Facebook debate

So this started innocently enough with a posting on facebook to a Richard Dawkins video. So rule number one: Never post controversial religious topics on facebook.

This was the video (which I got from Mr. A)

These were the comments that followed:

A: Great minds…..

Harvinder Atwal: You know I just stole this from you right?

A: lol

A: indeed. I’m trying to provoke Christos into asking himself some questions. Small minds and Great minds are the same…..if great minds think alike so too must the lesser. But a closed mind….well….that is the most dangerous. We must ask questions! No inquisition little knowledge. Some, however, are happy with their ignorance…i hear its blissful ;P

N: lol. He thinks animal rights, equal rights for men and women, etc. are secular ideas. It’s time Dawkins studies the Baha’i teachings and realises that religion is the foundation of human society and the future world commonwealth…

A: I don’t believe he said exactly that….and its hard to read whether you are being a tad sarcastic or not so I forgive if the latter is true.

Indeed religion is the one of the foundations for ‘civilisation’, in the fact it offered crude ‘answers’ to scenarios and events that could not be explained at the time. It provided hope and meaning to counter desperate uncertainty (in the same way faith is grasped now by nihilists and those facing terminal disease). But morals, while enforced by religion, by carrot on stick prophecy, (“do as we do and we offer an eternity of bliss, don’t and face hell-fire or a new life as a slug etc”) are not unique to religion. Even before Abrahamic faiths and Eastern beliefs man, did not go about recklessly killing fellow man for no motive, he didn’t need a “holy” doctrine to tell him this was wrong…its instinctive (which can be explained in a number of interesting ways - most notably through genetics and communal urges). What religion did was take social norms, and added a punitive/reward system to them….as well as threw in ludicrous laws such as eating what animal on what day etc. Out of insecurity, (fear of the unknown propagated by a hierarchical class-structured society) religion was, and continues to be, an instrument of manipulation and control. Baha’i is an interesting concept. Not belonging to a divisive sect, preaching integration and tolerance. But it is still irrational, and again based upon myth and fantasy. I don’t want to tolerate, I am not just atheist, but anti-thiest! It is a war, not between science and religion, but between fairytale and fact, and just using God as a get out clause is no longer acceptable.

N: I’m sorry but I don’t share these anachronistic misconceptions about religion.

Harvinder Atwal: What does it matter if Dawkins realises that religion is ‘ the future world commonwealth’? We all know about globalisation. This is nothing new or profound and we don’t need religion to explain it to us.

N: Dawkins is on a (futile) crusade to destroy theistic religion, which he attacks based on his own atheistic religious beliefs. I am pointing out that he needs to really start abandoning his blind fanaticism and investigate the truth with an open mind.

Harvinder Atwal: Ok well that wasn’t what I was talking about. So by investigating the truth you mean your(Baha’i) way of thinking?

A: anachronistic…..the irony-meter just exploded

N: yes, anachronistic is the best way to describe such views that ignore the real influence religion has had in the development of society. If you were to realise that religion is an ongoing process of development that is suited to the conditions in which it appears, you would abandon such negative judgments.

A: I don’t think this needs to be investigated philosophically, socially or in any means other than logic. The burden of proof of a higher being is on those claiming there is. Its exceptionally simple. If I said i believe floating teapots created the world we knew you’d think I belong in an insane asylum. Just as if I regaled you with stories of fairies at the bottom of my garden, or if I presented Greek mythology as literal you’d creep away hoping I wasn’t unstable enough to do you harm.

It is not a misconception to say religion is divisive! It is not a misconception to say many religions are oppressive and bigoted (against sexual equality etc), it is not a misconception to say no wars have been committed in the name of atheism (no more than vegetarianism etc) but there has been 1000s slaughtered in the name of religion. It is not a misconception to say religious doctrine is fictitious and has no proof. It is not a misconception to say those who believe in things without evidence are foolish. However I am not saying religion hasn’t produced postive contributions to the world. Great sonnets, music and architectural benevolence has been divinely inspired (however deluded). But that still doesn’t alter the fact that religion divides, it intimidates, it controls…all based on primitive superstitions. Join the enlightened brother, don’t be fooled by new-age ‘spiritualism’!

