Paul Prather Needs to Look in the Mirror

Paul Prather is a “contributing columnist” to the Lexington Herald-Leader. He’s a pastor who has written an awful piece about atheism.

And they wonder why no one reads newspapers anymore…

Here’s a guy who stereotypes atheists while he writes that we stereotype Christians.

He makes the same mistakes we’ve seen Christians make time and time again.

The irony is that this current brand of aggressive atheism is just another form of fundamentalism. These particular atheists are zealots on the subject of faith who see no shadings of gray, only black and white. They’re dead-set against religion but weirdly obsessed with it.

Oooh… he trots out the “fundamentalism” line without explaining what that means in the context of atheism.

I guess it means we *really* don’t believe in god.

Though we’re not killing people over it… or trying to change laws to suit our personal beliefs at the expense of everyone else’s…

Why are we “obsessed” with religion?

Because it’s based on falsehoods and mythology and yet people revolve their lives around it. Because of religion, atheists are distrusted and (almost) unelectable. Children have been killed because of their parents’ religious beliefs. Religion is the reason our educational standards in history and science are dropping quickly. Oh, hell, Greta Christina said it better than I ever could.

My objection to the new atheists isn’t that they’re atheists.

It’s that they strike me as hypocrites, which is the charge they unfailingly level, with mixed justification, against the religious. In opposing religion in the manner they do, they betray themselves as possessing the traits they profess to loathe.

They’re smug, dogmatic and mean-spirited. They trot out tired, half-truthful stereotypes, and they cherry-pick historical examples of religious wrongdoing while ignoring the innumerable instances in which the faithful have performed great acts of decency and charity.

We’re smug? The evidence is on our side. It’s called confidence.

We’re dogmatic? We’re the ones who will change our minds if you present us with evidence that we’re wrong. What would it take to change your mind about god?

We’re mean-spirited? No doubt there is a wide range of tones among atheists — but it sounds like Prather is calling all atheists “mean-spirited.” He can’t seem to find one example of a friendly atheist. Stereotyping much?

Have religious people done horrible thing throughout history? Obviously.

Do they do horrible things now? Without a doubt.

Do religion people perform “great acts of decency and charity”? Sure. Some of them. But I don’t know any atheist who has denied that, including Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.

They pretend that all Christians are bigots prone to violence. They claim that Christians are by definition illogical bumpkins who mindlessly accept fairy tales.

Umm… what? Not all Christians are bigots nor are they violent.

Hell, most of them — damn near every one I know personally — are neither.

That said, how many large churches can you name where the majority of the congregation supports gay marriage?

Actually, Why Wont God Heal Amputees suggests Prather’s assertion about Christians being bigots/violent is true:

All Christians ARE bigots prone to violence. All Christians believe that anyone who does not proclaim Jesus to be the one and only son of God will be tortured in hell for eternity. Eternal torture is violence. The belief that all outsiders will be treated in this violent manner is bigotry.

Are Christians illogical? Absolutely. If you believe in a talking snake, a literal Noah’s Ark, the existence of Heaven and Hell, or that anyone’s listening to your prayers, it’s true, you are “mindlessly accepting fairy tales.”

Even moderate Christians who see most of the Bible as a metaphor believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

Are Christians stupid? Not at all. You can go to any church in this country and find people with advanced degrees, “smart” jobs, and intelligent opinions. Personally, I think a lot of them compartmentalize what they learn in church with their experience in the real world.

I wish these atheists would venture, say, into a seminary library. They’d find tens of thousands of volumes written by thinkers great and obscure across two millennia.

They’d find works by scholars who take every word of the Bible literally and works by others who argue that most of the Scripture is made up and that Jesus said almost nothing attributed to him. They’d find every gradation between those extremes.

If we read this books in a seminary library, what would we find? Some Christians are kinder than others? More tolerant? Shocking.

You know what you wouldn’t find? Any reason to believe that there’s any truth in the Christian myth.

