Support Christian missions in Africa? No, but . . .
#13
(23-May-2011, 12:42 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: The New Atheists' stance that faith often stands in the way of conflict resolution and getting it out of the way is a good idea to start with, ..., A fairer characterization of the New Atheist stance is that 'strident criticism of religious beliefs also has a place in the debate' on conflict resolution, ...
1. Can you point to some success stories? I believe more down-to-earth factors than the belief in a god determine whether there is a resolution or not, irrespective of how religious or irreligious the parties in a conflict are. The numerous examples of alliances and conflicts between the West and the muslim world in the last 60-70 years is enough to convince me so.

People find a need to belong to a group of people. Religion is just one of many many ways in which groups form. If religion is eradicated people just find other ways to group. Where there are groups there are conflicts. As an example, in my undergraduate days students were extremely loyal to their hostels and there was intense rivalry among the hostels, sometimes resulting in dangerous physical violence. Religion/caste played zero role in those conflicts.

2. There is also a place for criticism of the New Atheist movement lest it turn into a religion itself. I have seen quite a few atheists who are as blind as some religious people. And history provides an example in Buddha, who was an atheist and yet spawned, probably unwittingly, a religion.
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#14
P11,
OK what is this devolving into now, a re-evaluation of the new atheist movement from the basics? You have already started with a caricature and strawman of the New Atheist position, and when pointed out you quickly moved on to the next rather ridiculous accusations.. such as religion being a group, just like any other group and New Atheist movement devolving into a religion itself. We really dont appreciate such tactics.
There are people who will never ever accept that religion is at fault, and there are plenty of them. This debate between Sam Harris and Reza Aslan is enough to drive home the point http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5og-hyD3A7A
And you seem to be one of them.
I dont want the energies of our people here drained for useless purposes and I suggest that you first take a look at our mission, and decide how much of it you agree with. We can talk again after that.
http://nirmukta.com/about/
http://nirmukta.com/what-is-nirmukta-and...lan-to-do/
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
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#15
(23-May-2011, 03:00 AM)P11 Wrote: 1. Can you point to some success stories? I believe more down-to-earth factors than the belief in a god determine whether there is a resolution or not, irrespective of how religious or irreligious the parties in a conflict are. The numerous examples of alliances and conflicts between the West and the muslim world in the last 60-70 years is enough to convince me so.

Please stop with your strawmen arguments against atheism. As I have pointed out elsewhere, you seem to have very little knowledge about atheism. Are you so sure that the new atheist movement is only about god? And not about a naturalistic worldview?

(23-May-2011, 03:00 AM)P11 Wrote: 2. There is also a place for criticism of the New Atheist movement lest it turn into a religion itself. I have seen quite a few atheists who are as blind as some religious people. And history provides an example in Buddha, who was an atheist and yet spawned, probably unwittingly, a religion.

So you decided that new atheism can become another religion. And do you think we will just stand by watching, munching some pop corn? We do come down hard on ideas that aren't sound. Again, stop making ridiculous strawmen arguments.
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#16
Lije, you did "point out" my lack of knowledge about atheism. Then I replied back with a hole in Dawkins' argument but it was never published on that blog. I don't understand why you have brought in the naturalistic worldview in the current context.

(23-May-2011, 12:12 PM)Lije Wrote: So you decided that new atheism can become another religion. And do you think we will just stand by watching, munching some pop corn? We do come down hard on ideas that aren't sound. Again, stop making ridiculous strawmen arguments.
I think you intend "we" in the non-inclusive sense. So, do you have the exclusive rights to criticize?
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#17
Asrtrokid, I am not trolling if that is your implication. I agree with most of Nirmukta's aims save one or two. I was an atheist since High School until I became agnostic in mid-twenties. I believe Science cannot prove (even in the Scientific sense) a god's in-existence. But I also believe that life is ultimately meaningless irrespective of god's existence/in-existence and hence I stopped caring about god.

I am not shy of asking even basic questions because I do not ask or not ask for someone else's sake but for my own understanding. Just as every sincere student of mathematics asks even the stupidest of questions, I too might ask here stupidest of questions. If you have the energy, please answer them or provide a link that describes the ideas (preferably in a concise way). I am willing to change my opinion when given proper arguments but I'll argue if I feel I have something to contribute.

