Thursday, August 26, 2010

Faith Versus Rationalism: Who Are These Non-Believers?

Religion of Monday, 9 August 2010
Source: kwaku ba
Faith Versus Rationalism: Who Are These Non-Believers?
Comments (45)

Recent articles by this author on religious belief has led to several instances of name calling and labeling regarding religious beliefs by contributors on this forum. The objective of this article is to clarify some of the terminology regarding religious belief as well as groups that do not accept current religious orthodoxy of any kind in any part of the world.Skeptic Skepticism is loosely used to denote any questioning attitude, or some degree of doubt regarding claims that are otherwise taken for granted. For example the six day creation, Noah?s arc or Jonah in the belly of a whale, are all stories members of the Abrahamic traditions accept without question, yet contemporary scientific evidence does not support any of these claims. Religious skeptics generally focus on the core tenets of religions, such as the existence of divine beings or claims of miracles. A religious skeptic is not necessarily an atheist or agnostic. The French mathematician Rene Descartes after whom we obtained the Cartesian coordinate system, one of the strongest contributions to modern analytical geometry was a leading skeptic during his life, but he believed in a supernatural creator being even though he vigorously challenged the Catholic orthodoxy of his day .Rationalist Rationalism is any stance employing reason as a source of knowledge or justification. Technically terms it is a method or a theory in which the standard for the truth is not sensory but intellectual, deductive, or inferred. In other words rationalism is more a deductive reasoning process employing tools such as logic etc. And this process is emphasized as the highest justification for accepting claims. As with skeptics, rationalists do not belong to any specific religion or group of non-believers. The German mathematician Friedrich Leibnitz who co-invented calculus (with Newton), was a leading rationalist of his time and yet he believed in the christian god Yahweh.Free Thinker Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or any dogma. In general freethinkers strive to build their opinions on the basis of facts, scientific inquiry, and logical principles, independent of any logical fallacies or the intellectually-limiting effects of authority, confirmation bias, cognitive bias, conventional wisdom, popular culture, prejudice, sectarianism, tradition, urban legend, and all other dogmatic or otherwise fallacious principles. In terms of modern religion to religion, freethinkers have generally held that there is insufficient evidence to support the existence of supernatural phenomena. However this view is not a requirement for one to be considered a freethinker and some freethinkers do posit that the supernatural or paranormal may exist. Giordano Bruno of Italy (1601) is credited as the father of modern freethought. He was arrested and executed for his views on orders from the Pope during the inquisition. Many early communities of the US were established by freethinkers from Germany who were fleeing persecution in Europe by the Roman Catholic establishment. Examples include Indianapolis, Indiana; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St Louis, Missouri, and Jefferson, Wisconsin. The majority of contemporary scientists consider themselves freethinkers according to recent polls. The Unitarian Universalist church in the US was founded by Freethinkers in the pre-US era and remains active to this day.Agnostic Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of claims particularly those about the existence or non-existence of deities, and other supernatural claims is unknowable. In other words they claim that there is no way of knowing or proving say any god even though it may exist and therefore we do not need to worry about them and may go on with our lives as if god(s) were not there at all. The founding of this line of thought is credited to Thomas Huxley, a leading evolutionary biologist and associate of Charles Darwin. One of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century Bertrand Russell of Britain was an agnostic. He made several major contributions in mathematics, logic, philosophy, and nuclear disarmament. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature (1950). He died in 1970 at age 97. It was Russell who demonstrated the refutation of the idea that the burden of proof lies upon the skeptic to disprove the unfalsifiable claims of religions, the so called Russell Teapot argument.Deists Deism is a belief that a supreme being created the universe, and that this can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without the need for either faith or organized religion. Generally Deists reject the notion that God intervenes in human affairs, for example miracles and revelations. Deists typically hold that The Supreme Architect has a plan for the universe that is not altered either by God intervening in the affairs of human life or by suspending the natural laws of the universe. What organized religions see as divine revelation and holy books, most deists see as interpretations made by other humans. Deists reject the trinity, divinity of christ, miracles and the inerrancy of the scriptures among others.Deism was the major religion among the elite in the pre-independent US. The founding fathers of the US and the authors of the US Constitution such Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, John Adams, Alexander Pope and others were overwhelmingly deists. Abraham Lincoln was a