Oh, Mr Krauss, What Have You Done?

Regular readers here will know that I truly enjoy listening to L. Krauss. He makes some really good talking points. It saddens me that this particular video shows him being what you would call ‘not at your best’ …

I want to put some things forward here. You know me, I kind of see things differently. Firstly, the entire premise seems to be skewed to make the endeavor a failure from the start. Here were some of the questions posed and discussed.

  • Belief in God: Prohibitive or Liberating?
  • Is belief in God rational or irrational?
  • What role should religion play in our private and public lives?
  • Is science sufficient to make religion redundant?
  • Is the way forward for humanity in the 21st century a return to God or the completion of secularisation process of modernity?

Is belief in god prohibitive or liberating.

Well, you’ll have to define liberating but from the outset we can see that all the monotheistic religions use the Old Testament where we find the 10 commandments (several versions actually) and most of them start with ‘thou shalt not…’ this is not liberation, it is prohibition. There should be no argument on this. Thou shall not is a prohibition in the making. The premise here is basically screwed like a drunk monkey with no bathroom pass. To even pose the question is to try to give credence to the thought that belief in a god is liberating, though we are not told what we are liberated from.

Liberation:

  1. to set free, as from imprisonment or bondage.
  2. to free (a nation or area) from control by a foreign or oppressive government.
  3. to free (a group or individual) from social or economic constraints or discrimination, especially arising from traditional role expectations or bias.
  4. to disengage; set free from combination, as a gas.
  5. Slang. to steal or take over illegally: The soldiers liberated a consignment of cigarettes.

The opposite of liberate can be:  control strictly,  restrain,  enslave,  capture,  keep down,  inhibit,  oppress,  subjugate,  occupy,  regiment

Most of those opposites of liberate can be found in religion and religious dogma. Christians are fond of talking about their master and serving their god. Islam is all about submission to their god. The Jews are given 600+ laws to obey, including those that order them to kill offenders of the laws. This is not liberation. It is in fact the opposite of liberation.

It can fairly be said that religion and monotheistic belief is NOT liberating. It seems rather far from that in as much as it is willful enslavement to a deity, even though some folk in some societies don’t get much of a choice on whether or not they willfully submit to a deity.

Is belief in God rational or irrational?

If rational is defined as:

  1. agreeable to reason; reasonable; sensible: a rational plan for economic development.
  2. having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense: a calm and rational negotiator.
  3. being in or characterized by full possession of one’s reason; sane; lucid: The patient appeared perfectly rational.
  4. endowed with the faculty of reason: rational beings.
  5. of, pertaining to, or constituting reasoning powers: the rational faculty.

and irrational defined as the opposite of these, we have to ask what is rational about belief in a deity. We’ll stick to monotheistic belief here. The dogma of monotheism and all its doctrine are not rational in that they do not agree to reason. They in fact object to and oppose all change. Reason requires us to adjust our thinking as new information is available but the word of monotheistic gods is unchanging. The laws will not change though many ignore parts of them. It is not amenable to reason. The old testament teaches the adherent how to treat their slaves and where to get them from. The new testament that modern Christians are so fond of fails to say that slavery is bad, thus reinforcing the idea that slavery is acceptable. In the world that we live in today this is not rational. Killing those who eat certain foods or who are GLBTQ is not rational. To claim belief in a monotheistic religion requires you to accept the doctrine, holy texts, and dogma of that religion. It is not a rational thing to do in light of current society and understanding of the world.

The question appears to have been meant in the manner Is it rational to believe in a god rather than how I’ve explained it so far, but let’s consider this: Whether it is rational or not to believe in any god is hardly worth worrying about if believing in the religion is definitively irrational. Believing in a deity but not in any known religion is simple deism. Is that rational? I say it is not because there is no reason to believe in a deity. There is no credible evidence for it. There is no benefit from it. There is no rational reason to believe in a creator god. Which belief you hold determines how detrimental and caustic to society that you are. The belief in a deity is no more rational than the belief in a tooth fairy or fairies in your garden or the great pumpkin. All of them have the same evidence for existence. All of them bring the same level of benefit.

The answer is that belief in a creator god is irrational.

What role should religion play in our private and public lives?

This is a pernicious question.  Firstly because it assumes the existence of a god. If you ask this while you hold the view that there is no god or probably is no god, they you are asking what role should religious ceremony and dogma play in our lives. At this point you should already have given up on religion and moved to more rational thought. The traditions and ‘good’ things that can be found in religion can be found elsewhere and without all the dangerous bits attached. Monotheistic religion should play no role in our lives. It simply needs to go the way of the dinosaurs for which they have no explanation.  Christopher Hitchens said it best:

Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.

Is science sufficient to make religion redundant?

It seems cheap to let Hitchens do it again, but he does it so well.

Religion has run out of justifications. Thanks to the telescope and the microscope, it no longer offers an explanation of anything important. Where once it used to be able, by its total command of a worldview, to prevent the emergence of rivals, it can now only impede and retard—or try to turn back—the measurable advances that we have made.

Sometimes, true, it will artfully concede them. But this is to offer itself the choice between irrelevance and obstruction, impotence or outright reaction, and, given this choice, it is programmed to select the worse of the two.

Meanwhile, confronted with undreamed-of vistas inside our own evolving cortex, in the farthest reaches of the known universe, and in proteins and acids which constitute our nature, religion offers either annihilation in the name of god, or else the false promise that if we take a knife to our foreskins, or pray in the right direction, or ingest pieces of wafer, we shall be “saved.”

God Is Not Great

We can fairly conclude that religion is already redundant, the believers just don’t know it yet. This is true for those question we wish answered. For those that seek solace of mind through meditation religion still seems to offer a thing or two but it is not a solace that can be found no where else. Religion is redundant.

Is the way forward for humanity in the 21st century a return to God or the completion of secularisation process of modernity?

You can never go home again is a familiar refrain. Turning back is not possible without willfully forgetting all that we have learned. That is not possible in the normal course of society and would require a forced compliance. No, the only way forward is to leave the infancy of the human species and all it’s fumbling steps behind us.

Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance, and other infantile needs). Today the least educated of my children knows much more about the natural order than any of the founders of religion.

Christopher Hitchens ―God Is Not Great

Mr. Krauss is very good at explaining things. I don’t think that debates are his forte yet. He is inspirational and deserves a listen. Here are a few links to get you started.

Here is Mr Krauss doing what he does so well. Enjoy!

and more

and more … Mr Krauss is wonderful at explaining things. I don’t think that debating is his forte but explaining things… ooooh yeah, bring it on!  At the 46:00 minute mark, pay attention. ‘Nothing’ is unstable. It is profound and short and it is as important as it is profound.

Also check out the part starting at 1:09:38 or so. The Fox News bit starts at about 1:30:40 and moves into a bit about fear. Dawkins managed to remember that pigeons can be taught to do strange rituals to get food to appear out of the feeder. If you wait till the bird turns left 360 degrees and pecks on the feeder twice before dropping a pellet of food, it will repeat this. This appears to be superstition in humans, but it is not. It is the ability to repeat patterns that have beneficial outcomes. This is what we do when we learn: we repeat beneficial patterns. It is not superstition. Superstition is the ability to continue repeating patterns we have been shown do no good or making associations between events that have no connection in reality. Fear is repeated for many things even when we know it is not good or not beneficial. This is not superstition, it is stupidity based in the untrue belief that each individual is an actor with causal powers.

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