Sam Harris Contest

Sam Harris is holding a contest where the prizes are autographed copies of his books and $100.

He writes in Free Inquiry:

While I heard many silly retorts to atheism at [a recent] conference, here is a list of those most in need of deflation by freethinkers:

  1. Even though I’m an atheist, my friends are atheists, and we all get along fine without pretending to know that one of our books was written by the Creator of the universe, other people really do need religion. It is, therefore, wrong to criticize their faith.

  2. People are not really motivated by religion. Religion is used as a rationale for other aims—political, economic, and social. Consequently, the specific content of religious doctrines is beside the point.

  3. It is useless to argue against the veracity of religious doctrines, because religious people are not actually making claims about reality. Their claims are metaphorical or otherwise without real content. Hence, there is no conflict between religion and science.

  4. Religion will always be with us. The idea that we might rid ourselves of it to any significant degree is quixotic, bordering on delusional. Dawkins and other strident opponents of religious faith are just wasting their time.

I invite readers of FREE INQUIRY to provide short answers to any or all of these fantasies. The winning responses will be published in a future issue of the magazine… Correspondence should be sent to: Free Inquiry Contest, P.O. Box 664, Amherst, NY 14226-0664.

Make sure the responses are each 200 words or less!

(Via IIDB)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Sam Harris, Free Inquiry, religion, God, Christianity, Richard Dawkins, Amherst, New York, IIDB[/tags]

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I hope you’ll allow a few brief observations from a Christian on these statements:

    2. People are not really motivated by religion. Religion is used as a rationale for other aims—political, economic, and social. Consequently, the specific content of religious doctrines is beside the point.

    I’m not sure what he means by making a distinction between “religion” and these other categories. At least for some of us, the “specific content of [our] religious doctrines” do deal with political, economic, and social issues. For instance, IMHO, the New Testament’s commands to “love your enemies”, “give to the poor”, “free the oppressed”, and to “confess Jesus as Lord” (as opposed to confessing Caesar as Lord), all have very important political, economic and social implications. In fact, these implications are central to what I think the Christian faith is all about.

    3. It is useless to argue against the veracity of religious doctrines, because religious people are not actually making claims about reality. Their claims are metaphorical or otherwise without real content. Hence, there is no conflict between religion and science.

    Again, he seems to be implying a false dichotomy (probably because of what I perceive to be his underlying philosophical assumptions about what the word “reality” means). At any rate, he seems to imply that the only way to reconcile religion and science is for religious claims to be entirely “metaphorical”. That doesn’t seem patently obvious to me. There are plenty of aspects of my faith that I don’t claim as “merely” metaphorical, and yet I can still wholeheartedly embrace the discoveries of science and relative usefulness of the scientific method.

    Perhaps there are certain specific scripture passages (Genesis 1 for example) that should be read metaphorically (though I would say that was true even before science discovered anything to contradict a literal reading of the biblical Creation accounts), but that is a far, far cry from saying that the whole faith is metaphorical or without real content. For instance, I don’t take the commands I mentioned above (about loving enemies and serving the poor and oppressed) as mere metaphors. Nor is it necessary to deny the existence of God or even the divinity of Christ in order to affirm the truth of science.

    Perhaps Harris wants to create a conflict between science and faith where none need exist. Many religious fundamentalists seem to want to do that too.

    4. Religion will always be with us. The idea that we might rid ourselves of it to any significant degree is quixotic, bordering on delusional. Dawkins and other strident opponents of religious faith are just wasting their time.

    Or perhaps Dawkins and others deluded into thinking that their own philosophical/metaphysical beliefs about reality are not also another form religious faith. Religion doesn’t have to be theistic or supernaturalistic to be religion. Religion is simply whatever foundational worldview you use to base your life and decisions on. In that sense religion will always be with us. Perhaps someday we will have an entirely naturalistic and humanistic religion (or perhaps not), but it will still be religion.

    Of course, all this is strictly IMHO.

