Curb your enthusiasm

55

High priests, holy writ and excommunications – how did Humanism end up acting like a religion?


In February this year, there was a clash of Titans. In one corner, Richard Dawkins, former Oxford professor, Darwinian biologist, brilliant science writer, scourge of the sloppy, and above all the Platonic Form of Atheist. In the other, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, himself no intellectual slouch, acknowledged as one of the West’s foremost scholars of Russian literature. The issue at stake: are you for a world devoid of ultimate meaning or are you for a world infused with purpose? Are you, as Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth-century prime minister, asked, on the side of Darwin or of the angels?

Although Dawkins is fully committed to the exclusive disjunction — science or religion but not both — Williams would have been surprised and appalled to be forced to choose between the two.

And here’s the rub: I, like Dawkins, am a non-believer. Yet I, like Williams, refuse to put science and religion at war. This is partly because I do not think they have to be — I see them as asking different questions. But it is also because I think there is something socially and psychologically unhealthy about the course that the debate has taken, especially by those on my side of the fence. I do not think the faults are all on one side, but let me speak to the side to which I might naturally be expected to belong.

Written By: Michael Ruse
continue to source article at aeonmagazine.com

55 COMMENTS

  1. Well, Ruse has everything but the kitchen sink in that one. We could spend quite some time taking apart a good number of different subjects. I will just start with the observation that few, if any, of the atheists or Humanists that I know go for Scientism. I don’t, and I have written about that here.

    We have been over the E.O. Wilson issues; no point to go on about those.

    As for agnostics, all agnostics are atheists but not all atheists are agnostics; some of us actually do know what it is that we don’t believe.

  2. Darwin and Design: Does evolution have a purpose? (2003) ISBN 0-674-01631-9 **

    Ruse seems devious, to me. These tired arguments are long discredited.
     
    **Anyway, how can a philosopher of such standing write on a subject which was never, ever open to question- Darwin showed unequivocally there is no ‘purpose’. 
    A greater philosopher said- “Philosophy has promised more and delivered less, than any other branch of human enquiry” (from memory, may not be exact)

    (**Maybe he was just being contentious)

  3. Although this article is about 6,000 words, it only lists a handful of properties of Humanism deemed to be characteristic of religion. These are: (i) some people are trusted more than others; (ii) humans are a big deal; (iii) alternative views are critiqued and their adherents are recommended to change sides; (iv) moral implications are discussed; (v) the most famous members draw crowds who like them; and (vi) disagreements over small details are more vocal than outsiders would have expected. These aren’t features of religion; they’re features of everything on which people disagree. Does this mean humanists are a religion? Only if it means that liberals are conservatives, or Arsenal fans are Villa fans. You have to look at it in more detail. Religions are examples of people believing unevidenced claims just because a certain book and/or its defenders make said claim. The reason for (i) is there not the evidentiary one it is in science. This “evidence, or not?” dichotomy also makes (ii)-(iv) different in their nature in the two cases. While Dawkins is an example of (v) for many, if he were a religious figure it would be expected that touching his robes would bless you or something like that. When that happens, I’ll take Ruse’s comments here seriously. As for (vi), if challenged to say why the way religion does that is different from the way humanism does it, I’d mention that in the latter case the “minor” differences only seem so when you forget pragmatist concerns, many of which are based on hard data. By contrast, the dispute of consubstantiation vs. transubstantiation lacks such impetus.

  4. Ruse rushes in from the Yellow Corner and takes several swings at the Strawkins – imagined positions that are, superficially, akin to those espoused by Richard Dawkins, except that, in fact, they bear no resemblance to those which he actually holds. After several rounds and a flurry of intense upper cuts and left/right jab combinations and even the odd sneaky elbow and low blow, the fight ends with Ruse having not landed a single punch on the opponent that he himself had erected. At the sound of the final bell, the man from the Yellow Corner raises his hands aloft and declares himself the winner. As he walks off the stage wearing his imaginary winner’s belt, the sound of the world’s smallest violin is heard playing in the background. Moral of the story: if you can’t beat’ em, straw’em.

