Opiate of the masses
September 28, 2005 10:10 PM   Subscribe

It is a highly addictive drug, but governments everywhere encourage its use... though they are not so keen on no-name brands. Richard Dawkins details the dangers of the most insidious opiate.
posted by missbossy (132 comments total)
 
snarky dawkins!
posted by papakwanz at 10:17 PM on September 28, 2005


So you rearange the letters, and it spells religion.

Eh.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:17 PM on September 28, 2005


It's one of a class of drugs called (SelfRighteous-nase). Its not hard to infer that Dawkins is also partaking of another drug within that class. They're all dangerous.
posted by vacapinta at 10:18 PM on September 28, 2005


oh snap!

... is that... is that how you use that phrase? It is, right?
posted by odinsdream at 10:21 PM on September 28, 2005


A bit obvious, but still interesting. To me, the fact that he's a sharp thinker who's not afraid to confront popular idiocies has always given him lots of credit to burn on stuff like this. There's lots more from Dawkins about religion et al here.
posted by mediareport at 10:21 PM on September 28, 2005


And in the right amounts, gerin oil can be benificial.

Religion = bad? This guy's a genius. A true innovator in thought. I feel enlightened.
posted by Mach3avelli at 10:22 PM on September 28, 2005


Where can I get some of this shit?
posted by Demogorgon at 10:23 PM on September 28, 2005


Diablo: Listen to this — "Religion is the opiate of the masses."
Phillip: Isn't opium the opiate of the masses?
Diablo: Hey... you're right. Jeez, it's a wonder that the Soviet Union didn't collapse sooner.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:30 PM on September 28, 2005


I was going to write something, but someone else said it all: The annoyance of just generally being an arrogant cocksucker.

Now to go love my neighbor as myself kill people and drink children's blood.

(Note to Feds: I'm kidding.)
posted by brownpau at 10:31 PM on September 28, 2005


Is Dawkins the one who proposed that idiotic "Brights" thing?
posted by kenko at 10:37 PM on September 28, 2005


Dawkins doesn't like religion. We get it. We don't need a post everytime he says it.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:38 PM on September 28, 2005


I'm not fond of the "religion = bad" equation. A lot of people do good because of it and find peace and happiness through it.

I prefer the "despite this, religion = stupid" equation.
posted by obfusciatrist at 10:49 PM on September 28, 2005


Disagree with his style if you must. I still think he's right.
posted by sourwookie at 10:50 PM on September 28, 2005


People sure do get touchy around the truth.
posted by jikel_morten at 10:51 PM on September 28, 2005


(bows down and worships jikel_morten, bearer of the truth)
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:59 PM on September 28, 2005


Jikel: What truth? That Dawkins is a crank who uses weak metaphors as stirrups on his hobbyhorse?
Jesus fuck, man, what did you expect? Dawkins is an insufferable bore, like the guy at the party who wants to relate everything back to the Bible or Marxism.
posted by klangklangston at 10:59 PM on September 28, 2005


Single link op-ed. Where's the flag for that? Or just the "stupid" flag?
posted by klangklangston at 11:00 PM on September 28, 2005


god. if ever a post could summon bevets...
posted by shmegegge at 11:01 PM on September 28, 2005


Yeah, too bad about that Martin Luther King, Jr. guy; he was one of those violent, oppressive, bloodthirsty, child-beating Christians, wasn't he? Deluded idiot. No values at all; anything good was sucked out by evil gerin oil.

And that damned Gutenberg. Printing out bibles! Mankind gained nothing from that dark, faith-clouded brain.

And while we're on the subject of Germans, that Dietrich Bonhoeffer guy was a Christian too, wasn't he? As bad as those bloody Nazis. Good riddance.

The world would have been better off without those religious fanatics.
posted by brownpau at 11:01 PM on September 28, 2005


That Dawkins is a cra

hth; hand.

to be honest, I scrolled through the fpp link earlier today since it was in fact quite insufferable. However, on the whole, I find Dawkins' body of work far, far from a crankish or boring.

He's written some great stuff. This, meh.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:04 PM on September 28, 2005


The world would have been better off without those religious fanatics.

yes, in fact, it probably would. eg. The Koreans/Chinese did not need Christianity to invent printing, and for every Christian argument to free the slaves the slaveholders could point to the Old Testament justifying slavery.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:06 PM on September 28, 2005


Jikel: What truth? That Dawkins is a crank who uses weak metaphors as stirrups on his hobbyhorse?

No, the part where Dawkins compares religion to an addictive drug, in that it provides relief, comfort and/or joy to the user, at the expense of a solid connection with reality.

Also, drop the strawman attacks. Dawkins does not suggest that theists are without contribution to mankind.
posted by jikel_morten at 11:10 PM on September 28, 2005


He may be controversial, but Dawkins should not be so readily dismissed.
posted by kosem at 11:13 PM on September 28, 2005


I pretty much agree with Dawkins, but I lean more toward the Kevin Smith version as expressed in Dogma; that "beliefs" are dangerous because they become inflexible and people will kill each other over them - while "ideas," including many of those expressed by Jesus in the New Testament, are more benign and interesting, and can and should be shared, explored, and expanded upon by investigation and discourse between people.

There are some good ideas embodied in most religions, but most of them are surrounded and shrouded by ossified and inherently destructive beliefs.

Arthur C. Clarke, in 3001: The Final Odyssey, imagined a world where religion had been long ago diagnosed as a mental illness - as many conditions where a person denies objective (or if you like, consensus) reality are - and systematically eliminated, though the belief in a God or Gods still remained, as belief in God does not force one to deny reality, since His existence is not provable with reality-based tools. That sounded pretty interesting to me and hopeful; without the burdens of dogma, but still with a belief in something greater than we are yet intimately connected, people could shed so much of what we waste immense time, energy on blood upon.

"Imagine there's no heaven; it's easy if you try."
posted by zoogleplex at 11:18 PM on September 28, 2005


Ha ha ha, I get it. Because there are bees!
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:24 PM on September 28, 2005


Bees?
posted by brownpau at 11:26 PM on September 28, 2005


brownpau Yeah! It makes total sense! The link, I get the joke!
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:35 PM on September 28, 2005


I think the primary problem with the dawkins view and attitude about religion is that it naively envisions culture without religion as if it had been surgically removed, the waste carrying with it all of the malignant delusions and pain brought about because of religion. Sadly, the world is not that simple. Religion is intricately bound with society, and its influence will not decist; not now or ever. The more progress certain groups make against the grip of religion, the more 'natural' arguments of the inevitable extremists sound to the constantly available mass of those uneducated -- those not immunized against the effects of religion.
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:46 PM on September 28, 2005


Viewed from a long term perspective, I think Dawkins is absolutely right about the dangers of religion. He's just as passionately anti-religious as any evangelical christian is pro-religious. If what he says is blunt, it's because it needs to be said again and again forcefully, and there are too few uncompromisingly rational and courageous people like him doing it.

