If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: portable atheist

A. C. Grayling – “Can an Atheist Be a Fundamentalist?” (2007)

As it happens, no atheist should call himself or herself one. The term already sells a pass to theists, because it invites debate on their ground. A more appropriate term is “naturalist,” denoting one who takes it that the universe is a natural realm, governed by nature’s laws. This properly implies that there is nothing supernatural in the universe–no fairies or goblins, angels, demons, gods or goddesses. Such might as well call themselves “a-fairyists” or “a-goblinists” as “atheists”; it would be every bit as meaningful or meaningless to do so. (Most people, though, forget that belief in fairies was widespread until the beginning of the twentieth century; the Church fought a long hard battle against this competitor superstition, and won, largely because–you guessed it–of the infant and primary church schools founded in the second half of the nineteenth century.)

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

A. C. Grayling – “Can an Atheist Be a Fundamentalist?” (2007)

Inculcating the various competing–competing, note–falsehoods of the major faiths into small children is a form of child abuse, and a scandal. Let us challenge religion to leave children alone until they are adults, whereupon they can be presented with the essentials of religion for mature consideration.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Ibn Warraq – Why I Am Not a Muslim (1995)

To answer “all is possible for God” is simply to admit the essential irrationality of the doctrine of reconstitution.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Ibn Warraq – Why I Am Not a Muslim (1995)

…Now we can see how useful and convenient the doctrine of abrogation is in bailing scholars out of difficulties. Of course, it does pose problems for apologists of Islam, since all the passages preaching tolerance are found in Meccan, i.e., early suras, and all the passages recommending killing, decapitating, and maiming are Medinan, i.e., later: “tolerance” has been abrogated by “intolerance.” For example, the famous verse at sura 9.5, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them,” is said to have canceled 124 verses that dictate toleration and patience.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Steven Weinberg – Dreams of a Final Theory (1993)

Electrons are an essential part of our everyday world; the particles called muons and tauons hardly matter at all to our lives; yet, in the way that they appear in our theories, electrons do not seem in any way more fundamental than muons and tauons. More generally, no one has ever discovered any correlation between the importance of anything to us and its importance in the laws of nature.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Steven Weinberg – Dreams of a Final Theory (1993)

If you want to say that “God is energy,” then you can find God in a lump of coal. But if words are to have any value to us, we ought to respect the way that they have been used historically, and we ought especially to preserve distinctions that prevent the meanings of words from merging with the meanings of other words.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Ian McEwan – “End of the World Blues” (2007)

We may yet destroy ourselves; we might scrape through. Confronting that uncertainty is the obligation of our maturity and our only spur to wise action. The believers should know in their hearts by now that, even if they are right and there actually is a benign and watchful personal God, he is, as all the daily tragedies, all the dead children attest, a reluctant intervener. The rest of us, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, know that it is highly improbable that there is anyone up there at all. Either way, in this case it hardly matters who is wrong–there will be no one to save us but ourselves.

(From a lecture given at Princeton, quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Penn Jillette – “There Is No God” (2005)

Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Richard Dawkins – “Irreducible Complexity” (2006)

The greater the statistical improbability, the less plausible is chance as the solution: that is what improbable means. But the candidate solutions to the riddle of improbability are not, as is falsely implied, design and chance. They are design and natural selection. Chance is not a solution, given the high levels of improbability we see in living organisms, and no sane biologist ever suggested that it was.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)

Richard Dawkins – “Natural Selection as a Consciousness-Raiser” (2006)

Giving children something with which to surprise their parents is one of the greatest gifts a teacher can bestow.

(quoted in The Portable Atheist)