Monday, April 23, 2012

A Misguided Penguin

So my friend TCC posted this article, which linked to this one by The Contemplative Penguin. TCC did a good job defeating the points raised in one of the Contemplative Penguins blog's other currently-available articles, and thus I'll hit this one, titled "An Atheist friend asked..." My reply after the jump The article claims to be about what religion is worth. It's clearly worth a lot to the believer, that's not in dispute. However, this cannot be used as an attack on atheism. I'll get to that later, but first, the crux of the argument! The Penguin quotes a guy named GK Chesterson who said:
"What matters about a religion is not whether it can work marvels like any ragged Indian conjurer, but whether it has a true philosophy of the Universe."
Penguin followed that up by defining "true philosophy of the Universe" as "a true philosophy about life." If you have even a basic understanding of philosophy, you probably broke your hand and your forehead just reading that. What the flying hell is a "true philosophy about life"? How do we determine which philosophy is "true"? Can we determine any philosophical ideology to be true or false? Is there even a real truth? We have to determine that before we can use words like "true". Either way, you can't just say that an entire philosophical framework is simply "true" or "false". You can show it to be inadequate or inherently flawed, but "true" or "false"? That's a childish way of thinking, in this context. Also, they're ALL about life, and that little redundancy makes me suspect the author doesn't know what he or she is talking about. Anyway, the author goes on to say that his/her religion gives such a "true philosophy" and thus, a purpose in life. Good for you, I say. I need no religion to have any sort of purpose, but if you're weak enough to use that crutch, by all means, use it. Essentially, without a purpose, life is meaningless. Great, I'm with you. I did have to laugh at the example Penguin gave us: tennis star Boris Becker, "after winning a competition" (no specification as to which competition, or even if it was a tennis tournament) was asked how he felt, and he said "I am trying to figure out why I shouldn't commit suicide". The reason I have to laugh is that Becker is a christian of Jewish descent, meaning that he clearly didn't get the memo that his religion gives you purpose. Either that or he was making a joke, or he suffers from depression, which is a medical condition and not an indication of a flaw in a religious or philosophical position. He may have had a purpose and yet felt no desire to continue living due to a mental illness. I don't think the Penguin contemplated this, however. Right after that, the author says that the only purpose that gives "true" meaning is an eternal purpose. Why? Because non-eternal goals don't last. There's another example of a Chinese businessman who had a lot of money but felt empty inside. Who was this person? Was he a real person or made up one? Did he suffer a mental illness of some sort? Is this proof that his (possibly non-christian) religion is wrong? Of course it isn't, it's just proof (assuming it actually happened) that that particular man wasn't happy. So, he needs, or at least needed, to do something to make himself happy. Simple as that. The next paragraph is a redundant repeat of the previous paragraph, with the added assertion that we need this transcendental, eternal purpose. Simply saying so doesn't make it so. Then we get to the fatal flaw. I understand that this person believes that since the most important aspect of their life is religion, atheism must be the most important aspect of our lives. The author is right to say atheism can't offer a purpose in life. What the author does not realize (and perhaps is incapable of realizing) is that no one uses atheism as the basis of their life. No one. And if they do, they are not well adjusted people. It's just like saying you'd base your life off of not believing in unicorns. Don't take this as being dismissive of your beliefs. As stupid as I think they are, I realize they're very important to you, the believer. But to me, it's like everything else I don't believe in, and it's only an issue because people who do believe won't sod off and let us live in peace. The author seems to think most of us think simply being alive is enough. At this point, I have to wonder how much this person has spoken to atheists, or if this person has spoken to any at all. No prominent atheistic philosopher thought that. The Buddha dedicated himself to ending suffering, Nietzsche was all about life-affirmation and self-actualization, Marx believed that living in a harmonious commune where all people got a fair wage for their work was the ultimate goal, while Rand thought that pure selfishness was the ultimate virtue. Yes, I am simplifying their views dramatically, but they're probably the four most prominent philosophical minds (currently) that did not believe in any deity and none said that simply living was enough. What foolishness. Then, this quote, which makes me think I'm dealing with someone who doesn't know how arguments work:
There was a rather brutal experiment with babies in the past wherein a number of babies were given all things necessary to sustain their vital functions: food, drink, warmth, etc... What they were not given was any type of affection. The babies all died. Isn't it odd that we learn from the very basic stage of human development that it is impossible for us to live without love?
This may seem weird, but this reminded me of this one experience I had. I was with my honey, making out, when all of a sudden the phone rang. I answered it and the male voice at the other end said "what are you doing with my daughter?" I told my girl, and she said "my dad is dead." THEN WHO WAS PHONE? The fact is, when Penguin cited Boris Becker, it was irrelevant. The story may or may not have happened, it doesn't matter. The Chinese businessman's story is even less relevant as it probably didn't happen. But here? This person could prove their point if they'd just link to something proving that the story happened. Wikipedia? An article about it on PBS or the BBC or CBC's website? Something about it on an academic website about psychology? As it is, it's every bit as likely as me getting a phone call from a ghost or serial killer or whoever phone was. This is followed, of course, by a bible verse showing that Jesus wants us to have more in our lives than just what's needed to sustain life. Of course, every other religion says the same thing, even a few where there are no gods (like Buddhism) but I highly doubt that Penguin knows anything about other religions aside from that they exist. After all, if Penguin was aware of the teachings of other religions, he/she would not call christian philosophy "unique". The message at the end of this post is that god is love. Well, actually, it's more likely god is NOT love, since love is not jealous and jealous is not only something your god is, but it's also his actual name, but even so, it doesn't matter since your god does not exist. What is your religion worth? Whatever you want it to be, but it's wrong. What is my atheism worth? It's an irrelevant question. Like all well-adjusted, mostly sane people, my views on the various deities we've come up with is secondary to my personal moral code and my personal philosophy. Just because you need to have atheism be a religion in order to combat it doesn't mean it is one. In conclusion, bite me.

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