Also, it's silly to denigrate his work and popular writings on biology. His writing is superb. I think "The Blind Watchmaker" is the best popular explanation of evolutionary theory ever, period.
posted by snoktruix at 11:51 PM on September 28, 2005


Beads?!

Points to whoever gets the reference.
posted by Mach3avelli at 12:15 AM on September 29, 2005


Heywood, Jikel: You guys should learn how to argue. Just making a reference to a fallacy isn't the same as a) there actually being a fallacy, or b) refuting the argument*.
Look, you can spend your time thinking that Dawkins is like OMG teh awesomer atheist, or you can realize that this was done better earlier by Russel in "Why I am not a Christian."
Or hey, that his central hackneye was swiped from Marx.
But the central argument that religion is detrimental to humanity (by way of the "addiction") is unsupportable to anyone but ideologues. Which is what makes him a collosal bore.

*Yes, yes, I know that I didn't refute Dawkins. But I didn't try to. I said that his argument is tired and weak, muck like the game you're bringin'. But his is a glib essay and only warrants a glib response.
posted by klangklangston at 12:42 AM on September 29, 2005


the intellectually lazy doth protest too much!

it's not so great for your argument when you criticize someone who considers religion a form of mass insanity by pretty much proving his point. but it sure is fun to watch.
posted by troybob at 12:56 AM on September 29, 2005


stupid
posted by angry modem at 1:02 AM on September 29, 2005


Hey, leave Dawkins alone, he's not the first guy to speak in parables to get his message across.
posted by Joeforking at 1:03 AM on September 29, 2005


I wish there were someone who could act as an effective champion of enlightened secularism, but Dawkins does as much harm as good. This seems like empty rhetoric; it would be easy to write a similar piece about the mind-altering properties of, say, cenesic. It was cenesic addicts who created the aviation technology used by the 9/11 bombers; people high on cenesic who made Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the destruction of the whole world possible; it was Columbus' use of cenesic that allowed the conquistadores to attack South America; cenesic use that is directly behind global warming, etc, etc. Just tub-thumping.
posted by Phanx at 1:13 AM on September 29, 2005


*touches the truth*
*kneels, awestruck*
Oooo. Oil.
posted by paperpete at 1:31 AM on September 29, 2005


Forward, Champions of Enlightened Securarism!

To the barricades!
posted by cleardawn at 1:33 AM on September 29, 2005


The really great thing is Dawkin's own faith in Science, something Mary Midgley talked about quite abit.

Now, a sane person could say that all sentient life, or at least those that we can understand, reach a peak in their intellectual curiosity that demands an explanation of their existence, and their surroundings. Planting religion or scientific dogma into those "spiritual voids" is probably one of the lazy routes. Other lazy thinking could include ideas about "Free Markets", "Western Democracy" and "Fascism."

As a scientist I don't really care why we're here, I also don't care to piss over ideas that have no intellectual authority because they lack empirical evidence. That's just a waste of time.
posted by gsb at 2:03 AM on September 29, 2005


Calling religion a drug is an insult to drugs everywhere. Religion is more like the placebo of the masses.
posted by boaz at 2:32 AM on September 29, 2005


.... by proclaiming that atheism is on its last legs, McGrath turns one of the most burning questions in American culture on its head. When everyone is asking about the growing strength of religion and its political ramifications, we might instead ask, Why is disbelief on the wane?

This review (via aldaily) covers the debate above with some insight.

Kudos for the Mary Midgley reference, btw, her husband was the real heavyweight, a truly great man.
posted by grahamwell at 2:38 AM on September 29, 2005


You know, there are religious asshats, secular asshats, religious saints, and secular saints. For some people, religion is a tool for which to justify their asshattery, for others, it's a mechanism for justifying being kind, even heroic in the face of tremendous injustice.
posted by effugas at 3:02 AM on September 29, 2005


Religions, political parties, and sports as a multi-billion dollar industry should all be abolished.
posted by deusdiabolus at 3:07 AM on September 29, 2005


I have combined the DNA of the world's most evil animals to make the most evil creature of all. It turns out it's man.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:07 AM on September 29, 2005


This thread got me shithammered drunk. Thanks.
posted by loquacious at 3:24 AM on September 29, 2005


I see an awful lot of strawman attacks on Dawkins. Atheists never want to ban religion, they just want it to be seen for what it is. Christianity should be legal for exactly the sam reason that MDMA should be legal. We should not be encouraging people to get into either, but once it happen you gota say live and let live. Evangelical christians by comparison do not say live and let live.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:29 AM on September 29, 2005


Richard Dawkins takes Metaphorazine. He's a real dog.
posted by terpsichoria at 3:34 AM on September 29, 2005


For some people, religion is a tool for which to justify their asshattery, for others, it's a mechanism for justifying being kind, even heroic in the face of tremendous injustice.

Kind and heroic actions stand on their own, they do not need fantasies in order to be justified. It is only asshattery that needs the justification provided by religion in order to exuse its ill-effects.

It will be a wonderful day when religious people realize that the kind and loving portions of their faiths are not dependent upon belief in fantastical superstitions.
posted by jsonic at 3:45 AM on September 29, 2005


It seems that Dawkins is preaching to the converted. As an atheist myself, I can't understand the purpose of the article, because it sure as hell won't convince anyone who doesn't agree with Dawkins' main point to begin with. Dawkins simply ignores the fact that religion has frequently been and still is foundational in what we call civilizations and also that it frequently functions as much needed spiritual support and comfort for actual people's lives. As such it is often much more an endorphine kind of opiate rather than a heroin kind of opiate.

In fact it is useful to compare Marx's original quote regarding the "opium of the people" which is rather more nuanced than Dawkins simple dismissal:
Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

Where it bears mention that, in Marx's time, apart from being an addictive drug, opium was used as a painkiller and a sedative.
posted by talos at 4:00 AM on September 29, 2005


Religion is more like the placebo of the masses.

A gem!
posted by acrobat at 4:20 AM on September 29, 2005


As with many drugs, refined Gerin oil in low doses is largely harmless, and can even serve as a social lubricant on occasions such as marriages, funerals and ceremonies of state. Experts differ over whether such social use, though harmless in itself, is a risk factor for upgrading to harder and more addictive forms of the drug.

Ha!
posted by teppic at 4:29 AM on September 29, 2005


and here I was, searching Froogle for the best deals on Gerin Oil.
posted by poppo at 4:31 AM on September 29, 2005


No you all have it all wrong. Opium is the religion of the masses.
posted by funambulist at 4:33 AM on September 29, 2005


Seriously, there is nothing more tiresome in the world than watching atheists argue with religious believers and viceversa, is there? If there is a third option, I'm all for it.

(Not the debate over the impact of religion and religious dogmas and organisations on society and politics and education and so on - arguing for actual secularism as in wanting to keep religion out of the political sphere, not basing ethics or laws or school programmes on it, and fighting religious brainwashing; it's the arguing over how stupid, how irrational, how illogical it is for individuals to have any inclination towards any religious beliefs in the first place that can get so boring and pointless, as well as smug and pedantic. As if everything humans do should always be entirely rational and based on unassailable scientific evidence and logic to be considered worthy. There goes not only religion but a lot of more fun things in life... )
posted by funambulist at 4:58 AM on September 29, 2005


I see an awful lot of strawman attacks on Dawkins.

