Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"THE END OF FAITH"

(Available for download only, now on emusic with itunes and others soon to follow.)

At some point during the period in which I wrote the "Don't Tell Columbus" songs, I was also writing a tune called "The End Of Faith," a number born of my disdain for religion, and therefore much too literal for the more balanced, nuanced content of the forthcoming collection.
Seeing this discrepancy coming from a mile away, I ceased working on the song and left it half finished, envisioning perhaps its eventual lack of completion altogether, or, in more rash moments, writing an entire album of anti-religious tirades and using "The End Of Faith" as the cornerstone for such an endeavor.
But I find it a very hard and tiresome thought to narrow my work down to such a dogged and literal pursuit, and the thought of the difficulties involved with composing a dozen rants that bashed the heads of the faithful felt like a lead weight, and so instead, I merely finished writing this one song fairly recently, just for the heck of it.

Apart from a long held but inchoate idea (I can't bring myself to use the word "belief" and therefore use the word "idea" instead) that religion is a malignant force, and that belief and faith are the two most dangerous concepts in the world and have proven themselves to be over and over again, I have not seen anything that brings this feeling into tangible content in my entire life until recently.
Enter the three extraordinary books that give focus to the wishy washy liberalism of my highly untrained and uncoordinated mind: "The End Of Faith" by Sam Harris, "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, and "God Is Not Great: how religion poisons everything " by Christopher Hitchens (gotta love that subtitle!).

Reading these books, especially the ones by Harris and Hitchens, is a mind expanding experience. The Hawkins book is good, but comes over as more of an appreciation of the elegance and reality of evolution and the delusionality of denying this phenomenon than the double whammy intellectual tour de force(s) of the other two.
If you have any interest in the subject, don't miss these publications. All three books were best sellers, and if you want to start somewhere, start with Harris's "The End Of Faith" itself, from whence my song title comes, which will cost you less anyway because it's out in paperback. If that book doesn't blow your mind with its clear-headed and often startling revelations (if you'll excuse the word), especially when confronting the utter lameness of the acceptance and tolerance by Liberals of other peoples' "faiths," despite the absurd and sometimes vile nature that is inherent in those "faiths," then I don't suppose the concept will interest you much anyway.

I could blabber on about my take on the subject, but due to my lack of formal education (I don't consider an English secondary modern school a formal education), my ignorance of the timeline of religion in any coherent historic sense, and my lack of the kind of elucidation brought forth by these writers, it's probably better for anyone interested to read these books for themselves.

Suffice to say, I think this is an urgent matter, and I think the sooner mankind can stamp out religion with the light of reason the better. The world and the universe will not be any less miraculous for it, more so in fact, and the misery these superstitions and "faiths" inflict in what can only be described rationally as belief in the supernatural, can be marginalized and banished to the crackpot realm where they now fully belong.

Hitchens describes in great clarity what you already know: that the whole shebang is entirely man-made, and his brilliant assessment "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence" is the perfect antidote to the idea that openly doubting the beliefs of the faithful is off limits to people of reason.
As Hitchens also said on his often hilarious debate with Al Sharpton on a recent edition of "Hardball Plaza" with Chris Matthews, "It's time to get up off your knees. Stop groveling." Well said.

GP

PS: (Preemptive strike against the folks out there who follow the pundits.)
Yes, yes, I know: Hitchens thought that invading Iraq was a spiffing idea and still thinks so, despite the obvious catastrophe of it all. On this I disagree.)

MUSICIANS

MIKE GENT: DRUMS, BACKING VOCALS, LEAD GUITAR SOLO
ED VALAUSKAS: BASS GUITAR
SCOTT JANOVITZ: KEYBOARDS
GP: VOCALS, ACOUSTIC GUITAR, ELECTRIC GUITAR

59 comments:

Chuck and Lisa said...

Sorry GP, but I think you're a little too obsessed about the stamping out religion thing! I love your pragmatic, honest take on life expressed in your lyrics. I'm intrigued and a bit surprised by your dedication to this quest. Keep in mind that there are a whole range of religions out there, some very extreme and others moderate. Seems to be me that you are focussed on the negatives associated with the extremes. Just keep in mind all the good that is associated with the followers of religions not so extreme. My 2 cents. Keep the music coming (I can always tune out the words and take in the tunes when needed!)

Geff said...

Dear GP: Thanks for giving me this weeks' sig file quote (from Hitchens).

dante said...

Religion is divisive, and the "moderate" just create cover for the "extreme". Keep up the good work, GP. PS--you could already put together set list of your anti-superstition songs: from "Don't Ask Me Questions" to "Syphilis and Religion" and on...Lets get you on a "No Superstition World Tour"!

lb's lps said...

GP,

You should expect a visit from three ghosts...

TIM said...

I have been a Christian for nearly 30 years, I am 43 now. At the same time I have enjoyed GPs music for nearly 25 years and still live in his home town. So I think I am entitled to comment on both for what its worth. God is real and that is plain to see should you wish to open your eyes to that fact that is another matter. You only have to look at the human brain and heart to see that these two amazing items were designed and created by a far higher power then that of man. Just consider for five minutes. Could these two bits of machinery that can work non stop for up to a 100 years without service or up grading. Could these have come about by some accident. Please Dawkins and anyone like them are idiots and do I dare quote King David in the Psalms "The fool has said in his heart there is no God".
As for GP keep up the great songs and tunes. I have enjoyed them for a very long time now, even the anti Christian ones have good tunes. GP has lived in America too long and is no dout been effectived by the TV evangelist. As a christian I too find these people most off putting, but please GP look at Christ and his words not these individuals who say they speak for Him. Jesus said "love your neighbour as yourself, and do good to your enemies" Imagine how much better the world would be if all men did this. Their would indeed be no more war or crime for that matter.
Religion gets blamed for all the wars in the world, which is rubbish. World war one and two were not about religion, they were about evil men wanting land they had nothing to do with religion. To name one Stalin he was communist, he murdered millions most his own people. I could go on but won't. One last thing, its about time GP came to England and played, every time I look on to the GP.net its always where he is playing next in America. Come home Graham NOW.

