Friday, September 19, 2014

Three mistakes atheists make?

The Huffington Post featured a story called The 'Three Mistakes Atheists Make'. In it, Rabbi Eric Yoffie offers three things he claims are mistakes that we atheists make. Lets just test his claim shall we...

1. They dismiss, often with contempt, the religious experience of other people.
It is fine to use critical thinking and unalloyed reason to argue against God. Such arguments are legitimate, but they tell us nothing about the way that much of humankind experiences God, either in the course of regular religious observance or as an exceptional occurrence.
The God helmet, bringing you religious experiences with the
turn of a dial and science.
According to Professor Kitcher, research demonstrates that what people refer to as religious experience is either a psychiatric matter or a general feeling of uplift that is then related by the person involved to a religiously entrenched myth. What it is not, Kitcher affirms, is an encounter with the divine. Yet on what possible basis can he make such a claim? The professor has obviously never had a religious experience; but given that 85 percent of people on earth identify with a religious tradition and most believe in God, there is something both sad and arrogant about non-believers asserting with certainty that no one else is capable of a God encounter rooted in transcendence and holiness.
There's a few problems here... Yoffie claims that Kitcher must not have ever had a 'religious experience'. But the fact that he doesn't believe doesn't mean that to automatically be the case. Most atheists were previously believers. Many have had these experiences only to realize later on what they really were.

Why does it matter if 85% of people claim to have had such an experience. In that 85%, there are believers of several different religions. Given that most are contradictory to one another, these can't all be genuine God experiences. Is it really so unreasonable to ask for some sort of proof to show if one religion's experiences are more valid than another?

And how does Yoffie think we are arrogant? I'm not saying that these experiences can't be real. All I'm asking for is evidence to support the claim. I'm open to being wrong. If I'm wrong I want to know. That's the very opposite of arrogance. All I want is to believe what I know to be true, or likely true. If we took every persons personal experiences at face value, we would still be no closer to an answer to the God question since there are so many conflicting beliefs in the world.

2. They assert that since there are no valid religions but that religions do good things, the task of smart people is to create a religion without God -- or, in other words, a religion without religion.
His argument is that since religion does a good job in promoting values, it should not be abandoned; instead, it should be "refined," eliminating fundamentalist doctrines and transcendent facets of reality. What will remain is "soft atheism," a system of advancing enduring values without the need for a belief in God, redemptive elements, or any of the mysteries that religion promotes.
A religion without religion... That doesn't even make any sense! Yes, some religious people do good things. But I think that Yoffie is missing the point. Many an atheist will tell you that you don't need religion to help people and be charitable. That the good things that come from religion can easily be found elsewhere. You don't need a god to do good, but that doesn't mean building a non-religious group to do the same good. Atheist groups can do charity, and so do individual non-believers. What's important here is doing good, and doing it for the right reasons. In my opinion, doing good in the name of good is superior to doing good just because you think you're being watched. But at the end of the day, I'll take good deeds from any direction, so long as some harm is not also part of the package.

3. They see the world of belief in black and white, either/or terms.

Kitcher is struck by the incredible diversity of religious doctrines. A reasonable person, he suggests, would recognize that there is no way to distinguish doctrines that are true from those that are misguided. His conclusion is that religious doctrines have become "incredible," and must be rejected in their entirety.
If there are 10,000 contrary religious doctrines, it does not follow that they all are false.
Kitcher seems to have gone a step too far, but that doesn't void the ultimate question of proof. If you have 10,000 contrary religions, I'm not going to simply dismiss them all, nor believe them all. What I will do is assume that most or all of them are likely false until proof can be shown in their favor. I won't pick a team without a thorough examination, and thus withhold final judgement. If I think a religion is false, isn't because it has not met the burden of proof. That said, I'm always ready and waiting to change my mind. Just show me my error and the evidence.
Kitcher, either you are a believer or you are not, and given the abundance of conflicting traditions, it is non-belief that makes the most sense. When it comes to religious doctrine, Kitcher, like others in the atheist camp, sees the world in terms of dichotomies: You are a theist or a non-theist, a religious person or a non-religious person.
Considering that non-belief is the default position, and religion has not met the burden of proof, then yes, non-belief is the most logical position. Also, there is nothing divisive about saying that you are either a believer of you aren't. This is simply the truth of reality since they are the only two options. A light bulb is either on or off. Is it being divisive as well?

And what does Yoffie think of believers separating people as saved and not saved? Is this yet more division?


-Brain Hulk

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1 comment:

  1. Great post. This article is really very informative & effective. I think its must be helpful for us.
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