Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to shop

at the Barnes and Noble in downtown Minneapolis. Yes, I took a stroll down by the Mary Tyler Moore statue on Nicollet Mall. Yeah, it's a nice statue.

Anyway, I wasn't looking for it, but they had a display of atheist literature - I noticed a couple of Dawkin's books...Sam Harris, that sort of thing... But there was one book there that I've wanted since I first saw it in the Second Renaissance catalog back in the late '90s: George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God. [Oh, Heck! Here's the whole first chapter!]

So let's get right to the point (last four paragraphs of section VII):
Religion has had the disastrous effect of placing vitally important concepts, such as morality, happiness and love, in a supernatural realm inaccessible to man's mind and knowledge. Morality and religion have become so intertwined that many people cannot conceive of ethics divorced from god, even in principle -- which leads to the assumption that the atheist is out to destroy values.

Atheism, however, is not the destruction of morality; it is the destruction of supernatural morality. Likewise, atheism is not the destruction of happiness and love; it is the destruction of the idea that happiness and love can be achieved only in another world. Atheism brings these ideas down to earth, within the reach of man's mind. What he does with them after this point is a matter of choice. If he discards them in favor of pessimism and nihilism, the responsibility lies with him, not with atheism.

By severing any possible appeal to the supernatural -- which, in terms of human knowledge, means the unknowable -- atheism demands that issues be dealt with through reason and human understanding; they cannot be sloughed-off onto a mysterious god.

If atheism is correct, man is alone. There is no god to think for him, to watch out for him, to guarantee his happiness. These are the sole responsibility of man. If man wants knowledge, he must think for himself. If man wants success, he must work. If man wants happiness, he must strive to achieve it. Some men consider a godless world to be a terrifying prospect; others experience it as a refreshing, exhilarating challenge. How a person will react to atheism depends only on himself -- and the extent to which he is willing to assume responsibility for his own choices and actions.


T. F. Stern said...

At one time such a conversation/exchange would have been something to jump into, say when I was back in college; however, my understanding of man's relationship to God removes the idea of supernatural since man is naturally walking in the footsteps of God, being His children.

I think I'll leave it at that.

Al said...

You've mentioned before that the Mormon conception of God is different from the general idea. I wonder why God kept it to Himself until 1830 or whenever it was that Mr. Smith stuck his head in the bag, but I'm still interested in that conception.

I know that when I read Ayn Rand and other attackers of Christianity last century, I always felt that their arguments missed fundamentalism. Baptists, Methodists and Pentacostals can exclude themselves from the roles of the Christians who were responsible for the Crusades, the Inquisition and the religious wars of the Seventeenth Century. Their spiritual ancestors were the victims of that violence.

I'll delete your duplicated post.

The probligo said...

TF, you get no debate from me either. It is simply a matter of belief and viewpoint.

LibertyBob said...

I'm always torn. There are many people who do not have the intellectual complexity to take on so much responsibility and understanding. Like our primitive ancestors, it can be easier to get them to follow morals by putting it in context of the fear of a celestial daddy. The alternative is to put in them the fear of me, and that's just a lot of effort.

Al said...

There are plenty of sadists out there to outsource the job to. Just tell 'em they can keep all the donations, as long as they deliver your prepared script.