What Do You Call “Those” Atheists?

There’s been a big brouhaha in the secular community over the use of the word “fundamentalist” to describe people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

The word just doesn’t seem appropriate, especially when that word is used to describe religious people who adhere to the literal words in a holy book regardless of what common sense and science will tell them.

The vocal atheists have reason and logic behind their beliefs. That alone makes them stand out.

Dawkins himself has said that we should not make the mistake of confusing fundamentalism with passion:

I don’t particularly mind being a bogeyman [for religious people] – I do mind being a fundamentalist. I think a fundamentalist is somebody who believes something unshakeably, and isn’t going to change their mind. Somebody who believes something because it’s written in their holy book. And even if all the evidence in the world points in the other direction, because it’s in the holy book they’re not going to change. I absolutely repudiate any suggestion that I am that. I would, like any other scientist, willingly change my mind if the evidence led me to do so. So I care about what’s true, I care about evidence, I care about evidence as the reason for knowing what is true. It is true that I come across rather passionate sometimes – and that’s because I am passionate about the truth. Passion is very different from fundamentalism.

But what name should we call those very outspoken atheists? Should we call them anything at all?

As a friend said, the last thing we need in the atheist movement right now is another thing to call ourselves.

Duncan Crary at the Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS) poses these questions in the most recent Humanist Network News.

Do you think it’s OK to refer to certain atheists as being atheist fundamentalists?

Is there a better term than “fundamentalist” to describe those non-believers who are uncompromising in their blunt criticism of religious beliefs?

What do you think about labeling certain atheists or humanists as extreme, militant or intolerant?

Do you believe that the non-religious should take a soft or a blunt approach to speaking out against religion?

How can “New Atheists” and “New Humanists” work together?

You can submit your thoughts to IHS by clicking here, or feel free to leave a comment on this thread.

In addition to the questions, there are also some interesting opinion pieces within the same page.


[tags]atheist, atheism, fundamentalist, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Duncan Crary, Institute for Humanist Studies, Humanist Network News, New Atheists, New Humanists, IHS[/tags]

  • http://anirratrat.blogspot.com/ J. J. Ramsey

    I have a modest proposal. Instead of calling them “fundamentalist” atheists, let’s call them “Ingersollian atheists.” This would capture both their loudness and their lack of rigor. Robert Ingersoll is relatively famous atheist orator, and is often admired. Yet he wrote something as patently false and intellectually dishonest as this:

    It [the Bible] is the enemy of Art. “Thou shalt make no graven image.” This was the death of Art.

    Anyone who actually read the Old Testament would notice how laughably wrong this is, since the very same book with that commandment that Ingersoll quoted is the very same book that laboriously describes the furnishings of the tabernacle, which include cloth with shapes of pomegranates woven in, jeweled ephods, and the lid of the Ark decorated with two cherubim in beaten gold. And all this comes after that commandment. The commandment was meant to forbid idols, not all artistic representation.

    I see the same kinds of slip-ups in modern so-called “fundamentalist” atheists as I do in Ingersoll, and I’ve mentioned some of them above.

  • Simon

    Patrick, please listen very carefully. While those words you quote as being labels certainly could be used to label people, I DID NO SUCH THING. I used those descriptive terms and adjectives to describe comments, or how people are perceived based on the opinions they present, or to follow convention in order to easily identify which “group” I”m talking about (e.g. “friendly atheists”) or to point out how OTHER PEOPLE use labels (for instance I completely reject the term “uppity, angry, mean atheists” – I referred to that term to indicate how I see that other people are labeling others), or just in general how adjectives are typically used in language.

    The fact that you don’t understand this really says a lot. That you have to resort to taking individual adjectives from my comments, completely out of context no less, and quote them to imply that I assigned them as labels on you or others, is completely absurd.

    By that same ‘logic’ of yours, you probably think that I just now labeled you “absurd”, when I did not.

    As but one, simple example, earlier on I referred to one of your comments as “utterly ridiculous”. And now you claim that “utterly ridiculous” was applied by me as a label on you. How dishonest! Your actions are dishonest (note: I’m still not labeling you).

    I’m going to stop communicating with you now. I find you dim-witted and pompous (again, adjectives, not labels). Go ahead and have the last word, you need it.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    I is cwying now. I is hurt.

    And you are still no Atheist.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Patrick, your position is inconsistent. You’ve been crying the whole time about people not being nice. Are you an atheist or are you a posing theist?

    And I’m going to go ahead and use labels: This discussion is infantile. Theists have no evidence, and they will never get over it.

    My goal, and I’m sure Dawkins’ and Harris’ as well, is to make theism and theology as subject to scorn and ridicule as astrology, phrenology, and alchemy. To make talk about God, Jesus, Yaweh, I AM That I AM, as socially unacceptable as talking about the reality of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

    This is not about accommodation! Who are we kidding? There is no accommodation between people who think 2+2=5, and those who KNOW 2+2 will equal 4 long after we’re dead, gone, and the universe is a burned out CINDER.

    To use an analogy, it is a two-pronged strategy. In this metaphor, the Atheists are Hamas, Friendly Atheists like Hemant are like the PLO. Same goal. The utter destruction of theism! We do not recognize the right of the state of Theism to exist, and never will.

    This is about systematic ridicule and exposure of your philosophical weakness. Make no mistake about it. No apologies. We take no epistemic prisoners.

    The difference is, we are throwing mind-bombs, not real ones. We are unleashing the antidote for a pernicious memetic virus.

    Don’t worry, we won’t try to outlaw your worship. Just to make sure you do it in private and keep your dominionist politics and your god-talk out of the public square. Just watch. It will be like cigarette smoking. In the Marlboro 1950′s who would have thought that smoking would have been banned at public events only 50 years later? Now watch it happen with religion. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Have a nice Easter pageant fantasy tomorrow, folks. :-)

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    BlackSun, thank you for raising the bar on maturity in this discussion. I am serious when I say that – your characterization of the discussion as infantile (rather than the people discussing it) is appreciated.

    It is a fair question, “am I a posing theist?” And it’s on-topic, in that it represents YET ANOTHER unjustified label applied by an Atheist to an Atheist. I have been accused of being a theist before, it’s nothing new. I have made an alternate personality of Frank Walton, and I do believe I portray him quite well on YouTube. :) If you would accept it as evidence, I have memberships in both American Atheists and Secular Student Alliance. I also have a blog, “The Passionate Atheist.” It would be quite the dedicated undercover theist who would waste his time and money so!

    I must take issue with the confusion of the terms “nice” and “respectful.” Mike C.’s position can be quite easily taken out without losing respect for the man or the fact that he “hangs out” on an Atheist blog. We all need to understand this.

    To use an analogy, it is a two-pronged strategy. In this metaphor, the Atheists are Hamas, Friendly Atheists like Hemant are like the PLO. Same goal. The utter destruction of theism! We do not recognize the right of the state of Theism to exist, and never will.

    Do I understand you to say that the goal of Atheism, and that of all Atheists, is the “utter destruction of theism?” How many here agree with this assertion? I do not, and can explain.

    This is about systematic ridicule and exposure of your philosophical weakness. Make no mistake about it. No apologies. We take no epistemic prisoners.

    The difference is, we are throwing mind-bombs, not real ones. We are unleashing the antidote for a pernicious memetic virus.

    “Ridicule.” “Mind-bombs.” “Pernicious memetic virus.” Fascinating. It’s been so many comments that I’ve almost forgotten the topic we were discussing. Oh, yeah. Fundamentalist Atheists. I think the case can be rested here. We’ve earned this title.

  • http://anirratrat.blogspot.com/ J. J. Ramsey

    Do I understand you to say that the goal of Atheism, and that of all Atheists, is the “utter destruction of theism?” How many here agree with this assertion?

    I don’t, but for the simple reason that atheism has no goal. It is just non-belief in God. It is not the same thing as rationalism. BTW, I would disagree with you that Ingersollian atheists (see above) are not real atheists for that very reason. They are not committed to trying to be rational, though they may think otherwise, but that is not the same thing as not being an atheist.

    This is about systematic ridicule and exposure of your philosophical weakness.

    Ridicule is a double-edged sword. First, heavy use of ridicule can leave the impression that you have nothing of substance to offer. Second, it is difficult to ridicule without being fallacious. Not impossible, but difficult. Third, you cannot expose the other sides’ weaknesses by using fallacious argument.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    I don’t, but for the simple reason that atheism has no goal. It is just non-belief in God.

