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]

  • John P

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

    Yes. How about atheist?

  • http://www.jamonation.com/ Rolf

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

    I like “ardent” atheists. There is the implication of the passion of which Richard Dawkins speaks with no suggestion of the rigidity and closed-mindedness of “fundamentalist”.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    The whole “fundamentalist” thing is a pejorative invented by the religious to discredit atheists. It’s a red herring, because there is no “fundamental” text of atheism, no holy book. I see no reason for us to buy into it or be forced to choose another name. We are atheists. We do not believe in gods, we require evidence before accepting information, and we don’t respect people’s fantasies, religious or otherwise.

    The first time an atheist bombs a religious congregation, and claims he did it in the name of atheism, then we can talk about what that fool should be called. Even then, I think a more appropriate term would be extremist, or lunatic.

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  • jp

    Really, there’s no difference between the ‘fundamentalist’ Dawkins and say, the friendly Hemant except your styles of engagement. When I started reading your book I was afraid I would encounter a lot of Gouldian ‘seperate but equal magisteria’ concessions, but even for an avowedly non-hostile atheist you make a lot of identical points to Dawkins in his Big Bad Delusion Book, which some on-the-fence agnostic/skeptic friends inform me is ‘just going a bit too far’.

    Like Black Sun says, it’s just a pointless pejorative, a strawman. Some of us might be more amiable than others, but as long we’re all acting within the bounds of law and reason and don’t believe in any deity, we’re just atheists.

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

    Just to clarify, the problem that some of us have with people like Dawkins or Harris have nothing to do with their being “passionate” or “outspoken” or “uncompromising”. It has to do with their tone of disrespect and attitude of hostility towards all people of faith.

    As for what to call them, why not “anti-theist”? IMHO, that seems to capture well the main difference between the average atheist who doesn’t believe in God for themselves, and these “New Atheists” who seem insistent that no else should either.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Mike C,

    It has to do with their tone of disrespect and attitude of hostility towards all people of faith.

    I don’t know how many times this needs to be said: beliefs are respected for their truth value. It is up to theists to prove that their beliefs are true, and thus earn the respect of the reality-based community. If you can’t prove them, there is no more reason to respect your beliefs than the ‘beliefs’ of a garden-variety schizophrenic who prattles on about the ‘aliens in his ass.’ Would you respect such a person, no matter how hard they insisted there “really were aliens in their ass?” Would you not expect them to provide you some proof if they wanted you to take them seriously?

    The only reason other equally absurd beliefs in gods and angels and cherubs and miracles had respect in some quarters up until now is that those people who respected the beliefs had their own unprovable fantasies in their own version of god. By ‘respecting’ other god believers, they kept up the illusion that the emperor was wearing clothes. Atheists are just pointing out the obvious: he’s freaking NAKED.

    If you think atheists should be called “anti-theists,” then maybe people who don’t believe in aliens should be called “anti-aliens” or in the case of the people who didn’t believe the schizophrenic, “anti-ass-aliens.”

    This is absurd.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C
    It has to do with their tone of disrespect and attitude of hostility towards all people of faith.

    I don’t know how many times this needs to be said: beliefs are respected for their truth value.

    Pay attention to what I actually said. I didn’t say that they lacked respect for our beliefs (they’re welcome to think whatever they want about our beliefs). I said they lacked respect for people.

    IMHO, that’s a problem in any belief system, when you start to think that asserting the rightness of your beliefs is more important than treating individuals with kindness and respect.

    If you think atheists should be called “anti-theists,”

    Nope, didn’t say that either. All I said was that those few atheists who are hostile to people of faith ought to perhaps be called anti-theists. Non-theistic folks like Hemant and the many others on this blog who are content to coexist with and learn from differing belief systems are simply atheists, and I’m happy to call them such – and mean it as a term of sincere respect.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    “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.”

    I find that people like Dawkins, Harris, and others tend to read the Bible just as literally as fundamentalist Christians or Muslims.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    when you start to think that asserting the rightness of your beliefs is more important than treating individuals with kindness and respect.

    As far as I’m concerned, we should get rid of all beliefs. I don’t think any beliefs, nor people who are consumed by their beliefs, are worthy of respect. How can you take a person seriously who does not have a grip on reality? I can accept that such a person is a human being, and certainly should not be deprived of their human rights, but respect?? That’s asking a lot.

    I can understand that some tendencies toward religion are innate, that people can’t help who they are, that these traits are an adaptation or a spandrel or whatever is ultimately discovered about the biological origins of this phenomenon of belief. I can understand that the anxiety-reducing and team-building qualities of religion have served the human race in the past. They have helped people cope with the fear of death and freed them up to concentrate on other things. I can understand all that as having been a part of the human condition for a substantial part of our evolution. But we know better now.

    If I encounter a strongly religious person who is unwilling to give up their beliefs, I cannot respect them. I can have empathy for them. I can wish that person would become more grounded, I can hope they would want to learn why they feel the way they do and explore their psychology. But ultimately I cannot respect them, because they live in denial.

    Many religious people practice cognitive dissonance, where they act rationally and normally in every other area of their life than their beliefs. If such a person proves trustworthy in every other way, I could split my response to them in the same way that they do internally: When they are acting as a rational and trusted person, I would respect them. When they are spouting religious nonsense, that respect disappears.

    I don’t even have a problem with people who like rituals. I have many Jewish friends who go to temple–even my sister converted. But they don’t take it seriously, they just like the traditions and ceremony. If any of these people ever told me with a straight face they believed in the Old Testament, I’d be shocked.

    Bottom line, as long as they keep their religion private, and don’t proselytize or let it pervade their day-to-day life, everything is fine. But if and when the religion takes over and they become some kind of zealot, they approach insanity. No one wants to be around those people–trust me–not even members of a different denomination. I couldn’t be friends with or work with them. And I certainly wouldn’t want them anywhere near my kids. Respect??

    I also have less than zero respect for anyone who advocates or votes for theocratic laws (which would curtail my rights). This includes nearly all evangelical Christians or Muslims who advocate sharia law.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    That should read: “… tend to read the Bible or the Koran just as literally …”

  • jp

    IMHO, that’s a problem in any belief system, when you start to think that asserting the rightness of your beliefs is more important than treating individuals with kindness and respect.

    Atheism isn’t a belief system. It’s the absence of one.

    Dawkins makes, purposely, I think, unqualified statements on a broad level. Statements like his claim, after 9/11 that it is time to stop holding religion above worldly blame, and point fingers at specific faiths if and when they are used as the basis for despicable actions. I think his is an uncompromisingly dissenting voice that is needed to balance our public discourse, if nothing else.

    I understand that this feels uncomfortable to people of faith, especially those whose faith may be more personal and accomodative to dissent. Still, your point doesn’t mean anything unless you tell me about specific cases where Dawkins et al have been rude to specific theists with no mitigating circumstances. I only see cases of them making statements that are disconcerting to large groups of people, not unprovoked and excessive attacks on specific individuals, which is the behaviour you wanted to draw the line at.

    I find that people like Dawkins, Harris, and others tend to read the Bible just as literally as fundamentalist Christians or Muslims.

    Which is because it is those fundamental literalists that they are specifically reacting to. I have no problem debating various interpetations of scriptures with moderate theists on a purely philosophical basis, speaking for myself.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    “Which is because it is those fundamental literalists that they are specifically reacting to.”

    Aye, but people like Harris think that fundamentalists are the “truest of true believers.” This, too, is something that they have in common with religious fundamentalists.

  • http://ironwolf.dangerousgames.com/blog Robert McNally

    I like the term “evangelical atheist,” which has also been used by Sam Harris and other. I comment on that and the other aspects of this controversy in my blog here.

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  • http://atheism.about.com/ Austin Cline

    IMHO, that’s a problem in any belief system, when you start to think that asserting the rightness of your beliefs is more important than treating individuals with kindness and respect.

    IMHO, it’s a problem with any belief system when you start to think that people’s feelings or need to feel validated are more important than speaking the truth or expressing an accurate description of reality.

    It’s legitimate to say that an atheist is wrong; it’s not legitimate to say that an atheist should care more about whether they make you feel bad than about accurately separating truth from falsehood.

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

    Mike C:

    It has to do with their tone of disrespect and attitude of hostility towards all people of faith.

    I’m with you – we shouldn’t have this tone, no matter what.

    BlackSun:

    It’s a red herring, because there is no “fundamental” text of atheism, no holy book.

    A technicality, in my opinion. You can have fundamentalism without referring to any “holy book.”

    jp:

    Atheism isn’t a belief system. It’s the absence of one.

    Personally, I am precisely this kind of Atheist. However, there are those who would “believe” that there is no god. It becomes a twisted kind of “faith” for them, and that shouldn’t be.

    I think we can thank such groups as the RRS for the continued existence of the term “fundamentalist Atheist.” After all, they do characterize (on their web site) theism as a “mental disorder” without the justification of sufficient medical evidence. I have tried to reason with Brian Sapient on issues such as the Blasphemy Challenge and bible recycling. It has done no good whatsoever. Is the RRS a “fundamentalist” organization? I think they’re getting there…

  • whomever1

    As a “Robert Anton Wilson agnostic”–or maybe a Karl Jung fanboy I find the whole atheist vs Christian dichotomy too constricting and (indeed) fundamentalist. As RAW said (paraphrase), a good agnostic has to hold at least 4 simultaneous models of reality–1) God exists, 2) God does not exist, 3) God both does and does not exist, and 4) God neither exists, nor does not exist.
    And besides, openness to the spirit world makes ayahuasca more bearable.

