Friday, September 19, 2008

Random Thoughts

Some mostly random religious thoughts…

Many (probably most) atheists spend a lot of time sneering at religious rituals and ethics, such as the Roman Catholic rituals of abstaining from meat (or performing some alternate penance) on Fridays and attending Mass on Sunday, or refraining from premarital sex. (I use Catholic practices because I am most familiar with them, but any religion’s practices would do). The argument is that God surely has better things to do than worry about whether people spend an hour each week in a particular building or whether people observe a manmade ceremony before engaging a perfectly natural biological act.

And that line of thought is somewhat compelling—after all, many of these traditions do seem to make God out to be a sort of cosmic nursemaid who is perpettually obsessing over petty details. But it overlooks the fact that God (really, no matter what your religion) also promises to forgive sins like rape and murder, and offers an eternal reward if one’s life is lived within some really quite lenient ethical boundaries. (Catholics can repent at any moment of their lives; even a Hitler can, if he achieves true repentance, go to heaven). Yes, God commands His followers to observe some seemingly senseless rules—but He will forgive even the most grievous transgressions.

Another atheist sneer is that religion is responsible for most of the world’s ills. Examples given often include the Spanish Inquisition, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and the Crusades. Ignore, for the moment, that the most of the Inquisition’s crimes were exaggerated, and that the Crusaders actually had a pretty good claim to the Holy Land. Also ignore the obvious logical fallacy: abusus non tollit usum—the use is not the abuse. This point completely ignores the crimes perpetuated by atheists—Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, and Mao’s China were all ruled by regimes that were militantly atheistic. Does that constitute an damning incitement of atheism? Of course not. (And if there are any Christians out there who disagree, remember that fallacy that you just agreed with two sentences ago).

Perhaps the most common religious/philosophical fallacy is the idea that a sincere belief can make up for being wrong about religion. It can’t. If you worship the wrong God, being wholly sincere in your beliefs won’t help. (Fortunately, many religions offer salvation to these well-intentioned but misinformed souls).

Being sincerely wrong is acceptable—but you must be really, honestly wrong. So many people seem to think that they can iron out philosophical inconsistencies with ironclad faith, and counter all arguments against their beliefs with the fact that they earnestly believe in them. But if they are actually wrong, all the belief in the world can’t change that objective fact.

By the way, this fallacy seems to be most common among Roman Catholics. Many Catholics seem to think that any religion, or no religion, is pretty much acceptable if the person in question is a nice guy and isn’t committing any socially unacceptable sins, such as murder, theft, or racism. (What’s a socially acceptable sin? Cheating, slander, and lying often are, if the victim is someone you don’t really like). Protestants, especially evangelicals, are the opposite—they may hold some inane beliefs (sorry, the world wasn’t really created in six days), but at least they actually believe them.

There aren’t really many Ayn Randists around anymore, but they are disproportionably represented in the conservative movement—nearly every prominent conservative seems to have read Atlas Shrugged. The point of Atlas Shrugged is that every individual must live only for himself, that every man is responsible only for his own rational self-interest. As you can guess, Rand takes a dim view of religion.

Like Communism, Objectivism is one of those philosophies that seems to have been created for robots. Is there anyone who wouldn’t help, at least in theory, a little girl run over by a bus even if it meant being late for a meeting and losing a substantial amount of money? (If you said you wouldn’t, then you are probably an immoral monster. No offense or anything, we can still be friends, but still). Nobody lives only for themselves, and we should be happy about that.

Objectivists are supposed to be free, independent individualists. And nothing says individualists like a bunch of people who all think exactly the same way and unquestioningly follow the teachings of one person.

Hopefully, you found these ideas at least somewhat interesting. But if you want to read some better religious stuff, I would recommend G.K Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene. You might not agree with these authors, but they are entertaining, and unlike me, are actually experts on religion. Also, you might want to check out Steve Dutch’s website—he’s a college professor who has some interesting insights on religion.

11 Comments:

At September 21, 2008 at 7:58 PM , Blogger MTHorvat said...

And why couldn't God, if He is truly God, create the world in six days?

 
At September 21, 2008 at 8:47 PM , Blogger Daniel Ruwe said...

He could--I just don't think he did. There are so many scientific difficulties with the 6,000 year old earth hypothesis that it's a lot easier to accept the fact that it is much older. There don't seem to be very many actual scientists who don't believe that the earth is old--and the few who do usually (not always, but often) seem to be a bit off. I'd recommend going to Steve Dutch's site (I linked to it in my post)--I don't agree with everything he says, but it is interesting, and he does an excellent job of debunking anti-evolutionist claims.

 
At September 22, 2008 at 6:51 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

Daniel, you'd do well to take an objectivist course or two. Your lack of understanding with respect to objectivist philosophy is evident in your post.

"...that every man is responsible only for his own well-being."