“Investigate truth with an open mind”…what truth. Read his and Hitchen’s books. They talk not in rhyme and riddle, or parable and fable….they use deductive reasoning and logic. They openly claim to not know the answer, the just don’t subscribe to an unprovable fantasy! I am joining Hitchens and Dawkins on their “futile” (though obviously so far successful) crusade in a war against theism. Not a war against hope, faith or emotion, but a war against viscous manipulation and inhuman delusion! This intellectual terrorism but be quelled!

A: However you day make an interesting point and I throw this response out there curious of your rebuttal. You said something along the lines that religion shaping society is an ongoing process….I would counter that and say, in the past you are correct, it did indeed help form the basis of our laws and judicial system etc and in many other ways too…but in the twentieth century I believe roles reversed. No longer was religion shaping society, but it attained a balanced mutuality, only now for society to uneasily begin to shape religion. Hence people now can be Christian and gay…despite formerly being a contradiction. Muslim women can now have an education etc….we are bending religious bigotry to align parallel with our more secular, liberal social perspectives.

N: Mr.A, this is exactly the kind of misconception I’m talking about. You’re completely ignoring the role of religion in history, instead focusing on the decadence of certain systems. Religion has been the primary motivating force in the development of civilization and morality and is the strongest force for human motivation. A sober and rational investigation of history will prove this to anyone. Dawkins has totally misrepresented this. Burden of proof? I’m tired of these atheistic arguments. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. God has interracted with humanity and continues to do so. Creation exists, that is the greatest proof in itself. You exist. Nothing could exist without a Creator. Dawkins seems very incapable of understanding this, which shows a big flaw in his reason. He asks who created the creator? His objections are as foolish as the creationist arguments he debunks. His understanding is based on an entirely physical understanding of causation. There must necessarily exist a cause that is not dependent, not material and capable of bringing everything in to being through its all-powerful nature.

@Harvy, It doesn’t need to be put in a narrow way, as the Baha’i Faith is simply the latest stage in the eternal process of progressive revelation. To investigate meaning of reality one must look at religion, of course. And religion cannot be properly investigated without looking at its history and writings and that will include looking at the Baha’i teachings, naturally. Science offers a lot of truths about the physical universe, which is good. Revelation offers other truths, more important for humankind and which lay the basis for the development of civilization. Certainly, if Dawkins wishes to discover the truth, he must investigate the Baha’i teachings as these represent the teachings of God for this day and age. Unfortunately, even if he were to read the Baha’i writings, he would probably be too blinded by his own preconceptions to recognise their truth.

N: @Mr. A, just saw your previous response. Good point. I’d suggest you look at where I’m coming from though. I have no doubt that religion’s role has decreased now in secular societies. I see that as part of a process that is going on right now, which we Baha’is call the rolling up of the old world order and the unveiling of the new. I can’t really explain it in so short a space here, but the dismantling of the influence of the old religions is part of a process which we see as divinely ordered. The writings of Shoghi Effendi have a lot to say about it, as do the following works: “One Common Faith” and “Century of Light”.

A: I look forward to reading these in the future and furthering the debate. However I think you point about causation is rather self-fulfilling and can be applied to a number of situations. I chuckled at your point about the proof of the pudding being in the eating as to an extent you are correct. But to apply the logic I exist therefore so too does a creator isn’t proof, rather a theory. A theory without any evidence or logic. I will spare you the atheist arguments as I’m sure you are familiar with most, however I think you should read Dawkin’s and Hitchens et al before you attempt to discredit and or patronise them. I only pray ( ;P ) that you see the light of reason, and the beauty of truth, and join my endeavour to rid the world of this tired, divisive, manipulative, irrational and irrelevant tradition (which in a way I guess you are). Please correct me if I’m wrong (I welcome your opinion), but it seems you are a reversed agnostic, someone who will believe in a God, free from doctrine, until disproven otherwise……

