Monday, June 25, 2007

NYC Atheists Table Report #3

This past Saturday I was at the table again, but only for a couple of hours. It was another beautiful day, pleasantly warm and dry. However for purposes of writing an exciting report, it was another boring day.

The main characters are:

The Reasonable Catholic and The Dude to his Right
The Blessing Lady
Yet Another Atheist

So once again most of the people coming up to the table were supportive of our cause. What's our cause again? There are a few: total separation of church and state, removing negative stereotypes of atheists, and inviting other atheists to join the organization.

The first interesting character was The Reasonable Catholic. He was very interesting to talk with and seemed quite open minded. Actually I think we agreed on a lot, so I wasn't sure what part of Catholic doctrine he actually believed in. He had to leave so I didn't get to ask him if he really believed in transubstantiation, or the literal resurrection of Jesus, etc. We did talk about the possibility of a universal moral law.

My idea is that maybe life in general, when it evolves into social beings like us tends to converge onto certain set principles. So aliens somewhere else might also think murder is bad, and helping others is good. Of course I don't know this for sure, or necessarily believe it. It's just an idea. He saw that converging as evidence of a driving force, ie. a god. I saw it as a natural emergent phenomenon. (If it even exists.) However, he was even open to the idea that a god may exist that is completely unlike any of the gods various religions have proposed. In the end I couldn't really figure out why this guy was associating himself with the Catholic church. Maybe I'll get a chance to talk to him in the future.

The Dude to his Right was just that. I wasn't sure if he was a Christian too, but he seemed to have some crucifix around his neck. I didn't get a good look at it. He didn't say much, but also seemed like a reasonable guy.

How boring for my report!

The Blessing Lady is a common character type. She swoops in, says some random religious utterance, and zips away. I think this one said, "I just wanted to let you all know that God blesses you and I'm praying for you." I think she made some kind of cross sign to by chopping her hand in a karate like fashion. I was kind of busy talking to this other person, and everyone else pretty much ignored her. I'm not sure what these kinds of people get out of saying these things. Does she really think she accomplished something? If I had a chance to reply to her I would have asked:

"Are you saying you can tell Yahweh what to do? You can tell him to bless us?"
"How does this "blessing" work? Is it like a good luck charm? What effect does it have on an atheist like me?"
"What are you praying for? Are you saying you can persuade Yahweh to do something? Doesn't that seem odd?"

Dan Barker said his snappy comeback to the often heard "I'm praying for you", is to say, "Then I'll think for the both of us." I'm not sure if I like that one so much. I rather ask what people mean since I have a feeling they just chant these sayings without thinking about their meanings.

I finally had a nice chat with Yet Another Atheist. I will need to shorten that to YAA since there are so many of them here in NYC. We agreed a lot on many topics, which again, does not make for an interesting post, so I will end here.

1 comment:

B said...

"My idea is that maybe life in general, when it evolves into social beings like us tends to converge onto certain set principles. So aliens somewhere else might also think murder is bad, and helping others is good. Of course I don't know this for sure, or necessarily believe it. It's just an idea."

Sorry, I'm reading your blog in spurts. I like that idea, although I'm curious what you mean by "social". I mean many people would refer to Chimpanzees as social and they have murder to a degree (i.e. dominant males killing young that are not their own is an "acceptable" practice in certain chimpanzee tribes. Well, By acceptable I mean there's no serious chimpanzee revolt). And really have we evolved to such a state where murder is universally believed to be wrong? I mean couldn't one argue that warfare is in a sense murder on a much grandeur scale, and most people seem to think that under certain circumstances war is justified. Morality is such a grey area.

I'm interested in the fact that it's fairly easy to describe it in evolutionary terms (the more eyes you have looking for fruit, the more likely you are to find it). Or even an implicit "social contract" that i promise not to kill you and you won't kill me it mutually beneficial (that and I may be really bad at cracking open nuts but you might be really good at it; whereas i'm great at getting termites on a stick and you're rubbish at it- so it's good for both of us if we hang around together).

But is it necessary for any sort of civilization? I think so. It'd be hard to build Ziggarauts if no one can work together because they're too paranoid thatthe person on their right could srike them dead at any moment.

Unless, a species is so intelligent that through its lifetime each individual could some how obtain enough knowledge that spans from very primitive to very advanced technologies..... Although that wouldn't really be a civilization, but i'm not sure....mmm... i somehow doubt that that evolutionary form could be successful. Too bad no aliens for us to study haven't been found....

P.S. Did M's comments on Fiday help you come to terms with your worries about Qualia?