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Post 0

Friday, April 17, 2009 - 2:18pmSanction this postReply
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I have a theist (Jewish) friend who is wobbling on her religion. What essays, articles, etc. would you recommend that would effectively help her work through the wobble, and perhaps even land on the better side?

I've tried giving people Rand's, The Objectivist Ethics before, but it didn't address the theistic concerns sufficiently. I've also tried recommending George Smith's, Atheism: The Case Against God, but that's too long, and people didn't read it.

Thanks,
Jordan



Post 1

Friday, April 17, 2009 - 3:15pmSanction this postReply
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http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Main_Page 
 




Post 2

Friday, April 17, 2009 - 3:18pmSanction this postReply
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Videos by Dawkins are excellent, too.



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Friday, April 17, 2009 - 4:07pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Teresa,

Cool Webpage, but I'm not saying any sort of pithy little article I can hand over to my wobbler friend. Is it hiding somewhere on that site?

Dawkins is great, but I know he's a real turn-off for lots of believers. I suspect she already has an aversion towards him.

Jordan



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Friday, April 17, 2009 - 5:50pmSanction this postReply
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How about a book on cults?



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Friday, April 17, 2009 - 6:17pmSanction this postReply
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I was just trying to give you options other than books, and such. That website is packed with counter arguments.

Why in the world would your friend have an issue with Dawkins?  He's extremely respectful, in my opinion. If your friend has a problem with his approach, then perhaps she's really not ready to give up on her faith yet.

And if Dawkins turns her off, then don't even bother mentioning Hitchens.  

I don't know if it's still available, but George Walsh had his book "The Role of Religion in History" on tape, and it's excellent.  Some people are listeners, not readers, and Walsh provides some brilliant insight and a respectful tone, as do all scholars worth their weight.

I don't know if your friend has this attitude, but I have a problem with people who treat knowledge like something that will just "come" to them. Understanding anything takes conscious work, and if she's not willing to put the effort in, I wouldn't waste my time.

If there's an objection to every offer, I stop offering.




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Friday, April 17, 2009 - 8:19pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Teresa,

Maybe I'm just being paranoid about her not liking Dawkins. Of the "4 horsemen," he and Hitchens are the move reviled in the public eye. And I do think they are more "aggressive" than Harris and Dennett. I'm worried that she'll just recoil with anything too aggressive. So I'm also a bit shy about the Website you gave. It's just the cold hard arguments. They're damn good. But I'm looking for something gentler. Religions have all sorts of pamphlets and essays like this. There's gotta be something pitchy in atheist circles. Please know that I do appreciate your suggestions. I just find myself at such a loss when in this kind of circumstance. Ah well.

Dean, I don't understand your suggestion.

Jordan



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Friday, April 17, 2009 - 8:29pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan,

Well, not just books on cults... but basically point her towards a few descriptions/stories of what its like to be in a cult.

There is also the whole thing about that religions use "faith", accept ideas as true when lacking evidence even when there is contradictory evidence. IOP on Faith Faith is really bad, why not accept that invisible aliens are flying around your head? The alternative is reason & evidence... that's what actually helps people make decisions to accomplish real goals.



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Post 8

Friday, April 17, 2009 - 8:48pmSanction this postReply
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There's gotta be something pitchy in atheist circles.

Hmmmm... have you thought of presenting this peripherally, instead of directly?  Science fiction, for example?  Anthem, maybe?

If you're squeamish about anything that may appear too "in your face," I can only suggest fiction to soften the blow.

Rand's speech to West Point is a wonderful introduction, too (assuming your friend is smart enough to connect the dots, of course.) It's the best pitch I've ever heard or read:

"Since I am a fiction writer, let us start with a short short story. Suppose that you are an astronaut whose spaceship gets out of control and crashes on an unknown planet. When you regain consciousness and find that you are not hurt badly, the first three questions in or mind would be: Where am I? How can I discover it? What should I do?
 
"You see unfamiliar vegetation outside, and there is air to breathe; the sunlight seems paler than you remember it and colder. You turn to look at the sky, but stop. You are struck by a sudden feeling: it you don't look, you won't have to know that you are, perhaps, too far from the earth and no return is possible; so long as you don't know it, you are free to believe what you wish--and you experience a foggy, pleasant, but somehow guilty, kind of hope. "...
 
http://gos.sbc.edu/r/rand.html
 
 
 




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Friday, April 17, 2009 - 9:53pmSanction this postReply
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Teresa,

Good idea! She actually likes Rand. She read The Fountainhead. I think that West Point speech might just be the way to go. Not to "in your face." A dash of fiction. But still gets that non-theist message across.