The newspaper should be embarrassed they published this piece.

Tucker Phelps is far gentler in his dismantling of Prather’s piece:

Look below the surface, understand the differences, then make your argument. I wouldn’t attack a scientifically literate religious moderate on matters of Creationism — I’d ask them their thoughts on the science of consciousness and what this means for their belief in a mind as separate from body. Don’t attack us over your misunderstanding and we’ll promise not to do the same.

(via Oakland Skepticism Examiner)

  • Trace

    “If you weigh the circumstantial evidence for and against the existence of God, there’s about as much evidence on one side as the other.”

    ?

  • John Heidt1

    The present famine in East Africa, like other famines in different parts of the
    world throughout history are more proof that there is NO God, because the “loving” God that so many people believe in and worship would really have to be a sadistic monster to let people, especially innocent children, suffer the slow and painful death of starvation! To blame humans or demons is really making up a poor excuse, and is saying that “God” is not in control and is NOT more powerful than human warlords, militant groups, or even the “devil”!

  • Richard P.

    You are not entitled to an opinion. An opinion is what you have when you don’t have any facts. When you have the facts, you don’t need an opinion.

    – Solomon Short

  • Sellers_as_Quilty

    The piece is one of the most fatuous critiques I’ve read of the New Atheism in some time. It’s one straw-man after another. What they do is they mention the New Atheism, maybe mention Sam Harris or Hitchens or someone by name, then they project onto them a belief or position that they do not hold. Then they argue with that (fictional) position. Text book straw man.

    Also, can these people stop saying “the so-called New Atheists”? This is so obnoxious. YOU are the one who is choosing to use the term, so you don’t have to say “so-called.” These people are SO annoying. They have no arguments—none.

  • littlejohn

    I propose a simple experiment. Take two randomly selected groups, one professed Christians, the other professed atheists. Go to their homes. Count the number of serious, adult, non-fiction books. Count the number of college degrees, at every level. Want to bet how that would come out? It’s not smug if it’s true.

  • JimG

    Hemant,

    In denouncing the Herald-Leader for printing Prather’s garbage, I’m afraid you’ve fallen into repeating a falsehood yourself: “And they wonder why no one reads newspapers anymore.”

    Actually, more people are reading newspapers than ever before. Print circulation is down, yes – because people are reading more online. What has hurt newspapers is the decline in ad revenue, due to the recession and the lower prices paid for online ads, not declining readership.

    The “nobody-reads-papers-anymore” canard is usually tossed around by right-wingers who sneer that readers are leaving because publications are supposedly too liberal. Whether they say it or you do, however, it’s still not true.

    Prather’s argument is weak enough on its own. Please don’t weaken yours by falling for media-haters’ spin.

  • Samiimas

    They claim that Christians are by definition illogical bumpkins who mindlessly accept fairy tales.

    If someone told you in complete seriousness that they believed Zeus, Osiris or Lord Xenu existed would you doubt their intelligence?

    I know hypotheticals are useless and that like the questions “What if it was YOUR marriage that was banned?” or “What if every single piece of money said ‘their is no god’ and your kids in public school got suspended for not pledging to his non-existence every single day?” this one will get you a carefully worded answer that supports their original position and is a a complete and utter lie.

  • Hitch

    I find it interesting what angles people try in reaction to a more visible atheism.

    This is the “look religion really can be shades of gray” angle. It is a peculiar one because it really does misunderstand the new atheists. The point is that the negative social and intellectual ramifications are at stake, not if some believers rejects X or Y or have this or that nuance.

    I don’t know any new atheist who has any tangible issues with deism or forms of private theism, i.e. belief that has no social impact. So rather than not understanding the shades of gray, there is really an understanding of the dimensions.

    But of course part of the program is that dogmatic thinking does get in the way of inquiry, and we would be better off people reading science books than reading diverse ideas about shades of theism.

