the goal should be to understand the whats and whys of belief systems, not to poke fun or try and prove each other wrong.

I believe (ahh beliefs about beliefs and circles within circles) that, philosophically and metaphysically speaking, it is entirely possible to construct a robust world view built on spiritual beliefs. Having said that, I also completely accept that many Christians (fundamentalists and otherwise) have not thought through their beliefs fully – what they believe, why they believe it, and how those beliefs reconcile with the world around them – falling back instead on the simplistic and superficial – I believe it cos I do, or because it says in the bible. But then many of the beliefs held by most people are like this – we can’t all be Oxford dons. But it’s a pointlessly circular argument that’s our fault and we should try harder.

Don’t get hung up on science vs. religion as the be all and end all of this debate. This assume every Christian sees the bible as literally true in the ‘historical document’ sense. We don’t. For me, the truth is in the meaning behind the words, not in their historical accuracy. So, no I don’t believe the world was created in 7 days, that floods covered the whole earth etc. Nor am I particular concerned about seeming inconsistencies in the text. In fact, I’m perfectly happy to accept everything that science says…as much as science can ever present an absolute truth. But I’m also equally happy to believe there is a God which created and worked thru these laws. And will hold that belief until science can categorically prove otherwise. And no, saying it could have all happened by chance, isn’t proof it’s just conjecture. It’s like saying that the fact a bunch of monkeys with typewriters would eventually write Romeo and Juliet disproves the existence of Shakespeare.

Ultimately, for me, fundamentalism is less about an unwillingness to change your mind (surely strongly held beliefs can’t be a bad thing), and more about an unwillingness to accept and respect the different views of others. Here I accuse people on both sides of the divide. And just because ‘they’ do it, is no excuse – turn the other cheek, and all that ;-). This is why I would categorise Dawkins as a fundamentalist, as I get anything but a sense of respect from him. Also, it’s easy to say you’ll change your mind if presented with conclusive evidence. But do I really think he has the slightest intention? No. Because, I don’t think the fundamentalist atheist (and I will use that phrase) believes that evidence will ever come. Which is fundamentalism by any other name. And I would give religious fundamentalists (as defined in these terms) equally short shrift – I’ve no time for them and wish they would go away.

So I just think we should all hug, make up, have a beer, amicably debate, and then talk about the football.

FishNChimps said...

fair points jon. The missus goes to church and the 3 nippers too. I wouldn't try and "convert" them, or anyone in our family (I think I'm the only atheist in it). But Scamp's right about the God Delusion - it's enjoyable and it does make you want to have a good argument.
As my in-laws always said: religion and politics - keep them away from the dinner table.

Scamp said...

It's a crying shame you're so reasonable, Jon, as I'd love to have a mega ruck on this one.

Oh well. I'll do my best to keep it amicable!

Three points.

1) If there is a God, how do you explain war, cancer, Bonnie Langford and Britain's Got Talent?

2) I 'believe' that my ad is brilliant. Millward Brown have 'evidence' that it won't work. But I am right, aren't I?

3) You say Dawkins is a fundamentalist cos he has no intention of changing his mind. Can't speak for Dr D. But I personally would be happy to change my mind, if God went on TV, for example. He could take over every channel, like the Riddler does in Batman. Honestly, I would change my mind immediately. Sincerely I would. What would make you change your mind? Nothing. So you're a fundamentalist, and you know you are.

Love,
simon

Jon Howard (Living Brands) said...

Hey Simon, reasonable is my middle name. I come from that branch of planning that isn't very good with conflict!

Anyway, just wanted to say that I will respond, but maybe not today as I'm a bit snowed under.

Wouldn't want you to think I was running scared!

Jon Howard (Living Brands) said...

Ok here we go again, even if you're a bit bored by now (and, in the spirit of my last response, please see this as what I believe not 'truth' that I expect everyone else to agree with)…

EVIL AND BAD STUFF

So straight in with the big one then. The nature of evil and why bad stuff happens has been debated for centuries, there are libraries full of books, and university courses dedicated to it.

So I'll be honest from the outset, and say I don't really know. If you see faith as rooted in uncertainty not certainty (which isn't something all Christians would agree with, I must add), then this is a really BIG uncertainty that will always trouble you. And it may simply be that there is no answer. Nonetheless, I will give a whilstlestop tour through some different ideas, which I’m afraid space and the limits of my intellect will limit to glib generalities, which I'm sure won’t suffice!

1. From a philosophical perspective, you can construct an argument that works: if God created the laws of science and nature, and (broadly speaking) works within them (rather than fighting against them), then nature and random chance will take its course. If you want to say science ‘works’, I guess you can’t have it both ways!

2. Also, a central theme of Christianity is that of free will - we weren't created to be robotic servants, but with a choice to follow God's way or not. And he wants us to choose freely. If we decide not to, there's a bit of 'made your bed now lie in it' going on. Which may seem harsh, but again…we can't have it both ways: if there is a God, and he kept charging in and changing everything he disagreed with, we would soon get mightily pissed off. That's life for the Big G: damned if you don't, damned if you do.

