Militant Atheism

Vjack has a post on the label of militant atheism over at Atheist Revolution that is definitely worth reading. Be sure to click on the comments link and see what his readers are saying.

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James Ross: My Stalker, My Friend

Okay, perhaps “stalker” is a little harsh, since it isn’t as though he’s followed me around from site to site on the internet. He’s stayed in the Employee of 1800Flowers.com thread, getting his attention fix there. His last comment was deleted, since it started off calling his host a “dunce” and a “cluck.” Sorry, pal, but you’re my guest and, as such, you don’t get to be an asshole. If you want to repost the comment like you have more sense, be my guest. Please.

But his prior comment, less obnoxious and “assholish” is worth posting. Perhaps others might like to respond to his questions about “what have atheists done for the world.”

Dear ylooshi, I suggested you google Vitz’s book, not read it. You can glean enough from that. As for your pretense to be scientific, why don’t you googel Stanly Jaki’s books. It’s just a click of the mouse. He is both a scientist and a priest. He demonstrates that the same guys who articulated Transubstantiation also invented western science.
Could you flesh out what you mean by “batshit crazy”. Is that a scientific term? Also, since atheists like you are parasites, holes in the donut, could you list some contributions your ilk have made to the world in the area of science, art, music, literature etc.? How many hospitals and orphanages they have built? I mean, what good are you anyway? What purpose do your icky little lives have? Why do you even bother to crawl out of bed in the morning? In 500 years, where will you be? Who even cares? What difference is it to you what we Catholics believe? C’mon son,vent. Get it all out. Let the healing begin. I am here for you. One more thing; did you say Myers is a “patriot”?!?! Like Jefferson and Franklin? Oh my goddess! you are wild

A look at Google reveals that Vitz was obsessed with demeaning atheism and never made an attempt to empirically test his assertion that atheists were the product of poor fathers. Indeed, Vitz appears to have thought that anyone that didn’t believe in the Judeo-Christian god was an atheist. Not only that, but just <i>believing</i> in this god wasn’t enough, one had to meet certain qualifications, such as regular church attendance or was to be considered an “atheist” in Vitz’s mind. He even went so far as to conclude that he was an atheist since he didn’t attend church, even though he believed in the Judeo-Christian god.

As for Stanley Jaki, I don’t think I need to Google his name, I’m somewhat familiar with the name. If memory serves correct he was (perhaps is) a physicist and argued that the metaphysics and superstitions of the catholic cult made science possible. This argument is easy to dismiss since so much about the Catholic versions of scientific understanding was wrong in medieval times. Moreover, other cultures such as the Vedic, Islamic, and Chinese had an edge up on things like mathematics and astronomy, and chemistry long before Europeans.

By “batshit crazy,” I mean the belief that the body and blood of a long-dead and alleged Messiah, that may or may not have even existed to begin with, replaces a cracker. Such an extraordinary claim has not even a modicum of evidence to support it, nor should one expect such magic and paranormal processes to exist since they don’t appear to anywhere in nature.

But it is this kind of ignorance that truly informs your bigotry: ” I mean, what good are you anyway? What purpose do your icky little lives have? Why do you even bother to crawl out of bed in the morning? In 500 years, where will you be? Who even cares?”

Such arguments by the superstitious have been refuted as fallacious time and time again, so I’ll defer to them. Suffice it to say that atheists have plenty to “crawl out of bed” for and if the only thing that inspires one crawl out of bed is the belief in gods and adhering to the superstitions that go with them, then one is pathetic indeed.

But you also ask of the contributions of atheists to society, which also shows your ignorance. Perhaps you should take your own advice with regard to “Google” and educate yourself as atheists have provided many, many contributions to society and not insignificantly either.

“Also, since atheists like you are parasites, holes in the donut, could you list some contributions your ilk have made to the world in the area of science, art, music, literature etc.?”

I hope you don’t mind the hyperlinks in your own quote. Don’t forget to click “etc.”

Those above are off the top of my head as are: Aldous Huxley, Isaac Asimov, Andrew Carnegie, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Frank Zappa, Frank Lloyd Wright, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Jackson Pollack, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ethan Allen, Albert Einstein, Ayn Rand, Bertrand Russell, Hellen Keller, George Bernard Shaw, Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinam, Gene Roddenberry, Kurt Vonegut, Frank Crick, James Watson, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, James Joyce, John Lennon, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Sir Richard Burton, Oscar Wilde, and the list goes on, and on, and on….

