Apples and Durians

Tabik! My posts of late can scarcely be described as meaningful, so I figured that I better make up for it by generating things that are less inane. As always, politics should be a good start: this is about Obama, religion, and, to some extent, bikinis.

Yes, people, I can write an essay that somehow includes all these topics. For that I feel quite invincible.

* * *

You would surmise that a massive number of jaws dropped in unison this mid-December: the pro-life, homophobic pastor Rick Warren is to deliver invocation for Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony! To some people, this is absurd to such a stellar degree, in par with the idea of Luke Skywalker inviting Palpatine for his Jedi graduation observance.

For others, it was not that much of a shock. Obama is, after all, a politician, and perhaps this was his attempt to polish his image amongst the conservatives (the pastor’s presence could barely hurt anyway). Or, maybe it was not surprising for other reasons; like how Obama is after all Christian and publicly devout. Nevertheless, it was not the Rick Warren thing that caught my interests, but instead, the response. (Noam Chomsky is particularly nervous, but that is another story.)

As aforementioned, Rick Warren is not exactly fond of the LGBT movement. It was this that ultimately rubbed the LGBTs nationwide the wrong way — plus, plenty of them; gays, lesbians, and the like, are inevitably liberal, and felt rather betrayed. Now, I do not wish to talk about politics, as I am hardly qualified to even answer a yes/no question on it. I wish to talk about something else, another unrelated issue, my interest of which was triggered by the Obama-Warren controversy.

The Dawkinsian Response

To cut the long story short, Warren, apparently, made quite a strong comment on homosexuality, in which he compared the practice to incest and paedophilia. And paedophilia, as with all social issues containing “children” in it, is always something that we all take for granted (it’s all “for the children” politics). That is, it is evil, and the homosexuals were made furious.

Browsing a number of webpages discussing the issue, I arrived at a freethought-oriented website (it discussed an open letter of a secular community complaining about it, as it is deemed to be alienating for them). A man, presumably atheist and homosexual, stated that he does not plan to compromise to the likes of Warren (understandably so, perhaps), as “the pastor compared him with paedophiles and incestuous libertines”.

Politics stopped here. The rest is philosophy. Amateur philosophy maybe, but philosophy nonetheless.

That comment triggered my interest on ethics once again. This man here is a paragon of everything that is bad about the new wave of atheism/freethought (a “Dawkinsian” perspective, obviously named after Richard Dawkins), which can be described in a few words: oversimplified views on morality! This is an attempt to discuss religion in a purely social context — I do not wish to touch any of their metaphysical claims. For a disclaimer, I only disagree with Dawkins on very few things. Please do not slate me as an intellectual flea like you consider Alister McGrath!

Let us begin with the million-dollar question. What makes homosexuality morally superior than incest and paedophilia? Why did the man feel offended? If the said homosexual justify his actions from creeds (e.g. a certain interpretation of religious dogmas), then I can say no more, but it is unlikely. I would expect that the man derived his thought from secular philosophy.

In such case: I know it is a bold question, likely to offend, but if you actually talked about freethought and religion, offensive questions should not be unfamiliar. My imaginary homosexual friend would maybe take offense of being considered as morally equal to paedophiles, but, I demand reason. Of all people, atheists should know best that an “I am offended” remark is no substitute for a serious philosophical explanation.

Again, “for the children” politics may come as a fine line here. Children, who are mostly individuals with intellectual immaturity (i.e. stupid), are people whose judgements should be met with skepticism, and therefore should not be involved yet in serious matters such as sexual orientation issues (the same reason why they cannot drink or drive). Therefore, we can deduce that paedophila is something to be avoided, as it may be exploitative. Ergo it is reasonable to forbid it all the way as a safety measure (for Child Love movement proponents: platonic loves can wait, and those kids are not adolescents for a lifetime). Homosexuality, on the other hand, is generally understood as a relationship between two adults, and hence does not cross this line. Of course, it may involve children, but that would fall into the paedophila category and void homosexuality’s “no child abused” pass.

Then what about incestuous conducts? This, I think, is trickier. Again assuming that it is between two adults, is there any solid justification as for why it is less holy than homosexuality? Most Dawkinsian atheists would be happy to condemn incest, but on what ground? What makes homosexuality a decent liberal idea that is to be fought for against religious bigotry, and not incest? Richard Dawkins mentioned the Genesis story of Lot where the his daughters made love to their drunk father to the point of impregnation, and dubbed it a “dysfunctional family” (The God Delusion, chapter 7). This is not a rhetorical question, rather, sincere; as I was never against even gay marriage.

These two cannot be said to be too distinct. Both deviate from traditional family values (which may or may not be moral), both are biologically “misfirings”, both done with mutual consent, both are private, victimless sex acts, and, to invoke “for the children” doctrine once again, no kids are involved! Even the confusion that would arise from the offsprings that might be born is really not alien since homosexuality has that double fathers/mothers issue.

I am not trying to condone nor condemn both practice in this writing, but rather to picture my concern and worry on how Dawkinsian atheists abuse their freedom to erect a holier-than-thou (no pun intended) attitude. Even Nietzsche (no less) is concerned of the negative effects of atheistic nihilism. The fact that even Dawkins can, without proper reason, stood for homosexuality and against incest should serve as quite a reminder.

Dimensions of Beliefs

Allow me to explain my personal understanding of the whole issue.

I offer a suggestion that the root of all the ruckus is the misunderstanding of the position of freethought, as Dawkinsian atheism champions, when compared to religions. Atheism is not a wholesale replacement of religion. For a religionist to deconvert to atheism is like taking off her bikinis and put on a boxer afterwards — it’s covered down there, but still bare chested. Atheism does not replace religion, it replaces theism.

A freethinking stance and a religion (in its popular, Abrahamic-esque sense), is oftentimes not something substitutable, as they carry different numbers of “dimensions”. To compare them, hence, is in a way like comparing apples and durians.

