Recently this idea about building an Atheist Temple in London has been circulating on the internet.
It originated from this article in the Guardian 26 January 2012, where philosopher and writer Alain de Botton said the temple would be a counter-weight to the more aggressive and destructive form of the new atheist movement, formed by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens attacks on religion.
When I first read the story my initial reaction was, “WTF are you on about Mr. de Botton?”
What would we be doing at these temples? Yes, I am aware that this is almost the same as when people ask me, “What do you do in the Danish Atheist Society when you meet?”
I would say there is a clear difference. First of all most atheist groups, that define themselves as atheist, are primarily nonpartisan secular activist groups.
Which means we work to get a more secular society, and equal rights for religious and non-religious. We do not meet and talk about how little we believe in gods.
Secondly, why do people assume that ATHEISM is one thing, that it holds certain values, thoughts, and ideals. It does not the definition that the new atheist movement goes by, is that it is a non-belief in any deities (also singular form for those Christians that like to play word games). Most of these atheists also define themselves as agnostic-atheists.
I cannot recall who first said that organizing atheists is like herding cats, but I think this is very true, besides the fact you can find secularists amongst atheists, and humanists, when it comes to values, political and philosophical opinions, it is as diverse as any random group in society.
Thirdly to be fair it seems Alain de Botton was also misrepresented in the media, and he actually had no plans for building a temple of Atheism.
Which I found on the r/atheism subreddit on Reddit.
I have heard from some that they like this idea of an Atheist Temple, I would very much appreciate if you are one of those people, or know someone, please I would know WHY they think it would be a great idea.
When I talk with some of my American and even Danish friends they like to paint a picture of Denmark, as a haven of secularism and non-belief.
The more scrutiny I have applied to this picture of Denmark, more and more of the paint falls off, showing the ugly face of apathy painted underneath.
Denmark by law is not secular, we have a state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark, and our head of state, currently the Queen Magrethe II, is ordained by the Christian god.
In society apathy rules supreme, which is one of the reasons why I joined the Danish Atheist Society, to help fight this apathy, to make my voice and concerns heard.
You may ask, "But if people do not care about religion, does that not make it easier?"
No it does not, since many of the Christian groups in Denmark, do care, they want their messages and way of life to be spread and embraced by as many as possible, they want to ban abortion, minimize the rights of people who have other sexual preferences than themselves.
When I then speak up, to call these people out, for being an overall danger for the progress of the Danish society, I am told to be a fanatic, and why cannot I not just leave these people alone?
I cannot leave them alone, because they cannot leave me or my rights alone, it is impossible for them, by the dogma they have put up themselves.
Their goal is conversion of the population, into their cult of death, and eliminating free thought and new ideas.
Yet the apathetic population is blissfully ignorant about these groups of Christians, that are not a small minority, but cling together in fear, as soon as the word Muslim is uttered in the media.
Muslims that seek the same goal as these Christians, same rhetoric, and methods.
Denmark like to put itself up on a pedestal, as some champion of democracy, and human rights.
With the same breath, you will hear politicians saying on live TV (which is later cut out of the rerun) that we would have to thank the Christian church and values for the democracy we have to day.
The audacity and ignorance that some politicians from their platform of authority freely and proudly displays is almost vulgar.
Few years back Danmarks Radio (The Danish National Broadcasting Company) got new guidelines put down by the politicians in power, that they should spread the Christian message and values, with an addendum that they were not allowed to discriminate by race, sexuality, religion, and more.
The reason why we have a democracy as we do in Denmark, is of no credit to the churches of Christianity, it is centuries of free-thinkers’ work, many with their life at risk.
Fighting for human rights, putting the will and rights of the people, before the will of some proposed deity.
Also the state church, in a position of being the highest religious authority in the nation, with a nationwide ban on any gay marriages within any religion.
I have discussed for a total of weeks with people that say, "Well gay people can get civil union, why should the church not be allowed to choose who they want to marry."
My response is and always will be, as long as civil union in Denmark does not hold the same rights as a couple that is married, I will be against having this ban.
Ironically this state church is also named, "The Danish People’s Church", yet discriminate against large portions of the population of the Danish society.
I would have nothing against showing the actual face of Christianity, when they are not put under the restraints of democracy, to show people its true face, and ask them afterwards, "Is this truly what you want?"
Secularism is important for those facts, that politicians should not make any laws or favors for any religious adherence.
Christian… I used to be like you. I used to think God didn’t exist. I wasn’t raised that way, but as I reached early adulthood I just didn’t see how Christianity could be any different than any other religion – therefore, in my warped way of thinking – none of them could be true.
Jeffrey, Do not assume you were like me, or I am like you were. That is not helpful if you want to understand the other person’s position.
