How’s this for revolting?
Ramblings (and music) of a guitar-playing shrink
How’s this for revolting?
As someone who accepts the reality that there is almost certainly not a god, and likewise accepts as basically fact, the exceeding well-supported scientific Theory of evolution by natural selection, largely as described by Darwin, I find it pretty unpleasant to be likened to fascist mass-murderers, as people like Josef Ratzinger are wont to do.
Of course, this contention – that the Nazis were atheists, and that “Darwinism”* had some role in the justification of the Holocaust – is rather widely accepted. Interestingly, it’s completely false.
Coel Hellier has written a very thorough, clear, logical, and fair examination of this, and has demonstrated most clearly that in fact the Nazi ideology was at base religious and creationist. This is a longish read, but so very worthwhile. It shows very clearly just how atheist the Nazis and their ideology were not, and just how based in the Theory of evolution by natural selection they were not.
That of course won’t stop various religious and creationist types from dragging out this deceased ex-horse and flogging it some more.
“This labelling of the Nazis as “atheist” is common among the religious, despite being — as shown above — the opposite of the truth.”
The “opposite of the truth”…
…that would be…
Oh yes: a lie.
Now, before anyone calls Godwin on me here (although someone on Twitter has done so already), let me make the point that Ratty and others like him are the ones who’ve “Godwinned” this argument. This is merely a refutation, and any refutation of the claim that the Nazis were atheist and “Darwinist” necessarily involves demonstration of the opposite: that they were in fact Christians and creationists. There is no way to avoid mentioning the Nazis when refuting a claim involving the Nazis.
Duh. It doesn’t equate to saying that Christians are evil Nazi sympathisers; it’s people like Ratzinger (I honestly forget his popey name) who have actually engaged in slander using the Nazi spectre against those of us who do not believe as he does.
In summary: people who contend that atheism, or acceptance of scientific fact (evolution and natural selection) are a prelude or encouragement to callousness, hatred, and mass murder, are (to appropriate a Tim Minchin phrase) “just fucking silly” – or egregious liars.
I make no comment about the camp into which I think Ratzinger falls….
*By the by, I find it incredible that we use the terms “Darwinist” and “Darwinism” – as though accepting one of the world’s best-supported scientific Theories as being pretty much demonstrable and demonstrated fact, constitutes an “-ism”….
In advance of my shortly following post (yes, I’ll be railing against religion again) I think I should probably emphasise something. There’s a difference between individuals and groups, and basically my default position is that people are good. Human beings in general are good and decent, and I often like them.
Just because I hold nothing against individuals (unless they, generally as individuals, give me cause), does not mean I can’t be strenuously opposed to the religion to which they adhere. – And that latter does not change my opinion of them.
In the same way, the fact of someone’s atheism is not necessarily going to mean I like – or even agree with – them.
But won’t they be upset by me challenging a belief central to their lives? Perhaps, and I’m sorry for that. Doesn’t that mean I should keep my mouth shut? No. Absolutely not.
A “belief” if you like, that is central to my life is that there are rational explanations for things, and that the process of scientific investigation is necessary to understand the Universe and find/develop these explanations. I am convinced of humans’ basic irrational hard-wiring, and the consequent need for the scientific method, and to rely on empirical evidence.
No-one – No. One. – has a problem challenging that world-view.
In fact, trying to defend that world-view can get you labelled a buzz-kill, intolerant, disrespectful and so on.
So why should I put up with my world-view being challenged and even denigrated, and not challenge someone else’s, simply because they might be upset by it? It makes no sense.
I suspect any of my religious friends who are aware of my blog simply don’t read it – or at least skip my godless rants. And that’s fine. Echo chambers are ok and when I rant it’s really just because I want to rant. I’m certainly not out to deconvert individuals (as much as I might like it if everyone arrived at the realisation that reality is real, and not magic).
Further, I would hope that any of my religious friends who do happen to read my godless rants would be secure enough with me that they can either shrug it off or have a sensible discussion with me about it.
If not … it’d be a pity, and I’d be disappointed – but that’s not reason enough for me to bite my tongue.
There’s a false dichotomy often thrown up by apologists for religion: those of us who champion the virtue of rationality are labelled as “materialists”, who ignore humanity’s spiritual needs, leading necessarily to an empty and joyless existence. Set against us materialists are the world’s various religions, concerned utterly with spiritual experience (so they claim) and hence necessary to counter this soulless materialism.
In this post I will argue that religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for real spiritual well-being, that rationality and “materialism” can do at least as good a job (and possibly get in the way somewhat less), and that therefore religion has nothing left to offer.
The universe is clearly a material thing (with apologies to various airy-fairy philosophers; for my purpose, I can see, hear, touch, taste and smell the world, so it exists ) governed by material laws of nature. Scientific enquiry over many years has made incredible strides in understanding this material world, but there’s a lot we don’t yet know.
