Atheism

rynner2

Great Old One
Joined
Aug 7, 2001
Messages
55,252
Likes
8,934
Points
284
Location
Under the moon
This especially interests me because I am currently reading a good biography of Einstein
(by Walter Isaacson).


Albert Einstein letter shows disdain for religion
By Stephen Adams
Last Updated: 9:32AM BST 13/05/2008

Albert Einstein regarded religions as "childish" and "primitive legends", a private letter he wrote a year before his death has revealed.
The great scientist's views on religion have long been debated, with many seizing upon phrases such as "He [God] does not throw dice" as evidence that he believed in a creator.

But the newly-unveiled letter, a response to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, has cast doubt on the theory that Einstein had any belief in God at all towards to the end of his life.

In the letter, dated January 3 1954, he wrote: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

"No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."

Einstein, who died the following year aged 76, did not spare Judaism from his criticism, believing Jewish people were in no way "chosen" by God.

He wrote: "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people.

"As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are better protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

The letter, which for decades has been in private hands, has come to light as it is to go on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair on Thursday. It is expected to sell for up to £8,000.

Educated at a Catholic primary school but given private tuition in Judaism, Einstein later wrote that the "religious paradise of youth" - when he believed what he was told - was quickly crushed when he started questioning religion at the age of 12.

He wrote: "The consequence was a positively fanatic freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression."

But many of his pronouncements appear to support a belief in a divine being, or at least a wish to believe in one. The same year he wrote the letter he also said he wanted to "experience the universe as a single cosmic whole".

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1951333/Einstein-thought-religions-were-'childish'.html

The last paragraph refers really to his desire as a scientist to understand the universe, and is not "a wish to believe" in a divine being. He was fairly consistent in his attitude to religion throughout his life.
 

rjmrjmrjm

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Messages
1,380
Likes
19
Points
54
"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."
This is not the denunciation of religion that the super-athiests such as Dawkins would wish Einstien to have. He called Jewish beliefs 'honourable' and by assosiation I imagine he would consider most religious belief systems honourable.

This is completely at odds with those such as Dawkins (and the other militant Athiests) who believe that religion is basically worthless and we would be a good deal better off without it.

Einstien saw that religion has a place in humanity and could continue to have a place without too much fuss. His terminology of 'childish' is quite interesting, we generally tolerate children as long as they don't throw their weight around, and as I see it, most religion (in the western world at least*) is at this stage. No matter what the fundies say governments are essentially secular in the their outlook, they 'don't do God'.

If you are anti-religious then good for you - you can rest safe in the knowledge that when you die it won't matter a jot in the cosmic scheme, you have reached your potential by simply living. What? You procreated! 10/10 on the survival scale!

*America may be the exception but I honestly believe that the so called religion of the president is little more than a vote earner.
 

barfing_pumpkin

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Aug 6, 2005
Messages
720
Likes
1
Points
34
What does it matter if Einstein believed in god or not? If you're religious or otherwise, it's not likely to sway your opinion on the matter ... unless you happen to be one of those peculiarly paradoxical religious types who see clever-scientists-who-just-happen-to-be-believers as proof positive that their religion is true because of the fact.

"Look - he's clever and he believes in god - so if you don't, then you must be stupid!"

A syllogism, in other words. Clever scientist believes in god ergo all non-believers are not clever.

For the record, I don't think Einstein was all that religious anyway. His use of the word 'God' is clearly deployed as shorthand for a kind of pantheisitic 'code of nature' - in much the same way that Steven Hawking (a confirmed atheist) speaks of 'knowing the mind of god' in relation to his work.



If you are anti-religious then good for you - you can rest safe in the knowledge that when you die it won't matter a jot in the cosmic scheme, you have reached your potential by simply living. What? You procreated! 10/10 on the survival scale!
Yeah ... but at least we were prepared to do a moral act for its own sake, rather than offer it a downpayment for a place in heaven.
 

ted_bloody_maul

Justified & Ancient
Joined
May 23, 2003
Messages
4,588
Likes
5
Points
69
It's also worth pointing out that resting safe in the knowledge that all one ever did was procreate is not the worst thing to do with one's time. It's a considerable improvement on spending one's life in torment in the belief that one might be slowly toasted for all eternity due to experiencing that same God-given urge to procreate.

