Sunday, August 07, 2011

i STILL don't beliiieeeeeve it!

In the interests of balance and fairness, and just for the epic lulz, I should draw your attention gently yet insistently towards this article in the New Statesman, which is a follow-up to the one featured here a while back wherein people list their reasons for believing in God (whichever particular version it is they believe in, from woolly philosophical abstraction to Old Testament psychopath complete with fire and smiting, and all points in between).

You'll be unsurprised (particularly if you read the associated blog post) that I didn't really find any of the reasons presented in the original article particularly compelling; you'll be equally unsurprised that I find the stuff in the non-belief article to be a lot better, though a lot of the responses are broadly similar to each other, as you'd expect:
  • Richard Dawkins is as sensible and understanding as ever about people's reasons to believe (nonsensical though they are) and the reasons why you really shouldn't - this won't stop him being painted as "aggressive" and "shrill", though, obviously, for reasons explored here.
  • Most of the others - Victor Stenger, Susan Blackmore, Michael Shermer, Jerry Coyne - just make the obvious point that they don't believe in God simply because there is no even remotely compelling reason to do so, i.e. any evidence, with the rider that the concept is badly-defined and slippery and meaningless anyway.
  • PZ Myers introduces a welcome note of ridicule by pointing out how ridiculous most of the beliefs and practices are.
  • They must have caught the usually affable AC Grayling on a bad day, though he is as usual entirely right.
  • The only people who drop the ball are Philip Pullman, who starts well but makes a last-minute swerve into the wishy-washy bullshit territory of agnosticism, and Ben Goldacre, who affects a weary disdain for the whole thing. At which point whoever interviewed him should have given him a sharp slap round the chops and said: I didn't ask you how much you cared, and I'm not asking you to get out and man the atheist barricades. What you clearly mean is that you've made up your mind not to believe and you're not very interested in discussing it. Which is a reasonable enough position to take, but if that's your position, get over yourself and say so and stop being such an arse.
Anyway, further discussion on both the belief and non-belief articles is available at the New Statesman website. As always, approach the comments sections with some caution as there is some weapons-grade stupidity on display; I exempt the very first comment on the non-belief article from that criticism, though, as it simply reproduces a quote from comedian Sean Lock, which really condenses the whole discussion down to its essence:
I don't believe in God because....I've thought about it.

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