Morality: Big “M” and little “m”

I had the pleasure of discussing morality and atheism with a commenter who I would assume is a Christian although his/her actual beliefs haven’t been specifically discussed. In responding to the second of two posts the commenter left, I realized that I rambled on far longer than a general comment, so I thought I’d go ahead and repost it as a separate post of its own.

In this post, you’ll see me discuss the capacity for Morality (big “M” ) among humans, giving rise to the cultural establishment of moral (little “m” ) codes. I make an analogy to the human capacity for Language (big “L” ) which gives rise to the cultural establishment of languages (little “l” ). I don’t know if this analogy holds -I haven’t really thought it through- and I’m not arguing that the capacities of Morality and Language are part of the same genetic mechanism or have the shared origins.

I’ll begin with Robin Leboe’s comment today and follow with my response, both of which can be found in the Myths of Atheism: HIlter/Stalin/Pol Pot were evil because of atheism thread.

Robin Leboe, on July 1st, 2008 at 8:26 am Said:

Leaving aside the definition of atheism for the moment, the properties of atheism can be examined regardless of how it’s defined. For instance, one attribute of atheism I’m sure we can agree on is the lack of a transcendent source for an objective moral law.

If there is no transcendant being then any truly objective principles under girding existence are illusory. Your reference to evil in the post above hangs in a vacuum. Any attempt to codify right and wrong takes a leap into another realm i.e Platonic ideals.

Right and wrong are simply not an inherent property of ‘being without gods’ and morals are relegated to utilitarian, pragmatic, subjective or emotive trappings. A function of culture at best or the opinion of an individual at worst. Neitsche was very honest in driving home this point when writing of the ‘death of God’.

It is this lack of ultimate moral arbitration that people often point to when they speak of the atrocities advanced by cultures who have, by your definition, disavowed themselves of a belief in God.

On the other hand, atrocities committed by religious zealots can clearly be seen to be in opposition to the moral law they espouse. The teachings of Christ leave no interpretive room whatever for the inquisition or crusades. Many societies and institutions have been hijacked by lunatics, both theist and atheist. As it is often said, it’s not a good idea to judge a philosophy (or faith) by its adherents.

Thanks for the cordial discussion and taking time to respond to my previous reply.

I’m willing to take the transcendent source point further and say that you can insert “for anything” after “transcendent source.”

Transcendent refers to that which is “beyond comprehension” or “independent of the material universe.” I, of course, see no good reason to believe such a definition is needed since there is no evidence of anything existing “beyond the material universe.” In addition, I see no reason (and history bears this out) that this material universe can at least be potentially comprehended. I concede that I know very little of the universe and will likely learn only a fraction more when compared with the potential things that can be known, but I refuse to accept that there is anything unknowable about the universe or that anything exists beyond the knowable universe. Gods, magic, ghosts, and hobgoblins included.

But that’s me. If anyone knows otherwise and can demonstrate that knowledge, however, I’m open to revising my position.

Moving on to your other points, the very argument that morality is “divinely established” is an argument that isn’t sound nor is it cogent. That’s because the premises fail. If the conclusion is “God establishes morality,” then the premises followed by the conclusion must be:

  1. humans have not the capacity for morality without God;
  2. only God can provide morality;
  3. morality exists in humanity;
  4. thus God exists and establishes morality.

The premises fail for several reasons. The actual god in question is not identified. There are thousands upon thousands of extant and extinct religious cults in human history through present day, most with pantheons of gods. Yet, morality has flourished throughout human history. Were humans prior to the very recent cults of Judeo-Christian doctrine immoral? Hardly. We have a very detailed and accurate account of moral behavior in ancient societies. Indeed, our own democratic-republic form of government is based largely on one such pantheistic, but moral, society.

Further, there are countless similarities cross-culturally that exhibit very similar moral behaviors that are independent of a single religious superstition. For instance: in no extant or extinct culture that I’m aware of is it morally acceptable to murder one’s parents in order to take their property.

Very clearly, the preceding two paragraphs show that morality is a human endeavor and not a divine one and, therefore, humans provide their own morality, much in the same way we provide our own language. Language (big “L” ) is a human endeavor. We establish individual languages (little “l” ) based on the capacity for Language. Perhaps the human establishment of morality is a function of the capacity for Morality (big “M” ) [incidentally, I’m hypothesizing here more than arguing a position in order to show that divinity need not be the answer when one is ignorant of an explanation].