What many new wave atheists failed to recognize is, I predict, the fact that religion is not merely about believing in God. This can be illustrated by the following crude representation;

As we all know, the domains, or “dimensions” of belief include a wide array of spectrums — that may be best presented by listing out major branches of philosophy, as shown above. Each and every individual capable of sustaining himself intellectually in society (i.e. not mentally handicapped or immature) should, must, and do possess a set of beliefs or stances on each spectrum; whether consciously or not. These are to be drawn from “ideologies”, and what must be understood is that ideologies are not obliged to cover all spectrums. Several ideologies may influence a spectrum in some proportions, but the bottom line is that individuals have a complete set of “beliefs”, while ideologies are not.

Pure Christianity, for an instance, covers metaphysics with detailed and sophisticated accounts of God, but says little or nothing at all of logic or language; its stances on other spectrums include the alleged support for secularism from the New Testament, which perhaps means that it does not cover the political spectrum of one’s beliefs. Consider Islamism (in a political sense of that word, Islam per se is another case) as another example, in which it also details politics (a trait which triggered the rise of Hizb-ut Tahrir).

While religions leave holes in some dimensions, it must be noted that all individuals have a complete set, thus the rest must have been acquired from outside of religious beliefs (by the way, this model of belief is compatible with Dawkins’ assertions that religious people nowadays actually abide to modern humanism, and that Stalin’s atheism is irrelevant to his dictatorship). To illustrate, consider my interpretation of liberalism as pictured above — a Christian, who received no political suggestions from his or her religion, may then decide to follow an external source such as this. In this case, liberalism would fill the gap on politics, but would then compete or blend with his or her Christianity in matters of ethics.

Now, on to the main topic: atheism is simply a condition which describes metaphysical belief. It should be blindingly obvious, but as I said, too many have mistaken it for a wholesale exchange for religion. It does not work that way — the ethical spectrum, for example. In most people, this is governed almost exclusively by religion, and by deconverting to atheism, it indeed would leave a gap. Of course, the atheist may afterward adopt things like humanism or nihilism, but this bears repeating. Atheism offers no comments on morality.

We could relate this to, obviously, the seemingly holier-than-thou and smarter-than-thou attitude present in many of the new wave atheists, though, to be fair there are at least just as many humble and respectable (new wave) non-believers. This trend, I do not get it; in the light of the aforesaid belief model, for a born-again atheist to claim moral superiority over religionists is not too much unlike a former Democrat claiming to know better about automobiles after switching to the Republican Party.

Oh, well, not that absurd, but still.

Prison Break

This is more like a rant, and as such, I do not prepare any meaningful answers to all the questions that might arise when my readers churn through the paragraphs above. I have nothing to say on Obama’s inauguration, I have nothing to say about homosexuality, incestuous relationships, and paedophilia, I have nothing to say on ethics. All I am trying to establish here is that I would like to express my concern on the atmosphere in which freethought (Dawkinsian atheism in particular) is now viewed — careful approach must be taken lest freethought will be dismissed by its opponents as merely a naïve, teenish, and arrogant subculture rather than a serious metaphysical position.

It is then misleading, philosophically flawed, and strategically unwise to present freethought as some kind of panacea — this is really no better than the Taliban who offered the Wahhabist version of the Sharia as some sort of perfect solution (which resulted in such a sad regime that, for my money, was worse than what I could do while blindfolded). Freethinkers must not presume that religion is some kind of plague, after abandoning which one would automatically become a saint. Being an atheist does not make one automatically pro-choice, or pro-human rights, or pro-separation of church and state. It does not make one automatically pro-science nor anti-superstitions. It does not make one automatically support homosexuality and not incest. A komodo dragon is an atheist and all it does is to lay all day. I request that the practice of presenting atheism as some kind of moral and intellectual elitism be stopped — it is at best a disservice to freethought itself.

Upon leaving religion, the ethical spectrum of one’s belief is inevitably be filled with a collage of ethical doctrines from various sources; the zeitgeist, cultural values, former religion’s remaining ethical philosophy, or the ethical beliefs reflected by the writings which persuaded him or her to deconvert in the first place. It is this that oftentimes be mistaken as the default values of freethought. Except that it’s not.

I’m not saying that ultimately atheists are bound to a life of no moral compass, it could even be an objectively good thing, as you would then start to formulate your ethics in better manners. I’m saying that it is infuriating — for theists and otherwise — to see an atheist feeling that he or she is morally superior (and got everything figured out) just because he or she holds an atheistic worldview. Some thinkers coined the term “fundamentalist atheist”, but it does not work for me; it is simpler. There are good theists, there are annoying theists. The same goes for any demographic; atheists, agnostics, postmodernists, anarchists, or Jonas Brothers fans (though the last one might be debatable).

Amongst the freethought community, it is common to compare religious ideas to prisons. Freethinkers broke free from their shackles, and became free. It is a good metaphor, but I must remind them (and myself) that when prisoners broke free, they would lost their daily meal and shelter; then they must set on a quest to find the replacements. On their own two feet and their own two hands.

* * *

(p.s. If you’re interested, William Saletan wrote about the homosexuality-and-incest matter on Slate [link], but purely on legal and pragmatic grounds. Ah, it is frustrating that every time you come up with a new idea, you find out that somebody had suggested it before! Ryan North called this “pre-emptive plagiarism“, which is a quaint choice.)

39 thoughts on “Apples and Durians

  1. Shit! After plurking now a long and intellectual english post!
    I get a headache soon after reading this.

    Now for the discussion :
    I always think homosexuality is wrong because my religion said so. Is not for homosexuality per se, but for the sex. After I read Bible carefully, I found that God only condemn “having sex men with men and women with women, it is disgust in front of God”. They always say, “Is the sin not the sinner”

    In Christianity, I found many homosexual that choose celibacy, they still have the urge, but choose not to follow it.

    But still, that not the main focus for this post right…

    Btw, I still wondering what you mean by “Christian de facto belief” that covers all topics there? I know my belief cover Metaphysic, Epistomology, and Ethic. And I know people that use it as political view (The right-wing). But Aesthetic and Logic?