Also, it is conceivable that an atheist might leave behind a legacy which benefits God's creations as much as it does the name of God although the apparent neccessity for a reward which believers require for such acts - the greed and the avarice not to mention the vanity and tempers of the patron - might make one glad that atheists are precluded from the great back-scratching-and-damnation fraternity.
 

rjmrjmrjm

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Messages
1,380
Likes
19
Points
54
Can you be so sure that believers act just because they want a reward? I'm pretty sure that underneath it all humans are going help others, God or not.

I don't think the 'athiests are better than theists because they don't expect a reward' card really works and if it does, it makes you sound so (un)holier than thou :D.
 

ted_bloody_maul

Justified & Ancient
Joined
May 23, 2003
Messages
4,588
Likes
5
Points
69
rjmrjmrjm said:
Can you be so sure that believers act just because they want a reward? I'm pretty sure that underneath it all humans are going help others, God or not.

I don't think the 'athiests are better than theists because they don't expect a reward' card really works and if it does, it makes you sound so (un)holier than thou :D.
Well, it's not atheists who question the implied lack of substance and meaning in a godless life nor suggest that without some vain compliment rewarded there is little else but survival. The implication of such pondering is that save for the sating of sexual lust (interestingly sex and religion are once again juxtaposed as though mutual enemies rather than neccessary bedfellows, excuse the pun) there is little to be gained from life in this world, the apparentlly non-existent joys and beauties of which are presumed testimony to the majesty of God. Also, th implication is that acts of decency and altruism without deification, although morally commendable, are ultimately pointless wastes of time. It's not surpising that atheists sometimes respond a little more 'holy' than those who cynically mine the will of god for their own ends.
 

rjmrjmrjm

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Messages
1,380
Likes
19
Points
54
Point taken, but no thinking theist would say that "acts of decency and altruism without deification, although morally commendable, are ultimately pointless wastes of time." To say that would require someone rather selfish and shallow and frankly, someone inhuman.

It is interesting to note that acts of good-will are not actually essential to the Christian faith (I cannot speak of other religions) and it is theologically possible to get into heaven without doing a single altruistic act - this is of couse a completely hypothetical situation but nevertheless technically possible.
 

stonedog2

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Sep 2, 2005
Messages
172
Likes
4
Points
34
ted_bloody_maul, when you say "religion" or "god" could you be a bit more specific? so shinto? animism? Peculiar People Christians? scientology?

Echoing what rjm says too - in christianity the whole of predestination theology and the grace versus works debate are relevant here.

Kath
 

ted_bloody_maul

Justified & Ancient
Joined
May 23, 2003
Messages
4,588
Likes
5
Points
69
stonedog2 said:
ted_bloody_maul, when you say "religion" or "god" could you be a bit more specific? so shinto? animism? Peculiar People Christians? scientology?

Echoing what rjm says too - in christianity the whole of predestination theology and the grace versus works debate are relevant here.

Kath
It applies to any system in which an all-knowing figure has the power to reward who he/she/it sees fit in an after-life (the point was made in relation to the assumed emptiness of a godless existence). The issue of predestination versus acts is rather beside the point I'm making re the rewards and motivations of atheists rather those seeking the approval of a deity.
 

ted_bloody_maul

Justified & Ancient
Joined
May 23, 2003
Messages
4,588
Likes
5
Points
69
rjmrjmrjm said:
Point taken, but no thinking theist would say that "acts of decency and altruism without deification, although morally commendable, are ultimately pointless wastes of time." To say that would require someone rather selfish and shallow and frankly, someone inhuman.
Though as you go on to point out someone may ascend to heaven nonetheless and by your acknowledgement there is value in such acts in and of themselves to atheists and theists alike.
 

stonedog2

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Sep 2, 2005
Messages
172
Likes
4
Points
34
ta! I understand now :)

I still don't see the "do it for the reward" ethos around me though. Where there are people I know well enough to have an inkling about motivations then it's more "for the love of", "wouldn't everyone?" and "right thing to do".

Not talking about the weirdos in any subgroup, but the ordinary and decent people.

Is it possible that this raving you describe is, yet again, the squeaky wheel getting the attention?

