I just joined this organization. I was raised a fundamentalist Christian and was a devout believer in the Christian tradition and dogma up until about the age of 21. While at college and medical school I encountered vexing problems where religion collided with science. Over time I became more and more incredulous until such time I found myself outside any religious belief system.
I have remained a very interested observer of religion including most mainstream Christian organizations.
In short I do admire religiosity and humility. I believe that part of the dignity of the human being is the ability to sense and be in awe of life, consciousness, to have a sense of "the sacred". I believe "religion" ie I mean theism, leads one to ponder such important mental aspects of personal responsibility, living the good life, trying to define "good" or "goodness" and to concurrently eschew "badness". Though religion is not the only means of culturally transmitting notions of moral thinking and behavior, acknowledgement of human dignity and the granting of fundamental rights I deem as important.
Philosophically I would imagine most atheists are committed to naturalism realism and implicit belief in reductionism to elementary physical chemical processes.
I have been quite interested in the mind body problem since studied philosophy ie epistemology and philosophy of mind in college.
Cartesian dualism remains to this day a perplexing problem. The "explanation" or the "causation" of mental phenomena still is problematic. Thomas Nagel in his new book Mind and Cosmos shows the poverty of physical naturalism including a purely physical account of evolutionary biology in so far as accounting for consciousness ( ?reductionist concept,? epiphenomenon, or part of increasing complexity and the emergence of consciousness) which would also include an account of how deliberative rationality, acquisition of knowledge of an outside independent reality, and the use of language .
Nagel as part of a number of mind experiments looks at how "creation by design" or the invocation of teleological process could go a long way into filling the gaps created by mere reductionistic physicalism.
Thomas Nagel is a famous philosopher well known for his essay "What it is like to be a bat"
I take seriously his criticisms of the now dominant belief that the mental and physical world can be OR should be accounted for strictly by thorough understanding of chemical and physical events which is wholly reductionistic in outline.
I am wondering if there are others out there who have given thought to this sort of "problem" and how this community would respond to Nagel's core criticism contesting that the naturalist Neo Darwinian conception of nature is almost CERTAINLY FALSE.
I am of the belief that Nagel has posed the thinking atheist - who I believe fundamentally assumes without too much reflection that the psycho-physical world is explainable and intelligible by dint of physical events alone - a very robust challenge. Atheists would recoil at the thought of creation by design or might have heartburn by resurrecting the Aristotelian notion of teleological causation.
Finally those who want to excoriate "religion" I think should initially consider the considerable literature provided by Rodney Stark a prolific sociologist dealing with the phenomenon of religion ie "Discovering God" " A Theory of Religion" "Acts of Faith - Explaining the Human Side of Religion"
I would be interested in a thoughtful response to Stark's arguments.
Ryan, For a short time after I quit Catholicism, I studied it and other religions.
I soon started telling people Catholicism is a cruel fraud.
To non-Catholic xians who "witness" to me politely, I omit the word "cruel".
To the aggressive few I say religion is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on humankind.
My best wishes. Be kinder to yourself than any religion will be.
Thanks for the note.
I am not inclined to characterize generic religion as a "cruel fraud". Christianity and the other great religions constitute parts of our rich and divergent culture. With respect to Christianity and its variants I see nothing within these institutions that are hostile to ones efforts to live a satisfying and "good" life. Indeed central to participating in this sort of religion is a belief in the character of Jesus, a belief in a supreme being, the existence of an otherworldly existence and promoting "good deeds".
In fact if one were to do an experiment that calls for close detailed observation of outward behaviors of a devout Christian vs an atheist - typically one would be hard pressed to differentiate the two populations (short of actual worship and rituals).
There is also the aspect where membership in an organized religion provides one with a rich social network that can be life affirming and eminently helpful.
I would also suggest that belief in any Christian creed will not as a consequence hamper your life prospects or negatively impact the possibility of happiness (however defined)
Reading and pondering the text of the Bible as well as its related literature Augustine or Aquinas are useful enriching exercises.
When considering the history of science over the past 500 years one is made well aware of bizarre patently false beliefs that eventually were debunked. Would you characterize the geocentric model of the universe as a "cruel fraud"? Probably not.
However like many other thoughtful observers of American society I find the aggressive tele-evangelists who plead for money and other resources in order to promote their brand of religion as particularly obnoxious and deserving of obloquy.
Would you characterize the geocentric model of the universe as a "cruel fraud"
Ryan, please don't take a term I used to describe Catholicism and use it elsewhere. Your doing so reveals a bias so elementary that people here might see you as a troll.
Rather than seek an intellectual discussion of Nagel or Stark, I suggest that you identify your remaining emotional needs for religion.
Ryan, why don't you go back 2,000 years and find your real dreamland, I'm sure it's what you really need.
I have went from early studies to be a Pentecostal preacher on into the mind wretching and forever self-failings of that endeavor, until I finally found and fully understood atheism. I know the Bible and I know religion. I have no desire to share mythology with anyone or give it false importance in the world of science and discovery. Religious belief has done very little to improve anything. In fact, it causes harm. Science may be always changing and improving its models of things, but religion is static and does nothing. Those who think it does are always trying to prove they had the answers all along. God did it!
We live in a world of objective reality. This is a fact. For anything about gods or religion to come into play we have to change this to a subjective reality where anything can happen. Pixies can live in your shoes and your dead relatives are actually on Jupiter right now waiting for you. It's nonsense.
I no longer study anything about religions because there is nothing new. How could there be? All you ever had from the beginning was ancient old writings made up by ignorant men. Religious archaeology today is no more than wishful thinking for believers. Moses, David, and Solomon have proven not to be real but the faithful "keep on finding things."
Believers seem to think that god is in a separate universe and he can come into our universe and do things without leaving any evidence at all. This would mean that god does not exist and you could turn him into anything that you want. Personally, I'll stick with objective reality. I no longer have a need to believe in Santa Claus.