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Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 1:41amSanction this postReply
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There was a surreal debate on the late TV news last night.

An agnostic was arguing how God allowed the "evil" Tsunami with a Christian Priest and a Muslim.

Unfortunately they all started bickering at one another and it all got very childish by the end. The agnostic kept trying to provoke the priest by saying things like "God is a terrorist!"

The priest maintained the argument that "the Lord moves in mysterious ways" and that "some good may come from this evil".

The Muslim had the most surprising argument. He said that God does not cause these natural disasters - but God gives us through nature the gifts with which to combat or avoid them. Such as Earthquake warning technology.

Not bad I thought. He must come from the enlightened branch of Islam.


Post 1

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 6:24amSanction this postReply
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A brilliant essay, Linz. I loved your analogy of God as a politician running for office! Even better, though, is the way you demolish the whole argument for God in a single sentence:

The only way for God not to be responsible is for him not to be all-knowing, and then he's not God.


Post 2

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 7:54amSanction this postReply
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Linz, thank you so much for addressing this.  I am exasperated by the religious overtones being intimated as a result of this disaster, as well as the guilt that is being inflicted on on the shoulders of wealthy countries.  I was not surprised to see headlines in the UK that said "US Shamed Into Doubling Disaster Relief."

Bastards.  I'm sure the Bible thumpers are united in their announcement of Armageddon.


Post 3

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 10:47amSanction this postReply
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Wonderful article Linz. Again.

But to answer your question, no, it will not "finally sink in this time".

To see reality, man must use conscious thought. Concious thought is a choice, a volition. It involves EFFORT. The cravenly stupidly lazy superstitious billions choose not to be concious, choose not to see the world with open eyes. It is easier to just BELIEVE. And HOPE. And DIE. I hope that doesn't sound cruel. It's not. I cry like the best of them when I see orphaned children after this tragedy but it would be a breach of MY faith to not place blame where blame is due. And in this case, again, it was GOD who dunnit.

And with that I must brazenly self-promote my own article that I wrote as a response to the Iran earthquakes:

Iran Earthquake - God Dunnit

And dodge lightning bolts (you hear me up there? That was a dare!).


Post 4

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 2:13pmSanction this postReply
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Preaching to the choir, Perigo.  Nothing wrong with beating up on the superstitions of Bible-beaters and Koran-thumpers, but a more interesting attack would have been on Christian theodicy.

Pukszta


Post 5

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 3:06pmSanction this postReply
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I'm glad I posted the article - it spawned the creation of a magnificent commentary from Linz.  What a pleasant surprise!

Totally natural disasters such as this back religionists into an even tighter intellectual corner as compared to when they have to explain human induced catastrophes.  A religionist can always say that God gave humans free will, and that's why people are immoral to one another.  (Up through my early to mid teens, I continued to buy into that explaination as it seemed semi-plausible).    

In answer to your question, though, 'Will it Finally Sink In?,' it might for some people, but I suspect the simpletons among us will cling even tighter to their mystical crutches.  


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Post 6

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 3:27pmSanction this postReply
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Pete says: In answer to your question, though, 'Will it Finally Sink In?,' it might for some people, but I suspect the simpletons among us will cling even tighter to their mystical crutches.  

Pete, I respectfully disagree. I firmly believe that events such as these shake thousands of people to question the very core of their beliefs. More importantly, it tends to have its greatest impact among the educated and professional class that may have given little thought to such questions before, but have suddenly found themselves asking these questions for the first time in their lives.  Bare in mind that for most people 'religion' is their cultural default setting. This is not a planet of philosophers (thank goodness!), most highly educated men are educated within one or two specialized fields, fields that absorb an enormous amount of their time and thinking. Events such as this often act as a catalyst for the type of philosophic introspection that is unusual for most people.

George


Post 7

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 7:14pmSanction this postReply
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Ah, there you are, young Bertelsen. You know, you may "brazenly self-promote" your previous articles *only* if there's a new one on the way. It's been a while since we had the pleasure of savouring your fine, Swiftean pen. So go to it, lad! You too, young McGovern! (Not much point demanding articles of Jennifer & Marcus at this ... er ... juncture, I expect? :-))

Linz

Post 8

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 8:56pmSanction this postReply
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George, my comment was directed towards the absolute true believers in religion, who generally don't like the act of critical thinking.  They will spin any major event as if it is some act of God: if something profoundly good happens, they will say that it's evidence of God's love for us.  If something terrible happens, they will say God is 'punishing' or 'testing' us.  If something happens bringing a mixture of good and bad, they give you the 'mysterious ways' gambit.  (Although, I often wonder about the religious leaders and clergy who spout these ideas and put them in the heads of the laity - do they really believe what they are saying, or do they know that easy answers are what many people want to hear?)   

