Interview with Becky Garrison, author of The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail

Becky Garrison is the author of the just-released The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail: The Misguided Quest to Destroy Your Faith (Thomas Nelson, 2008). She is also Senior Contributing Editor for The Wittenburg Door, an online Christian satire magazine.

The book’s description (on Amazon) is this:

… Garrison steels her pen and takes on the ungodly program of the New Atheists, skewering each argument with her sharp satiric wit. Garrison turns aside the atheists’ assault without ignoring its real criticisms, namely, the church’s inadequate response to war, evolution, medical ethics, social justice, and other important issues in the post-9/11 world.

Reading through the book, I didn’t think it responded to most of the New Atheists’ arguments, much less “each argument.” Garrison says that she wants the book to “build bridges” between atheists and Christians, but I just became more and more incensed as I read it. It wasn’t because she was attacking the New Atheists. It’s because I thought she was getting a lot of things just plain wrong.

To her credit, she did offer to answer my main questions (all of her responses are below).

And in full disclosure, after her diatribe against the New Atheists, she features a full-length interview with me (a.k.a. a “friendly” atheist) in the appendix. I’m appreciative that it was included and I like how I was portrayed.

That said, the rest of the book didn’t do anything to make me think the New Atheists are misinformed. Garrison is not an apologist or scientist, so she can’t take on a number of the New Atheists’ claims in certain areas (nor does she try to). But that leaves her with only her sense of humor to criticize them and I don’t believe atheists will be swayed by that.

You can judge for yourself.

Before we get to the interview, Garrison wanted to mention this:

I want to note that as the Senior Contributing Editor for The Wittenburg Door (www.wittenburgdoor.com), I am a religious satirist who takes aim at sacred cows. As I stated in The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail, I do not claim, nor do I desire to claim, a position as an apologist. There are many talented theological types that can tackle that beast. So, please don’t take everything I say at face value. When fellow satirist Jonathan Swift penned “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public” back in 1729, he never intended that the poor actually eat their own children as a means to alleviate poverty. Rather, as an Anglican clergyman living in Ireland, he employed his satirical skills to address the massive ills he saw before him. Likewise, while I make my statements with my tongue firmly implanted inside my cheek, buried beneath the literal text are golden grains of truth.

Here is my interview with Garrison:

Hemant Mehta: You say this early on:

“With so many people seeking spiritual solutions to our contemporary crises, how do we account for the recent rise of these New Atheists (‘Brights’), a group that tends to define the ideological conflict as being ‘between the Brights and the Dims, the Rationalists and the Superstitious?’ In dishing their dirt, anti-God gurus Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett have succeeded in grabbing the media spotlight and the New York Times Best Seller List by ridiculing people of faith.”

(p. 3)

You say a lot of things in this paragraph that are inaccurate. This includes: saying New Atheists are the same as Brights (a lot of Brights would disagree with you), citing the opposite of a Bright as a Dim (instead of a Super), saying Dawkins/Harris/Dennett are anti-God (when that label could only correctly be applied to Christopher Hitchens), and saying they are ridiculing people of faith (rather than faith itself).

Becky Garrison: My sources for the term “Brights” were Gary Wolf, “The Church of the Non-Believers,” Wired, as well as Daniel Dennett’s ongoing use of the term. My suggestion to those who don’t want to be called “Brights” is to take it up with those that taught me the term. [bg] Also, unless a New Atheist turns into another Anthony Flew, the satirist in me will continue to call them anti-God gurus. BTW- The quote you cited is listed in the endnotes as follows: “The New Atheism,” Front Toward Enemy.

HM: You equate Sam Harris to Ann Coulter:

“For Harris, 9/11 was the spark that started the fire that led to The End of Faith, while Coulter used this tragic day as a license to spew racist remarks. Both are deplorable.”

(p. 7)

Do you actually think spewing racial hatred is the same as criticizing religion?

BG: To quote Sam Harris, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion” (See “the Temple of Reason,” Sun Magazine) and “Since 20 percent of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, God is, quote, ‘the most prolific abortionist of all.’” (Letter to a Christian Nation, 38). Even though I have never been raped nor had an aberration, as a woman I find these two statements on par with Coulter’s most racist rant. Simply put, both are deplorable.

HM: You say this about Daniel Dennett:

“[Daniel Dennett] must be brilliant because no one can understand what he is talking about.”

(p. 7)

What is so difficult to understand? I found his books among the easier to read and most informative out of the New Atheist crop of books.

BG: My description of Daniel Dennett as a Monty Pythonesque philosopher, who reminds me of Dr. Jenkins in Animal House, represents my satirical take on philosophers. I would take Dennett semi-seriously except that when he replied to Orr’s review, he bragged that he only devoted a scant six pages of Breaking the Spell to the arguments for and against the existence of God. Apparently, he found almost all of the theological research on these topics to be “so dreadful that ignoring it completely seemed both the most charitable and most constructive policy.” (See “A Mission to Convert”). How can anyone pen a book critiquing God and yet refuse to engage with contemporary theological thinkers such as N.T. Wright, Jürgen Moltmann, and Walter Bruggeman? Using this illogic, I could stroll around the International UFO Congress in search of “scientific” data.

HM: You don’t argue against Christopher Hitchens because his publishers did not let you excerpt any material from God is Not Great. Couldn’t you still have argued against his ideas? He makes similar arguments against religion in his writings for Vanity Fair and Slate.

BG: Articles and other material can supplement an author’s arguments but they don’t take the place of the primary source material. As I noted in my book, how anyone can publish a book filled with anti-God diatribes and then not allow the person who penned this poison to get into the ring and go the distance with a seasoned satirist remains a mystery. While Hitchens possesses the ability to pen poisonous sound bites that make me laugh despite myself, he doesn’t make any substantial arguments that aren’t made by Harris, Dawkins or Dennett.

HM: You write:

“If you don’t want to believe in God, fine. But why can’t these New Atheists give followers of the faith the right to believe in God if we so choose? I’d be happy to have us all play in our own respective spiritual sandboxes, except that religious extremists and now the New Atheists keep throwing sand in our faces.”

(p. 18)

When did the New Atheists ever say they wanted to take away your right to believe in God? Certainly they want to convince you that an actual God’s existence is not supported by any evidence, but I’ve never heard them say you shouldn’t be allowed to believe if you so choose.

BG: Here I would beg to differ. I see no difference in the New Atheists’ tone and tactics from that of say Focus on the Family. Both camps employ rhetoric that implies they want to create a monochromatic world that’s viewed through their own particular lens.

HM: You have a section in the book where you compare the New Atheists’ “game plan” to the Iraq War strategy and say the New Atheists have no way to “define victory.” You say:

“Doesn’t look to me like they’ve come up with any comprehensive anti-God evangelism campaign whatsoever.”

