Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

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Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Rum » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:16 pm

Start The Week on BBC Radio 4 today featured a short discussion about atheism and how many atheists may well ditch a belief in gods but retain a way of thinking and a set of beliefs and world views that do actually arise from our monotheistic past and in particular the models of morality many of us subscribe to.

Personally I am happy with the notion that my moral sense arises from evolution and having to live in groups that rub along together without too much friction, but what about notions such as the 'long arc' of justice and human progress and improvement that many people assume is the inevitable destination of humankind. What about a certain optimism that everything will be OK in the end? Or that people are naturally kind given half a chance?

So do many atheists view the world and the human experience through religion tinted glasses I guess is the question.

A topic to kick off a forum reboot!

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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by JimC » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:54 pm

Rum wrote:Start The Week on BBC Radio 4 today featured a short discussion about atheism and how many atheists may well ditch a belief in gods but retain a way of thinking and a set of beliefs and world views that do actually arise from our monotheistic past and in particular the models of morality many of us subscribe to.

Personally I am happy with the notion that my moral sense arises from evolution and having to live in groups that rub along together without too much friction, but what about notions such as the 'long arc' of justice and human progress and improvement that many people assume is the inevitable destination of humankind. What about a certain optimism that everything will be OK in the end? Or that people are naturally kind given half a chance?

So do many atheists view the world and the human experience through religion tinted glasses I guess is the question.

A topic to kick off a forum reboot!
Basically I agree with you about reflecting on the human condition via the lens of evolution. However, this is a deliberate, intellectual position - perhaps the ideas from the radio programme you refer to involve a kind of unconscious morality with a monotheistic underpinning, one that even atheists are affected by when we make judgements without a deliberate attempt to think things through. Our culture is soaked through with this perspective.
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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Rum » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:59 am

I assumed his appearance on the show was to tout a book, but I can't see an obvious one. There is a long article in the Guardian though if anyone is interested - here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/ ... w-atheists

I find myself in disagreement with almost all of it. It concludes thus:

"Like religion at its worst, contemporary atheism feeds the fantasy that human life can be remade by a conversion experience – in this case, conversion to unbelief.

Evangelical atheists at the present time are missionaries for their own values. If an earlier generation promoted the racial prejudices of their time as scientific truths, ours aims to give the illusions of contemporary liberalism a similar basis in science. It’s possible to envision different varieties of atheism developing – atheisms more like those of Freud, which didn’t replace God with a flattering image of humanity. But atheisms of this kind are unlikely to be popular. More than anything else, our unbelievers seek relief from the panic that grips them when they realise their values are rejected by much of humankind. What today’s freethinkers want is freedom from doubt, and the prevailing version of atheism is well suited to give it to them".

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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Brian Peacock » Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:34 am

Rum wrote:Start The Week on BBC Radio 4 today featured a short discussion about atheism and how many atheists may well ditch a belief in gods but retain a way of thinking and a set of beliefs and world views that do actually arise from our monotheistic past and in particular the models of morality many of us subscribe to.

Personally I am happy with the notion that my moral sense arises from evolution and having to live in groups that rub along together without too much friction, but what about notions such as the 'long arc' of justice and human progress and improvement that many people assume is the inevitable destination of humankind. What about a certain optimism that everything will be OK in the end? Or that people are naturally kind given half a chance?

So do many atheists view the world and the human experience through religion tinted glasses I guess is the question.

A topic to kick off a forum reboot!
The religious often say that social values and morality are the preserve of religion, and that even when we're not religious we nonetheless rely on the moral precepts and 'teachings' of religion in our everyday lives - usually without realising it. One of the key features of any religion is the forwarding of a normative moral view, and when the religious make remarks of this nature they are invariably making a case for the default rectitude of their own religion's moral codes and practices.

It's bollocks of course. Though I'm an atheists, I didn't stab the checkout girl in the neck yesterday before raping her still twitching corpse because I've been knowingly or unknowingly inculcated with religious moral values - the adherence to which temper and moderate my otherwise immoral urges. I didn't do it simply because there's far too much in-store CCTV coverage. :tea:
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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Rum » Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:56 am

As far as I am aware Gray is not religious. He seems to be more or less a nihilist who hasn't yet cottoned on to the fact that humans don't need religion to have morality.

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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Brian Peacock » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:12 am

Humanism has always struck me as falling into this kind of 'morality trap' too. We don't need religion, even a non-religious religions like humanism, to distinguish between good and bad action. The vast majority of so-called religious morality simply codifies the bounds and limits of bad action rather than describing and affirming notions of the good - like those who assert that something is OK if there's not a specific law against it.
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Clinton Huxley » 21 Jun 2012 » 14:10:36 GMT
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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by JimC » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:20 am

Brian Peacock wrote:Humanism has always struck me as falling into this kind of 'morality trap' too. We don't need religion, even a non-religious religions like humanism, to distinguish between good and bad action. The vast majority of so-called religious morality simply codifies the bounds and limits of bad action rather than describing and affirming notions of the good - like those who assert that something is OK if there's not a specific law against it.
If we don't need either religion or humanism to distinguish between good and bad actions, then what are we left with?