    I’m not sure if this misunderstanding is real or a smoke screen.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    I’ve never quite understood the “new atheists are fundamentalists” gambit. Aren’t they basically saying, “Look! They are as bad as us!!!”? Way to shoot yourself in the foot, buddy.

    Also, can these people stop saying “the so-called New Atheists”? This is so obnoxious. YOU are the one who is choosing to use the term, so you don’t have to say “so-called.” These people are SO annoying.

    Ditto. If I had my choice that phrase would be banished from the English language. Anytime I see someone use it in a debate I automatically assume that they are the losing side.

  • Hitch

    There is a lot of “look they are as bad as us” arguing going on. Not just the question of fundamentalism. The “atheism is a religion” also has the same property. Or the “you cannot proof your world view either” thing.

    As Hitchens said, there is nothing new about the new atheists. It’s just straight up atheism.

  • Joanna

    I thought it was interesting that “new atheists” are accused of “lumping all believers of all faiths into a single mindless blob”.

    It is true that I will often use the term ‘true believer’ or Christian in a broad way but usually I don’t make “dogmatic” statements about “all” Christians or “all” believers.

    There is a tendency for the faithful to call any question about their beliefs as “combative”. As if questioning religious statements is “mean-spirited” and somehow unfair and unjust. As authors like Daniel Dennett continue to study religion in a rational, fact-based, scientific manner, we atheists will continue to push for “breaking the spell” that an abandonment of reason and an increase in blind faith has produced.

    The more vocal atheists are simply pressing for answers and understanding. This is not a case of being a “fundamentalist” or “obsessed”, this is a persistent request for answers and evidence!

  • Epistaxis

    he trots out the “fundamentalism” line without explaining what that means in the context of atheism.

    It means we take a strict, literal interpretation of our holy scriptures.

  • L.Long

    “All Christians ARE bigots prone to violence. All Christians believe that anyone who does not proclaim Jesus to be the one and only son of God will be tortured in hell for eternity. Eternal torture is violence. The belief that all outsiders will be treated in this violent manner is bigotry.”
    Agree 100%.
    And there are two reasons they are not more directly violent…1) they use the thrill of us going to hell as an emotional release and 2) cuz they would be facing armed resistance here.
    I am very glad they all tend to be vocal rather then going the islamic method, be cause religious people are inherently more violent because no one is actually ‘killed’, they go to the reward of heaven or to hell to burn. Which for an atheist (me anyway) to kill is to end a unique thing before is normal short span, which is terrible. I may talk violent (2 above) but I am not.

  • Adam Tjaavk

    I’m all for militant fundamentalist atheism – forthrightly and enthusiastically propagating some of the basic principles of not being bamboozled. And isn’t it odd that dogmatism is so often bracketed with militancy (being argumentative)? The essence of dogmatism is the refusal to argue and the intolerance of opposing views. It cites authority and demands compliance or silence. Firmness of opinion or vehemence of expression has nothing to do with it.

    _____

  • Wayne Dunlap

    The new Atheists are merely those who are tired of the nonsense spewed forth by creationists trying to put down the evolution theory and trying to get creationism taught in the schools. Rather than sit back and allow the creationists to have all the air time, they have decided to go on the offensive before it is too late, and the creationists managed to completely corrupt our science programs with their Biblical religious beliefs which are based on faith alone rather than fact.

  • Dan W

    Another Christian who makes ridiculous claims about atheists that clearly show he doesn’t know what atheists (and atheism) are really like. Lets see… he claims that the “new atheists” are fundamentalists, tries to say atheism is a church, and makes other pathetic claims. People like Paul Prather should actually learn a bit more about the atheists they’re talking about instead of playing to stupid stereotypes.

  • fritzy

    Great, another believer who doesn’t understand atheism or atheists trying to write a piece about the subject. I couldn’t find one factually accurate statement in that entire piece. Hell, he didn’t even define “agnostic” correctly.