And a lot of people who don’t even know (or even actively deny) what is known.
We come then to the notion of spirituality: the idea or feeling that “there is more in Heaven and Earth…”. The feeling that we are more than simply cause and effect. It touches on notions of free will, aesthetics, love, wonder, creativity and so on, and lands, I think, squarely on the concepts of meaning and purpose.
Religious bigots like George Pell condemn atheists as coarse, uncaring, lacking purpose, and fearing the future. (Interesting here is Sigmund Freud’s statement that religion will never die as people are too fearful of death.) [if I remember to, I'll come back and edit this with the actual quote when I find it]
Unsurprisingly I refudiate this. First I will discuss why I think religion is neither necessary nor sufficient for a full spiritual life, and then turn to looking at the way that rationality can in fact be so.
Given that religion’s (stated) raison d’être is spiritual life, where in the hells do I get off on saying it doesn’t address spirituality? Because its vision is so stultifyingly narrow – that moreso than the demonstrable fact it’s, well, wrong.
Religion tells you the meaning of your existence. It tells you how to behave, and even how to think. It reduces all the wonder in the world to a plaything of a godling’s construction (heh – my iPhone wanted to change godling to gosling ).
They teach fear: of unbelievers, of evil, the devil, god himself – even of the world, it seems to me. At least Christianity, if not other religions as well, diminishes the world by giving us complete dominion over it. It tells us there is nothing (except god) that is greater than us. Whence real spirituality when the world is beneath us, and all that us above us is god, and all the works of our lives are purely to glorify god? It seems to me this diminishes the real value of the universe around us, and of everything we think, feel, experience, and do.
To me that is completely lacking in soul, or spiritual virtue.
Clearly we are not simply coldly rational robots. Not only are we not all that good at being rational, we find pleasure and fulfilment in things that we don’t think about in a rational fashion. I choose that wording deliberately: I don’t think these things are irrational, simply because we don’t behave rationally around them. Love, for instance: few of us choose our mate rationally, but the existence of the feelings that lead to this pair-bonding is perfectly rationally explicable. Likewise having children – moreso in fact. They’re expensive, aggravating, stop you sleeping for evermore, messy, destructive …. But awwwwwwwwwwww what about one of those? We don’t choose to have children on rational grounds, but the urge to procreate, again, is clearly able to be understood rationally; if that urge weren’t there, we wouldn’t be here. The more an organism procreates, the more its genetic material continues, the more successful it is in evolutionary terms. Likewise, pairbonding would have conferred evolutionary advantage, so love can be understood as something that makes rational sense, even though we don’t engage in a rational process.
I accept that not everything we do is determined by conscious, logical, rational thought. However, that doesn’t mean it is irrational; these things can be understood rationally. It’s similar in a way to my notion of ethical behaviour: we don’t in the course of everyday life debate philosophically about every course of action; we simply act in accordance with our character. However, the nature of our ethical character and consequent decisions can be understood philosophically – and that understanding can help us to develop further as ethical beings.
Similarly, while we don’t necessarily engage in rational debate about everything we do, rational thought and investigation can help us – individually and as a species – to grow. To understand and engage with the universe, and especially this Earth, better.
It can help us feel connected.
What could be more wonderful, beautiful, and yes: even spiritual and mystical, than the (true) concept that we are star-stuff? That we are made from elements forged in stars and blasted out by supernovae, come together to be us. That when we die these elements will become part of other things, animals, even people. The fact that this is demonstrably true makes it even more beautiful, to my mind.
Sure, you or I won’t be around to see what happens after we die, but that simply makes the world, and our time on it, that much more beautiful and precious. it’s like freesias, cherry blossom, and jacarandas: they flower so beautifully, and so very briefly. Somehow the fact it’s so brief adds to the beauty.
Do I need to state it? Anyone reading my blog knows what I think anyway. this universe in which we find ourselves is incredibly beautiful, strange, and terrible. Understanding it rationally, far from diminishing that spiritual sense, can enhance it. Reducing it to the whim of a petty jealous narcissistic deity robs it of something very deep and important.
I have meaning; I have purpose; I have love. I have joy, beauty and wonder. All I lack is God.
And I do not miss Him.
Well well. I just got a rather weird email contact via my main blog, from a Father Giovanni Maria Leonardi, who is …
…a Capuchin monk of the Holy House of Loreto in Marche in the centre of
Through the site www.santafamigliatv.it we
are committed via Internet for the new evangelization.
… ooookay. So what is he contacting me about?
To this aim, we ask you for one of your film footage. (any format DVD,
VHS, minicassette) you have already realized, so as to include in our
Schedules and our Archives.
Wait, what? O_o Almost makes me want to make a video wherein I say what I actually think about religion, and send them that.