The only premise in the divine establishment of morality argument that is valid is that humans have morality. If morality is established by humanity (since it exists cross-culturally, independent of religious doctrine, and prior to modern concepts of God, then it clearly is), then humans have the capacity for morality without gods and gods are not necessary to provide morality.

The very evidence for the existence of morality and zero evidence for the existence of God invalidates nearly completely the argument that morality is established by God. There is, of course, the slim chance that a hidden god has created morality -but this begs the question and provides not a single bit of cogency to the argument. After all, how would one know he/she was praying to the right god if that god is hidden?

I won’t pretend to know why humans have a capacity for Morality any more than I know why they have a capacity for Language or Music. There is much about cognitive science that is unknown (though advances in the last decade are tremendous!), but I certainly see no logical or rational reason to settle on a god-explanation simply because I don’t have an answer. Thankfully, there have been enough rationally minded people in the history of scientific discovery who have sought answers beyond the god-explanation for lightning, weather, crop failure, disease, etc

Thank you again for taking the opportunity to post on an atheist blog and participating in discussion. I realize that many of the blogs and forums in the “atheosphere” are rather harsh and hostile to Christian and theist posters. I also realize that my own casual use of terms like cult, superstition, and the like are likely to be taken as offensive to the believer and religious adherent, but is an honest position and opinion that I hold and not intended to be solely pejorative.

The Portable Atheist – Some Internet Sources

I recently read The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, by Christopher Hitchens -well, most of it. A fair amount I’d already read elsewhere, other bits just didn’t grab me. But I have to say its a treasured bit of reading that will stay handy on my bookshelf. I’ve made fair bit of pencil marks in the margins and left a few little sticky arrows on the pages so I can navigate my way back to the passages they mark at a later date.

It occurred to me that much of what is found in this tome can also be found on the web. In fact, a lot of it can. Of course, you miss a fantastic introduction by Hitchens and the portability factor is nearly completely lost even if you have a laptop with WIFI.

I thought I’d list the table of contents here, linking to the articles, excerpts, and books as they are already found on the internet. The links worked the day I typed this and I offer no warranty or guarantee that they’ll continue to work in the future. For the essays, articles or texts that I didn’t have or couldn’t find a link for, I tried to link to a biography or personal webpage for the writer, usually indicated by the fact that the link is the writer not the title of the work itself.

Pay close attention, also, to the information in brackets. In at least one or two instances it denotes a PDF file.

I’m confident that by browsing some of these links, you’ll purchase a copy of The Portable Atheist. It’s great to have a source for these texts so you can do keyword searches or copy/paste excerpts in blog posts, etc., but there’s no substitution to being able to pick up a book and take it with you.

**************

1. Lucretius, from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), Book I Translated by W. Hannaford Brown

2. Omar Khayyam, from Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A Paraphrase from Several Literal Translations by Richard Le Gallienne

3. Thomas Hobbes, Of Religion, from Leviathan

4. Benedict De Spinoza, Theoological-Political Treatise

5. David Hume, The Natural History of Religion; of Miracles

6. James Boswell, An Account of My Last Interview with David Hume, Esq.

7. Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Refutation of Deism

8. John Stuart Mill, Moral Influences in My Early Youth, from Autobiography

9. Karl Marx, Contributions to the Critique of Hegels Philosophy of Right

10. George Eliot, Evangelical Teaching

11. Charles Darwin, Autobiography

12. Leslie Stephen, An Agnostic’s Apology

13. Anatole France, Miracle

14. Mark Twain, Thoughts of God, From Fables of Man; Bible Teaching and Religious Practice, From Europe and Elsewhere and A Pen Warmed Up in Hell

15. Joseph Conrad, Author’s Note to The Shadow Line

16. Thomas Hardy, God’s Funeral

17. Emma Goldman, The Philosophy of Atheism

18. H.P. Lovecraft, A Letter on Religion

19. Carl Van Doren, Why I Am An Unbeliever

20. H. L. Mencken, Memorial Service

21. Sigmund Freud, From The Future of an Illusion, Translated and edited by James Strachey

22. Albert Einstein, Selected Writings on Religion

23. George Orwell, From A Clergyman’s Daughter

24. John Betjeman, In Westminster Abby

25. Chapman Cohen, Monism and Religion an Old Story

26. Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish

27. Philip Larkin, Aubade; Church Going

28. Martin Gardner, The Wandering Jew and the Second Coming

29. Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World; The God Hypothesis