    Peace

  • Richard Wade

    Mike, as always you are a gentleman. Your responses to those statements are clear and consistently true to your point of view. I’d like to offer my angle on them:
    Although I’m as atheist as they come and pretty good at building an argument I’m not going to enter Sam’s contest because I sense something vaguely disingenuous about it. He says:

    While I heard many silly retorts to atheism at [a recent] conference, here is a list of those most in need of deflation by freethinkers:

    These are not statements that a religious person would make in refuting atheism. I get the impression that to Sam these four statements aren’t “silly retorts,” but rationalizations by atheists who do not want to take his strident position against religion. I’m guessing that he’s frustrated by the apathy implied by these particular four stances, and he wants help in “deflating” them. Maybe he’s having a tough time getting atheists as riled up has he is. It reminds me of what my agnostic father used to say, “Apathy is the greatest force in the world.”

    Imagine Sam coming up to four laid-back, easy going atheists at a conference. He says something to the effect, “You all heard my talk today. Are you going to join me in my mission to stop religion? We must stop religion now!”

    The first laid-back, easy going atheist makes statement number 1, essentially, “Aww, let people have their comforting delusions. Live and let live.”

    The second laid-back, easy going atheist makes statement number 2, essentially, “Aww, it’s all really about money, power and influence so who cares about all these arguments about God?”

    The third laid-back, easy going atheist makes statement number 3, essentially, “Aww, religion and science are like apples and oranges, so there’s no need to get excited.”

    Finally the fourth laid-back, easy going atheist makes statement number 4, essentially, “Aww, we’re always gonna to have to live with religious folk, so get used to it.”

    Whereupon Sam, trembling in frustration at his failure to rally even fellow atheists to his fiery cause, turns and leaves, realizing he needs help in countering these stances, so he cooks up a plan to pay us 100 bucks each for some good arguments.

    Sorry Sam, I don’t work that cheap.

    Now Mike, your last statement is the only part with which I might take issue, because firstly you make an assumption that Dawkins and others have “philosophical/metaphysical beliefs about reality,” and secondly you broaden the definition of “religion” so widely that it has not much definition at all. It just sort of disappears into being like the air.

    Not everyone has beliefs. Some neither believe nor counter-believe. Maybe I don’t understand what you mean by “philosophical/metaphysical,” but it is possible to have a worldview that does not employ belief; by that I mean the persistent assumption of the truth of something in the absence of evidence. An “entirely naturalistic and humanistic religion” sounds like an oxymoron to me.

    Thank you for responding to this thread and making it interesting. I would have otherwise passed it by.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Thanks for clarifying Harris’ intent for me Richard. I found your characterizations illuminating (& amusing). :)

    As for my last statement, I had a feeling that was the one folks here would take issue with. Perhaps we just disagree (and that’s cool), but I really do think that everyone has a basic system of beliefs. It’s impossible to function as a human being without one. It may not be very complex, and certainly may not include any supernatural elements, but they are still beliefs. For instance, Dawkins and Harris (among many others) seem to have a foundational belief in the validity and reliability of human reason and empirical observation. These things are necessarily foundational beliefs. They cannot be proven (e.g. you can’t use logic to prove the validity of logic; and how could you find evidence that would confirm the basic validity of empirical evidence as such?). Nor are either of these beliefs universal. Throughout history there have been philosophers who have questioned the validity and reliability of these ways of knowing.

    And it seems to me that folks like Dawkins & Harris (and probably many atheists here too, though maybe not all) don’t just have faith in rationality and empirical observation, they also believe that (epistemologically speaking) this is all there is – i.e. that these are the only two possible ways of knowing anything worth knowing about reality. They may be right about this, but again, it’s hardly a universal belief (many philosophers write about many other forms of knowledge and means of accessing truth about reality), and it’s also not clear to me how one goes about proving that reason and empirical observation really are the only means of attaining knowledge (would you use reason and observation to do it? because that seems rather circular.)

