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Tue Dec 13, 2011, 11:49 PM

Is it Rude to Suggest that Religious Folks May Be Ignorant?

DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that religious folks ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

As some of you may know, Richard Dawkins' new book just came out: The Magic of Reality -- How We Know What's Really True.

I ordered the Audio CD version a couple months ago and listened to it fully twice on a recent road-trip. It's "only" about 6 hours long, but is packed full of all sorts of interesting little facts and tidbits about nature. Time and time again, Dawkins and his lovely female companion narrate various stories about ancient religious myths trying to explain everything from why the sun rises and sets, why rainbows form, what causes earthquakes and tsunamis, and other basic scientific knowledge that all people should at least have a passing knowledge of.

The overwhelming theme is that time and time again throughout history, humans have invented fascinating religious ideas to try to explain what can now be much better explained by science. Taking God out of the equation doesn't in any way diminish the "magic" of reality -- indeed, knowing the true causes of how the world really works the way it does is amazing in and of itself.

But it definitely begs the unanswered question: are there perhaps still many things that science has yet to explain fully, that invented religious ideas still try to bridge that gap of ignorance? Consider how many people still believe in "miracles" and "answered prayers" -- that God supposedly intervenes on their behalf (at least some of the time) while apparently ignoring all the prayers of those who are suffering and end up dying prematurely?

Is Richard Dawkins being rude for pointing these things out?

57 replies, 4489 views

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Arrow 57 replies Author Time Post
Reply Is it Rude to Suggest that Religious Folks May Be Ignorant? (Original post)
LAGC Dec 2011 OP
rug Dec 2011 #1
immoderate Dec 2011 #2
trotsky Dec 2011 #17
skepticscott Dec 2011 #29
immoderate Dec 2011 #31
smirkymonkey Dec 2011 #50
MisterP Dec 2011 #3
laconicsax Dec 2011 #4
TygrBright Dec 2011 #5
JustFiveMoreMinutes Dec 2011 #6
TlalocW Dec 2011 #7
rrneck Dec 2011 #8
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #9
LAGC Dec 2011 #10
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #11
bowens43 Dec 2011 #12
muriel_volestrangler Dec 2011 #13
LAGC Dec 2011 #14
Jim__ Dec 2011 #15
ZombieHorde Dec 2011 #16
tama Dec 2011 #33
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #34
tama Dec 2011 #38
Humanist_Activist Dec 2011 #48
tama Dec 2011 #49
ZombieHorde Dec 2011 #35
lindysalsagal Dec 2011 #52
Goblinmonger Dec 2011 #18
laconicsax Dec 2011 #19
Goblinmonger Dec 2011 #20
laconicsax Dec 2011 #21
Goblinmonger Dec 2011 #22
struggle4progress Dec 2011 #23
LAGC Dec 2011 #25
cleanhippie Dec 2011 #30
darkstar3 Dec 2011 #37
tama Dec 2011 #39
Iggo Dec 2011 #24
deacon_sephiroth Dec 2011 #26
PassingFair Dec 2011 #27
ZombieHorde Dec 2011 #36
tama Dec 2011 #40
uriel1972 Dec 2011 #44
tama Dec 2011 #45
mr blur Dec 2011 #28
FarCenter Dec 2011 #32
ChadwickHenryWard Dec 2011 #41
uriel1972 Dec 2011 #42
darkstar3 Dec 2011 #43
uriel1972 Dec 2011 #46
tama Dec 2011 #47
iris27 Dec 2011 #54
tama Dec 2011 #55
lazarus Dec 2011 #56
iris27 Dec 2011 #57
lindysalsagal Dec 2011 #53
Eliminator Dec 2011 #51

Response to LAGC (Original post)

Tue Dec 13, 2011, 11:56 PM

1. Rude, no. Stupid, yes.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 12:15 AM

2. Religion is the intermediate step between ignorance and knowledge.

Ignorance is having no answer. Religion is at least an answer. And one can be deeply knowledgeable about that answer. This is without any concept of the reality. But it can get intricate.

Of course once they have been informed, they don't get the benefit of the doubt.

