Thursday, August 30, 2007

For 'Pluralist' and 'Secular', read Atheist

I AM thoroughly fed up with the frauds who constantly preach to us about how me must have a ‘secular’ or ‘pluralist’ society.
These people portray themselves as liberals, as great thinkers, as philosophers and saviours of society. The believe in their own little minds, that they have discovered things about the world and about mankind that has, somehow, bypassed the rest of us.
And the first thing they all do, is lie.
They lie by talking about the ‘pluralist’ or the ‘secular’ society.
Because what they want, is an atheist society, a godless society.
It is an extraordinary thing, that these people who pretend to preach tolerance, have no tolerance whatever, of those who believe in God, whatever their creed.
They are atheist preachers. They preach nothingness. They preach that life is pointless.

Some of them, use science to help spread their message.
The likes of Richard Dawkins constantly mocks believers because, he says, there is no proof of God.
He forgets, though, that it was science which, at one time, said the earth was flat. Science which said the sun orbited the earth. Science - and in particular Sir Isaac Newton - believed in alchemy, turning base metals into gold.
They were, of course, wrong. But they thought themselves as right as Dawkins thinks himself.
Some who deny the existence of God point to science for proof. They talk about how it all began with the Big Bang. Though they cannot explain exactly what it was that went bang.
And they cannot tell us what was there before the Big Bang.
And they rail on those they call creationists, those who believe it was actually God who started the whole thing.
Certainly, some of that belief may have their dates wrong. But the fact remains that belief in God makes a whole lot more sense than belief in nothing.
Science cannot prove the existence of God. Nor can it prove that He doesn't exist.
Christianity, has, over the tears, been less than tolerant, indeed, less than Christian.
The proselytising zeal of Christians in the past was excessive and unforgiveable in many ways.
Fundamentalism of all kinds is wrong.
Intolerance is wrong.
Killing in the name of God - whatever you call Him - is wrong.
But none of that in any way, proves there is no God.
Back to Dawkins.
In a television discussion after the Christmas tsunami a few years ago, Dawkins looked Cardinal Murphy O’Connor in the eye and said: Your God must be cruel to allow things like that to happen.
And that is typical of the kind of arguments dunderheads like Dawkins make. When it suits him, when he believes he has an opportunity to insult a Christian leader, he pretends he believes there is a God.
It was a scientist, Einstein who said this: Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.
And of course, it was Catholic writer GK Chesterton who said: The man who does not believe in God does not believe in nothing, but believes in anything.
Those who believe that atheism which offers nothing - and don’t worry about it offering nothing in the hereafter, it offers nothing here, no guide for life, no moral code, not reason to discern between right and wrong - is the way forward are, themselves, backward.
God help them.
And He probably will.


FVThinker said...

You fall prey to the logical error that religion IS the source of morals and meaning. It has been demonstrated that there is no correlation between religion and morality. One does not fall into a chasm of dispair and hopelessness and amorality when one abandons theistic mythology.

Paddy's World said...

I disagee thoroughly. Man's basic instinct is to look after himself. Without the morals given to us by religion - and even those who do not believe in God take their morals from religion whether they know it or not - man would simply exist for himself and care nothing for any other inhabitant of the planet.
Religion has given us our sense of right and wrong, our urge to care for the less well off and so on.
Sure, religion has also been used to perpetrate evil. The devil quoteth scripture.... and so on.
Man has had religion since the begining of time.
And though many have lost it, most have retained the standards given to them by it.

FVThinker said...

Just so we might converse from a common understanding . . . I interpret what you say as saying
1)that you feel that humans have no inate instinct to look after anything but themselves as individuals. and
2) that our morality is derived from religion (the man-mad construct) as opposed to bestowed by a creator.

Is my understanding of your position accurate?

Paddy's World said...

Not quite. Religion is a manfiestation of belief in God. The fact that I use a capital letter when I write the word "God" should inform you that I do believe in God. I would differ from some, or many, in my belief that the God of Christianity is also the God of Judaism, Islam and, indeed, some long lost jungle tribe that believes a rusty Coke can on a stick is God. It is belief in God that unites the vast majority of people on earth (though being the vast majority in itself doesn't prove them right.) And it is belief in God, that gives us a reason for, well, just about everything.

FVThinker said...

I'm still not sure of your position. Do you maintain that our morality is directly imparted to humankind by God irrespective or religion? . . . or is it humankind's belief in God that had us create religion which codified our moral codes in religious texts?

I don't want to be nit-picking, but I want to make sure that I understand your position.