Tim of London

killface said...

Tim, I think you've completely missed the point. Graham is not anti-god, he's anti-religion. Those are two different things. There very well may be a God, and for all we know Graham is keeping his mind open to that possibility, but what he is against is the damage caused by those whose blind faith and arrogant belief intrude on the lives of others.

dodger said...

Hi y'all. Religion does not equate to faith.
Religion is, yes indeed, responsible for pretty much what the Chairman suggests, but faith is a whole lot more.
Our friend from London - Tim has some good points - as do the other posters. However; our beliefs - either in the physical or the meta-physical contribute towards shaping us - as individuals or as a species.
GP has composed "I'll forgive you if you forgive me - who needs a third party anyway?" That's fine in a one to one situation. But sometimes we're culpable for many things collectively - to people to whom we can never offer apology, confession of guilt or compensation. Through "religion" we can "offer up" these things - and done sincerely that can play a part in our growth as humans in the rich cornucopia of life that has been created upon this planet.

Until we accept and act upon the fact that - as highly (the most) developed beings on this ball of living rock we have a responsibility for maintaining and indeed developing life resources - we will be responsible, more than any other generation, for its oblivion.
I have "faith" in GP as an extraordinarily trenchant, tuneful and relevant songsmith. I've bought his music since Heat Treatment on vynil in about 1976. But I don't hang on his every word for comfort, direction and inspiration. I never subscribed to the "Clapton (Springsteen, Morrison, Dylan, Parker etc .. is God!" They are humans - talented .. yes but I wouldn't base my life upon them - with respect!

GP can seem, to me, a ranter sometimes - he's always sharpening axes! This is not a censure - but an admiration. He believes what he says and argues it - given time and space he supports it quite cogently.

GP will never threaten my faith that Jesus lives. I doubt that I would be able to convince him of my beliefs and would not try to beat him over the head with the Bible (Koran or any holy book!) But I would be happy to discuss faith and religion with him. I am certain that he would engage in conversation fully - because I consider him to be a perceptive person who can listen to relate well to other people and accept opposing views.

I, like Tim, await GP's next live musical outing in UK. I was privileged to see / hear him at Jazz Cafe in London (2000?) I have faith that I will see / hear him again live.

It's not religion, it's not fanboy, it's having faith that your beliefs are on firm ground.

Thank you GP for more than 30 years musical pleasure. I'll see you on the SAGA "Facebook" site.

Cheers,

RMH

TIM said...

Killface. I don't think I have missed the point at all. You could make a whole album up of GP songs that are anti the Christian faith in some way, even if it is just one line in the song. GP always picks on the Christian faith not faith in general. GP I am afraid is anti Christian and anti God and full of bile.

Like I have said previous, I love GP music and at least two of his albums would be in my top ten of all time. But I find it strange that GP will sing about UFO's and knowing they are out there and yet dismiss the existance of God.

Its a good debate, don't you think?

Tim

killface said...

Tim,

How is being anti-Christian anti-God or even anti-Christ for that matter? Can't one be against the Christian Religion and yet still believe in a higher power? You still have not demonstrated in any way that Graham Parker's songs are anti-God. Perhaps you could quote some lines. I suspect, however, that any lines you quote would only confirm that he is against organized religion and its dogma and the damage that has been caused by that dogma throughout history.

As for "Waiting for the UFOs" - again, I think you've missed the point of the song. "We're dying to be invaded and put the blame on something concrete" - doesn't sound like he believes in UFOs. On the contrary, he sees belief in UFOs as equally spurious as belief in God. What's the difference between waiting for aliens to arrive or for Jesus to arrive? Both are ways of avoiding what must be done in the here and now. We mustn't fall into the trap of taking his songs at face value.

TIM said...

Killface, by the way a great name. To start with the UFO bit was a light hearted comment, I am sure you are right on your views on that song. Though when people stop believing in God they believe in anything. I am not sure and you will have to correct me on this and I am sure you will, but isn't it true that a large number of American's claim to have been abducted by aliens. As for me trying to show GP is anti God in his songs I will have to be a bit of and Anorak tonight an get back to you on that. In the mean time Jesus spoke about the fact that if you were against his people you were against Him. As a christian I believe Jesus is God and part of the God head, the trinity. And I will say again GP is against the christian faith or religion that is clear to hear in some of his songs.

Tim

killface said...

Tim,

Sure, lots of Americans claim to have been abducted by aliens. Lots of people believe all sorts of screwy things.

I never denied that GP is against the Christian faith. I think that was the enire point of his article and the song he wrote. I'm just not convinced that this makes someone an atheist, which is what you're suggesting, isn't it?

After all, Christianity wasn't the world's first religion, and it isn't even the majority religion on the planet. Are Buddists atheists because they don't believe in Christ? Mankind has wasted far too much energy on thoughts like this.

TIM said...