  2. what to be noted is that there are many, (perhaps too many) misunderstanding that the so-called ‘freethought’ or ‘atheism’ leads to the free-or-better phase of humanity. which of course, can be misleading on the context.

    say anything about liberalism, freethought, or (to narrower context) atheism — detesting the so-called ‘fundamentalism within religion’, should it not be carefully thought and composed, they may lead to not-so-different states. liberal fundamentalist? freethought bigotry? whatever you would like to call them.:mrgreen:

    but one point to be noted on atheism (add liberalism in the process) is that they lack basis of what religions have been established with — some concept, prime cause, or merely basis on deciding ‘appropriate’ and ‘morality’. religions have holy scriptures (whether they might have been forged through time is another thing) so that they have been able to maintain a complete (or nearly complete) set of guidance to society.

    while atheism (again, add liberalism in the process) tend to view ‘morality’ as in ‘zeitgeist’ — without a base case to begin with. to the worst extent it’s some sort of endless recursion; how do you define ‘morality’? in the end, everything is probably plausible: we can’t have gay marriage back then, and now it’s here. who says that we wouldn’t have incestuous marriage anytime in the future? who would even says that there wouldn’t even be, say, children marriage allowed?

    in the end it’s all about zeitgeist (which may lead: everything can be made possible). not that it’s bad (and not that religions are that good either), but religions do have solid basis on this area. recursion of redefining morality and values without base case tends to lead to confusion at the average — society sustainability to the very worst.

  3. Ah, it is frustrating that every time you come up with a new idea, you find out that somebody had suggested it before

    *OOT*
    The same with us in science scientific community. I have ever heard about an ex-PhD-student who had written a long rough work for his research. One day he discovered that what he had done had been published by somebody else, then immediately he threw his paper to garbage bin in a big disappointment.

    *lospokus*

  4. @ dnial

    I always think homosexuality is wrong because my religion said so. Is not for homosexuality per se, but for the sex.

    Very interesting.

    Btw, I still wondering what you mean by “Christian de facto belief” that covers all topics there? I know my belief cover Metaphysic, Epistomology, and Ethic. And I know people that use it as political view (The right-wing). But Aesthetic and Logic?

    Ah, that’s the de facto belief of a Christian; drawn from religious and secular influences. It is to illustrate that while Christianity does not teach logic or aesthetics, a Christian will inevitably learn about it somewhere else.

    @ yud1

    Indeed. Freethought has an upper hand when it comes to scientific matters, but I do not see any reason to consider it morally superior. It may be said that some religions teach some very bad ideas, but to be freed from it does not make one moral.

    but one point to be noted on atheism (add liberalism in the process) is that they lack basis of what religions have been established with

    No, I think what the “guilty” atheists did was to adhere to secular humanism (which DOES include working moral codes), but not properly. To illustrate:

    *) What they think they did: Quit religion, be an atheist, and still be moral; because of atheism.
    *) What they actually did: Quit religion, be an atheist, and adhere to the moral codes their fellow atheists adhere to (mostly liberalism, humanism, etc.)
    *) What the should have done: Quit religion, be an atheist, and learn humanism/Rand objectivism/consequentialism etc. for ethics.

    In short, atheism is being mistaken for humanism. You don’t “adhere to atheism” no more than you can “adhere to theism”. No moral codes! Atheism/theism is just conditions of metaphysical belief.

    while atheism (again, add liberalism in the process) tend to view ‘morality’ as in ‘zeitgeist’ — without a base case to begin with. to the worst extent it’s some sort of endless recursion; how do you define ‘morality’? in the end, everything is probably plausible

    See above. It’s not atheism they’re actually adhering to, it’s humanism/liberalism/objectivism/pragmatism or a blend of many.

    * * *

    In short, what I’m establishing here is; comparing religion to atheism is like comparing apples and oranges durians. And I think you’re still comparing them as if they’re substitutable…😕

    @ lambrtz

    Is there any way to check this…? I grow worried.

  5. Is there any way to check this…? I grow worried.

    Literature review. Read books, Philosophy journals and papers, newspapers, listen to dialogues, interviews, debates, discussions…find out whether your idea has been suggested by others. Researchers in all areas grow in big worry too.

    But you were “just” ranting aren’t you? IMO no need to do this.

    Sorry I cannot comment about this post. It’s just…not my area of expertise @_@
    I think I will just sit down here and enjoying the discussion🙂
    (and if there are trolls, I would be more than happy :mrgreen:)
    *kidding*

    Nevertheless a part of this post kind of describes what is happening to me…I guess:mrgreen:
    So thank you for that, I previously didn’t know how that could happen.🙂

  6. @ gentole

    Hahaha, ternyata karena itu toh blogosfer jadi sepi? Akhir tahun memang sibuk sepertinya.

    @ lambrtz

    Will there be trolls? I have doubts.

    BTW, what is “happening” to you?😕

  7. Well, I once grew as a quite literal adherent. For instance, I used to be strictly against hair-colouring, for the Holy Book says that it’s not man’s right to change his/her hair colour (I forget the exact verse).

    Now, while I am still a follower of my religion, I tend to adopt the more liberal thought and less literal understanding of Holy Book, and even don’t always agree to what they say when responding to social issues. Developing my own school of thought, I guess:mrgreen:
    I forget how this started, but, yeah, I just suddenly realise that I am like this.

    I think it is described in your section Dimension of Beliefs, that while a person can be an adherent of a certain religion, s/he can have another ideological platform in the same exact layer as religion. I mean, in the paragraph starting with:

    While religions leave holes in some dimensions…

  8. Ngomong-ngomong soal pedofilia dan homoseksual, saya baru nyadar: Sementara kaum liberal melihat pedofilia sebagai hal yg negatif dan homoseksual sebagai hal yg netral, sebaliknya para fundamentalis ekstrim melihat homoseksual itu negatif dan pedofilia (a.k.a mengawini anak ‘di bawah umur’) cenderung netral.😕

  9. In short, what I’m establishing here is; comparing religion to atheism is like comparing apples and oranges durians. And I think you’re still comparing them as if they’re substitutable…

    well of course, but what I meant to say was, the ‘atheism’ that is being promoted still fails (in terms that have yet to claim majority) because it has been unable to completely substitute religions — considerations as previously stated.it is to be noted that on the first place, atheism was projected to be counter to religions. CMIIW on this.

    religions have been able to stand on its own, but as you have stated atheism was never completely independent; humanism-liberalism etc are what follows due to its limited domain. but even with that religions have not been overtaken yet by atheism (and its conjunctions) that follow.

