Atheism in China and elswhere

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Atheism in China and elswhere

Postby Roger Stanyard » Sat May 12, 2007 4:24 pm

One of he bog standard lines of arguments of fundamentalists is that Darwinism is the cause of atheism and all what has become wrong with the world in the last 150 years such as higher life expectancy, higher standards of living, lower crimes rates, the end of endemic racism, the abolution of slavery, widespread and universal education. the collapse of communism and fascism, the progressive roll-out of democracy….

Sarcasm apart, I may be wrong but atheism has been widespread for millenia. Buddhism doesn’t require believe in a supernatural God nor does the broader outlook of Taoism. In other words belief in a supernatural God is not a universal belief amongst all societies and never has been. Does anyone have a good knowledge of the history of Chinese religion and of Buddhism to provide an understanding of how widespread atheism has been over the last two and a half millenia?

I also seriously question the fundamentalists repeated claims that nobody in the West was an atheist before Darwin. Even a hundred years ago in the UK only about 30% of the population were at church on a Sunday; IIRC Church attendance in London in 1851 was the exception rather than the universal practice.

Would anyone like to comment?

I’m not in the business of defending atheism. What I am trying to do is to counter the relentless crapola from fundamentalists that the world is divided into two groups of people, themselves and Immoral atheists, and if its wasn’t for Darwin we would all see the light and be Christian fundamentalists.

For what it is worth, I have received a deeply insulting private email from Andrew Sibley of the Creation Science Movement to the effect that the BCSE is immoral and I’m making sure that we are on strong grounds if he pushes the matter further. Sibley has also made a number of other nasty claims which I have suggested he substantiate in our public forum here. From past experience of fundamentalists, I have no doubt that he won’t.
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Atheism in China and elswhere

Postby Anonymous » Sat May 12, 2007 4:31 pm

Roger, run a google search for "atheism in the middle ages" :-)
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Re: Atheism in China and elswhere

Postby Brian Jordan » Sat May 12, 2007 5:42 pm

Roger Stanyard wrote:I also seriously question the fundamentalists repeated claims that nobody in the West was an atheist before Darwin.
Well, just to add a bit of perspective, how about
'Unbelief and Atheism in Italy, 1500-1700' in Atheism from the Reformation to the Enlightenment (ed. M. Hunter and D. Wootton), (Oxford, 1992) and 'Christopher Marlowe and Atheism' in Christopher Marlowe and English Renaissance (ed. D. Grantley and P. Roberts), (Aldershot, 1996) pp. 129-147
References from http://www.history.ox.ac.uk/staff/posth ... son_ns.htm
Even a hundred years ago in the UK only about 30% of the population were at church on a Sunday; IIRC Church attendance in London in 1851 was the exception rather than the universal practice.
My understanding is that well before Origin of Species, the hoi polloi didn't give a stuff about church and were endlessly admonished by their "betters".
"PPSIMMONS is an amorphous mass of stupid" - Rationalwiki
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Postby psiloiordinary » Sat May 12, 2007 5:58 pm

I think I am quoting Dawkins correctly;

"Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." which does imply atheism before then.

I know this doesn't really help but it is a nice quote.
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Postby Brian Jordan » Sat May 12, 2007 6:47 pm

"The Georgians At Home 1714-1830" by Elizabeth Burton, Longmans 1967.
P47 (around 1730):
...sermons were totally meaningless to the poor and uneducated, many of whom, particularly in the expanding cities, never set foot in a church.
and p53:
pauper children...became thieves, disturbers of the peace, destroyers of property, gin-swilling and blaspheming beggars. They were without religion and without discipline. Only schooling could provide both.
Also p287 (1745)
But even by then...'good scriptural stories' where 'wicked people were carried away by the devil' were as unfashionable as belief in the devil himself
"PPSIMMONS is an amorphous mass of stupid" - Rationalwiki
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Postby Paula Thomas » Sat May 12, 2007 7:06 pm

psiloiordinary wrote:I think I am quoting Dawkins correctly;

"Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." which does imply atheism before then.

I know this doesn't really help but it is a nice quote.


Can I remind people of Epicurus. Also anyone who saw Jonathon Miller's excellent "A Brief History of Disbelief" will know that ateism has a long history.

