Debates about religion

“Once, when a religionist denounced me in unmeasured terms, I sent him a card saying, “I am sure you believe that I will go to hell when I die, and that once there I will suffer all the pains and tortures the sadistic ingenuity of your deity can devise and that this torture will continue forever. Isn’t that enough for you? Do you have to call me bad names in addition?”
― Isaac Asimov, I. Asimov: A Memoir

“They won’t listen. Do you know why? Because they have certain fixed notions about the past. Any change would be blasphemy in their eyes, even if it were the truth. They don’t want the truth; they want their traditions.”
― Isaac Asimov, Pebble in the Sky

Debates about religion are trite: specious logic, obfuscated rhetoric, calls to authority, emotional charged value judgments, straw man arguments, selective look at the facts, tautologies, plain nonsense. I have to say that for many, atheism is also a religion and a mirror rhetoric is used by both sides on these debates.

One of the reasons for the low quality of the argumentation is that the main terms under discussion – God, Morality, Evil. … – are not only ill-defined but actually used to mean different things according to the fallacy of the moment. All these terms are by necessity fuzzy and fluid and their meaning depends strongly on the context and circumstance. For millenna the same arguments are recycled over and over and over and over. But religious believes cannot be argued away on countered by facts. The mind of a religious believer is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract. Religious convictions  come about as  the result of upbringing, class, race, gender, social prejudices, and economics. Believes in the supernatural are held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary, based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.

People believe in God  because it is comforting to do so. The existence of a God that makes covenants takes away the fear of death or losing beloved ones. It gives meaning to life, and a rationalization for misfortune or being privileged, as the case might be.

One of the points of argumentation is that our limited imagination does not understand how the World came about. Reality seems too orderly and complex to  be without a master. By analogy, one might think of the Universe as a watch, and therefore a watchmaker is implied. This image is compelling and easy to understand. On the other hand, in our current cosmology is not easy to assign a physical location to the  supernatural or spiritual realm, and the easy image of the wise old man on the other side of the moon is not appropriate nowadays. If one perceives Reality as too complex to fathom without a Conscious Being  ruling over it, then this being should be orders of magnitude more complex and its presumption  does not solve the puzzle.

The worrying about whether or not the gods are concerned about the actions of human beings, and the amount of observance and worship ascribed to them, was the general relationship of man’s belief to the gods’ purpose and temperament. But Epicurus and many other Greeks of Antiquity already conceived the gods to be a hypothetical state of bliss rather than higher bodies of judgment; they are indestructible entities that are completely invulnerable, enviable to mortals, and, most importantly, unconcerned about anything beyond the bliss and happiness they represent. They are mere role models for human beings “who emulate the happiness of the gods, within the limits imposed by human nature.”

Death means nothing to us when we exist, death is not yet present, and when death is present, then we do not exist.

“Don’t call the physician, for he might extend my sentence in this prison by his medicine. The days of slavery are gone, and my soul seeks the freedom of the skies. And do not call the priest to my bedside, because his incantations would not save me if I were a sinner, nor would it rush me to Heaven if I were innocent. The will of humanity cannot change the will of God, as an astrologer cannot change the course of the stars. But after my death let the doctors and priest do what they please, for my ship will continue sailing until it reaches its destination.”

Khalil Gibran

Uploaded on Jan 18, 2012 – The motion for this debate was “This House Believes that God is not a Delusion”.

It took place before a packed house at the Cambridge Union Society on 20th October 2011, as a part of William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith Tour 2011. Be sure to watch until the end to hear the results of the votes!

Proposing the motion were William Lane Craig and Peter S.Williams.
Opposing the motion were Arif Ahmed and Andrew Copson.

About arnulfo

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