--imm

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Response to immoderate (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 09:54 AM

17. Great point. n/t

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Response to immoderate (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 09:24 AM

29. It is far better

To realize and admit that you simply don't have an adequate, supportable answer to something than it is to pretend or presume that you do based on totally inadequate reasons and evidence. When religion involves the second of those two, it is not an "intermediate step" to anything, but just mental thumb-sucking for people who need emotional comfort.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #29)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 10:15 AM

31. Yes, I was pointing out the irony of certain types of compromise.

The irony here is that there are such things as "biblical scholars" who are considered well versed and knowledgeable, and can avoid the label "ignorant" thereby.

--imm

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #29)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 04:57 PM

50. +1000

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 12:19 AM

3. the real question is, why is E.B. Tylor's rubric still being used, where religion is only an early,

unsuccessful, superseded form of science? is it justifiable after a century of anthropology, history of religion, history of science, usw. William Manchester's trainwreck "A World Lit Only By Fire"--and its demented positive reviews on Amazon--illustrate that it doesn't do to be so dated.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 12:22 AM

4. There's way more wonder in thinking about things as they are.

 

The fantastic complexity involved in vision or looking at a hummingbird and realizing that hundreds of millions years ago, we were part of the same species of fish are good examples.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 12:24 AM

5. Is it rude to suggest that brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking people in America might be illegals? n/t

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #5)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 01:24 AM

6. Yes... considering the US has a very large population of NATIVE latinos.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 01:32 AM

7. Instead of answering your question

I'm suddenly struck with the idea of a line of children's fairy tale books (nothing changed - straight out fairy tales) as read by people like Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Penn (but not Teller), and other well-known proponents of scientific knowledge/skeptical thinking, creating it just for the irony of it.

TlalocW

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 01:49 AM

8. Not rude.

Crafty, but not rude.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 04:34 AM

9. No, and I will say everybody is ignorant about something....

or several somethings, even Dawkins. I remember seeing a talk between Dr. Dawkins and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, where they were talking about "The Poetry of Science" (title of the talk). The first thing either did when they met on stage was concede the others specialty and accomplishments in their chosen field. Richard Dawkins, in particularly, more or less conceded that his specialty(Evolutionary Biology) doesn't hold a candle to Astrophysics, which is Neil deGrasse Tyson's specialty. Tyson, in turn, acted humble as well.

Before I digress any further, the point is that neither man intruded on the others field to make any factual statements, or even personal anecdotes without opening themselves up to correction from the other, and both accepted such correction from each other when it occurred.

I think the fact is that everybody is ignorant, but the religious deny this, and feign knowledge where its impossible for them to have gained knowledge. They pretend to know, and hence are inherently dishonest about their own education and knowledge level. Honest people know they don't have all the answers, dishonest people say that they do.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #9)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 04:52 AM

10. Very well said.

Indeed, we can't all be experts on everything. Just try to specialize in particular areas.

Admitting our ignorance and being open to learn more is far better than claiming we know all the answers, especially without evidence.

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Response to LAGC (Reply #10)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 05:07 AM

11. I think this leads to much misunderstanding between religious people and...

atheists. We value knowledge to such an extent, that we won't pretend to know something just to have an answer. We live in uncertainty, and we, if we are honest about it, relish in it, because without uncertainty, where is the opportunity to learn new things?

We would rather have accurate answers rather than just any answer, religious people seem to grasp to the first answer they LIKE, we prefer to find the answer that's TRUE.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 05:57 AM

12. It may be rude but the truth often is....... nt

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 08:19 AM

13. The word 'ignorant' is a dangerous one to use

If used as "the group X may be ignorant", it seems a broad-brush suggestion, both lumping all the group together, and not specifying what they are said to be ignorant of - which implies a general ignorance. If used as "person Y may be ignorant of fact Z", then it's either a statement of fact, or at worst an opinion which can be investigated.

How much Dawkins uses 'ignorant' in that book, I don't know. I wouldn't say he's rude for the concept of the book - explaining the scientific reality behind various religious myths; I doubt the way he expresses himself in it is rude either, since it's aimed at older children, and most authors try to stay off the controversial language for that age group.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #13)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 08:26 AM

14. 'Ignorant' was my word, not his.

