“How atheists became the most colossally smug and annoying people on the planet”

 

When a group gives itself a title like “The Brights” — as certain very self-satisfied atheists have recently done — it invites comments from us Dims. But, apparently, not ONLY from us.

 

By an atheist, no less:

 

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100230985/how-atheists-became-the-most-colossally-smug-and-annoying-people-on-the-planet/

 

 

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  • RaymondSwenson

    The author’s observation can be analogized to those whose central identity is the negation of Mormonism.

    • DanielPeterson

      Indeed it can.

  • DanielPeterson

    LOL. Some of them seem to imagine that I wrote the article. And it’s pretty amusing to watch them complain about how religious people stereotype atheists, when the article’s actual author is . . . a self-described atheist.

  • Lucy Mcgee

    As someone irreligious, I find the various religious belief systems, and the discussions within them fascinating. This of course includes what well known atheists are saying and writing. It is also enjoyable to observe now famous atheists posturing for time in the limelight, tweeting, lecturing and of course writing books and blogs.

    To me, the rhetoric they espouse has solidified much of what I’ve grown to believe for the past 40 years. In all that time, while many friends and family members were enjoying their religious life, I was far in the weeds and in the minority. Where was my tribe?

    So I for one am pretty tickled that these prominent educated individuals are having enough if an impact to irritate on a regular basis. Much better for my personal sanity than hearing the refrain of the once popular “moral majority” and the like.

    • Stephen Smoot

      “So I for one am pretty tickled that these prominent educated individuals are having enough if an impact to irritate on a regular basis”

      Lucy,

      If you think theists like myself are irritated by the antics of guys like Richard Dawkins because he keeps espousing atheism, you’re wrong. I have friends and family who are atheists, or at least non-religious, and we get along just fine, so I’m not bothered by people expressing their dis-belief in God. Heck, I’ve even read Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”, Hitchens’ “God is Not Great”, and Harris’ “Letter to a Christian Nation”. I’ve also read many of the articles these guys publish in various newspapers or online forums. None of their arguments really bother or irritate me. (I actually find older atheist/secular writers like Nietzsche or Freud fairly interesting.)

      What does irritate me is the smug, conceited, arrogant, self-congratulatory, self-assured, and insufferably condescending attitude “Brights” like Dawkins and his buddies unfailingly exhibit. Seriously, the “New Atheists” like Dawkins have made careers out of being odious jerks, and have taken superciliousness to unparalleled heights. (Take a look at Dawkins’ contemptible behavior when he ambushed Brandon Flowers on that Swedish talk show, for example.)

      It’s one thing to disagree with theists and espouse atheism. It’s something entirely to be so terribly obnoxious about it. This latter, all-too-common phenomenon amongst modern atheists is what I see this article, written by an atheist, no less, highlighting and rightfully castigating.

      Dawkins is certainly an intelligent man. Nobody is disputing that. (Although, I find he’s abysmally ignorant of not only the philosophy of religion but also religious history in general and Mormonism in particular.) But he’s such an adamant atheist fundamentalist that his attitude towards not only religion itself but religious people is intolerably unpleasant. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why he’s attained such a cult-leader-like status amongst modern atheists. They’d do well to have a different public figure leading their cause.

      There are legitimate philosophical and moral criticisms of religion that have been articulated by atheists in the past (again, I’m thinking of Nietzsche), but none too many by Richard Dawkins, whose little Twitter rants hardly amount to anything substantive.

      • Lucy Mcgee

        “What does irritate me is the smug, conceited, arrogant,
        self-congratulatory, self-assured, and insufferably condescending
        attitude “Brights” like Dawkins and his buddies unfailingly exhibit.”

        I suppose I’m trying to understand the distinction between such attitudes, and that of any religious person telling someone that they are assuredly going to burn in hell or be destroyed for all eternity for their non-belief, or rejection of the Gospel message, which to me, seems quite self-assured and condescending.

        In fact from about the fifth century forward, when the Church controlled much of life, people were imprisoned, tortured or killed for heresy. If I’m not mistaken, I believe that some of your own prophets were quite vocal about the fate of those who disavowed the faith which is made clear in “The History of the Church”, when gentiles are discussed.

        Of course today, the tone in many churches has changed because such talk can be off-putting. Yet it still exists (thinking about churches similar in nature to the Westboro Baptist church).

        So if Dawkins, Dennett, AC Grayling, Sam Harris, and the rest speak in confrontation to religious dogmas, it seems quite appropriate and legitimate.

