||[Oct. 6th, 2008|02:39 pm]
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!
"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.
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.
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.