    Anyhow, I’m not at all arguing whether or not this rationalist and empiricist worldview is correct or not (it certainly has a lot to commend it), I’m only pointing out that it is a worldview – i.e. a set of foundational, a priori assumptions that simply must be accepted before any further intellectual progress can be made. And, at least the way I use the terminology, a “worldview” is essentially synonymous with “religion”. Perhaps, as you say, that is too broad a definition of religion. I don’t know. But my training was in philosophy, and from my point of view, there’s not a whole lot of difference between a philosophical worldview and a religious system. Religions are basically just philosophies with founders and rituals.

    Anyhow, please forgive me if it sounds like I’m spouting off too much abstract philosophical jargon. It all makes sense to me, but I realize that it can sometimes just seem like pointless language games to those unfamiliar with the field.

    Shalom

  • Richard Wade

    Mike,
    No it’s not too abstract. I can see where you are going, and I think I understand. I’ll probably call your worldview founding beliefs “background assumptions” or “epistems” or something because “belief” for me is an emotional buzz word. Besides my first definition, “A persistent assumption of the truth of something in the absence of sufficient evidence,” My second definition is “What people kill each other for.” When the twin towers came down they were like the last two nails in the coffin of my interest in belief. Since then I’ve worked hard to cleanse myself of anything fitting definitions one and two.

    I am so enjoying this dialogue.

  • Christopher Bradley

    Mike,

    What I think Sam Harris is saying is that, yeah, exactly, Christian doctrine has consequences in all areas of life and that needs to be addressed. People — including atheists — often think it’s possible to put religion into a sealed compartment over there and government/science/everything else into different compartments that don’t have anything to do with each other, ever. But if religious folks take their religion seriously — and many, of course, do — it has this really dramatic impact on everything. On society, economics, politics, etc.

    Now, if you believe that religion is a bunch of fables with, at best, a tenuous relationship to reality (as most atheists do — heck, most atheists figure that religion has a negative correlation with reality!) then it follows that decisions based on religion tend to be . . . bad (and are good only coincidentally). Therefore, should not religion be challenged at every opportunity because it is an irrational system of belief that intrudes into everything? I think so. Part of this is being able to hack apart in clear and concise terms arguments like “religion is inevitable” (not too long ago humans believed that slavery was inevitable and we’ve largely gotten over that — it’s a genetic fallacy and not even a very good one, f’rex).

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    But if religious folks take their religion seriously — and many, of course, do — it has this really dramatic impact on everything. On society, economics, politics, etc.

    Quite right Christopher. I completely agree.

    Now, if you believe that religion is a bunch of fables with, at best, a tenuous relationship to reality (as most atheists do — heck, most atheists figure that religion has a negative correlation with reality!) then it follows that decisions based on religion tend to be . . . bad (and are good only coincidentally). Therefore, should not religion be challenged at every opportunity because it is an irrational system of belief that intrudes into everything? I think so.

    If your premise is correct, then yes, your conclusion may be correct as well. Naturally I disagree with your premise, but that is neither here nor there.

    Two questions though:
    1) What do you say about religious teachings that actually are good? Is it all just coincidence? Is it just luck that Christ, despite his “tenuous relationship to reality” (in your opinion), taught us to love the poor, the oppressed, and our enemies? Did Buddha just stumble across the Eightfold Path, or was he accurately reflecting something true about reality? Did Zoroaster teach his progressive moral truths in spite of his metaphysical beliefs, or because of them?

    Or if these religious beliefs actually do happen to lead to ethical decisions, does that in any way support the possibility that they are based on a positive connection to reality?

    2) When we’re talking about worldviews, does it have to be an all or nothing game? Does a belief system (whether supernaturalist or naturalistic) have to be either 100% true or 100% false? Couldn’t there be degrees of truth? Couldn’t one say that every worldview reflects some degree of reality, but is in error in other ways?

