Not dogmatic enough!

By way of A Feather Adrift I found this entry by an atheist blogger who said that he respected fundamentalists more than liberal Christians because fundamentalists have a "coherent worldview" while liberal Christians are guilty of "picking various bits they like while ignoring the parts they don't care for."

This is a familiar refrain from many atheists and I have harped on this topic before ad nauseum. What some call a "coherent worldview" others would term a dogmatic, rigid, and close-minded way of viewing things. (Imagine that--developing a viewpoint based on picking what you agree with and rejecting what you disagree with! Evaluating ideas based on their merit! How reprehensible!) Some of us actually find dogmatic, rigid, and close-minded thinking to be something less than the best way of approaching the complexities of the world. Others, on the other hand, "respect" such outlooks. To each their own, I guess.

Religious tribalism

A quote from It's Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian, by Samir Selmanovic:

If God created all humanity but gave life-giving knowledge--usually referred to as "revelation"--to only some of humanity, could God in any meaningful sense be thought of as the One God and not only as a god?

Wouldn't such a god be historically or geographically local and therefore either disinterested, powerless, or in some other way incapable of giving lifesaving knowledge to all humanity? To say that God has decided to visit all humanity through only one particular religion is a deeply unsatisfying assertion about God.

Oh, those god-denying religious atheists!

I ran across another militant atheist blogger, Mano Singham, who is as misinformed as he is strident--in this case, attacking theologian John Haught as a "religious atheist" and as one who "denies god" (sic)--thus illustrating once again that those who defy misinformed stereotypes always seem to provoke the greatest outrage, and also illustrating for about the millionth time that militant atheists have pretty much the same views of religion that religious fundamentalists do.

The Onion explains intercessory prayer

The Onion uses satire to explain the theology of intercessory prayer.

Quizzes and nuance

I started to take a "Test Your Faith" quiz posted on the NPR web site that is supposed to measure how much of a doubter your are, but I found the categories and assumptions that lie behind those questions too difficult for me to relate to.

The first question, for example, asks: "Do you believe that a particular religious tradition holds accurate knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality and the purpose of human life?" To which I can only respond with questions of my own, such as: what is meant by "accurate knowledge"? Is a glimpse into some aspect of the ultimate reality the same as accurate knowledge? If two blind men have accurate knowledge of some part of an elephant, are they both right? Are they both wrong?

The second question asks, "Do you believe that some thinking being consciously made the universe?" I may not be very knowledgeable about Tillich, but even I can see a problem with that question right off the bat, since I for one don't think of God as "a" being. If I think that God as a concept belongs to a different ontological category than you or I, then the assumption behind this question falls apart, as far as I'm concerned. I notice that a lot of argumentative atheists often dismissively refer to God as "a" being whose existence cannot be proven, and I always feel that they are missing the point when they put it that way.

Question 3 asks, "Is there an identifiable force coursing through the universe, holding it together, or uniting all life-forms?" What do they mean by "force"? For example, is a creative principle the same as a force?

Question 4 asks, "Could prayer be in any way effective, that is, do you believe that such a being or force (as posited above) could ever be responsive to your thoughts or words?" Since I couldn't even accept the premises behind the earlier "being" or "force" questions, that makes things a bit difficult, and furthermore, what does the question mean by "effective" and "responsive"? Setting that objection aside, there seems to be a hidden assumption that this posited "being " or "force" might "respond" in some coercive fashion, by effecting some result that one asked for through the exercise of its power. But "response" can mean many things; after all, if I tell a friend about a tragic event in my life, my friend might respond by crying. A sympathetic response is a response, after all.

Question 12 asks "Do you believe that the world is not completely knowable by science?" Again, the question I have is, what do you mean by "knowable"?

Question 13 asks, "If someone were to say "The universe is nothing but an accidental pile of stuff, jostling around with no rhyme nor reason, and all life on earth is but a tiny, utterly inconsequential speck of nothing, in a corner of space, existing in the blink of an eye never to be judged, noticed, or remembered," would you say, "Now that's going a bit far, that's a bit wrongheaded?" I wouldn't say "wrongheaded". I can understand why people might feel that way, and I sometimes feel that way myself. That being said, I generally don't see the universe that way.

Amazingly cool video

HT to Ms. Kitty:

An atheist doesn't believe in an omnipotent deity

Susan Jacoby, an atheist columnist at the "On Faith" web site, describes an atheist in this way:

Today, as in the past, atheists can say only that on the basis of the available evidence, we don't think an omnipotent deity has anything to do with either the ultimate origins of the universe or the ethical dilemmas that human beings confront every day.
According to that definition, a fair number of people of faith who don't believe in a omnipotent deity, ranging from bishop John Shelby Spong to process theologians, are actually atheists. Apparently they just don't know that they are atheists.

Christopher Hitchens decides who gets to be called a Christian

...and, naturally, he gets it wrong. Here is what Hitchens says in an interview:

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
He sure sounds like a fundamentalist Christian at this point, doesn't he? The funny thing is that he is being interviewed here by a UU Christian, who of course doesn't fit into that stereotype at all, and when she points that out, Hitchens then responds by dismissing her faith as a "waste of time"

I think it is this arrogant pomposity--the notion that what's good for Christopher Hitchens is what is good for everyone else--that I find so annoying about him and others like him. I have always been a believer in religious pluralism and in the notion that when it comes to religion, whatever works for other people is probably okay, as long as it doesn't encourage them to do bad things to other people, and as long as they don't impose their beliefs on me or anyone else. When he says that religion just adds a superfluous layer to what could simply be people's raw convictions about right and wrong, he clearly misses the point that myth and metaphor and the language of the sacred speaks to people in ways that inspire them. Just because none of that inspires him, he somehow infers that it should not inspire anyone else either.