  • Clastito

    I am againts anyone who acts like an inquistor, classifying people into good or bad, inot bright or moron not worth listening to.
    Its a drooling, teenage attitude that characterizes the “fundamentalist atheists” like PZ. Of course, those exactly think they “cannot” be atheist and fundamentalist. hence, they cannot see that they are, by definition.
    I say call them fundamentalist atheists and if they call you a moron for thta, thank them for making your point clear.

  • Clastito

    when reason is raised to a sort moral imperative, a religious, veneratove attitude develops towards it that is nefarious, and that has happened already in recent human history, with pathetic results (the 30′s)
    Dawkins and PZ obviously try to push a “morality” of their own by always presenting a discourse of separation into good and bad, smart and stupid. These religious-like moralistic attitudes, who have nothing to do with science, are good reason indeed to label them “fundamentalist atheists”

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

    Robert McNally: “I like the term ‘evangelical atheist,’”

    The problem is that “evangelical” doesn’t convey what “‘fundamentalist’ atheist” does. Whatever vagueness the term “‘fundamentalist’ atheist” has, it pretty clearly describes an atheist who displays many of the negative traits as a real fundamentalist, such as intellectual sloppiness and demonization of the opposition. Several people have remarked that “fundamentalist atheist” is an oxymoron. To some extent, that’s the point. Calling someone a “fundamentalist atheist” is implicitly calling someone a hypocrite. It’s a way of saying, “Hey, you’re doing the very things that you bash the opposition for doing! You’re supposed to be rational, yet you pull crap like casting Ken Miller in the role of Hitler.” An evangelical atheist is simply one who passionately advocates for atheism, but one can be evangelical without acting like a fundie, as our gracious blog host knows firsthand.

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

    As a “Robert Anton Wilson agnostic”–

    Okay, lemme get this straight. If God neither exists, nor does not exist, does that mean that He exists, in spite of his non-existence? And if He does NOT exist, then does that mean that He DOES exist, in spite of the fact that He both exists and non-exists?

    I am a SubGenius TransSubstantialExistentialUberPhilosopher. I know all about these things! :)

  • Stephen

    Just to clarify, the problem that some of us have with people like Dawkins or Harris have nothing to do with their being “passionate” or “outspoken” or “uncompromising”. It has to do with their tone of disrespect and attitude of hostility towards all people of faith.

    Mike C: I have just started reading “The God Delusion” for the second time. I don’t recall any such passages from my first reading, and I haven’t found any yet in the re-reading. Could you provide references to the passages where Dawkins shows disrespect and hostility towards all people of faith?

    (I strongly suspect that you can’t, or at most that you have but a single small passage in mind, but feel free to prove me wrong.)

  • Clastito

    It goes a bit like this

    “I cannot be pig-headed and dogmatic!! I am an ATHEIST!!” I have been purified by the baptismal forces of reason”

    This kind of foolishnes of “I canb’t be wrong” is precisely the attitude to foster dogmatism and lack of self-criticism

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

    Could you provide references to the passages where Dawkins shows disrespect and hostility towards all people of faith?

    Sorry Stephen, but I really don’t have the time to play the proof-texting game with you right now. I’ve read articles by Dawkins, seen videos of him online, read excerpts from the God Delusion, and read multiple reviews and interviews, and I find that same disdainful tone and hostility throughout most of it. But if you don’t notice it by now, then I doubt I could convince you.

    But here’s a secret of good communication: sometimes you can’t just assume that what you’re saying is what others are hearing. If you say “I’m not being disrespectful” but everyone you’re talking about says they feel disrespected anyway, you might want to give a second thought to whether you’re really communicating effectively. That is, if you really care about being understood and about not being disrespectful towards others. If you’re fine with being offensive and misunderstood, then don’t worry about it.

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

    As far as I’m concerned, we should get rid of all beliefs. I don’t think any beliefs, nor people who are consumed by their beliefs, are worthy of respect.

    BlackSun, as usual, you do an excellent job of illustrating exactly the kind of attitude I’m talking about.

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

    It’s legitimate to say that an atheist is wrong; it’s not legitimate to say that an atheist should care more about whether they make you feel bad than about accurately separating truth from falsehood.

    Would it be legitimate to say that atheists are stupid or have a mental disorder, and that teaching atheism to children is intellectual child abuse?

    Oh wait, I forgot, you’re right and we’re wrong, so it’s okay for your side to say that kind of stuff about us, just not vice versa, right?

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

    Mike C: I have just started reading “The God Delusion” for the second time. I don’t recall any such passages from my first reading, and I haven’t found any yet in the re-reading.

    Interesting that you say this, Stephen. I haven’t gotten around to reading my copy of GD yet, but the impression I get (from even the Atheist community itself) is that Dawkins DID step on some toes.

    If you say “I’m not being disrespectful” but everyone you’re talking about says they feel disrespected anyway, you might want to give a second thought to whether you’re really communicating effectively.

    This is very good advice.

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

    This is very good advice.

    Yeah, learned the hard way. My wife can tell you that I’m often putting my foot in my mouth when I don’t even mean to. :)

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/ C. L. Hanson

    I think the term “fundamentalist atheist” is absurd and is just one more example of the apologist noise machine using the “I know you are, but what am I?” defense, no matter how inappropriate.

    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.”

  • http://atheism.about.com/ Austin Cline

    But here’s a secret of good communication: sometimes you can’t just assume that what you’re saying is what others are hearing.

    Here another: sometimes you can’t just assume that what you’re hearing is what’s really being said. That’s why you are asked for examples of Dawkins saying what you attribute to him. Maybe you heard something that wasn’t really there. This is an especially serious issue given that you refer specifically to “tone” in reference written works, a medium where there is no tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, or anything else to express much “tone.”

    Then again, maybe your perception is justified. Unfortunately, I detect no sense that you even recognize that misinterpretation of “tone” is possible, much less that you could be capable of it in this context.

    You don’t even bother to define what you mean by “disrespect,” a word with many different possible connotations.

    Oh wait, I forgot, you’re right and we’re wrong, so it’s okay for your side to say that kind of stuff about us, just not vice versa, right?

    They are legitimate statements if they are factually accurate statements. If you can demonstrate they are true yet refuse to speak the truth out of fear of making people feel bad, then all you are doing is embracing lies.

    Don’t presume that I employ some sort of “I can’t be wrong” attitude which you are exuding here.

  • Stephen

    Interesting that you say this, Stephen. I haven’t gotten around to reading my copy of GD yet, but the impression I get (from even the Atheist community itself) is that Dawkins DID step on some toes.

    I gather he did. He said quite a few things that may have upset some people’s comfortable assumptions. But as far as I can recall, he did so by attacking beliefs, by attacking assumptions of superiority on the part of (some) theists, and in some cases by attacking certain specific believers. I am fairly sure (but I’m prepared to admit I am wrong if someone can give specific passages) that Mike C’s snide generalisation of “disrespect and hostility towards all people of faith” is simply not what the book actually says.

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

    I am watching a Dawkins YouTube video right now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28pNxgD-ldc

    The “tone” I’m seeing in this video makes me wonder what I’m going to see when I get around to reading GD; will there be such terrible lambasting there? Or will Dawkins make his case reasonably and rationally, as he is apparently doing in his “live” presentations?

    I see no hint of anger or agitation in this video. Am I missing something?

  • http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com Chris Hallquist

    I think Austin is right that print vs. speech makes a big difference for tone, though more than just being hard to detect, there seems to be a strong tendency for people to sound a lot nastier in print than in person.

    As for what Dawkins and Harris should be called, I’ve previously defended the term religion critic, as a way of setting them off from atheists who are happy to leave everyone else alone.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    How about “cheerleader atheists?” They are quite good at rallying the troops, so to speak, and conversing with other atheists. They are quite horrible at getting religious people to listen to what they have to say.

  • Simon

    I’ve read articles by Dawkins, seen videos of him online, read excerpts from the God Delusion, and read multiple reviews and interviews, and I find that same disdainful tone and hostility throughout most of it.

    I’ve done all of the above as well (and beyond), and I don’t find any disdainful tone or hostility at all, let alone throughout. And I’ve looked for it.

    Admittedly, a few commentors here have pulled out one or two Dawkins quotes that did sound rude to me. So we can all agree that he isn’t God.

    Clearly, other than perhaps than a tiny sample of quotes mined from decades of work and public appearances, this issue of “tone” is a matter of opinion.

    Non-theistic folks like Hemant and the many others on this blog who are content to coexist with and learn from differing belief systems are simply atheists, and I’m happy to call them such – and mean it as a term of sincere respect.

    Are you content to coexist and learn from athiests including Dawkins? By excluding certain atheists from your above paragraph, you imply that you don’t have respect for such people and yet you lament their alleged lack of respect towards you. In addition, atheists such as Dawkins are constantly clarifying that they lack respect only for religion and its institutions, and not an individual who holds those religious beliefs. I guess you don’t believe they are sincere.

    The message I take from this is that atheists should either patronize religious people by softening their opinions through diplomatic language and gratuitous, friendly gestures, or just shut up altogether.

  • MTran

    If you say “I’m not being disrespectful” but everyone you’re talking about says they feel disrespected anyway, you might want to give a second thought to whether you’re really communicating effectively.