    Of course all this begs the question of how you propose to get outside your own subjectivity in the first place in order to have direct access to reality itself. By what standard are you comparing which worldview most closely reflects that reality? (And wouldn’t that “standard” itself be yet another competing worldview?)

    Just asking… :)

    Pax

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    No it’s not too abstract. I can see where you are going, and I think I understand. I’ll probably call your worldview founding beliefs “background assumptions” or “epistems” or something because “belief” for me is an emotional buzz word. Besides my first definition, “A persistent assumption of the truth of something in the absence of sufficient evidence,” My second definition is “What people kill each other for.”

    You’re quite right that “belief” is a rather emotional buzz word. And I do think that we’re using the word in very different ways. I don’t think we should draw such an absolute dichotomy between “belief” and whatever it is you’re contrasting it to (knowledge?). Aren’t there degrees of evidence? How much evidence does one need to have before a belief becomes knowledge? I tend to think in terms of degrees of belief. Some beliefs are more well-founded than others, but very few people hold a belief without any evidence or reason. And of course, on the other end of the spectrum, no one can really claim to have absolute evidence for what they claim to know. If 100% certainty is required in order to say we really “know”, then wouldn’t we have to say everything is a “belief” – just with more or less supporting evidence?

    Anyhow, I understand why you shy away from using the word “belief”, and I’m more than happy to talk in terms of “background assumptions” or “epistems” instead (why argue over semantics?) I just don’t think it’s helpful to define “belief” as the complete absence of evidence. That definition doesn’t match the way real people think or talk about their beliefs, and can become a rather inflammatory straw-man, IMHO.

    Paz

  • Richard Wade

    Mike,
    Your middle name wouldn’t be Pyrrho, by any chance?
    Back later.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    LOL! :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Actually it’s Ludwig…. ;)

  • Richard Wade

    As in Tractatus? if so, no wonder you’re so concerned about precise language. Well this is now waaaay over my head so I’d better shut up before I make a bigger fool of myself. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”
    Back after some rest.

  • Christopher Bradley

    Hey, Mike,

    I’ll get straight to the questions, first.

    1) What do you say about religious teachings that actually are good? Is it all just coincidence? Is it just luck that Christ, despite his “tenuous relationship to reality” (in your opinion), taught us to love the poor, the oppressed, and our enemies? Did Buddha just stumble across the Eightfold Path, or was he accurately reflecting something true about reality? Did Zoroaster teach his progressive moral truths in spite of his metaphysical beliefs, or because of them?

    Yes, it is coincidence. It is doing the right thing for the wrong reason. This is true of virtually every religion (and it is true of every religion I know of) — indeed, I suspect it is one of the natural outgrowths of religion — is that people obey on the strength of a religious figure’s authority. So if the religious figure tells them not to kill, they do so not because it is morally or ethically right but because they are commanded to do so by an authority. And even when religious folks say disagree that they obey the commands of their religion because they want to but not out of a sense of authority (many of the more sophisticated religious folks I know, and this is true historically, say that a person must not only do the right thing but for the right reason) have both the right thing and the right reason are dictated by the religion, which is an extension of the authority! This authority is reinforced by a variety of punishments for disobedience. (So, as a Buddhist you must follow the Eightfold Path because of the Four Noble Truths — and if you don’t, well, you’re doomed to an eternity of suffering.) So, yes, the “good” of a religion is coincidental to that religion.

    (Also, as an aside, the reality of this authority is terrible to behold. Because when a religious authority tells people to do ill — which does happen — people obey that, too. Thus various Crusades and Jihads. That religion teaches obedience because of authority is terrible to behold. And, for the record, I am deeply suspicious of secular authority, too, and my political views run towards consensualism.)

    The question is also pretty disingenuous, I feel. Both Buddhism and especially Zoroastrianism aren’t particularly widespread religions. Buddhism — by far the larger religion — is about 3% of the earth’s population. There are far, far fewer Zoroastrians. Why not talk about the religions of the other 97% of the earth’s population? I might feel differently if the world was populated primarily by Buddhists and Zoroastrians (tho’ probably not — as a religion gains political power it radically changes; f’rex, the way that Japanese aristocrats manipulated Buddhism to justify wholesale slaughter). Buddhism and Zoroastrianism aren’t really representative of the state of global religion, not at all.

