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A lot of people were Googling ‘Ron Reagan’ after his atheism ad aired – WTHR

President Ronald Reagan's son had a lot of people talking during Tuesday night's Democratic debate.

He wasn't among the 12 candidates on the stage in Ohio, but his appearance in a commercial promoting atheism clearly caught folks off guard.

In the commercial, Reagan promotes the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a non-profit organization advocating for atheists and the separation of church and state.

"Hi, I'm Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist, and I'm alarmed by the intrusion of religion into our secular government," Reagan says to begin in the ad.

The ad itself isn't new, as the foundation's press release notes its been around since at least 2014, but how Reagan ends the ad is certainly attention grabbing.

"Please support the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in hell."

With the spot airing in a national slot, Ron Reagan quickly became the top trending search on Google, according to Google Trends.

According to the FFRF, ABC refused to air the ad during the Sept. 12 Democratic debate and other networks have turned them down, including CBS and NBC, since 2014.

CNN plans to air the ad twice during the Oct. 15 CNN/New York Times debate and it was scheduled to air again several times on Wednesday evening.

The ad received lots of reactions on social media with some people feeling blindsided, including Omarosa, who appeared on "The Apprentice" with President Donald Trump then joined his administration.

Some conservatives shared the ad to criticize Democrats.

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A lot of people were Googling 'Ron Reagan' after his atheism ad aired - WTHR

Hiring of Accused Atheist Leader Is Reminder That #MeToo Is Still Needed in Organized Atheism – Rewire.News

Its no revelation that the wages of whiteness are real, and that being a straight, white, well-connected male is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to job mobility and privilege. Its also no revelation that white men can lie, cheat, steal, commit serial sexual harassment, and abuse with impunity and still land on their feet. This American-as-apple-pie regime didnt begin or end with Donald Trump, nor with all the predator corporate executives, middle managers, and rank-and-file employees who werent brought down by #MeToo.

The global resonance of the #MeToo movement has obscured the degree to which it remains business as usual for scores of sexual harassment and abuse victims who rarely get second, third or fourth chances to rebound after the devastation of being victimized in the workplace. This pattern of victim silencing and ofrehabbing alleged perps has been on insidious display recently as some prominent male leaders and execs have been able to creep back to respectability with new positions and roles in their respective industries, including, to take just a few examples, John Lasseter (formerly of Pixar), James Rosen (formerly of Fox), and Marcelo Gomes (formerly of the American Ballet Theater).

The recent decision by Atheist Alliance International (AAI) to hirethe former leader of American Atheists, David Silverman, to its executive director position is yet another indication that this business-as-usual rehab strategy also applies to movement atheism, which can be just as corrupt, cronyistic, and swaggeringly hostile to women as corporate America. Last year, Silverman was fired from American Atheists after allegations of sexual misconduct and financial impropriety were made against him. The claims leveled against Silverman by two female accusers were extensively detailed byBuzzFeeds Peter Aldhous, whose 2018 article notes that one of the women was reluctant to use her full name because of concerns about hostility experienced by other women who have made allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent atheists.

As I wrote in a September 2018 piece for RD, Silverman was one of several male atheist leaders whod been accused of sexual misconduct. According to The Friendly Atheist blog, AAI reached out to Silverman via a friendship with a board member, then created a paid executive director position expressly for him. Must be nice. While women of color in all sectors are routinely shut out of entry level, middle, and executive management positions, white males get carte blanche, have positions of authority created for and handed to them; then receive multiple breaks and opportunities for redemption when they screw up.

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These disparities have driven women of color out of organized atheism, spurring the creation of secular humanist feminist of color initiatives like this months Women of Color Beyond Belief conference. The event was a collaboration between the Black Non-Believers organization, headed by Black atheist activist Mandisa Thomas, and the Black Skeptics Los Angeles organization, which I founded. Focusing on racial and gender justice, the conference was the first national gathering by, for, and about secular women of color. It was intended as a safe space and platform for progressive sociopolitical issuessuch as the intersection of sexual violence, domestic abuse, reproductive rights, and the criminalization of Black and brown bodiesthat are frequently marginalized in mainstream atheism and humanism.

At the conference, many women of color presenters spoke of being in the crosshairs of misogynistic, heteronormative religious traditions and racist, sexist atheist and humanist institutions. Far from being a refuge from religious tyranny, mainstream atheism is just another microcosm of American gender and racial hierarchies.

Defining ourselves, for ourselves, as Black lesbian poet Audre Lorde once said, were not content to sit back and let atheism be hijacked by gatekeeping patriarchs. But AAIs appointment of Silverman foregrounds how the cult of charismatic white male atheist leadership makes mainstream atheism an untenable space for women of color, queer folks, and progressive white women pushing back against the ritual silencing of sexual abuse survivors and business-as-usual cosigning.

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Hiring of Accused Atheist Leader Is Reminder That #MeToo Is Still Needed in Organized Atheism - Rewire.News

This Ad Will Have You Adopting Atheism in No Time – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

I found it: An advertisement for atheism that gets right to the point, courtesy of the Australian comedy show The Gruen:

The show also had an advertising pitch for Christianity.

But, like religion, it lacks humor. Its just a boiled down version of Pascals Wager.

If thats Christianitys best selling point, no wonder so many people are taking a pass.

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This Ad Will Have You Adopting Atheism in No Time - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

Despite Misconduct Allegations, David Silverman Is Now Running an Atheist Group – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

David Silverman, the former head of American Atheists, will become the next Executive Director of Atheist Alliance International, once again giving him a formal position within a movement from which he was unceremoniously kicked out last year.

The announcement was made this morning. And while the organizations may seem identical to outsiders or anyone whos watched South Park theres a world of difference between them.

In case you need a refresher, Silverman had been President of American Atheists since 2010 and an employee of the organization since 2004. For a few years, when atheist billboards were making headlines across the country, Silverman made several appearances on FOX News, one of which was forever immortalized in a meme. In 2012, he was the public face of the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. which drew tens of thousands of people. Hes also the author of the book Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World in which he made his case for in-your-face firebrand activism.

In April of 2018, Silverman was temporarily suspended from his position, only to be fired days later.

Initially, the concern was a financial conflict of interest between his personal work (the book) and his public work (for AA). Thats why he was initially suspended by the AA board of directors as they investigated the matter. However, around the same time, the board learned of sexual misconduct allegations against Silverman, documented most extensively in an article for BuzzFeed by reporter Peter Aldhous.

There were two major allegations. One involved a student Silverman met at a conference who said he used his position of power to pressure her into having sex with him. She had asked him for a job (which he said he couldnt provide) and said in her allegation that she was intoxicated during their encounter.

BuzzFeed also quoted another woman who said that, in 2015, Silverman suddenly forced himself on her at American Atheists annual convention during an afterparty. That meeting left bruises on her body. Silverman admitted to the sex, but said both encounters were entirely consensual. He did not think the student was drunk. He may have violated good decision-making, but he maintained that he wasnt some sort of predator.

As for the financial issue, Silverman now quotes an AA board member (on his personal website) who says David did not embezzle from American Atheists. That, however, doesnt address the conflict of interest issue. American Atheists hasnt said anything publicly about the results of their investigation.

Nick Fish, AAs current leader and the person who eventually replaced Silverman, told me in a statement:

Our Board of Directors fully stands behind its decision to terminate Mr. Silvermans employment. After reviewing the allegations and materials presented, the Board concluded that there were violations of American Atheists policies that warranted termination. The results of a review completed by an outside investigator confirmed that decision.

In recent weeks, Silverman has been trying to stage something of a comeback.

After more than a year away from the spotlight, hes been doing interviews with just about any YouTuber willing to speak with him, including some who regularly trash feminism and condemn social justice warriors.

If hes trying to re-endear himself to progressives, its not exactly a wise strategy though its not like he has other options. (Its not like progressives are eager to give him a platform to blame the world for what he says happened to him.)

Silverman, in those interviews, portrays himself as a victim of an outrage mob. He rationalizes his actions. He trashes what various atheist organizations are doing (or not doing), suggesting that someone like him a firebrand is needed to fight religion. While he apologizes for being unethical and immoral, he insists hes not a criminal or the guy depicted in the allegations or in BuzzFeed. To that end, hes filed a defamation lawsuit against the women who accused him of misconduct, BuzzFeed, and American Atheists.

In addition, he has rebranded himself as a firebrand for good. He spoke to the Washington Post to tell his side of the story. He also began selling insurance to make money.

And now, after all that, hell be running an atheist organization once again.

Atheists Alliance International, which was founded in 1991, said in a press release that Silverman will be their new Executive Director. (I was sent an early copy of the release after agreeing to an embargo.)

Its a paid position. As far as I can tell, hes the first person to hold this title for the group and possibly the first salaried staffer theyve ever had. (His salary is not public information.)

David will report to AAI President, Gail Miller. He will oversee campaigns and assume responsibility for growing AAI so the organization can do more to make the world a safer place for atheists.

Wishing David a very warm welcome, Gail Miller, AAIs President said, David is a well-known public atheist, a powerful leader and a compelling public speaker. He has proven management and organizational skills including leadership of national & local organizations in the U.S. He is a personality who makes things happen.

He will grow public awareness of AAI and our campaigns, he will help the board develop strategy and he will help manage campaigns to ensure they deliver for atheists everywhere.

Im thrilled to have him on the team.

During a phone call with Silverman last night the first time Ive spoken to him since the allegations against him became public he told me he was officially hired earlier this week, though its been in the works for roughly two months. He didnt apply for the job, nor was there some formal announcement that AAI was looking for a paid director.

They actually reached out to him.

For a while now, as AAI has become a more stable non-profit organization with a clear vision, theyve been looking for a spark to take them to the next level. Their calculation seems to be that Silverman is the spark they need, both as an outspoken atheist and as a fundraiser for the group. Whatever the negatives are, the positives outweigh them.

Gail Miller, AAIs current president, explained the thought process to me:

We are proud of what we have achieved. We have turned a corner and started to grow again. But despite these achievements, growth is too slow. There is a lot we want to do to help atheists but we need a higher public profile, more volunteers and more income to sustain the programs atheists need.

One of our board members, CW Brown, is friends with David Silverman and they came up with a plan that could change everything. CW proposed to the board that we should take on David as Executive Director.

They knew I was available and I could deliver the growth, Silverman told me, adding, I dont believe there was anybody else in consideration.

Hes eager to take on this role because he sees it as a dream job. Hell be working remotely, with a volunteer team of four other hand-picked individuals, to make AAI a global atheist force for firebrand atheism.

Its not hard to imagine AAI working to end blasphemy laws or helping people persecuted for being open atheists in theocratic nations. Whats more difficult to envision is AAI, with Silverman now at the helm, working with other U.S.-based atheist groups. The people who run many of those organizations cut ties with him immediately after the misconduct allegations.

Yet Silverman says he hopes AAI will eventually becomepart of the Secular Coalition for America, the national group that lobbies in Washington, D.C. on behalf of church/state separation and other atheism-related issues. If that happens, Silverman could once again be in the same room as the people who shunned him. Hes not worried about that. People can keep their distance if they want, he told me, but that wont stop him from speaking out.

He insists the truth is on his side, something he has reiterated in all those recent interviews. Thats also why he plans to continue with his lawsuit (and his fundraising efforts for it).

Throughout our call, he kept telling me what hes said to the YouTubers: He never received due process from American Atheists. Everything was consensual with the women and they know it. He still considers himself a feminist (though that didnt stop him from using the word woke in a pejorative sense).

Bizarrely, he said of the two women who accused him of misconduct, They probably feel bad about it in the back of their minds. After a lengthy silence from me, he added, At least I hope they do.

I asked him what he thought AAI would (or should) do if the same allegations that were made to American Atheists were ever made to them. He wasnt worried about that. Having spoken to the current AAI board and answering their many questions, he believes AAI would exercise due process.

Thats also what Gail Miller told me:

We spent a month thinking about this. All our board members interviewed him. We did our homework as thoroughly as we could. We dont know why American Atheists dismissed David, they made no public statement and David says he was given no reasons. No charges were ever brought against him. AAI takes the view that people are innocent until proven guilty and David has not been proven guilty.

We honestly believe David Silverman has learned from his experience and is a better person for it, so the board voted to give him a chance. If anything similar were to happen in future, we would respect due process but we have strict conduct policies that apply to everyone here and we will enforce them.

Maybe the big question is whether potential pushback against his hiring will sink the organization to the point that donors flee in droves. Its also possible that Silvermans hiring leads to more people giving to the group.

But while AAI is giving Silverman the benefit of the doubt, Sean Hannity wouldnt do that. If Silverman were ever invited back to, say, FOX News Channel, no doubt they would hit him with the allegations regardless of the topic. They would use it as proof that atheists cant be moral, right?

If Hannity wants to bring me on to ambush me, Silverman said, he would welcome it, adding that the reception hes found in the comment sections under those YouTube interviews suggests he has plenty of support.

I dont buy that. Think about whose videos those people are watching Its a lot of empty calories to me. Silverman might feel extremely validated, but getting validation from people who enjoy hearing right-wing talking points hardly seems like a win.

American Atheists is mostly taking a hands-off approach to Silvermans new job, according to Nick Fish:

American Atheists has no comment about Mr. Silverman because he has chosen to file a frivolous lawsuit against our organization rather than move on with his life.

We will not allow this to distract us from our mission protecting the separation of religion from government and ending discrimination against atheists in America.

Maybe its for the best, then, that Silverman will be focusing outside the country, where he plans to get work done and save some lives.

