Is Belief in God Prohibitive or Liberating? July 2, 2012

Is Belief in God Prohibitive or Liberating?

I’ve received a number of emails recently asking why atheists focus so much on Christianity and not Islam. (Short answer: In America, at least, Christians are the ones constantly fighting to turn their private beliefs into public laws, not Muslims.)

Anyway, reader Richard passed along this video of a debate between physicist Lawrence Krauss and Muslim activist Uthman Badar. The two-hour debate is over whether belief in god is prohibitive or liberating.

I would at least check out the excerpt at 2:03:53 where Krauss rails on how “religion treats adults like children”:

At 2:06:32, there’s also a nice bit where Krauss responds to the question of how atheism can possibly be inspiring.

If you watch the video, let us know what other bits/timestamps we should check out!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • In light of the recent Neil deGrasse Tyson label debate, I thought 43m was interesting.  Krauss also doesn’t call himself an atheist, but for slightly different reasons than Tyson.

  • It seems like Krauss is straw-manning atheism a little bit. He has this mistaken idea that we atheists can somehow prove definitively that there is no purpose to the universe. He would rather describe himself as an anti-theist… which is a subset of atheism.

  • I dislike that he is promoting the hard/gnositc atheist version of atheist, but I think in this case it was intentional given the audience, and a bit of a bait and switch.  He wasn’t really shying away from it like Tyson, given the zinger.

    It kind of aligns with my own position.  I don’t really care about the existence of gods.  I care more about combating the ill effects of people believing in gods, and more importantly thinking their gods tell them what other people should and should not do.  We all have the right to our own delusion.  We don’t have the right to impose our delusion on others.

  • I see what you’re saying. Can’t say I disagree.

  • Jeff Xenobuilder

    Right at the end at about 2:08, Badar gives final comments, and suggests that the atheist view point requires “false lies” to prevent dispare.  He says it multiple times, I suppose trying to make a point.  Isn’t a false lie a truth?

  • flyb

    What struck me was the first two and a half minutes when the moderator introduced Krauss for almost 2 minutes, listing all the scientific orgs and projects he’s involved with, educational institutions, and numerous papers and books. Then he introduces Badar in about 15 seconds, “and he’s interested in philosophy and theology… so, let’s begin…”

  • Start at 39:00 for full context.  At 39:13: “Because while you refer to Quantum Mechanics, I actually understand it”
    That’s a great put down!

  • I absolutely agree that “religion treats people like children.” The entire point of any religion … and any ideology, as well … is infantilize its followers. Religions promote and promulgate continuous immaturity, because childish and infantilized people are much easier to manipulate and control than mature adults with brains, who’re willing to use them.

    It’s not a coincidence, for example, that the gospels record Jesus saying the kingdom of god belongs to children, and that one must be childlike in order to enter it (see e.g. Mt 19:13-14 & Lk 18:15-17). It’s also no coincidence that Muslims have rioted and murdered over burned Qur’ans … which is most assuredly a childlike tantrum.

    The sooner we understand the integral and inseparable link between religiosity and immaturity, the sooner humanity can grow up, get over its need for metaphysics, and start acting rationally and with maturity.

  • Wow, so far I have watched the first 30-minutes, and the Muslim speaker spent the vast majority of the time saying that since one thing leads to another, all of it *must* have had an original cause, and that cause is something that has always existed, and which had a conscious will, and that being is God. There is no evidence provided to support these leaps. 

    It is just the Kalam Cosmological argument, just as illogical as when William Lane Craig wastes time on this. 

  • Waynedunlap

    Check out what Krauss said 1:59:08.   He states that the laws of Physics break down at time=0.  That troubles me because it brings into question Krauss’ declaration in his book that at T=0  nothing was unstable and resulted in matter appearing many times and expanding rapidly into multiverses, one of which, ours, had all the required parameters required for life.    Fortunately, Krauss also admitted early on that he didn’t know for sure how our universe began and stated he wasn’t an atheist.  Dawkins has also stated that he is an agnostic, but also as close to an atheist as he can be.  I think you may know where this is going.  Since the gurus admit they don’t know for sure, and therefore are agnostics with atheistic leanings, why is it that many people here state that they are atheists?  What is it that makes you surer than these very smart individuals?