Killface, I feel you are mellowing towards me a bit. But I have just had a a very brief look through my 20 of so GP CD's and I have to admit without going through every line of every song I think you may be right. I can't say for sure that GP does not believe in God. But because I have a faith in Christ, some of GPs lyrics are hard to listen too. Don't get me wrong, in England the state church the Church of England is very wishy washy, men wearing silly hats and cloths trying to raise the money to get the church roof fixed, isn't my idea of Chritainity. You would be hard pressed to find out what they believe. As I said I have been a Christian since my teens and to have faith in God all that time is a very hard. Like you no doubt have had problems and you wonder where they come from or why you. I have had five chidren and one of them died when she was 2, I wonder where God was in all that at times.
Anyway how did I get to this just talking about a fairly meaninless pop song. Its been a good chat.
Take care killface (great name)
Tim

maureen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maureen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stuck2u said...

GP is my religion. All of life's mysteries are revealed in the Book of Carp. Blessed be GP.

jmark67 said...

GP,

With all due respect, we get it. I have been a fan since '76, and this has been a recurring theme in your music at various points: "Break Them Down", "Museum of Stupidity", "And It Shook Me", "Syp & Religion", "Tornado Alley", etc. etc. I get that you don't dig on religion and probably don't believe in God. Well, the theme is starting to get a bit stale, and you are treading dangerously close to "browbeating" your listeners in much the same way you accuse religion of doing to its members. I do believe very strongly in God, and I do like your music, but I think you need to let it rest a bit and to quote you "get over it and move on". Love your music, but I'm getting bored with this theme......

jmark67 said...

GP,

I also agree with an earlier poster who stated that you seem to have a "hard on" (I'm paraphrasing) for Christianity. What about some of the other religions that are far worse? We never hear about those in your songs. Some religions preach murdering innocents in the name of their "god", Christianity doesn't do that. If you are going to rail against religion, at least have the stones to go after other religions as well. Christianity just seems to be an easy target. And its very naive for a person of your intelligence to really believe that religion will ever be "stamped out" in the world. Especially when the members of the religions that I alluded to are willing to kill themselves in order to commit mass murder in their "god's" (notice the lower case g) name. Religious practices I will agree can be quite foolish. It's all about one's relationship with God, not religious practices. That relationship comes through Jesus Christ.

bobby_jenkins said...

Hey Graham -

I have a suggestion for a book for you to read. It's called "Shut Up & Sing" by Laura Ingraham. You may want to take its advice. How dare you assume such nonsense when you say "Hitchens describes in great clarity that what you already know: that the whole shebang is entirely man-made"? I don't know that. I, in fact know just the opposite. When I listen to a CD, I don't want to have someone else's beliefs jammed down my throat any more than you want religion jammed down yours. This is America, and you are entitled to your beliefs, as am I. But you are wrong to try to superimpose your far fetched beliefs on others. I have been a listener for many years, and I may stop because of your moronic comments.

stuck2u said...

Well Jmark and Bobby Jenkins…hard for me to believe that you are or ever have been Graham Parker fans. Anyone who finds support in Laura Ingram’s books or any dribble that comes out of her hateful mouth could not possibly call them a Christian (big or small “C”) nor have they listened and actually heard GPs music. If you have bothered to hear what GP has to say, he is not bashing Christianity solely. Rather he is referring to religions in general. Graham’s music is an expression of his thought. Your belief that he is trying impose his beliefs on others is “moronic”. By the way, if you look back over the recent history (with respect to the age of human kind) of religion, might the Spanish Inquisition or the Crusades bring to mind, as Jmark so aptly put it, that ‘Some religions preach murdering innocents in the name of their "god"’. As they say in your religion, let he who has not sinned cast the first stone…. Religions of all kinds have had their trespasses against humanity. So where does that leave us? Perhaps we should redefine real “religion” as the “doing for each other”. Get out of your halls of worship and do for humanity. Pay attention to government sanctioned slaughter as in Darfur. Pay attention to the alarming and aberrant rate at which we are losing animal and plant species on our planet. Pay attention to the need for sustainable energy sources that excludes nuclear power and its lethal waste. Pay attention to the AIDS pandemic.All we have day to day on this planet is each other. Organized religion has made wonderful contribution in art, music and the occasional compulsion of civility that is inherent in all different the flavors. Houses of worship that reach out into their communities to help are to be commended. But NOT when they use their humanity as currency for people “souls”. All religions contain the to the belief that we need to be responsible for and to each other. And they should stick to that plan.
Graham puts it so aptly:

“…Some believe in a heaven up above
With a God that forgives all with his great love
Well I FORgive you if you forGIVE me, hey! Who needs the third party anyway…”

We would do best to revise humankind’s definition and practices of religion.
In closing, perhaps Jmark and Bobby Jenkins should give up on listening to (because you certainly have never actually heard) GP. I am sure that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity know that their villages are missing some…listeners.

nicodemus said...

Hey GP, I love ya, been a fan over 25 years. But maybe you should expand your horizons a wee bit.
Have you ever read C.S. Lewis? Or G. K. Chesterton?
I don't pretend to be smart enough to answer all of the unbelievers out there, but Hitchens was soundly defeated by D'souza in their debate in N.Y.
I do enjoy your music and concerts Graham, keep on rockin. Nicodemus

stuck2u said...

H.B.D.G.P.-a day that has done much for my "faith".

psybertron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
psybertron said...

Hey GP, keep asking questions.

We haven't crossed paths since The Up Escalator, but I was a big fan in the 70's right from Howlin' Wind. Amazed to stumble upon how active you have been and still are .... I shall be looking out for gigs (US-based these days).

Interesting reactionary comments to your post on "faith" ... shows what a minefield it is. Being right isn't enough, and of course you are right to fear faith as a malign influence. Add Dan Dennett's "Breaking the Spell" to your list. His agenda is how to open up learning within the more moderate US population, who despite moderation still profess "faith" and defend major decisions on its basis. The others (Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins too) are no less right, but their style seems more likley to stoke fires of division, than solve the (real) problem of faith.

