Michael Onfray, Richard Dawkins, and other high profile atheists - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 06-02-2007, 02:52 AM
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What is your opinion on their views and ideas?



I'm still working out where I sit with their arguments (I know very little) but after watching The God delusion, I think Dawkins makes some good points though he seems to over simplify the issue of religion, and I find him to be very inflammatory.
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#2 Old 06-02-2007, 03:03 AM
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I find myself agreeing with most of what Dawkins says but you're right he is a bit inflammatory at times. I'm thinking that might have something to do with the fact that he's flogging his books and not just giving his views for the sake of intellectualizing.
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#3 Old 06-02-2007, 04:43 AM
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I'm working my way through The God Delusion (book), currently, but I agree that he's a bit full of himself at times. There's a good bit of historical-type info mixed in though.



Another week or so, and I hope to have finished.

The ones I pity are the ones who never stick out their neck for something they believe, never know the taste of moral struggle, and never have the thrill of victory. - Jonathan Kozol
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#4 Old 06-02-2007, 10:00 AM
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I'm re-reading The God Delusion right now Although I don't agree with EVERYTHING he says, I agree with Dawkins on many points, and I also think he is very intelligent and eloquent. I also like how he is not afraid to challenge religious ideas the same way he would scientific ones. I like his points about religion not lying outside of science and I like his arguments for the non-existence of God.

I'm not really familiar with other famous atheists.
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#5 Old 06-03-2007, 07:10 PM
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I'm in the middle of reading the book too. So far I'm in total agreement with what he says at this point in the book, but I read in an outside source, that he is for the abolishment of all religion. I personally am for the abolishment of religion in government, but understand that gets tricky with other countries. So I'll have to ponder that idea some more.



I've seen several interviews with him, and I'm also struck by how graceful he is. He does use words that are pretty crass, but his delivery is not defensive or aggressive. So he doesn't come off as pompous to me, at least with the material I'm familiar with.
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#6 Old 06-05-2007, 01:10 PM
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In my experience, Dawkins and his ilk are very informed about science and the atheistic worldview, but somewhat naive and uninformed about religion. When I was younger, I was a scientific atheist and everything he said made perfect sense to me. (I didn't know much about religion at that point either.)



I think writers like Dawkins make a strawman religion that they can easily knock down. They completely gloss over how large and complex an area of human culture religion is, and focus on a few cliches directed at particular religions or particular ways of practicing religion.



As a Neopagan, I consider myself a deeply spiritual and religious person, but when I listen to rabid atheists like Dawkins I feel they have absolutely no clue about what I do or believe.
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#7 Old 06-05-2007, 08:02 PM
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I think anyone who tries to PROVE there is no god is in just as weak a position as someone who tries to PROVE there is one.



I found the God Delusion worth the read, though.
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#8 Old 06-05-2007, 08:04 PM
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I think writers like Dawkins make a strawman religion that they can easily knock down. They completely gloss over how large and complex an area of human culture religion is, and focus on a few cliches directed at particular religions or particular ways of practicing religion.



I agree but on a more general scale. Dawkins also seems to be concerned with Christianity for the most part, with little mention of other religions.



Im not finished yet, and this is definitely a book I will have to read again, since its one of those books that you can wrap your head around. I personally cant find any faults regarding Dawkins biology points, simply because I dont have the desire or the level of knowledge that he does on this topic.



But about in the middle of the book, I started to be bother by the simple solutions he was giving regarding complex problems. To be fair the example Im about to give is just a blurb. Dawkins only writes a paragraph about it, but it serves my purpose.



In chapter seven Dawkins is talking about in-group loyalties and out-group hostilities, in the form of hostile rival religious groups. He states that religion amplifies hostility in three ways. One of these ways is segregated schools. He argues (p261) it is not an exaggeration to say that the troubles in Northern Ireland would disappear in a generation if segregated schooling were abolished. In other words, if Catholics and Protestants went to the same school this would solve the problem.



Now having been raised in the south, and have been personally affected by school integration, not only is this solution simple its false. For example, we had just moved to a new house, mainly because of the better schools. My parents were paying higher taxes to send ME to this school that was ½ mile from our new house. With integration I was being force to attend a school that was an hour away, and in a neighborhood that was not considered safe any time of the day. So guess what happened, they (whites) started building all white private school all over the place.



