Investigating Atheism

With the controversial topic du jour being the ‘battle’ between religion and atheism, here’s a wonderful resource for educating yourself a little, in order to help elevate this important debate beyond a mere caricature: the Investigating Atheism website. The project has been put together by a group of academics and researchers at the faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, and at the University of Oxford, with a goal of aiming to give “a fully independent, but informed statement about this important subject.”

The current polarised nature of the ‘new atheism’ debate often discourages serious discussion of the very issues that the ‘new atheists’ have brought so forcibly to the attention of the public. Behind some of their more vociferous assertions, there are complex debates going on, and here we will seek to understand how and why these debates have arisen, and what is at stake.

This website is a great resource for getting more background on the history and philosophical arguments underpinning atheism, in its various forms. There are also contributed articles commenting on the divide between atheism and religion, from various authors including Daniel Dennett, Rupert Sheldrake and Steven Weinberg. Perhaps the most interesting I found was John Gray’s “The Atheist Delusion“, which takes pretty much everyone involved in the debate to task for oversimplifying their arguments (probably why I enjoyed it so much).

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  1. Grateful.
    I am grateful that you have exposed this resource. I have teetered back and forth between atheism and agnosticism for quite a while. I feel like I tend to still land on the atheism side more often than not. I’ve never done much research to support where I stand or to help solidify where I stand so I imagine this will be an interesting site for me to frequent.

    Thanks.

    “The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question.”
    Stephen Jay Gould

    “Against logic there is no armor like ignorance.”
    Laurence J. Peter

    1. Rhetoric
      Thanks for that Greg.

      Knoa, I’d describe myself as agnostic. One of the reasons I’m not persuaded by the ‘new atheists’ is the simplification mentioned and their frequent resorting to rhetoric, which seems to expose belief structures.

      A case in point is the frequent assertion that Buddhism is not a religion. I can understand this interpretation, as my own studies in Buddhism remain at the intellectual level. However I’ve met a few monks and nuns, including an elderly Tibetan exile Geshe (not sure exactly what this title means!) and they all assert it is a religion.

      I’d imagine the ‘brights’ feel compelled to mischaracterise Buddhism due to its rejection of dogma and it being relatively hard to find examples of institutionised oppresion, but whose map of what religion is does it make more sense to accept? New atheism is at least as much a political project as a search for truth.

      Matt

  2. How about Religion -vs- God?
    I know there’s a lot of people who claim to be “Spiritual but not Religious” and I think that there is a lot of value in that attitude. Obviously, I am a bit biased, but I believe that God, the Creator, Spirit (however one wishes to refer) does not expect a whole lot out of us. I believe we are responsible for each and every action we make and that is about it. God does not punish people, they punish themselves. Religion is something that comes from Man to begin with. People need a community of like-minded followers to feel safe in their beliefs and attitudes. It is easy to believe something when one is surrounded by that belief (swamp gas…?) Atheism is perfectly rational to one who has not experienced or opened to SPIRITuality, although it is more of a religion than Buddhism (in my opinion). A religion is any set of beliefs, usually with a Supreme Being at the top of the food chain. In Atheism, would that not be the individual? Have our newest Sciences and Technologies not shown us the most-probable existence of Non-Physical worlds interacting around us?

    1. Religion v God
      I see it this way: religion is a socio-political creed/system, whereas spirituality is an inner knowing. Any religion can have both these elements, with a person following the creed, but also having the inner knowing. Whereas many people today have the knowing but not the creed.
      I’d class myself as one of these. Mindst you, it does reflect modern society, in that it changes the supernatural from a system with duties, to a knowing of sole benefit to the person.
      Atheism, I’d class as the former – a very distinct, and growing, socio-poitical creed.

      I’m fanatical about moderation

      Anthony North

  3. My 2 cents
    It takes as much faith to believe that our limmited understanding of Nature rules out completely the existence of a Higher level of consciousness, just as it takes to believe in a deity.

    I prefer to remain open to the possibility.

    The problem I have with modern atheims is its polarisation, which is perfectly symbolized by te failed “brite” meme Dawkins tried to sell society: the idea that if they are the “bright” ones, then necessarily anybody who differs is living in the Dark Ages. Talk about fundamentalism! At least an agnostic has the stones to admit an incapacity to answer the quesion either way.
    —–
    It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
    It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

    Red Pill Junkie

    1. Fundamentalists
      I’ve had dealings with quite a few fundamentalist atheists, and take away the culture and you can’t tell the difference between them and a religious fundamentalist.
      This suggests the actual nature of both their beliefs is grounded in the same thing – an absolute belief in the deity in the mirror.

      I’m fanatical about moderation

      Anthony North

    2. Ditto
      [quote]It takes as much faith to believe that our limmited understanding of Nature rules out completely the existence of a Higher level of consciousness, just as it takes to believe in a deity.[/quote]

      A point I’ve made many times (and only rarely getting a friendly response in return).

      ————————————–
      My apologies go out to all who were just offended by this hostile, confrontational and completely unreasonable post.

      1. if not…
        you can always use “so say we all” 🙂

        —–
        It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
        It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

        Red Pill Junkie

  4. Indeed!
    Hi, long-time reader, first-time commenter, etc… and I can only echo the other comments posted here so far. That John Gray piece is terrific, and sums up much of my own thoughts (and expresses them better) on the subject of atheism. Having been a fairly hardcore atheist at one time in my life, I found myself moving away from that stance when I started actually reading some proper atheist tracts and realised “hmmm, these people aren’t really much different from the religious fundamentalists they’re opposed to, and are doing much the same thing”, and that, ultimately, atheism is just another belief system. All Dawkins is really trying to do is replace one dogma with another.

    1. Hiya
      Welcome James, and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Kind regards,
      Greg
      ——————————————-
      You monkeys only think you’re running things

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