    Most of the time, when people say “It’s not what he said, it’s how he said it,” what they really mean is that the problem is what was said because they cannot effectively counter the message.

    Atheists have been “polite” to the point of silence for 100 years and more. For all the gentility of Bertrand Russell’s writings, there is no less hostility for atheism than there was during his lifetime.

    If atheists don’t speak up loudly enough to be heard, they will continue to be ignored and treated with gross disrespect. Dawkins is being heard and is therefor being accused of “arrogance” and “disrespect.”

    But why should the ideas of theism be given any respect at all? In the US, where the rights of a person to have any religion or belief they chose is enshrined in the constitution. But respecting that right has been turned into the assumption that every belief must be treated with respect.

    If you want to hear the arrogance of belief taken to an absurd extreme, just take a look at the tripe Ann Coulter has served up in her book “Godless.” Now that is the disrespectful, arrogance and ignorance which typifies the treatment that atheism has received on a regular basis.

    I have heard complaints from the moment The God Delusion was published that Dawkins is “disrespectful,” and “arrogant,” and that he is some sort of fundamentalist.

    After reading TGD and watching “The Root of All Evil” as well as videos of the Beyond Belief Conference, I still have yet to see or hear any clear evidence of these assertions. What I hear, and read, is an articulate voice that clearly states a position regarding theism that is very unpopular. I also hear the voice of a well educated Brit. Perhaps it’s the accent that grates on the nerves of the red state rabble.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    BlackSun, as usual, you do an excellent job of illustrating exactly the kind of attitude I’m talking about.

    You can talk about it all you want, but it proves only that you’ve elevated kindness to high art. Congratulations! But you’ve yet to make a case for anything–except for the fact that you don’t want your beliefs messed with. So you claim the moral high ground, because you claim to be ‘nicer’ than your opponents.

    It’s not about the tone, it’s about the substance. Truth is not a popularity contest, I’m afraid.

  • Siamang

    Mike C wrote:

    Would it be legitimate to say that atheists are stupid or have a mental disorder, and that teaching atheism to children is intellectual child abuse?

    Oh wait, I forgot, you’re right and we’re wrong, so it’s okay for your side to say that kind of stuff about us, just not vice versa, right?

    I presume you’re trying to characterize Dawkins in this turnabout, Mike.

    But on the contrary, Dawkins goes out of his way quite often to remark on the intelligence of many believers. I do not think he has characterized belief as a mental disorder either. He does not characterize believers as crazy or mentally disabled in any way.

    He has DESCRIBED religion as a meme. You can use the word zeitgeist if you want. He’s a biologist, and so he uses a biological analogy with the way life of one type can spread through a population of life of another type.

    It’s not the same thing as saying that “religious people have a mental disorder”.

    He HAS said that he considers the indoctrination of children in religion a form of child abuse that he thinks should be changed by enlightening people and “raising consciousness” but not by any form of coercive or legal action. It’s a way too harsh term “abuse”, but I do share his feeling that light should be shed on the Jesuit “Give me a child until the age of seven, and I’ll give you the man” indoctrination of children.

    Anyway, it’s not easy to stand up for Dawkins when he uses the word “abuse” here. But just know that he doesn’t use the words “stupid” or “mentally disordered”.

  • stogoe

    So what I’m really hearing from Mike C and the Apologists (that wouldn’t be too bad for a band name if any of you had any musical talent) is this:

    You god damned uppity feminists! Why don’t you just go back in the kitchen and bake me a fucking pie!

    Or:

    You god damned uppity blacks! Why don’t you just go back in the fields and pick me some fucking cotton!

    Except aimed at atheists instead of a visually segregatable minority.

    Well screw that, Massah. The truth makes uncomfortable the comfortable oppressors. Doesn’t make it any less true.

  • MTran

    Okay,

    Let’s take a youtube break and try something completely different:

    That should give us a new python perspective!

  • Siamang

    I wouldn’t put Mike C in that category at all, Stogoe. Not one bit.

  • Siamang

    Aaaahhh…. broken link tags

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    Mike C: Dawkins is hostile towards all people of faith.
    Stephen: Could you provide evidence of your claims?
    Mike C: No. But I once saw evidence somewhere.

    Ya see, this is a core difference between the naturalist and the supernaturalist. Mike C., you are not winning the probability game here. And for many naturalists, our entire worldview is based on the most probable:
    Gravity has a high probability of existing based on the evidence.I have a high probability of being hungry for dinner in 4 hours based on the evidence.God has a low probablity of existing based the evidence.

    To a naturalist, saying “No I won’t provide evidence”, as you did above, is a very difficult thing to do. We thrive on evidence. It is our connection to reality and each other.

    As a postmodern supernaturalist, Mike, I understand that universal, objective reality and its measurements may not appeal to you. I think Dawkins is remarkably restrained and polite towards radical positions such as the denial of reality or invisible superintelligences floating in space.

    I’d trust him with my kids.

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

    Siamang: “But on the contrary, Dawkins goes out of his way quite often to remark on the intelligence of many believers.”

    Only to describe atheists willing to work with them, like Eugenie Scott, as “appeasers.” See the link in my previous post above. He also more generally calls religious people “faithheads,” and that slur appeals to stereotypes about religious people just as using “whop” or “jap” implicitly appeals to stereotypes about Italians or Japanese. Dawkins’ intellectual forebearer is Robert Ingersoll, not Bertrand Russell. He’s a great communicator, but his rigor often slips.

  • IceSixxx

    Can I invite all of you to visit the site of the Brights.

    http://www.the-brights.net/

    What is a bright?

    * A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview
    * A bright’s worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements
    * The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview

    Best regards,

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

    Stogoe,

    So what I’m really hearing from Mike C and the Apologists…

    Do I understand you to be applying the label “Apologist” to Mike C. and anyone who agrees in any way with anything he says (I am one such person who has done this)? And, if so, how does that differentiate you from any theist who labels Atheists “angry,” “fundamentalist,” or “militant?”

    I shall stand here scratching my head while you go bake a pie and pick some cotton.

  • Siamang

    JJ Ramsey…

    Where has Dawkins called Euginie Scott an “appeaser”? I could not find it in that linked article.. in fact it’s a confusing mess of an article.

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

    IceSixxx,

    I am currently engaged in private e-mail conversation with a “Bright” who has been prominent within your movement. He has clarified a great deal for me in my recent misunderstanding with The Brights’ Net (recorded in some of my recent blog entries). Nonetheless, I still feel that the Brights represent a fundamentally flawed and very useless effort, that being the registration of all Freethinking humanity under a banner (“Bright”) which is insulting and without any good purpose.

    Why would I want to consider registering as a “Bright” when I can be an Atheist and a skeptic (and the term “Freethinker” even embodies both of those!) without having to register with anybody?

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

    Siamang: “Where has Dawkins called Euginie Scott an “appeaser’?”

    Page 66 of The God Delusion, in the section called “The Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists.”

    “in fact it’s a confusing mess of an article.”

    It makes a lot more sense if you’ve seen Blake’s 7.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Patrick Craig:

    Do I understand you to be applying the label “Apologist” to Mike C. and anyone who agrees in any way with anything he says (I am one such person who has done this)? And, if so, how does that differentiate you from any theist who labels Atheists “angry,” “fundamentalist,” or “militant?”

    Because the term “apologist” is a self-identified religious term. Haven’t you ever heard of “Christian apologetics?” There are a plethora of self-identified apologist websites out there:

    http://www.carm.org/
    http://www.christianapologetic.org/

    Among many others. So to answer your question, no, it’s not the same thing at all.

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

    Haven’t you ever heard of “Christian apologetics?”

    I certainly have, Blacksun, but you miss a very important point of my question. Stogoe identified “Mike C and the Apologists” but never quite clarified just who “the Apologists” were. If Mike C is a “self-identified” Apologist, fine. But I am no such thing. Did Stogoe include all who took Mike C’s side in this discussion in his labeling? Did he lump me in with the Apologists rock band?

    Let’s add a new term to ourselves, friends – “Atheist Apologist!” Amen!

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Mike C,

    Check out this site:

    This is the site of Dr. Bruce D. McLaughlin, an Ordained Minister, Doctor of Science – Materials Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Master of Materials Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, Kettering University

    Here is a perfect example of what I described earlier. Here is a man whose achievements I hold great respect for, especially given his long list of papers and patents. On the other hand, if he opened his mouth in defense of Christianity in my presence, I would instantly lose all respect for that part of him, and rightfully so.

    The same goes for Francis Collins.

    Where he espouses science and contributes to human understanding with his work, he has my gratitude and respect. But as a public apologist, he argues for things which completely go against his training as a scientist. This is why I say there should be no respect for beliefs. If Dr. McLaughlin wants to make himself a “fool for christ,” (funny how theists seem to have no problem with that self-description, but get all upset when an atheist says it) then he has to be prepared for the repercussions for his reputation.

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

    BlackSun: “Because the term ‘apologist’ is a self-identified religious term.”

    I have also seen “apologist” used on IIDB to refer to atheists who’ve argued against Jesus-mythers. As a term of abuse, it is often used by the more “hardline” against those who either (1) provide partial defense of the opposition or (2) attack bad arguments that come from the hardliners. Generally, it’s a slur used to imply that those arguing against the “hardliners” are really members of the opposition. Kind of a “You’re either with us or against us” thing.