    I guess the intention wasn’t made clear on the previous post, my bad.😉

    *) What they think they did: Quit religion, be an atheist, and still be moral; because of atheism.
    *) What they actually did: Quit religion, be an atheist, and adhere to the moral codes their fellow atheists adhere to (mostly liberalism, humanism, etc.)
    *) What the should have done: Quit religion, be an atheist, and learn humanism/Rand objectivism/consequentialism etc. for ethics.

    anyway, by some definition twist: if we define ‘atheism’ with the literal ‘atheism’ compounded with (humanism/consequentialism/etc), wouldn’t that make closer of apple to apple?

    it would be interesting though, but I guess it would be on different topic.

  10. Enlightening.

    Yes, atheism offers nothing; it is no more than a belief that the God that spoke to Moses, Jesus, Muhammad — and probably Lia Eden and Musadiq — does not exist, that it is 100 percent illusory. You made a good point when you said that being an atheist did not make one abandon his/her religious values. To paraphrase Zizek, we may celebrate Christmas and Lebaran, or even practice the Judaic golden rule, but we don’t take those things “seriously”.

    Indeed, being an atheist does not make one liberal also. As we know, an atheist/agnostic Buddhist is a vegan without having to believe in any deities. It is therefore fallacious to say that atheism replace religions [its holy scriptures, its prophets, its traditions, its superstitions, etc.], for atheism covers aqidah only. But, in my view, it is perfectly understandable to ask Dawkinsian atheists, who are campaigning through out the world that “religion is the root of all evil”, to offer a set, or many sets, of values to replace what they have callously destroyed: God, and consequently his religions.

    You have to remember that the Gods that atheists killed include Yahweh/Father/Allah, the “person” believed to be the sender of prophets and holy books from which Muslims, Christians and Jews look for moral guidance. Saying he doesn’t exist is akin to saying that the laws/scriptures he has given us are forgery, not worthy as “guidance”. Yes, an atheist, theoretically, can apply his former religion’s values after discarding his belief, but, considering his/her attitude toward the creator of those values, can he really, wholeheartedly apply them, without feeling hypocritical?

    Atheism, as you describes, is cool, for it elevates human being as an autonomous, independent subject, the creator of all things: politics, ethics, aesthetic. And again, I agree with you that atheism does not necessarily make you liberal, pro-gay, pro-abortion, etc. But, alas, being an atheist naturally leads you to nihilism, and many atheists, you may disagree with me, seem to be at a loss on how to say which is “good” or “bad”. As they mostly “hate” the Abrahamic God, they simply vote for anything that is against Him, or his religions.

    Can’t resist. Mesti komentar!

  11. Logikanya seperti ini :

    Pernikahan dalam agama didefinisikan antara pria dan wanita.
    Seks di luar pernikahan adalah dosa.
    Pernikahan homoseksualitas bukan antara pria dan wanita sehingga tidak sah secara agama.
    Sehingga seks dalam homoseksualitas pasti dilakukan di luar nikah.
    Sehingga seks dalam hubungan homoseksualitas pasti itu dosa.

    “But hate the sin, love the sinner” is not as easy as it sound. Aku ngerasa kasihan karena banyak orang men-judge mereka sebagai pendosa dan mengecam dan mengutuk. Padahal, jika dipikir, yang ngecam toh juga sama pendosanya (ad hominem sih, but… let the purest cast the first stone.).

    Aksi yang aku pilih (dan seharusnya dipilih orang lain) adalah, menerima mereka apa adanya (asal jgn jatuh cinta aja :P). Lets God be their judge, not me…

    @catshade

    Ngomong-ngomong soal pedofilia dan homoseksual, saya baru nyadar: Sementara kaum liberal melihat pedofilia sebagai hal yg negatif dan homoseksual sebagai hal yg netral, sebaliknya para fundamentalis ekstrim melihat homoseksual itu negatif dan pedofilia (a.k.a mengawini anak ‘di bawah umur’) cenderung netral.😕

    Bukannya cat sudah pernah mbahas ini, dengan mengaitkan dengan zitgeist (or something, I forget). Bahwa di masa lalu usia harapan hidup lebih pendek, jenjang pendidikan lebih pendek (atau bahkan nggak ada buat cewek, cewek dipingit sampai dia menikah di budaya Jawa, bahkan nggak boleh keluar dari halaman rumah), sehingga wajar pernikahan di bawah umur. Dan agama mengadopsinya karena di masa lalu itu hal yang netral, dan terbawa sampai sekarang.

    That’s fundamentalism issue, new age, new challenge, old approach, old interpretation.

  12. Spertinya penjelasan yud1 dan mas gentole kok lebih membumi ya?😛

    *) What they actually did: Quit religion, be an atheist, and adhere to the moral codes their fellow atheists adhere to (mostly liberalism, humanism, etc.)

    Lalu, isme2 itu jadi kitab sucinya?😕

  13. @ lambrtz

    Yes, that’s how it works.:mrgreen:

    @ Catshade

    Ini saya ga tau kenapa; zeitgeist barangkali? Gimana, ada penjelasan dari sisi psikologi?

    @ yud1

    Agreed.

    What makes religion unique is that while it is a set of beliefs covering many spectrums/dimensions/domains/whatever, it will shatter completely when its metaphysics is challeged.

    anyway, by some definition twist: if we define ‘atheism’ with the literal ‘atheism’ compounded with (humanism/consequentialism/etc), wouldn’t that make closer of apple to apple?

    It would, but there’s plenty problems that might arise. Like, how it will be more complicated than ever: that kind of “atheism” is vastly different than religions, as to think strictly secularly means that you’d have to define each domains more concisely.

    This is different than most religions, which are more like a “buy metaphysics get ethics and politics for free!” deal.

    @ gentole

    Ah, that’s the sentence that kept eluding me! “Atheism covers aqidah only”.