A year and a half after #MeToo allegations drove him out of the atheist movement, hes back in. You could tell he was smiling on the other end of the line as he said he has a positive outlook for the first time in a long freaking time.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

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Despite Misconduct Allegations, David Silverman Is Now Running an Atheist Group - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

Reading Suggestions for Aquinas’ Five Ways – Discovery Institute

Editors note: In a series for Evolution News, Dr. Egnor has been summarizing and analyzing the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas. See, Introducing Aquinas Five Ways, by Michael Egnor. For more on Thomas Aquinas, intelligent design, and evolution, see the websiteAquinas.Design.

In discussions with atheists and materialists, theists have powerful resources at our disposal. Our perspective is supported by a rigorous and elegant metaphysical framework, that began with Plato and particularly Aristotle, is synthesized by St. Thomas Aquinas, and continues with the work of many superb philosophers today.

At the core of our dispute with atheists is the evidence for the existence of God. Of course, His existence can be proven as convincingly as any question about existence can be proven and more convincingly than any scientific theory can be proven (which is grist for another post). The famous Thomistic proofs for Gods existence are logically sound and irrefutable arguments. The proofs are simple but subtle, and have a profundity and logical beauty all their own. For readers interested in exploring these proofs in more detail, and in acquiring a deeper understanding of Thomistic philosophy, these reading recommendations may be of help.

Ed Fesers marvelous books on Thomistic metaphysics are best place to start. Feser is a superb philosopher in his own right, and he has a genius for explaining subtle complex metaphysics is clear readily understandable language. His is Aristotles and St. Thomas greatest expositor for us moderns.

His books include:

Aquinas: A Beginners Guide: the essential introduction to Aquinas. A must-have, and the only place to start for anyone not already conversant with the work of the Angelic Doctor. Feser clearly and systematically explains all five proofs, and much more (theology, psychology, ethics, etc.).

The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism: a searing take-down of New Atheists. Beautifully and mercilessly argued, with an excellent discussion of the Prime Mover argument in particular. After reading, you wont be able to look at Dawkins without laughing (if you havent reached this stage already). Feser almost makes you feel sorry for New Atheists. Almost.

Scholastic Metaphysics: a Contemporary Introduction: a masterpiece. An elegant exposition of basic scholastic metaphysics, in considerable detail. A great choice after Aquinas. Feser takes you into the intricacies of the Thomistic understanding of nature. This volume does not discuss Thomistic dualist philosophy of mind, which Feser has said will be a separate book.

For readers interested in an excellent overview of philosophy of mind, Fesers The Philosophy of Mind: A Short Introduction. Theres no Thomistic proofs here, but its the best general introduction to philosophy of mind and theres a good chapter on Thomistic dualism.

Five Proofs of the Existence of God: brilliant exposition of five proofs for Gods existence. Not Aquinas Five Ways, but the proofs of many classical thinkers Aristotle, the Neo-Platonists, St. Augustine, St. Thomas and the Rationalists. St. Thomas proof here is not one of the five he had six! A great book by Feser, and essential for a reader who wants to go even beyond the Five Ways.

Aristotles Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science: a comprehensive and rigorous examination of the metaphysics of natural science if youve wondered how Aristotle relates to quantum mechanics, this is where to look. Very challenging and very worthwhile if you are so inclined. Feser takes you into the metaphysical fabric of science. This is not an easy read, but Fesers knowledge and skill at explication are remarkable.

Feser also has a great blog, where he tackles the issues of the day and goes into greater detail on many of the points he raises in his books.

After Feser, there are a number of excellent authors for those interested in the Five Ways. I do emphasize that the Thomistic world has its own language, and it is nearly impossible to grasp without a good introduction, which Feser provides in spades. If you wish to go further, consider:

Walter Farrell, O.P. Second only to Feser in clarity of exposition, and the best prose stylist in the Thomistic camp. Farrell is a Dominican scholar from the early 20th century, and a renowned American Thomist. He writes like Chesterton with clarity, brevity and irony. His intro to Thomism My Way of Life is a gem, a short book you can carry in your pocket, and its a guide to Thomism often given to fresh novices in the Dominican Order. It is a marvelous introduction and delightful to read. Farrells Companion to the Summa is a massive four-volume exposition of the great work My Way of Life on steroids and its Farrells magnum opus. Essential for every passionate Thomists library (and its on Kindle!) and a great guide as you read the Summa itself. It will take a few years of your life to get through, but it really deepens your insight into St. Thomas. Farrell is a joy to read.

Etienne Gilson Gilson was a leading 20th century French Thomist. His The Christian Philosophy Of St Thomas Aquinas is magnificent meticulously written and profound. It was what I read next after Feser and I got a lot out of it. Gilson was brilliant, and you can spend a day just exploring the implications of one of Gilsons sentences about Thomistic metaphysics. Like Farrell, Gilson is a challenging read, but very worthwhile if you want to take St. Thomas seriously. I think Gilsons chapter on Thomistic psychology is the best discussion on the topic out there.

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange Probably the leading Thomist of the 20th century and professor at the Angelicum in Rome. He wrote extensively on Thomism, and I think his Reality: A Synthesis of Thomist Thought is his best introduction to well reality. Very profound and very clear, and Lagrange beautifully explains the enduring relevance of Thomism to modern life and science. An excellent choice after Fesers introduction.

Fredrick Copelston Aquinas: An Introduction to the Life and Work of the Great Medieval Thinker: Copelstons very good intro to St. Thomas. I prefer Feser, but Copelstons work is highly respected and widely used. In my view, Copelston lacks Fesers clarity for the modern reader, but there is much to be recommended in his work.

Jacques Maritain Prolific (and somewhat controversial) Thomist. His Introduction to Philosophy is highly readable and well-regarded. He wrote extensively on the application of Thomistic philosophy and theology to the 20th century. Fascinating stuff if you are so inclined.

Aristotle Unlike Plato, Aristotles works are not finished products, but are probably lecture notes. Aristotle is a very challenging read in the original (in English) his genius is evident, but he jumps from place to place, uses shorthand, assumes concepts not fully explained as one might expect from lecture notes. Unless youre a scholar, its not wise to start with Aristotle in the flesh. You have to know his system fairly well, before you read him. Metaphysics and De Anima are good places to start for the Thomist. It wont be easy. Before reading Aristotle himself you should read

Mortimer Adler Adler is a fine 20th century philosopher and writer, and he is an excellent introduction to Aristotle. I suggest reading his Aristotle for Everyone before reading Aristotle himself. You can never be fully prepared for reading Aristotle in the flesh hes a challenge to the best scholars. But Adler is a big help he helps you see where The Philosopher is going. Adlers Ten Philosophical Mistakes is an Aristotelian perspective on the folly of modern philosophy. It is a masterpieceif I were dictator of the world, Im make it mandatory reading for all of humanity. Its a fairly easy read. His first two chapters on philosophy of mind are essential, and his chapters on language and meaning, free will and gradations of being are fascinating and shed light on many modern conundrums. Much of what we call modern philosophy is just mistakes like basing a system of mathematics on 2 + 2 = 5. Adler explains what went wrong, and how to fix it.

Aquinas Of course, the ultimate source on Thomism is the Angelic Doctor himself. I tried reading him years ago (before I read Feser), and it might as well have been in the original Latin. I understood nothing. Nothing. So I started with Feser, and got a handle on the terminology, which is great, because the terminology, while alien to us moderns, is consistent, accurate and logically coherent. We dont easily understand St. Thomas because we are opaque, not because he is.

Obviously the Thomist text to read is the Summa Theologica, although the Summa Contra Gentiles has more detail on the Five Ways. Thomas is more succinct on it in the S.T. The best way to read the S.T. is: 1) Know the terminology and the basic concepts before you start this is where Feser is indispensable. 2) A guide to the S.T., like Farrells Companion to the Summa, is a huge help, but the guide is difficult as well. There is no easy way here. 3) The S.T. is best digested by daily reading of individual short sections. Aquinas uses the quaestiones disputataeframework, in which he makes a assertion that is actually a question, he gives the answers (objections) that other major philosophers have given, he provides (usually) a brief scriptural commentary, then he gives his answer, then he replies to each original assertion by other philosophers individually. For us ordinary humans, its wisest to just read the assertion and St. Thomas answer. The objections are profound, but unless youre a scholar, you get lost in them. Reading the assertion and St. Thomass answer will keep you busy for years by itself.

Over time, you get two things out of reading the S.T. First, once you get past the terminology, St. Thomas really has profound things to say. His rigor and scope are astonishing. Second, you get to see genius in front of you at work on every page. You dont really grasp what a mind can do until youve sat for a while with Thomas Aquinas.

We I.D. folks should always be ready to defend design and its implications when challenged. In my view, the Thomistic framework offers the most effective tool to do so. The great strength of Thomism, aside from its truth and beauty, is its integration of our understanding of nature, of ourselves and of God. St. Thomas shows how it fits together.

Ive found that Thomistic metaphysics is, from the atheist perspective, unanswerable. None of these guys have a clue about it, and it provides a very effective tool for reducing atheist arguments to self-refuting gibberish, which is what they are.

So, if you are interested, go buy Fesers Aquinas and get started!

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Reading Suggestions for Aquinas' Five Ways - Discovery Institute

Nick Cave says hes repelled by woke cultures self-righteous belief and lack of humility – NME Live

"I am left feeling bored and cornered by the hubris of their own sureness."

Nick Cave has posted his latest edition of The Red Hand Files, in which he writes about his distaste for a number of ideologies including woke culture, atheism and organised religion.

On the service, where Cave answers questions from fans, he was asked about his political views, how woke he thinks he is, and his reasons for writing.

Living in a state of enquiry, neutrality and uncertainty, beyond dogma and grand conviction, is good for the business of songwriting, and for my life in general, he said. This is the reason I tend to become uncomfortable around all ideologies that brand themselves as the truth or the way.

This not only includes most religions, but also atheism, radical bi-partisan politics or any system of thought, including woke culture, that finds its energy in self-righteous belief and the suppression of contrary systems of thought.

Expanding on his criticism of woke culture, Cave said: Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me.

Nick Cave

Antifa and the Far Right, for example, with their routine street fights, role-playing and dress-ups are participants in a weirdly erotic, violent and mutually self-sustaining marriage, propped up entirely by the blind, inflexible convictions of each others belief systems. It is good for nothing, except inflaming their own self-righteousness. The New Atheists and their devout opponents are engaged in the same dynamic.

Cave also said: This is not to suggest we should not have our convictions or, indeed, that we should not be angry with the state of the world, or that we should not fight in order to correct the injustices committed against it. Conviction and anger can be the most powerful expressions of universal love.

Cave discussed similar issues when asked about Morrisseys recent declarations of far-right support on The Red Hand Files.

While stating that he didnt agree with Morrisseys views, Cave emphasised that he felt it would be dangerous if the former Smiths man wasnt allowed to voice his opinions.

The musician, who released his acclaimed new album Ghosteen earlier this month, has also used the website to offer moving advice on body positivity to a 16 year-old fan, reveal that a third Grinderman album is planned, and to discuss being dumped by PJ Harvey.

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Nick Cave says hes repelled by woke cultures self-righteous belief and lack of humility - NME Live

A Neglected Modern Masterpiece and Its Perverse Hero – The New Yorker

Imagine a novel about an ambitious, slightly coarse, provincial young man, determined to make his name in the capital city. He is tall and strong, with uncanny blue eyessea-cold, merman eyes. He talks too loudly. One of the capitals most polished journalists dismisses him as a swaggering farmboy. Even the rich heiress who almost marries him agrees with him that he is like a mountain troll from a fairy tale; her sister, on first meeting him, noticed his slightly provincial shoes. But he has brilliance and will, and others welcome this young engineer with a head full of projects as the prototype of the active man of the twentieth century, a figure from a different, luckier tale, an Aladdin (as one of his friends crowns him) who will surely prosper and triumph. The novel describes this journey.

Now imagine that the novel systematically subverts the swelling arc of the bildungsromanthat, on the cusp of each achievement, some ghostly hand pulls our hero back from victory. He is about to leave his mark in the capital city, but eventually withdraws. He is about to marry the rich heiress, but calls off the engagement. He returns to the country and starts a family with a modest country girl, but he isnt happy there, either: He was like a clock whose insides had been carefully removed, piece by piece. In fact, our Aladdin seems destined to follow the serial emaciations of Hans in Luck, one of the Grimms fairy tales, in which Hans, having been paid in gold by his master, is persuaded to exchange his gold for a horse, then his horse for a cow, then his cow for a pig, and so on, until finally he loses everything, and returns home happy and unencumbered. His luck is his reduction.

The hero of this novel comes to the conclusion that all worldly treasures lost their worth as he got closer to them. He spends his final years living in virtual isolation in a remote rural area in the north of the country. After his untimely death, a notebook of his is found, which contains these beautiful words of fatalism and rebellion:

When we are young, we make immoderate demands on those powers that steer existence. We want them to reveal themselves to us. The mysterious veil under which we have to live offends us; we demand to be able to control and correct the great world-machinery. When we get a little older, in our impatience we cast our eye over mankind and its history to try to find, at last, a coherence in laws, in progressive development; in short, we seek a meaning to life, an aim for our struggles and suffering. But one day, we are stopped by a voice from the depths of our beings, a ghostly voice that asks Who are you? From then on we hear no other question. From that moment, our own true self becomes the great Sphinx, whose riddle we try to solve.

This shattering, sometimes unbearably powerful novel, completed in 1904, was written by Henrik Pontoppidan, who won the Nobel Prize in 1917. It is considered one of the greatest Danish novels; the filmmaker Bille August turned the story into a nearly three-hour movie called, in English, A Fortunate Man (2019). The novel was praised by Thomas Mann and Ernst Bloch, and is effectively at the center of Georg Lukcss classic study The Theory of the Novel (1920). In Danish, it is called Lykke-Per; in German, it was given the title of the Grimm brothers fairy tale Hans im Glck. And in English? In English, it didnt exist, having gone untranslated for more than a century, until the scholar Naomi Lebowitz administered the translators equivalent of a magic kiss and roused it from shameful oblivion. Published nine years ago in academic format, Lucky Per has finally appeared in Everymans Library, in Lebowitzs fluent and lucid version, with an excellent introduction by the novelist and critic Garth Risk Hallberg. Our luck has caught up with everyone elses.