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    Why should we try to reason with theists over the definition of a concept, particularly one that is as embarrassing to them as ‘fundamentalist’? Is this a winnable argument?

    As Austin Cline pointed out in prior posts, they are skewing the scholarly conceptualization of ‘fundamentalism’ to fit their personal opinions. As naturalists, we are used to supernaturalists skewing science for personal purposes (evolution, stems cells, etc).

    The literature in fields like sociology, psychology, and political science, consistently and explicitly tie ‘fundamentalism’ to ‘religion’. Public Opinion Quarterly, which helps define concepts such as this for future research, laid this out in their Winter 2006 edition:

    it is generally agreed that fundamentalism resulted from a reaction against tbe emergence of liberal and scientific thought — obtaining its name from 12 booklets published between 1910 and 1915 called “The Fundamentals,” which articulated what the authors considered to be the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith

    Several pieces in the Review of Religious Research over the past 15 years have addressed ‘fundamentalism’ (for starters, check out Tom Smith 1990, Christian Smith and colleagues, 2003).

    Even EBSCO publishing, easily one of the world’s largest databases of scientific and political journals, uses “fundamentalists” as a religious content identification tag.

    English professors seem to understand this. Dr. Nicholas Bromell at the University of Massachusetts wrote in the recent American Scholar:

    A warrior who pledges fealty to the god of one Truth, a fundamentalist searches for personal conviction, not mutual understanding. So she regards skepticisms as apostasy, hesitations as heresy, and doubts as moral turpitude.

    Every atheist I have ever met is open to changing their minds. Dawkins states this… multiple times, over and over and over. Show me a miracle, and I’ll convert without hesitation. Find an out-of-sequence fossil in rock strata, and I’ll sign up at the Discovery Institute.

    If the supernaturalists want to call non-believers who hurt their feelings “fundamentalists”, we can’t stop them. All we can do is add that to our long checklist of how supernaturalist skew science for their emotional wellbeing.

  • Wytann Erdy

    The term “Bright” makes me cringe every time I hear it. If you are “Bright”, then please use your “brightness” to understand that the majority of humanity recognizes humility as a virtue.

    Since quizzes are so much fun, here’s one to consider. Using the word “bright” to describe oneself is an athiest’s equivalent to:

    a) spending every free second at the gym, wearing a tank top to the office, and not turning on your monitor on your PC because it ruins the reflection when you practice your pose.

    b) bragging to total strangers about the new “Axe of L33t Pwnage” your level 70 Paladin crafted in WoW.

    c) popping your collar.

    d) all of the above.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Wytann Erdy

    The term “Bright” makes me cringe every time I hear it. If you are “Bright”, then please use your “brightness” to understand that the majority of humanity recognizes humility as a virtue.

    Not necessarily. The brash and the brazen get noticed. Others profess humility, but it’s their social mask, pandering to the ‘majority,’ waiting for their moment in the limelight. As the saying goes, you can never be too rich, too famous, or too thin. Give your average person a chance to be the center of attention, and you get….American Idol. So don’t tell me people want to be humble. They just don’t like it when others aren’t. Hypocrites.

    ‘Bright’ isn’t referring to intelligence, (though there’s a strong inverse correlation between intelligence and religious belief), it’s a word like ‘gay,’ which was successfully used to transform what was formerly slurred as ‘homosexuality,’ a ‘disorder,’ into a positive political identity.

    ‘Bright’ will do the same thing for atheists over time. Maybe you don’t like the implications. But I’ll wear it loud and proud. Because the meek most certainly will not inherit the earth.

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

    My point is, the term “Bright” is simply unnecessary. In addition, it implies that everyone else is somehow “dark,” and interestingly enough, humankind has a marked aversion to darkness. Just ask any amateur astronomer who is having a hard time finding dark skies due to encroaching light pollution…

    Get out into that limelight if you will – just don’t insult others while you’re doing it. It gets everyone nowhere.

  • http://www.saintgasoline.com Saint Gasoline

    A simple “asshole” will suffice. I think that’s the best description of my stance.

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

    Mike C: Dawkins is hostile towards all people of faith.
    Stephen: Could you provide evidence of your claims?
    Mike C: No. But I once saw evidence somewhere.

    Dude… think what you like, but I didn’t say I couldn’t produce evidence. Frankly I just don’t have the time and don’t think it would do much good anyway. You will see what you want to see.

    I just don’t have time to go digging all over the internet and through books to try to pull out proof-texts to demonstrate why people of faith find Dawkins offensive. I’m too busy. I have a job and a life, and don’t really see a good reason to waste a lot of time trying to change y’alls minds. I’m sorry, but it’s just not that important to me.

    In fact, frankly, I give up. If the majority of you really can’t see any qualitative difference between the friendly atheist approach that Hemant takes, and the approach of the “whatever-we’re-calling-them” atheists like Dawkins, et al. then I really don’t see how anything else I would say could convince you. It’s either obvious to you or it’s not.

    And besides, if you guys like Dawkins approach – if your goal is to prove to everyone how right you are for being an atheist and how stupid theists are for believing in God – then more power to ya’. Let me know how that works out for you.

    Personally though, I still think there are far more important issues to be drawing my battle lines on.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C
    Would it be legitimate to say that atheists are stupid or have a mental disorder, and that teaching atheism to children is intellectual child abuse?

    Oh wait, I forgot, you’re right and we’re wrong, so it’s okay for your side to say that kind of stuff about us, just not vice versa, right?

    I presume you’re trying to characterize Dawkins in this turnabout, Mike.

    BTW, Siamang, I just wanted to clarify. I wasn’t just singling out Dawkins. My statement was more a composite of things that Dawkins, Harris, this RRS group, and several commentors at this blog have said at various times and in various ways. But I do appreciate your clarification about what Dawkins has and has not said. Thanks.

  • whomever1

    As a “Robert Anton Wilson agnostic”–

    Okay, lemme get this straight. If God neither exists, nor does not exist, does that mean that He exists, in spite of his non-existence? And if He does NOT exist, then does that mean that He DOES exist, in spite of the fact that He both exists and non-exists?

    I am a SubGenius TransSubstantialExistentialUberPhilosopher. I know all

    Basically my opinion is that the term “God” an all the lumber associated with it is so meaningless–and our understanding of reality equally suspect epistemologically–that it is pointless to define oneself in relationship to God. At least I think that’s the case for someone like myself who was never “churched”.

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    Frankly I just don’t have the time

    Dude… if you come on an atheist website, make claims about popular atheists, and then refuse to back up your claims because you’re too busy… I’m sorry, but what is it you are trying to accomplish here?

    What are we supposed to think about your intentions? That your position lasts until research has to be done? How can I differentiate between you and the several theists who also said “i don’t waste my time researching for online debates” when I’ve debated them on intelligent design, stem cells, etc… ?

    qualitative difference between the friendly atheist approach that Hemant takes

    Hemant rarely gives his point of view in these little comment debates, so I personally don’t know how he’d participate. And he stayed quiet at that Christian dinner he went to. Is this how you like it? How, exactly, am I supposed to disagree with your worldview while defending my own?

    really don’t see how anything else I would say could convince you

    “Convincing” will not happen in the naturalist v. supernaturalist debate. All I seek, and all I think is reasonable to seek, is that the other side clearly understands your position and your justifications.

    In fact, frankly, I give up.

    I know you don’t want to, Mike :) Come on!

  • http://atheism.about.com/ Austin Cline

    If you don’t have the time to support a claim, then don’t waste others’ time by making the claim. When you make claims you voluntarily assume an intellectual obligation to support them.

    You will see what you want to see.

    Whereas you are above such things and only see the truth?

    Why do I get the feeling that you are completely blind to how you are exhibiting the same condescension, arrogance, and disrespect you accuse Dawkins of?

    Oh, wait, I guess am only seeing what I want to see. It’s OK for you to make accusations about others’ tone, but perhaps I’m not accorded the same privilege.

    My conclusion is that you’re just a poser, pretending to be a voice of respect and kindness when suits you, but quickly reverting to condescending disrespect when others don’t buy it. How many of your complaints about Dawkins and Harris are just projection?

  • IceSixxx

    Hi there,

    Did you just go to the site of the brights and read the different definitions and actions? I am not going to copy/paste the website here so just go and read
    http://www.the-brights.net . Otherwise, I’m pretty much ok with BlackSun. It’s a positive word by opposition to non-believer, atheist, agnostic, … I couldn’t explain much better than the definition you find on the FAQ ( http://www.the-brights.net/vision/faq.html ).

    ‘Bright’ came from the French “Lumières” (enlightenment). Its name was chosen in opposition with the ‘darkness’ period Europe was leaving, something called ‘middle-age’ and particularly during the ‘Inquisition’ period (‘enquiry’ in English?) where slaughters and massacres of innocents naturalists (yes, witches!) where usual or during the Crusades. I consider that we are living a darkness area and I feel great to see a shade of light in there.

    Concerning the ‘dark’ opposite of ‘bright’, can I suggest you the DarkBrights? ;-)
    http://the-dark-brights.awardspace.com/

    The definition of the noun bright doesn’t refer to light or darkness neither to intelligence.

    Personnaly, I adopt the term bright as I am an atheist, secularist, naturalist, humanist, epicureanist, troskyst, skeptical and freethinker. Just easier.