We need to learn and evolve our way out of it, rather than "stamp it out, hard". We mustn't stoop to the methods of the religious zealots - experience shows only one winner in religious-wars, no-one.

Take care GP.
Ian

Zach said...

Sorry folks, I don't see how publishing a song and writing a blog post constitutes imposing anything on anyone or cramming anything down anyone's throat. A wee bit of projection going on among the religious folk, maybe?
GP is, of course, quite right here, notwithstanding that Mr. Hitchens agrees with him on this one issue. (As they say, even a broken clock is right at least once a day.) There is nothing good that can be accomplished through religion, faith and/or deism that cannot be accomplished without them. It's only the really evil stuff for which one needs religion and faith and god and all those other radically exclusive belief systems (think Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Meir Kahane, Bin Laden, and many others).
Keep it up GP and please come out west sometime!

dave said...

GP, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens appear blissfully unaware that there is plenty of evidence for the truth of Christianity. No ancient book is as well-authenticated as the bible -- there are 25,000 manuscipts that date within the first century of Jesus' death, and textual analysis reveals that our current editions vary little from these early manuscripts -- in short, they are incredibly consistent and reliable.

I have no problem with anyone rejecting Christianity - it's not for everyone. (As the good book says, "Many are called, but few are chosen") But what a pity that someone would reject the claims of Christ by examining only the rather worn-out diatribes of folks with a major axe to grind, and never examine the evidence for themselves. If anyone aspires to be intellectually honest, they need to take a look at the mountains of evidence that Christianity is indeed true.

I also find it quite amusing, but sad, that folks like GP can enjoy the incredible bounties of liberal, democratic, and capitalist society and fail to recognize their connection to the rise and pre-eminence of Christian faith and practice in western culture over the past few centuries. Presumably, they just "happened" in a random sort of way, and Christianity, if anything, hindered their development.

Dream on, GP and fellow travelers!

psybertron said...

Dave, you changed the subject from "faith" to "Christianity".

"Christianity" is a huge thing, that has had an enormous influence on western culture. Clearly that is true. Clearly that truth is not all bad. We could say the same about Islam, Hinduism, and no doubt other major religions.

That is quite distinct from pointing out that "faith" - a theistic faith that bases its actual belief and reasoning on anything other than evidence - is a malign and dangerous influence in the world.

Religions that promote that kind of faith are guilty as charged.

If you want to debate what constitutes "evidence" then we have a worthwhile debate.

dave said...

Psybertron --

Actually, to talk about faith without discussing the object of that faith is non-sensical and futile. So, to say, let's talk about "faith" in general borders on the ludicrous.

Frankly -- and I don't mean to indict you personally by this -- but discussing the issue of faith apart from the object of faith (and yes, that involves discussing particularlistic religion),is a game played by the intellectually lazy and those who are frequently are quite smug and contented in their ignorance of the different systems of belief.

Folks of this persuasion usually know next to nothing about the history, impact, or tenets of any particular religion. And, investigating them would be oh so difficult and time-consuming. They're all the same, anyway!

Why? Because it's much easier for me to think so (or, more accurately, it's easier not to think), and I can also consider myself to be a fair-minded person. See what a wonderful person I am: I don't have a gripe with any particular religion -- I maintain that all religions are equally wretched.

You're welcome of course to lump Christianity in among any other "faith" that lacks any historical, anthropological, literary, scientific, and other forms of evidence to support them. But please don't trumpet your antipathy toward religion as anything other than ignorance and prejudice.

Having a real debate about "faith" actually requires one to seek to understand different faiths and ultimately to make distinctions. In short, you have to use the ol' noggin.

Something that the enemies of faith seem loathe to do.

dave said...

Psybertron --

Actually, to talk about faith without discussing the object of that faith is non-sensical and futile. So, to say, let's talk about "faith" in general borders on the ludicrous.

Frankly -- and I don't mean to indict you personally by this -- but discussing the issue of faith apart from the object of faith (and yes, that involves discussing particularlistic religion),is a game played by the intellectually lazy and those who are frequently are quite smug and contented in their ignorance of the different systems of belief.

Folks of this persuasion usually know next to nothing about the history, impact, or tenets of any particular religion. And, investigating them would be oh so difficult and time-consuming. They're all the same, anyway!

Why? Because it's much easier for me to think so (or, more accurately, it's easier not to think), and I can also consider myself to be a fair-minded person. See what a wonderful person I am: I don't have a gripe with any particular religion -- I maintain that all religions are equally wretched.

You're welcome of course to lump Christianity in among any other "faith" that lacks any historical, anthropological, literary, scientific, and other forms of evidence to support them. But please don't trumpet your antipathy toward religion as anything other than ignorance and prejudice.

Having a real debate about "faith" actually requires one to seek to understand different faiths and ultimately to make distinctions. In short, you have to use the ol' noggin.

Something that the enemies of faith seem loathe to do.

psybertron said...

I won't take it personally Dave ;-)

You changed the subject again ? First from faith to Christianity and now to some object of faith - a "god" presumably ?

But many of us who are quite simply not intellectually lazy have quite independently come to the conclusion that the object of faith does seem to be insignificant (eg the existence of a god) compared to questions about the nature of belief and faith, and their actual consequences.

If you don't like me or any of the three authors mentioned, try Dan Dennett or Alan Alda or any number of "intellectuals" - but leave me out of trading ad-hominems about who's being lazy.

Ian / Psybertron

dave said...

psybertron --

you've very insistent about defining the parameters of the discussion -- so sorry to bring up ideas that you find inconvenient or troubling.

Go ahead and bow down to your god -- whether that be nature or science, or whatever. But kindly allow the rest of us to explore questions of faith -- including the object of faith -- that you're not prepared to engage.

