Science and Atheism

One of my greatest problems with atheists – in fact, probably my single greatest problem with atheists – is that for a bunch of people who make a lot of noise about being scientific, but tend to fall rather short of that not terribly elusive state. Let me show what I mean.
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Battling Fundamentalisms

I have on occasion likened the extreme assurance that certain high profile atheists seem to feel about the rightness of their beliefs to the fundamentalism of many of those on the more theist side of the equation. And I make no apology for the fact that I probably spend more time arguing against atheists than theists here – in fact, I regard that as a major part of this series of posts.

But there’s a limit to that. The differences between atheist fundamentalism and theist fundamentalism are somewhat more significant than the differences between, for example facist totalitarianism and communist totalitarianism. For instance, of these four ideologies, atheist fundamentalism has by far the best human rights record.
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Decision-Making

The most common characterisation of agnostics that I’ve come across, from both theists and atheists, is that agnostics are simply indecisive. (Rather amusingly, Richard Dawkins mentions this in “The God Delusion” – it seems that this is the one part of the Christian dogma he was taught in school that he has inexplicably failed to subject to his normal heroic scorn.) There is an overall sense that agnostics are somehow weak-willed, pusillanimous folk who really just need to show some backbone.

As if standing up to this pressure from both sides to make a decision – any decision being better than none, apparently – did not require considerable backbone.

We’re all familiar with managers and politicians who need to be seen to be making decisions, leading to an endless and pointless stream of changed decisions. The usual cure proposed is that they should make up their minds once and for all. (The idea that persisting in an error might well be worse than not making a decision – Iraq, anyone? – seems just a foreign.)

Let me ask you something: Why?

Why is it so important to make a decision, now, today, before all the facts are in? Generally speaking, in this life, anyone who wants you to do that is selling something – and hiding some nasty surprises in the small print. That’s what I would assume about any salesman or politician who tried to it on – why should I assume any differently just ‘cos it’s a preacher talking?

But let’s assume good faith (so to speak) on the part of those pushing us to make this decision.

I think they suffer from a failure of the imagination.

They don’t seem able to see that there might be more information on which to base decisions later on. They don’t want to admit that there will probably be more options to choose among if the decision is delayed (despite the fact that even the most cursory glance at religious history will show that there will most likely be some new splinter faith formed in the next five minutes or so).

Most insultingly, they don’t seem willing to acknowledge that choosing not to choose is a valid (or in extreme cases of this narrow-mindedness, a possible) choice.

On The Busses

It is both pleasing and infuriating to me that today, in a number of UK cities, busses carrying a variety of self-proclaimed ‘atheist’ slogans are out doing the rounds.  You can read atheists patting themselves on the back about it all over.

And to be fair, it is a worthy achievement, and one I support with but one reservation.  That one reservation, though, is not far short of being a deal-breaker for me.  Because the slogan that’s getting the most play is this one:

There’s probably no God.

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A Question of Semantics

It’s probably unfair of me to regard many atheists as being in denial. But I don’t think it’s at all unfair to think that many of them (and indeed, a great majority of all people, whatever they may or may not believe) are insufficiently rigourous in their exercise of logic and their application of semantics.

(I’d say I was a terrible snob, but that’s not true – I’m really very good at it 😉  )

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Review: “The Twilight of Atheism” by Alister McGrath

As the title suggests, it doesn’t have a lot to do with agnosticism – although it does treat doubt with more courtesy and respect than Dawkins seems capable of. It’s a fascinating read, too, which again scores it above “The God Delusion” – and it has some interesting ideas about both faith and doubt, and the historical context of both.

But I feel it misses the point of its own arguments.
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Richard Dawkins: Got Delusion?

So I’ve been reading “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.

Which I’ve got to say, is among the most insulting books I’ve ever read.

Naturally, I speak here as an agnostic – which so far as Dawkins is concerned, makes me a side issue at best. I can only imagine how insulted you’d be by it if you actually had faith.

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