'If there is no god then I am a god': Dostoyevsky vs atheism

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Dave Allen
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 07:26 am
@richard mcnair,
richard_mcnair;107031 wrote:
'Lies, damn lies, and statistics' is a famous phrase I was using rhetorically, I didn't mean you were actually lying...

I didn't take it as such. I thought you were aiming the comment at the "general upshot of the stats".

I agree - devoid of a broader picture stats are misleading - perhaps always so.

Quote:
How can nihilism have nothing to do with atheism?

I doubt it can - I'll give you that.

But throughout Russian history people have been treated as arbitrary commodities - leading to extremes of behaviour in all forms in all sorts of people. It's a deeply traumatised place.

So Russia may well have thrown up some athiest-nihilists (though the sole example given in this discussion is fictional).

It also produced Christians like Ivan the Terrible.

It's the tone and progress of the history there that has led to a culture of arbitrary morality - not one single religious position.

Quote:
Can you be a theistic nihilist?

Norse myth, I find, is pretty devoid of a moral guide. There's the "be a brave warrior or go to Hel" thing - but then the forces of Hel may triumph at Ragnarok (in some readings) so it's not like "Hel is for losers" in a binary sense. There was nothing heretical about a viking warrior honouring Loki (far as I know).

But if you believed it you would have beliefs - even if those beliefs needn't inform a morality. Mini-nihilism, I suppose.

In fact, a nihilist could have a subjective moral code that a believer lacks.

I also think some upshots of buddhism can support nihilism, and the Tao seems also to point to a flexible and subjective morality based on the need of the moment.

Though, in turn, I suppose it could be argued that such religions aren't really theisms, or religions anyway.

Quote:
Well.. perhaps you can, but the nihilism that lead to the foundation of the various different ideologies - communism, socialism, fascism, etc were all due to the abandonment of the old religious order of things.

Most practical implementations of communism did suppress religion, but not because they had no morality - rather they sought to impose a new one. The values and beliefs of religion were not abandoned, but swapped or altered into the values Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and so on. They had 'faith' in the ideals of Marx - or at least professed them in order to seek power. They weren't nihilistic, because Marx stresses that some values and beliefs are integral to communist society (his main mistake, I think).

Dunno what socialism has to do with it, other than be the victim of dreadful press.

Fascism as a phenomenon seems to have arisen almost wholly in Catholic countries (Spain, Germany, Italy, Latin America), led by Catholic leaders (Franco, Mussolini, Hitler, Pinochet, etc), by and large encouraged by the Catholic church and supported by Catholic allies. Pro-Fascist argument has almost always been couched in religious terms. Mein Kampf often appeals to authority in the shape of God. "Gott Mitt Us" on every Nazi belt-buckle.

The "Old Religious Order" (itself responisble for Europe's most destructive war - the 30 Years War) and Fascism seem to get on pretty well.
 
richard mcnair
 
Reply Mon 30 Nov, 2009 07:41 am
@richard mcnair,
Germany isn't a catholic country (or checking wiki, at least wasnt in the nazi period, now its pretty much half and half between protestant and catholics, then protestants made up two thirds)... and socialism has largely been an atheistic phenomena, that took root in the periods when christianity was declining, is what I meant, not that I'm slating socialism - I'm not a socialist, but I certainly believe some socialisation is probably necessary in a modern western country - and I'm not against it as an economic system in countries where it works.

---------- Post added 11-30-2009 at 01:42 PM ----------

also - the reformation was responsible for that war, which was actually the first break-up of the true old religious order in western europe

---------- Post added 11-30-2009 at 01:46 PM ----------

Also may I add, most atheists I know look at the reformation in a very positive light, as the first precursor indeed to the decline of religion in europe.

---------- Post added 11-30-2009 at 02:15 PM ----------

Also may I add, mussolini was a confirmed atheist, hitler was nominally a catholic, but was probably an atheist, for instance this statement:
"We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany."

 
StochasticBeauty
 
Reply Sat 24 Apr, 2010 08:56 am
@richard mcnair,
In so doing a lot of work with Dostoevsky. His work that has most answered this question is undeniably 'The Brothers Karamazov'. At the end he sides with the way of Alexei and this is his creative ideal - being he sides *against* atheism.
 