That is completely false. It should read:

"...that every man is responsible for his own rational self-interest"

Well being seems to imply the man's own physical being and dismisses the workings of his mind which is the entire premise of Mrs. Rand's philosophy.

Secondly is this:

"Is there anyone who wouldn’t help, at least in theory, a little girl run over by a bus even if it meant being late for a meeting and losing a substantial amount of money?"

On this one, it would behoove you to spend a little time understanding Mrs. Rand's "Hierarchy of Values" principle wherein she explicity states:

"Concern for the welfare of those one loves is a rational part of one’s selfish interests. If a man who is passionately in love with his wife spends a fortune to cure her of a dangerous illness, it would be absurd to claim that he does it as a “sacrifice” for her sake, not his own, and that it makes no difference to him, personally and selfishly, whether she lives or dies.

Any action that a man undertakes for the benefit of those he loves is not a sacrifice if, in the hierarchy of his values, in the total context of the choices open to him, it achieves that which is of greatest personal (and rational) importance to him. [In the hierarchy of the man's values we could assert that the well being of the little girl in your example is of a greater importance to the man than his meeting or his financial loss], In the above example, his wife’s survival is of greater value to the husband than anything else that his money could buy, it is of greatest importance to his own happiness and, therefore, his action is not a sacrifice.

But suppose he let her die in order to spend his money on saving the lives of ten other women, none of whom meant anything to him—as the ethics of altruism would require. That would be a sacrifice. Here the difference between Objectivism and altruism can be seen most clearly: if sacrifice is the moral principle of action, then that husband should sacrifice his wife for the sake of ten other women. What distinguishes the wife from the ten others? Nothing but her value to the husband who has to make the choice—nothing but the fact that his happiness requires her survival.

The Objectivist ethics would tell him: your highest moral purpose is the achievement of your own happiness, your money is yours, use it to save your wife, that is your moral right and your rational, moral choice."


I took two courses in college and all I can say is that you've once again missrepresented the philosophy and it's primary equations.

 
At September 22, 2008 at 9:51 AM , Blogger Daniel Ruwe said...

"Rational self interest" and "wellbeing" are pretty similiar, but I'll change the term. The basic idea is still the same.

As for the "little girl" example, I chose it because I think it falls outside the Hierarchy of Values. Assume the girl is a complete stranger, you'll never see her again, and the question of whether she lives or dies is no consequence to your self-interest. Do you still sacrifice your self-interest (assume you're on your way to a meeting or whatever) to help her? If yes, doesn't that invalidate Rand's theory? Remember, you (in this example) don't care about the girl at all, won't benefit in the least. Your only motivation for helping her is that she is a fellow member of the human race.

 
At September 22, 2008 at 11:42 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

"I chose it because I think it falls outside the Hierarchy of Values."

You "think" it falls outside of the Hierarchy of Values. However, I regret to inform you that you are wrong. While I applaud your efforts to attempt to understand the philosophy, making presumptions while doing so is counterproductive to that effort.

"Assume the girl is a complete stranger, you'll never see her again, and the question of whether she lives or dies is no consequence to your self-interest. Do you still sacrifice your self-interest (assume you're on your way to a meeting or whatever) to help her? If yes, doesn't that invalidate Rand's theory?"

It does not. Within the hierarchy of the man's values, he may place child welfare above the importance of his other self-interests.

"Remember, you (in this example) don't care about the girl at all...

To infer that is to make yet another presumption about an individual's own interests. While you may not care about the girl's well being enough to forgo an important meeting, you cannot dictate what another's own interest might be in that regard.

"...won't benefit in the least."

Again, by the very confines of the philosophy you are wrong. If your interpretation of Mrs. Rand's philosophy predicates itself on strictly monetary benefits then you haven't an understanding of the philosophy at all. While productivity is a large part of Mrs. Rand's philosophy, that productivity factor extends to man's pursuit of his interests. And, if his interest is in feeding hungry children so that he may feel joy in having done so, then he is without question productive in the pursuit of his own self-interest.

"Your only motivation for helping her is that she is a fellow member of the human race."

If her existence as "a fellow member of the human race" is within the man's hierarchical structure then he will act in accordance with what is either above or beneath it on the same scale.

My suggestion would be a little more in depth study of Objectivist Theory if you wish to make credible assumptions about it.

 
At September 23, 2008 at 7:13 AM , Blogger Daniel Ruwe said...

I think I get your point, Soapie, at least a little bit. Though I would still argue that helping our hypothetical little girl wouldn't be something high on Rand's list of good things--according to Wikipedia, Rand frowned on charity, and the characters in Atlas Shrugged seemed to take a dim view of charity--I don't think that any of them helped anyone else (at least for altruistic reasons). In fact, Dagny said the worst person in the book was one who attempted to change her company culture to a more sharing environment. Granted, she was horribly misguided, but it was, at least, a good faith effort. But Rand called this lady (she was the person who owned the place Galt originally worked) the worst person in the book.