    And is anyone else as sick as I am of religious believers who insist they “don’t have a problem with atheists, but…” and then go on to rail against them? It’s the modern equivalent of “some of my best friends are black.” Truly, everything before “but’ is bullshit.

  • Sarah

    The blog Hemant attached to this post by Greta Christina was amazing.

    I don’t think fundamental means what he thinks it means.
    “1 a often capitalized : a movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching b : the beliefs of this movement c : adherence to such beliefs
    2 : a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles”

    We don’t have this, do we?

    If we do, it is news to me.

  • Grampa Tom and the Family Business

    I actually disagree with Hemant that all Christians believe that every non-Christian will go to hell. My twin brother, who is a Christian, doesn’t believe that. My Christian father doesn’t believe that. At least 3 of my Christian friends don’t believe that. We can’t star thinking like the fundies do.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    He’s a pastor so he is biased towards his faith position. Telling people that his opinion is right is literally what pays his wages. He is using ill defined or false terms for what he is arguing against. I wonder who the article is written for? Is his target audience Christians who know no better and haven’t thought about atheism. Someone who hasn’t questioned their faith and hasn’t read The God Delusion or God is Not Great. In short someone who will buy into this brand of bullshit without question and repeat it verbatim.

    Also there is nothing “new” about my atheism. It is the same lack of belief that many humans have had since the first superstitious goat herder claimed that the volcano god spoke to him. It is simply a sceptical response to an unfounded assertion.

    It seems as if he is writing from a position where he understands that his faith position has no basis in fact. Rather than abandon it he lashes out at those who have taken the step that he is too cowardly to take himself. If that makes us smug, dogmatic and mean spirited then I really think he needs to look these words up in a dictionary.

    Finally I know what we’d find in a seminary library: speculation, dogma and religious philosophy. We wouldn’t find critical thinking or evidence but then that isn’t what “faith” is about is it?

  • Sarah

    There is nothing “new” about my atheism either. I was a skeptic as far back as I could remember. There was a brief period of believing, but that didn’t last for very long. I didn’t call myself an atheist until I was out of catholic school. I was a skeptic at age 10 so i am hardly a “new” atheist. Who coined this term anyway?

  • http://www.thatpinkmouse.com/bloggy Jenny Bliss

    @Sarah

    O O O i know this 1 lol the guy who coined it was Gary Wolf back in 2006 when he wrote an article for wired magazine, think it was ‘the faces of new atheism’ or somthing to that effect

  • http://www.thegodcritic.com The God Critic

    Seems that this pastor is making the same argument that Chris Hedges makes in his book, I Don’t Believe in Atheists.

    I haven’t read that one yet, but I have seen Chris in a number of interviews and I’m wondering if this pastor came up with these ideas on his own or is just parroting what Chris has already said.

  • http://irenedelse.wordpress.com Irene

    Said the pastor:

    “…this current brand of aggressive atheism is just another form of fundamentalism. These particular atheists are zealots…”

    As Iason and Hitch, I find it remarkable that the worst this guy can to do characterize atheism is to compare it to actual religious movements! (And the same goes for those who refrain from using the “fundamentalist” tag but bemoan “evangelical” atheism.)

  • plutosdad

    The reason they say “but atheism is just a religion” is because they think we criticize:
    1. the fact they have a belief
    2. the fact they get together with like minded people
    3. Faith used to mean “trust” but to many theists it now means “belief” which causes them confusion

    They completely misunderstand the “faith” (trust) of a scientist in a Theory with their faith in a god of the gaps. Scientists believe anything only because it has been first tested and proven, and will change that belief once other scientists find exceptions to the theory (which will invariably happen). It is based on facts. Theists’ belief is not based on facts, just the opposite: it is based on what we have no facts on, and they fill it in. They do not test to see if their new hyphothesis is correct, they just assume it is.

