Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Blessed are the pacemakers

No, that's not a typo. David Wong takes a crack (in Cracked, which seems like an odd venue for this sort of thing) at brokering peace between Christians and Atheists. One of his defenses of Atheism is that it grew out of Rationalism, which even Christians embrace on suitable occasions:


[Christians], there are people you love who would not be alive without [rationalism]. You can pray that grandpa's heart holds out for another year, but rational thinking invented the pacemaker.


Makes a worthwhile read. But it's interesting that he directed it at Christians specifically, and not theists in general. Shouldn't there be things that Atheists and Muslims can and must agree on as well? Athesists and Buddhists? Jews? Zoroastrians?

5 comments:

Dan said...

It's probably worth noting that some Christian sects would directly contradict this argument, notable Christian Scientists. I assume there is such an element present in many broad theist categories.

I think the Christian Scientist view in the pacemaker hypothetical would be something along the lines of: If God wanted you to live then he would cure you of the ailment that afflicts your heart so you should read the Bible and pray and if he cures you then good for you and if not then that's His will and far be it from you to contradict that with a pacemaker.

Not my view, but my interpretation a counter argument some might have. I've heard of similar beliefs in other religions.

Don Geddis said...

Ron, I get your excitement about peace between theists and atheists. Sometimes one wonders why there must be war. In this age of Obama, can't we search for common ground?

And yet ... and yet. There are some real fundamental differences between theists and atheists, that cannot be dismissed as mere matters of opinion. Each really does think that the other is hugely mistaken. And certainly doesn't want the other to influence their friends or children with their erroneous and dangerous ways.

I really wonder what the endgame is that you have in mind. You think "live and let live" is a feasible and stable outcome, from world views that are so opposed?

I have my doubts...

Ron said...

> You think "live and let live" is a feasible and stable outcome

No, I don't think that at all. That's exactly why this is so important to me.

> And yet ... and yet. There are some real fundamental differences between theists and atheists, that cannot be dismissed as mere matters of opinion. Each really does think that the other is hugely mistaken.

I think you're framing the debate the wrong way. I've written before about how framing a debate can determine the outcome. For example, the right wins the abortion debate not because they are correct, but because the left allows them to frame the debate as people who are against abortion versus people who are for abortion.

Consider what happens if instead we start from the premise that no one is for abortion. The debate is now between those who want to reduce abortions by throwing women and doctors in prison versus those who want to reduce abortions by providing counseling and birth control. I think the outcome would be different.

LIkewise, as soon as you frame that debate as being between thesists and atheists (c.f. people who are for God vs people who are against Him) then you lose. You lose in exactly the same way that you lose the debate between people who are for or against drugs, or for or against drunk driving, or for or against people being poor.

The only way to win this debate is to reframe it. I submit that that one productive way to reframe it is to pit not theist vs atheist but extremist vs moderate. In other words, consider the proposition that we are all fallible humans, and no matter what you believe there is a chance you could be wrong. Imagine what the world would be like if the debate were between the people who accept this premise and those who don't.

> I really wonder what the endgame is that you have in mind.

End game? This is windmill-tilting, my friend. There is no end-game.

Dan said...

Here here. I heartily concur, Ron. For a long time now I have maintained the position that I am both pro-choice and anti-abortion. I've met quite a few who think that's impossible which is a testament to the fact that education and discussion is needed. One can be in favor of an individual's right to abortion while also having the ultimate aim that as few as possible (naively: no one) feel the need to exercise that right.

I am interested in hearing more about your views on other such positions with regard to atheism and rationalism.

Ron said...

> Here here.

Thanks!

> I am interested in hearing more about your views on other such positions with regard to atheism and rationalism.

The Rondam Ramblings archives are chock-full of 'em. Maybe I should write a survey article.