Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Commentary on Atheist Quotes

The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
-- Richard Dawkins

This sums up the most daunting obstical to my faith. The universe seems devoid of any solid evidence for God, except perhaps for the fact that it is here and that we are around to wonder who made it.
I cannot conceive of a god who rewards and punishes his creatures or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egotism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.
--Carl Sagan

Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.
--Isaac Asimov, "On Religiosity", Free Inqquuiry magazine

I don't want a future life. I have never wanted a future life. I want to be dead when I'm dead and that's an end to it.
--Antony Flew (noted Atheist recently turnned Deist) as quoted by The Times

I decided to take these quotes together because they show a common sentiment of satisfaction with oblivion. I find it so strange that these men of renowned imaginations could not conceive of a heaven worth living for. Indeed, their attitudes are astoudingly arrogant. As individuals, they cannot even comprehend all the myriad concepts of known science in their 3 pounds little lumps of cerebral matter. How then should they expect to understand the mind of God and the promise of heaven?
People everywhere beseech gods and spirits for recovery from illness, for success in love or on the battlefield, and for good weather. Religion is a desperate measure that people resort to when the stakes are high and they have exhausted the usual techniques for the causation of success, medicines, strategies, courtship, and, in the case of the weather, nothing.... Believers also avoid working out the strange logical consequences of these piecemeal revisions of ordinary things. They don’t pause to wonder why a God who knows our intentions has to listen to our prayers, or how a God can both see into the future and care about how we choose to act. Compared to the mind-bending ideas of modern science, religious beliefs are notable for their lack of imagination.
--Steven Pinker

I particularly enjoy the last line accusing religious folk of having poor imaginations. As though all scientists were atheists or that philosophers of nearly every age had not considered those very questions.

God is intellectually superfluous, emotionally dispensable, and morally intolerable.
--John A.T. Robinson

God is intellectually necessary, emotionally fulfilling, and morally perfect. Intellectually he is needed to give purpose to our lives. Emotionally he is needed to supply everlasting joy. Morally he is necessary to correct the broken thinking of our age.

Man has learned to cope with all questions of importance without recourse to God as a working hypothesis.

Man has not! Nothing of value lasts without God. Without reunion with God as the end goal to all our endeavors as individuals and as a race, there can be no lasting point to our existence.

In questions concerning science, art, and even ethics, this has become an understood thing which one scarcely dares to tilt at any more. But for the last hundred years or so it has become increasingly true of religious questions also; it is becoming evident that everything gets along without "God," and just as well as before. As in the scientific field, so in human affairs generally, what we call "God" is being more and more edged out of life, losing more and more ground...
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God is just as necessary today as before the scientific age to explain why we are here and why the universe runs as it does. Simply because we have become proficient at describing the mechanics of his creation does not mean we are even one iota closer to explaining what the cosmos really is. What is anything in this world but a collection of self-consistent forces? When we get down to the level of strings in quantum theory, we are describing etherial forces which, for all we can tell, exist for no reason. Only God can give us a reason.

From Dan Barker, Author: Losing Faith in Faith

I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive:

For the record, I personally believe atheists have plenty of positive things to say, even if it all really boils down to, "have a nice day before you die." Some of my favorite authors are atheists. They predict wonderful fruits of science and societal engineering. Unfortunately, none of their rosey prognostications can save me from death and whatever lays beyond.

You are an intelligent human being.

Thank you for the compliment Mr. Barker. May I return it in kind. You are obviously a thoughtful individual and understand the importance of loving thy neighbor. If only we could redirect your intellect to loving God as well, then your life and love would at least have a chance to last for eternity.

Your life is valuable for its own sake.

Actually, there is no basis for saying that. Such is mere opinion, albeit a "feel-good" one.

You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind.
Who am I to derive meaning from myself? I can't preserve my personality against the ages. I would do well enough to pay off my mortgage before age devours me alive. And why isn't my pet dog Sparky more valuable? On what do I base my value? Traits that fade with time? As for purpose, if nothing lasts, everything is in vain. Your statement seems very arbitrary to me. It is a nice sentiment, but only that.

You are not inherently evil

A paraphrase from a Bill Waterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic seems appropriate here. "Are children born evil? No, I think they are just quick studies."

-- you are inherently human, possessing thhe positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy.

Again we see the rosy promise of Atheism that can never deliver in my lifetime. As a Christian, I already do what I can to spread morality, peace, and joy, but no one seems to want it. I try telling people that the best way to stop AIDS and unwanted pregnancies is to keep sex in the bounds of marriage. Then, after those people have fatherless babies, broken relationships, and veneral disease, they blame me for not wanting to pay their welfare checks, medical costs, and classes that teach them how to put on a condom: something any competent 10 year-old could figure out. When it comes to footing the bill for their willful mistakes, I wonder that I don't hear them trailing out their classic humanist motto, "I am responsible for my own actions."

No, I don't think positive rationality has much of a chance against selfish, emotionally driven choices. What is needed is the conviction that only God's Word can provide to the human conscience. And even then, only those who want to listen will benefit.

Trust yourself."

An abundance of trust in myself is not the issue. If anything, I have too much of it. It is submission to God's better judgement on how we should run our lives that is the problem.

Thanks for the quote Mr. Barker. I hope you find your faith again.

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