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Religulous [Oct. 6th, 2008|02:39 pm]
Okrzyki, przyjaciel!
Some impressions:

1. Bill Maher needs to figure out how groom his hair so it doesn't look like greasy seaweed. Seriously, on the big screen it's really an uncomfortable distraction.

2. All of the interviews were very dishonestly edited. Several times I saw cuts after something Maher said to a reaction shot of the interviewee, where the interviewee wasn't reacting to what Maher said. Any time there's an edit like that, it's just to make the interviewee look like an idiot.

3. You can always have the last word if you're editing the interview. You can also cut out any part where the interviewee makes a reasonable rebuttal to Maher's premise.

4. His whole thesis in this movie -- that religion is bad -- can be refuted thusly:

Everyone from Paul of Tarsus to Gödel has shown that all knowledge is incomplete, that all models of the universe are provisional. Religious people have their imperfect models of the universe, and atheists have theirs. You can make an effective argument (as Maher does, up to a point) that a scientific empericism is closer to describing the 'real world' than religious faith.

But you can't make an effective argument that an atheistic or agnostic world view is 'better' -- for two reasons: 1) Assuming that you can objectively judge the outcomes of decisions, in both the religous and secular can you argue that one is 'better'? 2) Can you even judge anything objectively?

This is a functional argument for religious faith -- even if some of the things you believe are silly, you may in fact be a better person for your faith. The same thing goes for atheists -- you can argue atheism meaning there is no a priori morality. Atheists can choose to be go wild on the world, since nothing has any particular meaning. Or you can work from human tradition, common sense, and come to a human idea of moralty.

But what you can't say, scientifically, is "those people over there are nuts." Which more or less is what Maher's movie is all about. You don't know enough about the universe to make that judgement!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: pipecock
2008-10-07 01:52 am (UTC)
"Atheists can choose to be go wild on the world, since nothing has any particular meaning."

this is what makes athiests better people: because they have to choose not to do that without any guidance from anybody/anything else. that puts them above people who have a threat against them from a higher authority, even if they reach the same level of good action in the world.

if i believe that elves are coming out of the ground at night and molest me, a psychiatrist is going to say i have a problem. but if i believe i speak to god, i can be elected president? come on man, all bullshit aside you have to see the problem with this. basically what it boils down to is that if enough people accept the garbage, it become legitimate?

what happened to objectivity? is nothing at all true? is Lil' Wayne the best emcee of all time just because a bunch of ignorant people believe it to be so? i really dont believe that you think that nothing is objectively true, that is just insanity.

even the tiniest bit of proof for any of these religions aside from "well, we have this book that says so" would really go a long long way towards making my attitude towards religion less hostile. but of course there is zero proof, and there never will be. are all folk traditions valid because people believe them? are leprechauns real?

do you really think that religion makes people act better? i dont need to cite the number of wars started/inflamed/etc because of relgious tensions, not least of which is our entire fucking support of Israel for the last 50 years of their bullshit. aside from that, how often are the good things that they do tied to conversion into that religion? in fact i would say that religious people seem to be far more cynical about being good than athiests.

seriously, i dont care how mean spiritied or wildly edited this movie was. i think it is great that some serious shit about how ridiculous all this religion is can finally be out there in the mainstream. the world would 100% be a better place with no religion because then people would need to actually be good people to be considered good people instead of falling back on some religious dogmatic horeshit.
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-07 01:58 am (UTC)
My only point about the mean spiritedness is that it might have had more "oomph" if he hadn't come across as so mean, and if he had found more ways to get people to look stupid on their own rather than flat out calling them stupid. But, yeah, otherwise I agree with you 100% here Tom.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-10-07 02:12 am (UTC)
All I'm saying is that assholes are everywhere, and there aren't more religious assholes than agnostic or atheist assholes. If believing in Jesus or Buddha or the Flying Spaghetti Monster means you're a better person than you'd otherwise be, then religion works, QED. Think carefully about what I'm saying: leave your own feelings about Church and God aside and look at the actual people involved, and how it works FOR THEM. Personally I think they're taking something literally that works better as metaphor or mystery, but I'm not going to tear them down for not agreeing with me.

I also believe there's no moral belief system that can keep sociopaths and assholes from harshing on everyone else's mellow. I think it is reasonable to critique religious belief, but it isn't reasonable to do it from a smug, superior position.

Spend a few Sundays in a small black church or a Quaker Meeting and tell me something positive isn't going on. There are moral, loving open-hearted people who have found their hearts through religion. I don't agree with what they believe, but I love the people they've become.
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[User Picture]From: pipecock
2008-10-07 02:22 am (UTC)
"If believing in Jesus or Buddha or the Flying Spaghetti Monster means you're a better person than you'd otherwise be, then religion works, QED."

but how many people can you really say that about? how do you know that they wouldnt have been a better person NOT believing in that? i read about some study where altruism was present in extremely small children who had yet to understand right or wrong. having religion cloud that up is probably more harm than good IMO since by believing in one, you are discounting believers of all others as well as athiests flat out.