Have I spoiled the plot by revealing the ending? The critic only gives away in silver what the great novel eventually releases as gold. Besides, its almost impossible to discuss Lucky Per without discussing the shape of its plot, because the radical oddity of the book is so bound up with the heros final renunciations. At first sight, Lucky Per looks like a stolid work of realism. It is almost six hundred pages long. Through its ample halls moves a large cast of characters, from several layers of Danish societymiddle-class clergymen, rich merchants, lawyers and politicians, writers and intellectuals. There is much conversation about the coming century: the fate of the nation, the future of technology.

But one reason its generally unwise to talk about a single style called realism is that prose narrative is so often lured away from conventional verisimilitude by rival genres, notably allegory and fairy tale. The books opening chapter is at once familiarly realistic and heavy with the ironic fatalism of the folktale. In a small market town in East Jutland, Per Sidenius is one of eleven children growing up in an austerely religious family. His father is a pastor with an ascetic hatred of the body. His mother is bedridden. While his brothers and sisters mutter their prayers in a sort of underworld blindness to the light and full of a dread of life and its glory, Per is a singular, rebellious life force. He sneaks out of the house to go sledding, he flirts with a local girl. When a parishioner complains to the pastor that Per has been stealing apples from his garden, the wayward son is severely admonished at family dinner, warned that he could end up like Cain, the first murderer, whom God cursed thus: You will be a wandering fugitive in all the earth. His siblings weep in dismay, but Per silently scoffs. At the age of sixteen, he escapes this prison, and goes to Copenhagen to study engineering at the Polytechnic Institute. The coming-of-age novel, Pers sentimental education, will now begin in earnest, as the dark, religious family grotto recedes into the distance of legend.

Alas, the past cannot be escaped so easily. Fable and allegory curl themselves like creepers around our heros feet. Per has, in effect, been exiled from Eden, for the Adamic sin of stealing apples. But his home wasnt Edenic, and besides, he doesnt share his fathers Christian faith. If he hasnt committed a sin, how can he be cursed? All the secular energy of this noveland it has a magnificent, liberating secular powerpushes against the reality of the pastors Old Testament damnation. Yet Per is cursed: hes destined to wander, destined to quest, and destined to fail. With a steady, returning beat, closer to allegorical verse than to realist fiction, the novel reminds us of its guiding theme: the homelessness of its hero, condemned to spend his life in the lonely quest for a metaphysical safe harbor. So is Pers curse a religious curse or a fairy-tale curse? And what is the difference between the two?

Pers odd life path might simply be the result of being born into the Sidenius family. The Sideniuses, we learn at the novels opening, trace their lineage, through generations of ministers, all the way back to the Reformation. Its a family tree of unimpeachable piety and dreary episcopal conformity, with one exception. An ancestor, also a pastor, known as Mad Sidenius, somehow went off the rails. He drank brandy with the peasants, and assaulted the parish clerk. In a novel haunted by insanity and suicide, the memory of this family outcast is important. The potentially blasphemous question rears its head again: if its a curse to be a Sidenius, is Per cursed by generations of unerring piety, or by that ancestral aberrant flash of madness?

Henrik Pontoppidans life began much like his fictional heros. He was born in 1857, the son of a Jutland pastor, into a family that had produced countless clergymen. Unlike Per, Pontoppidan seems to have remained on friendly terms with his family, despite drifting away from his inherited Christianity. In his memoir, published in 1940, three years before his death, he declared himself to be an out-and-out rationalist, dismayed by the tenacity of religious superstition. Like Per, he left the provinces to study engineering at the Polytechnic Institute in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen of the eighteen-seventies and eighties has been described (by the critic Morten Hi Jensen) as the first real battleground of European Modernism. A parochially Protestant culture was beginning to do intellectual trade with the rest of Europe: French realism and naturalism, Darwinism and radical atheism were the imported goods. The two most talented conduits of these new freedoms were the novelist Jens Peter Jacobsen and the critic Georg Brandes, both of whom make appearances in fictionalized form in Lucky Per. Jacobsen translated Darwins major work into Danish, and wrote what is surely one of the most fanatically and superbly atheistic novels in existence, Niels Lyhne (1880). A lyrical aesthete and a Flaubertian prose polisher, he is pictured, in Lucky Per, as the sickly poet Enevoldsen, fussing with his lorgnette at a Copenhagen caf while worrying about where to put a comma. Jacobsen was championed by Brandes, whose lectures at the University of Copenhagen in 1871 were an inspiration for a generation of Scandinavian writers. (Brandes and Pontoppidan corresponded for decades.) Brandes had read Mill, Hegel, Feuerbach, Strauss. A fervent atheist, he introduced Danish readers to Nietzsche and, late in life, wrote a book entitled Jesus: A Myth (1925). He was an advocate of European naturalism, and of fiction that attended to the social and political moment. It was time, he argued, to open Denmark up to the outsidea movement that became known as the Modern Breakthrough. In Lucky Per, Brandes appears throughout the novel, more invoked than encountered, as the dominating Dr. Nathan, sometimes nicknamed Dr. Satan. Brandes was Jewish, and Pontoppidan, remarkably alert to European anti-Semitism throughout the novel, writes that Per had kept his distance from Dr. Nathan because of this: He simply didnt like that foreign race, nor did he have any leaning toward literary men.

But Pers life will soon be changed by another Jewish character, and one who shares the bulk of the novel with him: the fierce, brilliant, troubled Jakobe Salomon. Per meets Jakobe through her brother, Ivan, who decides, early in the novel, that Per has the potential of a Caesar on whose brow God has written I come, I see, I conquer! Pers imperial impulses are manifest in his vast utopian engineering project, which envisages a system of canals on the Dutch model that will connect Denmarks rivers, lakes, and fjords with one another, and put the cultivated heaths and the flourishing new towns into contact with the sea on both sides. His dream is a physical enactment of Brandess Modern Breakthrough. He also shares Brandess atheism. There was no hell, Per reflects, other than what mankind, afraid of loves joy and the bodys force, created in its monstrous imagination. The Anglophone reader is sometimes reminded of Thomas Hardy or D.H. Lawrence. Per exults in the healthy secularism of the body: The embrace of man and woman was the heaven in which there is oblivion for all sorrows, forgiveness for all sins, where souls meet in guiltless nakedness like Adam and Eve in the garden of paradise.

With the ruthlessness of the provincial hero, Per decides that marriage to an heiress of the vast Salomon merchant fortune will speed him on his way. At first, though, he stirs in Jakobe a deep-seated hatred of Christian culture, and she treats him with an insulting haughtiness. Bookish, sensitive, twenty-three, and already considered a bit of an old maid by her family, Jakobe had been a sickly child, and the target of anti-Semitic bullying. Per triggers in her a memory, at once sharp and hallucinatory, narrated with dreamlike indulgence by Pontoppidan, and one of the novels most potent scenes. Four years earlier, Jakobe had been in a Berlin railway station. Her eye was caught by a group of pitiable, ragged people surrounded by a circle of curious, gaping onlookers. When she asked a station official how to get to the waiting room, he replied that with her nose she should find it easy to smell her way there. On the floor of the waiting room were hundreds more desperate, emaciated paupers. Suddenly, she realized that they were Russian Jews, on their way to America via Germany. She had heard of the pogroms, and was astounded that this infamy crying out to heaven could happen right before Europes eyes with no authoritative voice raised against it! Pers Nordic frame and blue eyes make her think of two police officers she glimpsed in Berlin, who seemed the embodiments of the brutal self-righteousness of the Christian society she lives in.

With great ironic power, Pontoppidan convinces us that Jakobe and Per must inevitably hate each other, and then, soon enough, that these two damaged creatures could have found comfort only in each other. Their relationship is passionately erotic and ardently intellectual; Jakobe, again like some heroine out of D.H. Lawrence, is helplessly attracted to Per, despite the blaring correctives from her conscience. The couple have in common their committed atheism, their hatred of the established church, and a sense of being chosenby theology, by race, by similarly heroic notions of destiny.

Garth Risk Hallberg, in his introduction, says that Jakobe Salomon is as intelligent as anyone out of James, as bold as anyone out of Austen, as perverse as anyone out of Dostoyevsky, and adds that, with all due respect, the frankness and amplitude of Pontoppidans depiction of the Salomon household leaves George Eliots Daniel Deronda in the dust. I like it when writers are made to run races with one another, precisely because were supposed to be above such competitions, and I also think that Hallberg is right. Jakobe is utterly alive and complex, and burns at the living center of the book. Pontoppidan endows her with an extraordinary intellectual restlessness, and allows her some of the most movingly lucid secular proclamations I have ever encountered in fiction.

One of these statements, a long letter that she writes to Per, becomes an eloquent, scalding testament to her atheism and her faith in the known limits of our worldly existence. She excoriates Christianitys exaggerated anxiety about death and, following Nietzsche, complains about the link between the fear of death and slave morality:

Never will I forget the impression that some plaster casts of bodies excavated in Pompeii made on me. There were, among others, a master and his slave, both evidently caught by surprise in the rain of ash.... But what a difference in the facial expressions! On the slaves face, you could read the most confusing puzzlement. He was overturned on his back, his eyebrows were raised up to his hairline, the thick mouth open, and you could virtually hear him screaming like a stuck pig. The other, by contrast, had preserved his mastered dignity unto death. His almost-closed eyes, the fine mouth pressed shut, were marked by the proudest and most beautiful resignation in relation to the inevitable.

My primary complaint against Christianitys hope of eternal life is that it robs this life of its deep seriousness and, with that, its beauty. When we imagine our existence here on earth as only a dress rehearsal for the real performance, what remains of lifes festiveness?

The powerful secular argument of the novel resides in the freedom and intensity of Per and Jakobes brief relationship. Theres a marvellous scene in the Austrian Alps, where Per has travelled after the couples engagement, and where Jakobe has arrived without notice. The time they spend together in the Alps constitutes their true marriage, a new birth and baptism. One day, out walking, they come across a crude wooden cross, a simple hillside shrine with a rough painting of Jesus. Per tells Jakobe a fable that he heard as a child, about a farm boy who wants to become a great shot, a magic marksman. But in order to achieve this the boy must go out at night, find an image of Christ, and shoot a bullet through it. Every time the lad tries to do it, his confidence wavers, his hand shakes, and he fails the test. He remains a common Sunday hunter for the rest of his life.

Per turns back to the hillside shrine. Look at that pale man hanging there! he says. Why dont we have the courage to spit from disgust right in his face. Per takes out his revolver and fires at the image of Jesus, while yelling, Now I shoot in the new century! As the cross splinters, a second, hollow boom sounds through the valley, like infernal thunder. Per blanches, and then laughs, remembering the signposts he had seen earlier: Take notice of the echo!

Heavy, God-infested, magnificently metaphysical, unafraid to court ridicule, and playing for the highest possible stakesthey dont write like that anymore. They didnt write much like that in 1904, though Knut Hamsun, in 1890, and Jens Peter Jacobsen, in 1880, and above all Dostoyevsky, the great progenitor, had all sounded something like this, not so long before. Given the novels astonishingly raw atheism, how are we to read the religious renunciation of its ending? At the novels close, Jakobe and Per appear to be living alone, and each is now committed to a life of religious seriousness, though neither is a religious believer: Per in the remote north, living in monkish retreat, and Jakobe in Copenhagen, where she has founded a charity school for poor children.

Throughout, Per is hard to comprehend in his cloudy questing. At one momentaround the time of his mothers deathhe is pulled back toward his inherited faith, repenting his lust for worldly success and begging forgiveness from God. But fifty or so pages later his recoil from Christian self-sacrifice is palpable once again; he is repelled, for instance, by Thomas Kempiss lament, in Imitation of Christ, that truly, it is an affliction to live in the world. Per reflects that he is at home neither among ascetic Christiansthe piety of the Sideniusesnor among the children of the world: the luxury of the Salomons. And yet, troubled by this very homelessness, he feels that one must choose: on one side, renunciation; on the other, the world. Which is it to be? For it is necessary to take a stand, to swear fidelity... to the cross or champagne.

In the end, Per surrenders to the religious impulses of a faith he seems to stand outside of. We have been here before, in this world of a deformed and contradictory atheism. Raging heroes in Dostoyevsky, Jacobsen, and Hamsun enjoy denouncing a God they dont believe in. But Per Sidenius is stranger still, because he seems to want to imitate a Christ he doesnt believe in. Thomas Mann praised Pontoppidan as a kind of gentle prophet, for having judged the times and, like the true poet which he is, pointed toward a purer humanity. In a suggestive afterword, the novels translator, Naomi Lebowitz, notes how Per restlessly evicts himself from all those places which could offer him refuge. Subtler than Mann, she also sees Pers journey as the discovery of, finally, an authentic and transparent sense of self... the need to be himself, by himself.

The novel encourages such readings. Pers notebook, written in his final years, contains the following entry: Honor to my youths expansive dreams! And I am still a world conqueror. Every mans soul is an independent universe, his death the extinction of the universe in miniature. In this reading, Lucky Per, though rather Scandinavian in its religious intensity, is a still familiar version of the bildungsroman, in which our hero ventures out into the world, tastes success, tastes the ashes of success, and retreats to ponder, on his own authentic terms, the riddle of the self that has always preoccupied him. Fredric Jameson has suggested that we should see this as a happy ending, albeit an ironic one, in which Per has managed to get beyond success or failure.