  5.  “…intolerance, hero-worship, moral certainty and the self-righteous
    condemnation of unbelievers”. The intolerance you speak of is verbal
    disagreement. It’s as intolerant as party politics. The hero-worship is
    admiration for the enlightenment. No prayers said. The moral certainty
    is the denouncement of the moral certainty of others. No moral certainty
    there. The “self-righteous condemnation of unbelievers”, which I think
    refers to occasional lapses into obscenity, is a reflection of the fact
    that unbelievers can be offended by the behaviour of believers, and
    serves the occasionally useful task of opening people’s eyes to the harm
    caused when your model of the world is divorced from reality. In short,
    this over-long article is an over-long straw man.

  6.   And here’s the rub: I, like Dawkins, am a non-believer. Yet I, like Williams, refuse to put science and religion at war. This is partly because I do not think they have to be —

    First simplistic error – lumping all religions together as if they were some unified philosophy!

    I see them as asking different questions. But it is also because I think there is something socially and psychologically unhealthy about the course that the debate has taken,

    A worthless assertion! – Healthy debate is about reaching a true understanding of the Universe, not about entertaining delusions.  The dedicated  ignoramuses don’t even know the right questions to ask!

    especially by those on my side of the fence. I do not think the faults are all on one side, but let me speak to the side to which I might naturally be expected to belong. 

    Ruse does not seem to know which side of the fence he is on, how many fences there are, or where he stands in the debate, but thinks making  emotive claims will gain sympathy for his views and help promote his false dichotomy.

    The Catholic biologist St George Mivart, a former student of Huxley who wrote against Darwin, found this out in quick order. From being one of the chosen inner group, he was expelled into outer darkness. Before long, charges were floating that Mivart was scientifically and
    religiously undependable, and that he also exuded a whiff of moral unreliability. Differences about science weren’t just epistemological: they were ethical too. That is what I don’t like: Huxley made science into something that behaved like a religion.
    Why do I get upset by this? Firstly, because I didn’t give up one faith to take up another.

    The theological twaddlism comes to light here.  The  scientific code of honesty and integrity, is not “making science into something which behaves like a religion”!  Promoting discredited pseudo-science is reprehensible, and should be discouraged and professional ethical standards upheld.
    For those aware of the religious “lying for Jesus”, scientific honesty looks like the opposite!

    Thirdly, although science and religion can clash (you can’t believe in modern paleoanthropology and a literal Adam and Eve), I don’t think they are always in opposition. There are some meaningful questions that science simply does not address. ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ ‘Does life have a purpose?’ If religion wants to have a crack at answering these, then science cannot object. You might criticise the religious answers on theological or philosophical grounds, as I would, but not on scientific grounds. I don’t see Huxley or his intellectual
    descendants allowing this.

    He doesn’t think they are always in opposition, so he can pick his fiction for credibility, and sees nothing wrong with unevidenced dogmatic assertions about the unknown (or the unknown to him). 

    This is in fact well illustrated in this  fudgist article, which is posturing as some “moderate middle view”, – typical of the ignorant posers who view all opinions as equal.

    It is classic: “science does not have all the answers”, so religion (rather than questioning philosophy) should be free to fill in the blanks with dogmatic made-up rubbish!

  7. Professor Ruse, you truly are the Polonius of secular humanism. I made it as far as Julian Huxley before my eyes just misted over. Brevity truly is the sole of wit, try practicing it.

    Science and religion are at war, if only a cold one and that is because religion started it. The religious are inherently conservative and will resist anything that contradicts the currently accepted doctrine. It is not controversial that historically the religious have resorted to utter barbarity to defend their errors and you only have to look to Pakistan to see that barbarity is thriving. Religion is also at war with history when it dares to point out that the Bible or Koran are not supported by evidence. Religion would be the only authority in your life if it could get away with it.

    I take your point about religion’s right to address questions such as why is there something, rather than nothing. But why should these views be privileged as anything better than speculation? At least String theory is mathematically rigorous, coherent and consistent with the world as we understand it. Surely these three things privilege String theory above a deity who himself requires explanation? Why is it better to say God always existed rather than the universe?

    Most disappointingly Professor Ruse, you seem to have forgotten Socrates’ great lesson that knowledge is necessary for right action and that the most dangerous form of folly is thinking you know when you don’t. What is learning and research for if not to establish certain propositions as true and then have the courage to defend those truths against assault from the dogmatic? That evidence is the measure of truth, not strength of conviction or worst of all, willingness to abandon the values of civil society?

