Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Quack Magic of Atheism

Let's send Oldbob packing, that he may sooner embark upon the surprising journey into his future, here among the living. Time to finish up with his lame but loud arguments for the non-existence of God, and move on to a new topic. Doctrinaire atheists and anti-Christian zealots can be clever, cute, nasty, and sometimes even intelligent, but they are rarely deep, nor will they ever be known for their wisdom, wisdom being a human commodity, and religion vouchsafing the very essence of integral humanism.

We begin with another charming absurdity that is hoisted by its own retardedness, "Every intellectual construction of man will reflect his own nature, and God is no exception." Okay, fair enough. Question. How does this assertion escape its own circular logic?

What, twenty five years later, and we're still waiting for Oldbob's answer. Amazingly, atheists still put forth variations of this crude argument, which means -- sadly -- that they are very likely the same person at 50 that they were at 25 (only worse, since, for human beings alone, failure to grow is a kind of living death). For this is the type of argument that comes out of a college bull session or Bill Maher panel, not any actual contact with, or adequation to, the subject it pretends to comprehend.

As usual, Schuon slices like a flippin' hammer: "Relativism reduces every element of absoluteness to relativity while making a completely illogical exception in favor of this reduction itself.... [I]ts initial absurdity lies in the implicit claim to be unique in escaping, as if by enchantment, from a relativity that is declared the only possibility."

Checkmate, you ankabiters.

Atheism is metaphysical magic. Religion is its opposite -- not to say that people don't inevitably incorporate magical and wishful thinking into their religion, man being what he is. There is surely a valid place for magic in the psyche, except that there are healthy and unhealthy expressions of it. A person robbed of magic would be a lifeless bore, a kind of dry "logic machine" who replaces truth with compulsive doubt. We love children because they are so spontaneously alive with the magic of existence. As they grow, they transcend the immediacy of this state, but (hopefully) do not eliminate it, or they end up like the dead and tenured.

Next, the inevitable attack on faith misconstrued: "Even saying that 'my belief is based on faith' takes on meaning only if I am able to define what it is that I have faith in."

Nonsense. Faith is simply a preluminary assent to that which one cannot possibly comprehend at the outset. Faith applies to every discipline, not just religion. Imagine a great artist -- Shakespeare, Beethoven, Dante -- whose work far exceeds our ability to fully appreciate its depths. Fortunately, there exist experts -- a "community of the adequate," living and dead -- whose testimony assures us that there is indeed a "there there" if only we allow ourselves to be shaped by the object instead of imposing our own preconceptions on it. Faith is simply openness to the Transcendent Other.

Next, another old canard: "It is clear that particular religious beliefs are mistaken, since all religions disagree and cannot all be right." First of all, this ignores the manner in which orthodox religions can be reconciled on the interior, esoteric plane (even if not fully eliminating certain important distinctions).

But even more basically, this is like saying that "it is clear that physics is mistaken, since relativity and quantum physics cannot be reconciled," or "it is clear that science is mistaken, since there is no way to reconcile the truths of psychology and neurology." Sometimes the opposite of a real Truth is a trivial one.

Another bonehead argument that is conveniently put forth by atheists: "I don't have to prove that God does not exist. Atheism is obligatory in the absence of any evidence for God's existence." Interesting word, "obligatory." Why is an animal obligated to anything, much less something as abstract as metaphysical truth that he cannot know anyway?

But in any event, since all cultures and the vast majority of human beings have always intuited the transcendent reality that surpasses them, it takes real chutzpah to simply ignore this experience as if it doesn't exist. Atheists are a tiny exception, not the rule. How did they get here -- especially if, as sociobiologists maintain, religion is "hardwired" (whatever that means) into our species? Once again, atheists escape their own verdict by an act of magic -- like an asexual person arguing that humans are hardwired for sex.

The next one out of the deck is the old "religion only existed because man was so ignorant" card. You know, "when I was a kid, I couldn't figure out how the presents got under the tree, therefore Santa must have come down the chimney."

But this no more invalidates Christmas than it does science. For example, try reading a history of medicine. Just because it had a lot of erroneous ideas a century ago, doesn't invalidate the field today. Indeed, one doesn't even have to go back that far. I remember ten years ago, doctors insisted that carbohydrates were good, and fats were bad. Now we know that it's much more complicated than that.