Yet how can we accept the ironic wisdom of this ending without smothering the vital force of the novels earlier secularism? Where have the magic marksmen, willing not only to spit at Christ but to shoot at Christ, gone? Where has Jakobes proud Roman master scuttled away to? You dont have to be a fully paid-up Nietzschean to feel that if you no longer believe in the Christian God you should no longer believe in that Christian Gods slave morality. If you have rejected the content of the faith, why mimic its more self-punishing practices? Pers imagined choice between cross or champagne is not only a false choice but a mutilated one, posed by a reduced version of Christianity. In fact, Lucky Per emerges as a savage critique of the persistence, in Danish culture, of a certain Kierkegaardian masochism, in which all choices are made religious rather than secular, purifyingly negative rather than complicatedly affirmative. Kierkegaard said that one had to be a kind of lunatic in order to be a true Christian. Is there a difference between this form of religious madness and actual madness? Lucky Per inserts its secular, novelistic lever into just this question.

What if Pers final renunciation is a narrative false flag? Instead of looking at Per, we should perhaps look toward Jakobe, whose own renunciation takes her into the world, not away from it, and who seems to manage this turn without compromising her defiant secularism. She is the novels true hero. How do you get back to Eden? Back to the place you inhabited before the original religious curse? Back to a home before religion made it a home you could be exiled from? If you are a wandering, homeless Christian, scarred by original sin, the answer might be: in the arms of a wandering Jewbut one whose own itinerancy is unseduced by the lure of religion, whose own secularism is not tempted by the simplicity of religious masochism. In the strange switchback of their lives, Per and Jakobe each redefined the meaning of luck. The shame was that they could not share it. Lucky Jakobe, unlucky Per.

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A Neglected Modern Masterpiece and Its Perverse Hero - The New Yorker

Atheist Kicked Off Egyptian TV Show Now Says He’s Safely in Another Country – Patheos

It was more than a year ago when Mohamed Hisham (also spelled Hashem in older articles) appeared on the Egyptian channel Alhadath Alyoum TV (Egyptian Street) and spoke openly about his atheism. It was quite a feat considering authorities say there are literally only 866 atheists in the country.

Hishams appearance didnt go over well with host Mahmoud Abd Al-Halim or the former Deputy Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mahmoud Ashour. Both men urged Hisham to see a psychiatrist for his obvious mental illness before he corrupted even more Egyptian youth.

HISHAM: Im an atheist, which means I dont believe in the existence of God. I dont believe in Him.

ASHOUR: What? What was that?

HISHAM: Im an atheist, which means I dont believe in the existence of God. I dont believe in Him. Thats what atheism means. I dont need religion to have moral values or to be a productive member of society.

AL-HALIM: How come you exist in this universe?

HISHAM: Okay, let me explain. There are theories that try to explain our existence. One theory is that God created us. Okay? But there are other theories, with much more evidence, like the Big Bang theory

AL-HALIM: Speak Arabic! You are in Egypt and you are addressing simple people so dont use big words for no reason.

HISHAM: Im using these terms because science is conducted in English.

AL-HALIM: What science are you talking about?

AL-HALIM: You are confused and unreliable. You deny the existence of God and reject our religion and principles

HISHAM: Is this so bad?

AL-HALIM: Of course! You come here to talk about a certain idea but have nothing to offer! You offer atheism! You offer heresy! I apologize to the viewers for having an Egyptian of this kind on our show. Im sorry, Mohammad, but you cannot stay with us on the show because your ideas are inappropriate, Im sad to say. We cannot promote such destructive ideas. You have not uttered a single convincing word.

ASHOUR: Look, dear Mohammad, you need psychiatric treatment. Many young people today suffer from mental illnesses due to material or mental circumstances.

AL-HALIM: Its like Sheikh Mahmoud says. Have you see a psychiatrist?

AL-HALIM: I advise you to leave the studio and go straight to a psychiatric hospital. You shouldnt be here. Unfortunately, I cannot let you be here anymore. Please get up and leave, and I will continue the show with Dr. Mahmoud. Unfortunately, your ideas are destructive and bad for Egyptian youth. You set a very bad example for Egyptian youth.

Hes doing okay, though. Hisham just did an interview with Humanists Internationals Giovanni Gaetani without getting interrupted and he says hes doing okay. He also forgives those hosts.

I would like to excuse the host, because the situation was like that his audience would have thought: Why would you give to this atheist a platform? This means that you are as guilty as him. That could have had very bad consequences for him, like it happened to another Egyptian host who had hosted a gay person and ended up in jail for this.

Hisham described how the police tried to investigate him:

one night the Egyptian Police knocked at his door and searched his house. They even looked at their conversation on Whatsapp, full of atheist and blasphemous content, but didnt understand what they were reading because everything was in English, even the conversation with his Egyptian friends:

Police came and even searched my phone. But thankfully they didnt understand English. My phone was indeed full of atheist material, but I kept everything in English, even my chat with my Egyptian friends. I dont know who did invent the ritual, but we do it, for two reasons.

One is privacy: if you get in a situation when somebody is reading your messages, its harder for them to understand what they are reading, because not many people in Egypt are good at English. The other reason instead is to improve your English.

Clever man.

Hisham is now living safely in Germany, but hes struggling to adapt, learn the new language, and find work. Still, hes alive. That hasnt always been the case for atheists in predominantly Muslim countries who have been vocal about their godlessness. Be sure to watch the full interview. You can support Humanists Internationals campaign to help atheists at risk right here.

(Portions of this article were published earlier)

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Atheist Kicked Off Egyptian TV Show Now Says He's Safely in Another Country - Patheos

This Life and Outgrowing God review heaven, atheism and what gives life meaning – The Guardian

Years ago, the magazine US Catholic ran a headline that had the air of being written by a devout believer who had just had an appalling realisation: Heaven: Will It Be Boring? If he believed in heaven, the Swedish philosopher Martin Hgglund would answer with an unequivocal yes. And not merely boring: utterly devoid of meaning. If I believed that my life would last forever, he writes, I could never take my life to be at stake. The question of how to use our precious time wouldnt arise, because time wouldnt be precious. Faced with any decision about whether to do something potentially meaningful with any given hour or day to nurture a relationship, create a work of art, savour a natural scene the answer would always be: who cares? After all, theres always tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

I sometimes feel oppressed by my seemingly infinite to-do list; but the truth is that having infinite time in which to tackle it would be inconceivably worse. The question at issue here isnt whether heaven exists. In This Life a sweepingly ambitious synthesis of philosophy, spirituality and politics, which starts with the case for confronting mortality, and ends with the case for democratic socialism Hgglund takes it for granted that it doesnt. Instead, his point is that we shouldnt want it to. Religious people, even if they dont believe in a literal place called heaven (white bean bags, 24-hour room service, fat babies with wings, to quote Alan Partridge), nonetheless believe that what truly matters most in life belongs to the realm of the eternal and divine. The result is a devaluation of our finite lives as a lower form of being. Hgglunds alternative, secular faith, insists that our finite lives are all we have and that this finitude, far from being a cause for regret, is precisely what gives them meaning.

His annual family holiday, in his childhood home on Swedens wind-battered Baltic coast, is valuable because he wont be around to experience such things for ever, he argues, and because his family relationships are therefore equally fragile and transient. Even the landscape in which the house stands is shifting, as glaciers melt. And its only from the standpoint of secular faith, Hgglund insists, that you can really care about the climate crisis at all. If our finite lives are only a means to eternal salvation, the destruction of life cant matter in a truly ultimate sense.

Dawkins's career in evolutionary biology might stand as an exemplar of the kind of life Hgglund urges us to live

Theres a glaring problem with all this as a critique of religion, which is that religious believers manifestly do find meaning in daily life, are devoted to their relationships, and care about the fate of the planet. (Hgglund acknowledges as much, but suggests they are acting from secular faith when they do so, risking the weird conclusion that religion isnt all that religious.) A more interesting question is how far even the secular among us remain locked in the eternalist mindset, thereby inadvertently sapping our lives of meaning. Like any good rationalist, I know Im going to die, but Im not sure I really believe it; if I did, I probably wouldnt spend so much time on Twitter. In other words, I cant say that I live every moment of my life with an awareness that everything depends on what we do with our time together. This Life makes a forceful case via readings of Sren Kierkegaard, Karl Ove Knausgaard, St Augustine and CS Lewis, among many others for keeping that truth in mind.

Yet these lofty thoughts comprise only half its argument. The other half is political. If our finite lives are all we have, it follows that time is the basis of all value and the best form of society is the one that maximises our freedom to use that time as we wish. Through a detailed re-examination of the writings of Karl Marx, Hgglund concludes that capitalism can never be that system, since its committed to using whatever time surplus it generates in the service of further growth. When you sell your labour for a wage, youre selling your life and capitalism, even if it rewards you with great wealth, will always want more of your life. For Hgglund, democratic socialism of a kind far more radical than anything proposed by Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn is the only way to maximise what he calls spiritual freedom: the power to devote as much of your time as possible to what matters most to you.

This certainly sounds preferable to the politics associated with the philosopher most famously obsessed by human finitude, Martin Heidegger, who opted for nazism instead. Still, the usual objections arise: how would you prevent the bureaucratic structures necessary for implementing this freedom from making life much less free? What do you do about seemingly intrinsic human urges, like acquisitiveness, competition, or the desire to provide for ones descendants? Would tasks like participating in the garbage removal in our neighbourhood on a weekly basis really become suffused, under democratic socialism, with camaraderie and meaning? But its best not to treat the book as an election manifesto. The fundamental point is that our fleeting time together is all that counts; you cant take it with you, and our politics fails us to the extent that it has us chasing any goal other than using it for what counts.

Maybe it goes without saying that reflections on building a meaningful secular life are absent from Outgrowing God, Richard Dawkinss latest fulmination against religion, this time aimed at a young adult audience. Like other luminaries of what we should probably now be calling the nearly new atheism, Dawkinss goals are demolitionary. And so a familiar liturgy, recited in a familiar tone of exasperation, fills the books first half. Since you already dont believe in Jupiter or Poseidon or Thor or Venus or Cupid or Snotra or Mars or Odin or Apollo, why randomly believe in one other god, the bearded old man of the Bible? Dont you realise theres no evidence for Jesuss miracles, and not much evidence for the rest of the story? Besides, what kind of mean-spirited deity would drown almost every living thing hed created, sparing only Mr and Mrs Giraffe, Mr and Mrs Elephant, Mr and Mrs Penguin and all the other couples admitted to Noahs Ark? Its possible, I suppose, that younger readers will find this less condescending than I did. Its also possible that they wont.

Unlike Hgglund, Dawkins never explicitly addresses what it is that makes life meaningful, if the answer isnt religious faith. So its ironic that the books (vastly better) second half, on the evolutionary origins of life, vividly demonstrates the spirit of scientific discovery that has made life meaningful for Dawkins himself. His contagious enthusiasm renders the basics of natural selection newly astonishing; triumphs of evolution such as the way humans gestate other humans, or how starlings manage to coordinate themselves in thousand-strong flocks, strike the reader as mind-blowing, as do other truths of biology and physics: that every glass of water you drink probably contains a molecule that passed through the bladder of Julius Caesar; or that two bullets, one fired horizontally from a rifle and the other dropped to the ground, will (assuming a vacuum) land at the very same time.

Who can doubt that the discoverers of this sort of knowledge took their limited time seriously, and used it well? As for Dawkins himself, his career in evolutionary biology might stand as an exemplar of the kind of life Hgglund urges us to live a finite existence, devoted to the fragile and collaborative human endeavour of expanding scientific understanding. But atheism alone cant explain why it should matter to spend your time that way. For that you need secular faith, a belief in the value of our finite projects as ends in themselves. And Dawkins, however intensely this might irritate him, gives every sign of being a true believer.

This Life: Why Mortality Makes Us Free by Martin Hgglund is published by Profile (RRP 20). Outgrowing God: A Beginners Guide to Atheism by Richard Dawkins is published by Bantam (RRP 14.99). To order copies go to guardianbookshop.com or call 020-3176 3837. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99.

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This Life and Outgrowing God review heaven, atheism and what gives life meaning - The Guardian

As an Afghan immigrant, Britain and atheism showed me the bright side of democracy – The Independent

Theres so much I wish I could tell people about me, like the fact that my dad doesnt know how old he is (in Afghanistan they didnt used to record birthdays), or that every day I am thankful to be living in a democratic state. I was naturalised as a British citizen when I was very young;being a Londoner is all I have ever known since the age of three. But theres lots of little things that I adore which British-born citizens often overlook.

Ive been back to Kabul, where I was born, since settling in the UK. There is no sewage system, no waste management systems, no rule of law. People burn their garbage in the middle of the street. If you want to send a letter, you cant because theres no postal delivery system. Visiting a friends home for the first time? Good luck trying to find a map that helps you navigate locations; homes dont even have door numbers. As aesthetically pleasing as some places were to visit, travelling to Afghanistan at an early age opened my eyes and gave me perspective. Its one thing to read about democracy in a textbook, its another to experience first-hand how its manifestation can alter the fabric of ones existence.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

She was forced to flee her home with her family after their town was attacked by armed groups. Nooria describes a rocket hitting her neighbours home killing many inside. They fled on foot with just the clothes on their backs and she now lives in Mazari Shariff where Save the Children have enrolled her in school and provide vocational training

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Nooria* hopes for a future with no war; "When they attacked our village, the rocket hit our neighbour's house and they all died. Our house then caught fire and we ran away. My friends who I used to play with - I still don't know if they are alive or if they are dead.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

I'm hoping for a better future, to learn, to support my family and to get them out of this difficult life. And I'm hoping for a future where there is no war.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Naveed lost his leg when he stepped on a mine aged just 8-years-old. He was herding the family's sheep in the mountains near their home when he triggered a landmine

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

After months of medical treatment his right leg was eventually amputated. He received physiotherapy and a prosthetic leg from the International Committee for the Red Cross in Mazar

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Now enrolled in school, Naveed is being given vocational training by Save the Children. For around a year I felt and dreamt that I still had my leg. But when I woke up and saw, there was no leg. Sometimes Id feel with my hand to check and find it wasn't there.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

If someone has loses their leg, it does not mean that they have lost their mind."