        • Ray Agostini

          “So if Dawkins, Dennett, AC Grayling, Sam Harris, and the rest speak in confrontation to religious dogmas, it seems quite appropriate and
          legitimate.”

          It’s better to put up no argument, than to put up bad arguments. Dawkins has been endlessly criticised by fellow academics and atheists with more balanced views and criticisms. They don’t view him as anything approaching “objective”. Dennett’s “Brights” also falls into that smug and condescension category, rather than legitimate debate. “We are ‘Brights’, so pay attention!”

          There’s no doubt that many troubling issues are still left to be worked out, but those issues are not facilitated by denouncing religion on the whole as “a mental virus”, which Dawkins does, along with some of his comrades in hope of some kind of atheist Utopia.

          “A Critique of Richard Dawkins’ Views on Religion”: http://www.cmf.org.uk/publications/content.asp?context=article&id=552

          • Lucy Mcgee

            I’m quite certain none of the “new atheists” are interested in an “atheist Utopia”. If you listen to their lectures or read their books, one point is made more than most. They fear of the destruction of the planet in the name of religion, and their belief is that factions within Islam and Christianity expect this outcome, and may revel in it. Sam Harris, for example, began his public discourse after 9-11.

            The notion of Armageddon, because of war, climate destruction, societal upheaval, or a combination of these, is no doubt one of the biggest motivators for the irreligious to speak against religious dogma. When surveys are done and something like half of Christians admit that they believe in a 6000 year old earth, and that Christ will be returning to earth in the next 50 years, some atheists wonder if these people have gone mental, myself included.

            Add to that the insistence by some that we teach our youth creationism and intelligent design in place of evolution, and you’ve got the basis for push back.

            I share their concern that fundamentalists could spark a world destroying conflagration. And because they believe it is eminent, not enough will be done to stop it.

            There is nothing that has convinced this cadre of “new atheists”, that fundamentalists don’t hold this world view. I’ve read many times in the writings of those of Mormon faith, for example. It is, to me, very unsettling to believe that people would actually welcome such a thing.

          • Stephen Smoot

            “I share their concern that fundamentalists could spark a world destroying conflagration.”

            Right. But surely secularists would never do such a thing. I mean, secular governments have never used secular ideologies (like, say, imperialism, fascism or communism) to, say, engage in two world wars that resulted in the deaths of millions and the destruction of a continent.

            That’s the kind of stuff only irrational religious people do.

            Tell you what, Lucy. Here’s a challenge. Add up the death and destruction caused by wars motivated strictly by religious ideology. Then compare that to the death and destruction caused by the wars motivated by secular ideology in the last century alone.

            Compare the two and tell me which one you think has historically proven more deleterious to mankind.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            You have to define exactly what secular ideology you are talking about, right? First, lets be clear on that. There are many secular ideologies from democracy to totalitarianism. Besides we’re not living in that terrible period where fascists and communists supplanted religion with their own totalitarian dogmas, something that many people today would flat out reject.

            But what is not rejected by many in religion, is the belief in some scriptural Armageddon which some await with apparent glee, and which is the kind of thinking that only irrational religious people do. To me this is something worth pushing back against.

          • Stephen Smoot

            “You have to define exactly what secular ideology you are talking about, right? First, lets be clear on that.”

            Okay, let’s take fascism.

            Do you believe the wars involving fascism in the last century (with the goal to either expand or diminish fascism through militaristic means) have had a more deleterious effect on mankind than the religious wars waged in the Middle Ages, for example? Why or why not?

            “Besides we’re not living in that terrible period where fascists and communists supplanted religion with their own totalitarian dogmas,”

            If we’re not, it’s because mankind has already witnessed the disastrous results where state atheism (like in Soviet Russia) does just that.

            For the record, I’m not condoning religious violence. I just want anyone who thinks we can lay the world’s problems at the feet of religion to think a bit more carefully. In other words, I’m challenging Christopher Hitchens’ petulant claim that “religion poisons everything.” The point in my rhetorical exercise is to get secularists to think more carefully about what has, historically, been the cause of conflict and discord throughout modern civilization. Has it really only been religion, as the New Atheists claim, or does secularism have some blame to bear as well? I think, when one looks at the wars and conflicts perpetuated in the last century alone, the answer becomes obvious that to blame religion for all of modern civilization’s discontents is not only false, but also intellectually and morally lazy.

            “But what is not rejected by many in religion, is the belief in some scriptural Armageddon which some await with apparent glee, and which is the kind of thinking that only irrational religious people do. To me this is something worth pushing back against.”