    I don’t catch why it could be an insult to anyone? When I say I’m a bright, I’m not saying that you’re a idiot. It’s just my way to say all of the above.
    Can you read the difference between “I am a bright” and “I am bright”?

    ;-) Always look at the bright side of life!…

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

    And besides, if you guys like Dawkins approach – if your goal is to prove to everyone how right you are for being an atheist and how stupid theists are for believing in God – then more power to ya’. Let me know how that works out for you.

    Scarily enough, Mike C, it is working out all too well – my “buddies” the RRS are getting lots and lots of media coverage in their labeling of theism as a “mental disorder,” and they are making the case that we Atheists are all “fundies” rock-solid and unassailable…

    Personally though, I still think there are far more important issues to be drawing my battle lines on.

    Yeah, guys, why are we spinning our wheels with Mike C here when, as Hemant says, “there are bigger fish to fry?” As we speak, an “Atheist” organization seeks to destroy our good reputation, while in Topeka, KS a so-called “Baptist” church continues to picket American soldiers’ funerals because of their outright hatred of homosexuals.

    We need to get our damned priorities straight…

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

    IceSixxx:

    I don’t know why I can’t stop laughing. Perhaps I can explain:

    It’s a positive word by opposition to non-believer, atheist, agnostic, …

    Do I understand you to say that the term “Atheist” is NOT “a positive word?” Why wouldn’t it be? Why couldn’t it be? Do you understand that you’re replying to a post where Atheists are ALREADY being labeled something “not positive?”

    Now, first you say

    ‘Bright’ came from the French “Lumières” (enlightenment). Its name was chosen in opposition with the ‘darkness’ period

    and then you say

    The definition of the noun bright doesn’t refer to light or darkness

    IceSixxx, we have enough trouble getting this kind of doubletalk from our theist opponents. Please clarify whether the term “Bright” DOES or DOES NOT have anything to do with “darkness.” And yes – I do understand the difference between “Dark Ages” and “dark night.” Does’t matter.

    I don’t catch why it could be an insult to anyone?

    I already clarified this.

    If the Brights’ Net is doing so very well, why do you people feel the need to come out and proselytize or seek converts?

  • IceSixxx

    First of all, I am not such atheist expert you seem to be. Secondly, I am not doing proselytism. I didn’t ask anyone to refer as a bright but at the question “What do you call “Those” atheists?”, I just suggest the idea of going through the brights’site to take a look. Nothing more.

    non-believer: it seems there are ‘non’ which is kind of negation
    atheism: “disbelief in or denial of the existence of god or gods,… from Greek atheos: a (without) theos(god)”
    from Wikipedia: “The term atheism was originally used exclusively in a pejorative sense, against individuals considered impious, godless, or to believe in false gods. These disparaging connotations have been maintained, as atheists may still be seen as immoral and willfully and maliciously repudiating God or gods.

    I found that this is more negative than freethinker, humanist or so (or bright). But of course, imho it is very positive to be an atheist but the word is an opposition, a negation of theism.

    It’s the French name “Lumières” which was chosen in opposition with the ‘darkness’ period Europe was leaving. And I feel some resemblance between “Lumières” and “bright”. Of course, when you hear “bright”, you always immediately refer to light or brightness. It’s the catchy side of the name. And I like it as I found we are living a Dark Age. This is my point of view and it engages only me.
    The official definition of the word “bright”, as mentioned on the site, did not mention light, darkness or others luminosities. It do not say that all the peoples that don’t define themselves as “brights” are “darks” (as “gay” doesn’t mean that non-gay are unhappy people). It even propose the “super” term (for supernaturalist) which I found it’s bright (ok just kidding, sorry). It defines “bright” as a noun and not as an adjective. And it gives a completely new definition of it as a meme (I know, a Dawkins word). I just make a little difference between “the” definition and my perception of it.

    All my sayings are just my humble opinion and doesn’t engage anyone but me. I am not the spokeperson of the Brights. I am a bright. I do not ask anyone to refer himself as one.

    I hope I make you a good laughing again! ;-)

  • IceSixxx

    I hope I clarified all this.

    ;-)

  • Julie Marie

    I find Dawkins tone offensive too…but still find value in what he has to say. The trick is continuing to listen to his points after being offended! Its hard to calm down and listen for the meaning – it takes a high desire to understand anothers viewpoint. Its much easier to listen to a Hemant/Siamang/MTran style communicator….

    Many humans, when faced with an opposing belief, are listening only long enough to pick up the nugget that allows them to dismiss everything being said. Then the person trying to make the point gets frustrated. Its hard to continue calmly tyring to make your point when you have been dismissed. So then strident tone starts. And things go downhill from there.

    Thats why I like Hemants site, and the OTM blogs…people here are really seeking to understand each other. Its refreshing.

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

    Austin, Anthony, Stephen, and BlackSun (were there any other Dawkins-defenders here making a big deal about this?) –

    You keep demanding “evidence” that Dawkins and these others (e.g. Harris, the RRS, etc.) are truly offensive. But why is that a claim that requires “evidence”? The evidence is not in what they said, but in how people respond to what they’ve said. If they’ve offended both religious people and other atheists, then they are, by definition, offensive.

    You may argue that they aren’t intending to be, or that they are right to be, or whatever, but that doesn’t change the fact that people are offended. You might argue that those taking offense are misunderstanding or are too sensitive – and that very well might be true. But the fact then still remains that these atheist voices are not communicating very well if they are so often misunderstood and inadvertently stepping on so many toes.

    But my guess is that Dawkins, et al. know that they are offending believers and don’t care, just as you four really don’t care whether you show any respect to people with whom you disagree or opinions which are not your own (I’m not accusing, I’m just repeating back what you yourselves have just said here in these comments about how you don’t feel obliged to respect non-atheists.)

    At any rate, if you truly don’t care, then what’s the point of this conversation? You ask why I bother talking about this in the first place? It’s because I have this assumption that some atheists here do care about how they are perceived in the wider society, and want to do something to improve that image. I care about that goal too. I want you guys to be heard and respected – so I offer this advice in order to help anyone who’s interested. I’m trying to offer the atheists here insight into what type of communication is and is not effective with people like me.

    But, if you don’t care about that, then forget about it. Take it for what it’s worth to you or just leave it for someone who does care.

    BTW, I just finished re-reading Hemant’s book, and that is essentially what he does there – he gives an honest outsiders’ perspective on what Christians do that is and is not effective at communicating their message. He tells us what’s working and what is offensive. I appreciate his help with that, and I’m glad for a little honest, friendly criticism. I’m just here to return the favor. But if you guys aren’t interested in that, then I guess I’m just wasting my time.

    Peace,

    -Mike

  • Vik d.

    you can call me what ever you want, as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.

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

    “The term atheism was originally used exclusively in a pejorative sense, against individuals considered impious, godless, or to believe in false gods. These disparaging connotations have been maintained, as atheists may still be seen as immoral and willfully and maliciously repudiating God or gods.”

    That Wikipedia would discuss the “disparaging connotation” does not mean that they endorse that connotation. Do you (or the Brights) endorse the negative connotation that the term “Atheist” would appear to represent? And if you do, what is your problem?

    (as “gay” doesn’t mean that non-gay are unhappy people)

    Um, what? If you are referring to the now-infrequently used definition of that word, the one in which “gay” means “carefree”, “happy”, or “bright and showy,” then YES, “non-gay” DOES mean “NOT happy.” I fail to see your point here.

    I found that this is more negative than freethinker, humanist or so…

    Okaaaay, let’s go with that. Drop “Atheist” in the trashcan, sure, but drop “Bright” right in there with it. “Freethinker” is a fine term, let’s use THAT ONE.

    Brights are a non-issue. There is no good reason to take on their name, and their so-called “civic action” plan is to 1) try to convince people that they are useful and 2) give people (like me) who disagree with them a hard time when they speak up. That no one else seems to be charging into this particular topic is justification for my assertions. I shall comment no more on this silliness.

  • http://atheism.about.com/ Austin Cline

    I like how you shift your terms and claims whenever it’s convenient. FYI, I consider that to be an act of intellectual dishonesty.

    For example:

    But why is that a claim that requires “evidence”?

    There is a claim that requires evidence because your original claim was not that “Dawkins is offensive.” Your original claim was (and I hate that I need to quote your own words back to you, but apparently I do) that he uses a “tone of disrespect and attitude of hostility towards all people of faith.” That’s a claim that can be supported through evidence and reasoned argument. The mere fact that someone “takes offensive” is not sufficient to demonstrate that they are reacting to a genuine “tone of disrespect” or “attitude of hostility.”

    Unless, of course, they adopt some sort of “I can’t be wrong” attitude like you do here.

    The evidence is not in what they said, but in how people respond to what they’ve said. If they’ve offended both religious people and other atheists, then they are, by definition, offensive.

    I’ve offended people simply by saying that no gods exist. I’ve been told that the mere existence of a site about atheism offends them. According to you, I have by definition been offensive. I guess, by your estimation, I just shouldn’t say anything in order to risk not being offensive. Right?

    Martin Luther King, Jr., offended many white people when he denounced segregation. He offended many more people when he denounced the social systems that keep people in poverty (you still don’t hear much about those speeches today). Maybe he should have just kept his uppity mouth shut? Early feminists offended both men and women by talking about how women should be equal — maybe they should have kept their uppity mouths shut, too? PETA offends lots of people with their stunts, but those same stunts get people talking about animal welfare in ways they never would otherwise.