On the flip side, I believe alot of people who go to church and practice religion have serious doubts deep down, but they simply can't imagine moral absolutes or a sense of meaning in life without it.  They feel better off believing in something than nothing.  An event like the tsunami will cause many of them to think deeply and question there assumptions. 

(Edited by Pete on 1/05, 8:57pm)


Post 9

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 - 10:09pmSanction this postReply
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Linz, darling, I am currently parted from my beloved Marcus, so I will be delighted to give you a new article as soon as I have finished romancing the kidney stone that has swept me off my feet.

xoxo


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Post 10

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 3:00amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for the essay.  It was timely.  One aspect of this is that religious people generally believe in an afterlife.  (Some Christians say that you have to be born again to enjoy that, otherwise when you die, you are just plain dead, as in dead.)  Believing in an afterlife, these religionists put a lot of misery -- including the stuff they cause -- into a convenient context.

I do not expect that many people will change their minds.  Events like this are pretty much understood in terms of existing conceptual frameworks.  As traumatic as this was, it was just another disaster.

I note Adam Reed's "Youngest Objectivist Hero."  A story on CNN told of "sea gypsies" who understood and got another village -- their own, actually, I think; the sea is a part-time living -- to move uphill in time.  On the other hand, my wife downloaded some pictures of people watching it come right at them while they photographed it.  It kept coming... and coming... and finally, they ran.  If I remember correctly, in the first Godzilla movie, didn't the fisherman see the wake in the water and beat the gong with a timber?  They all ran uphill, thinking it was a tsunami. 

So, this one -- as devastating as it was -- was not really bolt out of the blue, so to speak.  As for "bolts out of the blue" I know one place where that happens.  When I was living in Brevard County, Florida, there would be these lightening strikes with no clouds, usually taking out a local power substation. Huges masses of air move in from the ocean and they build and carry huge charges.  So, a bolt out of the blue can be an expected event.  As for lightening, the Atomic Science Museum at Oakridge, Tennessee, sells wooden umbrellas.  Their theory is that getting hit by lightening is not an accident: it comes from ignorance.  So, they sell non-conducting umbrellas. 

These disasters bring people closer together.  Charity and faith are stronger.  Seldom does anyone get the idea that every place on Earth is subject to natural events that are "catastrophic" to humans.  Certainly, no one stops inhabiting these places.  People in Kansas live in tornado alley and you don't find them moving away... or questioning the existence of God.  Sometimes, The Cato Institute or the Foundation for Economic Education will publish an essay saying that natural disasters are expectable events and no one owes anyone else anything for being dumb enough to get caught in one. 

Sometimes. random events kill people.  Then new agers explain why "bad things happen to good people."  I believe that the rational response is to grieve if you lost someone and otherwise just to continue with your own life. 


Post 11

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 7:48amSanction this postReply
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Its been my observation that disasters do not cause a reassessment in the direction of reason. The fear of a repeat visit, and the realization that we can be snuffed out in great numbers very quickly, tends generally to cause a reassessment in the direction of mysticism. So... expect increased attendance at temples, shrines, and churches as a result.

John

(Edited by John Newnham on 1/06, 7:50am)


Post 12

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 8:39amSanction this postReply
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Great article Lindsay :-)

As to whether anyone will actually question their faith, I'm inclined to agree with Lindsay, George et al on this - here in the UK even the Archbishop of Canterbury is apparently questioning his own faith following this terrible disaster!

MH


Post 13

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 9:06amSanction this postReply
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Yes, Mathew, I noticed your link to the Archbishopís article. Good point. Maybe people are starting to feel silly repeating the standard rationalizations required to maintain their religion in the face of the facts. If I were religious, Iíd be embarrassed by such trite pabulum spewing forth at such moments.

However, history shows these moments tend to awaken the religious fever in the more devout. Expect an upturn in Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia. Following this expect militant anti-Americansim to increase.


Post 14

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 9:16amSanction this postReply
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Other than the brilliant point I made (and what the heck, George, yours was pretty good too), this thread illustrates the problem with the typical Objectivist critique of religion.  Taking jabs at the anti-intellectual Bible-beaters or the New Age post-Christian hierarchy of the Anglicans is fine, but a strong horse like Objectivism should be knocking down theism's strongest arguments, not its weakest ones.