(p. 22)

To me, that’s not the issue. If people are going to agree with the atheists, it has to happen organically, after a long thought process, hopefully sparked by the atheists’ books. There is no organized plan. The books were written by people fed up with the irrationality of religion — some writing without knowledge of the others. You ask what they are fighting for (p. 23), but isn’t it obvious that they’re fighting for what they believe (and most atheists would agree) is the truth? You also ask if promoting atheism serves the common good (p. 25), but again, that’s beyond the question of truth. It’s also beyond the question of atheism, which is merely one answer to one question (Do you believe in God?)…

BG: I’ve been able to engage in civilized discourse with the vast majority of atheists I’ve met. Again, I am employing the tools of satire to target four New Atheists, who have chosen to go after God with all the tact of a Star Wars stormtrooper. To quote evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson in his book Evolution Is for Everyone, “[Darwin’s] interactions with people from all walks of life were primarily respectful and cordial. We can learn from his humility and good humor in presenting his theory to others, in addition to the theory itself.” (page 6) So, perhaps certain contemporary Darwinians could take a page from Darwin’s playbook and follow not just his methodology but also his manners.

HM: At one point, you attack the idea that religion could be a meme. You write:

“According to Dawkins, a meme spreads from one brain to another brain, like a virus. Hence, one can become infested with religion as though faith was a contagious and deadly disease… If you’re confused, that’s OK. Most other scientists don’t seem to get it either.”

(p. 41)

Did you look at any of the numerous scientific papers written about memes? What resources were you using? When writing about how religion could be a meme, you say, “While this isn’t a popularity contest, wouldn’t the entire scientific community embrace wholeheartedly a discovery of this magnitude?” That seems to be a misunderstanding of what a meme is. It’s not a scientific “discovery” at all; it’s just a theoretical way of looking at certain ideas.

BG: The section where you extrapolated this quote contained my scientific sources. Here’s the rest of the quote: “Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist, states, ‘Just what a meme is and how it is distinguishable from beliefs, I find difficult.’ (See Lewis Wolpert, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief, 30.) Also, Orr sees “no difference between saying that my morals derive from, say, Christianity and saying that my brain hosts a ‘Christian morality meme.’” (See “A Mission to Convert”.) As I am a satirist not a scientist, I took great care to quote those scientists who were well respected in their respective fields by their contemporaries. I brought this up because I found it telling that except for Daniel Dennett, I was hard pressed to find anyone who wholeheartedly supported Dawkins’ application of the “meme” into the religious debate. Meanwhile, this scientist ridicules the efforts of fellow scientists Francis Collins, Joan Roughgarden and [Kenneth] Miller when they discuss the intersection of science and religion. I, for one, would love to see reasoned and well informed debates on this topic instead of the truly god-awful “Christian vs. Atheist Celebrity Death Match” where the worst of both sides of the debate was on full display.

HM: You write:

“I fully understand why New Atheists like Sam Harris believe an event such as 9/11 proves there is no God.”

(p. 84)

When did Harris write that? Do you know the difference between saying there is no god versus not believing that one exists in the first place? The New Atheists never say the former, just the latter.

BG: If Harris believes the latter, then I’d suggest he refrain from penning articles with inflammatory titles such as “There Is No God (and You Know It)” (The Huffington Post).

HM: There’s a part where you quote someone saying “The scientific method… cannot measure love and joy in a family. But it can measure a growing bank account, larger cars, and increasingly sophisticated gadgets.” You go on to say “In the end, which matters more?” This is a false dichotomy. It’s not that atheists want science to be the end-all-be-all for everything. But it’s the best method we have of discovering the truth. By using the quotation, you seem to be implying that the reason people use the scientific method is for their own self interest.

BG: I am quoting from Ron Sider’s seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Here you raise the question that has plagued scientists, philosophers and theologians throughout centuries – “What is truth?” We can’t explore this question in a meaningful manner dialogue as long as Christian fundamentalists or their secular counterparts choose to demonize the other.

HM: You write:

“But when these New Atheists show their true religious colors by viewing evolution (aka science) as their God, my satirical sense starts getting antsy.”

(p. 130)

Obviously, no atheist considers evolution or science to be a religion. Hell, with proper evidence, good science can be overturned, whereas God is always supposed to be perfect and never changing. When do the New Atheists treat science as a religion?

BG: In a nutshell, there are limits to every discipline, a point those with a humble heart recognize and accept. As an outsider looking in, “select” New Atheists seem to have proclaimed Darwin as their God. If that is not the case, then I suggest they dial down their rhetoric and allow for a more nuanced discussion instead of speaking in absolutes. These four horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse come off just as odious and obnoxious as the most obstinate “family values” fanatics.

HM: You call my group the Secularist Student Alliance! (Footnote 21, p. 209) It’s the Secular Student Alliance! That’s just unforgivable…

BG: Sorry bud – I put in a request for it to be included in the second edition. A libation of your choosing is on me whenever we meet in person. After all, my mantra is “you state your views, I state mine and then we go out for a drink.” Cheers.

Garrison also added this addendum:

Right after I sent off my questions to you, I got a review copy of The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andrew Comte-Sponville. As written on the book jacket “According to Conte-Sponville, we have allowed the concept of spirituality to become intertwined with religion and have lost touch with the nature of a true spiritual existence. In order to change this, however, we need not reject the ancient traditions and values that are part of our heritage; rather, we must rethink our relationship to these values and ask ourselves whether their significance comes from the existence of a higher power or simply from the human need to connect to one another and the universe.” While we all may reach a different conclusion as to the origin of these values, I pray those of us who are willing to engage the other can enter into this kind of a dialogue sans shouting. (My satirical self only rears its head when I’m unduly provoked by those who force fed their religious metanarratives on the rest of us like we’re some goose being prepped as their fois gras treat. [vbg])

If you have any questions for Garrison, she has agreed to answer them. Please leave them in the comments and I’ll pass them along to her.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Rational Response Squad, Nightline, Christian, apologist, Jesus, Christianity[/tags]

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

    I may not agree with you on everything, but you’ll probably be one of Dawkins’ more interesting “fleas.” :) Anyway, I have three questions:

    First, what did you specifically expect Dennett to get from N.T. Wright, Jürgen Moltmann, or Walter Bruggeman that would relate to what he was talking about?

    Second, what are some examples where you found the “New Atheists” to be just plain factually wrong?

    Third, what are your thoughts on the “Courtier’s Reply”?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Full disclosure: Becky’s an online friend of mine.

    That said, while she takes a slightly harsher tone with the New Atheists than I usually would (though I’m no big fan of them either, and find them to be just as annoying as the arrogant, close-minded Christians you find on the other end of the spectrum), I’m think she does an admirable job as a satirical gadfly. Pomposity deserves a pin-prick. And frankly, if the New Atheists want to dish it out, they ought to be able to take it in return.

  • http://off-center.tatuskofam.com Drew

    Thanks for posting this. This view certainly gives a different kind of angle on the debates.

    Regarding the issue of the argument that people should not have the “right” to believe in God it is true to your point that no one ever says it directly. However, it is certainly a strong implication of the probable end of the argument, for instance, that Dawkins makes regarding “liberal” or “progressive” beliefs in God. He makes a very unambiguous point that beliefs in God of the liberal or progressive sort actually justify and legitimate those of the more fundamentalist and exclusionary sort that he more clearly argues against. By flattening the distinction he is clearly arguing that all faith is therefore dangerous based on the assumption that it is impossible to engage on rational grounds. It is not rational to say that you have a right to believe in something that will legitimate beliefs that are dangerous to human welfare. He therefore flattens the nuances in faith and reason in order to make a rhetorical distinction between them.