I am an agnostic atheist, I do NOT KNOW if there is any gods, but I do NOT BELIEVE in any gods. I do not categorically say that there I know that there are no gods, along with majority of the freethinking atheist community.
I was not raised as if there are no gods (I am using gods in plural, since YHWH is not the only proposed god claim out there), I was raised in a irreligious household, meaning that religion was never spoken about, it was a non-issue.
My mother is what you may call "spiritual", sort of hoping that there is an afterlife, but knows that it is most likely not true.
My father is an agnostic atheist, as I am myself, and not a member of the state church.
My brother calls himself a Christian, and a member of the Lutheran State Church of Denmark (as I was myself until March 2011, my mother is still a member too)
My sister is pagan, and used to be an active practitioner of Wicca, now she is more pantheistic, also not a member of the state church.
I lived in two countries, and both countries had state churches, and Christianity teaching and bible study were mandatory parts of primary school.
So throughout my primary school, I had Christianity Class, and in 8th grade, I had Bible study, for a whole year, 4 hours a week, in my school schedule, I was confirmed in 2000, where I also got my own copy of the Bible, and the pastor had written a verse from the Bible that fitted me.
With all that, I never believed in any gods, I had a period where I believed in ghosts, but that is another story.
Since you don’t believe in God or some sort of creator or designer – How do you think life started? How do you think the universe came into being? Science provides many theories as to "how", but the bottom line is – nobody really knows.
Are you asking me how I think life started?
Well my own guess is that an abiotic process, that we call abiogenesis, is the most likely candidate to have begun the first self-replicating process that we call life.
Which I personally also think makes more sense, than magically breathing life into dust, after having sculpted a humanoid out of it. The Golem. (If you think Genesis is all literal)
In terms of our universe, there are numerous hypothesis, where they at CERN are trying to gather evidence, to see which way it points.
There are numerous lectures by Quantum Physicists that explain how our perception of nature is almost turned upside down, as soon as we venture into the realm of quantum, where common sense is not useable.
This begs the question: if there is no God then what constitutes morality? In your world view, there is none, however you speak of the evil things that so-called Christians did over the centuries. However, how can you say it was evil? Evil by whose definition? Yours? Mine?
First of all, if you want to claim that God is the cause of morality, then you will run into the Euthyphro dilemma.
Which is summed up by:
- Is something morale because God says so?
- Is something morale regardless of God says so or not?
Both possibilities have problems with them.
I believe there is morality in our world, but I do not think it is absolute. With that said, it is not black and white. There are certain aspects of mammalian social structures where certain actions would be detrimental to the stability and survivability of a species.
We as Homo Sapiens Sapiens have a more evolved and complex form of altruism, we got the ability to reason about our choices and morality.
Amongst our primate cousins with whom we share a common ancestor, we also see a social structure, and norms within their tribes. Which you can get confirmed by asking any Zoologist who work with primates.
Things that were acceptable centuries even just few decades ago, we would today deem amoral, and vice versa.
Other things, that are detrimental for our species, behavior, actions, and likewise, we as a species have almost a universal sanction against.
Actions such as rape, murdering, and other behaviors/actions that would destabilize a society.
You do not see animals in the wild that mindlessly murder or in other ways destabilize their groups, and hindering their survivability, and the individuals that do cross those boundaries will get sanctioned by the herd.
The survivability of a human species, can be attributed a lot to our ability to work together, and solve problems.
Even long before the Bible or even the written language had been introduced.
My own personal morality is very similar to ethical naturalism, but if I fit into a particular school of ethical naturalism, I am not sure.
Personally, I am good for goodness sake, or in order to help others, not because I want to please some supernatural entity, or that I fear retribution if I did not.
Additionally, in your world view, where there is no supreme being/designer, where do the laws of logic come from? Every philosophical system must start with presuppositions—starting points or assumptions— that cannot be proven from anything more basic, but are accepted up–front as the foundation for all subsequent reasoning.
The laws of logic?
The philosophy of logic, is something that has evolved over time, so I suggest you check out the History of the school of logic.
Yes every philosophical system have presupposition, the question is then, which of them are most useful, and would provide the most productive society.
Karl Popper for example introduced into the scientific method, that all scientific theories had to be falsifiable in order for them to have any value.
Which basically also shows how supernatural (origins out of nature) are useless starting points, if you want to figure out how nature works, and how to make models of reality that are as accurate as possible.
Many of the early Christian scientists and philosophers had to provide "patches" to their ideas in order to fit their god into them.
For example Newton, had to postulate his god had to reset the solar system and now and then, because Newton was worried that the mutual forces between planets would lead to a disintegration of our solar system, such an event had to be prevented by the "hand of God" described as winding the clock back, or resetting the system.
The Universe was a mechanical one whose order was maintained by a distant God.
We know today because of Einstein why Newton is not accurate on the macro scale.
