RE: Dawkins was right all along

From: Philip Jonkers (
Date: Sat Sep 22 2001 - 14:04:47 BST

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    Subject: RE: Dawkins was right all along
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    > >Different interpretations are possible to be entertained
    > >exclusively by outsiders of the religion under scrutiny.
    > >We atheists have a privileged position in that we are
    > >universal outsiders of all religions.

    > So are you implying that being an atheist makes you superior
    > to someone who is religious? Are you free from the possible
    > biases inherent in a mindset and its polarizing
    > anti-religious extremes?

    Hi Scott,

    Think of it analogous to cases of anthropology or sociology;
    does a sociologist or anthropologist have to harbor feelings
    of superiority towards the social groups he wishes to study?
    Knowledge of underlying mechanisms at the basis of some
    cultural phenomenon doesn't necessarily have to impinge fascist
    sentiments on scholars investigating it, no?
    I'd say a true social scientist must assume impartiality at all
    times, no matter how apalling the subject is, in order to
    avoid getting emotionally involved and thus blurring his
    neutral vision. If not, his research shall be
    poisoned with prejudice and bias to an extent that increases
    with his partiality.

    The other end of the spectrum: anti-religious extremists is
    no better of course. Time and again I've supported the niche
    that religions bring more grief than joy in the world.
    Militant atheists also bring violence and hence more grief
    than joy on earth. I advocate striking the golden mean;
    get rid of religion and anti-religion, let's be humane and
    honest and assume atheism, the non-militant one of course.

    > >This permits us to
    > >study religions with an unbiased attitude; >

    > Could you understand what you study without a little
    > participant observation or walking a mile in someone's shoes?

    True, imagination is very important if not crucial. But there
    is a difference between imagining something and actually believing
    it. A good scholar should always be able to land back on his
    feet after a little airborne excursion into the realm of
    metaphysics or makebelief. Similarly, a good psychologist
    doesn't have to get mad first or having a former history of
    madness in order to sucessfully understand and analyze
    mad people, right?
    > >we are
    > >not hampered regarding our opinion by distorting sentiments
    > >of one's own religion.

    > What about the distortion stemming from militant atheist
    > extremism and treating religion as a mind virus which
    > requires preventative innoculations
    > and quarantine measures. I see a bunch of focus on the
    > horrid extremes of religions. I agree that these extremes
    > are wrong, but I think a crucial distinction needs to be
    > made that not all followers of a religion (or mindset to be
    > more broad) are extremists. Criticism of religion is important,
    > but distinctions need to be made. That's my main point all along.

    Like I said, I disapprove of any kind of militant stance based
    on religion or anti-religion. I agree with you that most religious
    people are synonymous to law-abiding citizins, I only have to
    look at my mother or the vast majority of my relatives.
    All I'm saying is that humanity is better off without
    religion all the same, but I reserve the right for people
    to decide that to the people ultimately.

    BTW, I share the opinion that religion is like a virus
    of the mind; I was infected myself virtually from birth
    but had the fortunate de-brainwashing capacity to rid myself
    of it in the recent years.

    > We all have our blinders or tinted lenses, whether religious
    > or not and are susceptible to "infection" by extremist
    > variants of our biases.
    > Being a follower of memetics may even predispose you to placing
    > human behavior into the wrong tidied cubbyholes, just as
    > being an atheist may lead to going overboard on an
    > anti-religious tirade. I thought objectivity entailed not
    > taking a normative stance on what you study or at least
    > approaching what you study in a more balanced manner.
    > I've seen some anti-religious sentiment focusing on the
    > negatives.

    You ought to know how I feel about (anti)-religion by now.
    I'm not the kind a guy to fall for any kind of extremist
    or militant movement. I'm a scientist for crying out loud...


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