    However interesting the rhetorical strategy is, it is wrong. There are indeed nuances and there is no evidence to suggest that a progressive or liberal believer in God legitimates the fundie as much as there is evidence that an atheist legitimates that kind of belief. I use the debates (if you want to even call them that) regarding the Golden Compass. Liberal/progressives are not the ones making the claims that it is a hostile film/book to God. Rather on many a blog of this character I have read of pastors taking youth groups to see the film, seminarians now prompted to read the book, etc. in clear opposition to Catholic League and so many Baptist injunctions to boycott the film. Why do they engage it? Because it makes a critical commentary on the church and especially its political manifestations of God that have clearly lead to human atrocity.

    So did the liberal legitimate the fundie here? No. The atheist gave the fundie fuel to refocus and further reify the reason for their existence, those who do not believe the way they do. For that level of legitimation Pullman and Rowan Williams as well as the Dalai Lama and Christopher Hitchens are likely all of equal “guilt” for perpetuating the faith of the fundamentalist. And it’s not their fault. Thus the rhetorical strategy betrays the evidence since none is presented. This is a classic “straw man” argument made by Dawkins and I have seen it take on numerous forms with the same powerful rhetorical punch that is empty of any meaningful content whatsoever. Kind of like an argument Coulter would make (although I would much rather spend my time with Dawkins any day, nor is Dawkins a blemish on civilization :-)

    What the “New Atheists” fail to do consistently is connect their epistemological claims with the social effects and probable ends as evident in different manifestations of belief. That is why this argument which flattens any kind of distinctions between types of faith and how beliefs are rendered in different social phenomenon ultimately fails.

  • http://spaceghoti.blogspot.com SpaceGhoti

    One nitpick in her responses involves her complaint that she wasn’t allowed to quote from Hitchens’ “God is Not Great,” so she dismisses his online material.

    Articles and other material can supplement an author’s arguments but they don’t take the place of the primary source material.

    Then when discussing Harris she says,

    If Harris believes the latter, then I’d suggest he refrain from penning articles with inflammatory titles such as “There Is No God (and You Know It)” (The Huffington Post).

    So my question is: are online articles valid material or not? It sounds very much as though she’s shying away from Hitchens in favor of satirizing Harris because Hitchens’ arguments (online or no) are harder to refute.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    She sounds like an idiot to me. Sorry to be frank, but I started reading the interview to see what she would have to say in response to Hemant, and to see if I might want to read her book. But her responses here are just a load of crap. I wouldn’t waste my money to hear any more of what she has to say. If she’s a satirist, she’s not a good one.

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

    SpaceGhoti: “are online articles valid material or not?”

    As Garrison herself said, “Articles and other material can supplement an author’s arguments but …”

    Harris has provided the primary source material, and she, as you noted, supplements it with Harris’ online articles. Hitchens has apparently refused to offer the primary material that his online material would otherwise supplement.

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

    Oh, Hemant, about “citing the opposite of a Bright as a Dim (instead of a Super),” I’d say that while “Super” is the quasi-official opposite of a “Bright,” it is overly charitable to say that the noun “Bright” is not meant to imply that non-Brights are at least “dimmer” or less smart on account of their beliefs.

  • http://spaceghoti.blogspot.com SpaceGhoti

    Harris has provided the primary source material, and she, as you noted, supplements it with Harris’ online articles. Hitchens has apparently refused to offer the primary material that his online material would otherwise supplement.

    Irrelevant. Hitchens’ online articles are in the public domain, and are just as valid as his “primary source material.” She seems to be making the claim that since his book is off-limits, all of his material is off-limits. Refusing to comment on one author’s online material while criticizing another for what he posts online smacks of hypocrisy.

  • Karen

    My suggestion to those who don’t want to be called “Brights” is to take it up with those that taught me the term.

    My suggestion is that she should do her own research instead of relying on other articles for her “facts.” There’s no secret about what a Bright is and who uses the term.

    It’s a basic requirement of any writing – satire or not – to at least get the terms correct and spell peoples’ names right. That she gets the terminology wrong off the bat is pretty telling in terms of her integrity and professionalism.

    You equate Sam Harris to Ann Coulter

    That’s completely absurd, and I agree with Hemant – it is infuriating and wrong for so many reasons. I have to wonder if she even bothered to read Harris’s books?

    As I noted in my book, how anyone can publish a book filled with anti-God diatribes and then not allow the person who penned this poison to get into the ring and go the distance with a seasoned satirist remains a mystery.

    I have to laugh at this innuendo that Hitchens is scared to “go the distance” with such a seasoned satirist; it’s more likely that he would eat her for breakfast. Hitchens answers his critics and debates constantly; it’s his prerogative if he doesn’t want his work excerpted in a book that’s outwardly hostile. His online writing is more than sufficient to serve as fodder for her “satire” if she had the chops to take him on.

    Here I would beg to differ. I see no difference in the New Atheists’ tone and tactics from that of say Focus on the Family.

    Riiiiight. Because Dennett and Harris are so busy building up huge political organizations, and soliciting donations, and founding state subgroups to effect changes in the laws, and lobbying politicians, and talking to the White House, and campaigning, and trying to get their agendas into public schools ….

    To even begin to make that comparison is absurd, and further evidence to me that the author is too sloppy to take the time to research either group (NAs or FOtF).

    If Harris believes the latter, then I’d suggest he refrain from penning articles with inflammatory titles such as “There Is No God (and You Know It)” (The Huffington Post).

    The author claims to be a satirical writer. If that’s true, how could she be unaware that writers do not put headlines or title on their articles? In this case, it’s likely that HuffPo put the most inflammatory, attention-getting headline possible on the article, which states quite clearly that it is “an excerpt from An Atheist Manifesto.”

    We can’t explore this question in a meaningful manner dialogue as long as Christian fundamentalists or their secular counterparts choose to demonize the other.

    So why is she writing something so antagonistic? Even if she’s not a Christian fundamentalist, she’s certainly contributing to the “demonizing” going on – and kicking it up, in fact. Where’s the meaningful dialogue in that?

    This is a very disappointing effort. As a Christian, I was a big fan of the Wittenburg Door way back when it first started. They used to hold one of the few small niches of reason and liberal thought within Christianity (though they ventured into that territory through satire rather than through outright argument).

    They are the kind of place that could do a great job of helping Christians understand atheism and what motivates the new militancy amongst atheists. It seems that this is a major missed opportunity to do that.

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

    SpaceFish:

    Hitchens’ online articles are in the public domain,

    Wrong! Anything Hitchens writes is automatically copywrited. That’s standard Berne convention. He can share copyright or reassign it according to his wishes or his various contractual obligations, but by default, the copyright is his.

