The God Argument- Case against Religion and For Humanism


March 30, 2013

 

 

An Interview with A.C. Grayling

A.C. Grayling is Master of the New College of the Humanities (London). He
is the author of the acclaimed Among the Dead Cities: The History and
Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan,
Descartes: The Life and Times of a Genius, Toward the Light of Liberty:
The Struggles for Freedom and Rights That Made the Modern Western World,
and, most recently, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible. A former fellow of
the World Economic Forum at Davos and past chairman of the human rights
organization June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Times,
Financial Times, Economist, New Statesman, and Prospect. Grayling´s play
“Grace,” co-written with Mick Gordon, was acclaimed in London and New
York. He is also an advisor to my nonprofit foundation, Project Reason.

Anthony´s new book is The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for
Humanism.

What is your religious background?

I was brought up in a non-religious household and was first presented with
religious ideas in school; they did not persuade me but on the contrary
seemed non-rational and misleading. In the study of history I became aware
of the effects of religious divisions and sectarianism on individuals and
societies, and came to think that freedom from religious influence is a
human rights issue. I am an atheist, a secularist and a humanist.

Perhaps you should clarify the differences between atheism, secularism,
and humanism.

The first is a metaphysical view about what the universe contains (about
what exists), the second is a commitment to separation of religious
organizations from state organizations, and the third is the ethical
outlook of any reflective person who does not have any religious beliefs
or commitments.

What are the roots of humanism, in your view?

The tradition of ethical thought stemming from classical antiquity is the
foundation of humanism (and is a thousand years older than
Christianity)-the study of these ideas suggests their living applicability
to life, and I have been keen to alert people to this fact. Often people
ask “what is the alternative to religion as a philosophy of life,” and the
emphatic answer is: humanism.

Humanism is a philosophical starting point for reflection on how one
should live, according to one´s own talents and interests and under the
government of respecting others and not doing them harm, allowing them
their own quest for an individual good life.

Do you think a person can be both a humanist and a person of faith?

No, religion and humanism are not consistent-unless you mean `humanism´ in
the Renaissance sense, where it denoted the study of classical literature.
But this study soon showed people that the ideas and outlook of classical
thought is at odds with religion, which is why humanism is now a secular
philosophy.

Do you have any advice on how to raise children as humanists in a world
where most people are religious?

Easy-make children conscious of their responsibilities to others, help
them to be clear-eyed and to think, question, always ask for the evidence
and arguments in support of any proposition-and explain how the legacy of
mankind´s ignorant past survives in religious beliefs and practices, and
what role these have in social life as a result of their historical
embedding.

What would you say to someone who argues that we need religion, whether or
not any religious doctrine is true, because religion gives us
spirituality, rituals, etc.?

I say that such pleasures and relaxations as a country walk, dinner with
friends, an afternoon in an art gallery, attending a concert or the
theatre, intimacy with a loved one, lying on a beach in the sun, reading
and learning, making things, are all “spiritual exercises” in their
refreshment, strengthening and promotion of connections with others and
the world-these are the only “rituals” and observances required for an
intelligent appreciation of what is good and possible in human life.

There´s one meme I find especially galling these days-it´s the claim that
atheists (or the “new atheists”) are just as dogmatic as religious
fundamentalists are. This is one of those zombie ideas that, no matter how
many times you kill it, it comes shambling back at you. I´m wondering what
your response to it is.

There are two components to the answer: One needs to explain what “dogma”
means, viz. a teaching to be accepted on authority not enquiry, and one
needs to explain that robust opposition to religion in its too-common
forms of bigotry, anti-science, anti-LGBT, anti-women, to say nothing of
terrorism (and to `moderate´ religion as the burka for all this, as you
point out), is justified, and cannot be effected by compromise and
soft-speaking. Slavery would never have been abolished by such means.

source-http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-god-argument

 

Nuclear ‘hard to justify’, says GE chief


 

English: Internationally recognized symbol. De...

English: Internationally recognized symbol. Deutsch: Gefahrensymbol für Radioaktivität. Image:Radioactive.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

By Pilita Clark, Environment Correspondent , Financial times

 

Nuclear power is so expensive compared with other forms of energy that it has become “really hard” to justify, according to the chief executive of General Electric, one of the world’s largest suppliers of atomic equipment.

 

“It’s really a gas and wind world today,” said Jeff Immelt, referring to two sources of electricity he said most countries are shifting towards as natural gas becomes “permanently cheap”.

 

 

 

“When I talk to the guys who run the oil companies they say look, they’re finding more gas all the time. It’s just hard to justify nuclear, really hard. Gas is so cheap and at some point, really, economics rule,” Mr Immelt told the Financial Times in an interview in London at the weekend. “So I think some combination of gas, and either wind or solar … that’s where we see most countries around the world going.”

 

 

 

Mr Immelt’s comments underline the impact on the global energy landscape of the US shale gas revolution, Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown and falling prices for some types of renewable power.

 

 

 

The shale boom has sent US natural gas prices down to 10-year lows, a trend some analysts believe will spread elsewhere, while the nuclear industry faces added costs and uncertainty after Fukushima.

 

 

 

At the same time, a 75 per cent fall in solar panel market prices in the past three years has made solar power competitive with daytime retail electricity prices in some countries, according to a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, while offshore wind turbine prices have steadily declined.

 

Such factors pose dilemmas for countries such as the UK, which is trying to build new nuclear plants without public subsidy. The ruling coalition is also split over whether to set a new target to make the electricity sector virtually free of carbon emissions by 2030 – a plan George Osborne, the Conservative finance minister, opposes but many Liberal Democrats back.

 

Mr Immelt lent weight to the Lib Dem argument, saying GE had found existing EU carbon targets helpful. “I think standards sometimes really drive innovation,” he said. “To a certain extent at least, knowing what the rules are and being able to innovate against it is not a bad thing.”

 

 

 

Mr Immelt played down the impact of changing energy trends on a company as large as GE, which reported annual profits of $13bn for 2011 (on revenues of $142bn) and sells products for every leading source of energy, from gas and wind turbines nuclear reactors and oil drilling gear, to gas and wind turbines.

 

 

 

“We’ve got them all, so in some ways when you have them all you don’t have to be so smart about anything,” he said.

 

 

 

Analysts estimate GE’s nuclear revenues, from a joint venture with Japan’s Hitachi, at an estimated $1bn, or less than 1 per cent of annual global sales.

 

Mr Immelt is visiting London during the Olympic Games, which GE sponsors.

 

The company will announce on Monday that it has made more than $1bn in sales from Olympic host cities since 2006, including $100m from the London games, where GE has sold several power systems, 120 electric vehicle charging stations and thousands of lights.

 

 

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