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

"With the help of our minds we can continue to study, learn, and work to make the future of our families brighter.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Several years ago Neveed's father, Mahboob, was brutally beaten with rifle butts by armed groups after, he says, he failed to provide food for them while they were stationed in the family's village. He suffered brain damage which affected the right side of his body, speech and his brain function

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Habiba and Arezo were injured with their mother three years ago in a suicide bombing in Kabul. Arezo is still traumatised from what she saw and has become completely withdrawn

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Arezo's younger sister Habiba cares for her, takes her to lessons and anywhere she wants to go. They are both in school through Save the Children's 'Steps towards Afghan girls' education success' (STAGES) programme, which helps the most marginalised girls get access to education, stay in school and learn.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Habiba says: When I woke up and I opened my eyes I saw lots of bodies and I thought I was not alive any more. It was horrible. I'll never forget that. Whenever there is a big sound she gets scared because she was traumatised by the sound she heard during the attack. I love my sister, and I help her with her lessons, I take her anywhere."

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

"She's older than me but I feel like the older one because I support her. I hope for a better future for me and my sister.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Two years ago Khalida lost her 18-year old brother when he was killed in an explosion in Kabul. She misses him every day and says the family are still carrying the grief of his loss

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

"Two years ago, my brother was going to Kabul when an explosion happened and he lost his life. We are still carrying the grief and are crying over him. At the time we were happy, everyone was happy. Now no-one is happy in the family. When I remember him, I cry and feel so bad. I hope for peace and that war will stop, and that nobody loses their brother

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

I want to get education to become a teacher. I want to teach others who have never been to school

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Sema recalls coming home from her aunt's house and being told that her father had been killed in a suicide attack

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Sema still thinks about him every second and likes to look at his prayer beads (Tisbeh) to remember him. They hang from the curtain in the family home. She loves school and wants to become a teacher one day. Sema says she wants peace in her country to stop other children losing their fathers. We still have lots of his belongings, like his car, his clothes, his watch, his shoes. Whenever we see them we cry. He gave us all so much love every moment and he is on our minds. I want for the powerful people around the world to stop the war and bring peace, because I don't want other children to lose their fathers.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

I want to become a teacher to serve the country and I don't want any girls to be illiterate. I want to teach all the girls, so they have access to education.*Names have been changed to protect identities

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

She was forced to flee her home with her family after their town was attacked by armed groups. Nooria describes a rocket hitting her neighbours home killing many inside. They fled on foot with just the clothes on their backs and she now lives in Mazari Shariff where Save the Children have enrolled her in school and provide vocational training

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Nooria* hopes for a future with no war; "When they attacked our village, the rocket hit our neighbour's house and they all died. Our house then caught fire and we ran away. My friends who I used to play with - I still don't know if they are alive or if they are dead.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

I'm hoping for a better future, to learn, to support my family and to get them out of this difficult life. And I'm hoping for a future where there is no war.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Naveed lost his leg when he stepped on a mine aged just 8-years-old. He was herding the family's sheep in the mountains near their home when he triggered a landmine

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

After months of medical treatment his right leg was eventually amputated. He received physiotherapy and a prosthetic leg from the International Committee for the Red Cross in Mazar

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Now enrolled in school, Naveed is being given vocational training by Save the Children. For around a year I felt and dreamt that I still had my leg. But when I woke up and saw, there was no leg. Sometimes Id feel with my hand to check and find it wasn't there.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

If someone has loses their leg, it does not mean that they have lost their mind."

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

"With the help of our minds we can continue to study, learn, and work to make the future of our families brighter.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Several years ago Neveed's father, Mahboob, was brutally beaten with rifle butts by armed groups after, he says, he failed to provide food for them while they were stationed in the family's village. He suffered brain damage which affected the right side of his body, speech and his brain function

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Habiba and Arezo were injured with their mother three years ago in a suicide bombing in Kabul. Arezo is still traumatised from what she saw and has become completely withdrawn

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Arezo's younger sister Habiba cares for her, takes her to lessons and anywhere she wants to go. They are both in school through Save the Children's 'Steps towards Afghan girls' education success' (STAGES) programme, which helps the most marginalised girls get access to education, stay in school and learn.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Habiba says: When I woke up and I opened my eyes I saw lots of bodies and I thought I was not alive any more. It was horrible. I'll never forget that. Whenever there is a big sound she gets scared because she was traumatised by the sound she heard during the attack. I love my sister, and I help her with her lessons, I take her anywhere."

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

"She's older than me but I feel like the older one because I support her. I hope for a better future for me and my sister.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Two years ago Khalida lost her 18-year old brother when he was killed in an explosion in Kabul. She misses him every day and says the family are still carrying the grief of his loss

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

"Two years ago, my brother was going to Kabul when an explosion happened and he lost his life. We are still carrying the grief and are crying over him. At the time we were happy, everyone was happy. Now no-one is happy in the family. When I remember him, I cry and feel so bad. I hope for peace and that war will stop, and that nobody loses their brother

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

I want to get education to become a teacher. I want to teach others who have never been to school

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Sema recalls coming home from her aunt's house and being told that her father had been killed in a suicide attack

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

Sema still thinks about him every second and likes to look at his prayer beads (Tisbeh) to remember him. They hang from the curtain in the family home. She loves school and wants to become a teacher one day. Sema says she wants peace in her country to stop other children losing their fathers. We still have lots of his belongings, like his car, his clothes, his watch, his shoes. Whenever we see them we cry. He gave us all so much love every moment and he is on our minds. I want for the powerful people around the world to stop the war and bring peace, because I don't want other children to lose their fathers.

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

I want to become a teacher to serve the country and I don't want any girls to be illiterate. I want to teach all the girls, so they have access to education.*Names have been changed to protect identities

Andrew Quilty/Save the Children

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Ive had to grapple with a lot of different aspects of myself, at times I find I am still coming to terms with myself. The British side of me is over-polite, loves roast dinner, and frequently engages in banter. Growing up, Afghan culture taught me to become a gift-giver, Afghans have a tradition where they do not visit the home of another person without bringing a gift, whether its fruit or clothes. I still find myself giving gifts to people randomly at work for no particular reason, or to my friends, not knowing how to explain to them that it is a programmed response.

There are more sinister parts of my identity. For example, I wouldnt dare to disclose to another Afghan that I am an atheist. In fact, I would rather say that I am from another country just to avoid the conversation altogether. It is a fear that I have, being attacked for my belief system, or lack thereof. Once I realised at age 17 that I was an atheist, I began to understand my purpose a lot better. I no longer felt lost or at war with the nature of reality. Now when I experience the first few stages of lust, for example, I dont see it as magic, I know its evolutionary biology prompting a cascade of chemicals. When I centre myself, I dont feel I am connecting to a higher power, instead I know that neural network integration is at work. Or if I ever experience bad luck, I can take accountability and put it down to my own actions, not superstition. Atheism helps me achieve equanimity amid the flux. More importantly, it has allowed me to seek explanations of the natural world through science, to refine my facilities by learning and debating and it has given me the groundwork to insight into the human condition.

Another factor that can be quite tricky to manoeuvre is coming to terms with the fact that being a child of immigrants makes me extremely vulnerable. There is no safety net if something were to go wrong, no strong family lineage to fall back on, no real support system. This has made me particularly mentally strong.

Its weird, the things which ought to ostensibly cause disturbance within me have actually spurred me to become more motivated than ever. For example, knowing that I have nobody to fall back on, to rely on or carry me, is probably the reason why I am a self-starter. I got into my masters program at the age of 21 after graduating with a first-class honours. I had lived in three different continents by the time I was 25. I wonder if any of this would have happened if I was notan outsider, a child of immigrants, a woman; I always felt I had more to prove than others.

Every day I am grateful for encountering science, humanism, reason and the grace of literature. My life would be completely different had my parents chosen to settle in Kabul. I would likely be illiterate, prohibited from working, sadder even I might never have encountered Bukowski, neuroscience or stoicism.

I cant begin to describe how much I adore the little parts of living in London. Every time I pick up free newspapers, I think about how much it means to have access to knowledge so readily, it is truly a luxury that we take for granted. I can walk for five minutes and find my local bank, buy a fresh croissant with a contactless card and enter one of Londons many public libraries. We take employment laws for granted too. Having lived and worked in China, I was overworked, mistreated and subjected to gross employment abuses that I couldnt report, as it is considered disrespectful to dispute orders in China. And this all happened to me while I was working at one of the most prestigious private Universities in Guangzhou. But these experiences remind me of the beauty of rule of law. Upholding democracy is our strength in the west, and we need to stop shying away from being vocal about our triumphs.

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Nonetheless, while British citizens have access to a number of privileges that they often take for granted, challenges to democracy do exist. There is still a crisis in our polity the norms of our political and electoral culture that has parties at its centre. Many would argue that it is now approaching full-scale collapse in the midst of Brexit. While parliament insists on a bill to stop a no-deal Brexit, there are some who describe our nation as broken.

The overall point here is that we all benefit from democracy, those of us in the western world, and to overlook the little luxuries is the cause of a lot of discontent within most people. One of my favourite Stoic philosophers, Epictetus, once said Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. I really believe that to be happy means to live in eternal gratitude for everything, even the little stuff. When did it become fashionable to be a cynic? I find nothing noble or admirable about constant complaint and judgement. If only we spent more time rejoicing and celebrating the richness of life.

Life in the west is truly a marvel, it took me travelling to the ends of the earth to really learn this, and it will take a lifetime to truly embody it, but the philosophy remains the same: he is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.

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As an Afghan immigrant, Britain and atheism showed me the bright side of democracy - The Independent

Why Did America Lose Its Religion? Thank the Internet. – Patheos

In an article for The Atlantic, writer Derek Thompson recognizes the rise of the non-religious. In 1990, we were roughly 8% of the U.S. population. By 2000, we were 14%. By 2010, 18%. Its about 23% now. It keeps going up and theres no sign of the trend slowing down.

What Thompson wants to know is what happened around 1990 thats the year he pinpoints that caused the percentage to begin its upward trajectory.

According to Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, Americas nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

Thompson goes in more depth about each of those theories and theres validity to all of them. He also points out, correctly, that religious institutions in general have shot themselves in the foot. The Catholic Church became mired in sexual abuse scandals while evangelicals were continuing their high-profile financial ones.

But the way Thompson phrased his question may be why he missed the most obvious answer. He asks, What the hell happened around 1990? But if you look at the graph, the answer is nothing significant. The number went up but barely. If youre looking for when the rise really began, you have to look to at least the mid-1990s.

Nor does Smith rule out the familiar antagonists of capitalism and the internet in explaining the popularity of non-affiliation. The former has made life more precarious, and the latter has made it easier for anxious individuals to build their own spiritualities from ideas and practices they find online, he said, such as Buddhist meditation guides and atheist Reddit boards.

Thats quite the understatement. Google has done more to create atheists than any force in history. Its not just the ability to learn new ideas. Its the ability to connect with like-minded people. Its the way you can get your theological questions answered without having to go through a pastor with an agenda. (I swear, it blew my early-teenage mind to see people saying God didnt exist with confidence, without fear, and with plenty of justification.) Just have faith was no longer an acceptable response to tough questions about religious mythology. Also, people were exposed to atheism for the first time; they were no longer constrained by a church-created bubble.

For me, all that kicked in around 1997 and I was a latecomer to the internet. For people like me who transitioned into the digital age, there was no force more powerful than those free AOL CDs when it came to exposing me to new ideas.

(Featured image via Shutterstock. Image via PRRI)

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Why Did America Lose Its Religion? Thank the Internet. - Patheos

Evolution Has Not Been Kind to Jerry Coyne – Discovery Institute

Professor Coyne, it seems, never evolved a divine sense organ, which he laments. Without a divine sense organ, Jerry Coyne cannot believe in God, though he doesnt lament that.

Writing at Why Evolution Is True, Coyne explains that because he cannot sense God, therefore God does not exist. Ironically, Coyne cites English broadcaster David Attenborough, a Darwinist who ought to be Coynes ally, who is agnostic because he muses about a hive of termites (Darwinists are always thinking in terms of insects). The termites work busily, not noticing Attenborough observing them, because they lack the sense organs to see him. Attenborough wont commit to atheism because he thinks that his inability to see God may be termite-like. Hes missing the organ, so he might as well keep his options open.

Coyne thinks hes missing the same organ, but takes his evolutionary impasse as positive evidence of Gods non-existence. If God exists, Coyne reasons, He would have evolved Coyne better.

The irony of the whole thing is that Coynes lament about his sensate inadequacy is itself the product of his capacity for reason, which is his actual divine sense organ. It was right under his nose (or above his nose) all the time. God is immaterial spirit, and we can only know Him by reason and love Him by will. Our senses alone arent evolved to know or love immaterial Reality.

I pointed this out to Coyne, with all the politeness I could muster given the nature of the argument, and I suggested that Coyne might use his newly located reason-organ more effectively.

Coyne, still not using it effectively, replied:

There are many problems here. First of all, even if God is not a physical thing, nearly all Christians the theistic ones think that God interacts with the world in a physical way. After all, God sent his son/alter ego down to Earth as a scapegoat to be killed for our sins, thereby expiating us. IDers believe thatGodThe Intelligent Designer either brought new species into being or made the requisite mutations to promote their appearance. Indeed, the very concept of Intelligent Design presupposes that empirical evidence science and observation itself inevitably brings us to the concept of an Intelligent Designer. And that evidence is sensed by sense organs.