    Bingo!

    Nowhere in ANY creed of Atheism is it stated that we are the Big Bad Theist Destroyers. If anyone wants to assume that crusade individually, fine. Good luck with the massive torrent of theists you will be fighting. And they will ALL unite as a single body to fight you back. Why expend such incredible effort, when the flaws inherent in the god concept do such a wonderful job of eroding the entire concept themselves? I’ve seen firsthand how devastating a few honest questions can be to a theist who isn’t thinking straight.

    Here’s Patrick Craig’s personal goal as an Atheist. I take this on individually. Defend anyone and everyone who is under attack by those tenets (or practitioners) of theism that advocate intolerance, hatred, and bigotry. Friends, OUR FIGHT IS NOT HERE. It is to be fought at such places as:

    godhatesfags.com
    Notourkids.com
    discovery.org
    atheismsucks.blogspot.com

    AND, with regards to the good reputation of Atheism, it is to be fought here:

    rationalresponders.com

    So, what do you all think?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    “Ridicule.” “Mind-bombs.” “Pernicious memetic virus.” Fascinating. It’s been so many comments that I’ve almost forgotten the topic we were discussing. Oh, yeah. Fundamentalist Atheists. I think the case can be rested here. We’ve earned this title.

    I concur with Patrick. BlackSun, I think you’ve pretty much sealed the argument with your last post/manifesto. You are the epitome of a fundamentalist atheist. (Not trying to be insulting – at this point I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t gladly own the title.)

  • Wytann Erdy

    Hey, check out Mike C’s emerging penises website. He really must be a troll – he’s got The_Bible at #45 on his “Favorite Fiction” list (add one more fiction book!):

    http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/2007/04/what-books-have-you-read.html

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    Hey, check out Mike C’s emerging penises website. He really must be a troll – he’s got The_Bible at #45 on his “Favorite Fiction” list (add one more fiction book!):

    I just subscribed to this blog – thanks for letting me know about it, Wytann Erdy. And upon careful scrutiny of its title, I see that the word is not “penises,” but is instead “pensees.” I do understand that you might see the word incorrectly, Wytann, I do it all the time.

    I recommend everyone subscribe to Mike C’s blog and see what an apparently open-minded theist is thinking. If this guy doesn’t represent some stage toward the successful resolution of the Great Religion Debate, then I don’t know what does.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    If the “utter destruction of theism” is what you are looking for, may I suggest Robosaurus?

  • Darryl

    Usually the comments on this sight are of a higher caliber than most of what I’ve read on this issue. So many of you are talking right around the actual issues involved. Some have fear-mongered about how the atheists want to eradicate all religion. Others have railed on Harris and Dawkins for their extremism and insulting tone towards believers. I don’t recall anyone doing a good job at defining fundamentalism, and that is what is at issue here: 1) atheists are not fundamentalists, and 2) the threat we face, insofar as it is a threat, is the threat from militant and violent fundamentalist religions.

    Atheist Fundamentalist: “Atheist fundamentalist” is a misnomer. Fundamentalists have a set of doctrines that they believe were given to them, not by people, but by God. Because they come from God, they are the ultimate truth and authority. They are absolutes that cannot ever change, and they are the foundation for ethical and moral conduct. To disobey them is to bring spiritual destruction upon oneself. Rational atheists (the only kind that should concern us, and the only kind to which I refer here) have no such set of doctrines. No proposition held by an atheist is authoritative based upon tradition, or sacred texts, or arguments ad populum, or any other similar basis. All claims made by an atheist are to be subjected to reason, facts, verification or falsification. Atheism has no moral teaching, no sacred text, and no divine lawgiver. Atheists do not claim to have the ultimate truth that all must accept. Atheism is not about what we do believe, but what we don’t believe. Atheists are not dogmatic as fundamentalism is dogmatic because we have no dogma. The name “atheist fundamentalist” is meant to establish parity between atheists and believers for the purpose of argument: no such parity exists. Try to see the matter from our perspective. If we are correct, then the tenets of fundamentalism are the archaic and narrowly-drawn notions of primitive cultures that may have little if any relevance to the issues that face our world today.

    And since I’m at it here, let me mention the term that’s getting thrown around loosely: Neo-atheist. ‘New’ is meant to be imply ‘better’ and ‘improved,’ when it comes to household cleaning products, but when it comes to religion, or things religious, the new is taken to mean the trendy, the transitory, or the aberrant—the latest departure from the time-tested and time-honored faith of our fathers. Neo-atheism as a term is a pejorative. It’s carries an implicit roll-of-the-eyes and “here-we-go-again” condescension. In fact, there is nothing new at the core of what Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are arguing. They are simply receiving a lot of much-deserved attention. That attention may be attributed to three facts: the fear of the West about Islamic fundamentalism has come to a head, the Christian Right has attempted a power grab in the U.S., and skepticism, agnosticism, and atheism are on the rise world wide.

    Now, for the real threat. Atheists could care less about your religion whatever it may be. If you want to believe in many gods or no gods, as Jefferson said, that “neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Atheists have no dog in that fight. Atheists have only one question for the many faiths: are you a threat to me? If you want to limit my liberty based upon the teachings of your faith, I have a problem with you. You cannot make law for me without arguing your case to me, without giving reasons—factual, evidentiary, logical reasons—to me, without being challenged by me, without negotiating with me, and without my consent.

    If any of you wonder why Harris and Dawkins occasionally sound wonderfully caustic when taking on their subjects, this is why: they’re rightly pissed at the thought that anyone would threaten them and the people they love and the world they care about. That’s the issue, and that’s the only issue that counts right now.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    Darryl,

    A lot of excellent points you make. My only comment would be that it’s a problem of “theory” vs. “practice.” If the ideal of Atheism is nothing but good, many of its practitioners (and I don’t even excuse myself here) have missed that point and are botching things up completely by advocating some form or other of “war” against theism. Putting one’s back into such war is pointless when every day we witness Catholic fighting Protestant, Protestant fighting Protestant, Protestant fighting Muslim, etc. ad nauseum. No one puts better “dents” in religion than religion itself.

    Certainly we should hold the line at “are you a threat to me?” Perhaps I would modify “me” to read “those who present no threat to you” and thus justify my activism, which is defending not only myself, but everyone who is under attack from the bigoted elements of religion.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Point taken Darryl. So what would you call someone who espouses the agenda that BlackSun delineates above? That doesn’t seem to fit your “ideal” description “rational atheism” very well.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Hey, check out Mike C’s emerging penises website. He really must be a troll – he’s got The_Bible at #45 on his “Favorite Fiction” list (add one more fiction book!):

    It actually is “Pensees” as in the French word for “thoughts” – a reference to Blaise Pascal’s (an Early Modern scientist, mathematician and philosopher) collection of random philosophical/theological writings (what I consider a low tech version of a blog.)

    But don’t worry, I get the “penises” thing all the time. :)

    And the Bible contains many different genres of literature, including fiction. Stories like Genesis 1-11, Job, and Jonah (not to mention the parables of Jesus) are among some of the most amazing fictional stories ever written.

    Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain truth.

    (And just because I think parts of it are fiction, doesn’t mean I have to think the whole thing is.)

  • Logos
  • Wytann Erdy

    I stand corrected, Mike C is not a troll. However, I would claim that Mike C’s label of BlackSun as a “fundamentalist atheist” is hypocritical.

    The definition of “fundamentalism” is belief in the literal truth of a religious text, in spite of evidence to the contrary. Mike C is proposing to attach this label to BlackSun.

    But BlackSun is not fundamentalist. His belief in the non-existence of God is based on the lack of evidence for the existence of God. Mike C, the only way BlackSun could correctly be considered fundamentalist is if (A) there exists evidence for the existence of God, and (B) BlackSun continues to disbelieve despite that evidence.