    2) When we’re talking about worldviews, does it have to be an all or nothing game? Does a belief system (whether supernaturalist or naturalistic) have to be either 100% true or 100% false? Couldn’t there be degrees of truth? Couldn’t one say that every worldview reflects some degree of reality, but is in error in other ways?

    Is this ironic? There are a number of false assumptions, here, as well as some hidden ones that are pretty bad.

    F’rex, is there anyone in the world that is more exclusive about worldviews than virtually all religious people? Almost all religions teach that their religion teaches universal and unalterable truths. Scientific materialism teaches that we know partial truths that are alterable when we get new information — it is explicit in saying “this is the best we have for the time being, and we expect to be changing it before too long”. That’s a huge difference that gets ignored.

    Second, the notion that atheist are this single, monolithic behavior system is false on the face of things and even more false when you get deeper into it. Atheists have a fairly large range of beliefs. It isn’t monolithic and there is considerable debate about the “real” nature of things. For instance, not all atheists are scientific materialists, not all are capitalists, not all are for multi-party republican systems of government, not all are monists, etc., etc. There is range for a large number of beliefs in atheism.

    Second part two, you are — and I say this with some hesitation — setting up a straw man. That the issue is between JUST atheists and JUST religious folks is untrue. There are other states: agnosticism, a variety of mysticisms, non-theist philosophical systems that aren’t scientific materialism such as non-theist Buddhism and Taoism. It isn’t a choice between just atheism and just religion, there are other alternatives. So by casting things as if it was this struggle between atheists and religion (instead of just acknowledging that’s what this conversation is about) you’re being very disingenuous, I feel.

    Third, very few atheists have a comprehensive worldview. Far moreso than religious folks, atheists are comfortable saying, “I dunno.” Which might be related to the previous paragraph, but atheists don’t need to have a justification for everything. (F’rex, most scientific materialists are uncertain about the proximate cause of the universe. Most non-theists Buddhists think that what actually caused the universe is simply unimportant. Most non-theist Taoists feel that the question is, itself, meaningless.)

    As to the question you begged, ignoring that I feel those sorts of questions are generally also disingenuous veering towards nihilistic, I am of the philosophical opinion that I’m part of reality. The universe enacts itself, in part, through me — my subjectivity is an illusion created by natural processes. As a being that enacts reality, that’s my access to reality, tho’ I’m aware that such access is, of course, partial and heavily qualified. ;) But it is what it is, which is part of reality, and with reason and technology at least some of those qualifiers can be removed.

  • Karen

    These are not statements that a religious person would make in refuting atheism. I get the impression that to Sam these four statements aren’t “silly retorts,” but rationalizations by atheists who do not want to take his strident position against religion. I’m guessing that he’s frustrated by the apathy implied by these particular four stances, and he wants help in “deflating” them. Maybe he’s having a tough time getting atheists as riled up has he is. It reminds me of what my agnostic father used to say, “Apathy is the greatest force in the world.”

    That’s exactly what these statements are. I watched some of the sessions at the Beyond Belief 2006 conference, and I recognize these arguments as coming from the other scientists (most seemingly nonbelievers) at that conference.

    Interestingly, Dawkins and Harris got fairly skewered at that conference by their fellow atheists, much as their books are getting skewered in the media.

    (Let it not be said that atheists form some kind of monolithic bloc that marches lock step to the same “religion” – far from it! It’d be hard to find a more contentious, iconoclastic bunch, I think.)

    The first argument is the one that bothered me:

    Even though I’m an atheist, my friends are atheists, and we all get along fine without pretending to know that one of our books was written by the Creator of the universe, other people really do need religion. It is, therefore, wrong to criticize their faith.