God is indeed not physical, but He has physical effects in the world. In fact, most things in nature are His effects, excepting chance and evil. Chance isnt His effect because it is the un-designed conjunction of designed effects, and evil isnt His effect because its the privation of His good, not a thing in itself. Even our free will is His effect, because He wills it to be free. This is all classical theology, to which Coynes newly discovered reason-organ is unaccustomed.

We can infer Gods existence by his effects in nature just as we infer number in groups of things or primordial singularity by cosmic background radiation or evolution by the fossil record. Science infers immaterial things it cant see by inferring them from material things it can see. Abstract reasoning is the cornerstone of science, just as abstract reasoning is the cornerstone of theology and philosophy. All abstract knowledge, observed Aristotle, originates in the senses, but it is the unique hallmark of the human mind that we can abstract concepts from concrete perceptions. Our capacity for reason our intellect is the mark of our humanity, and the organ by which we know God.

Coyne continues:

In other words, ID itself refutes Egnors claim thatGodThe Intelligent Designer cannot be sensed via an organ. The stupidity here (and Im not pulling punches given that Egnor engages in name-calling) is to assume that a deity who is nonphysical cannot be apprehended through sense organs. If youre a theist, thats palpably ridiculous.

The design we infer in nature is an insight we abstract from our senses, but the inference itself is acquired by our reason. We infer design in nature by abstraction, not immediately by sense image. We see biological structures that have purpose and specified complexity, and using our capacity for abstract thought we reason that such structures imply a designer. Coyne does the same process, except he reasons that purpose and specified complexity imply the absence of a designer. Go figure.

Coyne meanders to the diversity of religious belief, and he muses:

And why, over time, has reason turned more and more of the West into atheists? After all, God gave this reason to each of us, and gave it to us specifically so wed know Him (or Her or Whatever). Are some people lacking in this reason? And that includes people who seem to have plenty of reason on other fronts: atheist intellectuals like Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawking, Dan Dennett, Stephen Fry, Richard Dawkins, and so on. AndDavid Attenboroughlacks it, too? Why did God give these people lots of ability to reason, but prevented that reason from apprehending His existence? Why are more and more people not using their organs of reason properly as time progresses?

Reason can wax and wane, and I think were in a period of wane. If you doubt this, ask Coyne a 21st-century atheist intellectual to discuss Platos Timaeus or Aristotles Metaphysics texts well-known to teenagers in Athens in the 4th century B.C. or Augustines City of God or Aquinas Summa Theologica read by parish priests in 15th century Siberia. Evolved or not, contemporary reason-organs of late are missing the bus.

Anyway, few people reason themselves out of, or into, belief in God. Reason provides a platform on which we stand, and reason may hinder us, or help us to see. The heart has reasons, for atheists and theists, and it is in the heart in the will that God is cherished or scorned.

As for atheism seeping into modernity, Coyne speaks only of the capitalist West. Most of humanity in Asia and Africa is in the midst of an explosion of theism, mostly Christianity and Islam. The eclipse of totalitarianism deprived atheism of its natural form of government, and it scurries to attach itself to any new body that will have it. The reasons for the atheist infestation (insect analogy again) in the West are debated. My hunch is that it is due to material and technological narcosis. In our opulence and our electronic cocoon we live as atheists. A culture blind to God is like a drunk, dangerously oblivious to a cold night.

Photo: Jerry Coyne on The Dave Rubin Show, via YouTube (screen shot).

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Evolution Has Not Been Kind to Jerry Coyne - Discovery Institute

What religion meant to the Mahatma – Hindustan Times

Though raised in a devout Vaishnava home, Mohandas was an atheist in his final years at Rajkots Alfred High School. In the words of his autobiography, he crossed the Sahara of atheism during three subsequent years (1888-91) in London where, in addition to studying law, he read, for the first time, the Gita, the New Testament and texts about the Buddha and Islam.

For the rest of his life, including as the leader of Indias national movement, Gandhi remained a believing, questioning and tolerant Hindu. In due course he was blessed with a team of brilliant colleagues of varying religious hues. These included the visionary agnostic Jawaharlal Nehru, Vinoba Bhave the scholar-ascetic, and Vallabhbhai Patel, the realist who prayed silently but stayed clear of godmen.

Plus the scholar, Koran translator and fighter for Hindu-Muslim partnership, Abul Kalam Azad. Plus C Rajagopalachari, who retold the Ramayana and Mahabharata stories and simplified the Upanishads.

And Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the devout Muslim with loyal Hindu and Sikh comrades, Charlie Andrews, the Christian who put the deprived first, Gora the staunch Andhra atheist, the poet Sarojini Naidu, the young United States-educated revolutionary Jayaprakash Narayan, and many more.

Some of Gandhis core views were shared by his colleagues and by many Indians. One was that a person of any religious belief a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Sikh, a Jew, a Zoroastrian, a Jain, a Buddhist, an atheist, an agnostic, whatever had an equal right to India. Religion was one thing, nationality another.

To this, Jinnah said, No, in 1940, although earlier he had agreed with Gandhi. Muslims and Hindus are two nations, Jinnah now insisted.

Hindus like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar agreed with Jinnah. Three years before Jinnahs Pakistan call, Savarkar had declared in Ahmedabad that Hindus and Muslims were two nations.

Another core Gandhian view was about the Almighty. While human beings called God by different names, all, claimed Gandhi, were addressing the same Supreme Being. As the line sung by him and millions of Indians put it, Ishwar Allah tere naam.

Composed before his time, the line became synonymous with Gandhi. In April 2000, when I asked Bangladeshi villagers in Noakhali what they knew about Gandhi, they responded by singing Ishwar Allah tere naam to me. This was more than half a century after Gandhis peace trek in Noakhali.

Gandhi turned to religion to cope with lifes sorrows and shocks, not to find a political rallying cry.

In the midst of death, he wrote in 1928, life persists. In the midst of untruth, truth persists. In the midst of darkness, light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme Good. (Young India, 11 October 1928)

Gandhi did not fret over why a God of mercy and justice allows all the miseries and sorrows we see around us. Not being co-equals with God, we cannot solve such mysteries, he concluded. (Harijan 13 Jun 1936)

In any case, each day seemed to bring its mercies. God is with us and looks after us as if He had no other care besides. How this happens I do not know. That it does happen, I do know. So Gandhi wrote for a young associate, Anand Hingorani. (Hingorani, God is Truth, p. 80)

For an American journalist, Vincent Sheean, who called in January 1948, Gandhi translated one of his favourite Upanishad verses: Renounce the world and receive it back as Gods gift. And then covet not. Gandhi explained that the last four words were crucial, for a renouncer was often tempted, after surrender and acceptance, to covet again. (Sheean, Lead Kindly Light, 1949, pp. 190-3)

The notion that nationality was independent of religion had, we saw, its foes. The same was true for the idea that the variously named God was one. Even today, your God, my God, the Hindu God (or Gods), the Muslim God, and the Christian God are common phrases.

But Hind Swaraj contained these lines: Is the God of the Muslim different from the God of the Hindu?... There are deadly proverbs as between the followers of Siva and those of Vishnu, yet nobody suggests that these two do not belong to the same nation [T]he Vedic religion is different from Jainism, but the followers of the respective faiths are not different nations.

In 1947, against his advice, Gandhis colleagues, led by Patel and Nehru, opted for Partition, which seemed to them the only route to independence. The people too seemed resigned to Partition, and Gandhi acquiesced. Yet neither Gandhi nor Nehru nor Patel nor the bulk of the Indian people conceded that Hindus and Muslims were two nations.

Partition having been accepted, Gandhi challenged Jinnah (June 7, 1947) to build a Pakistan where the Gita could be recited side by side with the Quran, and the temple and the gurdwara would be given the same respect as the mosque, so that those who had been opposing Pakistan till now would be sorry for their mistake and would only sing praises of Pakistan. (Collected Works 88: 99-100).

Six days later, he said: I [ask] whether those calling God Rahim would have to leave [India] and whether in the part described as Pakistan Rama as the name of God would be forbidden. Would someone who called God Krishna be turned out of Pakistan? Whatever be the case there, we shall worship God both as Krishna and Karim and show the world that we refuse to go mad (CW 88: 144).

Asking himself and everyone else to learn from disappointments, he said on June 24, 1947: Had Rama been crowned a king, he would have spent his days in luxury and comfort and the world would hardly have heard of him. But the day he was to be crowned, he had to put on bark clothing and go into exile. Isnt it the limit of unhappiness? But Rama and Sita turned that sorrow into joy. (CW 88: 203)

To give minorities in India and Pakistan a sense of security, Gandhi spent much of August 1947, including Independence Day, in a dilapidated Muslim home in a Hindu-majority locality in Kolkata. When, three days later, Eid fell, half a million Hindus and Muslims attended Gandhis prayer-meeting.

But both halves of divided Punjab were in flames and Delhi itself was vulnerable. Stopping in Delhi on the way, so he imagined, to Punjab, Gandhi was asked by critics to retire to Kashi or go to the Himalayas. He replied: I laugh and tell them that the Himalayas of my penance are where there is misery to be alleviated, oppression to be relieved. There can be no rest for me so long as there is a single person in India whether man or woman, young or old, lacking the necessaries of life, by which I mean a sense of security, a life style worthy of human beings, i.e., clothing, education, food and shelter of a decent standard. (CW 88: 51)

Gandhi thought his India for all to be crucial to humanity as a whole. On January 12, 1948, wounded by malice in the subcontinent, he fasted and prayed for the regaining of Indias dwindling prestige, saying: I flatter myself with the belief that the loss of her soul by India will mean the loss of the hope of the aching, storm-tossed and hungry world. (CW 90: 409)

When he was killed, Sarojini Naidu pleaded in a radio broadcast, My father, do not rest. Do not allow us to rest.

Even if, 150 years after his birth, Gandhis spirit is entitled to peace and quiet, the rest of us might ask if there is no misery to be alleviated, no oppression to be relieved.

Rajmohan Gandhi is a noted historian, biographer, and Gandhis grandson

The views expressed are personal

First Published:Oct 02, 2019 17:55 IST

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What religion meant to the Mahatma - Hindustan Times

Dravidian atheism on a wing and a prayer – Times of India

In a recent interview with TOI, DMK Youth Wing leader Udayanidhi Stalin gave an interesting reply when asked if he visited temples. When we, as children, played cricket in front of our Gopalapuram house, the ball would often land on the premises of a temple opposite the house. I would go in to fetch the ball, he said, asserting that he is a rationalist.

Last week, Vaiko bowled a full toss for Udayanidhi to go over the fence when he said the Dravidian parties should revise their strategy and drop their criticism of religious faith. Crores of people visit temples, Vaiko said. If you are not a believer dont go to temples, but dont ridicule believers who do.

It was one of the sanest things Ive heard Vaiko speak. Some analysts think Vaiko shouldnt have made such a statement in public, that he couldve discussed it in a closed-door strategy meet. But Vaiko chose to make it a public statement with a double intent: He wanted to be both the medium and the message. The message was something waiting to be delivered. And it makes M K Stalins and his son Udhayanidhis job easier. Vaiko was merely being a friendly facilitator, in the process buttressing his utility as the home-againthough-estranged son of the DMK.

Vaiko was not telling anything new to Stalin, who has long realised the need to go slow on rationalism in the changing times of religious polarisation where the prime beneficiary is the BJP. He set tongues wagging in September 2015 when he visited the Sowmya Narayanaswamy temple in Sivaganga. Dravidian purists frowned again in June last year when Stalin accepted honours from Hindu priests at the doors of the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple. Those were definite attempts to erase the anti-Hindu blot the DMK has been carrying from its previous avatar of Dravidar Kazhagam that broke idols on streets and cut brahmins sacred threads.

The AIADMK, right from its birth, had no rationalist pretensions. MGR made no effort to hide his belief and, in fact, reminded believers that Karunanidhi had called them fraudsters. Jayalalithaa revelled in public display of Hindu rituals, often kickstarting her election campaigns from temples. Periyars atheism that celebrated insults of the faithful stemmed from his belief that the Hindu religion was the root of casteism that gave minority brahmins the upper hand. It served its limited purpose, as Stalin & Co have realised, and its time to be inclusive. To justify this inevitable change, Vaiko rightly offered the argument that how DMK founder C N Annadurai has altered his stands with changing social realities.

Probably the first atheist Indian politician who spoke openly about the need to respect someones faith was communist leader E M S Namboodiripad. His cerebral take on secularism and religion was ahead of its times and god-fearing communists took a long time to visit temples without a towel to hide their face. There was a time when Karunanidhi asked one of his party leaders wearing a saffron tilak on his forehead if he was bleeding. It will be a while before DMK leaders would wear their belief on their sleeves, but Stalin is unlikely to chide if any of his comrades dares to do that.

M Karunanidhi just loved to make fun of Hindu rituals. The master of repartee could not resist the temptation to take an occasional dig at Hindu gods, but he notes in his autobiography Nenjukku Neethi his visit to the Srirangam temple where accepted the parivattom (religious headgear). The son may go the extra mile and show respect for the faithful. And the grandson could well get into temples for reasons other than fetching the cricket ball.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Dravidian atheism on a wing and a prayer - Times of India

The atheist revolution – Hot Air

Third, Americas next geopolitical foe wasnt a godless state. It was god-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations like Al Qaeda culminated in the attacks of 9/11. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, Al Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that religion was inherently destructive.

Meanwhile, during George W. Bushs presidency, Christianitys association with unpopular Republican policies drove more young liberals and moderates away from both the party and the church. New Atheists, like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, became intellectual celebrities; the 2006 bestseller American Theocracy argued that Evangelicals in the Republican coalition were staging a quiet coup that would plunge the country into disarray and financial ruin. Throughout the Bush presidency, liberal votersespecially white liberal voters detached from organized religion in ever-higher numbers.

