1.3.11

ATHEISM & BELIEF

Geoff Crocker, An Enlightened Philosophy: Can an Atheist Believe Anything? O Books, 2010

The stated purpose of this book is to attempt to suggest how a synthesis can be achieved between religious faith and increasingly aggressive atheism. The author argues that "atheist populism destroys religious belief but offers no philosophy to replace it. It is nihilistic." He wants to combine a "meaningful metaphysics" with a recognition of the "power of myth" in religion.

I do not know why he describes atheists as nihilistic. Prominent atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and friends, seem as eager to tell us how to live, what we should do, and what we should not do, as any clergyman.

Crocker argues that the "atheist or agnostic argument is strong". This is, basically, that God doesn't exist because He does not behave in a manner which atheists consider to be reasonable. In other words, conventional religion should be junked and replaced by something more congenial, convenient, and politically correct. However, Crocker does admit that Richard Dawkins rather overdoes it, having "set up a web site on which he offers to deliver people from religion, becoming himself some sort of messianic deliverance figure".

In his evaluations of the state of religion (mainly Christianity) today, Crocker tends to make too many sweeping general statements, for example: "Where Europeans are cynical, Americans are believing."

His criticisms of Christianity sometimes seem self contradictory. He says that the evangelical church is very aggressive and that it knows exactly what it believes, and that there is no room for doubt in its faith, and that it excludes those who do not share its precise specifications. But he then goes on to say that "its internal divisions multiply as it ever fractures over exactly what it believes over every possible theological detail." So it seems it is both united and divided. Very confusing.

It is, of course, quite normal in religion for there to be controversies concerning morals and the interpretations of doctrines, which are constantly evolving, just as policies are always changing and developing in political parties.

He ends with a plea for mutual tolerance and co-operation between those who believe in God and those who don't. But in modern democracies we already have such an arrangement; it is known as the secular state, where people are free to follow any religious faith or secular philosophy of life which does not involve criminal acts. -- Reviewed by John Harney


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