    The child abuse scandal and fatwas against people like Salman Rushdie prove that the religious regard themselves as above the law. Yet is is people like you who call us fundamentalist atheists, deliberately equating us with people who would murder to further their ends, despite us NEVER having threatened anyone, NEVER having damaged property or desecrated graves.

    When it comes to religion Polonius, something is VERY rotten in the state of Denmark and it has nothing to do with any fixation on your daughter.

  8. Living in a universe without purpose is absolutely fine!   It means we are unencumbered by the majority of bogus patterns and rules that people live by (though sadly many still forge the chains of their existence in the fires of of heir own private hell).

    Living in a universe with purpose would also not be a problem providing the purpose served is a real one and not a fictitious one born of the frazzled neurons of those intellectual traitors haunted by demons.

    Williams might know something of Russian literature but he is educated beyond his analytical faculties and I have to say if his idea of purpose is “silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark”, he is an ‘intellectual slouch’ where it matters most and guilty of intellectual high treason. 

    To the point.  They are not separate magisteria.  To separate them as such is one of the basic premises for granting religion protective status so that we should not test them according to scientific rules. Religions make claims about reality and history which are ‘scientific claims’ i.e. they attempt to explain existence and human experience.  The fact that they are demonstrably wrong or made without evidence means they are in a class of particular scientific claims which are summarily dismissed as bollox!

  9. Not the usual bit-by-bit surgical take down I was expecting/hoping to see, }8O(~, so I’ll put the popcorn away. Still, concise and to the point and as is the norm, astute and erudite. 

  10. This article maybe full of incongruences, and I would perhaps point out some, making use of the useful idea of “selection of ideas”, if Plato inspired someone it was for most the clergy.”How did Humanism end up acting like a religion?” 

    Wasn´t it was rather the opposite, even religious people ended up to embrace humanism ? Even the expression:

    “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” maybe be considered as significative of this assumption ?

    The answer is never, despite the known sentence “christianism is a humanism”.
    I do really  think  it needs something special to be a humanist, what Dawkins is.

  11. The thing that annoys me most about this article is the sheer laziness. It’s just another copy of countless other articles espousing exactly the same ideas. As usual, the author is writing as if he is the originator of these ideas. Even more lazy than that, he hasn’t even bothered to read or address the countless counter-arguments pointing out the obvious nonsense of some of those ideas.

  12. The issue at stake: are you for a world devoid of ultimate meaning or are you for a world infused with purpose?

    The author lost me early on at this point.   As an atheist, I inhabit a world infused with purpose — to enjoy life as much as possible while trying to make the world a better place for those around me and future generations.

    I really hate it when theists offer false dichotomies like this.  You might as well ask whether you support candidate X for president or are you instead in support of eating babies and torturing kittens…

  13. If religion was taken as a practice of health and self philosophy like many others, Yoga, simple buddhism, self help techniques,martial arts, ect…., there would be absolutely no conflict.
    For me it completely walks hand in hand with these other ‘living techniques’ and I have, for 2 decades, personally enjoyed meditation and martial arts as an act of quieting the minds voice as a choice of conscious (awake) mental rest. It’s hard to shut yourself up and when you talk as much as me, twice as.

    Very much enjoyed Sam Harris’s talk at the Melbourne convention earlier this year.  

    Religion does not do this.It attempts to tell you facts of history, present and future. Not as a prediction but as a rule. It actively squashes the education of  the results of generations of lives that work for solution, a collective team towards a knowledge that is a must give to the next generation. 

    It forces a non-democratic political view with unreasonable violence which is given to them with the superimposed command to convert all to their ‘side’. Every religion sees the other as wrong and ‘must be saved or perish’. With enough ‘vagueness’ that explanation can fit into any justification.

    As a parent I have come to understand the compression of knowledge the next generation receive. In the case of my daughter she has my 30+ years in condensed form which is a general (very) compilation of generations of work and discovery. 
    How long did it take, and how many lives, for most of the world to know where the landmass we now call America is? 
    Generations of time so we can all say “Yeah I know where America is” 1 second of your time. 

