I did a hit-and-run comment on Daniel Larison's blog, in response to this, which apparently got censored, so I'm repeating it here:
Actually, it doesn’t surprise me that much that it undermines faith in people who lived through those horrors, but it is a bit odd that those who were not there or not even alive when it was happening will cite such events as their “evidence” that either God does not exist or if He does then God is not good.I supposed I should have left out the "duh", or perhaps the whole second paragraph, since the first one seemed to make a legitimate and interesting point. There is a big contrast between religions of compassion (Buddhism, early Christianity) and religions of authority and regulation (Catholicism). I'm drastically oversimplifying; any real religion combines both elements, but those two functions seem to be drastically at odds with each other. It raises the question, not if religion is true, but what is it for? It seems to be an institutionalized way of settling unanswerable questions, such as "who is in charge of the universe?" and "how should we reconcile our own interests with our sense of obligation to others?", as well as others.
Let me get this straight -- the Holocaust, ie, can legitmately undermine faith if you happened to be a victim of it, but the rest of us should just ignore it because it happened to somebody else. That is a surprising argument to come from someone arguing in favor of faith. If there's one element of religion I can admire, it's the emphasis on compassion. Apparently you believe that only our own suffering should be significant to us.
God is nothing like the caricatured martinet dictator that the sad New Atheists portray Him to be.
The "sad New Atheists" do not portray God as anything, because they do not believe he exists. Duh. They believe the entire concept is incoherent, and the disconnect betweeen God's alleged benevolence and the reality of suffering is merely one of the very many obvious things wrong with it.
Larison's blog (and its surrounding site, the American Conservative) is an interesting source of what I'm looking for, which is reasonablly intelligent and sane people who I am in fundamental disagreement with. It's only by arguing with people like that that I can hope to change or improve the underpinnings of my own thought. Unfortunately that ideal seems hard to realize on the internets, where people seem to prefer coalescing around shared preconceived notions.
Browsing his blogroll led me to Orthodoxy Today, which contains a piece by GK Chesteron on materialism. Chesteron is an engaging writer and has a knack for making himself appear to be wonderfully sane, and his opponents as crazed. Then there is Robert Bork, who is just the opposite. If I was seriously interested in taking on religious ideas, I would feel obligated to get them in their best, most persuasive form, rather than taking cheap shots at fundamentalists like most of the "sad New Atheists" do. Chesterton would probably be a good start. His main line of argument appears to be a pragmatic one -- namely, if you don't have an institutional answer to all those unanswerable questions, people will get very confused, society will be chaotic, and people will invent religion substitutes (such as Marxism) that are worse than what they replace.
Here's a story about a prominent Catholic denied communion for the sin of supporting Barack Obama's condidacy. Can we revoke the Church's tax exemption, to be followed shortly by a RICO prosecution for running a pedophile ring?
On a rather different spiritual vector, it appears that Obama is a "lightworker":
"Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment.Ohh..kay (backs away slowly). This is from Mark Morford, an SF Chronicle columnist who I have actually admired in the past. I find the mainstreaming of this kind of thought rather terrifying, because I can see it generating a mutual death vortex between those who see Obama as the messiah and those who see him as the antichrist. I believe Obama himself to be relatively sane and levelheaded, but I don't know if he can tame the irrational energies he is stirring up.