Why “probably”?

The LA Times carried an interview with “The God Delusion” author Richard Dawkins who supports an atheism campaign in Britain. The campaign, and the response it has received make a very funny story-

Earlier this month, 800 buses rolled out of depots across Britain plastered with advertisements cheerfully informing people that “there’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Sponsored by the British Humanist Assn., the ad campaign is the brainchild of a comedian who had seen Christian messages on buses, looked up the websites of the organizations behind them and found warnings that, as a nonbeliever, she was destined to go to hell.

The new ads have attracted little controversy in Britain, a secular country that finds religious fervor a tad awkward. Perhaps the biggest kerfuffle has been over the word “probably” in the slogan, which the British advertising authority said should be thrown in to keep the ad from being potentially misleading, on the grounds that no one can say with 100% certainty that God does not exist.

On seeing these advertisements, some Christian organization has complained to the British Advertising Standards Agency “saying [the advertisements] break rules on substantiation and truthfulness.”-

[S]tephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: “There is plenty of evidence for God, from people’s personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.

“But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.”

If only he could prove that non believers do go to hell when they die.

Dawkins is right when he says this-

I don’t think that total atheism is a totally rational position. Anyone that definitely says there is no God — you can’t rationally say that any more than you can say there are definitely no unicorns, there are no dragons, there are no fairies. . . . You can’t disprove the existence of Santa Claus.

To the extent that I’m an “a-fairyist” or an “a-unicornist,” I am an atheist.

This shouldn’t stop atheists from declaring “there is no God” however. Religious people don’t worship “probably” Gods, do they? They believe God exists. Similarly, since atheists don’t find the need to believe that God is necessary to explain the universe, they shouldn’t be in “doubt” about his non-existence. The existence or non-existence of God cannot be proved by science – the “natural world” is no proof of God nor is its “intelligent design”. So you end up with two “theories” – God is behind everything, and there is no God. Within these two theories, you are free to believe whatever it is you want to believe (including fighting over whose God is the “real” God – the Christian God, the Muslim God, the many Hindu Gods and so on).

Christians are not the only ones who get all hot and bothered about attacks on their faith. Islamic fundamentalists have presented a beautiful example of murderous intolerance over the last 1500 years. And the Hindus are not too far behind, though I tend to call the Hinduism espoused by prudish outfits like the RSS and VHP Victorian Hinduism. I once had a reasonably interesting debate on philosophy and theology – reason and faith – over Rama and his magic arrow; the Supreme Court of India will decide whether Lord Rama existed – a day for the history books. The donkey is an interesting animal. Nietzsche uses it in “Thus Spake Zarathustra” to highlight the stupidity of the “higher men.” And I used it in my arguments against a “standard” God-

Okay, keep “reason” aside. Now what? We start believing in God? Why should people only believe in the Hindu concept of God or one of the Judaic ones? What if I say that the world was created by an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient eighteen-headed donkey and that every time it brays, there is rainfall in the Amazon rain forest and that everyone should believe in it since the theory can neither be proven nor dis-proven?

Dawkins, when he’s asked if he sees “any redeeming values in religion or a belief in God,” says-

You can find individuals who are religious who are also good people, and even people who do good things motivated by religion. I suspect you’ll find a lot of missionaries all over Africa and New Guinea and places who are doing good in one form or another. But I don’t think there’s any general reason, any logical pathway, that goes from being religious to being good. . . .

It’s quite interesting to reflect on the logical pathway that would lead you to be bad. I don’t know if you would accept this, but the 19 perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks genuinely thought they were being good. They believed they were doing the will of Allah. . . . There is a logical pathway from religion to doing atrocious things. I don’t think there’s a logical path that leads you from atheism to that kind of thing.

Of course there are atheists who do terrible things. But I don’t think you can derive it [from atheism itself].

He’s right here too. The communists of USSR were atheists, and they were mass murderers. They established an atheist state by force, oppressing the Russian Orthodox Church in the process. But the roots of their murderous spree does not lie in atheism, unlike the jihadists, or their Christian and Hindu counterparts whose wars have their roots in religion.

Strong atheism is an interesting website that has articles on philosophy and theology including issues like morality and nihilism.

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