Monday, May 29, 2006


Dennett in the Daniel's Den

Atheist philosopher Daniel Dennet, writing in the June edition of BBC's Focus Magazine, opines that:

'Religions have evolved in order to protect themselves. What we see today are the hardiest specimens, which in order to survive have had to change. The ones that have prospered have created an aura around themselves and inspire love in their followers. When you really love someone, you respond dramatically to any sensed threat - nobody gets to even ask questions about my beloved.'

1. The core doctrinal beliefs, attendent attitudes and consequent actions that form Christian spirituality have somehow managed to remain unchanged for coming up for 2000 years. Perhaps this has to do with the religion being anchored to the first and second hand reporting of certain 1st century folk coming to terms with experiences centred upon a Jew from Nazareth.

2. The first followers of that Jewish man asked him a lot of questions, and sometimes contradicted him (Peter), and sometimes refused to believe eye-witness testimony unless they too could have the same eye-witness experience (Thomas). Every since, many people have continued to ask tough questions about Jesus. Some of them have become loving followers as a result. Some of them have gone on to become professional question askers, some called theologians (who ask things like - did Jesus really say that & what did he mean?), other called philosophers of religion (who ask things like, how can a man also be divine? Is it possible to know that someone rose from the dead?).

So it seems to me that Christianity does a fair job of subverting Dennett's description on religion.

Dennett also attempts to psychoanalyse the 'resurgence of religion in some contries', arguing that: 'The main reason is that the high-tech world intimidates people, so they cast about for a sense of their own power in the world.'

Interesting. You'll often hear the atheist claim that people invented belief in God because the natural world intimidated them and they needed to secure a sense of power in the world. But now Dennett thinks that the technology humans have invented to give them power over the natural world so intimidates us that we (i.e. non-atheists) are intimidated and re-invent our belief in God to give us a sense of power in the world. Seems as if people are religious if they lack power and religious if they don't lack power.

Moreover, while religious people might find themselves opposed to doing certain things with technology on moral grounds, that hardly counts as being 'intimidated by technology'. The same Christian who opposed trans-humanism or stem-cell engineering may very well also be the person who designed your laptop or built your i-pod. And what am I doing writing about my religion on the internet? Isn't technology meant to intimidate people like me?

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