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I’ve just read Daniel Tammet’s thoughts on ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins. The comments section hosts a stimulating debate and Daniel (famed for being a high functioning autistic savant, who recalled PI to over 20,000 decimal places and learned Icelandic in 7 days) puts some well thought out arguments across. Here’s one introducing the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard‘s idea about the three spheres of existence in a human life (I’d say I’m on the second sphere):

Hi Jeff,

I’m sorry that you feel so bitterly towards religious belief; as I said before bitterness warps reason rather than advancing it.

Actually the concept of ‘faith’ is a lot more nuanced than your breezy description of it. In the context of Christian belief, it would be understood as (definition from Dictionary.com): ‘confidence or trust in a person or thing‘ where the Christian invests confidence/trust in the truth claims made by religion, and by the Church in particular.

As for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I prefer tuna or egg myself) I wouldn’t expect to find you – the sandwich’s maker – between its two slices. Dawkins was wrong when he stated that religious people believe in a universe containing a god – creators can’t be expected to be found within their creations.

I’m curious, what was the chain of reasoning that has led you to believe?

I don’t think you are curious.

You miss the point about scientists with religious beliefs, which is that religion and reason can and do go together. They are not mutually incompatible, but are ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ (as described by the scientist Stephen Jay Gould).

The term ‘leap of faith’ was coined by the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard in the 19th century. Kierkegaard argued that there were three spheres of existence in a human life: the aesthetic, the moral and the religious.

The aesthetic involves self-gratification. A person becomes dissatisfied with the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake and either adapts to his/her despair or moves to the next stage, the moral, which involves a sense of responsibility and ethical conduct towards other people.

Kierkegaard argued that attempting to live ethically creates a sense of meaning (and that meaning as objective and permanent) in a person and that this creates despair again, as the person attempts to reconcile his/her temporary existence with the sense of permanent meaning.

Release from such despair comes with the ‘leap of faith’, which takes a person beyond the limitations of rational thought and gives the person a sense of the permanent significance of his/her life. Kierkegaard, who Wittgenstein described as ‘by far, the most profound thinker of the nineteenth century‘ evidently did not consider such a leap to be ‘intellectual suicide’.

Saint Paul lived to around 65 AD, about 30 years after Christ’s crucifixion. It is no great assumption to state that he taught at a time when many lived who had lived during the period of Jesus’s ministry.

You say that religious people refuse to engage in rational debate, but here I am debating with you. That’s a new piece of evidence to adapt your worldview to include.

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2 Comments

  1. I recall a comment of Karl Kraus: “When a man is treated like a beast, he says: ‘After all I’m human.’ When he behaves like a beast, he says: ‘After all, I’m only human.’ ” I object to the pernicious effects of science, which include using our biological evolution from less complex creatures as an excuse for bad behaviour and the way in which scientists speak of random events as if this was a demostrable scientific fact. It is not.

    To say an event is unpredictable, at least in our present state of knowledge, is a factual description. To call an event random, conceals, without admitting it, a metaphysical presupposition, which lies outside the realm of science altogether, namely the dogma that there cannot be such a thing as Providence or miracles. As a Muslim, I believe in both by faith: I don’t pretend I can prove them. Goethe was right in saying that ‘We need a categorical imperative in the natural sciences as much as we need one in ethics.’ We are finding out to our cost, that we cannot enslave nature without enslaving ourselves. If nobody in the universe is responsible for man, then we must conclude that man is responsible, under and to God, for the universe. This means, that it is our task to discover what everything in the universe from electrons upwards could, to its betterment, become, but cannot become without our help. This means re-introducing into the sciences a new notion of teleology, long a dirty word.

  2. I think Daniel has also missed the point.
    It’s not God that is illogical, it’s religion as an institution.
    Why is he Christian and not Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist?
    I have no quarrel with those who with to believe in God.
    I do with those who willingly become slaves to dogma.


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