Posted by: Dan | August 12, 2006

Bible Warning Sticker, and my personal philosophy

When dealing with creationists, it might be helpful to have that handy sticker:

(HT: PZ)

And my most recent book purchase, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is priceless! I am simply in awe of the “Unified Spaghetti Theory,” which brings together a series of criticisms of evolution, as proof of a Pasta Designer entity – complete with a conceptual drawing of what the first noodle might have looked like.

As it’s ever bit as factual and scientific as Intelligent Design, I simply don’t understand all of the hate mail that Bobby Henderson gets. What is so objectionable with the FSM version of ID as a theory?

It’s just a damn convincing, and extremely persuasive, version of Intelligent Design, is all. Henderson even actually conducts experiments (in his kitchen). Are there any other IDers out there actually conducting experiments in their labs, kitchens, or even seminaries?

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On a serious note, I’ve also rented and been re-watching Bill Moyers’ series of interviews with Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth. As an early teen, this area of study in theology and mythology strongly influenced my personal philosophy.

For myself, I don’t actually believe in a God (e.g. Zeus, Yahweh, Allah, or the Christian God), but I do strongly believe in the truisms that are commonly taught in each of the major religions, as well as the moral foundations for sociological norms that they share.

So belief in a God doesn’t really matter to me – what matters is my spiritual connection to the myths, rituals, and traditions of my family and community.

And a biologically- and sociologically-informed understanding of the world doesn’t take away from my values at all.


Responses

  1. For myself, I don’t actually believe in a God (e.g. Zeus, Yahweh, Allah, or the Christian God), but I do strongly believe in the truisms that are commonly taught in each of the major religions, as well as the moral foundations for sociological norms that they share.

    A little well-directed study in philosophy and religion might give you new insights into these topics.

    1) Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro challenges the idea that morality can emanate from a god, as the authoritarian religions profess it does. Is something good because God tells you so, or does God tell you so because it is good? In the former case, then “good” is entirely arbitrary, and is just whatever whim comes to God. He could tell you that slavery, murder, forced marriage, and genocide were all good. In the latter case, God is an unnecessary middleman between you and morality.

    2) I’m not sure what “truisms” you mean, but going from the theoretical to specific examples, the Bible (the religious scripture with which I am most familiar) is chock full of bad morality. The God of the Bible does indeed tell his people that slavery, murder, forced marriage and genocide are good, when God approves of them. Killing homosexuals and adulterers is OK (It’s amazing how hung up this infinite God is about human sexuality). Eating shellfish or cheeseburgers is bad.

    Attempts to reconcile bronze age belief with modern scientific knowledge do not put the former in a good light. For example, in the current debates on stem cells and abortions, some Christians claim that God inserts a soul (for which there is no scientific evidence whatsoever) into a zygote immediately upon fertilization. This leads to the curious implication that identical twins must share a soul.

    As for myself, I like cheeseburgers.

  2. Oh I could definitely bone up a bit on my personal philosophy and its background.

    However, for (1) – I do recognize that we have an intrinsic ability to distinguish right from wrong independently of religion. But even then, I think that this capability for morality can be molded into a specific moral code, or set of sociological norms, that fit in with one’s culture and community. Religion doesn’t have a monopoly on this either, but it can and does often fill that role as the status quo in our society.

    And, I think, there’s something to be said for fitting in, the status quo, and tradition – I have no desire to discard the habits that I was raised with (such as going to church at least twice a year – Xmas and Easter), and going through the rituals of those church services. But I still don’t actually believe in God, or any specific religious belief over another – it’s just the way our culture is, and I accept that.

    What I don’t accept are idiots – the Kent Hovinds, Ken Hams, Pat Robertsons, Ann Coulters and William Dembski’s of the world (aka the creationists), as one prominent class of the genus Idiot.

    For (2), oh heck yes the Bible is chock full of horribly immoral acts, especially the Old Testament. What I was referring to was the virtues espoused by Jesus of Nazareth: humility, honesty, placing others before oneself, charity, etc. Of course, once again, religion does not have the monopoly on such virtues, nor do Christians consistently abide by them.

    I also agree whole-heartedly with the need for a modern spiritual tradition. But where will we find that? Atheist groups are trying, as are Uniformitarians. I admire Bhuddism, which is new for the Western world, relatively speaking. And Scientology seems a little silly.

    But even as these more modern alternatives take shape, it’s difficult to get families and communities to change. Like it or not, the vast majority of people are the religion that their parents were, and even if they disagree with their religion, they rarely change. I fall into this category, for now at least.

  3. That sounds like “fideism”.

  4. Fideism? Never heard of it.

    *after a quick wiki search* – ah, fideism:

    In Christian theology, fideism is any of several belief systems which hold, on various grounds, that reason is irrelevant to religious faith. According to some versions of fideism, reason is the antithesis of faith; according to others, faith is prior to or beyond reason, and therefore is unable to be proven or disproven by it.

    and

    Alvin Plantinga defines “fideism” as “the exclusive or basic reliance upon faith alone, accompanied by a consequent disparagement of reason and utilized especially in the pursuit of philosophical or religious truth.” The fideist therefore “urges reliance on faith rather than reason, in matters philosophical and religious,” and therefore may go on to disparage the claims of reason. The fideist seeks truth, above all: and affirms that reason cannot achieve certain kinds of truth, which must instead be accepted only by faith. Plantinga’s definition might be revised to say that what the fideist objects to is not so much “reason” per se — it seems excessive to call Blaise Pascal anti-rational — but evidentialism: the notion that no belief should be held unless it is supported by evidence.

    Well, I’m certainly not disparaging reason – at least I don’t think I am. I argue for it in fact. And my defense of remaining a Christian (in name only), is not a resolution “to hold to what has been revealed as true in his faith, in the face of contrary lines of reasoning,” it’s a pragmatic statement that some traditions and norms associated with religion are fine – they’re part of our culture – if reason and scientific knowledge are accepted and integrated into such religion(s).

    The point being that traditional and cultural norms are fine, when reconciled with an informed and modern view of the world; I don’t reject such tradition itself, I reject the notions of miracles and divinity associated with God. In other words, the idea of God seems silly to me, but nor do I really care to criticize my family for going to church or inviting me along twice a year, so that we can kind of all “go through the motions” together, reflecting where we came from, culturally-speaking.

    … I’m not sure if that makes any sense, as I’m not a philosopher or anything of the sort, it’s just a very honest and crude way of living my own life.

  5. OK, that was not my understanding of the word, but I’m certainly not going ot argue with the dictionary.

    My understanding (which is apparently not the correct definition) is someone who has given up belief in the doctrin and theology of a religion, but stays in it for reasons of culture and comfort. So I guess I don’t know the correct word for this.

    While you have not abandoned reason, you do not direct it towards justifying the truth of your religion.

  6. …is someone who has given up belief in the doctrin and theology of a religion, but stays in it for reasons of culture and comfort.

    Oh ok – yeah, that sounds about right. I don’t know a label for it either.


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