I don't believe he ever used the word himself, its just that it was heavily implied as a constant theme throughout the book.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 08:38 AM

15. It is both ignorant and arrogant to say it.

It is ignorant to broad brush any large group of people with a derogatory label; arrogant because it implies the speaker is somehow less ignorant than religious people.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 09:48 AM

16. I would have an extemely difficult surviving in a jungle without modern supplies.

I am ignorant on how to live in jungles. I don't know what plants I can eat, how to handle different insect bites, etc.

Those who grow up in jungles, with no modern technology, seem to survive fairly well. However, they may not understand why rain occurs.

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Response to ZombieHorde (Reply #16)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 08:55 PM

33. Excellent point

 

Tribes believing in shamanistic/mythical explanations/stories have been attested to survive in jungle and arctic etc. and to be able to live sustainably. AFAIK there is yet no proof of a society believing in only scientific explanations and technology being able to live sustainably - though I would very much like to see that happening.

What I don't much like in Dawkins etc. who raise scientific explanations and scientific knowledge over all other explanations and forms of knowledge is that make a very politicized claim of superiority - just like Christian some sects etc. make strong claims of superiority over others and that their way is the only way. On the other hand in highly contrasted situations you need both black and white, and the balanced "truth" is in the middle and in both sides - like yin and yang.

Scientific explanations and truths can and do have their place and validity, and so can mythical, artistic, philosophical etc. etc. They are not mutually exclusive, any more than "predictable" rational and "unpredictable" irrational and transcendental numbers are mutually exclusive. They form the set of real numbers, and number theory does not end with reals, but there are also complex numbers based on imaginary number, p-adics, etc.

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Response to tama (Reply #33)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 09:02 PM

34. Uhm, its not like people living in a jungle didn't learn how to live there...

Through empiricle testing and observation. Indeed, any "other way of knowing" would lead to quick and painful deaths. If you heard uncle Bob died from eating a plant, you avoid it and teach others to do the same. Of course this isn't formalized, that's where science comes in. We can isolate the toxin, make the plant safe to eat, even find a use for the poison.

As far as living sustainably, it helps when 45 year Old people are considered elderly, and over half your kids died before they were 5.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #34)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 10:40 PM

38. Vegetalista shamans

 

say that they receive their knowledge of plants and healing songs directly from the "plant spirits" - ayahuasca etc. Before forming your opinion about the veracity of those claims I humbly suggest you empirically test and observe ayahuasca...

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Response to tama (Reply #38)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 04:41 AM

48. Its a psychoactive substance, what would we be testing, its affects on humans?

That's already being done. If you want to test its spiritual affects, then come up with a reliable methodology for testing it.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #48)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 08:34 AM

49. What's the hypothesis?

 

I'm not really suggesting a hypothesis to be tested, merely saying that I have more respect for opinions based on personal experience than on purely theoretical opinions based on hearsay alone. Not denying the great value of studies like Strasmanss' (DMT - spirit molecule), on the contrary.

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Response to tama (Reply #33)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 09:16 PM

35. I was just trying to say different people have different knowledge.

There are societies that are mostly secular, but there will probably always be believers.

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Response to ZombieHorde (Reply #16)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 07:39 PM

52. Birds and other wild animals have the intelligence to get out of the way

during catastrophic weather and natural disasters. They just don't know why.

My dog would bark at the TV when the TV show doorbell rang: I look at it that way. The dog knew the sound meant "stranger", and that the dog's job was to alert and protect us.

She just didn't understand tv technology.

I think that's where we are as we evolve, but the greater intelligence is displayed when we accept our limited understanding without resorting to burning people at the stake, locking them up in internment camps, casting them out of society without basic needs, dropping bombs on them.....

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 09:57 AM

18. Doesn't sound like a blanket "ignorant about everything" statement.

I'm ignorant about a lot of stuff. I'm an English teacher, so string theory is not something I know about. I wouldn't be offended if someone told me I was ignorant about quantum physics. It isn't rude; it's true. People need to get over themselves. Now, if someone told me I was ignorant about English grammar, I still wouldn't be offended and if it were an important issue (my employer or a parent making the accusation), I would make sure to prove the point wrong. If it weren't important, some dingdong on DU, then who cares.

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Response to Goblinmonger (Reply #18)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 10:00 AM

19. *psst*

 

String theory isn't something that even string theorists know about.

