20 March 2007

From worst to best to so-so

This article, "What's Good about Atheism" has been sitting in my virtual archive for several months. Initially, I was going to title it "The worst article ever."

But then I read it again. And a third time. I'm not ready to claim that it is the best article I've read, but it is a very interesting look at what atheists can learn from theists and vice versa.

Some excerpts:

...Rationality cannot prove itself. The fundamental validity of reason therefore must be taken on faith; the only difference from a purely logical point of view between an atheist who believes in reason and a religious person who makes a primary act of faith is that the religious person recognizes the pre-logical basis of his beliefs, while the atheist does not.

...Virtuous atheists actually have a stronger claim to real goodness than virtuous Christians, Jews, or Muslims, because there can be no taint of cupboard love in their obedience to the moral law. They do not believe in a reward for goodness, and thus must love goodness for its own sake.

...We have seen what atheism looks like on the large scale, and it is not pretty: the Holocaust, the Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, the Killing Fields. Religion has indeed been a cause of appalling slaughter during the course of human history; but it must take fifth place behind atheist ideology, nation-state aggression, mercantile colonialist expansion, and tribal war in the carnage sweepstakes.

...one of Dawkins' favorite arguments against the rather feeble theist objection that you can't prove that God doesn't exist—you can't prove a negative. Dawkins triumphantly retorts that

"There's an infinite number of things that we can't disprove, You might say that because science can explain just about everything but not quite, it's wrong to say therefore we don't need God. It is also, I suppose, wrong to say we don't need the Flying Spaghetti Monster, unicorns, Thor, Wotan, Jupiter, or fairies at the bottom of the garden. There's an infinite number of things that some people at one time or another have believed in, and an infinite number of things that nobody has believed in. If there's not the slightest reason to believe in any of those things, why bother? The onus is on somebody who says, I want to believe in God, Flying Spaghetti Monster, fairies, or whatever it is. It is not up to us to disprove it."

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