Paddy's World said...

I believe our morality is man made. But it is made by man in the knowledge that there is a God. God does not direct what happens on earth. If He did, we would be mere playthings. God allows us to live our lives, bad and good. And the moral code, by which many live, is constructed around the knowledge that there is a God, that He is a kind and loving God and that he wishes us to love Him and each other. I believe that many good people who don't believe in God, nonetheless, take their moral code, knowingly or otherwise, from those who have a belief in God. I understand you are trying to be clear about what I believe. And it's a pleasure talking to you!

FVThinker said...

From what you say, it would seem like you would (in some respects) fit my idea of a deist; that being belief in an unconcerned deity that created our universe but taking no interest in our daily lives, not intervening, nor listening to prayers. My confusion from my non-theistic worldview is that you use the term ‘knowledge’ as in “made by man in the knowledge that there is a God.” I (and many others) question your phrasing since we find no evidence that could lead to knowledge in any rigorous sense. Theists often use Truth and Knowledge for something that could, at best, be described as perception and that which is hoped for. I am utterly flummoxed that there can be this certainty in light of the lack of evidence for a god.

You seem to acknowledge that religion is man-made. I presume that you consider the religious holy texts to be man-made also. In my research, I have found very compelling evidence that proto-ethics and altruistic behavior is demonstrated in other higher species. This leads me to conclude that, what we interpret as morality is merely human-kind’s interpretation of our evolved innate sense of cooperation. As a result, I take issue with the stance that morality is in any way tied to the supernatural. While your deistic stance is difficult to pervert into religious intolerance; the common belief that morality is the sole responsibility of religion. In fact, I find it offensive since I am completely non-theistic and many would maintain that I CANNOT be an ethical individual. This stance is maintained even though it has been demonstrated that there is no correlation between religion and morality (or atheism and amorality).

Paddy's World said...

Ah, but if God provided incontrovertible evidence of His existence, He would be an interfering God. If there was indisputible evidence, everyone would believe and make our existence pointless. As regards astruistic behaviour in animals, many, many anthropologists believe this is entirely based on self-preservation a kind of 'you scratch mind and I'll scratch yours' thing.

FVThinker said...

I am not sure why you dismiss ‘I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine’ as somehow refuting what I am saying. While the back scratching analogy connotates some underhanded business deal; is it not the same as ‘I’ll share my food if you share your food’ or ‘I’ll watch your young while you are hunting for the pack’. Are these not behaviors that would benefit the ‘society’ of the pack? Are these not behaviors that would help the survival of the pack? Are these not behaviors that would help the survival of the species?

I remember a laboratory study that had two ‘monkeys’ within sight of each other. If monkey ‘A’ took readily available food from a tray, monkey ‘B’ would get a painful shock. Monkey ‘A’ nearly starved before he would take the food. Renowned primatologist Franz de Waal (sp?) has documented group members of a bonobo (our nearest primate relative) pack tending and caring for a disfigured pack member (some severe birth abnormality) with no apparent benefit to the individuals or the pack. So active was the care, that this disfigured bonobo lived (is living?) into maturity when it could not have survived on its own. I don’t know how these two cases could be interpreted as self-serving. Indeed, these perfectly mirror our highest ideals for compassionate behavior . . . and I am pretty sure there was no religion involved.

I’m still confused about your ‘knowledge’ of God’s existence. On what do you base this knowledge?

Paddy's World said...

Knowledge is based on faith. And faith, I am sad to say, is the one thing atheists can't grasp!
Here's what BBC journalist John Humphrys, an agnostic, says in his new book 'In God We Doubt.'
"Le me try to sum up the attitude of those militant atheists who seem to hold believers in comtempt:
1. Believers are mostly naive or stupid. Or, at least, they're not as clever as atheists...
2. The few clever ones are pathetic because they need a crutch to get them through life.
3. They are also pathetic because they can't accept the finality of death.
4. They have been brainwashed into believing. There is no such thing as a "Christian child' - just a child whose parents have had her baptised.
5. They have been bullied into believing.
6. If we don't wiipe out religious belief by next Thursday week, civilisation as we know it is doomed.
7. Trust me I am an atheist.
Read the rest of what he says in an extract from his book at§ionId=2820.
If that doesn't work, you will reach it through and search for humphrys

FVThinker said...