  • Stephen

    So, please don’t take everything I say at face value. When fellow satirist Jonathan Swift penned “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public” back in 1729, he never intended that the poor actually eat their own children as a means to alleviate poverty. Rather, as an Anglican clergyman living in Ireland, he employed his satirical skills to address the massive ills he saw before him. Likewise, while I make my statements with my tongue firmly implanted inside my cheek, buried beneath the literal text are golden grains of truth.

    This woman irritates me. First, there’s the rather transparent “hey guys I’m just joking only I’m not” security blanket; if anyone is offended by her words, she can simply claim she was joking, but then she can turn around and claim that the exact same text makes legitimate points.

    Sure, Swift did do that, but she’s no Swift, and calling Swift a “fellow satirist” doesn’t make it true. As long as we’re on the subject, is there any particular reason that she felt the need to write out the entire title of A Modest Proposal, other than to be a pretentious twit? It’s like me saying, “Hey, have you read The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. Who was born in Newgate, and during a life of continu’d Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest and died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums? It was pretty good.”

  • stogoe

    This woman irritates me. First, there’s the rather transparent “hey guys I’m just joking only I’m not” security blanket; if anyone is offended by her words, she can simply claim she was joking, but then she can turn around and claim that the exact same text makes legitimate points.

    I agree, that’s one of the most annoying things a writer can do. Scott Adams does it, too, whenever he’s called out as full of crap, as do most wingnut bloggers.

    It’s even worse than “I’m sorry if you were offended.”

  • http://www.myspace.com/timandjeffrey Tim D.

    She called herself a satirist four times in that article. And all four times, it was completely pointless and awkward. I get it, you think you’re funny. Let’s move on, shall we? It’s worse than those college-jocks with slicked-back hair and school jerseys that try to call themselves “punk rockers.”

    And yes, while I think she’s annoying, I have to agree with the thing about Dawkins and religion/rape. That’s pretty messed up. I mean, using religion to justify horrible things is bad, but why would he choose to remove a corrupt medium over one of the very symptoms of corruption that medium is used to justify?

    Feel free to correct me if I’m out of context; I haven’t read the book in question, so I’m just going on what I read here.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    So you guys are seriously just going to give Hitchens a pass on refusing to let his book be used by a critical author? That doesn’t strike any of you as just slightly shady and hypocritical? C’mon, if a Christian apologist refused to let his book be responded to by an atheist critic, you guys would be all over it. What’s with the double standard?

  • Siamang

    Garrison chose to take on the “Four Horsemen”, a crowd of easy marks to say the least.

    Why did she ignore the work of serious atheist scholars and philosophers instead?

    To use her own words, how can anyone pen a book critiquing atheism and yet refuse to engage with serious atheist thinkers like JL Mackie, Bertrand Russell, and Andre Comte-Sponville?


    Or did she, just as those she criticizes, pick her targets based on what she wanted to write about?

    Yes, Ramsey, Courtier’s Reply indeed.

    Becky Garrison wrote:

    So, perhaps certain contemporary Darwinians could take a page from Darwin’s playbook and follow not just his methodology but also his manners.

    Becky Garrison, this is a REALLY weird segue. I thought we were talking about atheism and atheists… and then you slide over and describe us as “Darwinians”? Is is really the same thing in your mind? Has Christianity gone so far out into fantasyland that the word atheist is synonymous with “people who aren’t in complete denial of modern biology?” Because, silly me, I do try to separate the two. I don’t say “creationist” when I mean “Christian”. I don’t say “Christian” when I mean creationist.

    But also, listen, you chose to write about the “Four Horsemen”. That was your choice.

    Care to write something to and about average atheists? Regular people who don’t care to make you believe something different. Real people who love their families, pay their taxes, serve their country, work for peace and justice just as hopefully you do…

    You do know that these Horsemen are not our elected representatives. They were not chosen by us to speak for us, and they do not. They speak for themselves of their own thoughts and desires.

    You wrote:

    “Doesn’t look to me like they’ve come up with any comprehensive anti-God evangelism campaign whatsoever.”

    I say YES! GOOD! We’re not evangelical “convert the world” missionaries. Hurray! I hope we never, ever do come up with anything of the sort. Can’t you give us any credit at all for this? Isn’t this a good thing?

    This is good! We’re not the Borg. We’re not the hivemind trying to get you to assimilate. For all your Darth Vader Stormtrooper analogies about atheists, you missed the point: We’re not locksteppers… never were.

    Organizing atheists is like herding cats. God bless atheists for that point.

    Becky Garrison, sorry, but you are missing the clarity of a good satirist. You lack the ability to set yourself apart of your own prejudices and see human folly for what it is, even (and especially!) when it’s your own.

    You seem well practiced in vollying attacks then claim them to be merely japes when someone disagrees. For instance, is this next quote hyperbole as jest, or is it an actual claim?

    As an outsider looking in, “select” New Atheists seem to have proclaimed Darwin as their God. If that is not the case, then I suggest they dial down their rhetoric and allow for a more nuanced discussion instead of speaking in absolutes.

    I’d say that is not only an absolute statement on your part, but gross, gross, gross hyperbole.

    This is EXACTLY the kind of non-nuanced, extremist malarkey we face all the time, just for saying “sorry, ma’am, but we don’t follow your religion, please listen to us, as we share the world with you too.” How can you make a plea for a nuanced discussion in the same graph as saying we’ve proclaimed one 19th Century British naturalist as a God on Earth? I have no reverence for Darwin. He’s nothing but an old dead guy. I’d take a shit on Darwin’s grave if it wasn’t in the middle of a church, ironically, whose sanctity I respect. With all due respect, and with much undue respect, you seem to be the one with the polarizing language here.

    You don’t want nuanced discussion or a dialed-down rhetoric. If you did, you would talk in a nuanced way with dialed-down rhetoric. You’d show us by action that dialogue can and should be nuanced and gracious.

    The “Four Horsemen”, or three of them anyway, seem to have learned their style from their opponents. You set your style based on theirs. A pity neither them or you seem to want to break that cycle.

    I guess cheek-turning is so first-century.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    So why is she writing something so antagonistic? Even if she’s not a Christian fundamentalist, she’s certainly contributing to the “demonizing” going on – and kicking it up, in fact. Where’s the meaningful dialogue in that?

    This is a very disappointing effort. As a Christian, I was a big fan of the Wittenburg Door way back when it first started. They used to hold one of the few small niches of reason and liberal thought within Christianity (though they ventured into that territory through satire rather than through outright argument).

    They are the kind of place that could do a great job of helping Christians understand atheism and what motivates the new militancy amongst atheists. It seems that this is a major missed opportunity to do that.

    I do agree with that. That is probably my main criticism of Becky’s book. While she makes some good points, IMHO, I don’t think her tone and approach is really helping.

  • Rachel

    I’m annoyed she has no answers for many of your questions. It seems she just wants to say “some atheists are mean”. So what? Some Christians are mean. It’s irrelevant to why we believe the way we do.