deist. It is from deism that we got the terms such as ?The Supreme Being?, ?The Blind Watchmaker?, ?Grand Architect of the Universe?. In fact the god referred to in the US constitution is actually the Deists god and not the Hebrew god as many think today. As this religion was associated with the independence struggle of the US, once that independence was achieved deism declined and later was supplanted by the Christian god . It is interesting to note that forms of deism tody are what we call ?Lodge?. Many of the symbols we see on US currency, for example the Eye of Providence, and the frustum, are all Lodge symbols simply because Lodge being a branch of deism which was among the dominant religions when US was fighting for independence.Gnostic Refers to diverse, religious movements in antiquity consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that the material cosmos was created by an imperfect god, this being is frequently identified with the Yahweh.Atheist Probably the most hated and misunderstood term by religious people today. But what does it actually mean? Well it comes from the Greek word theist which means belief in gods or deities. The ?a? meaning opposite of theist, just as asymmetrical means not symmetrical or atypical means not typical. So atheist means someone who does not believe in gods, deities or supernatural beings. There may be many reasons for this lack of belief but chief among them is lack of demonstrable evidence. So is atheism itself a religion? Well, atheism has no holy book, no priests, no festivals, no dogma, no saints, no sacraments, no requirements etc. So atheism is not a religion. To say it is like saying non soccer fans is also a sport, or not listening to music is also a hobby. In recent times particularly due to the internet atheists are forcefully fending off theists and debunking currently held religious dogma. So as a result atheist has taken additional meanings. One of those is that unlike agnostics, atheists think that the truth of claims of gods is in fact knowable and testable, and since these tests fail to prove any gods, then atheists say they know for sure there are no gods or supernatural beings, and based on that conclusion they can go a step further and claim that all religious books, scriptures texts etc are all false. We also hear claims that atheists have faith or need faith to not believe. Very false and idiotic statement. Do Christians need faith NOT to believe in Allah and Mohammed? No, not a shred because according to their evidence that god and his prophet are not legitimate. Same here. Atheists simply reject belief in supernatural beings because they have not seen any evidence for them, so that requires zero faith. Does it require faith to not believe a soccer ball is made of stone? No, the evidence is that soccer ball is made of something other than stone. So do Christians claim in this case we need faith to make that conclusion? No not at all. Western atheists have offered several rationales for not believing in any deity. These include the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from nonbelief. Other arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to the social to the historical. Although some atheists tend toward secular philosophies such as humanism, rationalism, and naturalism, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere. The rise and subsequent rejection of Christian fundamentalism in politics in the US, producing the Iraq war, attempts to ban teaching of evolution to high school students, restricting women?s reproductive rights, and intolerance to gays and gay marriage for example has emboldened atheists and several inroads have been made by atheists in the US. Today we have the first openly atheist member of the US congress, something unheard of until recently. Even former president Bush (senior) stated that atheists should not be full citizens. The story in Europe however is very much different. Europe is the least religious region of the world. For example according to a poll by Der Spiegel magazine, only 45% of Germans believe in God, and a quarter in Jesus Christ and less than 10% attend church services regularly; up to 85% in Sweden, 80% in Denmark, 72% in Britain and Norway, and 60% in Finland say they do not believe in any gods or attend any churches. In Japan, between 64% and 80% describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non-believers. Among some of the most visible defenders of atheism today in our dot com world include Sam Harris (author of The End of Faith), Christopher Hitchens (author of God is Not Great), Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion), as well as internet bloggers such as PZ Myers, and youtube video bloggers such as Thunderfoot, ZJEpmTV, and Pat Condell.One claim made by religious people as we discuss these issues on the ghanaweb forum is that ?well, kwaku ba, everybody has to believe something ??. I have explained this before but the statement is false. No we all don?t have to believe something for the sake of it. Why so? Not true. We are not to believe anything until we have seen evidence for it. And based on the polls from Europe it is easy to see people can live normal productive lives without believing in any phantoms, deities and demons.So at this juncture I would like to open it up for others to make comments and answer any questions forummers may have. In the interim we will once again call on those who have evidence of supernatural beings to come forward and present it so those who may be interested may also join you in signing hallelujah!Peacekwaku ba ?August2010


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