Instinct? Natural selection has no morality...

Culture? Whose culture?

Rational reflection? Who judges?

It is not an easy answer...
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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Hermit » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:37 am

Rum wrote:I assumed his appearance on the show was to tout a book...
It was, and it is mentioned right at the start: The title is Seven Types of Atheism. The discussion with its Author, John Gray, can be heard here. It begins at the 24:55 minute mark of that episode and peters out about twelve minutes later. Gray defines atheism as any person that just doesn't need the idea of a creator god. (He really does make a meal of expressing himself grammatically there). Spectacularly wrong right out of the block. Though Gray later mentions people can reject the existence of anything supernatural, he somehow does not seem to tie that in with atheism. Anyway, he then takes his false premiss to its logical conclusion by asserting that most religions (cites Buddhism, Hinduism and Daoism) are atheist because they do not have a creator god.

Gray then loosely defines religion as "someone who practices religion" is "when they want to give some extra-human significance to their life." And then comes the real doozy. The show's presenter, Tom Sutcliffe, put it to Gray that he means to say that "the idea that we live in a secular age is actually an illusion - secular thought is mostly composed of repressed religion". Gray affirms this on the ground that secularists have monotheistic ways of thinking. How so? Well, because "above all, they talk about humankind ... as if it was a collective agent. In other words, they say humanity did this, it abolished torture ... And they look for redemption in history..." At this point, four minutes into the interview, I made up my mind that John Gray is about as much of a philosopher as any other wanker who likes to attempt making a point without bothering with critical analysis or evidential support.

The rest of the interview meanders around comments about Schopenhauer, Santayana, Spinoza and, at Gray's insistence, Joseph Konrad without shedding much more light on the wanker's views on atheism.

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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Hermit » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:58 am

JimC wrote:
Brian Peacock wrote:Humanism has always struck me as falling into this kind of 'morality trap' too. We don't need religion, even a non-religious religions like humanism, to distinguish between good and bad action. The vast majority of so-called religious morality simply codifies the bounds and limits of bad action rather than describing and affirming notions of the good - like those who assert that something is OK if there's not a specific law against it.
If we don't need either religion or humanism to distinguish between good and bad actions, then what are we left with?
Reciprocity. That's where the "Do unto others..." comes from, and it is what generates our conception of justice and the sort of values we synthesise societies with.

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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by pErvinalia » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:05 am

Brian Peacock wrote:Though I'm an atheists,
How many of you are there in there...?
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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Brian Peacock » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:16 am

I am legion.
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There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia."

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Clinton Huxley » 21 Jun 2012 » 14:10:36 GMT
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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Brian Peacock » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:22 am

Hermit wrote:
JimC wrote:
Brian Peacock wrote:Humanism has always struck me as falling into this kind of 'morality trap' too. We don't need religion, even a non-religious religions like humanism, to distinguish between good and bad action. The vast majority of so-called religious morality simply codifies the bounds and limits of bad action rather than describing and affirming notions of the good - like those who assert that something is OK if there's not a specific law against it.
If we don't need either religion or humanism to distinguish between good and bad actions, then what are we left with?
Reciprocity. That's where the "Do unto others..." comes from, and it is what generates our conception of justice and the sort of values we synthesise societies with.
Indeed. Reciprocity only needs a pinch of empathy, and a dash of sympathy, and a drop or two of a theory of mind that recognises other entities as having incorrigible experiences just like we do.
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There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia."

Frank Zappa

"This is how humanity ends; bickering over the irrelevant."
Clinton Huxley » 21 Jun 2012 » 14:10:36 GMT
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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Tero » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:36 am

Morality? Isn’t that when someone does something to me and I want to revenge. But because he also broke one ofvour rules, all I have to so is ouns two more Christians and we three go and stone him to death. Society!
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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Rum » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:37 am

Thanks for pinning it down Hermit. I tuned in half way into the interview and clearly missed some vital points.

I must say I get pretty tired of people trying to create and/or categorise types of atheism. Once people reach that position people can take any number of stances and their outlook on life and existential issues can be many and various - only minus gods. End of. We only have to look at Atheism + to see what happens when you try to build a bandwagon around it.

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Re: Atheist, but thinking in monotheistic modes?

Post by Rum » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:41 am

Tero wrote:Morality? Isn’t that when someone does something to me and I want to revenge. But because he also broke one ofvour rules, all I have to so is ouns two more Christians and we three go and stone him to death. Society!
My definition of morality arises from an evolutionary perspective. At some point on the African savanna - or probably even earlier - our ancestors became social and cooperative. One assumes it was a good survival strategy - hunting and perhaps defending in groups etc. Rules of behaviour would have developed pretty early on - mostly around mutually beneficial behaviour. It is not a giant leap from there to the development of more complex rules about behaviour as it impacts on your fellow tribe members.

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