Religion lost its halo effect in the last three decades, not because science drove god from the public square, but rather because politics did. In the 21st century, not religious has become a specific American identityone that distinguishes secular, liberal whites from the conservative, Evangelical right.

theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/atheism-fastest-growing-religion-us/598843/

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The atheist revolution - Hot Air

atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to …

Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.

The dialectic of the argument between forms of belief and unbelief raises questions concerning the most perspicuous delineation, or characterization, of atheism, agnosticism, and theism. It is necessary not only to probe the warrant for atheism but also carefully to consider what is the most adequate definition of atheism. This article will start with what have been some widely accepted, but still in various ways mistaken or misleading, definitions of atheism and move to more adequate formulations that better capture the full range of atheist thought and more clearly separate unbelief from belief and atheism from agnosticism. In the course of this delineation the section also will consider key arguments for and against atheism.

A central, common core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the affirmation of the reality of one, and only one, God. Adherents of these faiths believe that there is a God who created the universe out of nothing and who has absolute sovereignty over all his creation; this includes, of course, human beingswho are not only utterly dependent on this creative power but also sinful and who, or so the faithful must believe, can only make adequate sense of their lives by accepting, without question, Gods ordinances for them. The varieties of atheism are numerous, but all atheists reject such a set of beliefs.

Atheism, however, casts a wider net and rejects all belief in spiritual beings, and to the extent that belief in spiritual beings is definitive of what it means for a system to be religious, atheism rejects religion. So atheism is not only a rejection of the central conceptions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; it is, as well, a rejection of the religious beliefs of such African religions as that of the Dinka and the Nuer, of the anthropomorphic gods of classical Greece and Rome, and of the transcendental conceptions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Generally atheism is a denial of God or of the gods, and if religion is defined in terms of belief in spiritual beings, then atheism is the rejection of all religious belief.

It is necessary, however, if a tolerably adequate understanding of atheism is to be achieved, to give a reading to rejection of religious belief and to come to realize how the characterization of atheism as the denial of God or the gods is inadequate.

To say that atheism is the denial of God or the gods and that it is the opposite of theism, a system of belief that affirms the reality of God and seeks to demonstrate his existence, is inadequate in a number of ways. First, not all theologians who regard themselves as defenders of the Christian faith or of Judaism or Islam regard themselves as defenders of theism. The influential 20th-century Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, for example, regards the God of theism as an idol and refuses to construe God as a being, even a supreme being, among beings or as an infinite being above finite beings. God, for him, is being-itself, the ground of being and meaning. The particulars of Tillichs view are in certain ways idiosyncratic, as well as being obscure and problematic, but they have been influential; and his rejection of theism, while retaining a belief in God, is not eccentric in contemporary theology, though it may very well affront the plain believer.

Second, and more important, it is not the case that all theists seek to demonstrate or even in any way rationally to establish the existence of God. Many theists regard such a demonstration as impossible, and fideistic believers (e.g., Johann Hamann and Sren Kierkegaard) regard such a demonstration, even if it were possible, as undesirable, for in their view it would undermine faith. If it could be proved, or known for certain, that God exists, people would not be in a position to accept him as their sovereign Lord humbly on faith with all the risks that entails. There are theologians who have argued that for genuine faith to be possible God must necessarily be a hidden God, the mysterious ultimate reality, whose existence and authority must be accepted simply on faith. This fideistic view has not, of course, gone without challenge from inside the major faiths, but it is of sufficient importance to make the above characterization of atheism inadequate.

Finally, and most important, not all denials of God are denials of his existence. Believers sometimes deny God while not being at all in a state of doubt that God exists. They either willfully reject what they take to be his authority by not acting in accordance with what they take to be his will, or else they simply live their lives as if God did not exist. In this important way they deny him. Such deniers are not atheists (unless we wish, misleadingly, to call them practical atheists). They are not even agnostics. They do not question that God exists; they deny him in other ways. An atheist denies the existence of God. As it is frequently said, atheists believe that it is false that God exists, or that Gods existence is a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability.

Yet it remains the case that such a characterization of atheism is inadequate in other ways. For one it is too narrow. There are atheists who believe that the very concept of God, at least in developed and less anthropomorphic forms of Judeo-Christianity and Islam, is so incoherent that certain central religious claims, such as God is my creator to whom everything is owed, are not genuine truth-claims; i.e., the claims could not be either true or false. Believers hold that such religious propositions are true, some atheists believe that they are false, and there are agnostics who cannot make up their minds whether to believe that they are true or false. (Agnostics think that the propositions are one or the other but believe that it is not possible to determine which.) But all three are mistaken, some atheists argue, for such putative truth-claims are not sufficiently intelligible to be genuine truth-claims that are either true or false. In reality there is nothing in them to be believed or disbelieved, though there is for the believer the powerful and humanly comforting illusion that there is. Such an atheism, it should be added, rooted for some conceptions of God in considerations about intelligibility and what it makes sense to say, has been strongly resisted by some pragmatists and logical empiricists.

While the above considerations about atheism and intelligibility show the second characterization of atheism to be too narrow, it is also the case that this characterization is in a way too broad. For there are fideistic believers, who quite unequivocally believe that when looked at objectively the proposition that God exists has a very low probability weight. They believe in God not because it is probable that he existsthey think it more probable that he does notbut because belief is thought by them to be necessary to make sense of human life. The second characterization of atheism does not distinguish a fideistic believer (a Blaise Pascal or a Soren Kierkegaard) or an agnostic (a T.H. Huxley or a Sir Leslie Stephen) from an atheist such as Baron dHolbach. All believe that there is a God and God protects humankind, however emotionally important they may be, are speculative hypotheses of an extremely low order of probability. But this, since it does not distinguish believers from nonbelievers and does not distinguish agnostics from atheists, cannot be an adequate characterization of atheism.

It may be retorted that to avoid apriorism and dogmatic atheism the existence of God should be regarded as a hypothesis. There are no ontological (purely a priori) proofs or disproofs of Gods existence. It is not reasonable to rule in advance that it makes no sense to say that God exists. What the atheist can reasonably claim is that there is no evidence that there is a God, and against that background he may very well be justified in asserting that there is no God. It has been argued, however, that it is simply dogmatic for an atheist to assert that no possible evidence could ever give one grounds for believing in God. Instead, atheists should justify their unbelief by showing (if they can) how the assertion is well-taken that there is no evidence that would warrant a belief in God. If atheism is justified, the atheist will have shown that in fact there is no adequate evidence for the belief that God exists, but it should not be part of his task to try to show that there could not be any evidence for the existence of God. If the atheist could somehow survive the death of his present body (assuming that such talk makes sense) and come, much to his surprise, to stand in the presence of God, his answer should be, Oh! Lord, you didnt give me enough evidence! He would have been mistaken, and realize that he had been mistaken, in his judgment that God did not exist. Still, he would not have been unjustified, in the light of the evidence available to him during his earthly life, in believing as he did. Not having any such postmortem experiences of the presence of God (assuming that he could have them), what he should say, as things stand and in the face of the evidence he actually has and is likely to be able to get, is that it is false that God exists. (Every time one legitimately asserts that a proposition is false one need not be certain that it is false. Knowing with certainty is not a pleonasm.) The claim is that this tentative posture is the reasonable position for the atheist to take.

An atheist who argues in this manner may also make a distinctive burden-of-proof argument. Given that God (if there is one) is by definition a very recherch realitya reality that must be (for there to be such a reality) transcendent to the worldthe burden of proof is not on the atheist to give grounds for believing that there is no reality of that order. Rather, the burden of proof is on the believer to give some evidence for Gods existencei.e., that there is such a reality. Given what God must be, if there is a God, the theist needs to present the evidence, for such a very strange reality. He needs to show that there is more in the world than is disclosed by common experience. The empirical method, and the empirical method alone, such an atheist asserts, affords a reliable method for establishing what is in fact the case. To the claim of the theist that there are in addition to varieties of empirical facts spiritual facts or transcendent facts, such as it being the case that there is a supernatural, self-existent, eternal power, the atheist can assert that such facts have not been shown.

It will, however, be argued by such atheists, against what they take to be dogmatic aprioristic atheists, that the atheist should be a fallibilist and remain open-minded about what the future may bring. There may, after all, be such transcendent facts, such metaphysical realities. It is not that such a fallibilistic atheist is really an agnostic who believes that he is not justified in either asserting that God exists or denying that he exists and that what he must reasonably do is suspend belief. On the contrary, such an atheist believes that he has very good grounds indeed, as things stand, for denying the existence of God. But he will, on the second conceptualization of what it is to be an atheist, not deny that things could be otherwise and that, if they were, he would be justified in believing in God or at least would no longer be justified in asserting that it is false that there is a God. Using reliable empirical techniques, proven methods for establishing matters of fact, the fallibilistic atheist has found nothing in the universe to make a belief that God exists justifiable or even, everything considered, the most rational option of the various options. He therefore draws the atheistical conclusion (also keeping in mind his burden-of-proof argument) that God does not exist. But he does not dogmatically in a priori fashion deny the existence of God. He remains a thorough and consistent fallibilist.

Such a form of atheism (the atheism of those pragmatists who are also naturalistic humanists), though less inadequate than the first formation of atheism, is still inadequate. God in developed forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is not, like Zeus or Odin, construed in a relatively plain anthropomorphic way. Nothing that could count as God in such religions could possibly be observed, literally encountered, or detected in the universe. God, in such a conception, is utterly transcendent to the world; he is conceived of as pure spirit, an infinite individual who created the universe out of nothing and who is distinct from the universe. Such a realitya reality that is taken to be an ultimate mysterycould not be identified as objects or processes in the universe can be identified. There can be no pointing at or to God, no ostensive teaching of God, to show what is meant. The word God can only be taught intralinguistically. God is taught to someone who does not understand what the word means by the use of descriptions such as the maker of the universe, the eternal, utterly independent being upon whom all other beings depend, the first cause, the sole ultimate reality, or a self-caused being. For someone who does not understand such descriptions, there can be no understanding of the concept of God. But the key terms of such descriptions are themselves no more capable of ostensive definition (of having their referents pointed out) than is God, where that term is not, like Zeus, construed anthropomorphically. (That does not mean that anyone has actually pointed to Zeus or observed Zeus but that one knows what it would be like to do so.)

In coming to understand what is meant by God in such discourses, it must be understood that God, whatever else he is, is a being that could not possibly be seen or be in any way else observed. He could not be anything material or empirical, and he is said by believers to be an intractable mystery. A nonmysterious God would not be the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This, in effect, makes it a mistake to claim that the existence of God can rightly be treated as a hypothesis and makes it a mistake to claim that, by the use of the experimental method or some other determinate empirical method, the existence of God can be confirmed or disconfirmed as can the existence of an empirical reality. The retort made by some atheists, who also like pragmatists remain thoroughgoing fallibilists, is that such a proposed way of coming to know, or failing to come to know, God makes no sense for anyone who understands what kind of reality God is supposed to be. Anything whose existence could be so verified would not be the God of Judeo-Christianity. God could not be a reality whose presence is even faintly adumbrated in experience, for anything that could even count as the God of Judeo-Christianity must be transcendent to the world. Anything that could actually be encountered or experienced could not be God.

At the very heart of a religion such as Christianity there stands a metaphysical belief in a reality that is alleged to transcend the empirical world. It is the metaphysical belief that there is an eternal, ever-present creative source and sustainer of the universe. The problem is how it is possible to know or reasonably believe that such a reality exists or even to understand what such talk is about.

It is not that God is like a theoretical entity in physics such as a proton or a neutrino. They are, where they are construed as realities rather than as heuristically useful conceptual fictions, thought to be part of the actual furniture of the universe. They are not said to be transcendent to the universe, but rather are invisible entities in the universe logically on a par with specks of dust and grains of sand, only much, much smaller. They are on the same continuum; they are not a different kind of reality. It is only the case that they, as a matter of fact, cannot be seen. Indeed no one has an understanding of what it would be like to see a proton or a neutrinoin that way they are like Godand no provision is made in physical theory for seeing them. Still, there is no logical ban on seeing them as there is on seeing God. They are among the things in the universe, and thus, though they are invisible, they can be postulated as causes of things that are seen. Since this is so it becomes at least logically possible indirectly to verify by empirical methods the existence of such realities. It is also the case that there is no logical ban on establishing what is necessary to establish a causal connection, namely a constant conjunction of two discrete empirical realities. But no such constant conjunction can be established or even intelligibly asserted between God and the universe, and thus the existence of God is not even indirectly verifiable. God is not a discrete empirical thing or being, and the universe is not a gigantic thing or process over and above the things and processes in the universe of which it makes sense to say that the universe has or had a cause. But then there is no way, directly or indirectly, that even the probability that there is a God could be empirically established.

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atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to ...

atheism r/atheism – reddit: the front page of the internet

This happened around last year when they just found out that i was an atheist. My parents sat down with me (and for some reason they roped my brother in too) to kinda talk it out with them, the why and how and all that.

So my father was talking about how god had blessed him and his family with a luxurious and comfortable life. I, thinking that my parents would hear me out since they got out of their own way just to talk about religion with us, told them that i believed that they worked hard and earned the money themselves.

Surprisingly enough, my father immediately blew his top off and yelled at me, insisting that it was by god's grace that we are now able to live such a good life. He then, for some reason told me that my ability to draw was a god-given talent. Naturally, i was pissed. After all, i went to years and years of art class just to be able to draw like i do now, though it only looks nice in my family's standards since i'm the only one in my family that can draw. But i didn't say anything back since i don't want to start another war with m parents.

Seriously, if it really was just god's grace that allowed my family to live comfortably, why have i never seen god just bestow upon my father a paycheck? Why is it that he's so happy about having all his hard work credited to an invisible sky daddy? Call me greedy or selfish, but if someone took all the credit to my hard work i'd be bloody pissed. But hey, thanks for reading this.