    But, in my view, it is perfectly understandable to ask Dawkinsian atheists, who are campaigning through out the world that “religion is the root of all evil”, to offer a set, or many sets, of values to replace what they have callously destroyed: God, and consequently his religions.

    Ah, I slightly disagree. While I protest my atheist friends for oversimplifying ethical issues, I think my pals the apologists have their own problem: they appeal too much to consequences. Unlike their passionate kins the fundamentalists, the pure-faith proponents object to atheism mostly (if not exclusively) because of whatever that entails it. The “but that would be bad!” defense.

    Back to the topic, so it is reasonable, yes, to ask atheists about what can they give in return, but I don’t think atheists have any obligations whatsoever to provide any. If I were to show my friend that he or she made a mistake on his or her mathematical equation, I should have no further duty to guide him or her to the correct one. Whether my friend suffer afterwards is irrelevant to my conclusion. It’s like a comic I once read (can I use a comic as an example?) where a woman, a member of a cult, cried that she had lost everything when the cult turned out to be a fraud.

    So, not “wrong”, but not “the right thing to do” either.

    (BTW, the “root of all evil” phrase was coined by Channel 4, not Dawkins himself, who publicly expressed disapproval of the choice.)

    Yes, an atheist, theoretically, can apply his former religion’s values after discarding his belief, but, considering his/her attitude toward the creator of those values, can he really, wholeheartedly apply them, without feeling hypocritical?

    I get your point, but what’s the difference between an atheist taking Jesus as an imperfect philosophical teacher than any monotheist taking Buddha, Lao Tzu, etc. as such?

    And it’s of course exclusively Jesus. So far as I know, no secular thinker draw any moral codes from the Old Testament.

    For now, my stance is that when freed from religion, one will not adhere to despicable libertinage nor moral utopia: one will again be enslaved by the mighty zeitgeist.

    But, alas, being an atheist naturally leads you to nihilism, and many atheists, you may disagree with me, seem to be at a loss on how to say which is “good” or “bad”.

    This I agree; switching from theism to atheism (in the Abrahamic to Dawkinsian sense) is like entering pure anarchism. It is not as chaotic as you suggested — atheistic communities exist today and they don’t fornicate 24/7; people will naturally arrange some social contracts — it is indeed not as utopic as a Dawkinsian might imagine.

    they mostly “hate” the Abrahamic God, they simply vote for anything that is against Him, or his religions.

    This I never understand; I have no monotheistic belief, but the passionate, bias-inducing hatred Dawkinsians pose to Yahweh, I don’t get it at all.

    @ dnial

    Hehe, liberal banget.😀 Setuju deh.

    @ jensen99

    Skriptur itu memang sumber isme-nya agama.😕

  14. i once heard that the basic principle of life in this universe is to multiply, to continue the existence of life by producing offsprings. but, homosexuality cannot, thus it would be like… to deny the basic needs of all living beings, that is to multiply (dot com).😕

  15. @ sitijenang

    In a purely animal-ish sense, yes. But that is not what we’re all aiming for and that must change: even if nature intended us to be as such, we must rebel.

    I think Darwinian thinkers have written essays and books on against the simple idea of multiplying, but I haven’t read any.

  16. btw, saya bru denger dari berita kalau paus benecditus mau menyelamatkan kaum homo dan transjender🙂

  17. Mohon maaf sebelumnya ,bila saya lebih menyorot dari sisi Inaugurasi Obama, silakan Kopral menghapus bila tak berkenan.
    Ketika saya membaca di HuffPo ttg hal ini yang ada dalam pikiran saya, mungkin nanti Ratna Sarumpaet akan melakukan hal yang sama bila ,dengan satu keajaiban, menjadi Presiden ,dengan mengundang Abu Bakar Baasyir untuk memberi siraman rohani.🙂
    Back to topic, sebagai seorang freethinker saya rasa kita harus membuka pintu pada setiap orang , apalagi orang yang juga membuka pintunya bagi kita. Rick Warren telah membuka pintu komunitasnya bagi Obama ,juga McCain, dan memberi mereka hampir 1 jam/ lebih untuk memaparkan visi masing-masing. Jadi ketika Rick diminta datang untuk memohon pada Tuhan (mungkin khusus Tuhan-Nya bukan Tuhan kelompok LGBT ataupun kelompok progresif🙂 ) agar Obama diberkahi dalam menjalankan tugasnya ,dengan waktu yang mungkin hanya 10 menitan, rasanya pintu White House memang tidak sesempit yang dibayangkan orang-orang.
    Rick sendiri mulai membawa posisinya semakin ke tengah, dia menghapus beberapa pernyataan di websitenya yang menyinggung kelompok LGBT. Dia juga menyempatkan diri berkunjung ke salah satu kantong LGBT di Hollywood ,mampir di toko buku yang dikelola oleh gay disana dan membeli beberapa buku terkait LGBT disana. Dia juga mengaku sebagai fans Melissa Etheridge, penyanyi lesbian peraih Grammy Award. Mungkin sekadar cover-up ,tapi seperti kata Nathaniel Frank ‘Progressives should use the episode as a teachable moment: to remind ourselves that engagement is a principle we embrace’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathaniel-frank/should-progressives-engag_b_152879.html

  18. @ rai

    Wah, kelihatannya Kekristenan semakin bergerak ke arah yang progresif, terutama Gereja Anglikan dan Katolik.🙂

    @ Nenda Fadhilah

    Tidak ada.