The naturalist likes to think that by restricting what we know or can know to the realm of empiricism, he can shut off debate and ideas that he doesn't like.

You can take your hands off your ears now, Psyberton.

p.s. Alan Alda -- wow, I see you only read the heavyweights.

psybertron said...

No Dave, I offered you Alan Alda as a lighter weight alternative liberal, since you seem to have no time for intellectual heavyweights.

Do you have any arguments ? I was actually trying to engage ... in some debate about the basis of belief (for starters).

You're reduced to insults - fingers in ears, bowing down to my god etc ..

dave said...

Psybertron,

I owe you an apology -- sorry. I was awfully cranky when I got your response and failed to restrain my dark side. Again, my sincere apologies.

I'm not sure if you'll consider this responsive, but let me take a crack at trying to offer at least one argument for why I think belief in a supernatural, personal God is rational, and why naturalism (to me, at least) doesn't make sense.

Here goes: If something exists now (matter), can we agree that something has always existed? In other words, there can't have been a time when nothing existed. "Out of nothing, nothing comes" is a truism.

Now, if something has always existed, that something can't be matter, because matter is not eternal. The energy in matter is eventually expended. ("Dead heat" is the way physicists describe it.)

Therefore, if something has always existed (which we've already agreed to), then that "something" cannot be matter -- which would have been "spent" sometime in eternity past.

Whatever it is that has always existed, therefore, must have the power of existence within itself. (Otherwise, it would have long ago ceased to exist.) Does this make sense?

What, then, has the power of existence within itself? It must be something "supernatural" -- something apart from what we know as the natural realm (that which is made of atoms.) In other words, something "supernatural."

Interestingly, God, in His self-revelation, calls himself, "I am," the present tense of the the verb "to be." In short, God's own name references self-existence. God alone has the power of existence within himself.

Well, I hope that in some way is more responsive to your desire to discuss the reasons for faith.

Best to you and may the God who is there bless your sincere desire to know the cause of your existence and indeed all that exists. (One of the first questions of philosophy being, "why is there something instead of nothing?")

Dave

psybertron said...

OK Dave, thanks for the effort.

Agreed - first-cause "something rather than nothing" is the bootstrapping question for everyone - philosopher, scientist or theologian. (As well as "something for nothing" we also have the existence of laws of nature and intelligibility of the universe too ... several more pretty basic questions.)

As I say, debating whether anyone's "god' exists as part of an explanation for these more mystical / spiritual - or plain mysterious things is not really of interest to me. We may each choose God, nature, science, the world, whatever as our metaphor for this "god".

I do not believe in God, but I'm neither atheist nor agnostic (ie like Harris and Dennett and many other "serious" commentators). I don't define "myself" in "your" terms.

The problem arises when that belief becomes a dogmatic part of religious-style faith, (for significant questions actual belief and action and explanation and justification in real life), rather than just what a pragmatist would call a "holiday" - something to believe in when it is not possible to ask (and answer) all of these questions all of the time, in every life situation. There just isn't enough time.

All Harris is saying is do not base your (real) life on a faith that does not question using some form of rationality, some form of evidence ... he even allows mystical / spiritual inputs to that rationality and empiricism .... he even allows "faith" in people, faith in "good faith" etc. His issue is with dogma, blind unquestiong faith in truths from historical authority.

I'll stop for now ... so I'll just sow a seed ... you'll notice I said something "rather" than nothing instead of your something "from" nothing ?

That's because when you look closely "causation" is pretty mysterious stuff anyway ... quite hard to be certain about one-way cause and effect, even the directionality of time itself - chicken and egg - no beginning's or ends.

I wouldn't want to impose any special form of rationality on anyone, except being "open to question in the light of real human experience" - when you get to first causes (or fundamental physics) we don't have much such experience - hence the minefield, and the need for mysterious metaphors.

Ian

psybertron said...

And Dave, as you say, your use of the "I am" present tense for the existence of your "God" shows that in fact we are agreeing on this truly fundamental point - existence doesn't really have beginnings and ends.

That kind of theological / metaphysical / ontological question is interesting as just that kind of question in a fundamental philosophical context.

But it has nothing to do with Harris' "End of Faith" arguments ... or Dennett, or Dawkins, or Hitchens, or ...

Harris urgent tone is because few of the more extreme religious practitioners are really having that theological debate - they are making scary "immoral" decisions in real life here and now.

If we're still talking and in nodding agreement after those two posts, we probably need to move onto "morals" and where they come from. If not we need to stick on first (cause) base for a little longer.

Ian

psybertron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
psybertron said...

Hey lord, don't ask me questions.
Ain't no answer in Dave ?
GP
Regards
Ian

dave said...

Ian – been meaning to get back to you – been a busy week. Thanks for your patience.

If not for reason, there’d be no basis for an exchange between us. It’s the "grammar" if you will that enables us to make sense of each other. We can converse because there is something outside of us that exists independently of what happens in our minds; i.e., the truth or reality we’re at present trying to get a hold of. (That existence of this grammar is itself evidence that God exists.)

Of course, it’s a (excuse me) God-given ability to apprehend and use this “grammar” in order to discern truth, including the laws that define relationships in the material world (e.g. gravity), as well as other realms of knowledge. No doubt, a postmodernist would probably deny that reason (and the very idea of antithesis, which is the cornerstone of logic) is anything but a socially constructed means of oppressing the poor and weak. Hopefully, you and I know better.