To make matters worse, the added financial burden was tremendous. My parents spent a little less than their monthly mortgage to send me to this school. I also hated the private school, and Im also sure the black kid who took my place was not thrilled either. Who did you think everyone blamed? The whites blamed the blacks, and the black blamed the whites. The situation was actually worse than it started.



This is just one of a few examples where this happens in the book, but for the most part I do agree with many other points Dawkins is trying to make.
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#9 Old 06-05-2007, 08:11 PM
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I wanted to add this to the post above but it was getting to long. The problem I have with the abolishment of all religion, is that it's no better than a fundamentalist trying to shove religion down my throat via secular laws. So I disagree with Dawkins on this point.
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#10 Old 06-05-2007, 10:11 PM
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Here is what Dawkins wrote:



"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Abolish all faith schools and prohibit the teaching of creationism and other religious mythology in all UK schools.



Faith schools remove the rights of children to choose their own religious, philosophical and ethical beliefs. They also sanction ethnic segregation and create tension and divisiveness within society. Schools should be places where children are given a free education, not centres for indoctrination. Creationism and other religious myths should not be taught as fact regardless of the funding status of a school. Abolishing faith schools will provide children with more freedom of choice and help to promote a fully multi-cultural, peaceful society."



I adore Richard Dawkins.
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#11 Old 06-06-2007, 08:26 AM
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Dawkins is a blowhard.



He's right about a lot of things, but he is a blowhard. I have trouble reading somebody so entirely full of himself as Sir Richard is. He is wrong about how the scientific method disproves God... and takes Steven J. Gould completely out of context (which is the same thing that he jumps all over the apologists for God doing to his own words).



I much prefer the writings of Sam Harris, who says (basically) the the same thing as Dawkins but leaves out all the "I-myself-am-like-a-God" blah blah blah of Sir Richard.



Harris is a true gem, and a must read IMHO.
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#12 Old 06-06-2007, 08:38 AM
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Harris is a true gem, and a must read IMHO.



That is my next book.
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#13 Old 06-07-2007, 09:34 AM
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Here is what Dawkins wrote:



"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Abolish all faith schools and prohibit the teaching of creationism and other religious mythology in all UK schools.



Faith schools remove the rights of children to choose their own religious, philosophical and ethical beliefs. They also sanction ethnic segregation and create tension and divisiveness within society. Schools should be places where children are given a free education, not centres for indoctrination. Creationism and other religious myths should not be taught as fact regardless of the funding status of a school. Abolishing faith schools will provide children with more freedom of choice and help to promote a fully multi-cultural, peaceful society."



I adore Richard Dawkins.



Hmmm...



He seems to have a stange notion of what multi-culturalism is, if he thinks it means prohibiting parents from choosing to have their children educated according to their own cultural values and beliefs.



He is clearly advocating instead mono-culturalism, where secular scientism is the only belief system in which children may be educated.



I'm not a great fan of religious schools, but saying that making them illegal will create more freedom of choice is a startling bit of rhetorical hypocricy.
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#14 Old 06-07-2007, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by sabbath999 View Post

Dawkins is a blowhard.



He's right about a lot of things, but he is a blowhard. I have trouble reading somebody so entirely full of himself as Sir Richard is. He is wrong about how the scientific method disproves God... and takes Steven J. Gould completely out of context (which is the same thing that he jumps all over the apologists for God doing to his own words).



I much prefer the writings of Sam Harris, who says (basically) the the same thing as Dawkins but leaves out all the "I-myself-am-like-a-God" blah blah blah of Sir Richard.



Harris is a true gem, and a must read IMHO.



Let me guess. You're not English I've found bluntness is more commonplace this side of the pond. You might enjoy Dan Dennett more.



I keep reading things about supposed attempts to disprove god everywhere. Compare this to an actual statement by Dawkins:

Quote:
Science cannot disprove God as well as they cannot disprove Apollo or Juju or Thor with his hammer or even a Flying Spaghetti Monster creating the universe.

Looks as though you're falsely attributing a statement to him.



Quote:
I think writers like Dawkins make a strawman religion that they can easily knock down. They completely gloss over how large and complex an area of human culture religion is, and focus on a few cliches directed at particular religions or particular ways of practicing religion.