Ironically the Franciscan monk William of Ockham came up with a logical tool, that he eventually realized would cut his god out of the picture, the Ockham’s Razor.
That if you are faced with competing hypotheses that are equal in other respects, your are generally recommended to select the one that makes the fewest new assumptions.
Hence my illustration of axioms as a starting point for the discussion as to "why" I believe there is a God and that the God of the Bible is the one and true God. This message is getting too long (I apologize). An illustration: Abiogenesis – the chemical evolution of life – scientists keep promoting this idea that life just sprang up out of the primordial soup 4 billion years ago despite the FACT that Louis Pasteur proved that "spontaneous generation" was false over 150 years ago.
Luis Pasteur who demonstrated that bacteria arrive from biogenesis, and not spontaneous generation.
But spontaneous generations is not the same as abiogenesis, where as spontaneous generation postulated that lifeforms, came fully developed into existence, the more extreme variants for example where the ideas that lice and rats were formed from trash, dirty objects.
Where as abiogenesis is the study how biological life could arise from inorganic matter through natural processes (which spontaneous generations is not, fully formed lifeforms do not come from nothing), many parts of abiogenesis can be demonstrated, such as amino acids (the building block of life) can be formed via natural chemical reactions unrelated to already existing life.
Two things have to be accounted for in any theory of abiogenesis, replication and metabolism.
Though abiogenesis is still a very young field of study, so we do not know much about it, yet.
With our current technology we know now that a single cell is infinitely more complicated than any machine man has EVER produce.
I would argue it is not infinitely more complex, measurable more complex, yes.
However we understand a lot of it, and can reproduce it in vitro
Yet despite these facts – science still makes the claim that "life" through random processes essentially formed itself into this complex "protein making" machine. I don’t know about you – but to me – this is a preposterous claim, cannot be proven and has never been reproduced in ANY laboratory
It is not random, either; it is emergent properties of physics, chemistry and biology, all driven forward by natural selection.
Science in that area is still young, and we have many dark corners that we still need to shine our light into.
But as any fields of science, we collect more and more knowledge, discard old knowledge or build upon it.
Science stands on the shoulders of giants.
Despite these facts, many scientists believe that is how life started on earth. A analogy would be to take all the material required to build a modern house: wood, nails, pipes, electrical conduit, etc. – place a bomb in the middle of these materials – blow these materials up and expect that a fully functioning house would be the result – with all the wiring and plumbing functioning properly – everything in it’s place. Does that make sense to you?
No, it does not, because you just committed Hoyle’s Fallacy, named after Fred Hoyle’s junkyard tornado argument.
"According to Ian Musgrave in Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations:
These people, including Fred, have committed one or more of the following errors.
- They calculate the probability of the formation of a "modern" protein, or even a complete bacterium with all "modern" proteins, by random events.
- This is not the abiogenesis theory at all.
- They assume that there is a fixed number of proteins, with fixed sequences for each protein, that are required for life.
- They calculate the probability of sequential trials, rather than simultaneous trials.
- They misunderstand what is meant by a probability calculation.
- They underestimate the number of functional enzymes/ribozymes present in a group of random sequences."
One last thought: It’s obvious to me that you are a very intelligent person. I understand why you don’t believe in God. If I’m wrong and the Bible is just a book of myths and fables, so what? When I die, I will have wasted my time believing that something isn’t true. However, if I’m right and the Bible is true, when you die, you’ll have an eternity to regret your decision. Peace brother…….
Pascal’s Wager, is such a dated, and in my opinion juvenile attempt to scare people into believing.
It sets up a false assumption that there is only one god, which one first need to demonstrate is true. And that said god has those set conditions too.
As it is now, we have thousands of god claims across several religions, and even within Christianity itself, there are numerous interpretation of what is required for salvation, with a total of more than 35.000 denominations.
Also Pascal’s Wager also have to be one of the more ridicules options for belief in a god, you chose to believe, out of fear of damnation?
Where is the Omni benevolence?
Some of the more popular gods.
Jeffrey, most of your response were arguments from ignorance, just because you do not understand how things work, or came to be, or humanity in general, does not make another proposition true.
By throwing Hoyle’s Fallacy and Pascal into the fray just grounded it to a level where you would be laughed at if you spoke with a scientist with a PhD within those respected fields.
If you want to argue against science, and for a creator/designer, I recommend you do what science does, collect positive evidence that supports the idea of a creator/designer, rather than just attacking science.
Even if science had been disproven, it does not prove the existence of a creator/designer per default, and absolutely not the Christian one.
I also have proposition, if you want to know more, about what scientists say about abiogenesis, evolution, etc., I have a friend would be more than willing to chat with you, over Skype. He is in the UK and have a BSc in molecular genetics, MSc in Protein Bioinformatics, and PhD in Protein Structural Biochemistry.
Have a nice day.
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