That’s why when you’re giving me a bit of a scare with your last post. Particularly in beginning to question causation itself. Its fine to say that at times we can become confused about beginnings or “what is the cause and what is the effect” – but it’s not, in my view, reasonable to question cause and effect itself. When I make the case that there must be a non-material cause for matter – and that something in the universe itself must have the power of existence within itself, that seems to me a non-negotiable. To say that there is an effect without a cause is irrational. And here’s where I need to chide those who reject faith on the basis that it’s not rational. Faith points to an uncaused cause, something that is not irrational, while the agnostic or atheist generally either has nothing to say about origins or simply punts by claiming that a prior “effect” – something without the power of existence within itself (something that is indeed beyond nature or supernatural) – is the first cause. Nonsense.

That’s one among many reasons I believe that reason is the friend and ally of the theist, not the materialist. I can still agree with you that an unthinking, irrational “faith” can be a harmful thing – whether it is an irrational faith in the false god like science, or an irrational faith in false god of the state – e.g. communism. (Truth is, as dependent and contingent beings, we inevitably bow to something bigger than ourselves – the puffed up rantings of Hitchens notwithstanding.)

BTW, as someone noted previously in this blog, the worst genocides of the 20th century were committed by Hitler and Stalin – each of whom detested theistic religion and despised the Christian church. Stalin, who believed in the power of the state to redeem humanity, intensely persecuted the church and ended up killing 35 million. (I think the fear of God would have gone a long way toward restraining the murderous impulses of these genocidal monsters.)

While they’re busy denouncing faith in a supernatural God, I hope Harris et al are also being consistent in denouncing blind, irrational faith in the state as a redemptive force. Faith is the great “relativizer” of earthly powers, and it is therefore not a surprise that arguably the most effective moral voice opposing and leading to the demise of soviet communism was a committed Christian – Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

If Harris, etc. want to attack false religion, I’ll be happy to join them. But let me make offer a few practical reasons why they might want to rethink an assault on Christianity. First of all, if they claim to love reason, they should happily embrace biblical faith. Christianity is extremely rational – in part because it posits that the universe is knowable since it was created by a rational God. Not surprisingly, many of the greatest scientists have been Christians – Newton, Lord Kelvin, Bacon, and many others.(Though not a Christian, Einstein’s power of observation enabled him to see quite clearly that the cosmos was not the result of blind natural processes – there is intelligence behind its beauty and complexity. As the Psalmist says: The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands; Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.)

Christianity has also been – contrary to the numerous historical misprepresentations and oversights by its enemies – by far the greatest benefactor of mankind. The belief that man is made in the image of God, and therefore has inestimable worth, and the moral teachings and redemptive work of Christ, have created the conditions for human flourishing. By upholding the dignity of man, faith in the Christian God provides the basis for human rights and for the legal protection of human life. I’ll bet virtually every hospital and charitable organization that you know of has its roots in the Christian church. Your and my rights to speak freely, worship as we like, etc, were first enumerated and enacted largely by Christians who believed those rights to be in fact bestowed by God, and therefore inalienable. I could go on a bit about how Christ and his followers have benefited mankind, but I think you get the point.

I know these are pragmatic arguments – but you suggested that morals might be a next topic for exchange. And so perhaps I’ve inadvertently jumped ahead. Dawkins and friends fail to recognize or appreciate (an absence of gratitude is the hallmark of the faithless) that the target of their animosity is also that which makes life on this planet somewhat bearable. Without God, anything is permissible (paraphrasing Dosteovsky). Faith is a very effective and efficient restraint on human wickedness – and it is not too far a stretch to say that their safety and comfort, as well as ours, owes greatly to faith in the God who commands, “thou shall not kill.”

As you note, there are too many questions and little time. I need to check out of this exchange, but I’d like to direct you to the one who has the answers. If you’re willing to come to him with even the tiniest of spark of belief that he’s able to respond, I am certain that he will. Jesus tells us that in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, we must become like little children.—meaning in part that we need to acknowledge our inability to answer the biggest questions we face. He also says that he who seeks, finds. I pray that you will find, or more accurately, will be found by, Him.

With best regards,

Dave

dave said...

Ian – been meaning to get back to you – been a busy week. Thanks for your patience.

If not for reason, there’d be no basis for an exchange between us. It’s the "grammar" if you will that enables us to make sense of each other. We can converse because there is something outside of us that exists independently of what happens in our minds; i.e., the truth or reality we’re at present trying to get a hold of. (That existence of this grammar is itself evidence that God exists.)

Of course, it’s a (excuse me) God-given ability to apprehend and use this “grammar” in order to discern truth, including the laws that define relationships in the material world (e.g. gravity), as well as other realms of knowledge. No doubt, a postmodernist would probably deny that reason (and the very idea of antithesis, which is the cornerstone of logic) is anything but a socially constructed means of oppressing the poor and weak. Hopefully, you and I know better.

That’s why when you’re giving me a bit of a scare with your last post. Particularly in beginning to question causation itself. Its fine to say that at times we can become confused about beginnings or “what is the cause and what is the effect” – but it’s not, in my view, reasonable to question cause and effect itself. When I make the case that there must be a non-material cause for matter – and that something in the universe itself must have the power of existence within itself, that seems to me a non-negotiable. To say that there is an effect without a cause is irrational. And here’s where I need to chide those who reject faith on the basis that it’s not rational. Faith points to an uncaused cause, something that is not irrational, while the agnostic or atheist generally either has nothing to say about origins or simply punts by claiming that a prior “effect” – something without the power of existence within itself (something that is indeed beyond nature or supernatural) – is the first cause. Nonsense.

That’s one among many reasons I believe that reason is the friend and ally of the theist, not the materialist. I can still agree with you that an unthinking, irrational “faith” can be a harmful thing – whether it is an irrational faith in the false god like science, or an irrational faith in false god of the state – e.g. communism. (Truth is, as dependent and contingent beings, we inevitably bow to something bigger than ourselves – the puffed up rantings of Hitchens notwithstanding.)