Hmm... I see a lot of people saying Dawkins is a bit of a dick, but that's an ad hominem, not a strawman. (For the record: I think Dawkins is a bit of a dick. So.)

It's a dumb essay -- hamfisted, preaching to the faithful. I identify as an atheist*, and I cringe every time I see Dawkins writing on religion. Because he's not only heavy-handed, he's damn near doctrinaire: Religion is bad; religion is a harmful drug; religion makes you stupid; if you wanna be "bright", ditch religion; etc. [Those aren't straw men, btw -- they're oversimiplifications.]

You can see the same stuff in his popular and semi-popular works on science. His dogmatic presentation of "selfish-gene" theory is an intellectually lazy inversion of traditional evolutionary frameworks.

But he's flashy, and arrogant, and a character, and a lot of people look up to flashy arrogant characters.

--
*For some reason, I don't know why it is, but people often seem really determined to prove to atheists that they're not really atheists. For example, most of my friends insist that i'm an agnostic, because I'm not willing to assert that there can't be a god -- only that there can't be a god a la tradtional semitic monotheism.

posted by lodurr at 5:15 AM on September 29, 2005


If there is a third option, I'm all for it.

Amen. I don't know what it is, but maybe we could start with discussion. I'll toss out a proposal: There's no inherent connection between religion and belief in a god (see comments on Clarke's view, up thread).

As I talk with people about their belief in a deity, I very very often find that their beliefs about the deity contradict aspects of their avowed religion. Religions are normally built around the relationship with a deity -- they are ostensibly about mediating that relationship -- but most of them seem to have more to do with organizing social activity than anything else. Maybe a "church without christ" isn't such a bad idea, after all -- get god officially out of them, and religions could get a lot less problematic.
posted by lodurr at 5:21 AM on September 29, 2005


[this is too gay]
posted by ajbattrick at 5:21 AM on September 29, 2005


It's a tired op-ed, and that's not an ad hominem, it's a comment on the substance. Dawkins may or may not be tired, I don't know, but he does seem like a boor in this essay.
posted by OmieWise at 5:23 AM on September 29, 2005


As an atheist, I find this article offensive. And gagglezoomer makes a very good point,

"the primary problem with the dawkins view...is that it
naively envisions culture without religion as if it had
been surgically removed."


The all-or-nothing nature of this article is absurdly simplistic. The argument goes like this:

1. Premise is: drugs are bad, mmm-kay?
2. There is this other thing with similar symptoms.
3. Some of those people have killed lots of people.
4. Case closed, other thing is bad.

I have immensely enjoyed Dawkins' writing on evolution. And his discussion of religion as a meme is inspired. But this...you might as well say hunger has driven people to monstrous acts, so we must all stop eating.
posted by SNACKeR at 5:25 AM on September 29, 2005


Personally, I'm much more a fan of the late Sagan and Asimov whose atheism was driven more by a sense of awe and wonder about the universe than a need to attack religion at every opportunity. Sagan especially was able to talk about what he believed while expressing downright glee that the universe is such an amazing place.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:36 AM on September 29, 2005


" I see a lot of people saying Dawkins is a bit of a dick, but that's an ad hominem,"
It's an ad hominem in the sense that it is an attack of the man, but it's not a fallacy. No one here has said "He's a dick, don't listen to him." Rather, to again simplify, it's been "He's a dick and his ideas on this topic are rote and predictable."
Further, in the original sense of ad hominem fallacies, Dawkins is making one himself. He's making an emotional appeal to atheists based on a "drugs are bad, mkay" model. This isn't a rational debate about religion, it's Dawkins puttering on because he was afraid of being out of the press for a week.
But hey, if we asked who here wants to have a simplistic view of religion, you'd see more MeFite atheists than theists or agnostics ready to wave their metaphorical hands. There are very few of the dogmatic religious here, and there are more than a few of the strident high-school-level atheists.
posted by klangklangston at 5:39 AM on September 29, 2005


What's the opium of the asses?
posted by spazzm at 5:48 AM on September 29, 2005


Is Richard Dawkins still married to that hot chick from Doctor Who?
posted by unreason at 5:56 AM on September 29, 2005


people are quick to spout that cliche' but a lot slower to actually take part in any religion--usually it's atheistically minded people who are so happy about using it.

Personally I find it does a disservice to opium and heroin and that bunch, which are able to end all sorrow and pain immediately, when it's obvious that religion can go a long way to making pain more pronounced, and bringing hell.

Anyway that article is a bit if you'll excuse the juvenile expression gay
posted by nervousfritz at 6:01 AM on September 29, 2005


Gagglezoomer, I think we may be headed to a world without religion. It seems that while the lion's share of people self identify as religious their lives are trivially different from those who identify as non-religious or atheist.

Most "religious" people are willing to work on their sabbath, many people who self identify as religious attend church only occasionally or not at all. While many might claim that the bible is the literal word of god or is literally true, many of these people believe things that run counter to this notion. 300 years ago most art work was religiously themed, now a minority is and of this a large amount is critical of religious orthodoxy or religion itself. Religion used to be the cornerstone of peoples lives now it's just words they wear. It's a dynamic equilibrium and we may be on the upswing now but in 800 years we've become so much less religious who's to say where we'll be in 800 more.
posted by I Foody at 6:02 AM on September 29, 2005


What's a high-school-level atheist?
posted by I Foody at 6:04 AM on September 29, 2005


klangklangston wants a rational debate about religion. heh.
posted by dydecker at 6:09 AM on September 29, 2005


NIGER OIL ?
posted by 31d1 at 6:15 AM on September 29, 2005


I wish there were someone who could act as an effective champion of enlightened secularism, but Dawkins does as much harm as good.

I disagree. I believe that extremists can help the less extreme holders of similar views get their point across. Or I guess you could say the holders of extreme views help to acclimate non-extremists to radical new ideas that may one day not seem so radical.

The linked article is facile, yeah, but whatever. Someone upthread asked (rhetorically?) what the point of it was, and I suspect the point was that some editor asked Dawkins to write X-hundred words and they'd send him a check.
posted by scratch at 6:36 AM on September 29, 2005


Dawkins doesn't like religion. We get it.

No, I don't think you do, because you understate Dawkins' attitude to religion. He, like me, doesn't merely dislike religion. He opposes it actively because he regards it as an evil, and a grotesque, anachronistic blight on humanity.

More power to Dawkins and everyone who has the guts to keep calling religion - in all its vile forms - to account. This, however, is a better attack than the FPP.
posted by Decani at 6:53 AM on September 29, 2005


He, like me, doesn't merely dislike religion. He opposes it actively because he regards it as an evil, and a grotesque, anachronistic blight on humanity.