    That one really smacks of pretension and a superiority complex, to me. It’s like “the little people” would be lost without religion, so let’s us logical, rational people step back and leave them alone, shall we? After all, it doesn’t hurt them to hang on to their superstitions, although we more highly evolved folks are able to discard them and move on.

    As a former believer, I am very glad that atheists challenge religion, and that no one worried about taking away my false security blanket! If I can happily exist without superstition, so can anyone. It’s certainly not up to us to censor criticism of religion because other people “can’t handle the truth” – that’s so much paternalistic b.s.

  • Mriana

    You know, if I may interject, there is one thing that almost all, if not all, worldviews have and that is they have some form of the Golden Rule, be it directly or indirectly implied. Humanists have a form of it, Buddhism, Judaism (though not directly stated) and others, not just Christians. I don’t think there is one Atheist that could say they do not agree with doing on to others has you would have them do onto you. As I’ve always told my sons, if you don’t like it, don’t do it to others.

  • Mriana

    Why do we need a comprehensive worldview? Now one needs to draw a map out for me as to how to live life and isn’t that what most religions try to do?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Christopher,

    Thank you for your lengthy reply. I’m not quite sure how to respond, as I feel like most of your comments were responding to arguments that I didn’t actually make – things that you perhaps incorrectly inferred or thought were implied by what I did say. For instance, I never meant to imply that atheism was a monolithic worldview, or that there was only a choice between religion or atheism (I don’t think I even mentioned atheism at all). I agree with you that it is far more complex than that. Indeed, my whole point was that there are a multiplicity of worldviews, and that all of them may contain elements of truth and falsity. Personally I don’t think any particular group has a corner on reality.

    Anyhow, I apologize if my questions or statements were unclear. That is my fault. However, since most of your reply was a response to things I didn’t actually say, I won’t bother defending viewpoints that I don’t personally hold. If someone else identifies more with the position you were arguing against and wants to defend it, I’ll leave that to them.

    Frieden

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Why do we need a comprehensive worldview? Now one needs to draw a map out for me as to how to live life and isn’t that what most religions try to do?

    Few people have a “comprehensive” worldview. But we all have at least some basic assumptions about life and reality that we use as the basis by which we live our lives. That’s not to say those assumptions need necessarily be imposed by any outside authority (whether religious or otherwise). IMO, most people (yes, even religious people), compose their own worldviews based on input from a diversity of sources – not least of which would be their own reason and experiences – not just one authoritarian source.

    And again, there is rarely anything comprehensive about it. Most our “belief” systems (forgive me for using that word in a broadly philosophical way) are a jumbled web of interconnected (and sometimes conflicting) ideas. (I say this not as a “prescription” of how I think things ought to be, but merely as a description of how I think human cognition works.) If that is the case, then why shouldn’t we feel free to embrace truth wherever we discover it, regardless of which worldview or conceptual system we find it in?

    Just my .02…

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    As in Tractatus?

    Dear God no! The early Wittgenstein was far too much of a Logical Positivist for me (which, obviously, is precisely the philosophy I’m arguing against). I was referring more to his Philosophical Investigations or On Certainty.

  • Richard Wade

    Uh, yeah. I’ll just go dust off my old copy of “Analytic Philosophy for Dummies.”

    Whenever I get to wondering “What is really real, and how do I know what I know, if I know even that, etc, etc,” which fortunately isn’t too often, I just go outside without my coat in winter, or look at the smiling face of my daughter, or the trembling fingers of my mother, or touch my wife’s hand, or stand up too fast under an open kitchen cabinet. Things seem to re-boot, and sort themselves back into workable priorities.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Indeed :)

  • Richard Wade

    Alright I did a little reading, though probably not enough. I can almost taste my foot already. I didn’t read all 676 lines of Ludie’s On Certainty, but enough to pick up one recurrent theme, that “every claim can be doubted.” Okay, I can completely agree with that….Well, I think I can….Maybe.

