Monday, January 26, 2009

Nick Vujicic Makes Me Think. But Not Very Productively.

TC sent me a link to the following clip. It's a little schmaltzy, what with the added music, but it's not worthless.

(alt. video link)

TC sent along a second link and added the comment:

Unfortunately it turns out Nick is making a testimony for Christ and spoils the whole thing:


Maybe it gives him some comfort. The best you can say about religious experience.

Obviously, I agree. I couldn't be bothered to sit through more than a few minutes of the second one.

This is the tough part about dealing with religion: there's no doubt that it provides a ready-made framework that people like Nick can use to keep themselves going. So far, it's the best commonly-known such framework that we as a species have come up with, and it's hard to argue with the results in select cases like Nick. It's also not surprising that he gets in a dig against abortion -- it is, after all, not considered well-adjusted for someone alive and (comparatively) well to wish he hadn't been born.

I sometimes think that for atheism to flourish, we'll need to come up with a succinct philosophy that provides what makes most people turn to religion; e.g., comfort and quick answers to moral dilemmas and scary existential questions. But then I think that any such philosophy would probably quickly morph into something indistinguishable from religion, and we'd be right back where we started from.

I suppose that could be seen as less bad, if the new religion were, say, less homophobic and xenophobic than the Abrahamic brands tend to be in the hands of their less thoughtful adherents. Maybe that will be one route out of childhood for humanity -- a series of religions replacing each other, with the succeeding ones better in terms of increased tolerance. Arguably, that's already been the case -- at least the mainstream versions of the dominant religions have cut down on things like regularly scheduled human sacrifice, and they do have some good things to say about treating others kindly and so forth.

Still, it's not at all clear that human progress can be viewed as a monotonically increasing function. For example, my impression of Scientology, from what little I know, suggests that it was started based on a belief that it would be a better prescription for living than other religions, but quickly degraded into a mindset that is just as corrupted by irrationality and paranoia regarding outsiders as any other sect.

So, I guess, can that idea.


Don McArthur said...

Always happy to oblige. One philosophy, coming up:

"God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters." - H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

ArtSparker said...

Karen Armstrong's "The Story of God" is a must read. All religions at their outsets seek to remedy social ills, most noticeably in deciding to treat the women better. Eventually they reverse course. The book just makes you weep - people try so hard to be good.

You know the Hubbard quote "If somebody really wanted to make a million dollars, they'd start a religion"? Scientology, in particular, reassigns meanings to words in order to disorient - fascinating in a perverse way.

John Evo said...

As atheists or agnostics, I don't think we need to provide anything. If you don't "believe", Then you get on with your life. If you DO believe, no sugar-coating on non-belief is going to entice you. Here's an interesting article by Jerry Coyne and responses from people like Lawerence Krauss and Daniel Dennett on Edge.

Personally, I'm just satisfied with those who continue supernatural belief without the dogma.

TC said...

On a personal level you could almost believe that religion helps people like Nick deal with life. The problem is that when many gather together in his name they want to push it on the rest of us. Then you get a crusade to stop the teaching of evolution in schools and replace it with creationism and ID, or they want to re-write textbooks to say the earth is only 6,000 years old because it says so in the bible, or they want to stop funding stem cell research if not stop it all together. Or they want to stop the distribution of condoms in AIDS ridden areas of Africa or they want to do away with the separation of church and state and re-write the constitution to conform to the bible -- and all those obnoxious things. Quite different from a single person helping himself with a belief in an imaginary, supernatural god who cares about him and has a plan for him and all of that that might give one comfort on a personal level.

Remember James Watt, Reagan's Secretary of the Interior who said we don't need to worry about the environment because the second coming is at hand and Jesus is going to come down and solve all our problems, so it's OK to use up all the earth's resources as fast as we can. That's the side of belief in God that gives one pause.

Anonymous said...

I pity atheists. And I pity how they crowd their judgment about everything with their one and only comment "oh this one is about God/religion."

Brendan said...

If you have to cling to that comically narrow a stereotype, I will only say that I feel sorry for you.