30. John Updike, From Roger’s Version

31. J.L. Mackie, Conclusions and Implications, From The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God

32. Michael Shermer, Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story

33. A.J. Ayer, That Undiscovered Country

34. Daniel C. Dennett, Thank Goodness!

35. Charles Templeton, From A Farewell to God, A Personal Word; Questions to Ask Yourself

36. Richard Dawkins, Why There Almost Certainly Is No God; Gerin Oil; Atheists for Jesus

37. Victor Stenger, From God: the Failed Hypothesis [promo site], Cosmic Evidence

38. Daniel C. Dennett, A Working Definition of Religion, From “Breaking Which Spell?”

39. Elizabeth Anderson, If God is Dead, Is Everything Permitted? [abstract]

40. Penn Jillette, There is No God

41. Ian McEwan, End of the World Blues [PDF]

42. Steven Weinberg, What About God?, From Dreams of a Final Theory

43. Salman Rushdie, “Imagine There’s No Heaven: A Letter to the Six Billionth World Citizen”

44. Ibn Warraq, The Koran; The Totalitarian Nature of Islam

45. Sam Harris, In the Shadow of God, From The End of Faith [excerpts]

46. A.C. Grayling, Can an Atheist Be a Fundamentalist?, From Against All Gods

47. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, How (and Why) I Became an Infidel

Point of Inquiry and the Chris Hedges Interview

I just finished listening to the recent interview D.J. Grothe did with Chris Hedges on Point of Inquiry: I don’t believe in atheists (5/2/08). Grothe is an excellent interviewer and I’m always impressed with his ability to engage a guest with smart questions and dialog, resulting in a podcast that gives the listener a new insights to a guest they may have already listened to time and again. His interviews with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, James Randy and many others who are already familiar speakers have never failed to provide a fresh perspective.

Having said that, I’d add that his interview with Chris Hedges was the first I’ve listened to that even Grothe seemed a bit frustrated with the guest! Mind you, he still manages it well (far better than I would have) and the result is still an informative interview.

Chris Hedges is the author of I Don’t Believe in Atheists, in which he attempts to outline a case against the “new atheists” (Dawkins, Hithchens, Harris, …), specifically that they are “fundamentalists,” “radicals,” and believers of “utopianism..” To be fair, I’ve not read the book. Indeed, I’ve not even heard of it or Hedges until the POI interview. So my criticisms of Hedges’ opinions are based solely on the interview itself and his words there, which Hedges implied were a reflection of what he wrote in the book.

  • Radical Atheism

To the first charge that the “new atheists” are “radical,” (I’ve a feeling there may be some liberal use of inverted commas throughout this post, so forgive me (at least I’m not nesting parenthetical comments)), I’d say this is true. After all, this is part of the reason the adjective “new” is applied to the label of atheism. Books like The End of Faith, God is Not Great, and The God Delusion are radical departures from previous atheistic literature if only in their marketing and popularity. The messages of these atheist authors is, likewise, radical in that there is a call for the rationally minded to speak out, to question, and to come out as atheists were applicable. Never before has atheism been so popular. There’s nothing wrong or inappropriate about being radical, particularly if it’s for the right cause.

But what Hedges seems to want us to believe is that being radical is synonymous with being wrong, evil, or otherwise negative for society. Granted there are many radical people who are flat out evil: suicide bombers, car jackers, wife beaters, polygamist cult leaders, advocates of female genital mutilation… these are all radical members of society. But what of those that led movements of suffrage, organized labor, and civil rights in the early part of the 20th century? And countless other “radicals” who recognized that the status quo was worth changing or improving upon?

  • But what of Hedges’ charge that the new atheists are “fundamentalists”?

Hedges wields the term like a pejorative with an intent to be insulting more than critical. This, of course, isn’t new to atheists who apply the term to religious wackjobs, nuts, and cranks that go on about creationism, try to convince reasoned people that huricanes and tsunamis are hurled by imaginary deities at cities and nations because of homosexuality, and that science is the work yet another, albeit evil, deity known as Satan. In order to see why it’s a term that wouldn’t apply to atheists, new or old, it might first be helpful to understand the origin of term “fundamental.”