            Yep. You’re right. I too am uncomfortable with hyper-millenialism, and strongly discourage any behavior, religious or otherwise, that would exacerbate conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere. I am also critical of fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and Jews who are eager to promote conflict or violence in the name of their religion or for any sort of apocalyptic expectation.

            I think that’s all I’ll say on this matter. Cheers!

          • DanielPeterson

            Oh come on, Lucy McGee. Irrational irreligious people have engaged in nonscriptural Armageddons that have been far more deadly and destructive than anything ever done by even the worst kind of religious fanatic.

          • Lucy Mcgee

            Really? Ever read about the Taiping Rebellion, which resulted in 20 million deaths and was the deadliest civil war in human history? This was a religious war. waged by someone who thought himself a son of God. You can’t get any more fanatical than that, or can you?

            The planet’s nuclear arsenal is far reaching. There are most certainly religious fanatics that would revel in the perceived eternal glory of planetary annihilation and martyrdom.

            What possible benefit to humanity comes from teaching our children that regardless of what we do to correct our failings, it won’t matter because God has willed the final destruction of humanity, only to be rebuilt by the faithful who have been “chosen” because of their beliefs and deeds (xyz religion)?

            Any time I read some statement of the end of days, I cringe. Yet, many religious hold this as certainty and some look forward to it. Push back on this belief is what motivates me.

          • DanielPeterson

            Yes, I’ve read about the Taiping Rebellion — which both Sun Yat-Sen and the militantly atheistic Mao Tse-dong admired as a revolt against feudal economic oppression.

            Of course, China is always good for huge numbers — as in the Japanese invasion of the country, the rise of Chinese Communism, and Mao’s “cultural revolution,” none of which had anything to do with religion but which killed far more people, even, than the Taiping Rebellion.

          • Ray Agostini

            Lucy, there’s an old Bible verse that reads: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” (Not suggesting you’re “wicked”.) I see little or no rational basis for the fears you express. Most of the world’s challenges and “destruction” hasn’t come from religion, which is actually on the *decline* in most countries as far as “traditional (church) worship” is concerned. Significantly so. Armageddon? A 6,000 year old earth? Christ returning in the next 50 years? “Insistence by some that we teach our youth creationism and intelligent design in place of evolution”?

            Maybe the reasons I can’t associate with any of this is because, (a) I’m not a “fundamentalist”, and (b), I don’t live in America.

  • Loran

    “If you listen to their lectures or read their books, one point is made more than most. They fear of the destruction of the planet in the name of religion,”

    Interesting that they don’t seem to fear the destruction of the planet in the name of secular, atheistic totalitarian ideology, isn’t it? These are, after all, the only actually viable historic players in that game, given the historical record thus far.

    “and their belief is that factions within Islam and Christianity expect this outcome, and may revel in it. Sam Harris, for example, began his public discourse after 9-11.”

    A substantial if minority faction of Islam — fundamentalist, radical, or Wahhabist Islam — revels in it, to be sure, as do rather perverse subsets of it such as the American black Muslims usually under the rubric of the Nation of Islam. I know of no Christian sects, denominations or fellowships who “revel” in destruction, let alone apocalyptic destruction, although I’m not sure I’m clear on what you mean by this. Traditional Christianity generally, and LDS theology in particular, see apocalyptic destruction as a necessary and inevitable consequence of a critical mass of the earth’s population reaching a point of “ripeness” in which civil society is no longer possible. A people bring this upon themselves through their own personal and political choices, Christians are not understood as bringing it upon them, or in being instrumental in doing so. Our scriptures and teachings, in point of fact, show that those who follow Christ are usually at the bottom of the apocalyptic pile as the culture comes apart from the inside out, and many have to go down with the secularist ship, although not willingly.

    “The notion of Armageddon, because of war, climate destruction, societal upheaval, or a combination of these, is no doubt one of the biggest motivators for the irreligious to speak against religious dogma.”

    Again, there is no evidence that religion qua religion ever was or could be at the root of any such. It is the idolatry of ideology, not serious theistic religion, that history teaches we should fear. Religion only becomes something to fear when fused with the state (i.e., the present unofficial American state religion of secular humanism/naturalism) and a state that has moved away from the concept of limited government and the rule of law towards a more expansive, encompassing vision.

    And “climate destruction”? If this is a defining feature of contemporary atheism, then this only makes it all the more difficult to take seriously.

    “When surveys are done and something like half of Christians admit that they believe in a 6000 year old earth,”

    Half of all Christians in the world? Excuse me if I’m dubious…

    “and that Christ will be returning to earth in the next 50 years,”

    Do you find that threatening, in some way, Lucy?