    From reading Mike C’s web site further, I gather he believes that, “Hell is just what it is like to have rejected the source of all life and love and joy, i.e. God.” Is that not “fundamentalist”, to believe that the absence of faith in God leaves one unable to love, or be happy? Think about the non-Christian world. There exists many happy people there who do not believe in God. I consider this evidence contrary to Mike C’s beliefs. Thus Mike C is more of a “fundamentalist” than BlackSun.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    Okay, let’s try this. Wikipedia (that most trusted source for everything! :) ) is quite all over the map with the definition of “fundamentalism,” but let’s just go with its origins:

    “Fundamentalism” originally referred to a movement in North American Protestantism that arose in the early part of the 20th century in reaction to modernism (see below, “History”), stressing that the Bible is literally inerrant, not only in matters of faith and morals but also as a literal historical record. This original “fundamentalism” holds as essential to Christian faith five fundamental doctrines: i) the Creation (theology) of the world, ii) the Virgin birth, iii) physical resurrection, iv) atonement by the sacrificial death of Christ, and v) the Second Coming.

    Sure sounds like this definition is well-entrenched over the involvement of the bible. Fine. Wikipedia does go on to generalize the term beyond a focus on holy books. If we go with that, we can (not unfairly, I should think) replace the word “Bible” in the definition above with, oh, say, “Richard Dawkins” and we get what we have here on this thread right now. Question: is Dawkins truly “inerrant?” Is he incapable of being wrong in any way? No Atheist here has yet picked on him (constructively or otherwise) in any manner that I’m aware of, but I could be wrong. Personally, I can say that I do support his view that theism serves no good use to humanity, but I’m just not quite up for his “sledgehammer” approach to expressing those views.

  • Wytann Erdy

    Question: is Dawkins truly “inerrant?” Is he incapable of being wrong in any way? No Atheist here has yet picked on him

    A number of comments, mine included, disparaged the “Brights” movement, which Dawkins signed up to (according to The_God_Delusion). So, no, obviously he is not inerrant, at least according to some atheists.

    Besides, I’m not sure the analogy you are making is correct. The Bible contains stories which fundamentalists view as historical fact (Christ rose from the dead, the virgin birth, etc) in spite of faith in magical divine intervention being a precondition for such belief. Dawkins presents a set of opinions based on evidence. Even if one were to agree with everything Dawkins has written, it would not be correct to use the term “fundamentalist.”

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    I’m certainly not trying to justify a label of “fundamentalist” for Dawkins myself, Wytann, I’m just trying to set a framework for where theists are coming from when they try to stick it on him. It is good to see that Dawkins is not considered to be some perfect superentity – my Respect-O-Meter dropped a notch when you said that he joined up with the Brights. With all due respect, Dr. Dawkins, not a very “bright” move.

    “Opinions based on evidence” doesn’t quite work for me. Aside from pointing at the bible and saying “See – he IS nuts!” as we all might, can Dawkins present medical “evidence” for the “psychotic” condition he ascribes to the nonexistent biblical Yahweh? That’s one spot where we’re running into problems here. My counter-suggestion to resolve this: point out that, IN FACT, Yahweh exhibits an extreme “self contradiction” in expressing both love and worldwide floods for his human pets. “Psychotic” needs more evidence. “Self contradiction” requires only that the relevant bible chapters be read to see the reality for oneself.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Everyone’s got a different definition for fundamentalist here it seems. If you want to be a strict historicist or literalist about the term, then fundamentalist really only refers to one dying sect of conservative Protestantism, it wouldn’t even stretch to include most evangelicals.

    But I think the whole point of this thread was that some atheists may be analogous to religious fundamentalists in the way that they act towards people with whom they differ. I don’t think anyone is trying to imply a 1-for-1 comparison, certainly not in terms of the specific content of their beliefs – just in their attitudes of open hostility and desire to convert all those who disagree to their way of thinking.

    Anyhow, it’s just an analogy. If you don’t like the term fundamentalist then what would you call an atheist who espouses BlackSun’s agenda to wipe out theism?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    From reading Mike C’s web site further, I gather he believes that, “Hell is just what it is like to have rejected the source of all life and love and joy, i.e. God.” Is that not “fundamentalist”, to believe that the absence of faith in God leaves one unable to love, or be happy? Think about the non-Christian world. There exists many happy people there who do not believe in God. I consider this evidence contrary to Mike C’s beliefs. Thus Mike C is more of a “fundamentalist” than BlackSun.

    This seems like a total tangent and red herring, so I’m not really sure why you brought it up – but just to clarify: just because someone is an atheist does not at all mean that I think they have completely rejected God. I think it is entirely possible to be experiencing God, following God, and enjoying his blessings without actually believing in his existence. Just as it is possible to believe in the existence of God and yet still turn your back on his life, love and joy (as many “religious” people do).

    It’s not about your metaphysics. It’s about whether you are willing to pursue the way of self-giving love or whether you pursue the way of self-centered power and greed. Every moment of our lives we have the choice to live in a hellish way or a heavenly way, and one’s metaphysics often has little to do with it.

    And yet, if you paid attention to what I wrote, I don’t think God withholds his love from anyone. Even those who completely reject his way of love and choose the way of self, are still given grace and love undeserved. However, if you’ve lived most of your life turned inward, unable to give or receive love, then will God’s love feel like love or would it feel like torment? (For instance, imagine a racist in Heaven being asked to love and associate with people of all races. Would that feel like heaven to him?) Hell is not a place that you’re sent for having the wrong religious (or non-religious) beliefs. Hell is what it’s like when you’ve become the kind of person who cannot love.

    I don’t know anyone completely like that in this life, but I do see people who I worry are headed down that road.

    Nonetheless, I have hope that even Hell, if it “exists”, is not forever. Love ultimately can pierce even the hardest shell. Love wins.

    I don’t know you to say, but it is entirely possible that you are further away from Hell, even in your unbelief, than many Christians I know. But then, it’s not my place to judge either you or them.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Sad news for MikeC

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070408/ap_on_en_ot/obit_hart

    Sad for his family, but I was never a big fan. I found his religious strips usually a little too smug.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Everybody knows that Plantinga’s definition of “fundamentalist” is the best definition there is.

    “The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use) can be given by something like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’.”

    So maybe when people say Dawkins and Harris are atheist fundamentalists, they mean something like “stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are waaaay to the left of mine.” That’s pretty much what I mean. ;)

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    Comment #136 ;)

  • Darryl

    Some of you seem to be offended by Dawkins because you think he doesn’t respect people of faith. I don’t know his psychology, perhaps he’s arrogant. Or, perhaps, as a man of science, he just can’t bring himself to respect people that think they deserve respect for their beliefs when those beliefs are based upon nothing but air. Religious people that don’t take themselves too seriously, or that are moderate, or that see their faith as a private affair, tend not to provoke the ire of atheists who are looking to make a point. But, if a believer thinks that he is going to go toe to toe with the likes of Dawkins he had better be prepared to argue on the grounds that science works from. The kind of arguments that theologians have used in the past are not going to cut it. As soon as an apologist for the faith begins to step over onto the ground of reason and evidence, he should expect two things: to get a mightly push-back from atheists, and to get scorn for abusing reason and for expecting us to respect him as a serious opponent. Apologists are tainted before they open their mouths. They are looking for those things that will support the conclusions that they have already made, and the conclusions were not made upon sound reasoning and methodology. They do not have working hypotheses that they are testing; they have convictions that they are defending. A man of science will rightly be offended by apologists masquerading as scientists. In other words, don’t think you can overlap the domain of faith and that of knowledge without being soundly chastised.

    Mike C., as for BlackSun, I can’t say what kind of atheist he is, but he makes some valid points. Believers that attempt to encroach upon the public square with anti-intellectual and anti-scientific polemics will ultimately be scorned, and rightly so. They will, as they have already, discredit themselves among non-believers and more moderate believers. Don’t confuse the gist of B.S.’s arguments with his tone. He’s one of the give-no-quarter disputants that can’t resist a good taunt. Nobody’s perfect. If he lacks compassion for people that have made faith central to happiness, forgive him and thank him for keeping you honest. If I read him accurately he does not want to limit your happiness, he wants you to “keep your dominionist politics and your god-talk out of the public square.” Perhaps he has the nasty fundamentalists in mind and not the kindly moderates. I agree with Wytann Erdy, he may be feisty, but he’s no fundy. Mike, you said “fundamentalist really only refers to one dying sect of conservative Protestantism, it wouldn’t even stretch to include most evangelicals.” You’re wrong on two counts: Christian fundamentalists are not dying, they’re growing, and they do indeed include most evangelicals insofar as these evangelicals believe the same doctrines and provide cover for the fundies. You seem to be a mainline protestant. Your crowd is shrinking; but the wide-eyed evangies like the Baptists, Pentecostals, etc. are growing. Yes, they’re changing slowly for the better in some respects, but the rabid fundies and the supporting evangies together have succeeded at giving quite a boost to fundy power in the U.S. This is a problem.

