Thursday, November 01, 2007
Atheism is not a Worldview
At Spiked, Dolan Cummings comments on the recent efforts of certain atheists to build a group identity movement around atheism:
Richard Dawkins's campaign urging atheists to 'come out' and be counted, is oddly reminiscent of an evangelical rally where born-again Christians are implored to rush down to the stage.There are two things wrong with such efforts. The obvious one Cummings indicates here: Whether there is a God is just one small question in philosophy. To attempt to do anything with others who answer "No." than (perhaps, within some narrow context) build an ad hoc alliance against various attempts to desecularize the government is in fact quite a stretch.
The desire to establish atheism as an alternative identity is ultimately conservative. Rather than joining together with others who share a positive vision of the future, self-styled atheists define themselves against an external threat.
Less obvious -- but interestingly enough -- partially as a consequence of the first problem -- is that the whole notion of building a "group identity" is based on the underlying altruist assumption that the individual belongs to the group.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to have friends or allies, but before one can do that, one must know with his own mind what is best for himself -- not for some movement, or culture, or "society". Atheism is not sufficient grounds to reach the comprehensive philosophical perspective necessary to determine (for example) whether one should live one's life for its own sake or for a collective. Any given atheist may or may not have enough in common with me to be a genuine ally, so these efforts are worse than premature. Furthermore, to really appreciate this, I had to make my intellectual journey in the only way possible: alone.
By contrast, if one permits his priorities to be set by the expectations of a group to which one wants to "belong", some form of compromise is the inevitable result, even if merely in the form of withholding valid criticism. This kind of separation of one's actions from one's rational judgement is the major goal of religion and where the rubber really hits the road in terms of where it harms man.
In the case of this "identity movement", our culture is saturated with the religiously-inspired ethics of altruism, which most people will hold by default if they do not go beyond just asking whether there is a God. So this movement is inspired by and can only reinforce altruism, and prematurely end the intellectual journey of anyone who joins. Bad idea.
Who is better off in the long run? Someone who can think independently, but who, at the moment believes that there is a God? Or someone who is an atheist, but is too worried about his "group identity" to form his own opinions about other matters or challenge what "the other atheists" are saying?
Via Isaac Schrodinger comes an interesting look at the relationship between the amount of money handed over to "Palestinians" and the number of homicides they commit each year. Joe Settler's unsurprising conclusion? "You can practically estimate how many Palestinians acts of murder and terrorism will be committed in any year based on how much money they received the year before."
Some First-Wave Ska
Awhile back, I posted about ska, my favorite kind of music, which originated in Jamaica around the time it became independent. The below YouTube video plays clips of several early ska songs while showing a montage of scenes from Jamaica and England from around that time.
Among the scenes are quite a few showing legendary musicians and places of interest, such as the site of Studio One. (HT: Adrian Hester)
Today: Corrected a typo.