    Or is it possible that a person can’t limit themselves solely to those statements guaranteed not to offend? Maybe sometimes offensive truths are necessary in order to make changes in society. When was the last time those who enjoyed unjust privileges weren’t offended by demands for change?

    I want you guys to be heard and respected – so I offer this advice in order to help anyone who’s interested.

    And is one of the conditions of this that we not say anything which might offend anyone? I don’t need your help or advice in order to simply remain silent and not speak out.

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

    Don’t flatter yourself, you’re no Martin Luther King.

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

    Don’t flatter yourself, you’re no Martin Luther King.

    Indeed, Mike C. Only one man can be favorably compared to Martin Luther King, Jr., and that is David Mills, author of Atheist Universe (http://friendlyatheist.com/2007/03/01/how-not-to-blaspheme/). Mr. Mills’ heroic act of smearing the holy bible in doggie doo is to be considered on the precise same same plane as Dr. King’s peaceful protests in the 1960′s. Thank goodness for such rational, positive responses to the evils of theism. Dr. King would be proud. He really would.

  • IceSixxx

    Patrick,
    I did not say that Wiki support any theory. You called it “they” but Wikipedia is an organization, right? And it’s supposed to have impartial point of view. So it’s not an opinion but just facts.
    I do not “endorse” anything. Just go and watch the etymologic definition of “atheism” (you know, from the Greek…). There are negative connotation as atheist people seems to be like amoral person in some part of the world.
    Concerning the word “gay”, you’ve not failed, you are just on it!
    Freethinkers are not always naturalists nor atheists.
    I don’t want to throw any word to trashcan ‘cos I love words ;-)
    I still don’t get why you seem so upset? That’s no such a big thing, isn’t it?

    Peace, love, knowledge and wisdom to all!

  • Stephen

    Mike C:

    You keep demanding “evidence” that Dawkins and these others (e.g. Harris, the RRS, etc.) are truly offensive. But why is that a claim that requires “evidence”? The evidence is not in what they said, but in how people respond to what they’ve said.

    No, that is scarcely evidence at all. Theists have taken offence at such things as the waltz, the saxophone, the zip fastener, television, blood transfusions, heart transplants, evolution, sex education and geological dating. Would you care to explain how all these things are intrinsically offensive? State that a given passage in the bible is intended to be taken literally and some theist somewhere will take offence; say that the very same passage is intended to be taken metaphorically and another theist will take offence. Unreasonable people can take offence at just about anything, and there is no doubt that many theists are unreasonable. The question is whether what Dawkins wrote would be found unwarrantedly offensive by a reasonable person reading carefully.

    It was you who made the claim of “disrespect and attitude of hostility towards all people of faith”. Since this thread started, I have re-read several more pages of the God Delusion, and I literally cannot find a single sentence which, read carefully by a reasonable person, shows any support for your claim. I note that you don’t seem to be able to find any either.

    Incidentally the issue you raise above is dealt with quite thoroughly by Dawkins on pages 20-27. I am beginning to wonder whether you have really read (as opposed to briefly skimmed) the God Delusion at all.

    Let me give you a counter-question: given your obsession with offence, why do you think it acceptable to make offensive mischaracterisations of Dawkins’ writing?

  • Logos

    Indeed, Mike C. Only one man can be favorably compared to Martin Luther King, Jr., and that is David Mills, author of Atheist Universe (http://friendlyatheist.com/2007/03/01/how-not-to-blaspheme/). Mr. Mills’ heroic act of smearing the holy bible in doggie doo is to be considered on the precise same same plane as Dr. King’s peaceful protests in the 1960’s. Thank goodness for such rational, positive responses to the evils of theism. Dr. King would be proud. He really would.
    That doen not seem such an apt comparison!

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Mike C,

    But why is that a claim that requires “evidence”? The evidence is not in what they said, but in how people respond to what they’ve said.

    You just summed up the disconnect: What you are describing is subjectivity, solipsism, relativism, social-constructivism–whatever other label you want to call it–it’s the belief that a person’s perception defines reality.

    That’s the basic disconnect here. Do you want what feels good? Or do you want what’s true:

    P: “2+2=4″

    Q: “I object to that, it hurts my feelings.”

    P: “OK, then, 2+2=5, feel better?”
    Q: “Yes, thank you. Now I have hope and my life has meaning. You’re so kind!”

  • http://atheism.about.com/ Austin Cline

    Don’t flatter yourself, you’re no Martin Luther King.

    I didn’t say or imply that I was, and for you to respond with nothing but such a superficial misrepresentation tells me that you didn’t think hard enough about what I wrote to realize otherwise — or that you just didn’t want to deal with the substance of my post. Once again, you are behaving with the sort of condescending arrogance and hostility that you impute to Harris and Dawkins.

    You are a hypocrite and a poser who chooses to misrepresent others rather than deal with substantive arguments — and specifically those arguments which, not coincidentally, challenge your holier-than-thou position. Rather than face the possibility of being wrong, you would rather condescend and misrepresent. That, after all, permits you to imagine that you’re still superior to the rest of us.

    Every post of yours here is an exercise in arrogant self-righteousness in which you presume the moral authority to look down at pitiful atheists and instruct them on how better “represent” themselves — though the only “advice” you have is to not “offend,” regardless of what the truth might be. You of course don’t take your own advice and deliberate avoid confronting the fact that this “advice” is little more than a recommendation to sit down and shut up — the same advice given to almost anyone who challenges the status quo.

    Which means that you aren’t even original.

  • http://atheism.about.com/ Austin Cline

    I am beginning to wonder whether you have really read (as opposed to briefly skimmed) the God Delusion at all.

    As Mike C. wrote above, he’s only read “excerpts” from this book. Did you expect him to form his opinions on the basis of a thorough and careful review of all the available evidence? Remember: making people feel good is more important than truth, so if people feel bad when they hear or read Dawkins, then it doesn’t matter what’s “true” about what he really says, or if anything he says is “true.” All that matters is making people feel better about themselves and validating their beliefs.

    If you challenge this, Mike can find some marginal phrase to focus on and misrepresent, thus providing a distraction from the fact that he’s ignoring every argument or point you’ve raised. After all, if you’re concerned solely with whether your arguments are true or not, then you’re part of the problem anyway.

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

    Keep going guys. You’re doing a fabulous job of providing all the examples I need of the kind of thing I’m talking about. Why should I waste my time digging through Dawkins’ stuff when you’re already illustrating exactly what I mean?

  • http://atheism.about.com/ Austin Cline

    Why should I waste my time digging through Dawkins’ stuff when you’re already illustrating exactly what I mean?

    If strenuous objections to your self-righteous and self-important moralizing are all that’s necessary for you to complain about a “tone of disrespect and attitude of hostility towards all people of faith,” I think it may be “case closed” on whether you ever really saw anything truly objectionable in Dawkins’ work.

    I think you could modify the above, though, to something more justified: Why should you waste your time digging through Dawkins’ stuff when you can spend a few moments of self-reflection to find all the problems that concern you? I know, self-reflection is a difficult task because we don’t always like what we see in the mirror. When was the last time you took a serious look at how you behave towards atheists who don’t immediately agree with you and adopt the attitude you expect?

    I’ll be generous though, and amend any of my posts thus far directed to you if you can explain how and why I should have responded to you differently.

    I don’t think you can do it.

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

    …and we all have nothing better to do than to crucify Mike C. Nice. Real nice.

    Is it any wonder we don’t get no respect?

  • MTran

    Mike C., (or anyone else who wants to jump in)

    Hope you have a pleasant Easter. And if you (or anyone else) don’t get around to this thread for a while, or at all, I would completely understand.

    This question is not meant to put your feet to fire, now, so please don’t take it that way. And I’m not expecting anyone to do a book report or anything. But I have really tried to see what it is in Dawkins’ words or manners that so offends people. If anyone can explain it, whether from their own view or what they have heard from others, I would appreciate it.

    Most of the time, the people who say they are offended do not point to any particular thing, they just say Dawkins is arrogant and offensive. Once or twice people have told me they didn’t like a particular part of a video or a sentence in an interview but they never say what makes the words particularly offensive and usually fail to put the moment in context.

    The only cited expression of “arrogance” I have been directed to is a short snippet from Root of All Evil where Haggard accuses Dawkins of being arrogant when it is Haggard who is posturing, preening, sneering and snarling. If Dawkins responds somewhat testily at this point, who is to blame here? The sneering, hypocritical, lying Haggard or Dawkins, the target of Haggard’s disdain?

    People who don’t like Dawkins seem to think he’s a sort of of deliberately offensive character like Borat. But he isn’t. Borat’s shtick is to mislead people by relying on their accommodating manners then subjecting them to gross affronts or encouraging them to display their worst behaviors for the sole purpose of ridicule and humiliation.

    Dawkins does none of that, yet he is reviled. So I am constantly led to conclude that the problem is not the messenger but the message — that there are no gods — itself.

    Can anyone provide me with a better, or at least more clear, measure of “offensiveness”?

  • Steelman

    To Austin Cline:

    You’re right about Mike C. not reading The God Delusion. He may not like Dawkins’ style, but the excerpts he’s read may have misled him about the author’s attitude. I didn’t agree with everything in TGD, but I think it’s a good book. I hope Mike will find the time to read it. However, as much time as Mike seems to spend on this forum, I really doubt he’s missed out on any convincing arguments for atheism.