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atheism r/atheism - reddit: the front page of the internet

Atheism | CARM.org

Atheism is a lack of belief in any God and deities as well as a total denial of the existence of any god. It is a growing movement that is becoming more aggressive, more demanding, and less tolerant of anything other than itself - as is exemplified by its adherents. Is atheism a sound philosophical system as a worldview or is it ultimately self-defeating? Is the requirement of empirical evidence for God a mistake in logic or is it a fair demand? Can we prove that God exists or is that impossible? Find out more about atheism, its arguments, and its problems here at CARM. Learn how to deal with the arguments raised against the existence of God that seek to replace Him with naturalism, materialism, and moral relativism.

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Atheism | CARM.org

Atheism – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Atheism is rejecting the belief in a god or gods. It is the opposite of theism, which is the belief that at least one god exists.A person who rejects belief in gods is called an atheist.Theism is the belief in one or more gods. Adding an a, meaning "without", before the word theism results in atheism, or literally, "without theism".. Atheism is not the same as agnosticism: agnostics say that ...

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Atheism - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to …

Atheism, in general, the critique and denial of metaphysical beliefs in God or spiritual beings. As such, it is usually distinguished from theism, which affirms the reality of the divine and often seeks to demonstrate its existence. Atheism is also distinguished from agnosticism, which leaves open the question whether there is a god or not, professing to find the questions unanswered or unanswerable.

The dialectic of the argument between forms of belief and unbelief raises questions concerning the most perspicuous delineation, or characterization, of atheism, agnosticism, and theism. It is necessary not only to probe the warrant for atheism but also carefully to consider what is the most adequate definition of atheism. This article will start with what have been some widely accepted, but still in various ways mistaken or misleading, definitions of atheism and move to more adequate formulations that better capture the full range of atheist thought and more clearly separate unbelief from belief and atheism from agnosticism. In the course of this delineation the section also will consider key arguments for and against atheism.

A central, common core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the affirmation of the reality of one, and only one, God. Adherents of these faiths believe that there is a God who created the universe out of nothing and who has absolute sovereignty over all his creation; this includes, of course, human beingswho are not only utterly dependent on this creative power but also sinful and who, or so the faithful must believe, can only make adequate sense of their lives by accepting, without question, Gods ordinances for them. The varieties of atheism are numerous, but all atheists reject such a set of beliefs.

Atheism, however, casts a wider net and rejects all belief in spiritual beings, and to the extent that belief in spiritual beings is definitive of what it means for a system to be religious, atheism rejects religion. So atheism is not only a rejection of the central conceptions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; it is, as well, a rejection of the religious beliefs of such African religions as that of the Dinka and the Nuer, of the anthropomorphic gods of classical Greece and Rome, and of the transcendental conceptions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Generally atheism is a denial of God or of the gods, and if religion is defined in terms of belief in spiritual beings, then atheism is the rejection of all religious belief.

It is necessary, however, if a tolerably adequate understanding of atheism is to be achieved, to give a reading to rejection of religious belief and to come to realize how the characterization of atheism as the denial of God or the gods is inadequate.

To say that atheism is the denial of God or the gods and that it is the opposite of theism, a system of belief that affirms the reality of God and seeks to demonstrate his existence, is inadequate in a number of ways. First, not all theologians who regard themselves as defenders of the Christian faith or of Judaism or Islam regard themselves as defenders of theism. The influential 20th-century Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, for example, regards the God of theism as an idol and refuses to construe God as a being, even a supreme being, among beings or as an infinite being above finite beings. God, for him, is being-itself, the ground of being and meaning. The particulars of Tillichs view are in certain ways idiosyncratic, as well as being obscure and problematic, but they have been influential; and his rejection of theism, while retaining a belief in God, is not eccentric in contemporary theology, though it may very well affront the plain believer.

Second, and more important, it is not the case that all theists seek to demonstrate or even in any way rationally to establish the existence of God. Many theists regard such a demonstration as impossible, and fideistic believers (e.g., Johann Hamann and Sren Kierkegaard) regard such a demonstration, even if it were possible, as undesirable, for in their view it would undermine faith. If it could be proved, or known for certain, that God exists, people would not be in a position to accept him as their sovereign Lord humbly on faith with all the risks that entails. There are theologians who have argued that for genuine faith to be possible God must necessarily be a hidden God, the mysterious ultimate reality, whose existence and authority must be accepted simply on faith. This fideistic view has not, of course, gone without challenge from inside the major faiths, but it is of sufficient importance to make the above characterization of atheism inadequate.

Finally, and most important, not all denials of God are denials of his existence. Believers sometimes deny God while not being at all in a state of doubt that God exists. They either willfully reject what they take to be his authority by not acting in accordance with what they take to be his will, or else they simply live their lives as if God did not exist. In this important way they deny him. Such deniers are not atheists (unless we wish, misleadingly, to call them practical atheists). They are not even agnostics. They do not question that God exists; they deny him in other ways. An atheist denies the existence of God. As it is frequently said, atheists believe that it is false that God exists, or that Gods existence is a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability.

Yet it remains the case that such a characterization of atheism is inadequate in other ways. For one it is too narrow. There are atheists who believe that the very concept of God, at least in developed and less anthropomorphic forms of Judeo-Christianity and Islam, is so incoherent that certain central religious claims, such as God is my creator to whom everything is owed, are not genuine truth-claims; i.e., the claims could not be either true or false. Believers hold that such religious propositions are true, some atheists believe that they are false, and there are agnostics who cannot make up their minds whether to believe that they are true or false. (Agnostics think that the propositions are one or the other but believe that it is not possible to determine which.) But all three are mistaken, some atheists argue, for such putative truth-claims are not sufficiently intelligible to be genuine truth-claims that are either true or false. In reality there is nothing in them to be believed or disbelieved, though there is for the believer the powerful and humanly comforting illusion that there is. Such an atheism, it should be added, rooted for some conceptions of God in considerations about intelligibility and what it makes sense to say, has been strongly resisted by some pragmatists and logical empiricists.

While the above considerations about atheism and intelligibility show the second characterization of atheism to be too narrow, it is also the case that this characterization is in a way too broad. For there are fideistic believers, who quite unequivocally believe that when looked at objectively the proposition that God exists has a very low probability weight. They believe in God not because it is probable that he existsthey think it more probable that he does notbut because belief is thought by them to be necessary to make sense of human life. The second characterization of atheism does not distinguish a fideistic believer (a Blaise Pascal or a Soren Kierkegaard) or an agnostic (a T.H. Huxley or a Sir Leslie Stephen) from an atheist such as Baron dHolbach. All believe that there is a God and God protects humankind, however emotionally important they may be, are speculative hypotheses of an extremely low order of probability. But this, since it does not distinguish believers from nonbelievers and does not distinguish agnostics from atheists, cannot be an adequate characterization of atheism.

It may be retorted that to avoid apriorism and dogmatic atheism the existence of God should be regarded as a hypothesis. There are no ontological (purely a priori) proofs or disproofs of Gods existence. It is not reasonable to rule in advance that it makes no sense to say that God exists. What the atheist can reasonably claim is that there is no evidence that there is a God, and against that background he may very well be justified in asserting that there is no God. It has been argued, however, that it is simply dogmatic for an atheist to assert that no possible evidence could ever give one grounds for believing in God. Instead, atheists should justify their unbelief by showing (if they can) how the assertion is well-taken that there is no evidence that would warrant a belief in God. If atheism is justified, the atheist will have shown that in fact there is no adequate evidence for the belief that God exists, but it should not be part of his task to try to show that there could not be any evidence for the existence of God. If the atheist could somehow survive the death of his present body (assuming that such talk makes sense) and come, much to his surprise, to stand in the presence of God, his answer should be, Oh! Lord, you didnt give me enough evidence! He would have been mistaken, and realize that he had been mistaken, in his judgment that God did not exist. Still, he would not have been unjustified, in the light of the evidence available to him during his earthly life, in believing as he did. Not having any such postmortem experiences of the presence of God (assuming that he could have them), what he should say, as things stand and in the face of the evidence he actually has and is likely to be able to get, is that it is false that God exists. (Every time one legitimately asserts that a proposition is false one need not be certain that it is false. Knowing with certainty is not a pleonasm.) The claim is that this tentative posture is the reasonable position for the atheist to take.

An atheist who argues in this manner may also make a distinctive burden-of-proof argument. Given that God (if there is one) is by definition a very recherch realitya reality that must be (for there to be such a reality) transcendent to the worldthe burden of proof is not on the atheist to give grounds for believing that there is no reality of that order. Rather, the burden of proof is on the believer to give some evidence for Gods existencei.e., that there is such a reality. Given what God must be, if there is a God, the theist needs to present the evidence, for such a very strange reality. He needs to show that there is more in the world than is disclosed by common experience. The empirical method, and the empirical method alone, such an atheist asserts, affords a reliable method for establishing what is in fact the case. To the claim of the theist that there are in addition to varieties of empirical facts spiritual facts or transcendent facts, such as it being the case that there is a supernatural, self-existent, eternal power, the atheist can assert that such facts have not been shown.

It will, however, be argued by such atheists, against what they take to be dogmatic aprioristic atheists, that the atheist should be a fallibilist and remain open-minded about what the future may bring. There may, after all, be such transcendent facts, such metaphysical realities. It is not that such a fallibilistic atheist is really an agnostic who believes that he is not justified in either asserting that God exists or denying that he exists and that what he must reasonably do is suspend belief. On the contrary, such an atheist believes that he has very good grounds indeed, as things stand, for denying the existence of God. But he will, on the second conceptualization of what it is to be an atheist, not deny that things could be otherwise and that, if they were, he would be justified in believing in God or at least would no longer be justified in asserting that it is false that there is a God. Using reliable empirical techniques, proven methods for establishing matters of fact, the fallibilistic atheist has found nothing in the universe to make a belief that God exists justifiable or even, everything considered, the most rational option of the various options. He therefore draws the atheistical conclusion (also keeping in mind his burden-of-proof argument) that God does not exist. But he does not dogmatically in a priori fashion deny the existence of God. He remains a thorough and consistent fallibilist.

Such a form of atheism (the atheism of those pragmatists who are also naturalistic humanists), though less inadequate than the first formation of atheism, is still inadequate. God in developed forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is not, like Zeus or Odin, construed in a relatively plain anthropomorphic way. Nothing that could count as God in such religions could possibly be observed, literally encountered, or detected in the universe. God, in such a conception, is utterly transcendent to the world; he is conceived of as pure spirit, an infinite individual who created the universe out of nothing and who is distinct from the universe. Such a realitya reality that is taken to be an ultimate mysterycould not be identified as objects or processes in the universe can be identified. There can be no pointing at or to God, no ostensive teaching of God, to show what is meant. The word God can only be taught intralinguistically. God is taught to someone who does not understand what the word means by the use of descriptions such as the maker of the universe, the eternal, utterly independent being upon whom all other beings depend, the first cause, the sole ultimate reality, or a self-caused being. For someone who does not understand such descriptions, there can be no understanding of the concept of God. But the key terms of such descriptions are themselves no more capable of ostensive definition (of having their referents pointed out) than is God, where that term is not, like Zeus, construed anthropomorphically. (That does not mean that anyone has actually pointed to Zeus or observed Zeus but that one knows what it would be like to do so.)

In coming to understand what is meant by God in such discourses, it must be understood that God, whatever else he is, is a being that could not possibly be seen or be in any way else observed. He could not be anything material or empirical, and he is said by believers to be an intractable mystery. A nonmysterious God would not be the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

This, in effect, makes it a mistake to claim that the existence of God can rightly be treated as a hypothesis and makes it a mistake to claim that, by the use of the experimental method or some other determinate empirical method, the existence of God can be confirmed or disconfirmed as can the existence of an empirical reality. The retort made by some atheists, who also like pragmatists remain thoroughgoing fallibilists, is that such a proposed way of coming to know, or failing to come to know, God makes no sense for anyone who understands what kind of reality God is supposed to be. Anything whose existence could be so verified would not be the God of Judeo-Christianity. God could not be a reality whose presence is even faintly adumbrated in experience, for anything that could even count as the God of Judeo-Christianity must be transcendent to the world. Anything that could actually be encountered or experienced could not be God.

At the very heart of a religion such as Christianity there stands a metaphysical belief in a reality that is alleged to transcend the empirical world. It is the metaphysical belief that there is an eternal, ever-present creative source and sustainer of the universe. The problem is how it is possible to know or reasonably believe that such a reality exists or even to understand what such talk is about.

It is not that God is like a theoretical entity in physics such as a proton or a neutrino. They are, where they are construed as realities rather than as heuristically useful conceptual fictions, thought to be part of the actual furniture of the universe. They are not said to be transcendent to the universe, but rather are invisible entities in the universe logically on a par with specks of dust and grains of sand, only much, much smaller. They are on the same continuum; they are not a different kind of reality. It is only the case that they, as a matter of fact, cannot be seen. Indeed no one has an understanding of what it would be like to see a proton or a neutrinoin that way they are like Godand no provision is made in physical theory for seeing them. Still, there is no logical ban on seeing them as there is on seeing God. They are among the things in the universe, and thus, though they are invisible, they can be postulated as causes of things that are seen. Since this is so it becomes at least logically possible indirectly to verify by empirical methods the existence of such realities. It is also the case that there is no logical ban on establishing what is necessary to establish a causal connection, namely a constant conjunction of two discrete empirical realities. But no such constant conjunction can be established or even intelligibly asserted between God and the universe, and thus the existence of God is not even indirectly verifiable. God is not a discrete empirical thing or being, and the universe is not a gigantic thing or process over and above the things and processes in the universe of which it makes sense to say that the universe has or had a cause. But then there is no way, directly or indirectly, that even the probability that there is a God could be empirically established.

Originally posted here:

atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to ...


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