goodness without god: a struggle with logic

In the Baltimore Sun’s “In Good Faith” blog, Dr. Chris A. Brammer makes some interestingly nonsensical statements with regard to whether or not people can be good without god:

I would first need to ask, does anyone really know a million people, let alone know them all well enough to know that they are good people? We are not saying that they don’t do good things, but are they good people without God? Many good things have been done for selfish, self-serving, self-centered motives. These motives would certainly discredit any person’s good deeds from contributing to a reputation of being a good person; actually this person could be considered wicked — for the religious or non-religious thinking person.

First of all, you don’t have to know millions of people to know that millions of people are confirmed atheists, and that, statistically, they have remarkably low rates of criminal convictions, higher education levels, lower divorce rates, etc. He then goes on to explain the trouble the reader might have understanding why it’s not necessarily good when these unusually fortunate individuals do good: those deeds may just be self-serving (and good deeds so often are, aren’t they?), so the people who do them are still wicked. He does not make any judgment on good deeds done by people who believe they are saving themselves from eternity in a fiery pit, because that’s not self-serving at all. And just in case being good without god might actually refer to deeds done with purely altruistic motives by godless heathens, Pastor Brammer goes on:

The non-religious person’s view of goodness without God in no way eliminates the existence of, and the need for God. Their belief simply means that they choose not to deal with the possible reality that his or her goodness is not solely theirs after all.

So there you have it – people who do good deeds but fail to believe in his god are either wicked and self-serving, or simply unaware the presence of god in their lives. There, that wraps up all the possibilities.

I’d love to do a better job pointing out the logical fallacies in Dr. Brammer’s statements, but it’s been a very long day, and this level of arrogance and narrow-mindedness makes my head hurt.

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an atheist’s grace

One of my pet peeves is when people are rescued from a horrible death, and babble about miracles and thank their god instead of thanking the brave passers-by or first responders who actually pulled their sorry ass out of whatever it was trapped in, or when they dismiss their rescuer’s involvement with “god must have sent him.”  And now that I think of it, this applies to the saying of grace as well – a lot of giving credit where none is due, while making dismissive mention at best of the actual people who provided and prepared the meal.  Which is why I love this story very, very much:

Anthony Seldon, the headmaster of Wellington College, was presented with a dilemma when he hosted a debate between Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, and Charles Moore, who proposed the motion “Atheism is the new fundamentalism”, against Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling. Once the atheists had won by a generous margin of 1,070 to 363, the question of whether to start the dinner that followed with prayer arose.

In the event, Seldon asked both sides to kick off the meal in their chosen fashion. Lord Harries’s grace finished, in conventional manner, with a “thanks be to God”.

“I then asked the atheists to say a grace,” says Seldon, “and Richard Dawkins took up the challenge. ‘For what we are about to receive,’ he said, ‘thanks be to the cook’.” – source

rAmen.

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probing genesis for science

The introduction to this opinion piece (it’s not in the opinion section, per se, but it’s certainly not journalism) in the Washington Post states: “Andrew Parker is a respected evolutionary biologist, a professor at the Natural History Museum in London and a honorary fellow at Oxford University.” Sounds promising, right?

Although science is sound, does it have its limits beyond which we enter a realm that does not conform to mathematical formulae? Science cannot tell us whether something inexplicable — God — exists or not. Atheists’ claims cannot be substantiated — indeed, they are unscientific because atheism becomes as much a faith (in no God) as religion is itself. It carries a bias, and science does not.

*ahem* ATHEISM IS NOT A FAITH IN NO GOD. IT IS AN ABSENCE OF FAITH IN A GOD OR GODS.

Glad we could clear this up.

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an odd reaction to tragedy

Sue Lani Madsen, a reader-blogger on SeattlePI.com, learned of the tragic and brutal killings of four local police officers as she arrived at church for Sunday services, when she reached down to turn off her phone and saw an email. And what, you might wonder, was the first thing this lovely Christian blogger thought?

It’s horrible news. I pictured the atheists who commented on my last blog ready to jump on this, delighted to ask how a loving God can allow such evil. They’d be asking the wrong question.

Yes of course. I immediately think of how I’m going to argue with people who disagree with me about religion when I hear four police officers have been murdered their killer is on the loose somewhere in the greater metropolitan area. Absolutely my first reaction. Yep.

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the dangers of subscribing to a google search for “atheists or atheism”

I knew when I started this atheism-themed blog I’d need good sources of current commentary to respond to, knowing full well that opening up my feed reader to things that would make me all splodey-headed. I’m comforted that this is just a random opinion-having guy posting to a local news site whose visitors also like to shop at Big Lots and play the lottery, and also disturbed by that same set of circumstances.

Mr. Tony L. Woods opens with this observation about “his atheist friends” (whom i suspect are of the imaginary variety):

I find it incredibly interesting that my atheist friends’ billboard along Memorial Boulevard has a background of beautiful blue skies and soft white clouds.

The Bible says in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

The very skies that they use for their backdrop give acknowledgment to the existence of a God they say don’t believe in.

So Mr. Woods feels that atheists have no business using the sky. Hopefully he is not too offended about his “atheist friends” having the temerity to exist under the very sky that is supposed to glorify his god. Astronomers probably drive him batshit though. (more…)

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moderate vs. militant

Amazing post on Hurtling Through Space, addressing the “all Christians are…” fallacy and arguing for moderation in the way atheists approach conflicts between religion and rationalism. It’s an amazing post and you should go read the entire thing, but the conclusion struck me as particularly relevant and important:

Yes, it’s awful that in the 21st century billions of the world’s population are still slaves to Bronze Age superstitions. But no, screeching like a banshee at your neighbour isn’t going to make them suddenly say, “You know what… you’ve been insulting everything I’ve ever valued for years now, but I see it now: you’re right!” Just because something may be provably wrong, it doesn’t mean that an otherwise intelligent person will see it that way — you’re staring in the face of cognitive dissonance .

So am I advocating appeasement? Certainly not. But a large number of worldwide scientific community do not consider themselves atheists. Are they to be excluded from scientific endeavour? Again, certainly not. The same is true of the average member of the public. Religions and superstitions may be laughable and ridiculous, but they kill thousands of people every day and are not to be underestimated in terms of their importance to the people that hold them. And some of those people may love you and be hurt deeply whenever, by inference, you call them imbeciles.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the solution is — or even if there is one, at least that doesn’t involve totalitarianism — but I am certain that the lumping of people like my great-uncle in the same basket as a religious terrorist is wrong. And yet I see it every day in the atheist blogs I read, and in the other atheistic and even new media I consume: the deliberate misrepresentation of members of a faith as if they’re all as bad as the worst public figure in that faith. It’s wrong and it has to stop.

And, in the same general way I both agreed and disagreed with Michael Shermer in my first real post on this blog, I both agree and disagree with this article as well. (more…)

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