    Patrick Craig said “many of [atheism’s] practitioners … are botching things up completely by advocating some form or other of ‘war’ against theism. Putting one’s back into such war is pointless when every day we witness Catholic fighting Protestant, Protestant fighting Protestant, Protestant fighting Muslim, etc. ad nauseum. No one puts better “dents” in religion than religion itself.” If we’re talking tactics here, as Jesus said “you should have done the one and not left the other undone.” If theists pick a fight with science, they will get push-back, and they have to get it. Yet, you are correct; the more religious factions the better for diluting those power-hungry militants that are attempting to concentrate their power. Dawkins is a pitbull. His sledgehammer approach stirs up more controversy, more media coverage, and sells more books (don’t forget there’s money to be made here—on all sides). Love taps are not in order right now. There are plenty of kinder, gentler folks out there to put the nice face upon atheism. Dawkins is not trying to make friends; he’s kicking ass. To everything there is a season…

    Macht, with all due respect, your should consider editing yourself.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    Darryl,

    Another good post finds its way here – one that makes further progress. You make excellent points, and avoid the use of sweeping generalizations.

    I do struggle with Dawkins’ methodology myself at times. Perhaps his “ass kicking” tactics DO achieve some good for our cause, especially in the area of PR. The big sign WE ATHEISTS ARE NOW HERE, AND WE WILL TAKE CARE OF THIS comes to my imagination, and that’s fine.

    All I ever ask is, stay within the bounds of reason and rationality. That my good friends the RRS are indeed drumming up plenty of media coverage for us I have no dispute with. But, they go completely beyond the bounds of reason and rationality, and that is where I go activist on THEIR asses.

    Don’t kill ‘em with kindness, don’t kill ‘em with anger, destroy them with REASON. Argue with this, and you’re the one with the “memetic virus.”

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    You are the epitome of a fundamentalist atheist. (Not trying to be insulting – at this point I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t gladly own the title.)

    I do categorically reject the term. Because fundamentalism has nothing to do with strength of opinion. It is a description of adherence to dogma, regardless of the facts at hand. It is also a description of (usually violent) tactics.

    Atheists by and large are interested in facts, and will change their views when presented with evidence. That’s the clear difference.

    The reason people like me strongly oppose acceptance of theism is because of the unearned special privileges and unearned respect they demand for their points of view based on tradition and authority.

    Anyhow, it’s just an analogy. If you don’t like the term fundamentalist then what would you call an atheist who espouses BlackSun’s agenda to wipe out theism?

    Mike C, there you go again. Theism is a philosophy. The goal is to wipe out theism intellectually, as a valid and defensible point of view, and as appropriate for the public square. I’m quite sure this was evident from my comment. I am concerned with people who spent the day on Easter celebrating a man who got up physically 3 days after being executed, and walked away. (They need to have their heads examined.)

    If I had said wipe out theists, that would be different, and then you could call me a fundamentalist, (and possibly have me arrested for making terrorist threats). But I am quite clear this is a philosophical and perceptual battle only.

    My basic premise is this, and please read this carefully: “You are free to hold any kind of belief or practice any ritual you desire. Just don’t pretend it’s real for everyone else, and don’t try to make social policy or laws based on it.”

    That’s not so hard or extreme, is it?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Darryl,

    You’ve made a lot of points, not all of which I agree with, however, since most of them seem like tangents I won’t risk spinning us off onto a dozen side debates by responding to them.

    I guess I still just find it curious that you don’t seem to see any effective difference between the attitude and approach of a BlackSun versus that of a Hemant. Is his agenda and approach (and that of Dawkins et al.) really representative of the majority of atheists?

    Atheists keep telling me that there is no dogma and therefore no agenda to atheism, but if that is the case then why do these New Atheists seem so keen on pushing an anti-theism agenda? If it’s just the political stuff that bugs you, then why can’t you just fight the politics without having to convert everyone to your metaphysics?

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Mike C

    but if that is the case then why do these New Atheists seem so keen on pushing an anti-theism agenda?

    Can you even freaking read?? I said:

    The reason people like me strongly oppose acceptance of theism is because of the unearned special privileges and unearned respect they demand for their points of view based on tradition and authority.

    and

    The goal is to wipe out theism intellectually, as a valid and defensible point of view, and as appropriate for the public square…“You are free to hold any kind of belief or practice any ritual you desire. Just don’t pretend it’s real for everyone else, and don’t try to make social policy or laws based on it.”

    I’d like to address your other point, Mike C, which gets repeated by theists ad nauseam:

    why can’t you just fight the politics without having to convert everyone to your metaphysics?

    First of all, there is no atheist metaphysics. You may be technically correct in the traditional use of the term. But more accurate would be ontology.

    Wikipedia defines the modern usage of the term metaphysics to cover: “subjects that are beyond the physical world”. A “metaphysical bookstore”, for instance, is not one that sells books on ontology, but rather one that sells books on spirits, faith healing, crystal power, occultism, and other such topics.

    In this sense, there is no atheist metaphysics. The ONTOLOGY of atheism disallows any points of view or theories of reality which are not based on evidence. It’s not about converting anyone to this point of view, it’s about insisting that you cough up some evidence to support your flimsy supernatural ontology or shut the hell up trying to tell people theism provides a coherent world view, a source for morality, or an answer to the big questions of life..

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Theism is a philosophy. The goal is to wipe out theism intellectually, as a valid and defensible point of view, and as appropriate for the public square…

    If I had said wipe out theists, that would be different, and then you could call me a fundamentalist, (and possibly have me arrested for making terrorist threats). But I am quite clear this is a philosophical and perceptual battle only.

    Understood, I got that the first time. (I quoted you correctly. I didn’t say you wanted to wipe out “theists”. I said you wanted to wipe out “theism”.)

    But why is this necessary? Why should you make it your goal to convert others to your philosophy? Is it so important to live in a world where everyone thinks the same?

    I agree, if theism (or any other worldview) is claiming special privileges in the public square or oppressing or hurting others then that should be resisted and argued against. But those political distortions are things that can be fought against without needing to wipe out theism itself.

    Why are you so unwilling to intellectually live and let live?

    You say:

    “You are free to hold any kind of belief or practice any ritual you desire. Just don’t pretend it’s real for everyone else, and don’t try to make social policy or laws based on it.”

    And yet that statement conflicts with what you said above it:

    The goal is to wipe out theism intellectually, as a valid and defensible point of view, and as appropriate for the public square. I’m quite sure this was evident from my comment. I am concerned with people who spent the day on Easter celebrating a man who got up physically 3 days after being executed, and walked away. (They need to have their heads examined.)

    If all you were really concerned with were the public and social implications of theism, then why should you care what people do on Easter?

    Of course, the real issue here, IMHO, is one of certainty. The person who believes that all other philosophies must be destroyed and everyone should convert to their own, is a person who seems to lack a certain level of epistemic humility. In theory you admit that you could be wrong, but if you really believed that, would you be so quick to condemn all those who think differently than you? Is your rationality so airtight – and are you so certain too that “rationality” is even capable of answering every important philosophical question in the first place – that you don’t see any reason to allow differing views to simply coexist?

    At any rate, I don’t call you a “fundamentalist” BlackSun except in an analogical sense. You sound an awful lot like the religious fundamentalists I was raised among. If you just swapped the terminology (theist for atheist), most of your statements could have just as easily come from the Christian radio preachers and hardcore apologists. Even your justifications for your own combativeness are the same as theirs.

    (But if you still don’t like fundamentalist, then why not go with “anti-theist”? That’s essentially what you’re saying, isn’t it? You’re anti-theism?)

    Anyhow, you can scoff as much as you like at my values of kindness, tolerance, mutual understanding, love, etc. but I’ve been down the road you’re on, and it doesn’t lead anywhere good. I tell the exact same thing to my theist friends – our goal shouldn’t be to get everyone to agree with us. Our goal should be to increase love and justice in the world. Until you’re doing that, I don’t give a damn what you believe.