    That is held dear in my mind as a legacy we must give our children. 
    The physical and mental health of my child and yours is the one good reason to fight.

    Load your brains and and aim your tongues. We may have to go over the top.

    Adorations Comrades

  14.  Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, himself no intellectual slouch, acknowledged as one of the West’s foremost scholars of Russian literature.

    Am sure there is relevance here, am just struggling to see it.

    The issue at stake: are you for a world devoid of ultimate meaning or are you for a world infused with purpose?

    I can’t believe that a thinking person from my ‘side of the fence’ would even consider this as an argument. It’s not either or, the world is devoid of ‘ultimate’ meaning….in five billion years time it won’t be here, that said, from my perspective, it is infused with purpose…at least while I’m in it. 

    Are you, as Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth-century prime minister, asked, on the side of Darwin or of the angels?

    WTF! Darwin was real…his theory has stood up to the most in-depth scrutiny… now what was that about angels?

    Although Dawkins is fully committed to the exclusive disjunction — science or religion but not both — Williams would have been surprised and appalled to be forced to choose between the two.

    That’s because Williams has been backed into the corner. The gaps are getting ever decreasingly smaller for his god to hide in, science is seeing to that. He has no choice but to hold his hands up and admit the validity of science, less he look a complete idiot, and as Ruse points out, Williams is “no intellectual slouch”.
    Dawkins, on the other hand, has no need for religion. It brings nothing to his worldview but problems. Keep it out of places it has no business being. Call Ockham’s Razor on religions ass.

    And here’s the rub: I, like Dawkins,..

    Big of ya Ruse,…so what’s with all the misrepresentation and strawmanning about?  I’m suffering from a bout of déjà vu…oh, wait a minute, it’s just more accommadationist clap-trap I’ve read before, by the same author…on the same site….http://old.richarddawkins.net/article… his article contained this fallacious diatribe…

    “Second, unlike the new atheists, I take scholarship seriously. I have written that The God Delusion made me ashamed to be an atheist and I meant it. Trying to understand how God could need no cause, Christians claim that God exists necessarily. I have taken the effort to try to understand what that means. Dawkins and company are ignorant of such claims and positively contemptuous of those who even try to understand them, let alone believe them. Thus, like a first-year undergraduate, he can happily go around asking loudly, “What caused God?” as though he had made some momentous philosophical discovery. Dawkins was indignant when, on the grounds that inanimate objects cannot have emotions, philosophers like Mary Midgley criticised his metaphorical notion of a selfish gene. Sauce for the biological goose is sauce for the atheist gander. There are a lot of very bright and well informed Christian theologians. We atheists should demand no less.”

    Of course that was 3 years ago…how long does it take before new Atheism becomes just Atheism? It’s folk like Ruse that get philosophers a bloody bad name.

     

    …am a non-believer.

     

    Yes…of course you are, now run along sonny and play with yer wee motor cars, that’s a good lad.

    Yet I, like Williams, refuse to put science and religion at war.

    Who is doing such a thing? Science is answering all the questions religion was trying to in ignorance. It is the religious that have all the issues with science not the other way around. Science just leaves religion at the door of the lab, why do some philosophers not get that point? The religious insisting there is a place for religion in science, is like insisting a soldier wear a tu-tu into battle, it will only marginally inhibit his ability to get on with the job, but it is highly embarrassing all the same.

     

    This is partly because I do not think they have to be — I see them as asking different questions.

    This horse has been flogged and then flogged some more, give it up already, the carcuss has been flayed bare ffs.

    But it is also because I think there is something socially and psychologically unhealthy about the course that the debate has taken, especially by those on my side of the fence.

    Will ya ever get over yerself, who made you arbiter?

    There are some meaningful questions that science simply does not address. ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’

    Oh I think science is addressing this question, you, Ruse, are just to wrapped up in your 19th century hoo haa to notice.

    “Why is there something rather than nothing? This question is often the last resort of the theist who seeks to argue for the existence of God from science and finds all his other arguments fail.”
    Victor Stenger, 2006

    http://www.csicop.org/sb/show/

    More recently…

    “Even the last remaining trump card of the theologian, ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?,’ shrivels up before your eyes as you read these pages,” Dawkins writes in an afterword to Krauss’s book, ‘A Universe From Nothing’.

