[FoRK] reas. conv. 12/4: Beyond Faith

Dr. Ernie Prabhakar < drernie at radicalcentrism.org > on > Mon Dec 4 17:23:57 PST 2006

[#12 in a "reasoned conversation" about  Christianity and atheism]

Hi Russell,

On Nov 30, 2006, at 6:55 AM, Russell Turpin wrote:
> I also agree with you that Christianity has done much good. I think  
> those who
> paint it as uniformly bleak are either incapable of seeing the
> good because of their focus on the harm it has done, or are
> caught in a common trap of coloring something they oppose with
> one pail of black paint. That said, I think you fail to address
> what is behind some of the excesses of Chistianity.

Thank you very much for this thoughtful, fair-minded critique (for  
which I realize you've taken some flak :-)

> The problem is not just that any belief can be used to divide
> people into groups, and so religions war. There are deeper
> divides, tied to the very nature of most Christian belief.
> In particular, the practice of faith and the practice of reason are
> diametrically opposed.

Hmm. Let me make sure I understand you correctly. Your basic argument  
appears to be:

a) The epistemology that Christianity uses to understand God's  
Revealed will is based primarily on faith (particularly in the Bible)

b) The epistemology that scientists use to understand Reality is  
based primarily on reason

c) Reality, unlike Revelation, is available on a equal footing to all  
interested comers, and thus amenable to "trial by experiment."

d) Revelation, as its own prior, is only accessible to the given sect  
that believes in it, and thus disputes between differing Revelations  
inevitably tend towards settlement via "trial by combat."

Is that a fair summary?

>  Yes, there are many Christian scientists,
> historians, etc. But where they practice their intellectual work,
> they are not practicing their faith, and where they practice
> their faith, they are not practicing their intellectual work.

Hmm.  A reasonable statement, at least for post-Enlightenment  
scientists (though I don't think you could make the same charge  
against, say, Thomas Aquinas[1] :-).

> Their various explanations of how they reconcile the two are
> testimonies to how adept people are at building walls in their
> minds. None have been able to erase the essential conflict that
> faith presents to honest examination

Okay, I actually agree with you.  So far Christianity-as-we-know-it 
[2]-- and contemporary religion in general -- has not "been able to  
erase the essential conflict" between Faith and Reason, and that this  
disjunction is largely responsible for the existence of religious evil.

Conceded.  Guilty as charged. To Jeff's point:

On Dec 4, 2006, at 10:37 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> I'm just insisting that finally, it must stand up and take its fair  
> share of the blame, rather than be accorded some undue deference,  
> respect, and sensitivity.

I completely agree. I absolutely *want* religion -- and Christianity  
in particular -- to fully face its "fair share of the blame" for the  
evil it has created.[3]  Are you willing to similarly condemn evil  
committed in the 'name' of anti-religion[4]?

On Dec 4, 2006, at 3:04 PM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> Semi-reasonable response.  We have to find whatever it is, if  
> anything, that is still a fit adaptation that religion is a side- 
> effect of, and come up with a way to accomplish that without the  
> side-effect.
> I don't think the problem is ideology per-se --- much harder to  
> define ideology than religion, I would think.  But you're right:   
> if it's a vacuum, it must be filled or --- if created by side- 
> effect of something else --- replaced with an alternative without  
> such side effects.

Fair enough. So, what exactly do you propose to put in its place?   
Specifically, do you believe that:

	a) a solution for "filling the vacuum without side effects" exists
	b) it is worth the effort to find one
	c) once found, it would be feasible to implement it without violent  
coercion

And if so, why?

>> Communism viewed traditional religion as its
>> enemy, yet served much the same role. The cultural changes that
>> might lessen the proclivity is a harder problem than just
>> ridding ourselves of Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.
>
> Oh, I dunno, I'd call that a good start.

Then you must love North Korea [5]. :-)  No?  Well, then would you at  
least be willing to admit that even if it is "necessary" to get rid  
of organized religion, that it isn't by itself *sufficient*?

Surely you must concede that, as bad as Christian nations have been,  
the ones who've officially espoused atheism have done far worse[6].   
Do you expect us to "take it on faith" that you'll do a better job  
than they have? Or can you provide a reasoned argument why -- and how  
-- you'll succeed where so many others have failed?

Which brings us to Jeff's final question: Yes, I *do* have an  
empirical test[7] that would convince me that my beliefs are fatally  
flawed:

"Create a self-supporting community of like-minded individuals that  
demonstrates superior ethical behavior towards both each other and  
hostile outsiders for more than a single generation."

Do that, and I think you'll not just convince me that I'm wrong, but  
attract a great many followers to help you fulfill your agenda.

Any takers?

Faithfully yours,
-- Ernie P.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Aquinas
[2] http://urlx.org/homepage.mac.com/2feae
[3] http://www.xent.com/pipermail/fork/Week-of-Mon-20061127/043672.html
[4] http://urlx.org/en.wikipedia.org/784ad
[5] http://countrystudies.us/north-korea/36.htm
[6] http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/Q4.06/32A09633- 
EB1F-4B5E-894B-2E4A2FC3B4E2.html
[7] http://urlx.org/homepage.mac.com/b8438

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