BTW, as someone noted previously in this blog, the worst genocides of the 20th century were committed by Hitler and Stalin – each of whom detested theistic religion and despised the Christian church. Stalin, who believed in the power of the state to redeem humanity, intensely persecuted the church and ended up killing 35 million. (I think the fear of God would have gone a long way toward restraining the murderous impulses of these genocidal monsters.)

While they’re busy denouncing faith in a supernatural God, I hope Harris et al are also being consistent in denouncing blind, irrational faith in the state as a redemptive force. Faith is the great “relativizer” of earthly powers, and it is therefore not a surprise that arguably the most effective moral voice opposing and leading to the demise of soviet communism was a committed Christian – Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

If Harris, etc. want to attack false religion, I’ll be happy to join them. But let me make offer a few practical reasons why they might want to rethink an assault on Christianity. First of all, if they claim to love reason, they should happily embrace biblical faith. Christianity is extremely rational – in part because it posits that the universe is knowable since it was created by a rational God. Not surprisingly, many of the greatest scientists have been Christians – Newton, Lord Kelvin, Bacon, and many others.(Though not a Christian, Einstein’s power of observation enabled him to see quite clearly that the cosmos was not the result of blind natural processes – there is intelligence behind its beauty and complexity. As the Psalmist says: The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands; Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.)

Christianity has also been – contrary to the numerous historical misprepresentations and oversights by its enemies – by far the greatest benefactor of mankind. The belief that man is made in the image of God, and therefore has inestimable worth, and the moral teachings and redemptive work of Christ, have created the conditions for human flourishing. By upholding the dignity of man, faith in the Christian God provides the basis for human rights and for the legal protection of human life. I’ll bet virtually every hospital and charitable organization that you know of has its roots in the Christian church. Your and my rights to speak freely, worship as we like, etc, were first enumerated and enacted largely by Christians who believed those rights to be in fact bestowed by God, and therefore inalienable. I could go on a bit about how Christ and his followers have benefited mankind, but I think you get the point.

I know these are pragmatic arguments – but you suggested that morals might be a next topic for exchange. And so perhaps I’ve inadvertently jumped ahead. Dawkins and friends fail to recognize or appreciate (an absence of gratitude is the hallmark of the faithless) that the target of their animosity is also that which makes life on this planet somewhat bearable. Without God, anything is permissible (paraphrasing Dosteovsky). Faith is a very effective and efficient restraint on human wickedness – and it is not too far a stretch to say that their safety and comfort, as well as ours, owes greatly to faith in the God who commands, “thou shall not kill.”

As you note, there are too many questions and little time. I need to check out of this exchange, but I’d like to direct you to the one who has the answers. If you’re willing to come to him with even the tiniest of spark of belief that he’s able to respond, I am certain that he will. Jesus tells us that in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, we must become like little children.—meaning in part that we need to acknowledge our inability to answer the biggest questions we face. He also says that he who seeks, finds. I pray that you will find, or more accurately, will be found by, Him.

With best regards,

Dave

psybertron said...

Hi Dave,

Disappointed that your check-out is a suggested "conversion" to the faith, but thanks for the conversation.

Christianity is not all "extremely rational". Large parts of it are rational and historically the source of much western rationality; "Faith" in Christ's moral teachings are a good thing as you put it "a very effective and efficient restraint on human wickedness". But that isn't the same as being fundamentally right or true.

Dawkins is an idiot for suggesting some scientific monopoly on rationality behind morals. Harris is not so stupid.

We're repeating ourselves - No problem with the "god-given" language of fundamentals (first-cause etc), but for me that's metaphporical, as you yourself said I could substitute the word "nature" for "god" and mean much the same.

The Hitler / Stalin rhetoric is totally spurious - dirty tricks argumentation - that the faithful often resort to in this debate. Wickedness is wickedness.

The problem is where such morals are founded. The fact is they are not (founded) that is. They evolve.

Anyway - when you recommend "Jesus tells us that in order to [be good], we must become like little children.— meaning in part that we need to acknowledge our inability to answer the biggest questions we face."

I say Hear hear. "The way" is indeed to recognise these questions do not have fundamental answers - not even god - but like a child, to keep asking.

None of that says that "faith" in a god is a fundamentally good basis, reason or justification for any action in the world.

Gordon Shaw said...

Graham
I've always loved your music and now find myself admiring you even more for your conviction, intellect & outspoken comments.
Totally agree with your commnets on superstition /religion.
I've read the Dawkins book & will now read the others.

tom boylan said...

Hi Graham:
New member to your blog but a long time fan. A friend turned me on to "howlin' wind" in late 1976 and I was hooked. Got a chance to see 3show, the last one in the mid 90's at the Barrymore theater, Madison WI. than I lost track of you until I moved to Minneapolis and caught your show on the roof at Brits two years ago. I hope you are planning on coming back this year.

The blog looks inactive but thought I would give it a chance anyway. Slowly catching up on all the disks I missed out on. recenly ordered "Dont tell Columbus" and "songs of no consequence" from Bloodshot. Both disks confirmed by dedication as a fan.

peace. tom

Thomas said...

GP is in my opinion-spot on. As a people we have developed very little in this area. Could you imagine if a presidential canidate said he didn't participate in a religion??? Yet the God loving presidents send other peoples children to war in Gods name or the will of god. What utter rubbish.
When they come back with no limbs or eyesight or emotional problems the god loving people say no to stem cell research.
Saying there is no God isn't saying there isn't a higher being, although it seems unlikely.
Religion =Big Business.
Thou shall not kill yet we use his name to kill others-Does it get any more bizarre than that??