I previously read that same column a short time ago. While I do not deny that there are some that fit that caricature, the vast majority of non-theists are far more pragmatic, thoughtful and understanding. As for myself, I say often that I am not an anti-theist as this would connotate that I am against the person. I can, when necessary, rail against the theistic ‘thought process’ when it goes past the personal and affects me or society adversely. Here in the US, we have an evangelical Christian for a president who believes that God put him in office to conduct this battle against evil. This same president has appointed conservative Christian Supreme Court justices to life terms. These justices vote very closely along their religious laws. We are just one justice shy of turning our secular constitution (written by deists, Christians, agnostics and atheists) into a Christian document and pointing our country toward a theocracy.

The human brain is a stunningly complex organ and it is persistent in holding on to the knowledge that it has. ANY person (regardless of their innate intelligence) if exposed to stories purported to be truth by those that they trust, repeated all their life, never exposed to conflicting information, and never having those beliefs challenged will continue to believe. Look at how sincerely children believe in Santa Claus. I have an essay on my blog that further defines my position on this at

As far as ‘faith’ being something that an atheist can’t grasp; I will concede that point to some degree. To a person; every atheist I know has formulated their worldview from evidence (and often arduous research). I, most definitely, see no virtue in accepting anything [of significant importance] on insufficient evidence.

Do you have any thoughts on my morality and primates citations?

Paddy's World said...

Claiming to be Christian does not make one Christian. Do not blame Jesus for George Bush's ideas of himself or of the world.
And what about people who were brought up in atheist homes and subjected to atheist thinking who then become religious, whatever religion. Do you have an explanation for them or for those who have a Paulian experience?
Personally, I don't care what belief people have. But I certainly oppose fundamentalism.
But more, I oppose those like Bush, and Islamic suicide bombers and, indeed, the IRA in Ireland who use or used religion as a cover for their nefarious activities.

Anonymous said...

This is a very complex area.

I agree that most people tacitly observe a vague moral code that is somewhat based on religous morality even though they don't realise it. Morals as based on religous dictat have permeated into the social psyche, even if people in a contemporary sense don't believe in a theist church.

Atheists (who in fact assert there ISN'T a God, as opposed to not believing personally) and agnostics (who assert that one cannot know either way) observe moral codes that bear remarkable similarity to the Christian edict of love thy neighbour as thyself.

It's rational to conclude that an atheist who believes it is wrong to steal probably develops this belief from association with people who believe similarly and most Irish people would almost certainly be products of a vague belief system that originates from the instruction their parents or their grandparents recieved on sin.

Of course it all much bigger than that. Arguably, we are beneficiaries of a rather crude grasp of the broad sweep of Christian religous morality, that has been in conflict since the Calvinists claimed they forced most of Catholicism out of Northern Europe and since the Counter-Reformists spread the Roman Catholic faith to the Americas.

Some say our current morass goes back to pre-Reformation Europe and was more to do with Roman Catholic infighting (when the Jusuits wanted sacral monarchism to remain and the Jansenists wanted to emphasise original sin, an abandonment of deviance, and to establish what some say was actually the bedrock of the French Republican ideal -- a political contract).

The Calvanists and Lutherans claim they beat all the Catholics out of town but there is an argument that our contemporary morality, in terms of our predominantly Christian belief system, were defined in that intra-Roman Catholic Church struggle.

However, antropologists do argue that morality originates as a concept from a social construction, or unspoken contract, something akin to what Paddy describes as the 'you scratch my back....' scenario.

Of course moral codes are intertwined within religion. Fvthinker's claim that "it has been demonstrated that there is no correlation between religion and morality" is astounding and self-evidently not correct.

But the antropological argument, or one of them, is that as social animals we have a predisposed capasity to formulate and observe behaviour that is solely for our mutually beneficial coexistence.

Man's insticts appears to be two-fold: self-preservation and propogation. We are essentially horny and selfish. In propegation we reproduce from ourselves and for our benefit. To facilitate the success of propagation we are made capable of empathy as a hormonal dynamic to permit us to provide essential care. In this regard, we are physically constructed to show some unselfish behaviour towards other human beings.

What has existed since time is our existence in social groupings for self preservation and mutual benefit. Such groupings work due to the following principle.... 'Hairy Mary says: "Myself and hairy Doris will mind the brats if hairy Brian and hairy Boris feck off and find us all some grub"'.

Some antropologists, apparently, argue that group socialising is the origin of morals, insofar as offspring were instructed that 'stealing hairy Boris's hatchet is bad for the group and therefore bad for you and me, my child. So leave hairy Boris's hatchet alone or you'll get a slap'.

Contemporary moral codes are arguably an extension of our attempt to assert an equivalent of that concept.

