Return To Sender: A Round Up Of Atheist Replies To Rabbi Jacobs’s Open Letter To Atheists

Diaphanitas points us to a boiled down version of the Rabbi Adam Jacobs’s open letter to the atheist community:

Dear Atheists,
I would like to tone-troll.

There are no true atheists.

Id also like to appeal to authority.

I used to be an atheist, and anyway atheists need to shut up. Hitler was an atheist*, so was Stalin*. And you don’t have open minds because you don’t swallow my nonsense.

Religion is a good thing, and atheists can’t respect life. Besides atheism takes more faith then believing in God, specially because of fine-tuning and complexity. Also look, Darwin says I’m right!

Diaphanitas himself also astutely adds to the assessment of what is wrong with Jacobs’s failed outreach:

I doubt he talked to a single atheist about any of this. And it is unlikely he genuinely wants to have a two-way conversation with any atheists. He seems to want to preach his perceived problems with atheism while at the same time presending himself as “reasonable.”

Seriously, this should be used as a general example for theists on how not to attempt to engage with atheists.

And Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience fame:

If you really wanted to understand our position, you wouldn’t claim to already understand it, you wouldn’t write such a transparently concern-troll-like sermon, you’d actually engage in conversation instead of, ironically, engaging in the very sort of dialogue you claim to be trying to avoid.”

And hambydammit’s point by point rebuttal is quite good and though we wrote entirely independently of one another, in many ways his piece alternates between mirroring and supplementing points made in my own reply to Jacobs.  Here’s one tack he explores which I neglected :

Humanity has progressed in spite of religion.  We managed to write beautiful music despite the Church’s centuries long fear of the devil incarnate in the diminished fifth.  We acknowledged the heliocentric model despite the censure and worse of anyone who dared to question the interpretation of the holy books.  We discovered DNA despitevehement opposition to the principle of evolution.  We are reducing AIDS despite the Church’s opposition to condoms.

But you’re talking about Jews, not Christians, right?  Ok… We managed to create an egalitarian culture despite your holy book’s instructions to trade slaves, rape women and then marry them, or cut off their hands for touching a man’s penis.  We no longer stone children to death for disobedience.  We don’t treat women as untouchables when they’re on their period.  We don’t treat them as property.

And oh god, do I love bacon.  And shellfish.

No, your religion is just as awful as the rest, and when you are good, you are good in spite of the fact.  If you actually practiced what your holy book dictates, I’d demand severe punishment for you.  Because you’d be a horrible, horrible person.

Staks Rosch raises a few issues unique to his article:

As for Antony Flew, he never claimed belief in a personal deity. In his old age, while losing his mind, Christian intellectuals fed him misinformation and wrote a book in his name. He still never claimed belief in the Abrahamic deity. For the record, “our experts” use actual evidence, where your experts use bad arguments, misinformation, and the argument by authority which you are attempting to exploit right here. While I am sure you wish that different people classified as experts (some by themselves) makes it a draw, the fact is that you or your “experts” have yet to present any valid evidence for your position. Until you do, it will not be a draw at all. Theism is no more a draw with atheism than astrology is a draw with astronomy or alchemy is a draw with chemistry.

and

I should also point out that it isn’t that Abrahamic believers do horrible things “in the name of religion,” but rather that they do it “because of religion.” Your holy books are extremely violent, sexist, hateful, anti-science, anti-humanity and anti-human progress.

I am open to the idea that religion isn’t inherently bad, but it seems that there is a mountain of evidence (both in the past and the present) against that proposition at least where the Abrahamic religions are concerned. As far as Jewish history goes, I was shocked to learn that much of it is a lie. For example, the Exodus from Egypt never happened. The Jews were never slaves in Egypt and this religious lie has demonized the Egyptian people

We all had one thing in common, we all independently found the rabbi remarkably disingenuous and were galled by his audacity to tell us what our positions really were in an article ostensibly making a big show of his willingness to “reach out” to us.

Unless our own uniform response to a supposed attempt to reach out to us is irrelevant, it should be clear that the rabbi is doing it wrong.  (I mean, I am open to Rabbi Jacobs correcting us as to our actual beliefs about his article, of course, but I’m pretty sure we can spot condescension when we see it.)

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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