  • Waynedunlap

     “We all have the right to our own delusion.  We don’t have the right to impose our delusion on others.”

    Couldn’t agree with you more.  The Right Wing Religious groups want to do just that and the Republican candidates were falling all over themselves claiming they agreed with these groups in hopes of getting their votes. 

  • The label we choose doesn’t reflect your understanding of the words ‘agnostic’ and ‘atheist’.  That’s all.

    None of us (speaking for everyone here, but I feel safe) would categorically deny the possibility that some kind of gods exist.  Maybe we’re part of a giant computer simulation, and we’re God’s thesis project.  None of the atheists here think the bible is anything more than a bunch of myths surrounding perhaps a nugget of non-supernatural history.

  • Waynedunlap

     “The label we choose doesn’t reflect your understanding of the words ‘agnostic’ and ‘atheist’.  That’s all.”

    I go by the dictionary definition.  Theism is the belief in a god.  Atheism is the belief there is no god.   Remember that both Dawkins and Krauss admitted that they are essentially agnostics, meaning they do not know, but that they are very close to being atheists.  Why not admit that you are an agnostic, in that you don’t know and cannot show evidence one way or another but that you believe that that a god does not exist for what ever reason even though you cannot show evidence of this?

    ” None of the atheists here think the bible is anything more than a bunch
    of myths surrounding perhaps a nugget of non-supernatural history.”

    I couldn’t agree more.  In the case of religion we can pretty much show evidence that they are man-made and not god inspired. 

    BTW, my stance is that of an agnostic, in that I admit that I do not know.  However, I tend to lean slightly towards the belief that a creator may have been necessary.  In any case, there is no real way of knowing for sure.   I think that Krauss has given probably the best argument for a natural means for the beginning of our universe.  That matter appeared from nothing many times and expanded into multiple universes, with at least one, ours, having all the required extremely finely tuned parameters required for life of any kind to develop.  Unfortunately, Krauss is using quantum mechanics in which there has been observed particle pairs, one matter & one anti-matter, appearing from nothing and then disappearing again.  The problem with this is that quantum mechanics is governed on the atomic level where as it appears that the matter that expanded into our universe had to be larger than the atomic level.  Also, Krauss admits that at Time=Zero, the laws of physics, as we know them in our universe, may have been different. 

  • “Why not admit that you are an agnostic ”

    Because then ‘atheist’ is a useless word, since there aren’t any.  I think for most purposes ‘atheist’ describes me better than ‘agnostic’.  The only problem is that some people then assume (incorrectly) that I think I can disprove God.  And then they (not you) claim internet-argument-points.  Which is fine.  I may try to correct them, but it’s really no skin off my nose.

    I agree that most dictionaries equate atheism with a belief that there is no God.  However that doesn’t naturally follow from the Greek. 

    a = ‘without”.  Passive lack of belief is not the same as an active belief in the non-existence.

    I think that’s lazy/dated lexicography.

    What I think is important is that people understand each other.  Which is why I think some people like Krauss/Dawkins  in some contexts use ‘agnostic’.  It’s more about the audience and communicating your position as quickly as possible.

  • Waynedunlap

     “Because then ‘atheist’ is a useless word, since there aren’t any.”

    Not really.  There are Theists and there are Atheists.  The problem is that neither one has definitive proof behind their beliefs, so both are forced to accept this belief on faith alone.  Also, there are agnostics who have either theistic or atheistic beliefs, but are willing to admit they don’t know for sure because they don’t have the facts or evidence to back up their beliefs. 

    I use the Webster dictionary definition because otherwise we are forced to come up with our own definition to fit our purpose and that only leads to confusion.

    Though Krauss & Dawkins are referred to as the new atheists, they admit that, though they  lean heavily towards atheism, they are at least willing to admit that they don’t know for sure.
    (Definition of an atheist)
    (Definition of a theist)

  • At 44 FTW!!! Go Krauss!

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