    It reminds me of the early quantum guys and their uncertainty principle. No matter how many times you measure something with precise instruments you’re always going to get at least slightly different measurements. You can only make sense of it when you establish a realm of uncertainty inside which those measurements fall. You can reduce that realm with more and better measurements, but never get it to zero variance. I completely agree with all that too….at least this time….last time I did too….pretty closely.

    I can let go of a hammer over my toe a thousand times, and it is possible that once it may fall up instead of hitting my poor battered toe, and hit me in the forehead instead, but I ain’t gonna bet any money on it. This is why whenever I see a bumper sticker that says, “With God all things are possible” I want to sneak up and write underneath, “but some things are highly unlikely” and run away giggling, but I haven’t done it.

    My fellow atheists, do not do this. It is bad manners.

    Now I’m actually going somewhere with this, and that is to ask you how can you get along with other Christians? I know you’re getting similar questions from TxAtheist elsewhere and Christopher Bradley here, and I don’t want to overwhelm you. Maybe I should read your answers to them more carefully. Responding to Christopher much earlier here you said, “Couldn’t there be degrees of truth?” That took me by surprise. The Christians I’ve encountered up until now are obsessed with absolute Truth, (they capitalize it) absolute knowledge and my absolute damnation unless I absolutely surrender to their absolute way of salvation. To which I usually respond with any number of varieties of “Absolutely kiss my absolute ass.”

    I don’t want you to change to be like me. I just want to know if there are more than five or six like you.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Wow Richard! You really went above and beyond the call of duty. I was just throwing out a playful reference to Wittgenstein. I didn’t mean for you to actually have to do any studying! :)

    But you’ve picked up on an important point that (the later) Wittgenstein makes about the impossibility of certainty. However, I’m also especially struck by his idea of “language games”, i.e. that within a certain social context of discourse, language does have real meaning and we can have a degree of certainty. Those contexts (or language games) I would say are our basic assumptions or “worldviews” that make further conversation possible. That’s the tie-in I was going for with the Wittgenstein reference.

    Anyhow, you ask an excellent question Richard (re: how I can get along with other Christians), one that strikes closer to home than you know. I was actually fired (well, “pressured to resign”) from my last pastoral position because of these ideas. I was too “postmodern” for the conservative, ABSOLUTE TRUTH believing evangelical church I was a part of then. (So I do know exactly what you mean when you describe that Absolutist brand of Christianity).

    But there is a more recent and growing movement of “postmodern” Christians who think more like me. It’s known as the Emerging Church movement. It’s been around (in various forms) for nearly a decade, and encompasses a wide variety of Christian denominations. For the last two years I’ve been busy starting a new emerging church in the Chicago suburbs, and I also lead the Chicago area Emergent Cohort (i.e. monthly discussion group).

    Right now there are probably several thousand churches around the U.S. and in other parts of the world that would self-identify as an Emerging Church. And in terms of book sales of some of the most influential books in the movement, there are several hundred thousand involved in the conversation.

    Personally I probably would have given up on Christianity and maybe become an atheist several years ago if I hadn’t found the emerging church conversation, which convinced me that there was a new way to be a Christian.

    Actually prior to that I had been exposed to all this postmodern philosophy, believe it or not at my conservative evangelical school, Wheaton College. They have one excellent postmodern philosophy prof there who has managed to “corrupt” a lot of us. He was the one that got me into Wittgenstein, Derrida, Nietzsche and others.

    BTW, you can read my own short description of the emerging church here.

  • HappyNat

    “every claim can be doubted.”

    So am I supposed to doubt this claim or not? :)

  • Richard Wade

    HappyNat,

    So am I supposed to doubt this claim or not?

    Yes, you should doubt it. I think. But I’m not so sure about the last one I just said, ’cause maybe I don’t think that way. Or maybe not that one either, ’cause I might be sure, after all. It’s kinda doubtful. Or that one. Or that one. Or…


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X