Kath
 

Rrose_Selavy

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 6, 2003
Messages
1,636
Likes
16
Points
69
As relevant as Fairly tales. imaginary friends/father figures and superstition usually are.
The usual Relgious Sophistry......
 

colpepper1

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 11, 2005
Messages
1,255
Likes
45
Points
64
Surely the only 'religious' position a Fortean can hold is one of profound agnosticism? With a bearded white male at one end of the pantheon and unknowing worm food at the other, even if 1% of weirdness suggests a 'mind', even a trickster projection, then certainty is simply human failing at dealing with an index of potential causes. Uncertainty should be celebrated not castigated.
 

lupinwick

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Sep 24, 2005
Messages
1,645
Likes
2
Points
54
Which brand of agnosticism? You can go from:

Pragmatic agnosticism is a lack in belief in a deity because of the practical impossibility to prove either the existence or non-existence of such a being. A Pragmatic agnosticist, similar to an apatheist, is someone who is not interested in accepting or denying any claims that gods exist or do not exist. In other words, it is someone who considers the question of the existence of gods as unanswerable and thus not useful in his or her life; or perhaps to human affairs.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatic_agnosticism

to

Strong agnosticism or positive agnosticism is the belief that it is impossible for humans to know whether or not any deities exist. It is a broader view than weak agnosticism, which states that the existence or nonexistence of any deities is unknown but not necessarily unknowable.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strong_agnosticism

Hmmm, folks sure do like their labels.....
 
Joined
May 24, 2006
Messages
5,779
Likes
4,267
Points
244
ted_bloody_maul said:
It's also worth noting that the version of the article posted here omits these comments by the cardinal:

Later, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme why he thought it was dangerous to be governed by reason alone.

He said saying that "supposedly faithless societies" ruled only by reason were like those created by Hitler and Stalin, ripe for "terror and oppression".
Which implies that faith-based societies are not also occasionally ripe for terror and aggression - I'd say the weight of History rather argues against that.

That doesn't strike me as reaching out in a spirit of tolerance. It strikes me as attempting to wriggle out of a debate whilst sneakily claiming that the Godless are ultimately doomed to their own immoral savagery. Personally, I'm a little offended by that.
As Paul of Tarsus might also be - having argued that the fundamentals of moral law are written in the hearts and conscience of all people, not just those who had known Jesus. In fact, if I recall correctly (my Ethics is a bit rusty), he states in Romans that there is a difference between knowing the law and observing that law and I believe there's even an implication that those who observe the law but are not believers are more in the sight of God than those believers who only know the law - ie those who are good at the theory and think that's an end in itself. IIRC St Augustine (of Hippo - not the converter of Saxons) had stuff to say on the matter in a similar vein.

Actually the cardinal might do well to steer clear of Hitler's name - the higher echelons of his own organisation having been notoriously silent on certain issues during the relevant period. (Which is not to say that there wasn't much heroic work done on an individual basis further down the system).

(Having said all that I'd hasten to add that I'm not completely unsympathetic to some of the things the Cardinal said in that speech).
 

colpepper1

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 11, 2005
Messages
1,255
Likes
45
Points
64
I confess to being intrigued as to who those individuals who buy the FT, a magazine preoccupied with reports of poltergeist activity, spoon bending and anomalies of all kinds, are if they're predisposed to either rationalist atheism or indeed strict religious belief. Do they view the magazine reports as a quiz to pick obvious fault lines or see it as evidence of the universal demonic? £4 a pop seems a bit pricey for a monthly dose of outrage.

Experience suggests there are few people without any kind of axe to grind, though they do exist and agnostism might not be the right word for them with its heavy cultural connotations. Paradigms are all around us and as sticky as fly paper.
 

tilly50

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
313
Likes
24
Points
34
Can I ask (from a position firmly on the fence) if athiests demand demonstrable proof of the existance of God, do they provide irrefutable proof of Gods non existance?

What would constitute proof either way?

Whilst I would agree that religions have caused a lot of bad things throughout history, history also shows that most of the advances in humanitarian grounds have been instigated and pushed through by deeply religious people (abolition of slavery for example) History shows that with religion,as with most other manifestations of society, there are two sides to the coin.

Some radical athiests seem to revel in making snide comments designed to make those who have a belief other than theirs (and they do have beliefs and dogmas ) to be idiots/childish/deficient, whist they consider themselves to be superior for having a lack of faith.

