This post is in part an olive leaf to AndrewS as an attempt to satisify his concerns with loosely defining atheism. I firmly believe that arguing over definitions is pointless in a rational conversation (though probably valuable in a political one). So I see no reason to not give it to him. Thoughts on that topic lead to this post.
A while back I read a famous story by Roger Zelazny called “A Rose for Ecclesiastes.” In that story a human man (from Earth obviously) falls in love with a Martian woman and must talk all the women of Mars out of giving up on life. So he reads them Ecclesiastes and show them that this depressing book that has no belief in a good future was written long ago, yet here we still were, advancing and making a better life for ourselves.
So I decided to re-read Ecclesiastes for my scripture study. To my suprise, I found that its underlying message (at least to me) was actually about the meaningless of life if (and only if) we exclude God from the equation. When understood in that way, it seems far less pessimistic and far more hopeful. In fact Ecclesiastes to me is a very strong argument for belief in God.
Skeptic Martin Gardner claims that only religious people can write really good pessimistic literature because they don’t really believe any of it. He claims atheists have no where to run, so they aren’t as likely to like pessimistic literature. I personally believe this is true of the author of Ecclesiastes.
So the two of us wanted to put up that article plus a proposition for discussion. Consider this statement that both of us believed was basically true:
I believe it’s basically impossible for human beings to really treat morality as if it’s non-objective.
So, for the sake of argument (as the author of the article suggests) let’s assume at the outset that morality really is non-objective. If human beings can’t treat morality as non-objective (even though that is what it is), what are the implications, if any. Continue reading →
In my last post I gave a horrifying end of the world scenario and noted that it was the same as what atheists believe is going to happen to all life during the heat death of the universe. This had been prompted by this quote from Christopher Hitchens:
…to the old theistic question, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ we can… counterpose the findings of Professor Lawrence Krauss and others, about the forseeable heat death of the universe…. So, the question can and must be rephrased: ‘Why will our brief ‘something’ so soon be replaced with nothing?’ It’s only once we shake our own innate belief in linear progression and consider the many recessions we have undergone and will undergo that we can grasp the gross stupidity of those who repose their faith in divine providence and godly design. (Christopher Hitchens as quoted by Skeptic Michael Shemer in Scientific American, Nov 2010)
Skeptic Michael Shemer (who quoted Hitchens) then goes on to say, with nary a hint of irony.
The dialectical usefulness of clear logic, coupled to elegant prose (layered on top of the usual dollop of data), cannot be overstated and should be considered by scientists as another instrument of persuasion in the battle for ideas. (Michael Shemer in Scientific American, Nov 2010)
Why would anyone in their right mind fight for this idea given it’s logical conclusions? (In my last post.)
They are literally arguing that Theists are being irrational because they believe in “linear progression” (apparently eternal progress) rather than the (in their view) more rational belief that life is pointless and will end in very bad ways and that nothing we do matters in the long run.
How could they make such an argument?
But we know why, don’t we? Because the human brain isn’t capable of thinking in terms of millions or billions of years! This future is no more real to them than it is to a Theist.
But wait! Doesn’t that mean Shemer’s call for greater rationality was based on a failure of rationality?
…to the old theistic question, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ we can… counterpose the findings of Professor Lawrence Krauss and others, about the forseeable heat death of the universe…. So, the question can and must be rephrased: “Why will our brief ‘something’ so soon be replaced with nothing?” It’s only once we shake our own innate belief in linear progression and consider the many recessions we have undergone and will undergo that we can grasp the gross stupidity of those who repose their faith in divine providence and godly design. (Christopher Hitchens as quoted by Skeptic Michael Shemer in Scientific American, Nov 2010. Emphasis mine.)
Let’s play a game of ‘just pretend.’ Just pretend that the world’s political leaders have just announced to the world that the greatest scientific minds have uncovered a horrifying truth: due to laws of physics not previously understood, our sun will burn out millions of years earlier than previously thought. Even now it is imperceptibly dimmed compared to historical measurements.
No one living today will be adversely affected by the dimming sun. We can go on living unaffected by it. Even two generations after we have all passed on, our children and descendants will still have enough energy from the sun to sustain life though by then it will be obvious that the sun is dimming.
Within three generations after that a global cooling cycle will have begun and the dreadful snowfall will signal a winter that will never end. People will be able to store up food, of course, but without any hope of new crops forming in the future no matter how many supplies are stored food will eventually start to run out.