    Paz,
    -Mike

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Fine, metaphysics, ontology… whatever. You knew what I meant. I prefer to use the the “traditional” philosophical definitions for the terms – not how the local bookstore defines them.

    Though what you described:

    In this sense, there is no atheist metaphysics. The ONTOLOGY of atheism disallows any points of view or theories of reality which are not based on evidence. It’s not about converting anyone to this point of view, it’s about insisting that you cough up some evidence to support your flimsy supernatural ontology

    has nothing to do with ontology either. What you’re talking about is epistemology. But again… whatever.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    If all you were really concerned with were the public and social implications of theism, then why should you care what people do on Easter?

    Mike C,

    I don’t care what people do on Easter. I think people who think a man was “raised from the dead and ascended up to heaven in a cloud” need to have their heads examined. But I would never want to try to stop them from gathering and celebrating whatever they want to celebrate.

    It’s the enforced legitimacy and privileged position in society accorded people with such views I object to. I look forward to a world where Easter celebrants aren’t looked at any differently from people who go to “Burning Man.”

    Both are wacky, self-indulgent festivals of excess. I’d prefer Burning Man, because it celebrates art and the human spirit. But if you want to celebrate holy week, carry crosses, and have nails pounded into your hands, don’t pretend it’s anything other than pageantry. That’s what I’m saying. Don’t give it that special imprimatur of reality.

    Of course, the real issue here, IMHO, is one of certainty. The person who believes that all other philosophies must be destroyed and everyone should convert to their own, is a person who seems to lack a certain level of epistemic humility.

    I’m epistemically humble in the same way scientists are. It’s the only humility I think is virtuous. Epistemic humility doesn’t mean rolling over to any and every notion or unproven claim of knowledge. There are clear lines which have been drawn, regarding the “burden of proof,” and even you know damn well what they are. So claiming it’s about humility is totally irrelevant and you know it. What you don’t want is to have to defend your claims, which is what everyone else has to do–and I’m insisting on it.

    Is your rationality so airtight – and are you so certain too that “rationality” is even capable of answering every important philosophical question in the first place – that you don’t see any reason to allow differing views to simply coexist?

    My rationality is not that airtight, but the rationality of consensus science is. It’s based on high probabilities, and the preponderance of evidence, not certainty. Insisting on 100% certainly is not possible and you also know that. But that still doesn’t give ANY additional credence to completely unsupported religious claims.

    At any rate, I don’t call you a “fundamentalist” BlackSun except in an analogical sense. You sound an awful lot like the religious fundamentalists I was raised among.

    Thanks for that concession. But the only reason I sound extreme to you is because you have still not begun to differentiate between classes of knowledge. Your peers were emphatically quoting scripture (revealed), and I’m emphatically endorsing science (discovered). There’s a huge difference. In fact, I think it’s the only difference that counts. I’m hoping you will finally also admit that this argument is about substance and not tone.

    Because the diversion into the irrelevant question as to whether atheists were “nice, kind or compassionate” was where you went wrong in the first place.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    More accurate would be ontology! (The kinds of things that have existence.)

    Main Entry: on·tol·o·gy
    Pronunciation: än-’tä-l&-jE
    Function: noun
    Etymology: New Latin ontologia, from ont- + -logia -logy
    1 : a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being
    2 : a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence
    - on·tol·o·gist /-jist/ noun

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Macht, with all due respect, your should consider editing yourself.

    I’m not sure what you mean by this.

  • Darryl

    Mike C., I addressed the main issue of fundamentalism and who should wear that descriptor in my first post, and I addressed some of the comments made by others on this topic in the second post. Now, to your response to S.B., I see that he has already given you a sound thrashing, but you’re tough and you need more. Just say when and I’ll desist.

    You said “I agree, if theism (or any other worldview) is claiming special privileges in the public square or oppressing or hurting others then that should be resisted and argued against. But those political distortions are things that can be fought against without needing to wipe out theism itself. Why are you so unwilling to intellectually live and let live?” You then go on to quote S.B. and you think that he has contradicted himself. As I understand him he does not. But, let me make two points: first, not all atheists see the need to “wipe out theism,” and second, there is at least one reason why this WOULD be a good thing to do.

    As Patrick said, so long as the varieties of religion are slugging it out among themselves, and, I would add, there is no clear hegemon when the dust settles, and so long as the work of science may be carried on unfettered, and the fundies are kept at bay, then there is no need to try to wipe out theism. But, this state of affairs is not guaranteed; not here, and not anywhere. Just read the press. Theism is always a potential danger to a secular state like the U.S. Moderate theists can be radicalized because they can be scared by the many demagogues of our world. They provide a fertile ground for breeding fundies, and even the most moderate and otherwise reasonable among them either prefers or can be persuaded to vote for the “values” candidate, or the candidate that “believes in God.” A well-qualified atheist hasn’t a prayer of occupying the Oval Office, does he? If the fundies in the U.S. are such a shrinking minority as you have said, then how did George Bush ever win in 2004? A whole lot of Catholics, and Evangelicals, and Jews, and you name it, voted for him in large part (and we have polls that demonstrate this) because of his moral and religious values. How many of them are fundies? I doubt most are. But all of them are theists. Now, you’re an honest man Mike, look at what Bush and his government have done: you tell me—what kind of witness does he have to the world? What the world needs now is more reason and reasoning together. Theists are magical thinkers, and magical thinkers are not the kind of people that you can reason with about all subjects. They are biased toward their own kind. They put faith above reason.

    Now, honestly, quit with the fundamentalist name-calling. Arguing strongly for one’s views does not make one a fundamentalist in any sense. B.S. has correctly made this distinction already and you simply refuse to give up this jab.

    Finally, “you can scoff as much as you like at my values of kindness, tolerance, mutual understanding, love, etc. but I’ve been down the road you’re on, and it doesn’t lead anywhere good. I tell the exact same thing to my theist friends – our goal shouldn’t be to get everyone to agree with us. Our goal should be to increase love and justice in the world. Until you’re doing that, I don’t give a damn what you believe.” I for one am not scoffing at anyone’s virtues—it’s not virtue that poses a threat to me and mine, and having or not having virtues doesn’t pertain to whether or not God exists. I don’t know what road you think you went down, but it’s obviously not mine, and I doubt that it’s S.B.’s. Regardless, I resent you implication that atheists aren’t virtuous. Of that you have no knowledge. We need neither a Vengeful God nor a Loving God to be virtuous. If I am right, all your virtues are coming from your own brain and nowhere else. I’ve got a brain just like you, and so does S.B. Virtue is a choice; I can choose.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    first, not all atheists see the need to “wipe out theism,”

    But you and B.S., and most of these “New Atheist” do, and that’s who we’re talking about. That’s the bigger issue that’s being discussed in this whole thread – whether atheism and theism should coexist, or whether one or the other ought to “win”. You are obviously of the latter opinion. I am of the former, because I apparently am far more skeptical about the limits of human reason than you all seem to be. You all clearly believe that the evidence for one view over the other is overwhelming. I’ve been through all the arguments for both sides with an open mind, and frankly, I just don’t see it. Both sides make good points, IMHO; both have an internally consistent and valid interpretation of the world, IMHO; but both, IMHO, are just interpretations, both are based on a priori assumptions, and thus both, IMHO, ought to take a stance of humility and acceptance towards the other.

    I know you probably disagree with all of that, but frankly I’m not interested in going over all those debates again. We’d be at it for days, and that’s not what this thread is about anyway. You all keep wanting to go there, and I’m just not interested. I highly doubt you could offer any arguments that I haven’t heard and responded to many times before.

    there is at least one reason why this WOULD be a good thing to do.

    All your reasons are still political reasons. Again, I agree with your concerns about fundamentalist political influence. But then you resort to that tired old argument that moderates are somehow enabling the fundamentalists to maintain their privileged status. But just because Sam Harris says so does not make it so. I’ve challenged atheists here before to actually give evidence of liberal or moderate Christians enabling the fundamentalists and no has yet to date. The reality is that liberal Christians fight with the fundamentalists even more than you do.

    Oh, and btw,

    If the fundies in the U.S. are such a shrinking minority as you have said, then how did George Bush ever win in 2004? A whole lot of Catholics, and Evangelicals, and Jews, and you name it, voted for him in large part (and we have polls that demonstrate this) because of his moral and religious values. How many of them are fundies? I doubt most are. But all of them are theists.