    You’re also right about how people can sometimes be offended by the truth, even if the person speaking that truth isn’t actually trying to be in the least offensive. However, I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. I’ve only been visiting The Friendly Atheist for a few weeks now, but, from the numerous posts from Mike C. that I’ve read, I think you’re mischaracterizing him.

    I’ve heard the art of diplomatic communication described as the ability to tell someone to “go to hell” in such a way that they pack their bags and call their travel agent. You, apparently, prefer a more straightforward approach:

    “Once again, you are behaving with the sort of condescending arrogance and hostility that you impute to Harris and Dawkins.”
    …and…
    “You are a hypocrite and a poser who chooses to misrepresent others rather than deal with substantive arguments — and specifically those arguments which, not coincidentally, challenge your holier-than-thou position.”
    …and…
    “Every post of yours here is an exercise in arrogant self-righteousness in which you presume the moral authority to look down at pitiful atheists and instruct them on how better “represent” themselves — though the only “advice” you have is to not “offend,” regardless of what the truth might be.”

    Project much, Austin?
    That type of unwarranted vitriol is the reason I stopped visiting your web site.

  • Brett

    No offense guys, but this really reminds of a certain South Park episode. I know it’s important to find the right terms to define oneself, but it doesn’t seem that any progress has been made in the last 50 posts or so of this discussion. Everyone’s talking past each other and completely missing the others’ points. I think I’m going to go do something productive, like read my copy of I Sold My Soul on eBay. Or help people. :-)

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

    I think I’m going to go do something productive, like read my copy of I Sold My Soul on eBay. Or help people. :-)

    Couldn’ta said it better meself…

  • Simon

    …and we all have nothing better to do than to crucify Mike C. Nice. Real nice.

    Is it any wonder we don’t get no respect?

    This gets my vote for the absolute worst comment of the entire thread. I’m stunned.

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

    This gets my vote for the absolute worst comment of the entire thread. I’m stunned.

    Constructive criticism is a hallmark of rationality, my friend. Do elaborate.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Mike C,

    Keep going guys. You’re doing a fabulous job of providing all the examples I need of the kind of thing I’m talking about. Why should I waste my time digging through Dawkins’ stuff when you’re already illustrating exactly what I mean?

    Obfuscate, claim moral high-ground, deny, squirm, repeat. Draw people out and then refuse to back up your claims when pressed. No substance at all. Keep wanking and prancing, Mike. You’ve now officially crossed into troll status. (By definition someone who attempts to repeatedly draw others out to get attention, but is not interested in serious discussion.)

    You say:

    I want you guys to be heard and respected – so I offer this advice in order to help anyone who’s interested. I’m trying to offer the atheists here insight into what type of communication is and is not effective with people like me.

    But that’s the problem: “people like you” don’t want to hear truth or reality. A ‘political’ atheism you would accept would be so watered down as to be philosophically meaningless. “Hmm, well I’m not sure what’s real or not, so I think I’ll put all claims on an equal footing, and that way everyone can be happy.” This is “pussy epistemology,” in the words of Richard Hanley, author of the hilarious (but still substantive) and highly recommended South Park and Philosophy.

    What you fail to understand, Mike, is that most atheists aren’t talking to you or “people like you.” I speak for myself only, but I don’t give a flying two-fisted fuck whether you or any other theist thinks I’m a nice person. I’d rather earn the grudging respect of 5 or 10 people in my closest inner circle, for hard-fought balls-to-the-wall embodied knowledge and strength of character, than have a million obsequious admirers. If anyone writes “he was a nice person” on my tombstone, I’ll freakin’ kill ‘em. ;-)

    Don’t be Nice, Be Real, as Kelly Bryson said in his book. Normally I consider his stuff to be somewhat laced with psychobabble. But its all about developmental stages, I guess. For someone who is just trying to get off the hardcore-religious-crystal-meth-like denial addiction, it might be appropriate. At least it will get you off the crack, and onto real and truthful communication–where you can deal with your anxiety, and understand what you’re about, instead of throwing up a smokescreen of fake kindness and faux reasonability when you feel intellectually threatened.

    And make no mistake: that’s what this whole “fundamentalist atheist” dustup is about. People don’t like having their belief systems threatened, so the memetic immune system kicks into overdrive and attempts to shift the focus and social opprobrium back onto the source of the discomfort. It’s not going to work.

    Good-bye Mike. For other sensible atheists, my $.02: Don’t feed the troll.

  • MTran

    Good-bye Mike. For other sensible atheists, my $.02: Don’t feed the troll.

    Mike C. is not a troll. He may not have answered everyone’s questions on this issue but he is not a troll.

    Or perhaps I misunderstood you and you are pointing to someone other than Mike C.?

    Hmmm, I think this is a good time to break into the seasonal chocolate stash. Everything’s better with a little theobromine.

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

    But I have really tried to see what it is in Dawkins’ words or manners that so offends people. If anyone can explain it, whether from their own view or what they have heard from others, I would appreciate it.

    This is a fair question, MTran. Let’s try this:

    On Amazon.com, under “God Delusion,” “Editorial Reviews,” “From Publisher’s Weekly:” supposedly, Dawkins writes:

    the biblical Yahweh is “psychotic,”

    My problems with this:

    1. Dawkins, as far as I know, is no psychologist/psychiatrist by trade.
    2. He “diagnoses” that which simply does not exist.

    Why does an evolutionary biologist, outside of his chosen field, diagnose something that does not exist? It makes no sense. What purpose does it serve? Where does ANYONE get by saying Yahweh is “psychotic?” If I were left to guess, I’d say he was trying to rattle somebody’s cage. If that be truly the case, let him state that and then explain the reason for the cage-rattling. Surely there is good reason for rattling the cages of bigots and intolerant fools, I have no problem with that. We just have to make sure that what we say is going toward some good point. What is the point of calling a non-existent deity “psychotic?”

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Mike C.,

    Give up. It’s not worth it. 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.). I find stuff like that way more offensive than when he says things like:

    “My last vestige of “hands off religion” respect disappeared in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th 2001, followed by the “National Day of Prayer,” when prelates and pastors did their tremulous Martin Luther King impersonations and urged people of mutually incompatible faiths to hold hands, united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place.” (A Devil’s Chaplin, p. 157)

    What’s offensive about this is that it shows Dawkins’ ignorance about the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxis (again, something Dawkins wouldn’t have any clue about since he seems unwilling to engage theology).

    And I think it’s safe to say that anybody who denies this is either ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    MTran,

    Mike C. is not a troll. He may not have answered everyone’s questions on this issue but he is not a troll.

    That’s exactly who I’m talking about. What do you call it when someone makes a claim such as he did about Dawkins and then repeatedly refuses to back it up?

    On top of that, afterward, he switched tactics: when others got exasperated with him, he claimed that was ‘exactly what I’m talking about’ as ample evidence of his first point, but still failed to provide anything substantive to back it up 2 days and 80 posts later!!

    Keep going guys. You’re doing a fabulous job of providing all the examples I need of the kind of thing I’m talking about. Why should I waste my time digging through Dawkins’ stuff when you’re already illustrating exactly what I mean?

    It’s about as clear a case for trolldom as I’ve seen since I dealt with my own troll on Black Sun Journal last year. If you want to waste your time with him, be my guest.

  • MTran

    BlackSun,

    Based on other threads where Mike C. has contributed I would say he simply is unable to give a substantive answer at this time. He may never be able to do so, but that doesn’t mean he is a troll. I don’t believe that he is here in order to simply stir things up or start a flame war, as trolls are wont to do.

    I have no tolerance for those I consider to be trolls, by the way, and don’t hesitate to skewer them if need be. We may simply have different limits for what constitutes trolling, but on this particular site, it seems to me that Mike C. has tried to be helpful most of the time.

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

    MTran: “But I have really tried to see what it is in Dawkins’ words or manners that so offends people.”

    What offends me. at least, is that he puts very little effort into making sure the contents of his critiques of religion are correct. Sometimes he can get away with this, because much of religion is obviously vacuous or wrong, and it just doesn’t take that much effort, but sometimes his intellectual laziness shows. Dawkins’ treatment of the Trinity in The God Delusion is a triumph of rhetoric over logic. Go and try to map his argument for yourself. (Hint: Don’t take his word that his quote from St. Gregory is obscure in its meaning. Try to parse it yourself.) His treatment of the ontological argument looks like it could have been written by someone who never understood its flaws and tried to bluff his way through by anecdotes and pasting together stuff he found on the Internet. Considering that there are certainly good refutations of the ontological argument in the literature, this oversight is rather strange. Dawkins says, “I care about what’s true, I care about evidence.” I don’t see much evidence of this.

    It would be one thing if Dawkins occasionally let his passion override his rationality. I’ve done that myself, but I try to at least to learn from my mistakes and not make a habit of it. I have yet to see Dawkins recognize his mistakes about his treatment of religion, let alone learn from them.

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

    Can anyone provide me with a better, or at least more clear, measure of “offensiveness”?

    MTran,

    I’m not sure it’s possible for me to answer you without getting jumped on, but I appreciate your honest desire to understand. Let me give this one last try:

    First off, it’s not just about Dawkins. He’s probably the least offensive of the bunch. I find statements made by some of the others mentioned here (and some of the others commenting here) to be far more offensive than anything Dawkins has said.