    @ gentole

    Mungkin tak ada yang perlu diprotes?:mrgreen:

    @ oddworld

    Saya sendiri melihat reaksi kaum liberal sedikit berlebihan; sebab rasanya kehadiran Pastor Warren tak akan banyak mengubah apa-apa, toh invokasi itu cuma ritual simbolis saja. Kalaupun Obama tak punya simpati pada politik konservatif a la Warren, justru ini mestinya bisa dianggap manuver yang bagus. Servis buat memperbaiki citra tanpa menodai kebijakannya dia.😀

    Apalagi kalau setelah itu Warren lantas jadi lebih progresif lagi, rasanya ini berarti semua jadi senang tho?😛

    Kecuali Chomsky tentunya.😉:mrgreen:

  19. obama’s cabinet has been taking shape like a really exciting episode of the West wing. there was all this hype about abe lincoln, which was cool..for a while. but last time i heard, obama will be travelling ala lincoln, by train, to his inauguration ceremony and on top of that he’ll be sworn in using the same bible
    lincoln had used. the writers of this script are getting out of control. so i stopped watching. i reckon the honey moon will be over soon anyways, what with all the financial turmoil just waiting to crap all over the party.

    i watched that video of chomsky,which i regret not seeing sooner. i realized two things. one, chomsky seems to have aged in the past several months. two, Obama’s cabinet appointees might be nothing more than a PR stunt with empty rhetoric. so, i’ve lowered my expectations.

    i too rolled my eyes when the left wing barked at the mere fact that rick warren was invited to the inauguration. kok repot, i thought. but then again i too was part of the left wing that barked at warren’s comment on pedophilia, incest, and homosexuality.
    it so happens that i fall into that demographic of atheists that often times sneer at what religious nuts say in public.
    when i say religious nuts i mean the likes of jerry falwell. After two decades worth of mind numbing indoctrination, I couldn’t tell apart the religious from the non-religious. And so I was left kind of bitter. I wouldn’t say religion is the root of all evil but I do think that its comparable to placebo, you could do without it.

    Anyways.
    After reading your stuff, I feel that I might need to reassess my position on a few things. It was a very enlightening essay.
    *sekarang minum panadol dulu*

  20. Can we talk about Obama here dear corporal ? Please ? We’ll try to keep it as civilised as possible🙂
    @Irene
    Saya rasa Kabinet Obama masih lumayan. Saya utamanya terkesan dengan pemilihan seorang fisikawan pemenang nobel sebagai Menteri Energi ,tentu fantasi terliar saya mengimpikan 40 tahun lagi kita bisa mulai merakit wahana luar angkasa ala startrek (hyperdrive engine maybe?)🙂 Meski begitu cukup kiranya Steven Chu ,di akhir masa jabatannya kelak, bisa merangkai berbagai potensi energi yang terbarukan di bumi ini untuk lebih affordable.

    Another bold choice is Admiral(ret) Dennis Blair as Director of National Intelligence. Utamanya karena Obama berani menunjuk Dennis di tengah kritik kelompok pembela HAM atas peran yang dimainkan Dennis sebagai komandan US Pacific Command di tengah krisis Indonesia di akhir 90-an. Menurut mereka Dennis harusnya tidak menunjukkan kedekatan dengan Jenderal (purn) Wiranto ,hingga militer Indonesia dapat leluasa bergerak di Aceh, Papua dan Timor Leste. Let’s clear some point, saya sepenuhnya mendukung penegakan HAM di seluruh penjuru Indonesia. Tapi saat yang sama saya tidak ingin ‘Balkan story’ baru di Indonesia. Tindakan Dennis yang tetap membuka jalur komunikasi dengan militer Indonesia menurut saya cukup membantu mencegah terjadinya kejadian itu. Pilihan Obama atas dirinya juga mengurangi ketakutan sementara pihak bahwa Democratic-heavy USA akan mengurangi kedekatan Amerika dengan Indonesia.

    And about all Lincoln gimmick, bagi saya sekadar penghargaan Obama akan sumbangsih Lincoln yang memungkinkan seorang seperti Obama menjadi tuan rumah di White House. Meski saya rasa ,the train travelling session is Joe ideas, he’s a train man and it’s his last chance to enjoy train travelling for next 4 (hopefully 8) years.🙂

  21. @ Irene

    obama’s cabinet has been taking shape like a really exciting episode of the West wing.

    I have no knowledge of The West Wing aside of this infamous scene in which President Bartlett humiliates an Ann Coulter-like writer (which was quite amusing; “nobody sits”, he says), but I digress.

    So. In short, I can’t relate. But anyway, the Lincoln-like charade is indeed amusing. Short-lived, maybe (the economy looming over us all), but still amusing.

    i watched that video of chomsky,which i regret not seeing sooner. i realized two things. one, chomsky seems to have aged in the past several months. two, Obama’s cabinet appointees might be nothing more than a PR stunt with empty rhetoric.

    Ah, watching people age… I remember noticing how George Carlin growing pretty old, and he then dropped dead. Scary. Maybe Chomsky’s days are numbered. I mean he’s old. Wait, dang, I strayed from the right topic again.

    From what I heard, the left wing think of Obama’s choice as either disappointing (and/or confusing) or downright awesome. But I don’t really get American politics anyways. I think that comment was PZ Myers’ or something.

    i too rolled my eyes when the left wing barked at the mere fact that rick warren was invited to the inauguration. kok repot, i thought.

    “Kok repot” indeed.

    it so happens that i fall into that demographic of atheists that often times sneer at what religious nuts say in public.
    when i say religious nuts i mean the likes of jerry falwell. After two decades worth of mind numbing indoctrination, I couldn’t tell apart the religious from the non-religious. And so I was left kind of bitter. I wouldn’t say religion is the root of all evil but I do think that its comparable to placebo, you could do without it.

    I would agree. It’s all in the zeitgeist.

    Cheers.

    @ oddworld

    Can we talk about Obama here dear corporal ? Please ? We’ll try to keep it as civilised as possible🙂

    By all means. I don’t moderate comments.

    * * *

    Saya tak ahli dan paham soal urusan rumah tangga AS, jadi ya hanya bisa berharap saja. Lagipula Obama kayaknya lumayan bisa diandalkan.

    Asal jangan [ini] yang terjadi.:mrgreen:

    next 4 ( hopefully 8 ) years.🙂

    Blasphemy!

    PALIN-SCHWARZENEGGER 2012!
    😆

  22. K. geddoe:

    For now, my stance is that when freed from religion, one will not adhere to despicable libertinage nor moral utopia: one will again be enslaved by the mighty zeitgeist.

    which reminds me about the irony of being atheist — people trying to set themselves free from what so-called religions, but in the end humans are never free to begin with; there are values in society (be it moral contracts, zeitgeist, or whatever it might be).