N: Actually, my acceptance of God’s existence comes from my acceptance of the Manifestation of God. In other words, I accept the individuals who have appeared throughout history claiming to be divine messengers, including the latest one, Baha’u’llah, and acknowledge that their teachings form part of one collective process. I acknowledge the effects of this process and believe this process has a common source which is divine. For Baha’is, God as an abstract entity can never be known or understood. The only thing we can understand is the Manifestation of God. That’s how God communicates with us, through a being who can speak our language and give us teachings suitable to our state of development. Baha’i literature does speak of proofs, but these won’t be the same as scientific proofs, because science relates to knowledge about the physical universe, and Baha’is don’t believe God is physical. Scientific proofs exist to prove things about science, not to explain what may be regarded as supernatural.

A: Intriguing, truly so, but I had no idea you accepted that the supposed prophets of history (which has obviously been distorted in these cases) were actually messengers of God! This I am afraid, in my humble opinion, is lunacy. Plain keeping bottles of one’s effluence in glass jars bonkers. Sorry to use such an offensive analogy.

I find your concept of tweaking religion to fit its context fascinating, and, to an extent, rather noble. I often say to people that the use of God as a metaphor for the unknown is a perfectly acceptable usage, but to believe in immaculate conception, miracles and the supposed doctrine of radical preachers is irrational. At the moments secular governments are locked in a battle with religions over major issues such as education and law, and in my view instead of tweaking religion or waiting for the next Messiah to fill in the holes in this saga of a fairytale, we need to dismantle all religion with a swift, impatient and unbiased force before its teaching lead to another homosexual hung, another rape victim stoned to death, another STD spread, another suicide bomber manipulated into detonating his device…..we cannot simply re-brand religion every time it convinces another human to inflict injustice on another….this has to stop…NOW!

N: I don’t see any difference between Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, etc. Their lives, teachings, etc. are very similar. It’s as if they were all teachers from one school. The lessons differ each year, but they all come from the same curriculum. This is the notion of progressive revelation. Humanity’s progress since before recorded history has been directed by these individuals, who are all essentially one and the same.

A: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX-Aldx-LM0

says it all really…..

N: Good commedy. I’ve seen that before. All this “your God”, “my God” business is nonsense though. Islam, for instance, embraces Christianity, just as Christianity embraces Judaism. They all form part of one continuum, one religion, with one God. All the apparent differences are superficial and relate to time, circumstance and stage of development. The Baha’i Faith is the latest development in this spiritual succession. Fallible human beings have cut up these religions and declared their scriptures to be complete and denied subsequent revelations.

A: Its an old clip of course. Yes, you try rise above these ‘nonsensical’ differences - good chap! But I’ll take your rise and leapfrog you to a post superstitious epoch of truth and enlightenment. But if I may, let me quote a friend of mine who summed this whole debate up far more eloquently than I could muster up (though its along the same logic that religion is perpetuated by control, hopelessness and oppression).

“But this is the Freud/Marx opposition on religion, both see religion as inevitable given our circumstances, but for Freud it was biological, for Marx it was political; the former sees religion as ‘ineradicable’ the latter offers hope for a post-religious world. I think history can be a good guide though, for it doesn’t seem a coincidence to me that when men have been able to stand fully upright and face the dawn as free men; not slave or subject, they have been more willing to overthrow religion, to hurl the gods from their thrones. Often this follows a revolution - be it American, French, Russian, Spanish. But as long as there is inequality, religion will be there as ideological cover for that, and that’s all religion ever is or was. Dawkins and Hitchens as political and economic liberals are therefore only skimming the surface of critique, writers like Althusser have attacked the root causes”

(I think Harvey may have seen this before)

N: I would refer you to this work for your interest. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/bic/OCF/

A: I will work my way through at some stage……and with an open mind I assure you. But while this promises so much, and casts off the shackles of hypocrisy and division in former theological dogma, it is still based upon fairytales, myths and legends. That’s why, no matter how it is dressed up, no matter how inclusive, how inspiring, how progressive and how culturally important, religious faith will never be anything more than a manipulative delusion.