We know. He's said it a million times before.

everyone who has the guts to keep calling religion - in all its vile forms - to account.

What guts? Dawkins lives in a democratic, free speech oriented society. He's not going to get arrested or punished for the stuff he says. And he certainly doesn't risk alienation. His friends and followers are all athiests too, so they're hardly likely to shun him for condemning religion. The things he says may be true, or they may be false, but they don't take any courage on his part. There's nothing daring about preaching to the choir.
posted by unreason at 7:05 AM on September 29, 2005


What's a high-school-level atheist?

Dawkins.
posted by brownpau at 7:09 AM on September 29, 2005


Heywood, Jikel: You guys should learn how to argue. Just making a reference to a fallacy isn't the same as a) there actually being a fallacy, or b) refuting the argument*.
Look, you can spend your time thinking that Dawkins is like OMG teh awesomer atheist, or you can realize that this was done better earlier by Russel in "Why I am not a Christian." Or hey, that his central hackneye was swiped from Marx.

Uh, yeah, we're fanboys...Don't assume I thought Dawkins was the first to make this argument simply because I happen to agree with him, as I'm sure even millions of stoners have made the very same connection between drugs and god many times before. Anyway, it's not the originality of the message that's being debated here.


But the central argument that religion is detrimental to humanity (by way of the "addiction") is unsupportable to anyone but ideologues. Which is what makes him a collosal bore.

I disagree. I don't think it's so clear, one way or the other, whether humanity would have done better or worse without religion. I suppose if the recent discoveries of a possible genetic dispostion to religion would point to the former, as it's been selected for (?).

*Yes, yes, I know that I didn't refute Dawkins. But I didn't try to. I said that his argument is tired and weak, muck like the game you're bringin'. But his is a glib essay and only warrants a glib response.
posted by klangklangston at 3:42 AM EST on September 29 [!]


Um, my 'game' in this thread basically consisted of agreeing with Dawkins, so I'm not sure that was deserved.

posted by jikel_morten at 7:15 AM on September 29, 2005


munged...sorry.
posted by jikel_morten at 7:20 AM on September 29, 2005


Bleh, that article sucked. And while dawkins didn't come up with calling athiests "brights" he did embrace the idea. He may be smart but he's not much of a polictictian.
posted by delmoi at 7:51 AM on September 29, 2005


This is the guy we have to thank for a million crappy livejournal entries about how deep memes are. His article belongs alongside those time-worn gags about the dangers of dioxy-hydrogen poisoning.

Dawkins is certainly a smart guy, but he carries himself with the same absolute conviction and certainty that makes religious fundamentalism dangerous. I decided a while ago that anyone unable to consider the fact that they may be completely wrong about the things they hold most dear is someone to be watched with a careful eye.
posted by verb at 8:01 AM on September 29, 2005


Calling religion a drug is an insult to drugs everywhere. Religion is more like the placebo of the masses.

That is the wittiest thing I've seen in quite a while. Somebody is channelling Oscar Wilde.

I would argue however that democracy has become the opiate/placebo of the people. It gives people the illusion that they are in control (or have a say) while they are mostly impotent to change the system. The "Freedom of Speech" thing is sheer genius because it allows people to "blow off steam" rather than that steam building up (if repressed) resulting eventually in revolution (REAL CHANGE). You know the formula is working when the people are blamed for getting the leadership they deserve (or the people turning against EACH OTHER in factions *red vs blue* rather than focusing on the real problems - the system and the elected officials actually responsible. Democracy is sheer genius for putting it over on the people and having them actually LIKE it.
posted by spock at 8:05 AM on September 29, 2005


See, there feels like this strange disconnect between the original sentiment and the current anti-religion people who are so often repeating it.

The original sentiment was that religion was the tool of the elite to subjugate the masses. It is a hammer or sword used to keep the masses at bay. Look at it this way. What are the two things you will see in poorer, economically depressed areas of population (not necesarrily rural or any particular racial demographic)? Liquor stores and churches.
Give the conquered their drink so they will forget how poor they are, give them their religion so they can worships their gods as they used to. - anonymous Greek dude.

Other examples exist in non-Western cultures as well (though the studies of said cultures were done by Western academics, so, you know, grains of salt and such).

From here:
In China, a similar situation has prevailed. Emperors used religion to control the Chinese people.

For nearly three thousand years in China, until the abolition of the monarchy in 1911, the emperor was the focus of those ritual activities by which the prosperity and well-being of the whole empire were established from year to year. The ritual was designed to harmonize all human life and activities with the cosmic forces which governed heaven and earth, and, at the same time, constituted an attempt to control the unpredictable elements of human experience.8

Looking for harmony and unity in the midst of change, the Chinese mind long ago developed the idea of China the Beautiful and China as the Middle Kingdom, the center of the world. In its political manifestation, the one who truly knows the Way, the Tao, has the Mandate of Heaven and becomes the Sons of Heaven, the Emperor, to rule over the Middle Kingdom and the Empire. Those who help the Emperor to rule are the spiritual sons of the Emperor, chuntzu or gentlemen. However, if an Emperor misrules his people and loses the Mandate of Heaven, another person may receive a new Mandate, rise up, and become the new Emperor, beginning another dynasty in the series of dynastic cycles. 9

More recently, with the advent of a Communist state, Mao Tse-Tung was for twenty years worshipped and served by the Chinese people.

The constant sense of Mao's presence was oppressive. Each morning, for example, I was awakened by the guards singing, 'The East is red'. This anthem of the Cultural Revolution contains the lines: "China has brought forth a Mao Tse-Tung. He is the people's great savior." 10
His picture was everywhere, and no one else's was. Children and adults sang, acted, and danced to his praise. Every person carried Mao's Thoughts as his Bible. They brainwashed themselves with it. Mao, as a god, controlled his people's religion, thoughts, wills and actions. In a recent issue of Time (9/26/83), the fall of Mao was considered in China: Burnout of a Revolution.; Even here (p. 31,32) it is recognized that Mao ruled all the people through his will alone.

In closing, we note what Mark Hatfield said recently,

Man will always have a god. In communist countries, where the death of God is made a tenet of government belief, the leaders and their dogma are deified so they can be worshipped. Man has an inherent instinct to worship; if God is not the source of his ultimate allegiance, he will then create his own gods. He will worship other people, or his country, or institutions, or money, or power or fame -- and all of these are different ways of worshipping himself.11


But, you know, take that how you want. Either way, the point is that the many can and will be controlled by the few who use the guise of religion to fool, cajole, or otherwise bamboozle to gain power. End of story. Repeat ad infinium.


NEXT!!!!
posted by daq at 8:10 AM on September 29, 2005


klangklangston: But the central argument that religion is detrimental to humanity (by way of the "addiction") is unsupportable to anyone but ideologues. Which is what makes him a collosal bore.


Well, Russell, whom you mention approvingly, makes the argument that religion is detrimental to society in Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, and elsewhere. Does he count as an ideologue? Or do you just use that term for anyone who supports a thesis you don't happen to agree with?