    Take this one for example:

    HM: There’s a part where you quote someone saying “The scientific method… cannot measure love and joy in a family. But it can measure a growing bank account, larger cars, and increasingly sophisticated gadgets.” You go on to say “In the end, which matters more?” This is a false dichotomy. It’s not that atheists want science to be the end-all-be-all for everything. But it’s the best method we have of discovering the truth. By using the quotation, you seem to be implying that the reason people use the scientific method is for their own self interest.

    BG: I am quoting from Ron Sider’s seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. Here you raise the question that has plagued scientists, philosophers and theologians throughout centuries – “What is truth?” We can’t explore this question in a meaningful manner dialogue as long as Christian fundamentalists or their secular counterparts choose to demonize the other.

    You raise a valid point, and she waves it off with a “we need to be nicer to each other before we can talk about that”. Which is lame.

    Not only that, the part about not “measuring love and joy in a family” bit is wrong. Science can explain why those make us happy, we’ve evolved to like them because they’re beneficial to us.

    And this statement is just obnoxious:

    HM: Obviously, no atheist considers evolution or science to be a religion. Hell, with proper evidence, good science can be overturned, whereas God is always supposed to be perfect and never changing. When do the New Atheists treat science as a religion?

    BG: In a nutshell, there are limits to every discipline, a point those with a humble heart recognize and accept. As an outsider looking in, “select” New Atheists seem to have proclaimed Darwin as their God. If that is not the case, then I suggest they dial down their rhetoric and allow for a more nuanced discussion instead of speaking in absolutes.

    If she’s been talking to atheists, she hasn’t learned anything. She doesn’t even attempt to understand your position (“outsider looking in” is code for “half-assed ignorant statement”). Hell, I have a good understanding of why people are religious, I just think they’re wrong.

    You raise a good critique of her logic, and she goes right back to the hand-wavey “but they’re meeeeeeaaaan”.

    It’s disappointing. You can’t satirize something if you don’t understand it, and it’s obvious she hasn’t done her homework.

  • Siamang

    So you guys are seriously just going to give Hitchens a pass on refusing to let his book be used by a critical author? That doesn’t strike any of you as just slightly shady and hypocritical? C’mon, if a Christian apologist refused to let his book be responded to by an atheist critic, you guys would be all over it. What’s with the double standard?

    That’s a mighty quick jump to a condemnation, Mike!

    Perhaps some of us are waiting for more clarification or understanding of the situation. I myself wasn’t aware you needed anyone’s permission to quote short passages of anyone’s work for comment, scholarly debate, and even… yes… satire.

    Those fall under fair use. So why did she even require permission? I quote these folks all the time on my blog, for uses of comment, debate and satire. I’ve gotten no nastygrams at all from them.

    if a Christian apologist refused to let his book be responded to by an atheist critic, you guys would be all over it.

    What do you mean, IF?!?! Ever seen a Creationist post a video to youtube without comments disabled? Ever see someone get a good scientific wack against Dembski on one of the Intelligent Design websites without getting instabanned?

    I myself loved the youtube posts of the debate between Dinesh D’Sousa and Dennett. Some Christian guy posted only D’Sousa’s side of the debate! Comments disabled, of course!

    We’d be “all over it”?!?! It happens so constantly that we can’t be bothered to comment on it!

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Why did she ignore the work of serious atheist scholars and philosophers instead?

    To use her own words, how can anyone pen a book critiquing atheism and yet refuse to engage with serious atheist thinkers like JL Mackie, Bertrand Russell, and Andre Comte-Sponville?

    Or did she, just as those she criticizes, pick her targets based on what she wanted to write about?

    While I can relate to your rant Siamang, and I agree that it’s not fair to paint all atheists with the same brush, I don’t think that’s what Becky was doing. She did not “pen a book critiquing atheism”. She wrote a book critiquing “New Atheists”. That’s an important difference. She chose the “Four Horsemen” as her targets, because those were her only targets. Not you, not Hemant, not all atheists – just those four guys (and other “New Atheists” who would likewise adopt their attitude, and MO – the RRS for example). I think her book and her comments need to be read as such. Unless someone specifically identifies and wants to be associated with these “New Atheists”, there’s no reason to take her criticisms as a personal attack. If her critiques don’t describe you, then she wasn’t talking about you.

    This seems similar to when atheists critique people like Ray Comfort or Jerry Falwell or James Dobson. If they imply that all Christians are just like these extreme examples, then yes, I’m going to stand up and say “wait a minute, we’re not all like that and these guys don’t speak for me”, just as you are doing on behalf of atheists. However, I don’t think Becky was trying to imply that all atheists are like these “Four Horsemen”. I think her critique was about their methods, not the simple fact that they are atheists. And frankly, just as you guys wish more Christians would speak up and distance themselves from the extremism of the Fundamentalists, likewise I’d like to see more atheists speak up as Siamang did and distance themselves from the methods and rhetoric of the “New Atheists”.

    And I do agree with you Siamang about the “Darwin” thing. That was poorly done on her part.

  • http://www.myspace.com/luzidrhymez Luzid

    I understand that this blog is entitled “Friendly Atheist”.

    Well, this atheist will not be so friendly in responding to Ms. Garrison’s inaccurate, vitriolic ignorance about what atheism actually is, how science actually works, and the vast differences between fundamentalist god-addicts pushing their insanity on others via unconstitutional legislation versus those of us who don’t buy into that insanity and thus point out its utter lack of evidence in self-defense.

    Ms. Garrison is, to be frank, a moron on this subject. An *unfunny* one (calling yourself funny doesn’t make you funny – humor is based on truth, which she lacks).

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    That’s a mighty quick jump to a condemnation, Mike!

    Sorry Siamang, but every comment here so far has been pretty forgiving of Hitchens. So what if she could have used online articles instead (and I don’t know if she could have)? It’s still shady and hypocritical of Hitchens to not let her quote from his book. Hitch is the one not letting his primary work be criticized by a Christian author and yet the posters here are still trying to say it’s her fault for not including his work in her book? And how does that not show a bias towards protecting your own?

  • Siamang

    Honestly, I want to know what really happened, and I don’t trust Becky’s version of the story. Her tone doesn’t instill me with trust that she’s being honest. She seems self-aggrandizing and I honestly think that she could have quoted legally under fair-use plenty of material.

    If I can get a fair and trustworthy reporting of the events, I can make a moral judgment on who’s being the jerk here. But I don’t need the condemnation from you for having a “double standard”. I have one standard: I try not to judge people without evidence.

    And how does that not show a bias towards protecting your own?

    Listen, I completely cop to having an honest bias. Anyone saying they’re unbiased is lying to either themselves or everyone else. But I do bend over backwards to try and not accuse without better evidence. And sorry, Becky’s words don’t convince me I’m getting the whole story unfiltered from her. She has a bias, too, you know.

    Hitch is the one not letting his primary work be criticized by a Christian author and yet the posters here are still trying to say it’s her fault for not including his work in her book?

    You’ll notice I didn’t make that criticism of her book. Am I only biased and “protecting my own” when saying things you disagree with? I thought I was being decidedly neutral on that subject until better evidence was in.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Garrison’s tactics are deplorable. Then when called to account on her glaring distortions, she responds with still more distortions. Her book may serve to prolong the smugness of intellectually bankrupt theists just a little bit longer. But a finger in the dike can’t turn back the ocean forever.