3. However, Christians would also say that Jesus was God in fully human form, who came to earth (in a non-glitzy, blink and you’d miss it way), to act as a role model for good living – up to and including self-sacrifice for the good others – and to experience all the same ups and downs we all do. And 30 years in 1st Century Palestine, rounded off with a nice crucifixion (which, being God aside, is broadly accepted to be historically true I would suggest) means a lot of experience. The problem was, most didn’t want to listen, stringing him up as a political radical, rule breaker and trouble maker instead.

4. Now one consequence of this, much beloved of certain strands of Christianity (see Sinner Or Winner man) is ‘sin’. Put simplistically, if God created the world (1), then let us chose what to do with it (2), albeit with some hints and tips from JC (3), then ‘sin’ is the result of going your own way. It’s like putting your iPod in the sink to see what happens, when the instructions say not to. It probably won’t work that well afterwards. There’s a whole other debate which follows on from this, about the need to be ‘forgiven’ for your ‘sins’ (Mr S-O-W again), but lets leave that for another day. I’m probably a bit heretical on that one, and will get struck of the ‘good Christian Christmas card list’.

5. Having said God’s a hand’s off creator, if you accept the existence of an entity powerful enough to create the universe (not saying you do), you also have to see a place for the miraculous to happen in this (because why shouldn’t it). Now I completely accept, that a lot of what we have called and continue to call miracles could simply be things that science can’t yet explain. But I do also believe that super-natural miracles are possible (not very modern and rational I know). Just far, far less frequently than many Christians would have it (see points above about God sticking his oar in). And I don’t pretend to have any sense of the whys and wherefores of these. God moves in mysterious ways, as U2 nearly sang.

6. Another thing to bear in mind, is that nowhere in the bible is there a promise of a cushy life. Tho some Christians pitch the 'join us and everything will be a bed of roses' message, I don't subscribe to that. And think it’s a false claim – not sure it would get past the spiritual BACC. What it does say though, is that you will find purpose and fulfillment (if there is a God who created the universe, and you're in community with him, why wouldn't that be so)…whatever that might mean. It won’t necessarily be easy though. And shit will still happen.

7. Finally, if you accept the existence of God and the spiritual, you also have to consider the possibility of a personified 'evil'. The Devil if you like. Now it could be (and I’m not sure myself) that this is simply a metaphor for describing some of the points above. Equally though, the horned one may well really exist (tho probably without the horns). Which I guess is a nice and easy get out for all the evil and bad stuff if you’re looking for one.

IS YOUR AD BRILLIANT
Now, it’s obviously hard for me to say as I haven’t seen it. But really, this one is far too easy – you’ll have to try harder if you want to catch me out. Millward Brown, as all planners know, are the spawn of Satan (who may or may not be a metaphor), the Great Deceiver. So if you say it’s great, and they have evidence to the contrary, I know who I’ll believe.

GOD ON TV
Covered a lot of this above. But the short answer is God doesn’t do advertising, PR, interviews on Richard & Judy or Big Brother appearances. He doesn’t deal in certainty, he wants faith. And if does turn up, it will be in a very good disguise (see Palestinian carpenters cum political activists). On that basis, the evidence you want probably won’t be coming I’m afraid! Which may well make you a fundamentalist again! Me, on the other – I will happily stop believing when science (which we all agree can answer all the answerable questions) categorically disproves God’s existence. Which clearly makes me an open minded free thinker ;-)

Charles Frith said...

Missed this post. But I don't think I've read a better review of Dawkins than this:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/eagl01_.html

Jon Howard (Living Brands) said...

Charles, thanks for that. Had come across the British Book of Birds first line, but not the whole thing.

Anyway, I think what he thinks!

Scamp said...

Wow, too many points to take on, especially combining you (Jon) and Terry Eagleton.

But it's been great fun. And has certainly satisfied my craving for a religious debate. And I won't try and have the last laugh.

Oh sod it, I will.

It was just so funny when when Terry Eagleton wondered whether Dawkins had grasped "the epistemological differences between Aquinas and Duns Scotus!"

Dude needs to get out more.

Next week: politics.

np said...

For the sake of arguement:
While I wholeheartedly agree with his scathing attack on the dangerous way religion thinks it has some sort of moral superiority, the central argument of the book actually breaks down for me.He argues that a superior designer would require a designer himself. Which sounds okay, as long as yu apply the rules of the universe as we know them to the subject.
The problem is that you have to assume that a designer would live outside of time and space, ergo we cannot begin to understand what those rules could be.
Scientists cannot grasp the fundamentals oif the very small in the universe we have (quantum mechanics) and are flummoxed by what may have been around before the big bang.
I think it's daft to believe ina designer designing a universe just for us but when we admit we still know so little about the universe we occupy (most of it is made of stuff we can't see - dark matter) isn't it a bit daft to understand what may have happened before it, or outside it?