Multae Sententiae is Latin for "many thoughts". Free thinking leads to Enlightenment. Enlightenment leads to happiness...

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006 CE

Multae Sententiae responds to the pope


Pope Benedict XVI recently gave a speech in Germany in which the most notorious part is his criticism of the violent methods of jihad. This will probably generate a lot of attention from outspoken Muslims, educated or not. It might inflame anti-Christian sentiment among the followers of Mohammed. However, if you read the whole speech, he dedicates most of his intellectual effort towards questioning the secular world and its use of reason. He criticised the West for rejecting god and faith and blames it for not understanding the way religious people think. He went ahead and said that the root of atheism is "being afraid of god"

First, I believe that one of the consequences of the Enlightenment is the opening of the mind of the common man, not only the ones of naturally illuminated scientists. It made possible the transition from societies that believed in supernatural beings and that were tied to superstitious ideas to societies which, by majority, reject gods and that at the same time enjoy the highest levels of human development like the Scandinavian countries. It made possible the advance of technology, the Industrial Revolution and the wonders for space flight and modern medicine. The Enlightenment allowed the Western world to finally surpass the once insurmountable achievements of the Classical Era. It is true that those same advances have placed us several times in the verge of a nuclear winter and that we have not yet solved the issues of fossil fuel scarcity and major climatic change, but it is only through the scientific method that we will be able to solve those problems, with more or less pain. The use of reason, using logic as a tool and knowledge as building blocks, has constructed the hope of a world that could finally live in harmony, freed from superstition, in equilibrium with nature and emotions, id est, the dream of Epicurus.

Second, I do not understand atheism as being originated in the fear of deities. I can only speak for myself in this area, however, I am sure that many atheists share a similar view. Atheism, according to me, is a misnomer. If we follow the Greek roots we conclude that it is the negation of god. However, the process of thought that leads to atheism in many people is not a rejection of a concept, but the construction of a whole intellectual framework that does not include the supernatural. The lack of need of superstition becomes a by-product of that framework, not the core of the atheist thought. The idea of seen a person praying or reading the horoscopes evokes amazement and not disgust.

Third, I do not understand what the pope means by saying "the West". Is the US the West according to his definition? Are only the East and the West Coasts of the US part of the West? What about Eastern Europe? Where does Latin America fit? If West means secular, we would have to divide countries according to unspecified parameters in order to determine which segment of the population belongs to the West and which does not. Suddenly, to be a Westerner would become a stigma, just as what happened with the word "liberal"

To conclude my response, I will repeat what I have said several times thoroughout this blog. The appearence of sets of beliefs that consider themselves unique, the only truth, the only bearers of the real message from the divinity has caused too much loss of life, too much misery and destruction, too much loss of knowledge that will never come back. The destruction of the Hellenistic culture and its replacement by a fundamentalist philosophy represents, the way I see it, the worst sociological and political disasters of known history.

19 Comments:

Blogger Bacon Eating Atheist Jew said...

The Pope is scared by the looks of it.
I think he is trying to get others to put their head in the sand after recently being convinced that evolution is fact and ID is crap. Although he won't admit it, he is smart enough to realize that his flock will be lost if they start accepting facts (science) as fact.

12:41 AM  
Blogger KA said...

Yeesh, that picture. It looks like the old Grand Inquisitor has been hittin' the old sacramental wine a little too hard.
I think it was rhetorical on your part, but I believe what he means by the west, is racial as well as religious in content. Defining the factions geographically as well as by race.
Good post. You should post more often.

1:14 AM  
Blogger Puma said...

Hi Marco, I am glad to see you are still around. My own feeling regarding the Pope's speech, (as any devoutly religious speech,) is that it simply points out my problem with religion in general: it is based upon fear. I am not an Atheist, in fact I believe there is/are higher powers at work, but I am content in the ambiguity of it - I realize I cannot "know" and I recognize that to seek to strictly define God is to miss the point. As I always end up saying, this is what faith is: the journey of self-betterment and Love toward others, without the comfort of reassurances or guarantees. From what I can see, most religions perpetually seek to reassure and guarantee. They seek to strictly define what God is. And they seek above all, to retain their audience, and therefore their money and their influence. This Pope is just following the same modus operandi that all priests and reverends and ministers do. Generating a fear of some sort, whether it is the fear of a fiery hellish afterlife, or the demonization of another religion is a potent method of keeping his audience cowed and listening.

9:07 AM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

I have nothing clever or thougthtful to add. Benny (the actual Pope, not Benedict XVI who posts on my blog) is a fearmongering bully. Oh, and in honor of Martian Anthropologist, I blaspheme the Holy Ghost. Yup, I'm damned. I have no idea what the actual Pope meant by what he said. And I'm not going to try very hard to find out. Bad me.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

BEAJ:

Science and religion are divorced by the fact that for one faith is the core and for the other one faith is unacceptable. If the flock accepts the facts, they disband, like I did.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

KA

If he means that west is equal to race it means that racism is at the center of catholicism. Was he the cardinal that did not want Turkey to be included in the EU?

10:11 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Puma

Your view of higher power is 500 years more advanced than many of the ones that we witness around us. I do not see fear of hell or expectation of a reward. I have a secret wish...that all fundamentalists will become Pumas sometime in the future.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Foilwoman:

In that case...I was damned since age 16

10:17 PM  
Blogger Puma said...

"I have a secret wish...that all fundamentalists will become Pumas sometime in the future."

lol Marco, that would be quite a trick!