The Fundamentals were a series of pamphlets distributed by to churches and clergy by Protestant Christian apologists in the earliest decades fo the 20th century. Funded by a grant by Milton and Lyman Stewart of Union Oil Company, this collection of 90 essays in a 12 volume series of pamphlets essentially touched on what were then described as the “fundamentals” of Christianity:

  1. the inerrancy of the Bible as the literal word of God;
  2. the virgin birth of Christ;
  3. the bodily resurrection of Christ;
  4. the belief that Christ , through his death by crucifixion, forgave for the sins of humanity;
  5. the belief that Christ will, one day, return to establish his kingdom on Earth

Later proponents of The Fundamentals advocated, a return of society to a “pre-1950’s” structure and hierarchy in family and society as a whole: where gender roles were clear and those that wouldn’t accept a fundamentalist worldview were marginalized from the in-group of “right thinking” Christians. Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, etc. were all threats to the “fundamental truths” of Christianity. This may even have been handy in demonizing the “atheistic communists” during the first years of the Cold War, the same years we first see the words “in God we trust”, on U.S. currency and hear the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Eisenhower probably wasn’t trying to follow the advice written in the essays of The Fundamentals that lambasted “higher criticism,” argued against liberalism, and denounced false churches. Instead he was seeking to unify a nation against the common enemy of communism. It must have been easier to show the American people that our cause is just by vilifying and demonizing the communist as godless -surely God was on our side.

These days, fundamentalists are generally regarded as those cranks and kooks in society that adhere to the literal “truths” of whatever cult they belong to, as told in their scriptures. Ironically, fundamentalists are the truly honest members of their respective religions since liberal or moderate adherents appear to cherry pick what portions of their scriptures are to be taken literal and which are to be considered allegorical, poetic, or the limited perspectives of Bronze Age nomads.

I think liberal and moderate adherents of religious cults know this. It pisses them off since their reason and intellect tells them most of their cult scripture is pure B.S. -otherwise they’d be proponents of stoning adulterers and beheading rape victims. And yet they can’t shake their delusions about old bearded white men in the sky and pretend to be affronted with the “new atheists” that dare to point out their fallacy. The new atheists dare to question time honored traditions of superstition. The new atheists have the audacity to criticize beliefs of others and to suggest that those beliefs are linked to violence, ignorance, and -let’s face it- stupidity.

Worse than that, Hedges goes so far as to mischaracterize the arguments of new atheists, specifically, Sam Harris. Several times, Hedges stated that Harris advocated in The End of Faith for a preemptive, first strike and nuclear war with Islam; that he equates all Muslims as suicide bombers and terrorists who fly planes into buildings. Clearly Hedges either: 1) didn’t actually read Harris’ book; 2) didn’t understand what he read; or 3) is outright mischaracterizing Harris’ words for those whom he is betting has not read The End of Faith. I don’ t think 1) is true, though it is possible. Had 2) been the case, I wouldn’t imagine Hedges would have been employed by newspapers like the Dallas Morning News and the Christian Science Monitor. That just leaves 3), unless I’m overlooking an option, and, where I live, mischaracterized is just a fancy way of saying “he lied.”

Here’s what Sam Harris had to say in The End of Faith (pp 128-129):

What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen.

One thing that was very obvious with Hedges’ interview with Grothe, and if I’m off the mark please tell me in a comment here, is that Hedges seemed pretty full of him self. Several times Grothe questioned the reasoning or the justification for his opinion and each time Hedges seemed to respond with an appeal to his time spent with Muslims here or there; the fact that he’s allegedly “banned” from Saudi Arabia for his journalism there; etc.

I’ve decided I’m not going to comment on the “utopianism” nonsense that Hedges seems to go on about. There are so many other things wrong with his arguments in his book (assuming that he was accurately portraying them in the interview) that I’ll let others listen, read and criticize.

One things for sure, if the nonsense he was spewing on Point of Inquiry is any guide to his intellect, honesty, and integrity, I certainly see no reason to believe in Chris Hedges or accept the veracity of anything else he’s written on the Middle East, Islam, Iraq, and Terrorism.

