Re: [asa] Dawkins, religion, and children

From: <>
Date: Wed May 02 2007 - 20:11:43 EDT

David O wrote:

> Wayne, I'm not so sure that your conclusion follows if atheism is true.
> Let's say atheism is true, and that belief in God (or the gods, or whatever) is
> just an emotional crutch. The prevalence of religious belief suggests that
> this presumed emotional crutch is useful and important to many people. What
> would be the ethical basis for setting about to demolish that crutch? If
> atheism is true, ultimately, why ought anyone care whether someone else chooses
> to reject that truth?
> Dawkins writes as though there is an ethical imperative to believe only
> things that are true. But if atheism and materialism are the truth, why should
> anyone accept that ethical imperative? What grounds the concept of
> "justification" with respect to belief?
> The answer will have to be that the concept of "justification" for belief is
> indeed a red herring, and that the only acceptable epistemology is
> pragmatism. But pragmatism doesn't answer the questions, "pragmatic (useful) for
> whom?" and what does "pragmatic" mean anyway? Even if materialism is true, it
> may very well be "better" to make decisions based on the delusion that there is
> a divine purpose to life -- if "better" can even be defined!
> So, I don't really accept that the "new atheist" crusade follows from their
> own core beliefs -- unless that crusade is really just a nihilistic power
> grab.

I was mainly looking at the rationalizing that is going on,
rather than examining the direction this point of view goes.

What you are raising is why should the truth even
matter? Indeed, if there is no objective truth, no
purpose, an indiscriminate universe ("pitiless" implies
will), and this material is all that is, we can start
with the God Delusion, but soon we can see that all
our desires are also "delusion". Our human desire
for friendship, fellowship and love are no more
significant than the Van der Waals interactions
in graphite or covalent bonding between carbon and
oxygen. The temptations I struggle to overcome or
the truth I might desire are all just chemical
reactions in my brain. As you suggest, we cannot even
define "pragmatic" as more than a functional definition.
Likewise for "will", "good", "evil", etc.

It's not like we cannot go on. One can use some criteria
such as market efficiency, equal access to information,
maximizing the chance of survival of the species, etc.,
if they wish. But these rules are in fact arbitrary. They
are illusions. Why should I care about them?

So all the shouting about truth assumes that there is an
objective truth that actually matters after all. Yet that
can only come from the hand of God. All others are just

In that sense, if objective truth does not matter, then
in some respects, living in "delusion" also doesn't matter
either. Like chemical reactions, you just do as you like.

So coming back to your point, I agree, holding a position
of a "pitiless universe of mere material" is a choice of
course. It does not follow that one (who choses this way)
has some preordained mission to inculcate a particular brand
of poison (i.e., opinions, values) on anyone else. Coercion
may be a consequence of chemicals in the brain, but "best result"
is nothing more than a functional definition (under these
assumed condition). I'm not sure under these conditions
that I can ascribe any value to living under delusion,
because "rational" and "choice" also become mere functional
definitions, but neither is it wrong to live this way.

That I believe the truth matters does require an act of faith,
so I don't see I can escape the faith word. But the logical
conclusion of the nihilistic strategy is that all will come
down and that the truth (in fact) doesn't even matter in the

By Grace we proceed,

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Received on Wed May 2 20:12:40 2007

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