Thanks!
Jordan



Post 10

Friday, April 17, 2009 - 11:56pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan: A few suggestions:

 

http://www.volney.org/: "The Ruins of Palmyra" (Written by Count Volney at the end of the 18th century - The website opens in Spanish but at top right a click leads to the English version. The book itself can be downloaded - It's an excellent description of religions and a splendid defense of atheism)

 

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Author_124.shtml: While I don't want to throw flowers on myself, my book "Ayn Rand, I and Universe" is an analysis of religions, atheism and atheism's direct relation with Objectivism. "Rebirth of Reason" published the full book, chapterwise, from its Introduction: "Ayn Rand and Rational Egoism: The Dynamo of Human Progress" - Presented on August 24, 2007, up to "The Refueling of our Power for Creation" - Published on December 7, 2007). It runs through 8 issues; you can view them at above mentioned link.

 

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Schieder/RELIGULOUS_Mankind,_a_rational_Species_Ha.shtml: I consider that my article on "Religulous", a movie by Bill Maher, is a good introduction and escort to the movie itself, which I highly recommend to view to all members of "Rebirth" and that also constitutes an excellent encouragement to take up atheism as the correct way of life for a human being.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_G._Ingersoll: Reading the text of the great Robert G. Ingersoll is in itself a great "inducement" for atheism.

 

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17607/17607-h/17607-h.htm: Please read "Superstition in All Ages" at the Gutenberg Files, and, of course, "Good Sense without God" by Baron d'Holbach at http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/gsens10.txt . Further texts by Baron d'Holbach can be read at http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/h#a2420 (Look up Holbach, Paul Henry Thiry")

 

Wish you great entertainment!

(Edited by Manfred F. Schieder on 4/17, 11:57pm)




Post 11

Saturday, April 18, 2009 - 9:53amSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Manfred. -Jordan



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Post 12

Saturday, April 18, 2009 - 6:49pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan,
I do not know if what I would offer your friend is in the spirit of Objectivism or not.  I do know for certain that Objectivists are not supporters of faith over reason, but I do not know if the following represents an authentic refutation of theism according to Objectivist principles.
Anyway, what I might tell your friend would be that the real issue here is reason versus faith.  I might tell him that if
there were evidence for something that had attributes commonly associated only with a god (for instance, of an intelligent being who created the earth and the heavens), then it would not constitute an error if one believed in the existence of such a being.  Nor can we rule out the existence of all things which might have some of the attributes commonly associated with a god without looking at the relevant evidence. If one accepted ideas, however, which one knew were self-contradictory or which one did not base on evidence, then one would be guilty of choosing faith over reason.  Now, once we have some kind of definition of what kind of god we are trying to decide exists or not, then we can look at the evidence and decide whether such a being's existence is self-contradictory or not, or whether it is based on evidence or not.
If one chose to call something whose existence was supported by evidence a god (for example because it was an intelligent being who created the earth and the heavens) then one could do this, but the meaning of the word "god" for one would have to be different from the ideas of god as being something one accepted as an article of faith only.  The moral/epistemological issue, in other words, is, I think, whether one counts on reason exclusively or not.  As to whether anything which has some of the attributes commonly associated with a god, I would say that one should only even investigate such claims if one knew that there was some real evidence that might support the need to believe in it.  If one knows there is such evidence, then one should investigate it by the same basic methods as one would any other issue, and one should not elevate the issue to a level of importance that it doesn't have merely because others have traditionally focused on such issues to the relative exclusion of considering other issues which were, at least, as important to their own lives. 
I would also perhaps ask your friend why he is concerned about whether what he is calling a god exists or not.  People have for so long elevated the issue of whether a "god" exists above all other issues, that it can be hard to shirk the habit of doing the same if you grew up in a culture in which thoughts about such things were given an undeserved level of importance.  I might also ask him what he means by "god"... And perhaps tell him that unless he had some kind of definite idea of what that thing would mean to him that he could have no means of deciding whether it exists or not.
I hoped this helped. :)




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Post 13

Saturday, April 18, 2009 - 10:25pmSanction this postReply
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In Nathaniel Branden's Basic Principles of Objectivism, there is a "God Lecture," in which Peikoff (originally) and on the latest reproduction, Branden himself, goes through all the various arguments for the existence of God and refutes them one by one. Also, in The Objectivist Newsletter for May 1962, Branden refutes the First Cause Argument for the existence of God. It's a short article and very well written.