Now, on topic. Quoting myself:
(22-May-2011, 01:21 AM)P11 Wrote: Religion is not the chief factor for war.
I said religion is a definitely a factor but not the chief one. I do not see myself changing my position, in fact I was elaborating on my earlier post.

Why I feel religion is a group (at least in the context of conflicts):
In general, why are children of hindus hindus and of muslims muslims? It is because of a herd mentality. Societies through out the world are organized in such a way that there is a high incentive for an individual to accept the existing
ideology in the land be it islam, hinduism or capitalism or communism or ...
That is the problem and not religion per se. My point is the following: even if we manage to remove religion tomorrow the same paradigm for social organization would exist and instead of islam/hiduism we would have capitalism/communism or some other polarizing factor.
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#18
(27-May-2011, 06:29 AM)P11 Wrote: I don't understand why you have brought in the naturalistic worldview in the current context....I think you intend "we" in the non-inclusive sense. So, do you have the exclusive rights to criticize?

To anyone who takes out around 15 minutes to watch these videos painstakingly transcribed by Lije, it must be obvious...

(i) , given the obtrusive and disruptive presence of ghosts of all sorts in India's mindscape, that promoting naturalism vigorously is very central to freethought promotion rather than some ancillary pursuit

(ii) that the very tangible harm in rural areas caused by superstitions is reason enough to consider the advocacy of naturalism to be somewhat more urgent than discussing supposed shortfalls in the erudition of certain famous naturalists like Prof. Dawkins

(iii) that the human resources provided by admins and contributors in ventures like these, which are indispensable to consciousness-raising and mobilization, are too scarce to be squandered in addressing the criticism of an armchair commentariat

(iv) that people whose naturalistic and freethinking voices have been shouted out in countless drawing-room and workplace conversations over the years, who are now finally finding utterance in a few online communities like these, will have little patience for any suggestion that equal time must be provided to 'drawing room conformists' in such fora.

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#19
Arvind, I do not dispute your efforts to counter superstition. There is a whole subforum here dealing with it. I did not say one thing against the fight against superstition and neither is this thread on that subject. So, I really think your response is uncalled for. This topic was largely on the role of religion in conflict and that is what I have been talking about. My response to Dawkins and new atheists is not a binary function so stop treating it like it is.

I obviously raised here only those points that I don't agree with so that I can learn from your arguments. When I talk to a religious person I raise some other issues to learn what I can from him.

Sorry, do I sound conformist to you? If I am really a conformist I would have either conformed to the majority opinion in this thread or I would I have joined a forum which shared my opinions.

I understand forums such as these attract trolls. But I assure you I am not. Whatever I say I say sincerely and I hold logic and intellectual honesty as my guiding principles. I might make mistakes once in a while but they would be honest mistakes and I will learn from them.
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#20
(27-May-2011, 06:29 AM)P11 Wrote: Lije, you did "point out" my lack of knowledge about atheism. Then I replied back with a hole in Dawkins' argument but it was never published on that blog. I don't understand why you have brought in the naturalistic worldview in the current context.

As Arvind said, it is obvious why I brought in naturalism. If you still don't get it, here is you a few comments ago: "The New Atheists seem to believe that our tribal nature and hence conflicts would be eradicated once religion is eradicated and I think that is a result of certain naivety". The strawman of new atheism that you put up is plain ridiculous.

(27-May-2011, 06:29 AM)P11 Wrote: I think you intend "we" in the non-inclusive sense. So, do you have the exclusive rights to criticize?

I am a new atheist and I don't shy from criticizing bad ideas in the new atheist movement. That is where the "we" comes from. My point was to show that there is criticism. If you knew that and still made this statement - "There is also a place for criticism of the New Atheist movement lest it turn into a religion itself.", you are just preaching to the choir. If you thought there was no criticism, you made that point from ignorance.

And when did I say that only new atheists have exclusive rights to criticize? Why are you putting words into my mouth? And you say that you not a troll and "Whatever I say I say sincerely and I hold logic and intellectual honesty as my guiding principles"? I find that very hard to believe.


