Sunday, May 25, 2014

...And the temples of his Gods

Photo: Tighef
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods

From Lord Macauley the poem Horatius may be familiar to many of you from last years film Oblivion.  I chose it, and the image above of the Large Hadron Collider to illustrate a theme recently discussed, that of the large body of militant atheists who treat atheism for all practical purposes as religious dogma.

High Priests in the Holy of Holies

Photo: Urcomunicacion
From orchestrated objective reduction to quantum electrodynamics most of the gospel is as incomprehensible to the body of the faithful as the Gospel of Thomas would have been to your average 12th century French peasant.  For all intent there is little difference between militant atheism and the Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición of yore.

I didn't know what fire and brimstone was until I made a throwaway claim recently during an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher. It seemed pretty unaudacious at the time, but by dropping the simple sentence "Atheism is a religion," I opened a biblical floodgate of ridicule, name-calling, and abuse. ~ Kennedy

Religion: an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.

Or: a "system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." Clifford Geertz 

There are probably as many definitions of religion as there are religions, if not more.  This isn't about whether atheism, which is simply a rejection of the belief in deities is a religion, but whether or not atheism itself has become for all intents and purposes a religion to a subset of non-believers, those generally referred to as militant atheists.  Held in faith, defended dogmatically, and proselytized as vehemently as evangelical Christendom.

A study at the University of Tennessee recently studied and categorized six types of atheist:

1. Intellectual Atheist:This type of nonbeliever seeks information and intellectual stimulation about atheism.  They like debating and arguing, particularly on popular Internet sites.  

2.  Activist Atheist: These kinds of atheists and agnostics are not content with just disbelieving in God; they want to tell others why they reject religion and why society would be better off if we all did likewise.

3. Seeker-Agnostic: This group is made up of people who are unsure about the existence of a God but keep an open mind and recognize the limits of human knowledge and experience.

4. Anti-Theist: This group regularly speaks out against religion and religious beliefs, usually by positioning themselves as “diametrically opposed to religious ideology,”  Anti-theists view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental,” the researchers wrote. “The Anti-Theist has a clear and – in their view, superior – understanding of the limitations and danger of religions.”  Anti-theists are outspoken, devoted and – at times – confrontational about their disbelief. They believe that "obvious fallacies in religion and belief should be aggressively addressed in some form or another.”

5. Non-Theist: The smallest group among the six are the non-theists, people who do not involve themselves with either religion or anti-religion.

6. Ritual Atheist: They don't believe in God, they don’t associate with religion, and they tend to believe there is no afterlife, but the sixth type of nonbeliever still finds useful the teachings of some religious traditions.  “They see these as more or less philosophical teachings of how to live life and achieve happiness than a path to transcendental liberation,”


In depth 

I've included the description of all of Category 4, Anti-Theists, because that is what I believe we are discussing here.  Here is an example of an anti-theist:

 Now don't get me wrong, I kind of like Bill Maher, I think it would be very entertaining to sit down over a beer and discuss neurotheology.  For those not familiar with the term, neurotheology is the scientific concept that our brains are hard-wired for religion.  In other words... the religious among us were born that way.  Hmm, now where have I heard that argument before?

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