In the previous post I made the claim that atheists should not be any worse off than the religious when confronting serious philosophical questions. In this post I wish to show that they might be better off. I intend to show why the idea of an immaterial soul is misguided and needlessly confusing. I am going to use the example of volitions. And I warn you: This is not going to be an easy post to handle. If I succeed in writing anything intelligible , you are very likely to find yourself rather shaken.
I also wish to thank my dear friend Dr. Uri Maoz, who was the first to confront me with the following facts.
1. Why is the human mechanism better or more deserving of respect than any other mechanism … a lawnmower or a cat?
2. Whence do concepts such as human dignity, human rights, personal morality, right and wrong, good and evil arise, and what is their justification?
3. Why should anyone be held responsible for their actions, given that these are caused by chemical reactions in the brain, and chemicals have no sense of right and wrong?
4. Why do you have the concept of a quasi-separate ‘I’, as in ‘my body’, if you are just your body?
5. How can volition be anything other than an illusion?
6. Why should feelings, emotions, etc. have any importance if they are mere artefacts of chemical reactions?
I will answer in a different order, and I also intend to tamper with Brendano’s phrasing. Iam also afraid that this will take more than one post.
But first of all let me point out one huge and terrible blander, of which I hereby blame Brendano. He seems to think that these questions pose a difficulty for atheists alone. That is utter baloney. These are, and always have been, the greatest philosophical questions of all time, wrestled with by many religious thinkers. And if you think that any of these problems are even remotely addressed by any conceivable religious dogma in existence, you are dead wrong. They certainly are not solved. Not through Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any far-east religion in existence.
Should Atheists admire Monotheism, the same way Socialists love Capitalism?
When I first read Karl Marks’ The Communist Manifesto, I was very much surprised. I expected a demeaning rebuke of Capitalism, a scourge of fire scathing evil wealthy industrialists. But I found nothing of the sort. The Manifesto struck me as a paean for capitalism. It is full to the rim with the praise of capitalism. Marks and Angels are charmed with capitalism. There are a couple of (very big) issues which make capitalism the greatest peak of civilization (so far) in their eyes.
The first point is that capitalism has brought an age of limitless capability. From their perspective in the middle of the 19th century, it is more than understandable. As they rightly exclaim, humans can now cross vast oceans in mere weeks. Fertilized crop yield vast amounts of food. For the first time ever, the medical establishment is doing more good than harm. Medicine actually works(!). And on and on. The list is endless. Capitalism has unleashed an enormous power. This power can do much good, and it does. Continue reading →
Dan Dennett is a wonderful philosopher. And I don’t say that just because he always agrees with me (yes, this is a joke). I say so especially thanks to his ability to make things simple and eloquent – and that, I think, is the hall mark of a true philosopher. But that is stuff for another post.
Really, Dennett is great. go YouTube and run a search (bear in mind that some good lectures are under Dan Dennet). Go to Ted and see. In this lecture, given while Dennett received the “Richard Dawkins Award” at the AAI 07 conference in Washington, D.C., he makes some interesting claims regarding religious beliefs. I won’t get into detail (just go and hear the man) – but for this one thing that bugs me:
How do you, an atheist, approach a person who just had a divine revelation? What can you say to him?
Now let’s be specific about it. The following is a real story. I know these people. Here goes.