    Second, it’s not about atheist beliefs in particular. I’m not offended by people who say they don’t believe in God. In fact, I don’t even think they’re “wrong” per se. I just think they’ve chosen a different possible interpretation of the facts than I have. Why should that offend me?

    Let me try to explain what I see as the problem. And let me turn it around and describe what it looks like among my own people (i.e. Christians) so that perhaps it will come across a little less accusatorily.

    Among Christians there are are a few different attitudes towards atheists, a few different things we might say:

    Some might say, “I believe in God, but I can understand why you might not, and that seems like a valid option too.”

    Others might say, “I believe in God, and I don’t really understand why you do not, but I’m willing to assume that you have good reasons, and listen to find out what they are (and maybe share the reasons for my own belief too).”

    And still others might say, “I believe in God and anyone who doesn’t is just stupid and wrong. My goal in life is to tell all these people why they’re wrong and convince more people to agree with me.”

    For most of my life I was like this third set of Christians, until I got fed up with myself and decided I didn’t want to be like that anymore. I didn’t like the way that mindset led me to treat others.

    I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of these three types the atheists we’re talking about here are most like. But if you know why you find Christians that act like #3 offensive then you’re on your way to knowing why Christians find atheists who act like that to be offensive too.

    I hope that makes sense.

    Peace,
    -Mike

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    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.

    Of course not. What kind of an effective meme would self-define in such an obviously contradictory way?

    Now here comes the part about “interior subjective experience” being evidence. You can dress the claims up all you want in flowery language, but in the end, I’ve never seen a theologian who had anything else to offer. If that doesn’t work, they switch to the Teleological argument, or the argument from First Cause. Honestly, we’ve heard it all.

    Even Terry Eagleton’s ‘debunking’ of The God Delusion rested on exactly that point. When you stripped away the 4,000 words of fluff, he argued from personal experience, consequence, and concluded that Dawkins was wrong because he was ‘vain’ and ‘mean.’ My debunking of the debunking has been one of my most popular posts of all time.

    What’s offensive about this is that it shows Dawkins’ ignorance about the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxis (again, something Dawkins wouldn’t have any clue about since he seems unwilling to engage theology).

    OK, so let me get this straight: Dawkins is offensive because he doesn’t know the difference between religious based on canonical beliefs and those based on canonical practices? Why does this matter at all when both come from the baseless authority of human-authored scripture?

    This is the problem with discussions with theists in general: You don’t understand that your reasoning is circular and tautological. You cite your own man-made sources as the evidence for your invisible god. And then you stack that evidence up against the real tangible kind?

    No wonder Dawkins calls you all “barking mad!”

  • Simon

    Constructive criticism is a hallmark of rationality, my friend. Do elaborate.

    Sure thing Patrick.

    - I was highly frustrated (yet amused) with your use of the word “crucify” to describe what was happening to Mike C. While utterly ridiculous, it does encapsulate the attitude around here that to argue rationally with a religious person is itself a cruel, inhumane act, worthy of condemnation from the pious and friendly atheist defenders of religious thought. Well, that’s not quite true. Arguing seems to be fine as long as the argument is delivered in the warmest, fuzziest, most reverential package possible, at least when the argument is directed towards one of those delicate religious folk. I don’t notice the same standard being applied to anyone who argues with one of the mean atheists, however.
    - the timing of the comment: Austin Cline had just posted a series of comments that contained many great points and observations. Your comment casually dismissed everything he took the time to think about and write, before anyone could even respond. I didn’t think that was the least bit fair.
    - in my opinion, Mike C’s arguments had been completely demolished. Just prior to your comment, I was curious to see whether he would think about what had been said and respond intelligently, or choose any number of less productive approaches. I feel like you jumping to his defense to shut the mean atheist up eliminated any chance of us hearing something thoughtful from Mike on this thread. Why would he respond when he instead gets to hide behind his defenders who don’t require that he back up his assertions with evidence, as the rest of us would prefer he do?
    - the “Is it any wonder we don’t get no respect?” part of the comment was frustrating to me because the comments you had a problem with were thoughtful, intelligent confrontations. I was impressed with the points that Austin and others had been bringing up. I had respect for his (their) arguments. Your comment (and those like it) suggests to me that around here, respect is earned through capitulation and submissiveness moreso than real debate.
    - the fact that you said “we” in referring to atheists deservedly not getting respect seems to me to be disingenuous. What I think you really think is that you are upset that the uppity, angry, mean atheists like Austin Cline and Dawkins are acquiring a bad reputation which reflects on all atheists, including you kind, decent, friendly ones. You want them to shut up and leave poor Mike alone, and leave the dialogue to the nice folk.

    Anyway, you seem like a nice guy and I’m sure you probably just felt bad for Mike (he really was getting his clock cleaned at the time) and thought you’d try to end the carnage. I’m actually a non-confrontational person (in real life, not quite as much in blog comment threads) and can sympathize with that attitude, if that’s in fact what was going on. I stand by my points above, however. Your comment, especially at the time, was like nails on a chalkboard to me.

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

    Re: Dawkins

    Rather than re-invent the wheel on a book that I haven’t had time to read and critique thoroughly yet, let me point you to a review/critique written by my friend Scot McKnight, a professor at North Park University here in Chicago. He has an 8-part review of the God Delusion over at his blog. It starts here and continues through January 23 (you might have to look a little bit to find all 8 parts). He and his reviewing partner raise a lot of the criticisms that I would likewise raise about Dawkins’ approach.

    I hope you’ll accept that in lieu of my own detailed critique. It’s Holy Week and I’m too busy getting ready for services to put much more time into this.

    Pax

  • MTran

    I’d really like to respond to a number of comments that have shown up in the last hour or so but I’ve got a bunch of obligations that I’ve got to tend to and want to give an adequate reply to each of you. So I’ll get back as soon as I’m able, (I’m thinking monday and hope I’m not too exhausted by then).

    In the meantime, everyone enjoy the week end.

    Later

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    MTran

    I have no tolerance for those I consider to be trolls, by the way, and don’t hesitate to skewer them if need be. We may simply have different limits for what constitutes trolling, but on this particular site, it seems to me that Mike C. has tried to be helpful most of the time.

    Well if that’s your experience, OK. I guess I’m just exaperated with the whole thread which seems to not be getting anywhere. I’ll admit the troll comment is just my subjective opinion. But I’d like to see people here a little more concerned with truth and empirical methods. The rest is just entertainment.

    The Black Sun Credo

    “The quest for empirical knowledge and reason gives purpose to life. Supernaturalism, mysticism and religion take it away. The best anyone can do is to attempt to eliminate all beliefs and subjective biases.”

    I’m outta here. Happy Bunny Day!

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    My point about orthodoxy and orthopraxy is that even if you think somebody’s beliefs are wrong, you can still show respect for somebody’s practices. In the quote of Dawkins I provided, he shows that the respect he gives for people is based on their beliefs, not their practice. Terrorists and people praying for victims both are religious when it comes down to it, so the fact that they live out their religious faith in completely different ways seems to have little effect on the respect Dawkins has for them. I find that offensive.

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

    Well said macht.

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

    No wonder Dawkins calls you all “barking mad!”

    Wait a minute! I thought you all said that Dawkins has never said anything that could be construed as offensive?

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

    Your comment, especially at the time, was like nails on a chalkboard to me.

    And I shall continue to scrape my nails on that chalkboard, if it achieves the end of getting people to listen. I am no “nice guy” Atheist, I simply don’t understand why we have to all go insane at the slightest scent of theist blood. What did we achieve here today, but to have our own little “delusion” that all of our comments against Mike C. were right, rational, and good? Do you not see that theists do this very thing? How does it help for us to act like the people we are trying to get to see reason?

    If you want to continue with your labeling and name calling, fine. Do it. You don’t know me, you don’t understand me, and you don’t try to understand me. As I told one YouTube idiot, get to know who I am first. THEN you can label me. At least give me that respect as a fellow Atheist.

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

    BTW, if anyone is wanting further “evidence” on why I find Dawkin’s approach less than convincing or appealing, I’d also highly recommend this article. Again, I don’t have time to repeat all the critiques here, but I’ll let Ms. Robinson speak for herself.

    Also, though I don’t often agree with Michael Novak, I found that his review of Dawkins, Harris and Dennett contains many good critiques.

  • Simon

    If you want to continue with your labeling and name calling, fine. Do it.

    Um, I called you “Patrick” and I said that you “seem like a nice guy”.

    Anyway, I’ll happily apologize for and take back both labels (“Patrick” and “seemingly nice guy”) I unfairly applied to you until I get to know you better, which will be never. In order to avoid making the same mistake, I shall from now on refer to you as

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

    Simon:

    As if I must do this, here are some of the labels you threw around in your comment to me:

    “utterly ridiculous”
    “amusing”
    “cruel, inhumane”
    “pious and friendly atheist defenders of religious thought”
    “those delicate religious folk”.
    “mean atheists”
    “unfair”
    “thoughtful, intelligent confrontations”
    “disingenuous”
    “uppity, angry, mean atheists”
    “kind, decent, friendly” (obviously in sarcasm)
    “like nails on a chalkboard”

    For the places where you were serious, your points were insipid and useless. For those where you were being sarcastic, well, I do better sarcasm with a single word than you do in an entire novel.

    If you continue to avoid the points I have made in my past comments, fine. But you, along with several other people on here, are no Atheist. If you continue to claim to be, then that is unfortunate, for you are truly an embarrassment to our movement.

  • 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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