As a Neopagan, I consider myself a deeply spiritual and religious person, but when I listen to rabid atheists like Dawkins I feel they have absolutely no clue about what I do or believe.

Well, I know plenty of people who adhere to said strawman religion. I'm not going to pretend to know enough about neopaganism to comment on whether it's falls into the category of the religions Dawkins is talking about, but he's talking about personal gods who intervene. It's laid out in the first chapter of The God Delusion. I wouldn't be surprised if it's not people who hold your beliefs he has an issue with.



I was exposed to moderate, fairly sophisticated Lutheranism for years upon years, but that seed didn't fall on fertile ground (pardon the pun). But once you get down to throwing out the middle man and going with your innate sense of morality, digging into different interpretations of the sermon on the mount isn't going to cut it either. I'll try to watch Dawkins' discussion with Alister McGrath in the next couple of days to see whether I've missed anything of importance regarding christian theology.
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#15 Old 06-07-2007, 07:50 PM
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Let me guess. You're not English



True enough... although it is not his bluntness I don't like, it is how entirely stuck on himself that I don't care for. He never misses the opportunity to crow about how famous he is, and is a name dropper extrodinare...



On the subject of Science disproving God, he is dead wrong.



He just is.
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#16 Old 06-07-2007, 08:45 PM
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Sabbath999, didn't Snow White post the quote saying that Dawkins said "Science cannot disprove god?"

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#17 Old 06-07-2007, 11:57 PM
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I just read the God Delusion by Dawkins a couple months ago...



Dawkins says that the scientific method can be used to examine the existence of God... basically, he says that it can be used to show that the existence of God is infinitely more improbable than evolution... it is a large part about what his book is about.



The error in this is that science cannot be used to evaluate religion.



Put simply, it's like this.



Let's say I have a theory. If you can conceivably come up with something that can prove that my theory is false or true, then we have a valid scientific theory... it may not be a very good theory, or useful, but it is a valid theory. If you CANNOT prove the theory is false or true, then you have something that is NOT science... and therefore the scientific method simply doesn't apply to it. You have to be able to imagine a way that the theory to be proved false for the scientific method to be valid.



Dawkins doesn't believe this, and in fact goes into great detail about how scientific theory can be used to examine God, and in fact in the God Delusion he goes to great lengths to talk about how scientifically improbable God is.



It is the very act of using the scientific method to examine something that cannot be either proved or disproved that I have the problem with...



I wasn't very clear in my earlier statement... my objection is simply that he uses an invalid method, and by using that method he comes to conclusions that are simply pointless because they are neither science nor religion... and while he may SAY that science cannot disprove God, he also writes a significant part of a book talking about how the scientific method can show that belief in God is just plain silly.



Dawkins says that science cannot disprove the existence of God, then he turns right around and uses the scientific method to show how ignorant people are to believe in God.



IMHO, you can't have it both ways.



Sorry if this post doesn't make much sense, it's 1 a.m. here and I am half asleep.
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#18 Old 06-08-2007, 12:13 AM
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I just started reading The God Delusion last night. It seems like suddenly EVERYONE is reading it!



I agree with him wholeheartedly so far. i agree he's terribly self-referential, but I kinda don't mind. I recently watched his BBC show "The Root of All Evil" and agreed with him there as well...

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#19 Old 06-08-2007, 12:44 AM
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There's so much talk about the God Delusion, I'm going to have to read it.



I haven't read it so I really can't comment on Dawkins (or the claims he makes) or the book.



But,



Quote:
Originally Posted by sabbath999 View Post


The error in this is that science cannot be used to evaluate religion.



Put simply, it's like this.



Let's say I have a theory. If you can conceivably come up with something that can prove that my theory is false or true, then we have a valid scientific theory... it may not be a very good theory, or useful, but it is a valid theory. If you CANNOT prove the theory is false or true, then you have something that is NOT science... and therefore the scientific method simply doesn't apply to it. You have to be able to imagine a way that the theory to be proved false for the scientific method to be valid.



It is the very act of using the scientific method to examine something that cannot be either proved or disproved that I have the problem with...



I agree that the scientific method applies to things which are falsifiable. A theory (in order to be a theory) must be falsifiable though, if not, it's not a theory it's a hypothesis, or conjecture which can't be evaluated.