    I guess humans never really need to be that ‘free’; they probably only need the symbolism of being ‘free’. in the end it’s probably lonesome and tiring journey — as an atheist one might debunk myth and such of the so-called religions, and suddenly the ‘libertinage’ or ‘freedom from boundaries’ might turned out banal (and to some extent, probably meaningless) as well.

    take, for example. when we decide to detest (and debunk, or make battlegrounds against) religions, does it really set us free? I don’t think so. in the end it’s only about counter-religions trying to claim over another; sometimes with bigotry and arrogance as well.

    that, IMHO, would make less difference than the current state of religions — aside from the fact this newcomer doesn’t have God(s) to begin with. what next?😉

  23. @ yud1

    which reminds me about the irony of being atheist — people trying to set themselves free from what so-called religions, but in the end humans are never free to begin with

    Depends. We all should agree that some religions are worth breaking out from; e.g. the classic example of violent ancient, sacrifice-laden religions. To reject the idea of setting oneself free from what is deemed to be false dogmas, solely because we’re never really free, would fall into the perfect solution fallacy. After all, much as we hate to admit it, some religions are better than the others. Compare, say, the religion of Quetzalqoatl and Texcatlipoca to Jainism.

    But then again it depends. For some maybe “inside” is a friendlier world from “outside” and vice versa. As for whether modern religions “worth breaking out from”, I cannot say.

  24. To reject the idea of setting oneself free from what is deemed to be false dogmas, solely because we’re never really free, would fall into the perfect solution fallacy.

    and how do you define ‘false dogma’? some like those beliefs (‘religion’?) dated back around Inca or Maya period were deemed ‘false’ due to its ‘bloodbath’ nature, violence and such. now we probably have currently (modern) religions to be deemed false due to them disallowing homosexuality and such.

    it’s probably perfect solution fallacy, but I guess what mattered then is when the ‘supposed-to-be-different-alternatives’ end up being not-so-different with the one it’s designated to be against. of course, I wasn’t saying we shouldn’t quit religion nor we shouldn’t detest atheism — nor do I reject the idea of ‘setting oneself free from false dogmas’ — but as I think about it again, suddenly it becomes somewhat banal.

    by what definition do we define ‘false’ or ‘true’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? anything can be possible. to be noted that I’m not promoting religions here.

  25. @ yud1

    and how do you define ‘false dogma’?

    I said “what is deemed to be false dogma”. What this implies is, that if someone deem his or her previous religion as a set of false dogmas, even if he or she would still be “imprisoned” by the zeitgeist, he or she would think that the breaking-free worth the trouble.

    Of course, outside entities such as you or I might simply think of the whole thing as a futile exercise and laugh it off. Can’t tell which is truer.

    The conflict between our suggestions here is that I take the whole issue as something subjective and up to each man or woman to decide.

    to be noted that I’m not promoting religions here.

    I did not get that impression anyways.🙂

  26. but as I think about it again, suddenly it becomes somewhat banal.

    Yes, it is. What is “belief” anyway? It does not necessarily make you a saint, or someone who always abides by biblical/qur’anic rules.

  27. @ gentole

    It gets tiring over time, yes.

    But when you think about it, if that “belief” makes you a saint, noone would complain about it in the first place. It is the disputes and conflicts that are related to the belief that makes it a frequent source of criticism.

    People made the beliefs of Amrozi and Imam Samudra a pressing matter not out of philosophical sport, but because buildings are being blown up and people are being killed. Whether that act is in accordance to the belief itself is another issue entirely.

    (Note that I said “belief” instead of “religion”)

    So I think I can understand the seemingly abundant interest given to this brand of banality.😀 In a purely academic sense it is banal, yes absolutely, but in practice, not so much.

  28. @oddworld:

    well now that you mention it, saya pernah denger dari mana lupa, biden memang selalu naik kereta dari his home state to washington. and yeah, it may well be just obama paying a tribute to his role model. and maybe the media just blew everything out of proportion. who knows.

    i agree w/ you in that most of his picks are pretty impressive and bold, terutama untuk bidang science. its refreshing and also encouraging to see that he makes an effort to not politicize science, dgn cara memilih scientists over politicians to be in charge. just last year members of congress (members of the climate change committee) had to invite top notch scientists to sit in D.C. and tell them what global warming is. kan malang banget tuh…

    dan satu lagi, it seems that obama will allow scientists and researchers to be more leluasa, by opening doors to research projects (like stem-cell) that have been heavily regulated in the past. but i think its worth remembering that the real battleground is within the senate and house of rep., where most of the lobbying takes place, not necessarily in the white house. it’s painful and tiring to see congressmen/women debating ‘when life begins’ when scientists could be making some progress. also, with the financial crisis in the way, the administration has already started to rearrange its priorities. so it could be that science and healthcare (but i gave up on healthcare a long time ago) will take a back seat.

    but, you know, fingers crossed.

    i’m not familiar with Dennis Blair. i had no idea he had anything to do with indonesia (i’ll make a note to look into that). i agree that it was a bold move. this pick is exactly what some ppl on the left end would say is crazy. first he picks Bush’s sec of defense and now Blair. thats like saying we’ll make sure the troops will stay in the middle east forever. but then again i dont know Blair’s position.

    i hate to be cynical but these bold moves might have been driven by the force to please all sides. as you know, the right has criticized obama for his stance on national security. mungkin pilihan2 dia untuk defense dan security itu semacam upeti…haha..i dont know..

    but, you know, fingers crossed.

  29. @K.geddoe

    It is the disputes and conflicts that are related to the belief that makes it a frequent source of criticism.

    I think it is so unfair to blame the belief in God for most of, if not all, the atrocities in the world. The bloody conflicts arising from theological disputes are no different than any other conflicts triggered by, say, ethnic differences or economic injustices/discrepancies. A belief in God could make someone like Osama bin Laden, but it can also make a great sage like Jalaludin Rumi or an empathic spiritualist like Deepak Chopra.

    In any case, as you said, being an atheist does not make one free from conflicts either. He/she will still have to face another dispute and conflict, be it in the matter of philosophy (worldview), ethics, politics or economics. She/he will have to decide and the world will not always concur with what she/he has chosen. Stalin and Tan Malaka are both communists but they are at odds regarding the status of religions, especially Islam. An atheist can vote for capitalism or socialism, although history has shown us that the two are irreconcilable. The belief in God, many say, is inimical to both ideas. Yet, thousands of communists died in Indonesia because Soeharto believed that we need to embrace capitalism in order to prosper.

