Atheist Contradictions – Awed by Nature

October 9, 2010

Because atheism itself offers nothing to worship or venerate, atheists will often couch their feelings about nature in pseudo-spiritual terms in an effort to fill that obvious lack. Carl Sagan was particularly good at this; in fact he is sort of the patron saint of religious scientism.

The whole effort is sadly ironic for this very simple reason – there is no evolutionary reason for us to be awed by nature at all.

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Athiest Contradictions

May 19, 2010

I have decided to come up with this more precise category dealing with contradictory notions of atheism than dumping my brief thoughts into ‘Observations’ because I want to tease out certain ideas a bit.

One of the things I have noticed in the decades I have been having discussions with atheists is that there are a number of memes out there that atheists adopt, often without much thought or reason. These statements are made as if they are self-evident facts, though in reality there is little warrant for believing them at all.

One such claim is along these lines – ‘Atheism is not incompatible with spirituality’ or ‘Atheism is not the opposite of spirituality’.

Atheists who say this are often doing so in response to the fact that modern atheism is rooted in a a material or naturalistic view of the world, a view which fails to account for many aspects of human experience.

The problem with this view though is a rather straight-forward one – spirituality means nothing if it doesn’t have something to do with a spirit or spirits – that is, with an immaterial being or aspect of being. That would seem to be an idea wholly incompatible with atheism, and so it is contradictory for an atheist to makes such claims.


Observations

April 26, 2010

Recently I saw an atheist claim that ‘spiritual beliefs do not equal religious beliefs’. This may be true, but for an atheist to say so is a bit like a vegetarian lecturing on the best way to prepare a steak.


Not only is Religion not Dangerous…

April 23, 2010

But it appears to have given us art.

But we already knew that didn’t? After all, the vast majority of art, music, writing, and much architecture in human history appear to be motivated by some sort of spiritual beliefs.

The article on Science Daily discusses how the origin of art and religious beliefs are linked though – and how we had to overcome wrongheaded ideas about evolution to realize it. The paper from the Oxford Journal of Archaeolog – Cave art and the theory of art: the origins of the religious interpretation of Palaeolithic Graphics Expression is more specific; for many years we were hindered in our ability to understand early art by our evolutionary biases about primitive man, namely that he was:

“neither free nor noble; he is a slave to his own wants, his own passions; imperfectly protected from the weather, he suffers from the cold by night and the heat of the sun by day; ignorant of agriculture, living by the chase, and improvident in success, hunger always stares him in the face, and often drives him to the dreadful alternative of cannibalism or death”

And of course such a primitive being couldn’t exhibit religious belief:

“Several authors (Lubbock [1870] 1987, 192; Broca 1866, 75) deduced, therefore, that it was impossible that any true religious thought could exist within primitive society. Naturally, Quaternary hunters had no religion, as Mortillet maintained vehemently all his life: ‘It happens that as soon as religious ideas appear, funerary practices are introduced. However, there is no evidence of funerary practices in the Quaternary. Quaternary man was, therefore, wholly devoid of any feeling of religiousness’

It wasn’t until decades later, when researchers were able to free themselves of the earlier biases that a proper understanding of the origin of art took place:

“The extension in the concept of art enabled works that until that time had been considered as crafts or second-class creations to be included within that category. In the same way, the anthropological approach applied in the studies of the History of Art assisted the recognition of the social function of artistic activity. This made it possible to reconcile the concepts of ‘creativity’ and ‘functionality’. Hence, an artistic object, whatever its aesthetic value, fulfilled a material or symbolic function in the context of a certain society. This new discourse steadily took shape in the field of Aesthetics and Art Theory and, in fact, it was believed, through the study of primitive societies, that a meaning connected with magic and religious symbology existed behind many ‘savage’ creations. This new paradigm finally concluded that magic-religious beliefs lay at the basis of the origins of art.”

The reality is that humans are spiritual creatures – we are in fact the only organisms which exhibit spirituality. Divest us of this spiritual reality, and we lose all that that it produces, and which makes us unique as humans – art, music, philosophy, systems of morality and law. All that is good rare about us as humans is inextricably linked to our concept of God, the existence of a soul, and the ultimate and immaterial nature of reality. And in part that is why evolutionary interpretations of human history so often fail; they miss this essentail aspect of humanity. It is also why atheism contains the seeds of its own failure – it ultimately de-humanizes us in the truest sense of the word, and in doing so, erodes the very societies that allow atheists to exist to begin with.