So science can be applied to claims religion makes, assuming those are falsifiable. I think applying the scientific method has more to do making a conceivable experiment than with imagining a way to falsify a hypothesis (to be clear it would not be a theory). For after all, if there is a God will I not meat Him or Her? Or if there is a Heaven and/or Hell I will one day find out, no? Or if I can travel in time or go faster than light, I could find out history (and possibly falsify what is written?) The list goes on.



So if I can do an experiment to potentially falsify the hypothesis, then I can make a statement. If I can't then either I have to wait and it's currently beyond the scope of science, or it will be forever beyond the scope of science.



However, I think science is trying to describe reality accurately. I think religion is trying to do this as well. If they're describing reality accurately they'll come to similar conclusions, if not, one or both will be incorrect and possibly at odds with each other. In that respect they can and routinely are used to evaluate each other.



All this is not to say I agree or disagree with Dawkins, since I haven't read anything about that.

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#20 Old 06-08-2007, 07:24 AM
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To be perfectly fair to Dawkins (now that I am actually awake and responding.), much of what he uses in the God Delusion is actually mathematical theory not strictly scientific. I stand by my statement, but I do want to be fair.



What he says also makes a lot of sense in a lot of cases, especially when you get past the logic puzzles he likes to play. His dissection of religion is dead on the money in many ways.



Having said that, I think that Sam Harris (who Dawkins calls brilliant and has quoted liberally) in the book The End Of Faith does a much more explicit and compelling job of showing the state of modern atheistic thought.



I do like Dawkins though, he does make me laugh. I have read his books and plan to read any new ones he puts out... he just doesn't walk on water.
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#21 Old 06-08-2007, 09:07 AM
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Dawkins is a blowhard.



He's right about a lot of things, but he is a blowhard. I have trouble reading somebody so entirely full of himself as Sir Richard is. He is wrong about how the scientific method disproves God... and takes Steven J. Gould completely out of context (which is the same thing that he jumps all over the apologists for God doing to his own words).



I much prefer the writings of Sam Harris, who says (basically) the the same thing as Dawkins but leaves out all the "I-myself-am-like-a-God" blah blah blah of Sir Richard.



Harris is a true gem, and a must read IMHO.



Richard Dawkins has been quite soft-spoken in everything that I've ever seen him in. Do you have examples of him being a "blowhard"?



I've only seen his very reasonable & gentle side, such as is shown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHRkMcVrt2w
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#22 Old 06-08-2007, 11:19 AM
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However, I think science is trying to describe reality accurately. I think religion is trying to do this as well. If they're describing reality accurately they'll come to similar conclusions, if not, one or both will be incorrect and possibly at odds with each other. In that respect they can and routinely are used to evaluate each other.



I don't think this is a fair conclusion. There are aspects of reality that lend themselves very well to the scientific method. There are other aspects of reality that may well be true, but aren't falsifiable by collectable evidence and so are beyond science. So the scientific method can't reach every aspect of reality, but those aspects of reality are often the favorite (and in my opinion, appropriate) targets of religion. The two can only evaluate each other where both reach.





As to Dawkins being a blowhard... well, the part of the God Delusion where he's talking about being the 'token atheist' at some high-powered religious conference did strike me as rather self-important. I'm not going to provide chapter and verse, as I've got it in audiobook form and I'm not motivated enough to search through it.
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#23 Old 06-08-2007, 11:27 AM
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Richard Dawkins has been quite soft-spoken in everything that I've ever seen him in. Do you have examples of him being a "blowhard"?



I've only seen his very reasonable & gentle side, such as is shown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHRkMcVrt2w



Good grief, can't a fellow make a comment around here without having to provide a complete bibliography and footnotes, pull quotes from books and explain every nuance? Does this internet forum require formal documentation for every single point?



It is my OPINION that he is a blowhard. I read his book, and he sounds like a blowhard. For stuff where I state fact, no problem, I will be glad to reference the material if asked.