    So science is addressing this fundamental question…where have you been sticking your head Ruse?….don’t answer that.

    ‘Does life have a purpose?’ 

    I thought life’s purpose was to procreate more life…science has answered that one.

    Regardless, it doesn’t automatically open the doors for woo woo to be considered.

    If religion wants to have a crack at answering these, then science cannot object.

    Science doesn’t give a fuck, which is the whole point. Science says to religion, “Come back when you have some evidence I can check otherwise butt out of my business.” When religion has some evidence to check, then it will have become science, no supernatural required. Religion has been looking for evidence since day one, but to no avail, so until evidence is produced, it is safe enough to describe religion as silly and stupid.

    You might criticise the religious answers on theological or philosophical grounds, as I would, but not on scientific grounds. 

    Which particular religious answers would those be then Michael? Creatio ex nihilo, or the one about the Pan Gu  and the giant egg, or the one about Mangwer-kunger-kunja and the tailless lizard people …religion is a broad brush to be sweeping with, please be more specific.

  15. The thing that get’s ignored in such a debate is as follows:

    Theists have an ultimate authority, their god(s).

    Most rational atheists also have an ultimate authority. Does this surprise you? Theists are right to point this out. The thing is, the rational atheists’ ultimate authority is harder to argue against than any made-up god. It’s ‘reality’. The lack of belief is god(s) is borne out by the facts presented to us thus far. There is nothing about reality that compels a supernatural belief. We should feel completely at ease in pointing this out. And reality is something that can legitimately argued to be something no one should argue against. We can’t thrive as a people by substituting a fantasy land for reality. 

    In a religious worldview, it’s god(s) or GTFO.

    In a rational worldview, it’s reality… or GTFO. I don’t feel bad in saying it.

  16. My purpose in life is attempting to persuade the public and politicians to change their behaviour to create a saner, more sustainable and fairer world. I chose this purpose for myself. I am very glad I did not have to accept some incomprehensible purpose thrust on me by the Christian church. Years ago I asked “the universe” what the purpose of life was. The universe responded, with suitably impressive auditory effects, “There isn’t one, a priori. You get to choose one for yourself. Don’t look so glum. It is much better than having one shoved down your throat.”

  17. Well said, I agree. In fact in a recent debate with a rabbi I think Dawkins conceded too much on this question. The Rabbi kept talking about the “meaning of the universe” and Dawkins kept repeating that to talk about the purpose of the universe made no sense. I agree with him on that question but the problem is when you say that people assume that atheists don’t believe life has any meaning beyond basic pleasures. That is not at all true. In fact, many atheists work even harder to make something of their life here, something beyond making money, such as leaving an impact via work, family, art, etc. because we know our time here is limited and we want to make the most of it. If anything not wasting time on ancient books and rituals leaves more time for a truly purposeful life.

  18. Well to my mind Science especially evolution is in conflict with Christianity i.e. refutes the possibility that Jesus was the son of God. For Jesus to be the son of God sent to pardon human souls for sin would require that Humanity had a special relationship with God. Where as Science points to nothing special about human beings. We were not placed at the centre of the universe and our sun does go round the earth, nor is our galaxy at the centre of everything. We are just great apes evolved from single cell creatures. I have heard some people claim that God worked through evolution to create Man. This seems to me to be absurd. If you were a God why would you use such a long winded and unpredictable method of creating something. After all if the Dinosaurs had not died out to extinction would we even be here. Mind you if I was God I would send Jesus back every five years or so till all of humanity got the message. No to me the bottom line is you cannot reconcile Science with Christianity.

  19. Ruse has over the last few years begun to behave like the grandfather who utters incomprehensibles, whose time is up and whose words will be forgotten really soon. Jerry Coyne can hardly believe his eyes and is understandably tired of it and devotes just a few paragraphs to correct Ruse. I wish that Richard would reply to this twaddle and once  and for all perish Ruse to the graveyards of the gods and the forgotten dreams of their apostles.

  20. I’ve just been over to WEIT…..hee hee…Ruse has made a complete arse of himself…not knowing the difference between Peter and Christopher Hitchens, he also makes a ballix of quoting Orwell and he really expects to be taken seriously by anyone here, behave yerself Ruse.