As for Dawkins, I agree with what verb said. Certainty is the problem, not belief per se.
posted by wheat at 8:12 AM on September 29, 2005


In my opinion, the mistake that scientists like Dawkins make is forgetting that science works well when it is providing us with questions, not answers. Ideally, I think religion works the same way.
posted by mikeh at 8:30 AM on September 29, 2005


I decided a while ago that anyone unable to consider the fact that they may be completely wrong about the things they hold most dear is someone to be watched with a careful eye.

I decided a while ago that it is perfectly reasonable to continue to believe you're not wrong when your opponent:

a) is merely pushing palpable and shamelessly unsupported superstition and emotionally-based nonsense.

b) doesn't provide actual arguments against your position, but rather resorts to tactics amounting to little more than, "Oh I don't like your position and I like the fact that you hold to it so strongly even less and therefore you're no better than the people you oppose because I say so".

Emotional and thoroughly unfounded poor-loser whining such as that leaves out the minor detail that the thing being opposed (religious belief) has precisely NO good arguments in favour of it representing truth. In a transparent attempt to smokescreen this uncomfortable fact, apologists for religious superstition tend to fall back on such fallacious garbage as "Well, MLK and Gandhi were religious and they were really nice guys". Yes, and global warming wasn't a problem when we had more pirates. I think we have more than enough indicators to suggest that the likes of MLK and Gandhi were good people in spite of their unfortunate superstitious beliefs, not because of them. But in any case such observations say nothing about whether religious belief is valid or not.

Religion is patent bullshit and it is dangerous because it seeks to make the wildly irrational not only acceptable within society but respected. This is quite obviously and inherently detrimental to any society which wishes to base its fundamental tenets on rational concepts and a clear-eyed, fair-minded view of perceived reality.
posted by Decani at 8:46 AM on September 29, 2005


"Rely not on the teacher, but on the teaching. Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the
spirit of the words. Rely not on theory, but on experience.Do not believe in anything simply because you
have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do
not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is
written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and
elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is
conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:58 AM on September 29, 2005


verb: This is the guy we have to thank for a million crappy livejournal entries about how deep memes are. His article belongs alongside those time-worn gags about the dangers of dioxy-hydrogen poisoning.

I find memetics regrettable because it means that a great writer of science and a good biologist is known by what will probably end up to be his worst theory. The fact that genes in a population and ideas in a culture are both information, does not mean you can willy nilly adapt quantitative genetic theories to cultural transmission of ideas. But then again, Hoyle will probably always be better known for panspermia than isotope synthesis in stars.

I caught this the first time around several months ago in his monthly collumn for Free Inquiry. I find reading him frustrating because he seem to be a one-trick pony where this is concerned.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:04 AM on September 29, 2005


Decani,

I think you're missing the point. You can believe someone else is wrong, that's fine. But unless you are willing to grapple with the fact that you may be incorrect in your belief, and behave accordingly, I will continue to group you with those same religious fundamentalists.

Dawkins turns the tools of rhetoric and logic on the concept of 'faith' and 'belief.' He's good at it, in the sense that he's a fair writer and an intelligent guy. The same tools have been used by religious apologists, though, to explain why communism is inherently evil, why atheism begets societal breakdown, and so on and so forth. The rhetorical sword Dawkins is using cuts both ways, and in all of his writing he seems unwilling to admit that fact.

A good example is the whole memetics craze. Enthusiastic Wired readers ran with it, excited to explain religion away as nothing more than a self-supporting network of memes. They tended to ignore the fact that democracy, science, community, ethics, and so on are intellectual constructs -- meme complexes -- subject to the same dismissive analysis.

Anyways, I had my Dawkins phase and it was interesting, but he wears out his welcome fast. 'Religion' as a monolithic concept is like 'Culture.' If you're unwilling to deal with the specifics, and fall back on the sorts of sweeping generalizations Dawkins hints at in the article, you're not going to solve any of the problems that religious beliefs cause, either.
posted by verb at 9:05 AM on September 29, 2005


KirkJobSluder: I find memetics regrettable because it means that a great writer of science and a good biologist is known by what will probably end up to be his worst theory. The fact that genes in a population and ideas in a culture are both information, does not mean you can willy nilly adapt quantitative genetic theories to cultural transmission of ideas.

This is true. That said, memetics is interesting -- as a way of talking about and looking at beliefs and information. It's a framework for discussion, a tool like a mercator projection. The problem comes when people pick up their shiny new philosophical hammer and suddenly every discussion looks like a nail. Dawkins himself is less guilty of this than the folks who ran with it. I was one of them for a while. Then I realized 'meme' was a 'meme,' and the snake ate itself.
posted by verb at 9:09 AM on September 29, 2005


verb: Anyways, I had my Dawkins phase and it was interesting, but he wears out his welcome fast. 'Religion' as a monolithic concept is like 'Culture.' If you're unwilling to deal with the specifics, and fall back on the sorts of sweeping generalizations Dawkins hints at in the article, you're not going to solve any of the problems that religious beliefs cause, either.

Heh, while we are bashing/critiquing Dawkins, one of my irritations with him is that he tries to question Darwinian origins of "Religion" while ignoring the problem that even most religions define "Religion" as quite a bit more complex than Dawkin's does. For example, both Christianity and Buddhism describe religion as a combination of community, belief, and practice. As a result, most of his critiques of religion tend to fall short. I suspect this is because Dawkins uses the hammer of genetics to try to explain away social phenomena without getting his hands dirty with sociology and social psychology. Another book I was reading a while ago about mass extinction events pointed out that this kind of science imperialism where a "hard" scientist claims authority over another domain is not uncommon.

This is true. That said, memetics is interesting -- as a way of talking about and looking at beliefs and information. It's a framework for discussion, a tool like a mercator projection. The problem comes when people pick up their shiny new philosophical hammer and suddenly every discussion looks like a nail. Dawkins himself is less guilty of this than the folks who ran with it. I was one of them for a while. Then I realized 'meme' was a 'meme,' and the snake ate itself.

Well, as someone who tries to make his bread and butter on the transmission of ideas, I don't find it very interesting, primarily because there are plenty of more robust tools and frameworks out there. One huge wopping flaw in memetics is that there is no clear definition of a meme or how to identify it, which semiotics does very well. Cognitive Psychology research into memory covers the problem of persistance and mutation (especially work by Loftus). There is an extremely robust theory of diffusion of innovations backed by field research.

The fact that memetics is also a meme really isn't a problem, and is something that seems to be admitted by advocates of memetics, since memetics says nothing about the objective truth or falsehood of a given theory.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:31 AM on September 29, 2005


it's not gerin oil that is the problem here ... the real problem is that people use the fear of death against each other ... many of the examples dawkins cites involve one person using the fear of death against another

if everyone in the world became an atheist tomorrow, would this fear lessen or increase? ... how would this problem be solved?

dawkins is pointing at the symptom ... but he's missed the disease

and monju_bosatsu ... very clever
posted by pyramid termite at 9:39 AM on September 29, 2005


Decani said much of what i would say better that i would say it.