The Godless Community

I’m a big fan of Atheist Revolution. In fact, of all the blogs in the atheosphere that I read, Vjack’s is the only one that I would be hesitant to delete from my Google Reader. Vjack has a post on a topic that I find near and dear: Defending the Atheist Movement. He begins thus:

Driving down the freeway, I observe two men, both riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles, pass each other while heading in opposite directions.Both extend the well-known “low wave,” a one-armed salute one often sees among bikers. There was no reason to suspect that these men knew each other, only that they share a common bond. They belong to no real community and certainly have no organizational structure. Their bond is about a shared identity. And even though they may never meet face-to-face, the connection is palpable.

And like the biker culture, Vjack rightly points out the existence of dissent among motorcycle enthusiasts in which there is an elite group that considers itself to be “bikers” and the rest “posers.” He doesn’t say this in terms as explicit, but the atheist movement is very much the same in that there are those that consider themselves to be “atheists” and the rest to be the equivalent of “posers.” This sub-group of weak atheists, Neville Chamberlain atheists, and other disparaging or pejorative terms that separate them from the “militant”-type atheists, many of whom embrace the “militant” term with open arms.

Personally, I’m not a big favor of “militant,” “weak,” “Neville Chamberlain,” and other monikers, though I acknowledge they do tend to characterize individual atheists that have differing opinions of how to approach the topic and movement of atheism.

However, there are some commonalities that atheists generally share. Even the bikers who disparage the “posers” cannot disagree that there is something alluring and free about riding a motorcycle -a quality shared between the posers that ride Hondas, Yamahas, and BMWs and the “bikers” that stick to their Harleys and Indians.

The atheist who considers himself to be “militant” in his atheism also shares most of the same concerns as the atheist that is less-militant. And Vjack nails it on the head here:

1. Sharp, sustained criticism of religion as irrational and destructive
2. Promotion of a reality-based worldview including reason, science, skepticism, critical thinking, secular education, and secular humanism
3. Defense of atheist rights from a Civil Rights perspective to end anti-atheist discrimination and reduce anti-atheist bigotry
4. Support for atheists in their escape from religion

Possibly the only item above that might not be universally shared is the first, but even the “Neville Chamberlains” among us probably recognize the irrationality of religion, so some bit of that point will also ring true. Reading the comments of Vjack’s original post, there is a bit of disagreement with some to the inclusion of “secular humanism,” but I think their reservations are misplaced. Some view secular humanism as a pseudo-religious position. This might be true but only if you accept that the things that it takes from religion is the sense of community and social bonding, leaving the supernatural and other deleterious aspects behind. The result isn’t a religion or even a philosophy that aspires to be a religion. The result is a worldview that simply says you can have morality and justice in the world without invoking supernatural origins or authority.

But Vjacks main point is the one that shouldn’t be overlooked, regardless of how each of us individually characterizes our own atheism: we our bonded by a common godless position. Whether we are hard-line militant atheists or agnostics who think its fine for the religious to believe what they will, we each accept that the supernatural isn’t necessary to live our lives. We each recognize the irrationality of religion. We each attempt to hold a rational worldview. We each desire that atheists rights be recognized. And we each hope that those seeking to escape religion are at least provided with an environment that allows them to make their own choices and to inquire freely.

I don’t always agree with all of its members, but I’m proud to be a member of the godless community.

Apologists Miss the Mark About “New Atheism”

The video above runs about 8 minutes and I wouldn’t attempt to subject you to more than that. But I think it’s helpful for atheists to watch this video to get a sense of the point of view and the lengths to which those deluded by Christianity (and probably any other religion) are willing to go in order to preserve their superstitious memes.

Here’s the gist of the video:

Christian apologists are greatly concerned about the prevalence of those willing to speak out critically of their superstitions and beliefs. In the very first seconds of the clip, a theologian/apologist remarks that discussion, criticism, and inquiry into his god previously only took place in the “ivory towers” of academia. Now, he continues, such discussion is open and public and, even more to his angst, being discussed on “shows popular with young people” like Comedy Central and the Cobert Report, which, between them, interviewed Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

The accusation, of course, is that these popular authors are attacking transcendent beings and beliefs with “violence and venom.” More amazingly, the theologian/apologist they interviewed goes on to say this “violence and venom” is unprecedented.

Unprecedented.”