But even more generally, science didn't even emerge until the 17th century, and only in the Christian west. Prior to that -- and this is an argument Ken Wilber has elaborated at length -- it was as if various realms of human inquiry were mixed together, not just religion and what came to be called science, but politics, art, and pretty much everything else. This is not to condemn religion, since differentiation obviously requires time. It's like condemning the man because he was once a simple sperm and egg. In many respects, evolution is the higher unity of increased differentiation.

Thus, for example, today it is possible to unify science and religion in a much deeper way than was possible 300 years ago. Indeed, to fail to achieve this synthesis (let alone attack it) is not evolutionary, but explicitly anti-evolutionary, or regressive. The highest unities are always unities of opposites -- male-female, spirit-matter, mind-body, order-chaos, absolute-infinite, chance-necessity, etc.

Couldn't quite finish off Oldbob. He says "it's just a flesh wound." One more post to go.....

8 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

For example, try reading a history of medicine. Just because it had a lot of erroneous ideas a century ago, doesn't invalidate the field today.

It was/is probably necessary to go through the stage of error, or more aptly trial and error, for medicine to reach the state it's in today and to continue to improve. Just so, it was probably necessary for OldBob to exist as a precondition for NewBob, or any OldRaccoon to become a NewRaccoon. Error in itself isn't necessarily bad, provided that the one who errs is willing to learn from the mistake.

Easy to say, often much more difficult to apply.

11/29/2009 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Checkmate, you ankabiters."
;-)


wv:notiest

11/29/2009 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Nonsense. Faith is simply a preluminary assent to that which one cannot possibly comprehend at the outset. Faith applies to every discipline, not just religion. Imagine a great artist -- Shakespeare, Beethoven, Dante -- whose work far exceeds our ability to fully appreciate its depths. Fortunately, there exist experts -- a "community of the adequate," living and dead -- whose testimony assures us that there is indeed a "there there" if only we allow ourselves to be shaped by the object instead of imposing our own preconceptions on it. Faith is simply openness to the Transcendent Other."

Or the intuition of the One, from the point of view of one still among the many... similarities... something begins to take shape within from without....

11/29/2009 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Funny how "None shall pass!", soon gives way to "It's only a flesh wound" and then "Right, we'll call it a draw then...."

11/29/2009 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Nonsense. Faith is simply a preluminary assent to that which one cannot possibly comprehend at the outset. Faith applies to every discipline, not just religion. Imagine a great artist -- Shakespeare, Beethoven, Dante -- whose work far exceeds our ability to fully appreciate its depths. Fortunately, there exist experts -- a "community of the adequate," living and dead -- whose testimony assures us that there is indeed a "there there" if only we allow ourselves to be shaped by the object instead of imposing our own preconceptions on it. Faith is simply openness to the Transcendent Other."

Aye! Faith IS the evidence of things unseen.
Many athiests (and not only athiests) perceive faith as wishful thinking without any evidence to back it up or support it.
Not that wishful thinking ain't a real, but conflating it with faith doesn't denigrate or belittle true faith in any way.

IOW's, faith is still real whether someone admits it or not, and calling it something else, or simply not understanding it and mistaking it for something else that is frivolous or unnecessary, is merely ignoranussy at best.
That lie is there plain as the ass in assoul enslaved to deception.

11/29/2009 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van said...
Funny how "None shall pass!", soon gives way to "It's only a flesh wound" and then "Right, we'll call it a draw then...."


Ha ha! That is still as hilariously funny! Reminds me of some of my chess games where I'm obviously heading for an overwhelming victory, and my opponent offers a draw.
Indeed, I've had some opponents get insulted (victimhood!) because I wouldn't accept their...um...generous offer.

Reminds me of Oldben, who still keeps tryin' to dig hisself outta his grave, despite the prospect of crucification.

"Come back here...coward!"

Thanks, Bob! :^)

11/29/2009 09:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Skully said...

We begin with another charming absurdity that is hoisted by its own retardedness..."

Hooo! That's a mighty big hammer yer slicin' wit', Commodore Bob!

11/29/2009 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faith is simply a preluminary assent to that which one cannot possibly comprehend at the outset.

I like this formulation a lot. Even atheists usually know that when the truly religious hold up their faith as a virtue they're not talking about blind obedience or lack of thought.

It does raise some interesting questions about usage, though, whenever discussing the topic.

11/30/2009 11:11:00 AM  

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