Thomas said...

... Forgot to mention saw GP at Jiggs and must say why do people buy tickets and talk through out his whole performance. Very distracting. I'm sure GP is used to this and delivered a great performance dispite the distractions.

Rob Smyth said...

Graham, I'm surprised that I don't appear to have responded already to this. I am completely in accord with you (and with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens) about this. The world cannot become a better place until religions are recognized for what they are. But everyone's afraid of dying and the cheap promises made by religions will always be irresistible to the many.

Rob Smyth said...

Graham, I'm surprised that I don't appear to have responded already to this. I am completely in accord with you (and with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens) about this. The world cannot become a better place until religions are recognized for what they are. But everyone's afraid of dying and the cheap promises made by religions will always be irresistible to the many.

_-_ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edwina said...

Rob has made a very pertinent comment: "everyone's afraid of dying"
I for one wish that having faith would dissolve that fear!

Graham Parker, I have loved your music and lyrics since I was a teenager....a relative newcomer with only 20 years having lapsed since that time...so, keep them coming please.

Edwina - Sydney, Australia

Weldon Steel said...

I don't think I agree. I'm a second generation UNbeliever but I don't think bigotry from unbelievers is any more attractive or interesting (or useful) than bigotry from religious people. It's not that simple anyway, atheists have done plenty of ugly things and murdered millions of people too (Read The Gulag Archipelago by A. Solzhenitsyn)
and that's in just the short period of history that they have been able to get into positions of power. I think Christopher Hitchens is a bad advertisement for unbelief even discounting his support of the Iraq war and underlines what I said above about atheism being no proof against stupidity and brutality. He also supported the bombing in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan. He complained during the bombing of Afghanistan that there was not enough "colateral damage" (civilian casualties). I think education is a good thing but I think you are too impressed with it (as is common with non-religious people). The world is mostly run by people with a formal education. How do you like it?

kristine said...

They are trying to discover the beginning of time over in Geneva ... they will fail, of course. My advice to GP is not to get worked up one way or the other about religion ... you will eventually die (and not for a long time I hope) and at that point you will know the answer to all the questions (and a few you haven't thought of yet, probably) ... so, hang loose, love the ones you are with, keep making great records (the new one is quite superb), go on a world tour (including Ireland where we shook hands on O'Connell Street outside the hotel we were both staying in) and, well, smile more often in photographs. That's all from me now ... cheers .... jc (no, not that JC)

orwell said...

I can't find my slippers anywhere......

orwell said...

never mind religion, I said I can't find my slippers anywhere......

Robad1 said...

Dear Chairman Parker,
I have always thought that people who push their religious beliefs on people are the most obnoxious people in the world. I know now that people who push their non-beliefs on people are just as obnoxious.

P.S. Love the music! Always have, always will.

Tessa said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Ruth

http://muffinsnow.com

Lucius said...

Bravo, Graham. I've read both of Harris' books and have gotten about half way through Dawkins. The Hitchens I have but haven't read it yet, but look forward to it. I just saw Bill Maher's
"Religulous" which is a well produced excoriation of religious zealotry.

I attended a Catholic elementary school for 8 years back before Vatican 2 and was brainwashed until at age 14 when I began to ask impertinent questions and was told that the only answer was that they were 'mysteries of faith.' Suffice it to say, that kind of lame explaination no longer held water.

For a little history, I'd recommend James Naught's "Holy Horrors" which details the barbarity and savagery pertpetrated in the name of christianity. It's also worth noting that from day one in American, preachers taught that blacks and native americans were souless brutes and could therefore be killed or enslaved with impunity.

The sooner we humans are rid of the scourge of organized religion the better.

Mike said...

Hey Graham. I love your music. I must admit to being a bit disappointed in your Quixotic mission to stamp out religion. Funny... I'm sure you realize it won't work. But there you go attacking the windmills, while millions of adherants around the world go about their business happy as clams.

You seem to like to focus in on the most negative aspects of "religion" and totally ignore the good it does and has done.

You bought into the whole "religion has done more harm than anything else in the world" claptrap that has been going around for awhile now.

This is usually said by some pathetically ineffective intellectuals who get their jollies by thinking they are taking God himself down a peg or two. A conciet that is both shocking and feckless at once.

Cool. Graham Parker vs. God. If I may use an analogy, it is a bit like a castaway, systematically boring holes in the hull of the boat that could carry him to safety simply because he prefers air travel.

Religion will still be here when you are nothing more than a footnote to history.

Well, I guess you have to be mad about something. So, have another go Senor Quixote...

GPAactor said...

Well Mr. Parker. I have long admired your music and found great beauty and logic in it. I will always enjoy your art. I am a devout Christian. One who beliefs in Christ, but I am not a religious person, however I am spiritual person. Your passion towards defuncting religion is admirable. I look down through time and there is no tangible proof that any of this is nothing more than man made. Even what have appeared to apocalyptic prophecies can be dis-proven. That is what my mind tells me. What my faith tells me is different. Faith has no logic. Faith has no truth in this world. Faith has no reason for existence. But even through your work I see my Faith. You show me no reason to belief, and that alone defines faith. A devout believe in something without any proof. Isn't great how art works. I'm sure the way I perceive this topic of religion may not be yours. I'm assuming that what I get out of your art is not intended in various ways. Our common ground is art and music. Through it, barriers have been crossed and we stand on the same ground. That alone is something to belief in. I have never found the end of faith. I seem to keep on finding the beginning. This is not a criticism, an attempt to convert, or a rebuttal. It's just an observation. Kind of cool.

Sincerely,

GPA

Ice Dragon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chăm sóc sức khỏe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
manhkha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.