Why do these athiests deem it necessary to preach so much? What should it matter to them if other people choose to have a belief system based on faith? What do they offer in the place of religion? That religion has been a part of every civilisation so far shows that it provides the people with something (if god/s didn't exist we would have to invent them :lol: )

I hope that I have not caused offence.
 
Joined
May 24, 2006
Messages
5,779
Likes
4,267
Points
244
tilly50 said:
Why do these athiests deem it necessary to preach so much?
Which atheists would these be though? You talk as if we are inundated by promoters of atheist thought but the fact is that if you open a newspaper or turn on Newsnight you're far more likely to find a representative of the Muslim faith or of one of the Christian denominations being asked for an opinion on a particular issue than you are a card-carrying atheist. The fact is that historically speaking the total amount of airtime atheists have had to 'preach' in is so utterly miniscule compared to the time given to the promoters and representatives of the various faiths that it must be virtually statistically invisible.

(And please, don't mention the D word. One man, one book and suddenly atheists are getting too much play! :roll: )

As to the point about the slave trade - granted, but seeing as many of those who made fortunes out of slavery also considered themselves devout Christians, and found the very institution of slavery to be sanctioned in Holy Writ, I'm not sure how useful the example is in an argument about the benefits of belief to society in general.
 

tilly50

Ephemeral Spectre
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Messages
313
Likes
24
Points
34
I was referring to radical athiests when I questioned their preaching and they have been around for a fair time historically speaking. They are like their opposites in religion (evangelical types), zealous in their rhetoric and unable to allow any other arguement but their own.

By the D word do you mean Richard Dawkins? One book?? He is far from unique and not as viscous and agressive as other earlier athiests have been (think of Diderot).

Apart from the abolition of slavery there are many human rights issues that have been championed by deeply religous individuals, not all of them Christian (Ghandi for example). Slavery was and is carried out by peoples of other religions and no religon, Christians most certainly have not been the only ones to benefit
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2003
Messages
48,288
Likes
19,894
Points
284
Location
Eblana
dont want to go too far off topic but Wiberforce who "freed" the slaves was also a great proponent of censorship and had many booksellers imprisoned for selling books which quiestioned christianity eg Tom Paines The Age of Reason.
 

barfing_pumpkin

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Aug 6, 2005
Messages
720
Likes
1
Points
34
He said saying that "supposedly faithless societies" ruled only by reason were like those created by Hitler and Stalin, ripe for "terror and oppression".
Just a little point, for the record: Hitler's 'society' was not ruled by reason but by a eugenics based pseudoscience and a superstitious belief in providence. Though Stalin himself was atheist, and his society nominally so, it could be argued that the cult of personality he created around himself was blatantly mystical in nature, and that his collectivist, hard-Marxist economic outlook was far too inflexible and dogmatic to be governed 'by reason alone'.
 
Joined
May 24, 2006
Messages
5,779
Likes
4,267
Points
244
tilly50 said:
By the D word do you mean Richard Dawkins? One book?? He is far from unique and not as viscous and agressive as other earlier athiests have been (think of Diderot).
Okay, using Diderot as an example - outspoken and ascerbic he may have been but for every week of his working life as a man of letters how many church bells rang, how many sermons were expounded, how many confessions heard, how many calls to prayer made, how many Bibles, Talmuds, Korans were thumped? My point was that the forces behind the ideas that people like Diderot were trying to counter were so monumentally all-pervasive for so long that it surprises me that it surprises anyone else that overt atheists got a little loud now and again - after all for the majority of time that has passed since the establishment of organised religions they've been putting not only their freedom but their lives on the line.
 

rynner2

Great Old One
Joined
Aug 7, 2001
Messages
55,252
Likes
8,934
Points
284
Location
Under the moon
Intelligent people 'less likely to believe in God'
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
Last Updated: 1:55AM BST 12/06/2008

People with higher IQs are less likely to believe in God, according to a new study.

Professor Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, said many more members of the "intellectual elite" considered themselves atheists than the national average.

A decline in religious observance over the last century was directly linked to a rise in average intelligence, he claimed.

But the conclusions - in a paper for the academic journal Intelligence - have been branded "simplistic" by critics.

Professor Lynn, who has provoked controversy in the past with research linking intelligence to race and sex, said university academics were less likely to believe in God than almost anyone else.