For opinions? Read Dawkins, and then you can tell for yourself if he's the one being a blowhard, or if it is me.
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#24 Old 06-08-2007, 12:06 PM
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I don't think this is a fair conclusion. There are aspects of reality that lend themselves very well to the scientific method. There are other aspects of reality that may well be true, but aren't falsifiable by collectable evidence and so are beyond science. So the scientific method can't reach every aspect of reality, but those aspects of reality are often the favorite (and in my opinion, appropriate) targets of religion. The two can only evaluate each other where both reach.



Yeah, I think you're right. It was late when I wrote that and I don't think I got all my thoughts out. I tried to touch on that in the paragraph before the one you quoted.



However I do think there's a potential to be possibly beyond the scope now, but perhaps with new evidence, new theories (which implies new potential experiments), etc it one day will not be beyond the scope of science.



I'm not sure there's any such thing that is permanently beyond the scope of science.

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#25 Old 09-22-2008, 11:28 AM
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I think anyone who tries to PROVE there is no god is in just as weak a position as someone who tries to PROVE there is one.

Worse, actually.

The person who tries to prove there is a God need only search until she finds one. The person who tries to prove there is no God must search through EVERYTHING.



That said, claiming that people who believe in God are delusional is an entirely different kind of claim and requires a different kind of proof.



(I say all this as an atheist who respects theists. Believe what you will, just don't force me or others to.)
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#26 Old 09-23-2008, 07:16 AM
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I really dislike Dawkins quite a lot. Someone brought an issue of strawmen: that's exactly what Dawkins does.



He's also extremely selective with evidence and tries hard to argue that theists who do bad things do so most often because of religion, but that atheists who do bad things don't do so because of their lack of belief. Ahem, Dawkins, it's nowhere near that simple. There is also a sort of a 'cult' developing around him, which I find extremely ironic.



One thing that bothered me to no end was his non-interview interview of Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake, by the way, is a huge animal lover, a vegetarian, and someone who left the pharmaceutical industry in disgust because, as he says, it deals in death of animals, not life.



However, Sheldrake also controversially believes that there is a scientific base for telepathy and that it is natural, not supernatural. Sheldrake has actually used this to argue that telepathy is a natural communication method among the animal kingdom, organised by a sort of a field phenomena.



Although Dawkins in the past gave conflicting opinions about this topic, he decided finally that it is too close to religion and decided belief in telepathy must be weeded out of people, much like religion, and using the same type of propaganda and selective evidence. Look here:



http://www.sheldrake.org/D&C/controversies/Dawkins.html



Overall, I dislike his tactics to the extreme. I think that Dawkins misses the point in that any sort of extremism or fundamentalism is bad, whether or not it is attached to religion.



Sam Harris, indeed, is far more composed and gives a better and less naive overview of troubles with organised religion. He, however, falls in some of the same pitfalls, particularly in trying to 'explain away' the 'evils' that were committed by atheists. Overall, though, End of Faith is a far more serious and less juvenile book than the God Delusion, and I have no idea how the latter became the 'in' thing to read over the former.
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#27 Old 09-23-2008, 07:44 AM
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I have seen Richard Dawkins interviewed and he came across as quite reasonable but I think certain people tend to deify him and he seems just as uncompromising in his stance as the religious people he criticises.



Saying that I haven't read anything by him or Sam Harris but I think I will, it should be interesting.
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#28 Old 09-23-2008, 08:42 AM
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but that atheists who do bad things don't do so because of their lack of belief.

That claim has so many negatives that it's impossible to argue for, and thus you cannot expect Dawky to do so.

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upon a mountain

made of weak and useless men"

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#29 Old 09-23-2008, 09:31 AM
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That claim has so many negatives that it's impossible to argue for, and thus you cannot expect Dawky to do so.



Ok... In Dawkins' view, you cannot blame atheism for bad things that atheists do. It's not atheism that made them do it. However, you can blame religion for bad things religious people do. Good?



Bigger problem still lies in the fact that he's dishonest and propagandistic, and I don't hold a high opinion of either trait.
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#30 Old 09-23-2008, 09:44 AM
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Ok... In Dawkins' view, you cannot blame atheism for bad things that atheists do. It's not atheism that made them do it. However, you can blame religion for bad things religious people do. Good?



It seems reasonable that beliefs can lead people to do "bad things" but it's not so clear, to me, that simply because one lacks belief (or specifically does not believe in religion, depending on one's definition of religion) can lead someone to do bad things.

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