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Response to laconicsax (Reply #19)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 10:07 AM

20. Everything I know about string theory

I learned from Big Bang Theory.

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Response to Goblinmonger (Reply #20)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 10:10 AM

21. It's fun to read books by string theorists.

 

There's always the part where they mention that a some of the equations are so hard, that no one even knows what they mean.

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Response to laconicsax (Reply #21)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 10:12 AM

22. Sounds like reading James Joyce.

Every summer I read Ulysses and I get done reading some pages and think "there is no way Joyce even knew what that just meant."

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 11:24 AM

23. Let me investigate your question by the comparative method

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that Asians May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that Asians ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

Hmm ... I'm pretty sure that most of the respondants would be unhappy with that question.

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that Spaniards May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that Spaniards ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

Hmm ... I'm pretty sure that most of the respondants would be unhappy with that question, too

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that Buddhists May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that Buddhists ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

Ya know, I'm pretty sure that most of the respondants would dislike that question as well

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that Music Lovers May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that Music Lovers ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

Ya know, I'm pretty sure that most of the respondants would dislike that question as well

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that Cashiers May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that Cashiers ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

I can't see the responses improving

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that Cat Owners May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that Cat Owners ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

It's not going to be a happy thread IMO

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that Women May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that Women ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

Maybe that wasn't really the best possible choice for my OP

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that People Who Like Picasso May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that People Who Like Picasso ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

I don't know why I stopped getting invited to gallery openings

What would I expect if I started an OP with
Is it Rude to Suggest that Particle Physicists May Be Ignorant?
DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying that Particle Physicists ARE necessarily ignorant, just wondering if its rude to even suggest as much?

Now I have an uncomfortable feeling that everybody is laughing at me

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #23)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 12:13 PM

25. I wasn't aware that any of those groups made blanket claims about natural phenomena...

...before all the facts were in.

Except maybe the Buddhists.

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Response to LAGC (Reply #25)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 09:51 AM

30. Oh SNAP! What a great response to the false equivalencies provided to you.

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Response to LAGC (Reply #25)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 10:05 PM

37. Boom goes the dynamite. Well done.

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Response to struggle4progress (Reply #23)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 10:42 PM

39. Is it Rude to Suggest that String Theorists May Be Ignorant? nt

 

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 11:47 AM

24. Here? Yes.

Context (including venue) is everything.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Wed Dec 14, 2011, 12:34 PM

26. perhaps a little, when put in direct terms

The round-about suggestion inherent in his book certainly doesn't seem so, but then that's from my perspective and I'm not one of the people being suggested as ignorant, thought surely I am. Perhaps it's his manner of speech but he barely sounds capable of being rude.

However I'd like to say this.

1. The religious folk say the very same about atheists, and much worse. We're LUCKY if we get off with being accused of merely ignorance and not willful evil, anarchy-minded satanic, baby-eating moral bankrupcy... but we shoud strive to be better than our detractors, and we ussually are.

2. The long standing +5 Sphere of Invulnerability against Criticism that mainstream religion has enjoyed has made it "rude" to question religion AT ALL among most people. Again, much like the question of "what is offenisve," rude works out largely to be in the eye of the offended party, and there are many that are virtually offended by Dawkins existence. But, then again those people really deserve to be called ignornant, so in the end if the shoe fits...

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 01:22 AM

27. If you ran across a group of people who worshipped Zeus, and prepared burnt offerings....

for his greater glory, would you consider them delusional?


I would.

Ignorant, maybe not, but delusional... definitely.

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Response to PassingFair (Reply #27)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 09:40 PM

36. They would probably be really fun. nt

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Response to PassingFair (Reply #27)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 10:50 PM

40. Hellenism, of course they exist

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenic_Polytheistic_Reconstructionism

Why pick on certain local neopagan religious movement? Are you suggesting Hellenists are more delusional than Asatru, Wiccans etc. neopagans? Or that neopagans generally are more delusional than Christians and other major religions?

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Response to tama (Reply #40)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 01:57 AM

44. I think the point of the post

was not to pick on the Hellenists more than any other religion, but to question how Christians would find the Hellenists delusional for worshiping Gods the Christians don't think exist, but find their own faith perfectly rational, whereas an atheist would see no difference between the two and question how the Christian can be so certain.