Krumple
 
Reply Sat 24 Apr, 2010 09:16 am
@richard mcnair,
richard_mcnair;106250 wrote:
Let me paraphrase dostoyevskys argument against atheism:

Imagine you could achieve all of your greatest desires. You could become as rich, famous, or idolized as you like, whatever you want. All you have to do to achieve it is this one thing: kill someone. You are 100% guaranteed that no-one will ever find out, and no-one will ever know you did it. Worried about your own guilt? No matter, lets pretend that after you've committed the act you have your memory wiped, so that even you wont know you've done it. Just a simple act of 'stepping across'.

If you are an atheist you are very likely to accept.


I am an atheist, I wouldn't accept this challenge. There might be some on both sides of the issue that would accept. Religiously motivated wars are a perfect example. Religious people kill all the time. Look at the abortion doctor murder. Look at the Muslim fundamentalists.

Flying a plane into a building, when believing in god? They did it and they didn't need to be handed any large sum of money or fame.

This argument is flawed.

Not only that but most Christians follow their theology morals for the purpose of obtaining heaven. So they have a practical purpose of refusing the challenge. If you could buy heaven with the large sum of money or through fame then by all means Christians would accept this challenge.

How do you even know that god isn't just seeing what humans will do. That this god is nothing like the christian perspective. That there is no eternal heaven at the end of life. You just go back into non-existence. How do you know this god isn't just a passive creator? Like a person who makes art for no social reason, but instead just to create it as self expression with no intention of interacting with it. Why would this god even have to care about the creation? Like a person creating an ant farm with two enemy species of ants and letting them do their thing.

The bible supports my theory more than it supports the "god is love theory". I mean if god knows the outcome of all events, then by all means that god would have known that humanity would do evil things. So out casting, and destroying humanity over and over again isn't going to do anything. And if Christians are waiting for the next destruction of humanity by god because we are nothing but evil, then shouldn't that god have seen this coming? What is the point of reacting to it with destruction in mind? That would be like a person who destroys their own house because it's going to fall down later in the future anyways. If people are evil, they will always do evil things, how does destroying them change that?

The only thing the bible supports is a god who just can't seem to figure anything out. I wouldn't be surprised if this god were trying to take credit for something this god did not do. Like this god mistakenly believes that it is the creator of everything. I mean based on the downfall of the ego, I could easily imagine this god to be so full of ego that it would believe it was the force behind all things. And at the same time if there were any other gods, it would become jealous of them and want to have all the praise for itself. Which you would see commandments about not worshiping any other gods.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Sat 24 Apr, 2010 12:01 pm
@richard mcnair,
richard_mcnair;106250 wrote:
Let me paraphrase dostoyevskys argument against atheism:

Imagine you could achieve all of your greatest desires. You could become as rich, famous, or idolized as you like, whatever you want. All you have to do to achieve it is this one thing: kill someone. You are 100% guaranteed that no-one will ever find out, and no-one will ever know you did it. Worried about your own guilt? No matter, lets pretend that after you've committed the act you have your memory wiped, so that even you wont know you've done it. Just a simple act of 'stepping across'.

If you are an atheist you are very likely to accept, if you are religious and you believe in a higher power before whom/which you are accountable (and someone who genuinely believes, not someone who merely pays lip service to their faith) then you likely will not. This is basically dostoyevsky's argument, and this, and how this attitude can manifest itself in all sorts of ways in the life of an atheist, largely forms the starting point of his great novels. The point is the religious person believes in 'that which is greater than himself' before whom he is accountable, and before whom he WILL BE HELD accountable, and the atheist doesnt - the atheist considers HIM/HERSELF god. Ie morality cannot be founded on purely humanist grounds, and any attempt to do so must disintegrate eventually.

Also bear in mind, in the 1860s and 70s, he predicted, stunningly prophetically, that the european intelligentsia's general abandonment of religion would lead to the rise of countless different ideologies, and never before seen cataclysmic events, and needless to say in the first half of the 20th century he was proven frighteningly correct.

So, in short: CAN morality be founded upon purely humanist grounds?



It seems to me that Dostoyevsky would have benefited from an understanding of Plato's Euthyphro, in which the idea of whether there is a connection between morality and belief in gods is discussed. Basically, from what you say, Dostoyevsky has a very primitive notion of morality, which involves the bully theory of god, where one does what god says or else. This is the "morality" of doing what the bully on a playground says in order to avoid getting beat up. If one only does what is right because of fear of punishment, that is not morality or virtue at all.
 
 

 
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