Also, Galt's speech itself makes some excellent arguments against the existence of God and the supernatural. If read carefully, it is difficult to see how someone who was even modestly sympathetic to a non-religious viewpoint wouldn't come away convinced.

- Bill





Post 14

Sunday, April 19, 2009 - 12:08amSanction this postReply
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Jordan,
If my own process of arriving at atheism could be of any help.
It seemed to me [at an early age] that the god - concept could be divided into two parts : a. The creator    b. The judgemental interferer.
The question then is the mutual exclusivity of these parts.
For a long time I had no problem with the creator part - O.K. ,so some 'Force ' with basic building materials set in motion a train of events that might ,over a huge passage of time, arrive at complex and numerous species of life.
My name for this fellow was a "hands off god".
But it was the other type of god my stubbornly independent spirit objected to. Here we end up with the most marvellous construct,a conscious, individual man, and he has to take orders from on high ! He is not free to make up his own mind,to create his own morality.
No thanks.
That proscriptive and vengeful god most of us were exposed to as kids causes [we know by now] untold harm in terms of repression and guilt.
The huge question that has to be asked is: Why did humanity ever need him ?
So the Who? Why? creation argument that so concerns our religious friends can be circumvented - for the time being. That will eventually be resolved, too.
Remind them of that saying   "If there were no God, Man would invent one."
                                             Tony Garland




Post 15

Sunday, April 19, 2009 - 9:08amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

would you mind verifying if the following link is the Branden lecture you suggested?

http://rous.redbarn.org/objectivism/writing/DavidKing/GuideToObjectivism/CHAPTR09.HTM#126

To all, my wobbling friend's main conflict thus far is that she loves the stories of the Torah. She is impassioned by them. She identifies with them. They were instilled in her at an early age, so they helped shape her upbringing. She believes they are rendered vapid without the existential import of the god.

I've heard the argument that belief in a god is comforting, and she certainly holds that view, but this seems a little different. Hers is more that a belief in a god is esthetically preferable.

I've suggested, in some detail, that the power of the stories needn't be lessened by its factual accuracy. I've even suggested that it becomes more powerful when stripped of it's supernatural elements. But to no avail. It's been hard to argue that esthetics aren't a good reason for believing in something.

I think it's a good idea, as members here have been suggesting, simply to address the (lack of) "evidence" for the existence of a god. Perhaps that'll redirect her. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks,
Jordan



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Post 16

Sunday, April 19, 2009 - 11:53amSanction this postReply
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To all, my wobbling friend's main conflict thus far is that she loves the stories of the Torah. She is impassioned by them. She identifies with them. They were instilled in her at an early age, so they helped shape her upbringing. She believes they are rendered vapid without the existential import of the god.

I've heard the argument that belief in a god is comforting, and she certainly holds that view, but this seems a little different. Hers is more that a belief in a god is esthetically preferable.


This may sound odd, but I can now easily understand why you're friends with her. I don't even know her, but I like her already just for holding these wonderful, romantic views. Her premise is mistaken, of course, but she's obviously done some interesting thinking about these ideas, and I can't help but smile at the effort. It's sweet.

Unfortunately, your friend is denying herself some beautiful new light regarding the Torah.

You might argue that God himself is rendered vapid without the import of Man, which is true. God appears to be helplessly reliant on Man, so which is to be more revered and why?

Does your friend know what "intrinsicism" means?




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Post 17

Sunday, April 19, 2009 - 12:10pmSanction this postReply
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I hope you'll be able to help your friend reach the conclusion that she seems to already rationally recognize, yet doesn't want to accept. Perhaps the solution is not so much to argue the negative regarding the existence of a god, but instead to simply promote the honesty of - and thereforefore the primacy of - logic. If she accepts that such issues can only be resolved through clean, clear logic, you will not have to lead her to the other conclusion. She will find her own path.

jt



Post 18

Sunday, April 19, 2009 - 10:07pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan asked me,
Bill,

would you mind verifying if the following link is the Branden lecture you suggested?

http://rous.redbarn.org/objectivism/writing/DavidKing/GuideToObjectivism/CHAPTR09.HTM#126
Well, it certainly looks like at least part of that lecture, and actually appears to be a verbatim transcript of it. I doubt that it's the entire lecture however, as the lecture itself was over an hour in length.

- Bill



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