    “some atheists wonder if these people have gone mental, myself included.”

    I think this statement kind of rests Daniel’s case, as expressed through the article he posted, if I may say so.

    “Add to that the insistence by some that we teach our youth creationism and intelligent design in place of evolution, and you’ve got the basis for push back.”

    This is a tiny movement, with which I disagree as much as I disagree with the saturation of K-12 public education with immersion in progressive ideology. However, ID does have strong and salient criticisms of the kind of Darwinian fundamentalism that now passes for the original idea, and can and should be taken seriously within philosophy of science, although I agree it should not be taught as a direct empirical competitor.

    “I share their concern that fundamentalists could spark a world destroying conflagration.”

    What “fundamentalists”?

    “There is nothing that has convinced this cadre of “new atheists”, that fundamentalists don’t hold this world view. I’ve read many times in the writings of those of Mormon faith, for example.”

    What world view? What writings?

    • Lucy Mcgee

      Ever read the historical writings of Brigham Young or Wilford Woodruff? If you’d like I can quote you numerous “end of world” statements made by these prophets of your church.

      For one, you may be interested in reading “Waiting for World’s End: the Diaries of Wilford Woodruff”. Perhaps your past prophets’ words are meaningless, but to someone exploring your religion, his words and story seem a part of your belief system.

    • Lucy Mcgee

      Darwinian science isn’t a philosophy. It is composed of vast amounts of data in varied fields of scientific research aggregated into an accepted world view by a large majority of the planet’s scientists. ID has not stood up to peer review by the majority of scientists; it is fringe. If you doubt that, read the research. It is crystal clear.

    • Lucy Mcgee

      And “climate destruction”? If this is a defining feature of
      contemporary atheism, then this only makes it all the more difficult to
      take seriously.

      95% of the world’s scientists believe in climate change by human causes. If you doubt climate destruction, then do some reading about the world’s oceans, the destruction of coral reefs, and fish stocks. You truly should educate yourself before making such statements. Scientists take planetary destruction very seriously.

      • Loran

        “95% of the world’s scientists believe in climate change by human causes.”

        No, they patently do not (and the original claim was 98%). This has been long debunked as a statistical scam fomented and peddled in the media to win debating points through an argumentum ad populum that was never anything but a fictitious intellectual publicity stunt in the first place, lapped up, as those who concocted it knew would be, by an ever sycophantic media.

        http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/18/about-that-overwhelming-98-number-of-scientists-consensus/

        “You truly should educate yourself before making such statements.”

        Do you think, oh, 18 years or so following and studying the issue closely is adequate?

        “Scientists take planetary destruction very seriously.”

        Actually, its primarily politicians, ideologues, and Hollywood that takes it seriously. Truly educated, thinking adults woke up to this game long, long ago.

        • Lucy Mcgee

          Are you aware that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are higher than they have ever been since humans have lived on earth? Are you aware of large volume polar ice melting, never witnessed before? How about glacial recession as never seen before? Sea levels are rising. Global temperatures are rising. The oceans are becoming more acidic. There are so many data sets from so many different sources, that to ignore them is simply irresponsible. And we in the US continue to burn fossil fuels with abandon, using 25% of the planets energy resources. What happens when the rest of the world catches up? There are many, many concerned people, except perhaps those who think it is our obligation to drill baby drill, and continue to use fossil fuels at our current rate. But the vast majority of climate scientists understand that that human activity is impacting our climate.

          http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article

          Transnational corporations who are led by corporate oligarchs with only a profit motive in mind and who are willing to destroy the planet’s resources for short term gain should give people much cause for concern. The evidence is overwhelming from large scale destruction of important fish stocks, to deforestation on a global scale, to large scale environmental pollution. It cannot be argued that these have not happened. Climate data only confirms what we can see happening in real time.

          The creation of the amazing video “Earth from Space”, would not have been possible only a few years ago. Point being that scientists have an arsenal of tools to map and view planetary changes.
          http://video.pbs.org/video/2334144059/

    • Lucy Mcgee

      “When surveys are done and something like half of Christians admit that they believe in a 6000 year old earth,”

      This is from Gallup:

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx

  • Lucy Mcgee

    OK, so if people have a sincere belief in the end of days anytime now, what would motivate them to solve the planet’s problems? Why would anyone with such a viewpoint care to reduce their carbon footprint, conserve energy, or downsize, if they believed Christ was going to arrive on the planet in the next few decades? Do you understand where I’m coming from here?

    So the Eschaton, means the end of civilization as we know it in your belief system, right? Why shouldn’t such a belief be considered problematic by someone not religious?


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