    You see, I have thought about this for quite some time, and I come to the conclusion that this thing we call “belief” is not really a big thing. I mean, the Palestinians dare fight the Israeli soldiers because they were angry at them, not because they believe in Allah. They are oppressed. Israel has stolen their land. They want to fight back, with bombs installed in their bodies. Even though the Palestinians were atheists, they would still fight Israel! We are the products of our unique circumstances. The main goal of the suicide bombers is not 72 virgins, but the demise of the US-Israeli supremacy, if not simple revenge, a vendetta. I believe a true Darwinian will come up with better explanations on why we are as we are today — exploitative, egoist, greedy, altruist, violent, cooperative, loving, caring etc. I don’t think Darwin will say one is “evil” because he believes in God.

    Really, you don’t have to tell people that God does not exist to make them less hostile towards others. We can’t just tell bin Laden that God does not exist to make him disband al-Qaeda. The belief in God, I believe, is as harmless as atheism. Theism, like atheism, may entail many things, but it could not be held responsible for what follows. See, it’s the same. What is belief anyway? Even God in the Koran says that “belief” is not enough.😀

  30. My intellectual seems leveling up 1 points just by reading the comments.

    Using gentole’s examples I deduce that:
    I think Al-Qaeda and terorist use belief as tools to gather members. It’s as simple as that.

    In Palestine, belief is mean to amplify burning hatred towards Israel oppression.

    In Indonesia, belief are use as political tools for electing congressmen or executives.

    In those cases, belief is just a tools. A unifying, political ads, mass gathering tools, or something like that.

    Because, majority people only trust people with set of belief similar to them. Hell, I won’t trust if my friend says if I do suicide bombing I will go straight to heaven. It just because that belief won’t comply in my belief set.

  31. @ Irene

    No comments. Ga ngerti politik.😀

    @ gentole

    I think it is so unfair to blame the belief in God for most of, if not all, the atrocities in the world. The bloody conflicts arising from theological disputes are no different than any other conflicts triggered by, say, ethnic differences or economic injustices/discrepancies.

    Why, yes of course. I always bear this in mind.

    What I was trying to say is, in practice it is not at all banal to criticise beliefs that contributed to incite violence. This I said with two disclaimers: 1) that it is indeed banal in a purely academic sense, and 2) that violent belief may not reflect the true nature of the said belief.

    Does it mean that it is a folly to condemn the Bali bombers then, because to criticise “Islam” is banal and it is “not pure Islam”? I think not.

    In any case, as you said, being an atheist does not make one free from conflicts either.

    Yes, of course. This should be obvious.

    You see, I have thought about this for quite some time, and I come to the conclusion that this thing we call “belief” is not really a big thing. I mean, the Palestinians dare fight the Israeli soldiers because they were angry at them, not because they believe in Allah. […] Even though the Palestinians were atheists, they would still fight Israel!

    This is true. I gave up taking the real issue as religious aeons ago, like you, and everyone should too.

    The only traces of religion left in this conflict come in two forms;

    1) As justifications. I.e. the religious Israelis quote the Torah/Bereshit for the Zion concept and convinced that they’re fighting a holy cause; and the religious Palestinians quote the Quran for the martyrdom teachings and convinced that even if they die, they’ll go straight to heaven. Chaotic bombings ensued. But then again, to religion’s defense, they’re justifications. They’re stuff to convince oneself, and even without it, people would do it anyway.

    2) The eccentric religious solidarity expressed by people outside the Middle East. I do not care even if Israel is Nazism times two and Palestine is the embodiment of peace — you shouldn’t decide to support a side in war solely because of religious solidarity, like *some* people we all know.

    I don’t think Darwin will say one is “evil” because he believes in God.

    Darwin was not an atheist. At least not a positive (let alone bigoted) one.

    he belief in God, I believe, is as harmless as atheism. Theism, like atheism, may entail many things, but it could not be held responsible for what follows.

    Yes, yes, theism is as harmless as they come. But technically the same cannot be said of religion.😕 I’m not saying that religions nowadays are necessarily harmful; but logically of course religion, just like any belief than encompasses tricky areas like ethics and politics, is prone to ideas that deserve criticism.

    When we criticise, we do not criticise one entity as a whole. A civilised criticism attack only one element and/or application of the said entity.

    @ dnial

    In those cases, belief is just a tools.

    And how does the old saying go? “A tool is how the user use it”? “A knife at the hands of a murderer differs from that at that hands of a chef”?🙂

  32. Darwin was not an atheist.

    I didn’t say he was. I just disagree with people saying that the belief in God is inherently evil, or is basically stupid, or backward etc. It’s just simply a bad logic.

    What I was trying to say is, in practice it is not at all banal to criticise beliefs that contributed to incite violence.

    Yes, everybody should criticize any ideas that incite violence.

  33. Just a quote from the father of quantum mechanics – modern scientific cosmovision – and physics Nobel prize, Werner Heisenberg,

    “From the first glass of natural science comes out Atheism, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting”.

    That means, only a mediocre at science and childishly blinded person sticks with the superficial first approach at nature.

    Whaddaya think Ged?

  34. @ gentole

    Agreed.

    @ Ary

    Francis Bacon, the father of British empiricism, and my favorite philosopher of all time (second only to Russell), said the same thing. “A little philosophy brings men to atheism, and a lot of them, to religion”.

    Of course, for every great thinker that view things in this light, there is another that say the opposite. I don’t think it means that one side is “mediocre”, it means that this is a delicate, sophisticated question, and not to be met with total convictions.

    For me, I do not wish to arrogantly claim that God does or does not exist. I shall be waiting until we reach the bottom of the glass.🙂

    * * *

    If I can comment on anything, however, that would be that I do not see any need to establish a connection between God and religion — for me the relation between God and religion is really not any more profound than the relation between Helios and the actual Sun, or Zeus and the actual Jupiter.

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