Criticize Well

If you are one of those people who is preternaturally compelled to criticize faiths and the faithful, that is your right (in America, anyway).

If you want your critique to be taken seriously, however, try focusing on one faith at a time. Indiscriminately lumping all religions together and then opening fire is lazy, imprecise, often wrong, and readily dismissed by anyone who does not already agree with you.

We all may look the same to you, and there are always similarities. But if the differences are important enough to keep us in our separate houses, they are important enough for you to understand before you join the conversation.

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Freedom

For most of the Ancients, freedom was freedom from our natural desires and material needs. It rested on a mastery of these deep, natural urges in favor of self-control, restraint, and education into virtue.

Andrew Sullivan

Naziism Was Not Christian

For those antithesits out there who would assert that Naziism was a religious movement or a movement of religion, a thought from an esteemed scholar of religion.

“In speaking of the Christian world, we use two different terms: ‘Christianity,’ meaning the religion in the strictest sense, a system of belief and worship and some ecclesiastical organization; and we use a different word, ‘Christendom,’ meaning the whole civilization, which grew up under the aegis of that religion, which is in many ways shaped by that religion, but which nevertheless contains elements that are not part of that religion, or may even be hostile or contrary to that religion.

Let me illustrate that with a simple example. No one could seriously assert that Hitler and the Nazis came out of Christianity, but no one could seriously deny that that they came out of Christendom.”

— Bernard Lewis

 

Can an Atheist be a Ger Tzaddik?

There are good theists, and there are evil theists. There are good atheists and anti-theists, and there are bad atheists and anti-theists.

What we should be focused on is NOT whether I can prove to Richard Dawkins in terms he will accept is whether God exists. I have enough proof for me and that should be enough for all of us to allow me to continue believing what I believe.

Better we should be having the more important debate – which Pope Francis appears to be trying to set up – which is “what does it mean to be good, and why?”

As for we of the Hebrew persuasion, we should ask – is there room within the construct of the Noahide Laws for an atheist to be a ger tzaddik, or at least a righteous non-believer? And if not, do we simply accept atheists and even anti-theists as one of the nations provided they don’t come after us?

As our theistic world is compelling non-believers to adhere to modes of belief that explicitly exclude God, how are we to address those who not only disregard our beliefs, but who (as in the case of Sam Harris) regard them as amoral and anti-intellectual?

Is Moderate, Rational Atheism a Fallacy?

English: Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins after ...

English: Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins after Maher’s talk at the Atheist Alliance International conference in Burbank, CA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An erudite atheist friend said recently that every atheist he knew personally, as many as a couple of hundred, and (he contended) all of the Big Name atheists:

“..have said, explicitly, that to the limited extent I outlined above (‘there may, against all the evidence so far, be a god’) they are agnostic. There is zero conflict in this position if you claim to be an evidence-based rational thinker (which most, but not all, atheists will claim).”

It was an interesting claim.

Now, while I would love to test that statement against all of the Big Name Atheists, I thought I would try it for one, possibly the biggest name, Richard Dawkins. At best, he is conflicted. While he has been frequently quoted as saying “There probably is no God,” thus sounding intellectually honest, on at least one occasion in public he has said ““You are utterly wasting your time – all of you who are indignant at being attacked about your god – because there is no god.”

That doesn’t sound like the kind of intellectual honesty to which my friend alludes: it sounds like a statement of absolute faith, or at best a vacillation between two positions, one agnostic and quite acceptable in polite company, and one anti-theist, and steeped in faith.

The atheist might retort that God does not exist because his existence has not been proven. My response to that atheist is simple: we all have our standards of proof. God has met mine, he just hasn’t met yours yet.

Pope: “It’s okay to be an Atheist”

Pope Francis met with media

Pope Francis met with media (Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales))

Francis I, the new Roman Catholic pontiff, told an assembled crowd in Argentina yesterday that being an atheist is okay, as long as you do good.

He told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists could be redeemed by Jesus.

“Even them, everyone,” the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. “We all have the duty to do good,” he said.

“Just do good and we’ll find a meeting point,” the pope said in a hypothetical conversation in which someone told a priest: “But I don’t believe. I’m an atheist.”

I neither want nor require anyone’s permission to believe what I do. That goes for Pope Francis, to be sure, but that also goes for the atheist and the anti-theist. Nonetheless, any day I hear someone whose belief system differs with mine say “I don’t believe what you do, but as long as you try hard to be a good person, you’re okay with me,” that’s a good day.

Tolerance rocks, and this step by the Pope should be applauded. One hopes that the entire Church adopts that view toward not only atheists, but all of us whose faiths differ from Roman Catholicism.

On Atheist Marriages

Atheist marriages: Should one nonbeliever marry another?
Jesse Bering
Slate
November 14, 2011

Okay, this one is a year old, but it is so brilliantly written and such a hoot that it is a must-read for believers and non-believers alike. Slate’s Jesse Bering (who now rates as our favorite gay atheist) probes with wit and sensitivity the question of whether degrees and nature of belief are criteria for long-term marital compatibility.

The conclusion he reaches is no surprise: your best shot at long-term happiness with a marital partner is a shared set of values. In all likelihood, the more closely beliefs and values are shared, the more compatible you and your partner will be.

Judaism has a lot to say about mixed marriages, mostly negative, and I understand why. No way would my wife and I have made it anywhere near this far without sharing our fundamental belief in Torah. In fact, that faith has held us together (and quite happily) despite the stresses and strains of a mixed-race marriage. Faith runs thicker than culture, to be sure.

The door should never be closed to interfaith unions – I’ve seen a quite few work out pretty well. But I’ve also seen disparate beliefs become the shoal on which many relationships foundered. Hunt first with your heart, then, but don’t forget your soul.

And as far as Mr. Bering is concerned, this article is proof that Theists and Atheists can have constructive conversations without falling into the gutter of kulturkampf.