Sunday, December 20, 2009

George H. Smith doesn't get quoted enough on the web

So, to rectify that, here are a couple paragraphs from the end (pp. 322-323 of the soft-cover, 1989) of Atheism: The Case Against God, which I'm pretty sure is the best book on the subject:
To be moral, according to Jesus, man must shackle his reason. He must force himself to believe that which he cannot understand. He must suppress, in the name of morality, any doubts that surface in his mind. he must regard as a mark of excellence an unwillingness to subject religious beliefs to critical examination. Less criticism leads to more faith - and faith, Jesus declares, is the hall mark of virtue. Indeed, "unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18.3). Children, after all, will believe almost anything.

The psychological impact of this doctrine is devastating. To divorce morality from truth is to turn man's reason against himself. Reason, as the faculty by with man comprehends reality and exercises control over his environment, is the basic requirement of self-esteem. To the extent tat a man believes that his mind is a potential enemy, that it may lead to the "evils" of question-asking and criticism, he will feel the need for intellectual passivity--to deliberately sabotage his mind in the name of virtue. Reason becomes a vice, something to be feared, and man finds that his worst enemy is his own capacity to think and question. One can scarcely imagine a more effective way to introduce perpetual conflict into man's consciousness and thereby produce a host of neurotic symptoms.


The probligo said...

Al, you should know me well enough that I would not try to argue the other side from this. There are plenty others to do that.

However, I don't think that GHS has it entirely right.

At present I am reading "Animal Spirits" - which despite the name is a relatively recent economics book; quite interesting ideas and one of the first I have read that mentions Samuelson in any more than passing. The authors make the point, in several different ways, that human action even at a macro scale is not always "rational". Instance is the continual succession of economic "bubbles".

Add to that such human quirks or foibles as "confirmation bias", and "brightest men in the room" and I start getting an idea that humans are in fact likely more amenable to an idea which "feels good" rather than having the level of "rationality" that GHS seems to require.

So at that level my personal quirks and foibles can be argued are no less and no more leading me in my beliefs than TF is led by his beliefs. I guess that it really boils down to the same foundation as climate change. We none of us really do not know.

Have a happy holiday season. I won't wish you Merry Christmas under any circumstances ;) .

The probligo said...

Ooops "...we none of us..." should read "...we all of us...".

Comes from inverting sense in a sentence. :( .

Al said...

The holiday is still what it is, and I'm still embedded with most of the same people, so we'll be putting up a tree and waiting to see what Santa brings us. It'll be some time before I can reason anyone out of their foolishness, especially since I'm so inclined to taciturnity, and I don't believe in taking shortcuts like bullying or beating.

So, thank you, Probligo, and Merry Christmas to you too.

Tef said...

Al and his anti-santa mood swings...

Honestly, I can't argue on the other side since I will level the same criticisms on certain religions.

I am also not against having certain people feeling that they have to supremely give up all ability to critically think to be religious.

My bigger issue is in having these people enforce their "beliefs" onto the others.

I mean, since when has "mind control" - worse, mindlessness - been a part of proselytization?

T. F. Stern said...

I'll respectfully remain on the side lines this time around.

The probligo said...

Tef, I suspect that you would echo the thoughts of very many people. What is more, you are entirely right about proselytising. Effectively that is what GHS is doing, in the same way as does Il Papa right down to the guy who holds a sign with his "message of the day" on the street corner.

Mind control? Not when the human brain (to a greater or lesser extent) seems to be hard-wired to "believe" in "something"; no less spiritualism, voodoo, or animal worship than Christianity, Buddhism, Hindu or the Roman Gods.

I suggest that some people may have a greater tendency to "believe in something" than not. That includes the likes of GHS who believes in his atheism no less than the Christian fanatic believes in Christ.