    This is some of the worst logic I’ve ever seen. Do you really think something as complex as a presidential election can really be reduced to just one factor and used to prove anything like what you’re claiming?

    And if it makes a difference, I am a liberal Christian, and I voted for Nader in the last two elections because even the Democrats weren’t liberal enough for me. Tell me, how exactly does that encourage fundamentalism?

    Now, honestly, quit with the fundamentalist name-calling. Arguing strongly for one’s views does not make one a fundamentalist in any sense. B.S. has correctly made this distinction already and you simply refuse to give up this jab.

    I’ve already clarified how I think it’s an analogy – and frankly, if you can’t see the similarities between the rhetoric here in these comments and the kind of rhetoric used by religious fundamentalists, well, then maybe you haven’t been exposed to enough religious fundies yet.

    I resent you implication that atheists aren’t virtuous.

    When did I ever say or imply that? How in the hell would you get that from what I said? Didn’t I just say the opposite – that love and justice have very little to do with what you believe?

    But BlackSun and others here have scoffed at my suggestion that it is more important to be kind than right. That’s what I was responding to. You all have declared theists to be your philosophical enemies, your opponents. But whenever you create “us vs. them” dichotomies, whenever you have your in-groups and your out-groups, you’re not on the path towards love or justice, in my opinion.

    And the alternative is not to simply back down from your views and minimize differences. It is possible to strongly disagree, and have good debates and discussions, without drawing battle lines. I’ve had plenty of healthy debates with atheists (ask Siamang, or Karen, or Helen, or any of the others from the OTM sites) where no one backed down from their point of view and yet we all came out of it respecting and learning from each other. Dialogue increases love (and sometimes even changes minds), antagonistic polemics do not.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    This

    It’s the enforced legitimacy and privileged position in society accorded people with such views I object to.

    is not the same as this

    But if you want to celebrate holy week, carry crosses, and have nails pounded into your hands, don’t pretend it’s anything other than pageantry. That’s what I’m saying. Don’t give it that special imprimatur of reality.

    On the one hand you object to the social privilege given to theism, and I do to. But then you try to sum up this opinion by saying that what you really object to is people actually believing that their beliefs reflect reality. That goes beyond simply wanting religious beliefs to stay out of the public square.

    I’m epistemically humble in the same way scientists are. It’s the only humility I think is virtuous. Epistemic humility doesn’t mean rolling over to any and every notion or unproven claim of knowledge. There are clear lines which have been drawn, regarding the “burden of proof,” and even you know damn well what they are.

    I do, and yet it seems that perhaps you don’t. I can’t find any evidence that you recognize the limits of science – the fact that science is only a tool, a method for answering certain kinds of questions – and that there are many topics on which science is inadequate to speak to (and not just religious topics). Most scientists I know are far more humble than you in this regard. They know where the limits of their disciplines are, and they don’t typically claim that just because something can’t be known via their discipline that it is therefore unknowable or unworthy of further discussion – which seems to be what you are saying.

    So claiming it’s about humility is totally irrelevant and you know it. What you don’t want is to have to defend your claims, which is what everyone else has to do–and I’m insisting on it.

    I’ll thank you not to presume to judge my own motivations. I think I would know them better than you.

    Your peers were emphatically quoting scripture (revealed), and I’m emphatically endorsing science (discovered).

    And yet I endorse both. This idea that somehow science and faith are opposed is just absurd, and has been demonstrated to be false so many times that it shouldn’t have to be repeated.

    I’m hoping you will finally also admit that this argument is about substance and not tone.

    Sorry, you keep wanting to make it into a debate about whether theists are right or wrong, but that is emphatically not what it is about. If it was, then I would have to equally complain about all the other atheists with whom I’ve hide good, healthy debates about our differing viewpoints – but I’m not. The fact that we can have these debates without disrespecting one another is evidence that this issue is not about theism vs. atheism, but really is about how those differences are communicated and what the end goal of the debate really is – whether it’s understanding or conversion.

    Because the diversion into the irrelevant question as to whether atheists were “nice, kind or compassionate” was where you went wrong in the first place.

    This discussion was never about that. Stop generalizing. I’m not pointing fingers at all atheists. I’ve known plenty of atheists who are nice, kind and compassionate. I’m pointing fingers at you. You are the one who has said that you don’t care about that stuff. You are the one who has said that right beliefs are more important than respect for others. That is what this is about. I couldn’t care less whether you believe in God or not. That’s irrelevant to me – and I think it’s irrelevant to whether one is nice, kind or compassionate.

    And once again, I think whether one is “nice”, kind and compassionate is infinitely more important than whether or not one believes in God.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Honestly guys, I don’t even know why we’re still having this discussion. Clearly there is some kind of difference between “those atheists” (whatever you want to call them) and the rest. Is there any disagreement about that? You don’t want to call them “fundamentalists”? Fine. Then what would you call them? And how would you define the difference between them and the average atheist who doesn’t see it as their mission to eradicate theistic belief? Those are the questions I don’t hear being answered.

    And they need to be answered, because frankly, I don’t think the average atheist wants to be lumped in with those guys. I could be wrong, but I do know that I’ve met plenty of atheists with whom it is possible to have intelligent, mutually respectful conversations where we both come out of it with greater understanding. I know atheists who simply don’t believe in God, but don’t think it’s their job to make sure no else does either. And I don’t want to have to disrespect those friends by equating them with other atheists who are incapable of having respectful conversations with theists, and who think that it is their job to convert the ignorant masses. As a Christian I don’t want to be lumped in together with all the fundamentalist Christians out there who don’t represent my beliefs or behavior – and I don’t want to do the same thing to my atheist friends either.

    So what do I call them? How do I delineate between the two? I agree that perhaps fundamentalist isn’t the best word. So what about anti-theist? That was my original suggestion. Is there anything inaccurate about that description of “those atheists”? Isn’t the primary difference that some atheists are content in their own lack of theistic beliefs (literally a-theism), while others think that theism is inherently evil and harmful and want to get rid of it (literally anti-theism)? Isn’t that what you’ve been telling me this whole time BlackSun?

    But if you don’t like that word, then why not? And what would you call them? Let’s finish this.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    While y’all are still spinning your wheels and wasting space here, I MAY have just become the victim of religious discrimination:

    http://patrickimo.blogspot.com/2007/04/patrick-craig-victim-of-religious.html.
    Of course, that silly Flying Spaghetti Monster thing is just that – silly, right?. There was no point in creating that “religion,” right? I mean, Bobby Henderson’s letter to the Kansas school board regarding ID “theory” was just stupid, right? He really should have respected the theists’ presentation of ID as real and accepted Jesus as his personal lord and savior. At minimum, he should have just shut up and let ID get into the Kansas public schools unhindered. Right?

    Man, that Henderson guy must have been a Pastafarian fundamentalist or something. I can’t stand Pastafarian fundamentalists.

    (BTW, sometimes when I call my rental company’s office, the “hold music” is a christian radio station. Hmmmm…)

  • Darryl

    Dear Mike,

    You’re so prolific I’m now two posts behind, but let me address a few of your comments.

    As I said before, quit the name-calling. I am not a “New Atheist.”

    I am not trying to wipe out theism. I’m a realist enough to think that that would be a waste of time. Some theists radicalize for no other reason than that their demagoging leaders convince them that the demonic atheists are trying to wipe them out. Alas, religion is here to stay.

    I thought the issue was “What do you call ‘those’ atheists?” not “whether atheism and theism should coexist, or whether one or the other ought to ‘win’.” As for what to call us, atheist is accurate; fundamentalist is not. As for the issue that seems to be eating at you, I think S.B. and I have already clearly said that we can tolerate people believing whatever they choose so long as they do not encroach upon our turf. This is my issue, and for me, the only one that counts. That is why I bring the conversation around to politics (following S.B.).

    “I apparently am far more skeptical about the limits of human reason than you all seem to be.”

    Please, spare me. You? Skeptical? One could only hope. The only skepticism you have is the one you were taught to have in your theology school. You know the one I mean: man is imperfect; God is perfect, man knows only a little; God knows all, what man could not have known, God revealed to him; “Now we see through a glass darkly, then we shall know . . . etc., etc. You’re skeptical of everything except your belief. Your skepticism is just another weapon in your arsenal of apologetics.