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Postby psiloiordinary » Sat May 12, 2007 8:46 pm

Indeed!

The series is available on the web here;

http://www.informationclearinghouse.inf ... e13868.htm
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Postby tubataxidriver » Sun May 13, 2007 7:37 pm

Remember that it is only in more recent times that it has become more socially acceptable to be a declared atheist. Many historic atheists were probably too scared of losing their job / status unless they maintained a lie.
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Postby Paula Thomas » Mon May 14, 2007 1:43 pm

tubataxidriver wrote:Remember that it is only in more recent times that it has become more socially acceptable to be a declared atheist. Many historic atheists were probably too scared of losing their job / status unless they maintained a lie.


Yes, not to mention life!!! The persecution of those who were the wrong sort of Christians was rife for most of the period from the 5th century CE (death of Hypatia) to the beginnings of Catholic emancipation in the 18th, let alone those who didn't believe in God at all!

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Postby Peter Henderson » Mon May 14, 2007 9:41 pm

I was once told by an ex-president of the Methodist church in Ireland that most people in general are probably agnostics....even within the church !
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Atheism in China and elswhere

Postby Peter M J Hess » Mon May 14, 2007 10:11 pm

I just don't know about that.
PMJH

At 02:41 PM 5/14/2007, you wrote:
I was once told by an ex-president of the Methodist church in
Ireland, that most people are probably agnistics....even within the church !
Peter M. J. Hess, PhD
Faith Project Director
National Center for Science Education
http://www.ncseweb.org
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Atheism in China and elswhere

Postby Dave Oldridge » Mon May 14, 2007 10:28 pm

On 12 May 2007 at 14:06, wilmot wrote:


psiloiordinary wrote:
I think I am quoting Dawkins correctly;

"Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled
atheist." which does imply atheism before then.
I know this doesn't really help but it is a nice quote.


Can I remind people of Epicurus. Also anyone who saw Jonathon
Miller's excellent "A Brief History of Disbelief" will know that
ateism has a long history.

Plato was clearly an atheist with regard to the Greek Pantheon
and the myths that supported it. And there is no evidence he had
high regard for any alternative other than healthy skepticism.


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Postby Peter Henderson » Tue May 15, 2007 12:21 am

I just don't know about that.
PMJH


He was speaking from experience Peter, as far as I can remember. At the time he was one of the Methodist Church's leading evangelists (late sixties/early seventies). I think what he was getting at was that a lot of people who go to church are merely "nominal Christians", even in so -called evangelical circles.

As an aside, I once heard a story about a Brethren church in the south of England (I don't know if this is true or if it is an urban myth) where the preacher spoke on Christ's return every week, and that he would come with the sound of trumpets etc. One Sunday, two youths decided to have a bit of fun and blew some trumpets down the ventilating shafts. Apparently over half the congregation got down on their knees and confessed their sins :lol: As I say, it could be a Christian urban myth. Several people that I know in Brethren circles have told me the story.

I think it proves a point though. It's probably the same on the other side of the coin. Many who label themselves as Atheist, in reality, are probably agnostic.
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Postby psiloiordinary » Tue May 15, 2007 7:46 am

Well I like the term rationalist first and foremost, and whilst I give myself the casual moniker of atheist I am very rationally aware that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I use the term atheist because I see no evidence whatsoever re a supreme being.

So to be technically correct I am agnostic, in everyday usage of the term though and to avoid confusion I am atheist.

Many people don't spend a great deal if time thinking about these fine distinctions and so perhaps we will always be able to interpret the answers to such short questions which don't cover any of these nuances in different ways.
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Postby Roger Stanyard » Tue May 15, 2007 8:20 am

tubataxidriver wrote:Remember that it is only in more recent times that it has become more socially acceptable to be a declared atheist. Many historic atheists were probably too scared of losing their job / status unless they maintained a lie.


Fairly recently the Daily Torygraph opined that it still isn't quite respectable to be an atheist.

To which I would respond that it isn't quite respectable to read the Torygraph. Dennis Thatcher was an avid reader. His drinking pal/golf partner, the legendary Bill Deedes (age 157, aka William Boot), still writes for it IIRC.

I suspect that most atheists who think about it would describ themselves as humanists. Any comments?
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