    In the end, the aggrieved theists will have to either retreat from rationality altogether or come around to the correctness of the prescient “four horsemen.”

    Funny how Garrison, like other atheist-bashers, continues to use the language of religion in her attacks. Then the disgustingly cliched idea that those who oppose “god” should be “nicer” about it. Well there’s no nice way to call someone delusional, nor is there a nice way to call someone a liar.

    Garrison’s strategy will backfire, and she will become merely a footnote among other apologists with her hackneyed, poorly researched, slippery, and profoundly unfunny book.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    If I can get a fair and trustworthy reporting of the events, I can make a moral judgment on who’s being the jerk here. But I don’t need the condemnation from you for having a “double standard”. I have one standard: I try not to judge people without evidence…

    You’ll notice I didn’t make that criticism of her book. Am I only biased and “protecting my own” when saying things you disagree with? I thought I was being decidedly neutral on that subject until better evidence was in.

    Siamang, I wasn’t talking about you. I was responding to the commenters above who faulted Becky for not including Hitchens without faulting Hitchens himself for not letting her include him in the first place. You were not among them so I’m not sure why you’re taking this personally.

  • Siamang

    Sorry, Mike.. I wasn’t noticing the possibility that I was not part of those you were condemning.

    I thought I was automatically busted for not immediately and forthrightly condemning Hitchens as an outright cad at my first opportunity!

    One note about Becky Garrison’s writing. I think the wheels came totally off the wagon with this phrase:

    Likewise, while I make my statements with my tongue firmly implanted inside my cheek, buried beneath the literal text are golden grains of truth.

    Someone needs to learn the power of self-deprecation. Possibly all satirists are their own biggest fan. The good ones almost convince you that they’re not. She’s not even trying.

    One has to be humble when one’s so great as I. And that’s a golden grain of truth from my font of infinite wisdom, you filthy pigs. Lap it up.

    Did I mention that like Swift I am a brilliant Satirist? You remember Swift don’t you, or shall I share my wonderful knowlege about my colleague, the genius satirist Swift from my wellspring of “the one thing everyone knows about Swift from 10th grade English Literature”?

    Allow me to educate you, pigs!

  • Claire

    That was a most, um, interesting(?) question and answer.

    HM: Question?
    BG: Blame it on what I was told, I’m too lazy to do real reseach.

    HM:Question?
    BG: Here’s an unrelated thing that I feel like mentioning.

    HM:Question?
    BG: I’m a satirist, honest!

    HM:Question?
    BG: You atheists are just mean.

    HM:Question?
    BG: Ok, I can’t cite a source, but I’m sure he would have said it if he had thought of it.

    HM:Question?
    BG: They deserve to be attacked because they are mean, unlike me, I’m not mean, I’m a satirist.

    HM:Question?
    BG: No, really, I AM a satirist, I have a certificate and everything….

    What a hack! Someone should tell her that satirists are most effective when they are a) on target and b) funny, as neither concept seems to have been one she has grasped.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    BG wrote,

    These four horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse come off just as odious and obnoxious as the most obstinate “family values” fanatics.

    I haven’t read Hitchens’ book yet, but I have read the recent books on atheism by the other three “horsemen”. Is my perception so warped and biased that I have completely missed the “odious and obnoxious” bits? Can anyone help me find which parts were so horrible?

    Has everyone watched the two hour conversation between the four atheist authors? (You can find it on the Dawkins site or on Google video.) To me they seem to be having a perfectly civil and polite discussion.

    It’s often said that Dawkins and co. are just as extreme as religious fanatics on the other side. I don’t see such a balanced symmetry. Who is the most extreme atheist out there now? Maybe members of the RRS? But I don’t think they have even wished for anyone’s death, let alone bomb an abortion clinic or picket a funeral. Yet great numbers of religious people have wished damnation on their enemies, which is a fate worst than the pure oblivion of death as most atheists see it.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    So you guys are seriously just going to give Hitchens a pass on refusing to let his book be used by a critical author?

    That’s a bunch of crap. Fair use allows critics to quote passages from books in their critiques; and satire — if this woman is really serious about being a satirist she would know this — is always exempt from certain portions of copyright law under fair use, otherwise satire could not exist. So she in no way required Hitchens’s approval.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    BG wrote,

    Meanwhile, this scientist ridicules the efforts of fellow scientists Francis Collins, Joan Roughgarden and Keith Miller when they discuss the intersection of science and religion.

    I think she meant Kenneth Miller, the Catholic Biologist involved in the Dover trial. He has some great presentations on evolution if you search on YouTube.

    [Hemant says: BG acknowledged this error. She did mean to say Kenneth Miller. I made the change above.]

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    If you all have specific questions for Becky Garrison, please leave them in the comments!

    I see a lot of comments, but no actual questions to pose to her…

  • Claire

    So you guys are seriously just going to give Hitchens a pass on refusing to let his book be used by a critical author?

    According to her book AND what she said above, it wasn’t Hitchens who refused but his publishers, so yes, he gets a pass. So, not only was it a mighty quick jump to a condemnation, it was unjustified on the facts as given.

    If she had really wanted to quote him, she could have, regardless of his publisher’s wishes, as both satire and parody are considered fair use. Of course, they might have wanted her to prove that her writing was either, and that might have a little too much to ask.

  • Siamang

    Too bad I’m a satirist and not a question-asker.

  • Claire

    Sorry, Hemant, I’m all for dialogue, but after the way she blew off your questions, it doesn’t seem worthwhile to ask her anything. All it would do is give her another opportunity to bloviate.

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

    “I see a lot of comments, but no actual questions to pose to her…”

    Ahem! I had three questions.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    I had three questions.

    Yes you did. I saw those :) Thanks!

    I didn’t ask the author to comment on this posting, so I don’t know if she’ll see the comments. But I did say I would send questions to her, so that’s what I’m looking for.

    Sorry, Hemant, I’m all for dialogue, but after the way she blew off your questions, it doesn’t seem worthwhile to ask her anything. All it would do is give her another opportunity to bloviate.

    Perhaps, but if there is anything you want to address, it might still be worth putting the criticisms in the forms of questions so that she can respond to them.

  • Siamang

    Alright, how about: How can you make a plea for a nuanced discussion in the same graph as saying we’ve proclaimed one 19th Century British naturalist as a God on Earth?

    From our point of view, you make many extreme and un-nuanced statements. You seem to speak of atheists and “Darwinians” interchangably, as if biology and atheism are a single proposition. You compare Focus on the Family with the books of the New Atheists, conveniently glossing past the actions that FotF takes to shape the laws of our country, invading people’s rights and civil liberties. Where the new atheists merely write books, do not advocate legislating their views and instead call on atheists to “come out” from their self-imposed invisibility, discuss these issues more openly and attempt to raise people’s consciousness through rational dialogue. They are not equivelant when one group is actively changing laws, and the other is merely speaking up and complaining that we’ve been left out of the dialogue.