    “I’ve been through all the arguments for both sides with an open mind, and frankly, I just don’t see it. Both sides make good points, IMHO; both have an internally consistent and valid interpretation of the world, IMHO; but both, IMHO, are just interpretations, both are based on a priori assumptions, and thus both, IMHO, ought to take a stance of humility and acceptance towards the other.”

    Your parallelisms of parity are false, IMHO. They are intended to give the impression that to choose one over the other is like preferring cherry pie to apple. Now is not the time, but we will have to discuss at some later time your sense of the “internal consisten[cy]” of theism and especially its “valid interpretation of the world.” As for “humility,” this has nothing to do with our argument; and “acceptance” is conditional. I think S.B. has already dealt with that.

    “I highly doubt you could offer any arguments that I haven’t heard and responded to many times before.”

    You’re an apologist. You seem to have no interest in examining your beliefs. That’s no surprise to me. People of faith that are invested in their faith refuse to be persuaded. It’s a matter of will, not a battle of wits.

    “All your reasons are still political reasons.”

    Yes, you’ve got it! And for good reason. As I said before, if any party wants to limit my liberty based upon the teachings of their faith, I have a problem with them. No party can make law for me without arguing their case to me, without giving reasons—factual, evidentiary, logical reasons—to me, without being challenged by me, without negotiating with me, and without my consent. I have no beef with the naval-gazers, or the meditators, or the bong-smokers, or the pagans, or the cave-dwelling ascetics, or the cloistered monks, or the chaste sisters, or the peyote-smoking native Americans, or the unitarians, or the liberal, reformed neo-whatevers that just want to love me. I have a beef with those magical thinkers that would extend their fantasy world into my real world and in so doing mess with me and my happiness. We call those folks Fundamentalists. They decided to go political. I am pushing back. It’s that simple.

    “. . . you resort to that tired old argument that moderates are somehow enabling the fundamentalists to maintain their privileged status.”

    “Tired old argument?” How old is it? Is it tired? No. That’s just another rhetorical device that’s meant to replace true argument. Let me be as clear as I can be: Fundies believe God has spoken to them, and told them to do what they are doing. You believe God has spoken to you, and told you to do what you are doing. You will confront the fundies about what God wants, but you will not say to them that God has not spoken to them, because to deny that is to put your own experience into doubt. So, you cannot challenge the private experience of any fundy without challenging your own. And you are not willing to challenge yourself. So, you must abide the fundy. You know that Pat Robertson is a yahoo, but you dare not challenge his religious experience. You are an enabler. You may deny it all day long, but it’s a fact. You provide cover for all theists, all magical thinkers, at least of the Christian variety.

    “Do you really think something as complex as a presidential election can really be reduced to just one factor and used to prove anything like what you’re claiming?”

    Well, let’s think a bit. Both the 2000 and 2004 elections were very close. We know who voted and why—they told us in poll after poll. The “values voters” tipped the scale for Bush in both elections. Look at their strategy for winning: in all the contested states, they put “God, guns, and gays” on the ballot. Of course there were many issues involved and many kinds of Republicans voting, but ask yourself, if all the Christians out there that bought the line about a “Culture War” and a “War on Christianity,” and that cared more about stopping gay marriage and stem-cell research had left their religion outside the poll booths, would Bush be President today? Would we be in Iraq? Would we be giving away tax dollars for faith-based initiatives? Would the EPA have been gutted? Would the science about Global Warming have been suppressed? Would we have all the scandals that we have today? Would a graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University have a hand in picking ideological attorneys in the Justice Department? Come on! We know what the agenda of the fundies is. They’ve been up front about it. There are millions of Americans today that will not condemn Bush for any of this for one reason only: he’s a Christian. Don’t tell me it ain’t so, cause I know it is. And don’t tell me I haven’t been exposed to enough religious fundies yet. Trust me on this, I know my fundies.

    “Our goal should be to increase love and justice in the world. Until you’re doing that, I don’t give a damn what you believe.”

    Am I misunderstanding you, or didn’t you say that you will not consider our views until we are increasing love and justice in the world? Since you are not considering our views, not seriously anyway, then I must assume that you think that we are not increasing love and justice in the world. And, by the way, I’m all for love and justice (which is why I resist the fundies), but this is not an argument that carries any water when we are considering the existence of God. This a Christian argument meant for the flock. You are correct, it is more important to be kind than right, which is why we resist the fundies, and why we appeal to the willing that they might give up the theism that provides cover for the fundies.

    “Dialogue increases love (and sometimes even changes minds), antagonistic polemics do not.”

    Aside from the rare eureka moments, I have found that only those who are transitioning out of their faith or who are on the fence will be persuaded by dialogue. Folks like you are to busy defending to rethink. The only reason I answer your comments is so that those who are reading and may be ready to make a move will know that your arguments are specious.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Mike C,

    “Anti-theism” doesn’t work, because there are so many other things skeptical atheists are opposed to. Including but not limited to:

    1) astrology, 2) the healing power of crystals, 3) ghosts, 4) pseudo-science, 5) quackery, 6) entertainers who pretend to communicate with the dead, 7) appeals to “other ways of knowing” when evidence fails.

    Basically atheists, nice or not, reject the concept of NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria), on which you seem to base a lot of your arguments.

    You stated:

    They know where the limits of their disciplines are, and they don’t typically claim that just because something can’t be known via their discipline that it is therefore unknowable or unworthy of further discussion

    But those same scientists will also tell you that scriptural or interior subjective methods won’t shed any realistic light on them either. If they tell you otherwise, they are just being politically correct.

    Mostly I think science would just say “I don’t know,” or “I’m not qualified to comment on that.” Which is exactly what religions do NOT say. Theists by definition claim to know things about ultimate purpose, origins, creation, etc., while atheists such as myself will say to you it is absolutely impossible to say anything definitive about such questions.

    If there is EVER, EVER, EVER going to be any valid inquiry (meaning capable of revealing substantive results) made into these questions, it will come from science, not religion. Of that I am 110% certain. If you disagree, it is up to you to provide counter-examples or evidence to the contrary.

    Atheism is thus inherently pro-science, pro-knowledge, and anti-ignorance. “Anti-theism,” while partially accurate, doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    So if you have to have a label, perhaps “confrontational,” “political,” or “rigorous ontological” atheist would do. (Doesn’t really roll off the tongue, I know.) But anyone who is not willing to stand up for both the completeness and sufficiency of scientific inquiry (in my view) is not much of an atheist at all.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Darryl,
    You spent most of your last post presuming to tell me what I believe and then attacking that strawman version of myself. Since almost none of it is true I really don’t have anything to say in response except “Sorry, but that ain’t me.”

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    BlackSun, thank you for clarifying. I think “confrontational atheist” will have to do then. Sorry, but “atheism” is too broad of a term if it includes both people like you and people like Hemant. There need to be some additional descriptors so we don’t end up lumping all these very different approaches together.

  • Darryl

    Patrick,

    Fight the Power!

  • Darryl

    Mike,

    We’ll let others decide what I said and what you said. I think you’re just tired.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Tired, yes… and I’ve long had a general principle of avoiding responding to strawmen attacks as much as possible. There’s only so many times you can respond “No, I didn’t say that”, and “No, that’s not what I meant” before it just comes across as if you’re trying to weasel out of something. That’s why this kind of spin is so effective. Everyone ends up buying to the attacker’s version of his opponent as if he would know better than the person himself.

  • Darryl

    Mike,

    Weak!

  • Wytann Erdy

    Mike C, thank you for continuing the discussions here, I’m sure it is taking a lot of your time. I hope that one day you may see the light and lose your irrational faith. You can then experience the true joy and happiness that comes not from some imagined deity, but from rational thinking.

    And I do admire your goals of bringing more love and understanding into the world. At times I even suspected that you are secretly an atheist yourself, and have chosen the Christian religion as a means to that end! Why Christianity though? Your theology seems more in line with Hsu Yun Zen Bhuddism, or Sufism, than traditional Christianity.

    By the way, I don’t really think you are only pretending to believe. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to come up with statements like this:

    This idea that somehow science and faith are opposed is just absurd, and has been demonstrated to be false so many times that it shouldn’t have to be repeated

    Jeez.

    Science: A system of beliefs based on evidence.

    Faith: A systems of beliefs persisting despite a lack of evidence.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Wytann Erdy said:

    “Faith: A systems of beliefs persisting despite a lack of evidence.”

