Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Against Atheism, Chapter 1.5

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3. Many atheists have not even bothered to engage with theological scholarship and/or liturgical hermeneutics. This is especially true of subcultures that systematically misidentify the exoteric readings of scripture as somehow essential to religion, such as the gay press, for example. As a gay man, I certainly sympathize with their attacks on hatred emanating from certain religious groups, religious groups that usually emphasize exoteric, or literal, scriptural interpretation. But it is a false generalization to take this hate and turn it back on all manifestations of religion, rather than the specific groups that promote hate against queers. Hate has never been an appropriate response to hate very successfully. Dear gay press: such a thing as queer theology actually exists, and better than that, it is a fairly sophisticated and positive phenomenon.. Spiritual scriptures are not immune to the diversity of interpretation that characterizes all language. Furthermore, consciousness itself is historical; it does not remain static through time, and it is through consciousness that the act of interpretation occurs. Please, for the sake of peace on earth, and harmony amongst human beings, let us level our anger and vengeance against the people who promote hate, rather than hastily dismiss and vituperate against multi-leveled spiritual verse and narrative that has been utterly de-contextualized from its historical and cultural origins by both fundamentalists, who tend to take the bible literally, and some atheists, who likewise take it literally and condemn it on this literal interpretation.


Plorry Stabworth said...

Hi there,
You don't know me. My name is Andrew. I don't want this to come off as angry atheist rant - I simply enjoy these discussions - so I ask for the benefit of the doubt that my arguments are dispassionate and without malice (though perhaps with a hint of indignation - heh).
I feel that these points (particularly 2 and 3) are not problems with atheism as a belief, but with particular individuals who have identified as atheist. I agree that to say "religion is the cause of all war" is fallacious, and I wholeheartedly agree that "hate has never been an appropriate response to hate". But I don't see these as flaws with atheism; they are simply poor argumentation styles. To turn it around, many theists I have discussed this matter with also use fallacious arguments. The conclusion I come to is not that either most theists or most atheists are poor arguers, but rather that most people are poor arguers. I assure you, sit down and talk with a more reasoned atheist with a decent understanding of the science, and the discussion will be much different. Perhaps even pleasant, even though you disagree.
But speaking of fallacious arguments, I must say that I feel the "atheism/science leads to Nazi holocausts/atomic bombs" argument is quite sensationalist. Equally fallacious to saying "religion leads to extremist terrorism." ANY mass movement without a humanist element will lead to people acting immorally en masse. Religious, political, scientific, or otherwise. Again, then, I do not see this as an argument against atheism.
I'll conclude by saying that atheism, as a belief, is simply a lack of belief in any god. That's why I identify as atheist. Thus, to argue against atheism is to argue against this point and this point alone; arguments that discredit the *people* associated with the belief does nothing to the belief itself.

-Andrew Gardner

Trevor_Cunnington said...

Thank you for your extensive and thoughtful response, Andrew. Sorry it took me this long to get back to you. I should have clarified that I'm responding to a certain "type" of atheist, and granted, there are more than one "type." It's the type that makes fun of believers for placing faith in a "sky wizard," or that call belief and faith all too simply "stupidity." Furthermore, my critique of atheism is grounded not necessarily in belief itself, but in a deep respect for belief and what it inspires in people. My defense of religion is grounded in a deep awareness of the social function of churches, mosques, synagogues. Most atheists I've encountered do not bother to offer an alternative social node in calendrical life. Furthermore, the self-interest and nihilism that seems to accompany the spread of atheism's popularity (although not necessarily causally related)I find troubling and ultimately destructive. Which is not to say that you, as a particular atheist, are guilty of these seemingly correlated ideologies.

Trevor_Cunnington said...
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