"I also believe there's no moral belief system that can keep sociopaths and assholes from harshing on everyone else's mellow. I think it is reasonable to critique religious belief, but it isn't reasonable to do it from a smug, superior position."

if the ability to be a decent person without threat doesnt make one superior to a person who needs that threat, i dont know what does!

"Spend a few Sundays in a small black church or a Quaker Meeting and tell me something positive isn't going on. There are moral, loving open-hearted people who have found their hearts through religion. I don't agree with what they believe, but I love the people they've become."

but counter that with the number of hate filled evangelicals (and other nonevangelicals, really) out there and you will find those good people to be far, far outnumbered.

the way i see it, the means counts possibly more than the end in this equation. everyone reaching the status of being a "good person" is worthless if it requires coercion. what makes someone "good" to me is HOW they arrived at that end.

this is why i like existentialist philosophy, it puts the weight of becoming something only on the shoulders of that person, not on any other moral institution.
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[User Picture]From: hypnotyza
2008-10-07 04:21 pm (UTC)
having religion cloud that up is probably more harm than good IMO since by believing in one, you are discounting believers of all others as well as atheists flat out.

that's painting with a fairly wide brush, don't you think? simply because i was raised Catholic does not mean that, now that I am a man of 32 years, i feel that Judaism is a farce. or that i do not respect and appreciate the teachings of Mohammed.

there is an element of self-preservation in every action that a human being performs. religion is a man-made institution, ergo...it's going to inherit some of those characteristics. but, it isn't a foregone conclusion that every Catholic is a card-carrying anti-Semite.
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[User Picture]From: pipecock
2008-10-07 11:19 pm (UTC)
i am not saying that it requires straight up hatred of people of another religion, but obviously if you thought their religion was legitimate you would have joined that one instead. it conveys this, even without stating it at all. respecting the philosophies of these guys is fine, i see no problem with that. but i wouldnt pray to Nietzsche even though i tend to agree with him most of the time.
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[User Picture]From: bitterwhiteguy
2008-10-07 04:27 am (UTC)
"All I'm saying is that assholes are everywhere, and there aren't more religious assholes than agnostic or atheist assholes."

Sure there are, because the religious folks outnumber the agnostic/atheist community by an order of magnitude. Now if you want to go by percentages of each community, I'd take that point.
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[User Picture]From: hypnotyza
2008-10-07 04:08 pm (UTC)
basically what it boils down to is that if enough people accept the garbage, it become legitimate?

i would like to call into evidence Exhibit A: Scientology.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-10-07 04:18 pm (UTC)
Scientology, Mormonism, Reunification Church, etc etc. An Organized Religion is just a cult with staying power.

But that's neither here nor there to my argument: not only do you bum people out by telling them their religion is bullshit, you are ignoring the ways in which it improves lives and comforts the afflicted. It's a human institution, and it involves believing in things that can't be proven, or worse, are demonstrably fantastic, but to dismiss it out of hand is to impose YOUR beliefs on others.

And one should keep in mind that ALL certainty is a fiction, including one's certainty about others' beliefs.
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[User Picture]From: hypnotyza
2008-10-07 05:39 pm (UTC)
actually, i pretty much agree with your entire argument (from the beginning of the post onward), but the swipe at L. Ron, Inc. was too easy to not take. they're just so damn freaky.

let's apply it to musical lingo that we're familiar with...a religion is to cult as mainstream is to underground. (maybe that's a little redundant, even.)
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-07 10:08 pm (UTC)
"ALL certainty is a fiction"

i see where you're going with that, but it belies science and logic. to wit, i am certain that when i put my feet on the floor, i will not go through it into the room below. i can point to a number of reasonable certainties that we as humans experience a number so large that it approaches the infinite. god, however, is not one of them. god/the supernatural is not a reasonable certainty. that's the point, and the only one. religion does lots of nice things, but it is founded on, BY DEFINITION, an unreasonable certainty, aka blind faith.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2008-10-07 11:07 pm (UTC)
You could wake up tomorrow after having a lesion develop in a particular place in your brain, and not recognize the left half of your body as your own, and be frightened that it was attacking you.

You can't prove, or disprove God. Hell any two people will come up with three definitions of God. But people can believe anything, and can only prove a few things.

And when it comes to faith... well religious people CELEBRATE believing in something beyond what they they can see. They derive comfort from it. I can't share that experience with that but who am I to try and take it away from them. As long as they don't fuck with me I think it's rude to fuck with them.
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[User Picture]From: calmdahn
2008-10-07 11:12 pm (UTC)
Enh. You just don't get it.
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