As such, it can be argued that to throw litter on the ground is not wrong morally. There is arguably no inherent wrong in putting paper on the ground.

But the notion of leaving our waste in the path of others in a manner that could discommode them has the capasity to create discord. Discord is bad for the group so we consider that it is mutually beneficial to prohibit what is mutually unacceptable to the others in the group.

The complex empathy dynamic also comes to play here. We can see throwing litter could dicommode those who we feel empathy for by creating an environment of discord. And we wish that they would not endure discord in the group, so we act to protect them by having agreed, often unspoken, rules of conduct for mutual benefit. It is all in the realm of the very complex 'contract theory' which I frankly only have the slimmest grasp of.

Obviously, the common good is a difficult construction as we do not exist in one homogenous social group but in factions, sort of akin to tribes. Our self-preservation dynamic encourages us to act in a hierarchical manner within our group -- to essentially create levels and place ourselves at the top of the group or find our niche and exist without diminishing our status.

Put a whole range of groupings with their nuanced sense of morals into a mixer and you get larger society, where they all interplay and in effect create society with all the tension that accompanies any society.

Our grasp of society in this sense is not very developed in Ireland as we have been largely homogenous in our outlook. It is only 50 years since we were a disporportionately rural socio-economy with a mono-faith and a natural border that excluded passage and allowed little historic inward migration.

It is important to note that observing fixed morals is not necessarily about personal choice or being taught, as most of us luckily were, to respect others and treat them as we would wish to be treated, though it's not always possible in a competitive environment.

In fact, dictats of morality in a Roman Catholic sense only changes when the Pope instructs that they are changed. Observance of Roman Catholic morality as a believer is not, in fact, the expression of personal conscience.

The essence of Roman Catholic observance of morals is about obedience in pursuing the Church's position.

Papal infalibility places Catholic moral dogma on an absolute footing. If one feels their conscience compels them to act contrary to Church teaching, then they are at variance to Papal infalibility and acting contrary to the Church.

The Catholic Church says God gave us Free Will but He also gave us strict moral direction.

If one rejects Papal infalibility, lets face it, they don't believe in the Roman Catholic Church. There isn't an a-la-carte option (there is in Protestant faiths, which mark some of the essential difference between those and RC observance). If one thinks there is an a-la-carte option regarding the full acceptance of Papal infalibility then they didn't read the menu.

In fact, as a point of note, the Roman Catholic Church asserts that such Papal edicts are God-given --- as the Pope communicates with God, which is the sole basis for Papal infalibility.

I myself am an agnostic. The issue of belief is too vast and I'm too thick to crack the maze and find an answer. It's a lazy approach for sure but I do have a considerable interest in the subject as a close member of my family is a devout member of the Roman Catholic faith.

Nonetheless I acknowledge that, where reasonable, it seems mutually beneficial to permit others to freely express their faith in their religion of choice.

Your difficulty Paddy with secularists in Ireland is well-founded I believe. The demand for a more secular society in Ireland in the past 20 years has been a muddled one, for sure.

Mostly it appears to be inspired by rabid anti-Roman Catholicism which is in fact the antithesis of moderate secularism, which should ideally be a form of contract where the State does not show afiliation for one religion but where all can practice freely save where their religious practice is against our laws.

The anti-Catholicism is to be expected. Many seem to be influenced by the notion that the Roman Catholic church held disporportionate sway and that this was a negative in Irish society in decades past.

What many people do not recognise is that it wasn't just the Church that held sway. Medical doctors, teachers, other professionals and employers were treated with considerable deference in decades not long passed.

'Deference to authority' is a well recognised term in political theory and in anthropology also and is largely ascribed as relating to a rural, peasant or post-peasantry society, as I believe we were up to the late 1960s.

Indeed children of the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s may rightly feel that they live on a different planet to the world of their upbringing and it's easy to see why some are uncomfortable with the absence of many facets of the post-peasantry Ireland. A less mobile community has clearly understood rights and wrongs. They may diminish women or men, gays or those who have children out of wedlock (or they may not), but the rules of everyday conduct are defined and there is considerable social control that benefits the majority who do not break the rules. This control is expressed mutually by all participants, through what is often termed 'shame morality'... ie. 'if the Murphy's saw you steal that loaf your father and I wouldn't be able to show our faces in public [slap!]'.

My own belief is that the Church's historic dominance was not something of it's own artificial making but was, in fact, a symptom of the society here which was rural, was not inclined to mobility and expressed considerable deference of authority broadly.