    I said (above, 4 days ago):

    The most offensive thing about Dawkins is that he seems not at all willing to actually engage what religious people say. He holds plenty of dogmatic beliefs that would be easily corrected if he would bother to read a book about theology (for example, Dawkins (and Harris and just about every “new atheist”) defines faith as “belief without evidence,” but somebody who was just somewhat familiar with Christian theology would know that nobody defines it that way. Given that many of their arguments rest on that definition of faith, I don’t see them changing that belief in the face of new evidence, either.)

  • Wytann Erdy

    Christians come up with a definition of faith that looks something like: “The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.” Or: “reliance upon God’s self-revelation, especially in the sense of confidence in the promises and fear of the threats that are written in Scripture”

    Now, no-one needs to append “without evidence” to the above definitions. It’s implicit. It’s the “self-revelation” thingy. It’s the idea that the bible is true because it says it is true.

    In the definition of faith that I used, I was just trying to be concise.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    “It’s implicit.”

    Convenient for you, but also wrong.

  • Wytann Erdy

    Great, let me guess, macht: faith does require evidence, but your faith is your “evidence”? Wonderful. Excuse me now while I go have a wank, because at least that’ll get us on the same page.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    I’m not even sure what that means- my faith is my evidence? Huh? That makes no sense. Faith comes after knowledge, evidence, etc.

    Christian faith is a lot like the faith you place in a skilled surgeon before an operation. It is a trust that she will do the operation as she said she would, that her hands will be steady, etc. This trust isn’t blind – it is based on your knowledge of her credentials, your knowledge that she’s done this surgery hundreds of times before, your speaking with former patients about her, etc. I suppose you could have a blind faith in the surgeon, but that would be really stupid, don’t you think? You might end up with Dr. Nick Riviera doing your surgery.

    This is not to deny that some (or a lot) of people do have a blind faith in God – on the contrary, many people can’t give good reasons for their belief. But the adjective “blind” is just that – an adjective. But if you ask any decent theologian in the past 2000 years, they will say that blind faith is a bad faith, that faith requires knowledge. What’s that you say? You want proof that theologians have said these things. Okay, here are two examples.

    Spurgeon was careful to point out that before you can have faith in God – before you can trust in Him – you have to have knowledge of Him:

    “What is faith? It is made up of three things—knowledge, belief, and trust. Knowledge comes first. “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” I want to be informed of a fact before I can possibly believe it. “Faith cometh by hearing”; we must first hear, in order that we may know what is to be believed. “They that know thy name shall put their trust in thee.” A measure of knowledge is essential to faith; hence the importance of getting knowledge.”

    Calvin was careful to say the exact same thing:

    “Is this what believing means – to understand nothing, provided only that you submit your feeling obediently to the church? Faith rests not on ignorance, but on knowledge. And this is, indeed, knowledge not only of God but of the divine will. We do not obtain salvation either because we are prepared to embrace as true whatever the church has prescribed, or because we turn over to it the task of inquiring and knowing. But we do so when we know that God is our merciful Father, because of reconciliation effected through Christ, and that Christ has been given to us as righteousness, sanctification, and life. By this knowledge, I say, not by submission of our feeling, do we obtain entry into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (my emphasis)

    I could go on with other theologians, too, but my point is that faith simply isn’t what you say it is.

    Also, feel free to ignore everything I’ve just written and to continue to say that faith is “implicitly” blind. You wouldn’t be the first and I doubt you’ll be the last. But I’m pretty sure you will not change your mind about this.

  • Wytann Erdy

    Ouch, it burns, it burns! Apologies to the other commenters for briefly hijacking this discussion. Return to your regularly scheduled programming. Nothing new to see here, please move on.

  • Darryl

    Macht,

    Please stop with the definition of faith, you’re embarrassing yourself. Erdy is right, maybe we should just let this thread die a natural death.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    I’m more amused than embarrassed, but, yeah, this thread has pretty much run its course.

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    As the thread dies, I’d like to give y’all a nice “jumping off” point for another discussion:

    http://www.friendsofcwg.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=12921

    The term “fundamentalist atheist” comes up in this forum thread. Are you guys aware of this “Conversations with God” phenomenon? It looks like a movement with massive momentum, and it certainly seems to answer an important Atheist question: is there a “Nice Guy God?” More info at http://www.cwg.org/

    Not that I’m endorsing this. Actually, it frickin’ scares my ass.

  • Pingback: Daylight Atheism > Be Hot or Cold()

  • Dave

    It is totally hilarious that athiests, are the most riduculously closed minded folks I have ever encountered. Reading these comments reads like a religion section . Perhaps you should worship the Creator instead of creation.

  • Anthony

    you should worship the Creator

    Who?

  • Miko
    you should worship the Creator

    Who?

    There you go, being rediculously closed-minded again. It’s totally hilarious. I, on the other hand, by parroting what some random theist says, am obviously open-minded. And seriously, what’s all this talk I hear about Harry Potter being fiction? I’d like to see scientists prove that. Until then, perhaps we should all worship Hogwarts.

  • Anthony
    you should worship the Creator

    we should all worship Hogwarts

    Who? Who?

  • Pingback: Black Sun Journal » Archives » Atheist ‘Metaphysics’ and Religious Equivocation()

  • James

    those of you on here talking about how intolerant and stereotypical religion is, and then turning around and attacking Mike C. just b/c he doesn’t pay lip service to Richard Dawkins need to take a look at your own hypocrisy. You should be ashamed of yourselves. What, is Dawkins your god or something? We can’t disagree with the almighty Dawkins now? I do like him, but I don’t agree with everything he says either, and I don’t like how he sometimes comes across (though he’s a huge improvement over some-like say, the Rational Response Squad!). Oh no……are you gonna yell at me too?

    There is a civil way to say it, which goes something like this: Mike C., Dawkins I can see how you would think that Dawkins can come across as “militant” sometimes in his books, but if you watch his interviews, he’s actually pretty mild mannered and even handed. In the book that’s more his passion for his subject. I encourage you to check out some of his interviews and read some articles about him and you’ll see what I mean. If you are interested and want me to send some your way let me know. He frequently engages more liberal religious people like the Bishop of Oxford (they had had a great interview and are friends) and is respectful with them. It’s more the Tedd Haggard types he goes after more “passionately”, and I think he would have even been respectful toward Haggard if Haggard hadn’t been such a jerk to him. Well, Haggard got what he deserved.

    You don’t have to respect beliefs you don’t agree with, but you can respect some of the people behind them based on their character and their actions. From what I’ve read on this board, Mike C has tried to be respectful of the people here.. I think we can extend him the same courtesy and not judge him just b/c he’s not an atheist-and some of your posts attack him simply for that. Isn’t this what we don’t want religious people to do to us? And btw, last I checked, this was a website for atheists and non-atheists to dialouge, not just a straight atheist website.

    Whether some of you like it or not, there are jerk atheists (the teenage hate crime and RRS come to mind), just like there are jerk religious people, and there are miltant anti-theists. There are those who want to “ban religion” and I don’t think we should give them the time of day (it’s hypocritical). Keeping it out of government and science is one thing, “banning it all” by force is quite another.

    That being said, I don’t feel Dawkins or Harris fits any of the above descriptions. I’d call them controversial, and sometimes militant, though they seem more “passionate” than anything else. The terms “new” (though there is nothing new about many of their arguments, they’ve just brought them to a wider audience), and “outspoken” work too, as well as “strong”. I’ve heard the term “evangelical” used too, it sounds kind of weird though. Both have made it clear they are trying to use words and intellectual arguments to make their points and not force. When people start talking about blatantly discriminating against anyone of faith, that’s when we should worry. But I haven’t heard that-even RRS hasn’t gone that far that I know of.

    For myself, I don’t see it as a constructive strategy to focus on deconverting people because I’d rather align with religious moderates to try to focus on common goals and foster a separation of church and state. At the same time, I’m fine with Dawkins and Harris speaking their mind about religion; I think it’s a good sign that religion is being subjected to some scrutiny.

    I wish we could avoid this pointless polarization in the secular community, of saying “either you’re fighting to deconvert everyone or you’re telling Dawkins and Harris to shut up.”

    I agree. Sounds too much like the “you’re either with me or against me speech” people get mad at religion for.


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