Actually, Dagny's criticism wasn't fair, unless I misremember the scenario. True, the lady mismanaged her plant, but it was her plant to do with as she pleased. Hierarchy of Values and all that. Dagny should have been nicer to her.

The biggest difference between Objectivism and most other ethical systems is this: the Objectivist helps the little girl if he wants to; most other value systems would argue that one is morally obligated to help her. That's a pretty significant difference.

Of course, all this is theoretical--I'm afraid that most would simply go on their way. Read "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" by Harlan Ellison--it examines this attitude. It's fantasy, but it's pretty unforgettable.

 
At November 5, 2014 at 5:12 PM , Blogger oakleyses said...

louis vuitton outlet, coach purses, prada outlet, tiffany and co jewelry, nike shoes, red bottom shoes, longchamp handbags, oakley sunglasses, longchamp outlet, christian louboutin outlet, oakley vault, kate spade handbags, louis vuitton handbags, true religion outlet, louis vuitton outlet online, coach outlet, ray ban outlet, nike air max, burberry outlet online, polo ralph lauren outlet, kate spade outlet online, polo ralph lauren, coach outlet store online, nike air max, tiffany jewelry, cheap oakley sunglasses, coach outlet, true religion, christian louboutin, longchamp outlet online, burberry outlet online, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet store, michael kors outlet online, tory burch outlet, michael kors outlet, chanel handbags, gucci handbags, michael kors outlet online, nike free, louis vuitton outlet, michael kors outlet online, ray ban sunglasses, christian louboutin shoes, louis vuitton, jordan shoes, prada handbags

 
At November 5, 2014 at 5:15 PM , Blogger oakleyses said...

nike blazer pas cher, lacoste pas cher, timberland, north face, air max, guess pas cher, nike free, air jordan, sac louis vuitton, air max pas cher, hollister, michael kors canada, lululemon, barbour, abercrombie and fitch, burberry pas cher, hermes pas cher, vans pas cher, north face pas cher, nike air max, sac vanessa bruno, chaussure louboutin, mulberry, nike roshe run, ralph lauren pas cher, louis vuitton, louis vuitton pas cher, sac michael kors, converse pas cher, nike free pas cher, oakley pas cher, ralph lauren, longchamp, new balance pas cher, hollister, nike roshe, louis vuitton uk, tn pas cher, scarpe hogan, true religion jeans, nike air force, longchamp pas cher, michael kors uk, ray ban pas cher, ray ban uk, true religion outlet, nike air max

 
At November 5, 2014 at 5:20 PM , Blogger oakleyses said...

marc jacobs outlet, beats headphones, canada goose, rolex watches, abercrombie and fitch, celine handbags, new balance outlet, instyler ionic styler, ugg boots, reebok shoes, roshe run, uggs on sale, ghd, north face jackets, nike huarache, valentino shoes, vans outlet, ugg outlet, p90x workout, ugg soldes, mont blanc pens, chi flat iron, canada goose outlet, lululemon outlet, ferragamo shoes, longchamp, nfl jerseys, asics shoes, mac cosmetics, bottega veneta, north face outlet, herve leger, birkin bag, wedding dresses, insanity workout, soccer shoes, soccer jerseys, giuseppe zanotti, nike trainers, canada goose outlet, babyliss pro, canada goose outlet, hollister, jimmy choo shoes, uggs outlet, ugg, mcm handbags

 
At November 5, 2014 at 5:23 PM , Blogger oakleyses said...

moncler, moncler outlet, hollister, juicy couture outlet, ralph lauren, moncler, louis vuitton canada, montre femme, moncler, canada goose pas cher, pandora uk, parajumpers outlet, thomas sabo uk, iphone 6 case, ray ban, lancel, oakley, swarovski jewelry, supra shoes, moncler, louboutin, uggs canada, coach outlet, swarovski uk, wedding dress, ugg, canada goose, baseball bats, canada goose, timberland shoes, replica watches, pandora jewelry, gucci, moncler, converse shoes, air max, karen millen, hollister clothing, juicy couture outlet, pandora charms, hollister canada, vans, converse, links of london uk, nike air max, moncler, toms outlet, canada goose uk

 
At November 5, 2014 at 5:23 PM , Blogger oakleyses said...

moncler, moncler outlet, hollister, juicy couture outlet, ralph lauren, moncler, louis vuitton canada, montre femme, moncler, canada goose pas cher, pandora uk, parajumpers outlet, thomas sabo uk, iphone 6 case, ray ban, lancel, oakley, swarovski jewelry, supra shoes, moncler, louboutin, uggs canada, coach outlet, swarovski uk, wedding dress, ugg, canada goose, baseball bats, canada goose, timberland shoes, replica watches, pandora jewelry, gucci, moncler, converse shoes, air max, karen millen, hollister clothing, juicy couture outlet, pandora charms, hollister canada, vans, converse, links of london uk, nike air max, moncler, toms outlet, canada goose uk

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home