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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Friday, January 22, 2010

One for the German speakers ... Edgar Dahl on atheism and religion

Edgar Dahl writes about atheism and the current debates over religion. He talks about the "Four Horsemen" - Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris - and about 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. He opens as follows with references to The God Delusion, God is Not Great, Breaking the Spell, The End of Faith, and 50 Voices of Disbelief:

Seit der Veröffentlichung von Richard Dawkins’ „Der Gotteswahn“, Christopher Hitchens’ „Der Herr ist kein Hirte“, Daniel Dennetts „Den Zauber brechen“ und Sam Harris’ „Das Ende des Glaubens“ gibt es wieder einmal eine erbittert geführte Debatte über die Religion.

Der Streit darüber, ob die Annahmen der Religion wirklich glaubwürdig sind, scheint dabei kein Ende zu nehmen. Mit dem kürzlich erschienenen Buch „50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists“ ist sogar noch einmal zusätzlich Öl ins Feuer gegossen worden.


Greywizard said...

Well, at least you are credited with pouring more oil onto the fire. That should be encouraging. And he does point out, towards the end, after pointing out that atheism is a philosophical position and not an ideology, that the the fact that Epicurus, Voltaire, Hume, etc. shared doubts about God's existence with horrible people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc., is as pure a conincidence as Nietzsche and Schweitzer having similar beards. And he makes an interesting reference to the fact that reviewers of 50 Voices seemed astonished - Aber was ist daran eigentlich so „erstaunlich“?, as he rightly asks - to find so many different ways of looking at the world amongst Atheists, as though all of them should share more in common than their disbelief in God. Which is an important point, because religious readers want to make atheism as ideological as religion, and it simply isn't, since at its foundation it is the product of critical reason, and not political commitment - except insofar as critical reason upholds forms of governance that are nourishing for the exercise of critical reason.

DEEN said...

Hoo boy, did my German get rusty. But it was a nice article, thanks for linking it.

Ophelia Benson said...

"the fact that Epicurus, Voltaire, Hume, etc. shared doubts about God's existence with horrible people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc., is as pure a coincidence as Nietzsche and Schweitzer having similar beards."

I don’t think that’s right, actually. It’s not as simple – or as ‘pure’ – as that. It might be (especially in Hitler’s case) only as pure as the old ‘even a stopped clock is right twice a day’ – or it might be an even less pure matter of noting that horrible people aren’t necessarily wrong about everything.

The truth is that it’s entirely possible that all three of them had some reasonable ideas mixed in with the monstrous ones. We don’t have to deny that in order to argue that their doubts about God's existence did not cause their horribleness.

Roger said...

Nietzsche and Schweitzer didn't have beards. They had moustaches. As a matter of curiosity, is there a word for such mistaken comparisons as this?

Was Hitler an atheist? In his table-talk he certainly spoke of himself as carrying out god's will. Equally, there was a similarity between marxism- at least as exemplified by Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao- and religion in the common belief that they served higher powers- whether god or history- and the importance of obeying the agents of those powers on earth.