  21.  He has corrected the confusion of the sibling’s names in the article now – but that was really the least of his confusions. His grandfatherly approach to settle the debate between science and religion with this drivel is just the usual T&A, ie Templeton or Alzheimer.

  22.  Good find Quine. Goes to show that Ruse this time had a deadline, and/or difficulties with thinking up something to write about. He rehashed an old article, sent it of  and done, got his tea and slippers.

    BTW, it’s sad that there is no connection between Old.RD and the new. The old RD  – and also the old Old Rd which I signed onto in 2006 – is a goldmine of discussions between atheists and theists. The thread you link to is classic, but sadly many of the participants have left RD.net since then. I’m hoping that RD.new will pick up pace and be like it was in the day.

  23. ” Secondly, I am uneasy that Humanism puts human beings at the centre of things in a way that is reminiscent of religion, especially monotheistic traditions. Huxley’s world vision makes humans as central as Christianity does. This kind of self-importance has contributed to world pollution and appalling behaviour towards plants and animals.”

    The author lacks both, the understanding of the philosophical implications of the science he seems to have studied (is he a biologist ?) and humanism, among other things, as I can suppose.

  24. Just spent a bit of time re-reading that thread and reminiscing…Ruggles was a character and a half. They were the days when threads got over 500 comments on a regular basis….some names brought back fond memories. Thanks for the link.

  25.  Goes to show that Ruse this time had a deadline, and/or difficulties with thinking up something to write about. He rehashed an old article, sent it of  and done, got his tea and slippers.

    Checkout the link I posted below to a thread from 2009, he doesn’t even bother to change some of the sentences…talk about a broken record.

    BTW, it’s sad that there is no connection between Old.RD and the new. 

    There is, click the “Old Site” link on the task bar above.

  26. I was hoping for something more substantial from Ruse. I’m still not convinced he has something important to say. This long-winded piece almost comes off as a pleading for self-relevance.

  27. As soon as I come across someone talking about any kind of compatibility of science and religion I sigh deeply and realise how much more work has to be done to bring such a person up to a modern understanding of exactly what science is and what it is telling us. 

    Those who insist on compatibility are wandering around on a battlefield, stumbling over the corpses of millenia-old ideas, long since slayed by science.   Here lies spirit, over there the body of Vitalism, and  the barely-recognisable bones of soul.  The compatibilist is trying to fight wars of ideas that have long since been won by materialism.  In a perverse irony by denying the full reach of science, the compatibilist denies his own humanity, as it is because of science we know what humanity really is.

    Science knows what we are:  we are evolved African apes, with large biological thinking machines we call brains.  There is no part of us that can hide from science, and because of that there is no question that a human can ask that science cannot look at.  Science may not be able to answer the question, but it can look at why we ask, and sometimes the question of the asking is the more important, the more revealing.   Science can’t say what is moral, but it can explain why we consider moral questions and it can inform our judgements.

    Science can’t tell us everything, but nothing can do that, and anyone who pretends otherwise is a fool or a liar.

  28. Hi Paul. Yes, the old Ruse thread is great and brings back so much for me too. The information all of us pumped into the threads for those years has made the resource of the old site valuable to the continuing movement, and a great mark of achievement for Richard and the Foundation. I continue to link to points made in those threads in my blog, today.

  29.  Nice summation, Steve. I’m copying a couple of your paragraphs to toss on the table in front of the next theist I meet on Facebook. (A few of them actually stick around for awhile to argue, so it’s worth the trouble. And of course, it is read by the silent onlookers as well.) Thanks

  30. if anyone ever truly believed humanism were a religion, they wouldn’t write something like this.

    like most cats, I’m a humanist. I don’t htink it’s a religion but I accept I have to pretend to care what my assumed gods think of me in order to get my daily fed but think for a moment if all humanists said “yes, ok it’s a religion”

    there would then be a huge number of people on this earth with legal protection to say and do things that christians, muslims and jews abhor. there would be pickets outside catholic churches demanding an end to the child abuse (according to our “religion” indoctrination is abuse. to sugest we do not picket is an infringement of religious rights). anyone caught picketing outside a fertility clinic however, will be guilty of a “hate crime”

    when asked why an employee accused a colleague of supporting terrorism employees will be replying “it’s part of my religion”. indeed, any attempt to censor any opinion would become an infringement of religious freedom.