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#21
P11, I don't think the conversation here is targeting you unfairly, even if it might seem that way to you. We are only pointing out that some of your arguments are based on ideas that we do not agree with (yeah, I'm going with 'we', that inclusive personal pronoun), not necessarily on empirical grounds, but also in terms of the normative agenda we choose as the focus of our activism. Let me just point out a few instances from your recent reply to astrokid.nj.

Quote:I agree with most of Nirmukta's aims save one or two.

Of course you don't have to agree with everything Nirmukta stands for to be here. But don't be surprised then if you find yourself being challenged on your statements. In any case, your statements here are actually evidence that you are not fully aware of Nirmukta's objectives, as I shall point out towards the end of this post.

Quote:I believe Science cannot prove (even in the Scientific sense) a god's in-existence.

Science is not about proof, but about degrees of certainty. But of course, we make statements of absolute fact all the time, but that's shorthand, a function of being mortals with limited time to get ideas out of our heads in a form that makes sense to others.

Quote:But I also believe that life is ultimately meaningless irrespective of god's existence/in-existence and hence I stopped caring about god.

Meaningless to you, perhaps. Not to billions of others. The god question is far from irrelevant in culture, and some of care just a tiny bit.

Quote:I said religion is a definitely a factor but not the chief one.


The reason everyone is reacting the way they are is because statements like this are deliberate attempts to make the issue go away.
No one here is arguing that religion is a chief cause of all wars, just that it is a major factor in conflicts around the world. What exactly is a chief factor for war? Depending on how you look at it different things are chief factors. If you look at it from the point of view of group selection and population dynamics, then in-group/out-group identities are a chief factor. If you look at it from the point of view of economics, then control of resources can be a chief factor. And of course, not all wars are fought over the same factors. So, this whole line of thinking is a distraction intended to dismiss the role of religion in conflict, which is the original point under discussion!.

Quote:That is the problem and not religion per se. My point is the following: even if we manage to remove religion tomorrow the same paradigm for social organization would exist and instead of islam/hiduism we would have capitalism/communism or some other polarizing factor.

Contrary to what you think, most of us are well aware of these biological and sociological tendencies of humans. It is quite a trivial point in such groups. We did not develop our thinking to this point by simplistically isolating religion from all other forms of group identity with potential for violent conflict, with no clue as to the complexity of human cultural identity as a whole.

The point is this. Here we are concerned about the devastating effect of religion, among other things, and many of us believe that the role of religion in culture and government needs to be tempered. Religion needs to be made a private and embarrassing thing for people to hold on to. There are other groups that worry about other problems, but this is what we do here. It is a specialization in activism. Would you go to a charity that works on cancer research and charge them with ignoring all other diseases?

But there's a more annoying claim that you made above that initiated this entire thing.

The difference between science and religion (or any other ideological belief identity) is that science is based on a process that examines itself and evolves in response to the evidence. It is not a political ideology, and those who practice it are not inherently advocating for identifying with any particular group. But when we talk about getting rid of religion, we are not talking about leaving the culture open for any "paradigm for social organization" to take over. We are explicitly talking about promoting a culture of reason and compassion. This is a humanistic ideology, not just a promotion of scientific ideas. Now, are you going to argue that a secular humanism based on a naturalistic worldview is just as bad as religion?

Read this clearly: We are well aware of the complexities of dealing with religion. Its not as simple as just debunking bad ideas. We have discussed plenty of times how we can go about creating an alternative culture, one of reason, that intends to promote critical thinking and humanistic values, providing people with the tools to evaluate questions about the universe.

The idea is to target superstitious thinking in the long term. Not just specific superstitious beliefs. Now you may not want to participate in that process. But you will not continue dissuading us here.

Now, let's go back to your earlier statement:

Quote:I agree with most of Nirmukta's aims save one or two.

If you had actually read Nirmukta's aims and our various conversations in shaping them, you might have realized that your statements are in ignorance of what we actually stand for. But you could have asked, and we would have pointed. It's not too late, and I hope you'll stick around and find out. We don't know everything either, but we're prepared to not assume that the others we're talking to are clueless about the things that we DO know.
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#22
(21-May-2011, 07:00 AM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: I don't think Dawkins is unaware of these complexities. But if everyone in the world cared about all the factors affecting every issue they are trying to tackle, we will get no where. This is because ALL issues are complex and complete understanding is impossible. This is why we humans tend to specialize in our interests. Of course skeptics should be aware that things are complex. That does not preclude us from focusing on individual problems.
You seem to miss my point. I am not arguing that atheists must not present arguments against religion. However, atheists cannot assume that because they do not believe in God, they can sit in judgement on all matters and claim that if religion ceases to exist, the problems of the world will disappear magically. Religion forms only a part of the world's problems.