Actually, I believe we are all learning to face our fears. I see it as one of the reasons we are here. Spiritual beliefs can be powerful tools in that they can help us make sense of the ambiguity and the conflicting feelings that arise from being inherently human and unable to Know. They can also be powerful tools to keep us fearful and dependent upon a church hierarchy. This is why I think churches have a big problem with science in general, because science is also a tool, one used, and used openly (this is key), to reveal the mysterious inner workings of our world. Questions lead not to answers, but to more questions - this is the nature and the purpose of science. But religious leaders rely upon being seen as esoteric teachers. They must appear to know something their "flock" does not, to be privvy to secret knowledge. While science simply keeps asking more questions, religion sees this as threatening to their authoritative position.

This tension between religion and science is the very same fearful tension at work inside of each of us - are we wishing to be told what to do? Many people misinterpret faith to mean a sort of submission to Dogmatic Rules To Live By. We can abdicate responsibility that way, and for many it certainly feels safe.

Or can we overcome the insecurity of uncertainty and chaos, keep asking the questions, and be unafraid to look at what we might learn from them? For me this is where my faith lies - that God gave me a curious mind for a purpose - but that I cannot truly Know what that purpose is. Science is not "correct" any more than religion is. They are both simply methods of approaching life. I still believe it is entirely possible, and beneficial, to use both simultaneously.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Diane S. said...

Wow! Am I really the only theist who reads your blog?

First of all, I adored John Paul II, and I can't much forgive the present Pope for the mere shadow of his predecessor that he is. I don't actually acknowledge his Papacy. A fact which I'm sure is fairly cool with everyone, since I'm not Catholic, merely Christian.

Secondly, I know a lot of atheists. I hang out with a lot of atheists. And not one of them has ever struck me as being afraid of God. I think the Pope made the mistake of trying to explain something one does not experience. I wouldn't begin to attempt to explain atheism. As a Christian I am entirely unqualified for the job.

Marco, you did say a couple of things that I disagree with. The first being, "The use of reason, using logic as a tool and knowledge as building blocks, has constructed the hope of a world that could finally live in harmony, freed from superstition, in equilibrium with nature and emotions, id est, the dream of Epicurus." Gee, that hasn't happened yet, has it? Is it your position that enlightenment is too young to have pulled off this feat, or merely that religiousity has gotten in it's way?

And finally, I don't blame the fall of the Hellenistic empire on religion, I base it on greed, the driving force behind (almost) every political upheaval.

Good to see you blogging again, and I appreciate the emailed notification that you had a new post up.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

I loved this one, Puma:
"Questions lead not to answers, but to more questions - this is the nature and the purpose of science."

I could not agree with this one:
They are both simply methods of approaching life. I still believe it is entirely possible, and beneficial, to use both simultaneously.

Although it is technically possible to use religion and science, the ones who do it, should understand that they cannot use both to describe the world around us.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Diane S.

Enlightenment is too young and I see the religions that claim to be "the one" as an obstacle.

Christianity, systematically destroyed the Greco-Roman religion in a meticulous work that lasted 300-400 years. I miss the openness, the willingness to adopt new deities, the adoration of nature. Christianity represented exactly the opposite.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Hey, Doctor Marco! I haven't been by for a while so I thought I check out your blog and I'm glad you're posting again!

I was wondering what you thought about Chavez calling Bush the "devil," but I'm glad that you pointed out that the Pope was dissing atheists again.

We don't riot in the streets, so I guess we don't get the press, right?

And we're scared of God. I guess that means that I'm scared of the tooth fairy, Yogi Bear, Santa, Shiva, and the Great Tea Pot in orbit around Mars because I don't believe in them either.

One nitpick: the first few centuries of Rome after people converted to Christianity were relatively un-fundamentalist; it was when Constantine converted and Justinian closed the Athens schools and libraries that everyone went bananas and struck the apocrypha from the Bible, and started banning/burning books, and forbidding all "pagan thoughts," thus touching off the Dark Ages.

Well, I believe in the Dark Ages--and I'm definitely scared of it happening again! (And I'm less scared of finals now, but that doesn't make them less real.) ;-)

12:32 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Hi Katrina, thanks for stopping by. I do not necessarily agree with all what Chavez does, however it takes balls to come to the US and call President Bush a "devil".

With respect to Christianity and the the centuries that followed the conversion of the West, I am referring to the period between 300-700 C.E. My post about Hypathia is part of it

1:24 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Great post on Hypatia! She is a heroine to me. Right now we are discussing the rise and fall of libraries in class, what contributes to them flourishing and what conditions make them decline. (We're facing more library cuts in Minneapolis, which definitely tells one where our society's priorities are...)

I wish the darned Pope would speak out against something real, like the scandal of a country like the U.S. not having enough funding for libraries and health care, etc.

Oh, yeah, and this nation having fair elections and accurate exit polls!

1:29 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Kristine:

Hypatia represents many things. One of them, is that women could have achieved their rights 1 or two millenia before they did in the current Western world if Christianity would not have appeared in the scene.

12:37 AM  
Blogger KA said...

Hey Doc:
You gonna do a post on the oncoming Venezuelan election? Or about Peruvian terrorists?
Those are both in your neck of the woods, aren't they?

2:00 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

KA:

I will surely write a post on some Latin American affaires, although, sa you can see in the number of comments they get, they are not of general interest.

7:47 PM  
Blogger farmgirl said...

Marco,
Just wanted to give you the heads up: I am no longer posting at Past Is Prologue. I have a new blog here:

http://farmgirler.blogspot.com

Thanks, :)

Puma/Sarah

9:06 PM  

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