N: Mr. A, that is your religious belief. I have mine. Whatever you base yours on, I base mine on reason and faith. The Baha’i Faith is not some man-made dogma. It is the very will of the Creator for this day and age. If you want to discover its truth, you can only do so by throwing off your preconceptions and prejudices.

A: If I were to tell you I am the embodiment of the creator or his prophet would you believe me? Its really frustrating because I find what you are saying fascinating, and actually quite poignant (especially our discussion on whether religion adapting to modern values or vice versa etc)….but then you tell me some nutjob claims to be in contact with the mothership and that because he dresses his insanity up in erudite rhetoric and parables you believe him I want to weep in despair. I want to engage with the Mr. N of reason and insight, not the Mr. N who is devoted to fairytale and illogic.

N: Your statements constantly denying any possibility of spiritual truth are based on nothing whatsoever. To seek the truth one must be unprejudiced, while your whole attitude towards religion is prejudiced and irrational. Believe it or not, it is possible to know spiritual truth. But you cannot seek the truth with such a prejudicial attitude. What makes me despair is blind prejudice of this kind, whether it be from Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, atheists or anyone else.

A: There is only truth, and we can only base truths on evidence and logic not fairytales and manipulative propaganda. You have been hoodwinked, conned, brainwashed….sold a story and for reasons beyond my limited understanding of your psychology you seem to take enjoyment in your denial. You hide behind words that portray you as a victim of bigotry. There is a difference between prejudice and lying. If someone told me 2 + 2 = 4581 and I said “er no its actually 4” would you defend the same lunatic behind the shield of “prejudice”.

What you have isn’t truth, and how dare you discredit our mother tongue by distorting its meaning to fit the context, you have belief! Unprovable, irrational, fictitious belief. If you want to debate belief I am more than happy to. As I have said on many occasions belief has the potential to unite humanity, but not belief in a creator. Also answer my question…..am I, or am I not a prophet of God? Would you believe me if I said I were……if not (or so), why? This could be the crux of the entire argument here.

PS… You’re damn right I’m prejudice. I’m prejudice against anything that preaches lies masquerading as truth, that holds back humanity with this farcical clinging onto the belief in a flying spaghetti monster or ghouls and goblins et al.

N: Your fanatical materialism is astounding.

BTW, I’d suggest looking into the nature of prophethood before building arguments on such things.

A: your delusional denial is borderline psychotic if you want to play the patronising game! I know the nature of prophethood but thanks for dodging my question. Its good to see you have the intelligence to realise by answering it, in anyway would only weaken your position. I am a prophet (spelt profit by Catholics)….worship me. Why am I any less believable than the nutjob you seem to distort reality for?

Is it materialism to deny the unprovable? I wonder what’s worse, denying the unprovable (and increasingly being proved more and more illogical) or believing in it…..? If you said you simply deny that it is unprovable, simply unproven….then we can move into semantics and philosophy, however I suspect you wish to continue to be deluded (ignorance being blissful n’all that jazz) and believe in your tiring fable (please do so)….but don’t pretend it is anything but BELIEF! Apologies for the harsh tone, but to have someone dodge a question, and retaliate so feebly, resorting to condescending accusations is deeply annoying.

Harvinder Atwal: Ok really I am going to have to pull the plug here, if you want I will publish these comments elsewhere as they make fascinating reading but facebook is not the platform for this. So if both of you can agree to draw the line here, that would be great.

A: Ok mate…….I’ll leave it there…..what started out so fascinating sadly ended up in the usual atheistic logic versus believer’s fantasy….sigh. I had hope for a much more diverse discussion. See you in a bit Harvey.

N: I will bid this useless conversation ado.

A: ditto that sentiment…..preaching to the converted was supposed to be easy ;P

Harvinder Atwal: Now shake hands :-P

A: Haha…….this conversation was anything but useless. I am sure it has left us both with some personal reflection tasks, and has probably re-affirmed our position in the faith versus fact argument ;P (I couldn’t resist)