Eradicating religion will no doubt help in overcoming some of the most ignorant and non-scientific traditions and superstitions of India and other backward countries, but pointing to religion as the root of other bigger problems like wars, genocides, ethnic conflicts, oppression etc is patently anti-scientific and can be fairly characterised as a form of reductionism.

What Dawkins is doing considering support for Christian missions over so-called "evil" Muslim missions in Africa is the exact same thing he does when he points to religion to be the cause of the Irish conflict etc. He reduces other important factors in a complex scenario to nothing while elevating religion as the only root cause. This is not only anti-scientific, but downright dishonest. This cannot be called "specialization", but is a form of dishonest debate which ignores any factor other than religion.

If we were to do this, for example, in physics, it would be like saying I am a physicist and humans belong to the field of biology, therefore, the law of gravity does not apply to humans!

The fact is that scientific training teaches us that no fields of study have exact barriers nor is it possible to claim to be a "specialist" in one field, thus forming an excuse to deliberately ignore all evidence and facts if they do not belong to "your field".
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#23
(27-May-2011, 01:54 PM)Ajita Kamal Wrote: The reason everyone is reacting the way they are is because statements like this are deliberate attempts to make the issue go away.
No one here is arguing that religion is a chief cause of all wars, just that it is a major factor in conflicts around the world. What exactly is a chief factor for war? Depending on how you look at it different things are chief factors. If you look at it from the point of view of group selection and population dynamics, then in-group/out-group identities are a chief factor. If you look at it from the point of view of economics, then control of resources can be a chief factor. And of course, not all wars are fought over the same factors. So, this whole line of thinking is a distraction intended to dismiss the role of religion in conflict, which is the original point under discussion!.
It would certainly help the debate if we ceased to use terms such as "major factor" or "chief factor" while describing the roots of conflicts. As I have pointed out already in my previous post, we cannot separate the religious factor from the other factors, neither can we separate out economic or ethnic or racial factors from each other. There is no clear demarcation in any war where we can definitively say religion is the biggest factor. I would request all those who participate in this debate about the factors causing wars to at least study the history of one war in detail and then come back and argue that such and such a factor was the "chief factor" in that war. As a follow up question to someone who studies the Chinese Civil War, for example, what part did religion play in the Chinese Civil War?

Quote:The point is this. Here we are concerned about the devastating effect of religion, among other things, and many of us believe that the role of religion in culture and government needs to be tempered. Religion needs to be made a private and embarrassing thing for people to hold on to. There are other groups that worry about other problems, but this is what we do here. It is a specialization in activism. Would you go to a charity that works on cancer research and charge them with ignoring all other diseases?
Except that if you choose to ignore all theoretical premises behind this so-called activism just to get some potential converts or to build an alternative culture of freethinkers, in the long run, there would be no real change effected among human beings as such. One needs to be clear on what one is arguing and one has to make sure that so-called activism does not become the primary goal while the theory behind your actions goes into neglect and dies.
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#24
To address the repeated concerns that the New Atheist approach in dealing with conflict resolution is 'naive', even 'dishonest', it would perhaps be useful for critics of this approach to spell out by suggesting readings etc what they think is a less naive, more honest, more holistic and credible approach in addressing this problem, so that we can then weigh the merits of both approaches.

Given an ad nauseam reiteration of rehearsed talking points which this thread seems to be becoming, this seems necessary. In any case, the original quote which triggered off this discussion itself seems to be pre-emptively caveated, leading one to wonder why this discussion is so long-drawn in the first place.


Quote:Given that Islam is such an unmitigated evil, and looking at the map supplied by this Christian site, should we be supporting Christian missions in Africa? My answer is still no, but I thought it was worth raising the question. Given that atheism hasn't any chance in Africa for the foreseeable future, could our enemy's enemy be our friend?

Richard
(Emphasis mine)

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