A survey of Royal Society fellows found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God - at a time when 68.5 per cent of the general UK population described themselves as believers.

A separate poll in the 90s found only seven per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God.

Professor Lynn said most primary school children believed in God, but as they entered adolescence - and their intelligence increased - many started to have doubts.

He told Times Higher Education magazine: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

He said religious belief had declined across 137 developed nations in the 20th century at the same time as people became more intelligent.

But Professor Gordon Lynch, director of the Centre for Religion and Contemporary Society at Birkbeck College, London, said it failed to take account of a complex range of social, economic and historical factors.

"Linking religious belief and intelligence in this way could reflect a dangerous trend, developing a simplistic characterisation of religion as primitive, which - while we are trying to deal with very complex issues of religious and cultural pluralism - is perhaps not the most helpful response," he said.

Dr Alistair McFadyen, senior lecturer in Christian theology at Leeds University, said the conclusion had "a slight tinge of Western cultural imperialism as well as an anti-religious sentiment".

Dr David Hardman, principal lecturer in learning development at London Metropolitan University, said: "It is very difficult to conduct true experiments that would explicate a causal relationship between IQ and religious belief. Nonetheless, there is evidence from other domains that higher levels of intelligence are associated with a greater ability - or perhaps willingness - to question and overturn strongly felt institutions."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... od%27.html
 

rjmrjmrjm

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Feb 25, 2004
Messages
1,380
Likes
19
Points
54
I see this as stupidly simplistic. Intelligence can have very little to do with religious belief, if there is a corrolation then it is most likely a sociological one than an inteligence based one.

Since the 1960s it has become 'fashionable' for intelligent people to be athiestic or at least non-religious. This kicked off with the cultural revolution of the 1960s which rejected anything authoritarian and old. As the higher levels of society became more athiestic those who held a belief were considered 'weird' (It happens to me at university i'm actually a student under one of the academics mentioned in the above article and i'm gently mocked for my Catholicism but never-the-less it is mockery) and so to better adapt and conform to what the intelligensia believe to be 'right' those of intelligence become athiest to 'fit in'.

My explaination may not be backed by statistics but I think it is more likely.

Also from my limited experience of academia I find that most academics find it hard to believe in anything they haven't uncovered themselves.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,025
Likes
146
Points
114
It certainly takes an extraordinary sort of intelligence to keep on believing in a set of beliefs when a perusal of the evidence and the application of reason suggests that those beliefs are basically bunk. :lol:
 

barfing_pumpkin

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Aug 6, 2005
Messages
720
Likes
1
Points
34
Sorry what evidence exactly suggests that it's all bunk?
What evidence is there to suggest it isn't?

But anyway...

Weird as it is to be on the side of religion for once (!) I have to say that Professor Richard Lynn's assertion is bollocks. "Decline in religious observance" just happens to run alongside "rise in average intelligence", and the good professor takes it as gospel (ho ho) that the two are linked. For a start, both assertions remain debatable. And secondly, one might as well wonder if there is also a link with rising ketchup prices and the increased popularity of Japanese comic books, so arbitrary is the connection. From my own experience, religious belief has more to do with emotional need than intelligence, and even that in itself is an oversimplification of things - most of the time I can't understand why anyone believes it (or at least, insists on believing it), and that goes doubly for those believers who are genuinely intelligent.

And there's a lot of them about.
 

LaurenChurchill

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Jan 29, 2003
Messages
679
Likes
6
Points
49
Well for me it just seems like there's way too much randomness in the world for it to be truly random. I don't just mean that the luck that Earth was the perfect distance from the sun and that it had the right combination of chemicals to produce life, because really, one would produce the other. But the randomness of every day. It seems like art to me.

Plus the incredibly strong hope that when it ends for me, it'll start again, because I don't want to leave yet.

It's not a problem for me to believe in something that doesn't have any evidence for it. I believe in a lot of the things mentioned on FT that don't. I also don't see any evidence against it either. Maybe one day they'll prove there is no god. And I'll have to believe it. But it'll be a sad day.

NB: When I use the word 'god' I use it in a non-denominational kind of way. I don't claim to know which god is correct, I just figure that whenever I pray, whichever one/many that is/are real will listen to me. Assuming they have the time/inclination :)
 
Top