    The question is: aren’t you amping up the rhetoric yourself? You sound shrill and unnuanced. Even more so than those you seem to deride. What good are you doing for your part of this conversation that you condemn?

    This statement puzzles me:

    Also, unless a New Atheist turns into another Anthony Flew, the satirist in me will continue to call them anti-God gurus.

    What do you mean by this? Anthony Flew seems to have become a senile pawn of a cynical religious apologist ghost-writer. Is this something you wish on Dawkins or Harris? What would that prove?

    Why call them “anti-God gurus”? Is that a term that dials down the rhetoric and allows for a more nuanced discussion? Isn’t it just as pointless and childish as Dawkins calling religious people by the annoing and insulting term “faithheads”?

    To me you’re coming off just as odious and obnoxious as the most obstinate “New Atheists.”

    Shit. I didn’t form that last one into a question. Consider it satire.

  • moebius2778

    Drew, you said:

    It is not rational to say that you have a right to believe in something that will legitimate beliefs that are dangerous to human welfare.

    I’m going to have to interpret this, as I can’t actually parse it, but I’m assuming you mean that it is not rational to believe that people have a right to believe in something that you have legitimate reasons to believe will be dangerous to human welfare.

    Given this, does this mean that it is not rational to believe that Christian Scientists have a right to believe that they should refuse blood transfusions? It would certainly seem to be the case that there are legitimate reasons to believe that refusing a blood transfusion could be dangerous to their welfare.

  • Dan S

    Since she doesn’t actually answer questions, why waste time?

  • Claire

    What I would really like is an answer to a question that Hemant asked but didn’t get a real answer to, which is where Harris said anything like “an event such as 9/11 proves there is no God.”

    How about a citation of the source, instead of criticizing him for the one part of an article that he didn’t write (the headline, as Karen pointed out)?

    Unless, of course, he never said it…

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    It’s a very scary place in here… Yikes! 8O

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    I don’t have questions for her after seeing how evasive and shallow her responses were. The “I’m joking, no wait I’m not, no wait I am” fallback rigmarole is dishonest and lame.

    The comparison to Ann Coulter is ridiculous for Harris (who you must admit develops powerful and well-reasoned arguments even if you don’t agree with him) but pretty much fits her pretty well: the breezy and quotemine heavy refusal to actually engage seriously with arguments, using humor as a means to ring emotional bells but avoid substantive issues, and so on. I use humor in my pieces too. But I don’t use it as a substitute for making sense or as a cover for misleading people. When I poison the well, I make it obvious, not try to couch it as a serious critique.

    If you consider her a friend, Mike, then I hope you see her as a friend who needs a lot of help.

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    It’s a very scary place in here… Yikes!

    ::rolleyes::

    Come on. When someone walks up to you and punches you flush in the face, I think a little bit of irritation is more than warranted.

  • Karen

    which is where Harris said anything like “an event such as 9/11 proves there is no God.”

    That statement doesn’t even make sense. The first thing an atheist knows is that there’s no way to prove – or disprove – the existence of god. I cannot fathom that he would have said that, or intimated it.

    Of course, he does distinctly say that 9/11 made him recognize that faith is dangerous and needs to come to an end. That’s the premise of his book, The End of Faith.

    How about a citation of the source, instead of criticizing him for the one part of an article that he didn’t write (the headline, as Karen pointed out)?

    I can’t guarantee that he didn’t write that headline, but it would be highly unusual for him to have written it. Something this author should know, if she’s an editor. Headlines are the responsibility of the editors, not of the writers. There’s nothing more annoying to writers than to get yelled at by an irate reader for some dumbass headline that you didn’t even write …. ;-)

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    And honestly, while I have my own critiques of the Four Horsemen (particularly Hitchens), I think painting them as mean extremists is just plain dumb and dishonest. In fact, what it is, worst of all, is just plain lazy. It’s playing to a stereotype without actually engaging anything. Claiming that because Dawkins gives an impassioned defense of evolution that he’s treating it like a religion or Darwin as a God is not satire. It’s just dishonest. Claiming that this dishonesty is justified because she thinks Dawkins is mean is simply pathetic.

  • Maria

    HM: You write:

    “I fully understand why New Atheists like Sam Harris believe an event such as 9/11 proves there is no God.”

    (p. 84)

    When did Harris write that? Do you know the difference between saying there is no god versus not believing that one exists in the first place? The New Atheists never say the former, just the latter.

    BG: If Harris believes the latter, then I’d suggest he refrain from penning articles with inflammatory titles such as “There Is No God (and You Know It)” (The Huffington Post).

    Well, she’s right there. He should not have written that. Her other answers seemed kind of confusing and all over the map….

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Since she doesn’t actually answer questions, why waste time?

    To the commenters posing questions: BG has started answering the questions directly, but she’s doing it via email with me. I’ll post them when I have everything (instead of one at a time).

    But she will answer them.

  • Claire

    Karen said:

    The first thing an atheist knows is that there’s no way to prove – or disprove – the existence of god.

    You know that, I know that, apparently someone didn’t do her research. Maybe ‘satirists’ don’t have to.

    Headlines are written last, by the editor, because they need to fit into whatever space is available. Or at least that’s how it used to be, in newspapers. I’m not sure how the internet has changed that, if it has. But either way, her answer wasn’t an answer, it was just using the question as a forum to say something else nasty about him.

  • Jen

    Wow, that was an exercise in irritation. I can’t believe I read the whole thing, and the comments, given that every moment I was reading, all I could think was, this person hasn’t researched anything at all, and possibly has never spoken with an atheist.

    I really have some mean questions to ask, but I want to be like my god, Darwin, and be nice. HAHAHA JUST KIDDING. Dawkins is my god, just like all atheists. Do your research, Becks.

    To quote Sam Harris, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion” (See “the Temple of Reason,” Sun Magazine) and “Since 20 percent of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, God is, quote, ‘the most prolific abortionist of all.’” (Letter to a Christian Nation, 38). Even though I have never been raped nor had an aberration, as a woman I find these two statements on par with Coulter’s most racist rant.

    As another woman, I think Sam Harris is coming from a certain position of male privilage with this quote- the vast majority of male-on-male rape happens to underage teens/children. However, if I had that choice, I am not sure I wouldn’t choose to rid the world of religion instead of rape, since I am willing to bet that much of the male-on-female rape in this world has as a basis religious ideas. I think a lot of our society’s patriarchal attitude comes from the Bible. I don’t think my magic wand getting rid of religion would prevent all rape as well, but I think it would certainly cut down on the numbers. That’s me, though. I can understand why this statement could be offensive, but….

    I don’t understand why calling God an abortionist is offensive. “Abortion” as a medical term covers both elective abortions and miscarriages. If we are to believe that God has a hand in what happens in the world, the he would have a hand in the many, many miscarriages that happen every year, and over time has had a hand in way, way more abortions than any Planned Parenthood. Do you, Becky, care to elaborate on why this is offensive?

    As an outsider looking in, “select” New Atheists seem to have proclaimed Darwin as their God.

