New Boston Skeptics Talk Title: “In Defense of Religion”

KIDDING. But if you’re in Boston March 24, feel free to drop by the Boston Skeptics first EVAH! meeting and hear me speak.

But while we’re on the subject of religion, I think you should check out this excellent post by ScienceBlogling Razib:

To conclude, my general suspicion of the New Atheists echoes Chris’ in some ways, I find many of them sloppy and rather uninterested in constructing an accurate model of the world. They are polemicists, first & foremost. That is all fine and well, but to the gods of rhetoric I offer few sacrifices. To those of knowledge I would give my firstborn. Those who would join us as we sail into the unknown need not declare to which gods they render their homage, none or twenty, it makes little difference. Someone whose religious views do reflect deeply held values and sincere cogitation would no doubt be absolutely uninterested in whether I respect them or not.

What has bothered about the ‘New Atheist’ critique is that equates Abrahamic fundamentalisms with all religion. To anyone who either isn’t a fundamentalist or a member of an Abrahamic religion–and there are a lot of us, these critiques are “sloppy” and irrelevant. If you want to convince me, start with an accurate description of what I believe.

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4 Responses to New Boston Skeptics Talk Title: “In Defense of Religion”

  1. Russell says:

    OK, so given that you approach “the Bible as a set of national myths,” what in the world is the point of building law and ritual observance around them? People don’t delve into the myths of Theseus or of Agamemnon in that way. And if they did, we rightly would think they were eccentric at best. The world has come quite far since the days of Hesiod. And even further since the days when the ancient Israelites were editing the Old Testament.

  2. Joshua says:

    Is it odd that my first reaction was to think, “Gee, that sounds like an interesting, if controversial, topic choice”?
    Granted, I only thought that because you’re going to be the speaker. Most other people, if they were trying to give a speech on the same topic, would cause me to wonder exactly how much crack Rebecca has started smoking.
    Anyway, the quote from Razib and your additional comment do explain why, at least in part, why I have absolutely no interest in reading any of the “New Atheist” books. At least, when I skimmed Hitchens’ god is Not Great, he made an effort to address Buddhism, but that section of the book was mostly about superstitions, which isn’t a religious thing per se, nor would most Buddhists, I think, consider even their own superstitions as an essential character of the religion. I already know why religious fundamentalism is bad, having experienced it myself and having rejected it years before I rejected religion entirely, and I already know that superstition in general is bad, so what the Hell would I need to read one of these books for?
    That said, I think there are many people who don’t realise why fundamentalism is a bad thing, and that includes many who aren’t themselves fundamentalists.

  3. Alex Palazzo says:

    I’ll try to be there.

  4. llewelly says:

    To anyone who either isn’t a fundamentalist or a member of an Abrahamic religion–and there are a lot of us, these critiques are “sloppy” and irrelevant.

    In most of the English-speaking world, Abrahamic religions are by far the biggest danger. (When is the last time you heard of a terrorist bombing in support of Spinozoan pantheism?) They are also by far the most familiar to any English-speaking audience. Once a writer adds the tons of qualifiers necessary for kinds of religion which are quite alien to most english-speakers, any article quickly becomes very complicated and quite unwieldy. Would you complicate an article on why hand-washing is important with a few long paragraphs on the bacteria that have no problem living in most hand soaps?

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