Atheists never want to ban religion, they just want it to be seen for what it is.

I disagree. I reached my breaking point with religious bullshit long ago, and I encourage its downfall in all forms. I want to see its followers exposed as cultists, and I want to see churches burned down. I used to be one of those people who was like 'i don't believe it myself, but i respect those who do.' But really, to me it's tantamount to saying 'i'm not a racist, but i respect those who are.' Say what you want about where it has gotten us (and i can admit that religion has had some positive effects on our historical progress, the same way i can admit that racism and slavery have benefited the economic development of the US), but tolerating it is a disservice to the advancement of human civilization. What people consider its positive psychological/sociological effects can be achieved by more honest means, particularly now that we should know better.

There are very few of the dogmatic religious here, and there are more than a few of the strident high-school-level atheists.

I love this part of the argument, because it assumes that someone who spends a lifetime in the study of a complex, enduring, and self-protecting form of mythology are somehow more informed than someone who realizes at a young age that religion is a set of fairy tales for people who don't want to grow up.
posted by troybob at 9:41 AM on September 29, 2005


What a clever guy. Using an anagram as a springboard for a 1,000 word essay that makes the exact same claim Karl Marx made 150 years ago, except that Marx only needed seven words.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:43 AM on September 29, 2005


I want to see its followers exposed as cultists, and I want to see churches burned down.

And the civil liberties award goes to ... troybob!
posted by pardonyou? at 9:46 AM on September 29, 2005


"I disagree. I don't think it's so clear, one way or the other, whether humanity would have done better or worse without religion. I suppose if the recent discoveries of a possible genetic disposition to religion would point to the former, as it's been selected for (?)."
Um. We don't actually disagree. The point which I disagree with Dawkins on is that he can show proof that life is worse for religion. I believe that his thesis is only supportable by people who agree with him on his fundamental claim. It is, in fact, begging the question.

Wheat: Yes, Russell was an ideologue on religion. While I speak of him admiringly, that's because his arguments are well constructed and cogent, and I think that he's done a better job of coming up with coherent opposition to religion than anyone that I've read before or since. That said, I still disagree with him on some fundamental assumptions that he makes and I disagree with him on some of his dismissals of opposing points (if I was home, I'd look around for my self-annotated copy of his works, but I'm not so I'm not going to talk about specific arguments).

And finally, the continually resurrected argument that irrationality is somehow harmful for humanity, and because of that religion should be stomped out, is both fundamentally opposed to the nature of humanity and totally unsupportable in any sort of real sense. Every act of humor or of art or of religion has at its base a bit of irrationality, a bit of absurdity. This screeching screed of Dawkins shows what a world without the glimmering bit of absurdity: a turgid attempt at humor through hackneyed cliche and a weak anagram.

"but tolerating it is a disservice to the advancement of human civilization."
Oh, and spare me your pseudo-scientific bile. More than anything, the allocation of capital is what decides which part of humanity advances. I have no more interest in your Brave New World than I do in being Left Behind.
Religion, like science, like money, is itself morally neutral. Its ethics should be judged based on what each individual instance accomplishes, not on whatever bullshit you think is clever to propound upon.
posted by klangklangston at 9:57 AM on September 29, 2005


[shakes head] And people wonder why I'm reluctant to say in public that I'm an atheist...

klangstonklangston: Dawkins claim about whether life would be better without religion does stand or fall on evidence, yes; but I don't see any reason why he couldn't provide that evidence. Now, if he would just actually do so...

But you have a point about teh irrational: It's foolish to imagine that we could be human (as we understand humanity) without it, and Dawkins would almost certainly admit as much over beers, and indeed implies as much every time he engages in (what he takes to be) clever word-play. "Bright"-ism was all about a species of "irrationality" -- which is to say, all about in-group formation. Or market dominance, if you will (i.e., "brights" would control market resources better as a group).
posted by lodurr at 10:09 AM on September 29, 2005


THE VAGARIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
posted by homunculus at 10:13 AM on September 29, 2005


What is neat about indulging in irrationality is found in its comparison to and juxtaposition with a dominant rational framework. When the foundation/framework itself is completely irrational, rationality cannot be reliably determined.
posted by troybob at 10:15 AM on September 29, 2005


klangklangston: And finally, the continually resurrected argument that irrationality is somehow harmful for humanity, and because of that religion should be stomped out, is both fundamentally opposed to the nature of humanity and totally unsupportable in any sort of real sense.

Well, there is irrationality and irrationality. I don't think the problem with religion is just because it is irrational. Feeling good when we look at a Monet, or listen to Dvorak is irrational. The difference is that people don't usually claim that a love of Monet should be the central force for deciding questions in cosmology, ethics, or politics. The problem with religion is that it tends to trump rational decision making on issues like the origins of the current diversity of life on Earth.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:34 AM on September 29, 2005


And the civil liberties award goes to ... troybob!

Heh, and also the UNESCO World Heritage award!

religion is a set of fairy tales for people who don't want to grow up

Ok then that settles it, everyone is religious.
posted by funambulist at 10:41 AM on September 29, 2005


pardonyou?: What a clever guy. Using an anagram as a springboard for a 1,000 word essay that makes the exact same claim Karl Marx made 150 years ago, except that Marx only needed seven words.

Well, writing for the magazine market these days is a lot more competitive.

Also, I thought the trend of dissing an anagram of your opponent was a trend that died around the time Marx did. What's next? The rebirth of the petticoat?

Dawkins is a smart guy, but this is just stupid.
posted by Coda at 10:43 AM on September 29, 2005


Well, actually Marx used quite a bit more than 7 words. It is also a pet peeve of mine as it is frequently interpreted in a way that is problematic out of context. In recent years, I think that the John Watson "dozen healthy infants" line is starting to rival Marx's opiate with Pinker spending almost an entire chapter on the first half of the passage with only a passing nod to the second.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:54 AM on September 29, 2005


KJS, interesting, but even after reading the whole passage, I still think the oft-repeated quote is representative of the point Marx was trying to make. And certainly tracks the point Dawkins was making with a sledgehammer.
posted by pardonyou? at 11:16 AM on September 29, 2005


Great read, homunculus. Every report on "intelligent" design should include that position:

When people look out on the natural world and declare that there must be a God because all of this could surely not have happened by chance, they are not overestimating the orderly complexity of nature. Rather, they are underestimating the power of chance to produce it.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:16 AM on September 29, 2005


While watching HBO's Rome, I was struck by the idea that polytheism is much more attractive to me (as an atheist) than monotheism. It is the concentrated fanaticism of monotheism that creates so many problems-- all the atrocities done in the name of the Sun God or Allah or Jesus. By giving people many different gods to worship, I think you dilute the passion and lessen the chances of blind worship.

Which is not to say that nothing bad has ever been done in the name of Vishnu, but it seems as all the examples I can think of off the top of my head of polytheistic religious persecutions are on a much smaller scale.