    public workers will be demanding a right to not minister to couples on the grounds for example that they’re homophobic. people could stand outside churches preaching “you won’t go to heaven”

    school assemblies or council meetings could demand that time is taken for everyone to think, people of an alternative religious view will be permitted to leave the room and sit quietly.

    ultimately, if humanism were a religion, it would by ironic default be the “one true religion”. any laws aimed at protecting religious rights would be meaningless. we could have a law against blasphemy, but has to pretect humanists from blasphemy too. all this before we even begin to talk about tax exemptions.

    so in answer to the question (if it were to be taken seriously); ever since religion started making humanist demands

  31. Long winded is not profound. Was Ruse paid by the word? As Amos and Quine point out, the whole bloody mess has been re-cobbled together from an older article.

    I just don’t get this business about religion asking questions where science (so far), fails. A fool can ask more questions in 5 minutes than a wise man can answer in a lifetime.

    “Why are we here?” As a result of natural processes.

    “How did the universe begin?”  By natural processes.

    “What is the purpose of life?” There ain’t one, but I’m buggered if I’m giving up my life because of that!

    Rowan Williams may well be an expert on Russian literature, but what the hell has that got to do with God? The foxy old Welsh bard, pretty much steered clear of “God” in his discussion with Richard.

    Religion has nothing useful for humanity. It’s the force of reaction, the dead hand of the past.

  32.  
    Saganic Rites
    The God Delusion is a bible? Really?

    What a silly claim to make when there are real gospels available!

    The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T

    Scientific American described The Gospel as “an elaborate spoof on Intelligent Design” and “very funny”. In 2006, it was nominated for the Quill Award in Humor but did not win.[3]

    Brenner Wayne of The Austin Chronicle characterized the book as “a necessary bit of comic relief in the overly serious battle between science and superstition.”[17]

    Simon Singh of the Daily Telegraph wrote that the Gospel “might be slightly repetitive… but overall it is a brilliant, provocative, witty and important gem of a book.”[13]

    Reviewers at both the University of Pittsburgh[1] and Penn State[28] were generally positive about the book.

    In his book The God Delusion, biologist Richard Dawkins commented: “I am happy to see that the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has been published as a book, to great acclaim.”[29]

    Meanwhile, Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute, the hub of the Intelligent Design movement, labeled the Gospel “a mockery of the Christian New Testament”.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi

  33. That was Mikael Ruse paraphrasing NOMA.

    NOMA is a god of the gaps. It simply states that, as long as science has no evidence for a thing, and therefore doesn’t deal with it, whatever else comes to mind about this thing must be considered as valid as an evidence based and peer reviewed theory. Cow freaking dung.

  34. It’s all very well looking at this from a European perspective but the corrosive anti intellectual fundamentalism which is destroying America and a lot of the Muslim countries is a serious problem. The “one book and many guns” school of not thinking is mental MRSA and once the mind is weakened to the level of “literal truth” fundamentalism secondary parasites like FOX and Hezbollah have no problem piggybacking their way in.
    Not too many fundamentalist holy book thumper types would read anything written by god-damned commies.

  35. Jerry Coyne has posted about this article, here, and I have written something about it on my blog. In doing research for that, I have a better idea of why Ruse has come to some of the wrong conclusions he puts out.

    It is really worse than NOMA. He (Ruse) is allowing a respect for whatever is not refuted, and that includes the irrefutable. Worse than “God of the Gaps” it’s “God of everything you can prove it isn’t.” We don’t have to refute the meaningless, or even things like Russell’s Teapot. He who asserts, must supply evidence; or as Hitch put it, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    Got evidence?

  36. Did anyone else notice the irony that Ruse goes on about excommunication of the heretics, but here is his article posted up on the Dawkins site for all of us so-called dogmatic Humanists to read and ponder?

  37. Like Civil War or Middle Age Reenactments, we all dress up one Sunday a month and re enact Church and take turns being an Arch Bishop.

    I find it funny that only a few academics even care about the difference. 

    And what is wrong as social animals with having heros like Professor Dawkins?  As long as it is not sainthood, he seems for years to have been as good a role model as anyone covered by media.

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