    My friend said “but you have faith in scientists” but again that is different. Trust and belief are two different things. I don’t trust a particular scientist, I trust the process, that even if we are wrong about something we are always on the way to learning “how” and indeed we can say for certain many if not most things we think are true we will prove wrong or find exceptions to. Again, that’s not blind adherence.

    Scientists have no dogmatic adherence to one hypothesis in spite of facts, and will change their ideas based on experimentation and observaiton. Oh certainly they are human, and will cling to ideas and some ideas are harder to change than others (Kuhn et al). Theists will not change their belief, since it’s not evidence based.

    You can also see this confusion when they accuse us of treating The Origin of Species like a “holy book”. That is odd considering scientists have proven many of Darwin’s ideas wrong. He did not have the technology to prove everything, and only one lifetime to do it in. But as Dawkins says “evolution is fact, HOW evolution happened is theory”. If we treated Darwin like a prophet and his books were sacred then we’d have burned Dawkins at the stake by now.

  • George Bailey

    I am not a believer, but this article and the previous responses raise a few issues for me.

    (1) What exactly is a “friendly” atheist? This article, with due respect, shows little but belligerence and closed-mindedness, neither of which I would call “friendly.” Perhaps there is a special code definition for “friendly” that I have missed because I am not a regular on this site.

    (2) In my life experience, being confident does not forgive smugness, which is an ugly trait present in this article — and, regardless of how mislabeled, is not “friendly.” (More on this follows below.)

    (3) Good grief. “Are Christians illogical?” Some are, yes, but so are some atheists — as this article demonstrates by falling into caricature, and displaying ignorance by implying that ALL Christians “believe in a talking snake, a literal Noah’s Ark, [or] the existence of Heaven and Hell.” Many Christians have reasonable grounds for belief, and also reasonable beliefs — even though self-righteous and smug (oh, I mean “confident”) atheists are convinced that the Christians are wrong.

    (4) “Even moderate Christians who see most of the Bible as a metaphor believe in the resurrection of Jesus.” I know you avoided modifying “moderate” with “all,” to leave some wiggle room, but your statement raises a larger concern. It is not unreasonable (i.e., irrational) to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, though such an event, if it occurred, would truly be a miracle. There IS evidence for the resurrection, even if it is not sufficient to convince the posters here (or me). If there were NO evidence for the event, the irrational label might apply — but there IS evidence, substantial evidence even, so it cannot. Please draw your lines of argument more precisely, and don’t make inaccurate extremist statements; they hurt your cause.

    (5) I am not necessarily defending Prather’s piece, which is weak, but his general point is not entirely invalid. Dawkins, Grayling, Harris, and Hitchens, among others, are demonstrably vicious, condescending, absolutist, and, yes, smug in their attacks on even the most educated and reasonable Christians. (These conclusions are amply supported not only by their respective books, but also by the audio from last fall’s Intelligence Squared debate in London, in which Dawkins, with Grayling at his side, sarcastically equated the Christian God with “fairies.”) This may not be “fundamentalist” in the dictionary sense, but it ABSOLUTELY is the kind of ugliness about which atheists, in harping on Christians, have justifiably complained for years. Even former friends get dismissive treatment; consider that atheists have roundly trashed Antony Flew’s recent move to deism as proof of his senility, rather than (gasp) perhaps a conclusion based on reasoned analysis of arguments and evidence. To repeat, being convinced that one is right does not sanction ugliness and belligerence, regardless of one’s viewpoint.

    (6) One final point. Dawkins, who seems quite to like his atheist “rock star” status, has shown a preference for maligning (as with his Oxford colleague, Alister McGrath) or simply ignoring (as with Americans Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig) serious Christian intellectuals who could logically counter many or all of his religious pronouncements — as opposed to engaging in a civilized, on-the-facts, back-and-forth discussion about possible reasonable bases for belief in God. He claims to be “too busy” for such exchanges, yet finds time to get slobbered over by sycophants like Bill Maher, and to bask in the cheers of his worshipful fans.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    I believe that when they refer to the New Atheists they are referring to those atheists who no longer are sitting back, but are becoming vocal and rebutting the creationist rhetoric.