To take one tiny example, while Rome was still polytheistic, there wasn't a great passion to convert other cultures. But once the Christians were running the show, it was a different story. All peoples under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire were forced to convert or be killed.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:35 AM on September 29, 2005


Kirk: The fact that memetics is also a meme really isn't a problem, and is something that seems to be admitted by advocates of memetics, since memetics says nothing about the objective truth or falsehood of a given theory.

Oh, I agree. I just spent some time around the lazy memetics devotees who'd read about it in Wired and thought that 'explaining how X is a meme' means you've rhetorically defeated an idea, and 'proven' that it's dangerous. "It's a mind virus!" and all that.

I find THAT a lot more tiring than the idea of memes as a whole. And you're right -- semiotics is a much more complex discipline that tackles genuinely hard questions about the nature of communication. 'Meme', I guess, is a trendy way of saying, 'Anything you can think, say, or recognize.'
posted by verb at 11:36 AM on September 29, 2005


"The problem with religion is that it tends to trump rational decision making on issues like the origins of the current diversity of life on Earth."
Well, yeah. I have no problem saying that religion should be wholly irrelevant to questions like "How did man come to be?" since religion, at its core, requires a rotted rung in its ladder, namely that you can't base anything on your faith in God and have that translate into a universal in the language of reason.
posted by klangklangston at 11:53 AM on September 29, 2005


wheat, thanks much for the links to Bertrand Russell. I'd not read any of that before, and I think his writings on the subject are most excelllent.

However, despite his marvelous erudition, I'm betting that back when he wrote them, people considered them just as snarky and arrogant as people today consider Dawkins, as is shown in this thread.

This one statement of Russell's is, IMO, absolutely true and valid:

"There is no rational ground of any sort or kind in keeping a child ignorant of anything that he may wish to know, whether on sex or on any other matter. And we shall never get a sane population until this fact is recognized in early education, which is impossible so long as the churches are able to control educational politics."

posted by zoogleplex at 12:05 PM on September 29, 2005


Zoogle: No, actually, people tended to dismiss Russell because he was extremely patrician. You know, things like demanding that Disraeli talk to him at his kitchen table when he was eight years old or so. Russell was very much regarded as someone who was a harmless aristocratic liberal crank for most of his life, outside of the linguistics and mathematical communities who rightly revered him.
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 PM on September 29, 2005


Well, it doesn't change the power of his words in these articles, at least not for me. He makes quite a lot of sense.

From your description, I think the regard for Dawkins vs. Russell sounds at least analogous, if not more consonant than that, allowing for the overall difference in attitudes from that time to ours.

Good post though, very interesting and pretty good discussion so far.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:33 PM on September 29, 2005


Doesn't do it for me.


There are reasons to oppose religion, but I don’t see valid reasoning here.

One can accuse money of the same evils and detriments to humanity. Indeed any idea as centralizing force is subject to the same criticism.

Certain elements and ideas in and of religion are useful and/or valid.
There are reasons to release psychic energy and passion this way for the same physical reasons it is good for your prostate to masturbate now and then.

I also dislike the focus on Christianity. I suspect it might be harder to mount an attack on, say, Buddhism, Jainism, or any of the more pacifist centered religions.

I like the Doug Adams quote from the other piece though. I would agree that the reason we treat religious ideas with kid gloves as opposed to other principles around which people have organized is that religious folks get very upset, perhaps even violent, when you don’t.

That, I’d agree, must be eliminated.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:23 PM on September 29, 2005


to clarify: the kid glove treatment as well as the reaction due to attachment. I don't think any concept or set of concepts are beyond reconsideration.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:24 PM on September 29, 2005


Pathetic.
posted by shockingbluamp at 1:45 PM on September 29, 2005


“namely that you can't base anything on your faith in God and have that translate into a universal in the language of reason.”

Is truth then analytic?
(I don’t mean to kick you in the Monads here, but on that particular point I’m a Spinozan)
posted by Smedleyman at 1:48 PM on September 29, 2005


I enjoyed the story. Good link. We live in religious times so good luck to anyone who's prepared to speak out. Dawkins does it so eloquently - and at some personal cost (he's not holding his breath for a Knighthood).

And, yes, he's still married to that hot chick from Dr Who.
posted by bobbyelliott at 2:18 PM on September 29, 2005


I suspect it might be harder to mount an attack on, say, Buddhism, Jainism, or any of the more pacifist centered religions.


Smedleyman: Definitely hard to make the same case against Buddhism--particularly since, at its core, Buddhism is atheistic (in the sense that the Buddhist cosmology does not posit a creator diety; instead, the Buddhist world is a product of "conditional arisal"--basically the operation of the laws of cause and effect, along with certain karmic components). Of course, in its openness to any spiritual path with the potential to alleviate human suffering (and its embrace of the principle of "skillful means"), Buddhist tradition in practice assimilates pretty much whatever local religious traditions happen to be lying around, with the implicit understanding that the traditional dieties are just aspects of the conditional and illusory everyday world of Samsara. This last bit goes the previous point about the utility of diluting the passions through belief in various symbolic deities, as found in many pantheistic cultures. Anyway, yeah. Unfair generalizations suck whether espoused by the spiritually or the secularly minded.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 3:00 PM on September 29, 2005




The problem with the argument is that it presupposes that an atheistic society would be more enlightened and benign. But history has surely proven the opposite - Stalin and Pol Pot lead the most muderous regimes in recent history. And what about Nazi scientists. Etc...

Religious belief is also no barrier to being a scientist. Newton, who many would claim as the greatest scientific mind to ever live was quite a Christian zealot. And Reverend Occam (or Ockham). The list is endless.

While not very religious myself, some of the best and brightest people I have ever known were deeply religious people. So imho, dawkins is not only a smug prick, but illogical as well.
posted by vronsky at 3:42 PM on September 29, 2005


While not very religious myself, some of the best and brightest people I have ever known were deeply religious

You are confusing intelligence with narcissism.
posted by bobbyelliott at 4:08 PM on September 29, 2005


This is like the time that my 9th grade world history teacher (What up, Gruber?) asked us to read an article about the Nacirema.
posted by LiliaNic at 5:10 PM on September 29, 2005


Excellent response all-seeing eye dog.

Dude, he's married to Lalla Ward?


...well, hell.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:47 PM on September 29, 2005


klangklangston: the continually resurrected argument that irrationality is somehow harmful for humanity, and because of that religion should be stomped out, is both fundamentally opposed to the nature of humanity and totally unsupportable in any sort of real sense. Every act of humor or of art or of religion has at its base a bit of irrationality, a bit of absurdity.

This is a good point, and one that I rarely contemplate. Sometimes Russell and Dawkins can come off so strongly the enemy of any irrationality. While more rationality would certainly be a good thing, they both seem to dream of a utopian world where all decisions will be thoroughly rational. Utopian visions tend to play out far better on paper than in real life.

