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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Breaking Atheism News

In my last incarnation with JFS, I helped organize a senior activity program in partnership with a nearby synagogue. Yesterday, my old group, called Endless Opportunities, hosted a discussion forum on the topic of atheism, with guest speaker Rabbi Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai.

They talked about the recent trio of God-bashing best sellers by Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I spoke to the new organizer of this group, Ellen H., who was amazed that almost a quarter of the record-setting audience volunteered that they were atheists themselves. Given that this group was meeting at a synagogue and featured a congregational rabbi as the guest speaker, that says a lot for the interest level and courage of those participants. I was thrilled to hear that so many atheists showed up, and I heard that the group discussion was interesting and appropriate. Ellen reported that the rabbi was sympathetic to many of the critics of organized religion; and apparently the atheists were sympathetic to the believers. Such civility in the face of all the recent hubbub! It makes a social worker proud.

As I was reading a review of that trio of recent atheist polemics... I stumbled across one published in the New Yorker (May 21, 2007) by Anthony Gottlieb. Gottlieb seems to be pining for the days of Bertrand Russell (with his "crisp wit") and David Hume (who evidently made his protests with humor and discretion instead of bashing believers in all their forms and guises.) He summarizes Hume's view as "God is merely the answer you get if you do not ask enough questions." Gottlieb, and I agree with him on this, would be more favorably inclined to hear the arguments of atheists if they refrained from the same kind of saber-rattling and name-calling that they decry in their enemy. It's like listening to Air America. I can't stand it. I'm sympathetic to the viewpoints of the liberal hosts, but because they co-opt the angry shrill style of conservative talk radio hosts, they become unlistenable.

I'm glad to hear that Temple De Hirsch Sinai and Jewish Family Service (at least) are able to be a bit more congenial about the whole thing.

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2 Comments:

At 8/15/2007 07:59:00 PM, Blogger Jon said...

I too dislike listening to Air America but given the hegemony of the religious voice in the USA, it is perhaps unsurprising that atheists feel that they have to be as vociferous in their defence of truth.

 
At 8/16/2007 10:18:00 PM, Blogger soapysteve said...

www.youtube.com/patcondell

coincidence: word verification "oflgd" = oh for the love of god?

 

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