Thursday, March 27, 2008

A.C. Grayling

""""Religious belief of all kinds shares the same intellectual respectability, evidential base, and rationality as belief in the existence of fairies.

This remark outrages the sensibilities of those who have deep religious convictions and attachments, and they regard it as insulting. But the truth is that everyone takes this attitude about all but one (or a very few) of the gods that have ever been claimed to exist.

No reasonably orthodox Christian believes in Aphrodite or the rest of the Olympian deities, or in Ganesh the Elephant God or the rest of the Hindu pantheon, or in the Japanese emperor, and so endlessly on - and officially (as a matter of Christian orthodoxy) he or she must say that anyone who sincerely believes in such deities is deluded and blasphemously in pursuit of "false gods".

The atheist adds just one more deity to the list of those not believed in; namely, the one remaining on the Christian's or Jew's or Muslim's list."""""""

Dr. Grayling may be a bit too much of the British skeptic for most Americuns, but we here at Contigencies hold him to be a worthy heir to the tradition of Bertrand Russell and AJ Ayers (who supervised Grayling at Oxford)--if not CONDORCET himself. Additionally, he possesses the "logic chops" (somewhat lacking in, say, Doc Dawkins) to take on fundamentalists, be they rightist xtians, or muslims, or marxist zealots. And for those who care, his writing on Kant's skepticism smokes about any American philo-phony you can name (and most of the oxbridge theo-filosophes as well).


Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The earth is 4 billion years old. Homo sapiens are, what, 100,000? Based upon this temporal reality, we're led to believe that "God" twittled his thumbs for 3.9999 billion years before the "in his image" concept hit him as such. Yeah, definitely put me into this Brit's category.

J said...

Yes. Any putative Designer knowingly creates human and natural history, and He also would, by definition, already know how it turns out (as Grayling's mentor Russell pointed out ad nauseum, and Voltaire, many other skeptics and freethinkers). So assuming He exists for sake of argument, He intentionally arranged all the events of the 20th century, and did not bother to intervene with WWI, WWII, concentration camps, pol pot, 'Nam, or the rise of the Clinton gang. Rather preposterous, at least from "rational" perspective.

Some of Grayling's duels with the theological big guns are amusing. I wager his witty disbelief does not please the Church of England, or of Rome (or the Imam mob either).

Grayling has appeared with Dawkins (and Hitchens I think) on occasion: obviously the Darwinian/evolutionary tradition remains rather important, yet on occasion Dawkins tends to a type of hasty reductionism which offends the faithful: that's not to say Dawkins is wrong in content, but he's a bit of a bottlewasher, and so religious people just ignore him. So it's good having a Grayling around to deal with the finer points of the debate. At the same time, I find him, like other neo-atheists, a bit callous and arrogant on occasion. His writing reminds me of Russell's (and Hume a bit): while superbly logical, scientifically informed, and witty, he lacks a certain, eh, "je ne sais quoi."

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The fact that we're a blip and do not recognize it. That's my big bug-a-boo. That, and the fact that we put ourselves at the center of the universe. The absolute arrogance of our species/the central tenets of western philosophy.

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