    Who, Becky? Name a name of a single atheist who truely believes Darwin to be anyone or anything other than a scientist who popularized evolution.

    HM: You write:

    “If you don’t want to believe in God, fine. But why can’t these New Atheists give followers of the faith the right to believe in God if we so choose? I’d be happy to have us all play in our own respective spiritual sandboxes, except that religious extremists and now the New Atheists keep throwing sand in our faces.” (p. 18)
    When did the New Atheists ever say they wanted to take away your right to believe in God? Certainly they want to convince you that an actual God’s existence is not supported by any evidence, but I’ve never heard them say you shouldn’t be allowed to believe if you so choose.

    BG: Here I would beg to differ. I see no difference in the New Atheists’ tone and tactics from that of say Focus on the Family. Both camps employ rhetoric that implies they want to create a monochromatic world that’s viewed through their own particular lens.

    I can buy that there are atheists who would prefer if we lived in a world that didn’t believe in the supernatural. I, for one, think it would be pretty awesome. However, I am curious how prefering a godless world (if indeed these four men would prefer one; I will trust your word, Becky) means they have anything in common with a group that probably would prefer if everyone believed in a god. Two groups may have similar ideas (everyone should believe what I do) but that does not mean they have identical means of attempting this, or, indeed, that they are both actually attempting mass conversion. So, I ask you, Becky, how is writing books and articles, and occasionally engaging in debates only viewable on YouTube, trying to remove your right to believe? Or does the sand you reference simply mean that you are annoyed they make their ideas and arguments public?

  • Kyle O’Brien

    I’ll still never understand militant when referring to atheists. Strident, passionate, etc, but never “militant”. Nor fundamentalist either.

    Atheists have never blown up buildings, rammed planes into buildings, blown up or shot up abortionist clinics, or waged war for centuries over “holy land”. If atheists are militant, what the hell, used for irony :P, does that make theists?

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Becky Garrison’s Responses to Your Questions

  • http://lifebeforedeath.blogsome.com Felicia Gilljam

    Not having read all of the comments I still note that a lot of people have complained about her neglecting to answer any of your questions and instead using the “I’m a satirist!” cop-out. I have no questions for her because she’s clearly not interested in engaging in actual debate about her book. Regardless of what we say, she will call on artistic licence and refuse to concede even one point.

  • http://off-center.tatuskofam.com Drew

    moebius2778

    I think you misunderstood the part of my argument that you quoted. What you quoted was my summary of the argument that Dawkins specifically makes in The God Delusion and that others make in different forms as well. I am making the case that this is an incorrect assumption to make given the flattening of all manifestations of faith that Dawkins makes in his argument. It is this flattening rhetoric that erects a classic straw man on his part.

    Hope this helps. I did post this argument in a much more nuanced fashion over on my blog under Atheist Inquistions in a few different posts if you are at all interested in pursuing it.

  • valhar2000

    Well, if this woman were all I had to go by, I would certainly be justified in thinking that all christians are a bunch of rot-brained babblers. Fortunately, she’s been pulled out of the bottom of the barrell…

  • Steven Carr

    ‘Garrison turns aside the atheists’ assault without ignoring its real criticisms, namely, the church’s inadequate response to war, evolution, medical ethics, social justice, and other important issues in the post-9/11 world.’

    I see.

    So these atheist books never have any real criticisms of the arguments that God exists?

  • Steven Carr

    BECKY
    As an outsider looking in, “select” New Atheists seem to have proclaimed Darwin as their God.

    CARR
    I think Becky is satirising herself here….

    Nobody could be that dumb, surely?

  • Steven Carr

    ‘You don’t argue against Christopher Hitchens because his publishers did not let you excerpt any material from God is Not Great.’

    It was his publishers, not Hitchens, who refused to allow excerpts.

    Perhaps they were acting under orders from Christopher Hitchens.

    Who can say?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I’ll still never understand militant when referring to atheists. Strident, passionate, etc, but never “militant”. Nor fundamentalist either.

    Atheists have never blown up buildings, rammed planes into buildings, blown up or shot up abortionist clinics, or waged war for centuries over “holy land”. If atheists are militant, what the hell, used for irony :P, does that make theists?

    I’ve heard many atheists make this complaint about the use of “militant”. But I find it hard to believe that none of you are aware that “militant” does not always, or even primarily mean “militarily violent”. The #1 definition of “militant” at Dictionary.com is:

    1. vigorously active and aggressive, esp. in support of a cause

    and synonyms are given as “belligerent, combative, contentious”

    I suspect it is in this sense that the word is being used of the New Atheists.

  • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com larryniven

    As to whether scientists agree with the idea of memes, has she read Dan Gilbert’s “Stumbling On Happiness”? Gilbert is a psychologist (thus more qualified to discuss the process of belief than either a generic “scientist” or a philosopher) and he comes up with an idea strikingly similar to the meme apparently independently from Dennett. His explanation is also almost certainly better written than Dennett’s and easier for the layperson to understand.

    Further, does she herself understand the idea of a meme? The comment she references that a meme is indistinguishable from a belief is particularly telling – a meme is a belief. To complain about that betrays a huge misunderstanding about what the concept of a meme is supposed to convey. If she herself understands that concept, then why quote someone who lacks the ability to? If she doesn’t understand it, in what sense does she think she can satirize it? I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate me satirizing the Trinity because I’ve never taken the time to understand what appears, on the surface, to be a truly insane idea.

    Let me be clear: generally I think Dennett is kind of a nut. A lot of his most serious arguments that I’ve read are either fallacious, meaningless, or both. With memes, though, I cannot see him being mistaken. I have yet to hear a convincing attack on the meme, and I’m hoping she might offer one (or, at least, point me to one).

  • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com larryniven

    (Sorry for the double-post, all, but…)

    Actually, having now read those quotes, they’re rather laughable. If this Orr fellow really doesn’t know how beliefs “replicate,” he isn’t even qualified to comment. He also is just flat-out wrong when he says that the meme cannot help us understand the differences between eastern and western religions. The one and only valid criticism of Dennett in anything she references is when he says Dennett doesn’t offer a criteria by which memes (beliefs, whatever) are selected – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t selected. A few moment’s thought will reveal at least a few aspects of a meme that will lead to its being selected for more frequently. That both Orr and Dennett (and even Gilbert) fail to list such aspects is more a reflection on their priorities and mental faculties than it is on the theory of memes. Even if Orr honestly couldn’t come up with anything, that isn’t a valid criticism of the view: at best it gets him to an agnostic position with respect to memes. Honestly, this whole uproar over memes is just pathetic. If you really don’t get it, try reading Warren Ellis’s fantastic graphic short story at http://www.artbomb.net/comics/superidol.jsp – it isn’t a technical demonstration of the idea, but at least it shows that it can be plausible.

  • http://www.thelockeronline.blogspot.com Gman

    I wonder what Garrison’s response would be to what Daniel Dennet said recently (discussed at http://www.atheistethicist.blogspot.com in this post).

    In short – that people are justified in criticizing certain aspects of religious faith in harsh tones because of the particular dangers they pose to others.


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