I think, sadly, for the RC Church and those who follow it, they are the most identifiable group and can be easily discriminated against.

That anti-Catholicism and anti-Clericism, which will almost certainly diminish one would hope, seems part of a triumphalist phase that societies do seem to go through after periods of major change. Oddly, you probably know some lovely journalists (I know a few of them myself) who are nice people but as they were young adults in the 70s they probably have what seems an irrational and remarkable antipathy to the RC Church.

Secularism is a very difficult thing to get right. Remarkably, given the huge social change here in the past 15 years, it is more possible in Ireland today than in the USA to establish a form of secularism based on a position of rejecting and subjugating a Christain faith.

My own view, and I could be wrong, is that we are still largely unintellectual in public discourse in Ireland in our approach to how we would like to try and construct our society. In the same way that most people who considered themselves devoutly Catholic in the 40s and 50s never once examined the intellectual dimension of their faith but followed the prevailing observance --- we remain inspired by populism today. We blindly follow the prevailing mood of the day, which is now mediated to us by the media industry and by other elements in our increasingly commercial and individualistic society.

As I said once to you in a pub a few years ago Paddy, moderate secularism is a bit like the French republican ideal... it's a great idea if one didn't have to rely on people to implement it.

FVThinker said...

I am obliged to point out that you are using the “No True Scotsman” [no true Christian] argument . . . which isn’t really an argument. This tactic evasively reframes the speaker’s position to whatever they like so as to, hopefully, evade criticism. In this case the target of criticism is George Bush the Christian. You re-frame it by saying “Oh! Well he is not a TRUE Christian. My Christianity is OK and his is not.”

That being said; I fully agree that it is the fundamentalists of all faiths that are the great societal problem. I wish that it were easy to distinguish the fundamentalists from the moderates/liberals. I posit that the fundamentalists are being sheltered and protected by the moderates by demanding that the moderate’s faith be immune from criticism. I speak more on this in this essay:

May I ask why you don’t forward any thoughts on my morality and primate citations?

FVThinker said...

Anonymous said:
Fvthinker's claim that "it has been demonstrated that there is no correlation between religion and morality" is astounding and self-evidently not correct.

I don't throw these statements around lightly. I have looked for empirical evidence that demonstrated a clear correlation between theistic belief and morality/ethics. There is very little information on the topic that I have found that meets the high standard of rigorous, empirical research. What I have found is, at best, not flattering to religion.

One bit of research [that I have a readily available link for] is from Creighton University (a Christian university). A nice graphical summary can be found at

That link is to a skeptic website, but it links back to the original university study. I am not trying to obscure or hide anything. I link to the skeptic site because they have a nice graphical summary.

Now if 'Anonymous' is thinking of (as many others reflexively do) that the horrific regimes of Stalin, Pol Pot, et al are 'proof' of atheism's effect on society, he/she would be wrong. To make that case, one needs to demonstrate that the ills of those regimes were BECAUSE of atheism. It does not take a political scholar to recognize there were other ideologies represented in those regimes that were clearly corrosive to a healthy society.

Paddy's World said...

Morality and primates. Certainly, primates look after each other. They don't however, have much of a history of looking after or showing compassion for any other species. They are, certainly, intelligent. They are pragmatic. They co-operate to survive.
If we're talking about the actions of animals as proof that somehow, they have a moral code, we will next be discussing how it is that Lassie and Flipper came to, occasionally, look after humans. Indeed, before long we will have someone suggesting that dolphins operate a moral code because they have, again occasionally, come to the aid of humans.
Humans are unique in showing compassion for those from whom they are utterly detached, not just other humans, but other species. Of course, some go the opposite way. That's choice. That's right and wrong, good and evil.

FVThinker said...

You will pardon me if I gave the impression that I believe the morality of other species is equal to that of humans. I most certainly do not. Our species, because of our larger brain size and more developed self awareness, are able to contemplate the abstract concepts of ethics and morality. Though I cannot say for sure, I don't necessarily think that other species contemplate good and evil.

My point of the citations is that there are compelling indications that other species have proto-ethics and proto-morality. It is a pretty obvious interpretation that these are the precursor behaviors of our ancestors which evolved into what we consider our species moral codes. (monkeys don't like stealing, killing and unfaithfulness either) If one is able to accept evolutionary theory as plausible, then these proto-ethics make perfect sense.

Of course the young-earth types believe that, POOF, we were given morals as something uniquely human . . . but then there is no talking with the young-earth types.