I've never read much Dawkins. But Russell had a big impact on me. When I need a good dose of rationalism/skepticism to clean out my head from all the "faith based" crap that circulates, I turn to Russell.
posted by wheat at 6:13 PM on September 29, 2005


Folks, Dawkins' piece is not an apologia for atheism intended to convert the Saved: it is a polemic, clever (if somewhat self-congratulatory) rhetoric for the amusement of the like-minded, first published in "Free Inquiry" magazine--not exactly the house organ of the Knights of Columbus. For example, anyone not of a rightist bent who reads Ann Coulter finds her rhetoric nauseating; the already-converted lap it up.

Not surprisingly, the comments here reflect the same split of opinion. Those who fancy themselves religious detest Dawkins, who gleefully and unapologetically shits on their personal prejudices. In contrast, those who have the wit to recognize that the varieties of religious experience have motivated mankind to fill its charnel houses for millenia find him amusing, especially because he shits on the personal prejudices of the credulous. And he's married to Lalla Ward. . .
posted by rdone at 6:18 PM on September 29, 2005


If Dawkins keeps it this he may reach Swiftian proportions.
posted by troutfishing at 8:56 PM on September 29, 2005


I don't know, I think the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory achieves the clever polemic result with a lot more humour and originality.
posted by funambulist at 5:58 AM on September 30, 2005


rdone writes "Those who fancy themselves religious detest Dawkins, who gleefully and unapologetically shits on their personal prejudices. In contrast, those who have the wit to recognize that the varieties of religious experience have motivated mankind to fill its charnel houses for millenia find him amusing,"

I'm not religious, and I found the article heavy-handed and boring, boorish as well. The distinction I'd prefer is between those whose adherence to either of your sides has so eroded their critical faculties that any salvo that supports their opinions counts as good; and those for whom a bit more in the way of actual, like, quality is required.

troutfishing writes "If Dawkins keeps it this he may reach Swiftian proportions."

The tragedy is in how unlike Swift Dawkins is, either as a thinker (although I respect his ideas) or as a writer. (And of course Swift was a priest.)
posted by OmieWise at 6:12 AM on September 30, 2005


"Those who fancy themselves religious detest Dawkins, who gleefully and unapologetically shits on their personal prejudices."
Bzzzzt. I'm about as areligious as they come, chief. Maybe if you didn't see everything through a partisan lens based on your faith, Dawkins wouldn't appeal to you.
posted by klangklangston at 6:28 AM on September 30, 2005


"Those who fancy themselves religious detest Dawkins, who gleefully and unapologetically shits on their personal prejudices."

Bzzzzt. I'm about as areligious as they come, chief. Maybe if you didn't see everything through a partisan lens based on your faith, Dawkins wouldn't appeal to you.

Same here for this agnostic/"soft" athiest. I'm just offended by tortured metaphors trying to make points made better centuries ago.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:54 AM on September 30, 2005


Every act of humor or of art or of religion has at its base a bit of irrationality, a bit of absurdity.

Um, the idea that Dawkins himself is opposed to these forms of irrationality is odd. One of his best friends was Douglas Adams, who was not noted for his strict adherence to rational logic in his writing. Dawkins is rather opposed to the more pernicious forms of irrationality, creationism for example, which represent stubborn and aggressive insistence in the face of mounds of evidence presented by reasonable and polite people.
posted by snoktruix at 9:59 AM on September 30, 2005


Snok: But Creationism != Religion. When he applies his broad brush, he's not making cogent points against creationism, he's being a juvenile ass.
posted by klangklangston at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2005


Can we just delete this post completely and forget it ever happened? It's been nothing but trouble.
posted by deusdiabolus at 12:21 PM on September 30, 2005


Now this shit is funny: Intelligent Design courtesy of The New Yorker.
Day No. 4:

“One word,” said the Lord God. “Landscaping. But I want it to look natural, as if it all somehow just happened.”

“Do rain forests,” suggested a primitive tribal god, who was known only as a clicking noise.

“Rain forests here,” decreed the Lord God. “And deserts there. For a spa feeling.”

“Which is fresh, but let’s give it glow,” said Buddha. “Polished stones and bamboo, with a soothing trickle of something.”

“I know where you’re going,” said the Lord God. “But why am I seeing scented candles and a signature body wash?”

“Shut up,” said Buddha.

“You shut up,” said the Lord God.

“It’s all about the mix,” Allah declared in a calming voice. “Now let’s look at some swatches.”
posted by OmieWise at 12:34 PM on September 30, 2005


I'd be doing my moniker a disservice if I didn't point out that a belief doesn't have to be true to be useful and valuable. Indeed it's quite possible that if we were all honest and rational, we'd commit mass suicide and spare the planet from our collective bad manners.
posted by Bokononist at 5:54 PM on September 30, 2005


Calling religion a drug is an insult to drugs everywhere. Religion is more like the placebo of the masses.

Worth logging back in just to make a non-remark!
posted by lkc at 8:07 PM on September 30, 2005


Church of Metafilter, anyone? Seriously, this is juvenile. I will also never cease to be amazed at the utter hubris of the repeated assertions that religion is no more than a lack of education.
posted by blue shadows at 4:51 PM on October 1, 2005


When considering how intelligent people can be deists, never forget that humans themselves created philosophical logic and rationality as a way of artificially limiting inborn human irrationality for specific useful scientific ends. Therefore it's no surprise that intelligent humans can believe, and wish to believe, in a god.

Not sure if that came out right.

I don't feel comfortable with criteria for labelling me agnostic or atheist being narrowed to only include criticism of the logical arguments I employ. Judged in absolute logical terms, no argument or evidence can conclusively prove existence / non-existence of god / evolution. (Note that I said absolute logical terms there.) But on that basis I'd be judged to be agnostic. I'm not. I prefer that the balance of my feelings be included, and that makes me squarely atheist.

Stretching awareness a bit wider, it's something of a cosmic accident that we are having this worldwide argument between religion and science at a time when our development of evidence is still in its infancy. Also a cosmic accident that at a particular time in the past, there was a Newton, a Darwin, etc.

Burning of churches? I'd happily kill anyone who felt that should be done, well before they got to a position of national power. Why? Because I love my architecture. Not to mention my art history, Bach, Messiaen, etc. etc. Not to mention loving my freedom of thought.

If am organised and influential religion withers or fragments, however, let it, and look on contentedly - but not happily, for the sake of the poor disillusioned unfortunates it leaves in its wake. (Cf. Scientology, and its ruined ex-followers.)
posted by paperpete at 6:27 PM on October 1, 2005


bokononist: .... it's quite possible that if we were all honest and rational, we'd commit mass suicide and spare the planet from our collective bad manners

paperpete: But on that basis I'd be judged to be agnostic. I'm not. I prefer that the balance of my feelings be included, and that makes me squarely atheist.

[sigh /] All the best stuff had to wait until no one was reading the thread anymore. Oh, well.

deusdiabolis: Can we just delete this post completely and forget it ever happened? It's been nothing but trouble.

Only if you don't read through 'til the end. Anyway, anyone who's been reading this site for more than a year has definitely seen far, far worse.
posted by lodurr at 1:26 PM on October 4, 2005


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