First, he does not once establish that Hitchens, Dawkins or Harris have used “violence” in their books. They’ve each discussed violence, but in the context of religious nuts utilizing it against those that believed differently than they. So, not only did the guy completely fabricate the claim of “violence” committed by these three esteemed authors, he also ignores the fact that his own religious cult is culpable in establishing precedence for use of such violence should it have been used. Violence, however, isn’t the method rational people use in speaking out against that which they find objectional, false, silly, or superstitious. Unlike the nuts that killed a gay man in Wyoming because their god hates homosexuality; unlike the nuts that bomb abortion clinics; unlike the nuts that fly planes into skyscrapers; and unlike the thugs that assault Kansas professors who teach evolution -rational people find civil discourse, the press, the media, and the publishing industry to refute the superstitions of irrational people.

As to the charge of “venom,” isn’t this really just an argument from blasphemy? How dare rational people challenge the time-honored tradition of not questioning religious superstition? Is there a polite way to question the superstitions and cult beliefs of the religious without appearing venomous to them? There simply is no good evidence or reason to accept their superstitions as true. Call it venom if you wish, but truth will always be painful to the deluded and their reactions all but demonstrate their delusion.

One of the more disingenuous criticisms the clip attempts to provide is the interview with Paul J. Voss, an associate professor of literature at Georgia State who calls Dawkins’ The God Delusion a “scree,” which he describes as a genre of literature that is “highly emotional, poignant, full of attacking…” The credits under Voss as he delivers his “objective” literary perspective describes him just as I did with the link and words above: an associate professor at Georgia State. What isn’t said is that he isn’t objective. Voss is the president of academic affairs at Southern Catholic College, where indoctrination and superstition reign supreme and rational discourse and science take a back seat. He taught theology at a Catholic High School for over three years and that is the reason he was chosen for the spot on this “news” clip.

But Voss never gives any example of Dawkins’ “emotional” and “attacking” words from the God Delusion. Nor do most of the critics of his book. And the critics that do provide examples are made to look foolish since the quotes they provide are either clearly a jest or otherwise hold up. His only real criticism is the title itself, which includes the accusation of “delusion.” Sorry, Voss, but its true. Delusion, the erroneous belief held in the face of evidence to the contrary, is the most accurate assessment of those that believe in superstitious nonsense like virgin births, transubstantiation, creation, and Noah’s flood. The best argument Voss provides to counter this assertion of delusion is an argument from popularity. The band wagon consists of “90%” of the population, so, therefore, the 10% that don’t believe are wrong. One is left to wonder about the 90% of Greeks who believed Medusa was really the snake-haired Gorgon that was so ugly you turned to stone by just looking at her. Did the popularity of their delusion mean she was real?

But getting back on track, the clip goes on to mention the Out Campaign in such a way as to demonstrate the threat that “New Atheists” have on Christian superstitions. The criticism at this point is that the “New Atheism” is militant and intolerant. This, I suppose, is true depending on how one describes militancy and intolerance. If “militant” means being proactive and aggressive, and if “intolerant” means no longer sitting down and simply accepting the old taboo of questioning religious dogma and superstition, then I hope we’re guilty. But, in that case, there’s far less “militancy” than can be found with evangelical, bible-thumping, door-to-door religious nuts who seek to fill their pews for tithing. It’s also clear that religious nuts are not in the least bit tolerant of the non-religious -and this very clip is demonstrative of that fact.

The original apologist/theologian (revealed midway through to be a pastor) I mentioned above shares an anecdote about how he met the graduate assistant of a popular atheist author who finally admits to him how smart the pastor is and how ignorant the atheist is. The implication of this story (probably a complete fiction) is that atheists don’t bother reading religious and theological works and are, therefore, not qualified to discuss or have opinions about the superstitions of religious cults. I challenge any religious nut to, that pastor included, to take me to task on this: present to me any “clear, rational, responsible Christian perspective” written by any theologian and I will demonstrate why it is complete an utter nonsense.

Theologians aren’t qualified to have rational opinions on their own superstitions. It would be like citing the authority of a fairiologist, a ufologist, or an aeropigologist. Only if we are to accept the matter of fact existence of fairies, space aliens in flying saucers, or flying pigs, then these experts are meaningful.

Finally, I want to point out the closing comments of the clip. The call to arms, so to speak, of the religious is to increase apologetics training to the children. Indoctrinate them young and get them on the side of superstition and the Christian meme now, so that they’ll be less open-minded once they reach the university and become exposed to the Ph.D.’s there who are out to turn them all into atheists.

I’m not kidding. That’s the crap it ends with.