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October 25, 2007

Winning Hearts and Minds

Over at Townhall, Dinesh D'Souza has compiled some rather candid (and disturbing) statements from members of the anti-religion camp. Included is the, by now, well-known prattle of Dennett, Dawkins, et al. about the danger of religion, the child abuse of religious indoctrination, and the mental illness of religious faith. Given this, the responsible thing to do is to eradicate religion from society. But how?

The answer is simple: through indoctrination in the schools. In his book Breaking the Spell, Dennett urges that schools teach religion as a purely natural phenomenon. By this he means that religion should be taught as if it were untrue. Dennett argues that religion is like sports or cancer, "a human phenomenon composed of events, organisms, objects, structures, patterns." By studying religion on the premise that there is no supernatural truth underlying it, Dennett argues that young people will come to accept religion as a social creation pointing to nothing higher than human hopes and aspirations.

Using his own line of reasoning, someone ought to tell Mr. Dennett that his belief in Darwinism is “purely a natural phenomenon” and, thus, “should be taught as if it were untrue.”

Sam Harris insists that atheism “be taught as a mere extension of science and logic. ‘Atheism is not a philosophy. It is not even a view of the world. It is simply an admission of the obvious....Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.’"

They are a noisy bunch indeed! As to reasonable, well…how many just-so fables can a person embrace before becoming a “useful idiot” of ideology?

As to the rights and responsibilities of parents, psychologist Nicholas Humphrey touts, "Parents have no god-given license to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children's knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith." And yet, impersonal social institutions like the NEA and NSF have the right limit your child’s exposure to the "straight and narrow paths of their [materialistic] faith”? Amazing!

But the prize for the most candid strategy surely goes to Richard Rorty, who argues that


secular professors in the universities ought "to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own." Rorty noted that students are fortunate to find themselves under the control "of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents." Indeed, parents who send their children to college should recognize that as professors "we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable."

Imagine, a whole generation of clones conditioned by the one-man Ministry of (de-constructed) Truth himself, Richard Rorty. And I thought 1984 was scary.

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I heard a speaker on Sunday, Lee Stroebel who told us he grew up and learned the social culture that there was no one greater than yourself. He explained that he had to prove that God was God and Jesus was the Son of God. He did that through very scientific and logical evidences and proved to himself that Jesus was the son of God, he was crucified, died, buried and rose again from the dead on the third day. He accepted Jesus as his savior. If an atheist can convert and live a much happier life than he was as a non-believer, why shouldn't everyone have the same opportunity. He was a very unhappy atheist but became a very happy believer. He doesn't describe his life as a believer as Rorty's,"Parents have no god-given license to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children's knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith." In fact, his child was happier that her father had found faith and changed his life.

Jason Taylor

Are people who grow up believing there is no one greater then themselves allowed to tell their professor who told them this to shut up?

Steve Skeete

Atheists are interesting people.

Imagine a person who believes something does not exists yet fights against that something every day of his/her life. Or a person who believes something does not exists yet spends hours, months, years even, writing books, making films, totally absorbed in the struggle against this something.

And these are the smart people with numerous degrees and prestige.

I do not believe in ghosts and there is no possible way that I would enter into a debate with someone who does. Neither would I write books, make films, nor preach "sermons" denouncing ghosts or those who believe in them. Except of course I could make money doing so, and get on someone's best-sellers' list.

If God does not exist, then forget about him/her, humour those who believe and get on with your life.

But not so for these smart people. Maybe being smart is not all it's cracked up to be.

Or maybe there is something these atheistic Don Quixotes are not telling us.

Regis Nicoll

Steve--Great observation. It may surprise some to know that even Sigmund Freud falls into this camp. Supposedly Freud, like so many of those today, settled the question of God as a young man, yet throughout his life he remained preoccupied with it. Even the subject of Freud’s last book, "Moses and Monotheism," reveals that the question may not have been as settled as Freud would lead us to believe.

Our spiritual yearning is a pesky thing. It can be denied and ignored, but it is there, always there, gnawing away to be fed and filled.

Jason Taylor

Actually Regis, you and Skete are being unfair. The reason you don't worry that people believe in ghosts is that you cannot see how that belief is formidable for it to be of any importance whether someone does.

For instance:

I do not believe the bourgeious, capitalist, imperialist class is by nature exploitive and must and shall necessarily be removed through armed struggle. However I think that belief of importance and do not think it irrational that some would devote their lives to fighting against it.

I also do not believe that leprechans come out at night and dance around small hills. However I think that a rather charming believe and would certainly think it irrational to devote ones life to fighting against that belief.

I disagree with both propositions obviously. But I think the second harmless and the first, far from harmless.
So the fact that atheists make a fuss shows that they also at least acknowledge that the question is important.

Regis Nicoll

Jason--you're correct that atheists believe that the question of God is important. It is important because the Cosmic Intruder is the only thing that stands between them and the free expression of their desires which, according to the thought popularized by Maslow--is the gateway to self-actualization. And that makes God a very dangerous idea, indeed. So dangerous that it must be eradicated from every crevice of the human conscience!

Jason Taylor

To be fair, looked at from a certain point of view the idea sounds scary.

The stereotype atheists give is something like

A. The universe is ruled by a "cosmic Czar"

or B. People who think A. are unpredictable because anyone who can appeal to A. can convince them to do something horrible.

I have sometimes been afraid that A is true. And I know perfectly well that B does happen. So I can see why someone else would fear it.

Furthermore some atheists believe what they say is true and that honesty compells them to seek after the truth. Yes I know the answer is "why should they be honest" if they don't believe in God? The answer to that is that everyone who has a conscience at all always ends up with a "just because" when he asks that question and there is no reason why an atheist shouldn't say "just because" as well.

some atheists are sometimes very unchivalrous in debate. And that can be very annoying. But it is no reason why we should be. While all you say of atheists is true of some atheists(statistically, the probability is that it is true of SOME), it is unnecessary to assume that to be true of all. We are called to reflect Christ and being generous in debate is one way of doing so.

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