For example, other than telling my neighbors "God doesn't exist", I haven't found a good Objectivist response to the theodic arguments they make about why evil and natural disasters exist.  None of this matters, if Objectivists are concerned about being persuasive regarding a matter marginal to their beliefs (admittedly I don't spend much time on it), but it's curious how much comment this thread has attracted.  In that case, if we're going to bloviate on this, why not do so productively?  (That's an Objectivist virtue, after all.)

Pukszta


Post 15

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 10:40amSanction this postReply
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Rooster,

If you do not believe in supernatural phenomenon, as I do not, there is no strong or weak argument at all for theism. I no more believe in a Christian or Islamic god than I believe in voodoo or astrology. Tsunami are well understood. They don't happen very often. Many people were unprepared. There is nothing about this that is a mystery. The question to ask is why were people unprepared? People are ignorant of science. Scientific knowledge is not highly valued in many societies. Why not? Because of religion.

That 10 year old girl, Tilly Smith, wasn't unprepared. I choose to admire Tilly Smith rather that agonize over the people that were killed. Though I am saddened.

The end result will be, rebuild exactly as before [much of it with money from the US], blame the 'godlessness' of the west for the disaster. Meanwhile western science will set up an early warning system at a cost of millions of dollars [again at our expense] to warn them in the future.

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Post 16

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 11:02amSanction this postReply
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The trouble I see with trying to "convert" religious people to atheism is that I have a sense most of them, if confronted with a genuine, serious argument against their belief system, will simply get defensive and cling on ever tighter to their faith. To a religious person (and I say this as someone who was once very religious), their faith is usually a highly cherished and very central aspect of their lives, and letting go of it will be a downright painful process. So simply charging in and trying to trash their entire worldview usually isn't going to work. My own tendency when dealing with a religious friend or acquaintance is firstly not to bring the subject up too often, and secondly try to introduce them to Rand's ideas in the hope that they'll figure things out for themselves (as I did), rather than rip apart their current beliefs.

Btw Rooster - what did you mean by "the New Age post-Christian hierarchy of the Anglicans"? Are you referring to the Archbishop's involvement with the Welsh Gorsedd?  (Just checking as a lot of the commentary on that is total bollocks, the Gorsedd isn't a new age/neopagan organisation.)

(Edited by Matthew Humphreys on 1/06, 11:05am)


Post 17

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 12:22pmSanction this postReply
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To a religious person (and I say this as someone who was once very religious), their faith is usually a highly cherished and very central aspect of their lives, and letting go of it will be a downright painful process.


Matt, this is an excellent point.


Post 18

Thursday, January 6, 2005 - 4:49pmSanction this postReply
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The trouble I see with trying to "convert" religious people to atheism is that I have a sense most of them, if confronted with a genuine, serious argument against their belief system, will simply get defensive and cling on ever tighter to their faith. To a religious person (and I say this as someone who was once very religious), their faith is usually a highly cherished and very central aspect of their lives, and letting go of it will be a downright painful process.

This is a point that can be made against many belief systems, and, paradoxically (at least in this context), it applies very aptly to some practitioners of Objectivism. 

I have faced it when trying to discuss aspects of the heterophenomological method in neuroscience or the social aspects of epistemology and reality with Objectivists, for example.  It seems that anything that even seems to affect an Objectivist's view of objectivity (probably because like Christians in other contexts, these Objectivists think that this view of objectivity is the only one that can meaningfully explain the facts) is treated with extreme disdain and further strengthens their belief that their debating opponent is irrational and has been corrupted irredeemably by analytic philosophy.


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Post 19

Friday, January 7, 2005 - 2:45amSanction this postReply
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SOLO is very liberal. It allows cowards to post under pseudonyms. It allows low-life devotees of that travesty of philosophy known as "analytic philosophy" - i.e. clever-dick hair-splitting by non-descript non-entities with nothing to say but intent on taking a pretentious eternity to say it - to post on this board. But given that my contempt for such masturbating morons has been well signalled by me in the past, is it too much to ask that such creatures demonstrate such elementary courtesy as to refrain from spurting their ejaculations on *my* threads? No doubt Lowest Level would wish to analyse the meaning of "my," and has no concept of the meaning of "courtesy," but perhaps it could begin to grasp the import of "Fuck off"?

Linz

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