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Response to uriel1972 (Reply #44)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 02:37 AM

45. Benevolent interpretation

 

and I'm all for those.

I assume there was a case of ignorance about neopagan hellenism being an existing and active religion, but what if the case in point would have been local native-American pagan traditions instead of an European one? Offering tobacco smoke to Great Spirit as prime example of delusion? The possibility of offending someones religious sensitivies would have been much clearer, I presume...

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 08:41 AM

28. Ignorance is not a crime - we're all ignorant of many things.

Wilful ignorance, however, is a different matter.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Thu Dec 15, 2011, 02:11 PM

32. One should distinguish between religious individuals and religious bodies

If a religious body asserts a belief that is contrary to well established facts, then the religous body is willfully ignorant.

Adherents to the religous body who also maintain that belief (an not all are likely to) may or may not be aware of the science behind the well established facts. In which case they are either just ignorant or also willfully ignorant.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 12:36 AM

41. I'm sorry, where in there did Dawkins call religious people ignorant?

All I get from the above is that he suggests that, compared to modern people, the ancients didn't know very much the world and how it works. That's not in any way uncharitable.

You're the one who is suggesting that people today hold religious beliefs because science does not yet have the answers to all of the questions that it will someday hold. I think you are making the assumption that there is some undefined quantity of scientific knowledge that, once compiled, will eliminate all religious belief. I'm not so certain that's the case.

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 01:50 AM

42. It is rude to call all religious people ignorant,

It may be fair to say some religious people are ignorant, for a given value of ignorance.
I know some quite intelligent believers, including those working in scientific fields, so to call all religious people ignorant is a broad-brush attack.

Pointing out 'magical thinking' can be harsh and it's proponents may think it rude, but reality does not care for sensitivities.

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Response to uriel1972 (Reply #42)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 01:55 AM

43. What is the difference between "ignorance" and "magical thinking".

Don't forget that while GWB and others may have helped this nation redefine the word "ignorant" to mean "stumbling fuckwit," the actual meaning of the word simply means lacking in knowledge, perhaps on a particular subject.

I'd certainly say that "magical thinking" represents a lack of knowledge.

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Response to darkstar3 (Reply #43)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 02:48 AM

46. I take your point nt

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Response to darkstar3 (Reply #43)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 02:56 AM

47. To base your

 

claim on empirical observation, you should first practice magical thinking in good faith instead of making claims based on mere hearsay and prejudice. In the spirit of this thread I understand it's ok to be ignorant about what and how is magical thinking, but not ok to be willfully ignorant.

Edit: to qualify, also scientific thinking certainly is a form of "lack of knowledge" - starting from basic skeptical attitude, uncertainty principle, etc. etc. As is philosophy of Socrates etc: "I only know that I know nothing".

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Response to tama (Reply #47)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 09:42 PM

54. Most of us who reject magical thinking grew up practicing it in good faith.

Praying to Joe Pesci gets me the same results as praying to Jesus, which gets me the same results as doing nothing at all.

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Response to iris27 (Reply #54)

Sat Dec 17, 2011, 05:32 AM

55. Praying?

 

By 'magical thinking' I understand how practicing magicians think. Term refers also to non-western native ways of thinking, according to wikipedia.

Christians tend to get offended if they are called magical thinkers, as they are tought to accept only one mage, Jesus, and condemn all others, tought to just believe and not to think. Is atheist use of the term "magical thinking" intended to be a slur against Christians?

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Response to tama (Reply #55)

Sat Dec 17, 2011, 11:58 AM

56. I use magical thinking

to describe all forms of magical thinking. Any religious belief, mysticism, belief in the supernatural, astrology, alt healing, all of it is magical thinking.

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Response to lazarus (Reply #56)

Sat Dec 17, 2011, 04:23 PM

57. Yes, exactly. Not a slur, but a description. n/t

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Response to darkstar3 (Reply #43)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 07:42 PM

53. lol!

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Response to LAGC (Original post)

Fri Dec 16, 2011, 06:37 PM

51. It's not rude to tell the truth

 

And the truth is that the sooner humanity grows up and dispenses of this nonsense that we call religion, the better.

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