  • muggle

    Greta’s piece is fantastic!

    I too resent the term “new” Atheism and find it somewhat creepy. I’ve been self-defining myself as Atheist for 24 years now and Agnostic for 4 years before that. There is also the brief period in time between when I was born and when I had the religious notions taught to me when I was atheist even though I didn’t know the word or the theory because I hadn’t learned the b.s.

    Plus, as hoverfrog points out, Atheism is as old as the first silly proclamation of belief in some supernatural entity. You know there was at least one of us there going horseshit. In fact, we were probably the majority.

    The only thing new is that we’re freer to be outspoken now than we have been for hundreds or thousands of years. I hardly need to repeat how can something based on nothing be fundamentalist or zealous?

    The whole piece was bigoted horseshit. And a futile attempt to shut us the fuck up.

  • George Bailey

    I think I have answered my question about what Hemant claims constitutes a “friendly” atheist.

    According to this site’s FAQs, “A friendly atheist is someone who,” among other things, “[d]oes not think someone is inferior for believing in God, but can engage in polite conversation about that decision,” and who “[d]oes not go around denigrating religious people unnecessarily, because he/she knows that to get respect, one must give it.”

    In my view, Hemant’s article violates both of these claims, pretty clearly. Does that make him a hypocrite? At least Greta’s venom-spewing rant, though often irrational, never claimed to be friendly.

  • Sobex

    Well George, you say that “Many Christians have reasonable grounds for belief, and also reasonable beliefs — even though self-righteous and smug (oh, I mean “confident”) atheists are convinced that the Christians are wrong.” Yet at the same time you say “I am not a believer”. If Christian rationales for belief are not convincing for you, why do you call them reasonable? This is disingenuous at best, and more likely is also evidence that you are as smug as the fictional straw-man you are attacking.

    If you believe that YOU can see through the fallacious nature of these beliefs, but others cannot, and choose not to question others about their beliefs, that is tantamount to admitting that you cannot change other peoples’ minds, that they are incapable of understanding reality the way you are. That is the definition of smug. At least the atheists who are advancing their position believe that they CAN reach other people with their arguments.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    @George —

    I think you’re mistaking friendliness for an inability to criticize what I believe are foolish ideas.

    No doubt I think atheists and Christians can come together for shared goals. But that doesn’t mean you let the other side’s beliefs slide.

    Furthermore, Prather’s attacks on atheism are unwarranted and untrue.

    You call atheists smug. I don’t see smug. I’d love to know what you consider smug.

    Some atheists are illogical, but not about the issue of God. They’re not the ones making claims contrary to reality. But Christians who believe that Christ rose from the dead are, I think, saying something ridiculous. If someone claimed to have risen from the dead today, we would dismiss them immediately. The evidence given by apologists has been debunked repeatedly.

    For what it’s worth, nearly half of Americans believe God created us as we are in the past 10,000 years — defying everything science has taught us about evolution. That’s absurd. It’s not a caricature to point that out.

    I would love to know one thing that a “serious Christian intellectual” like William Lane Craig has said that atheists should take special note of. They might write a little more intellectually than others, but they don’t say anything that would make any atheist think twice about god.

    You mock Dawkins because he has “fans”… as if there are no “rock star” pastors. He has fans because he says what so many people are thinking but are afraid to say. He’s not right because he’s popular. He’s popular because he’s right.

  • George Bailey

    Sobex:

    Thanks for your reply. However, you presume far too much.

    First, I disagree that I have set up a “fictional straw-man.” As a lawyer, I am frequently one of two advocates making reasonable, yet contrary, arguments to a judge. Cases involve competing reasonable arguments nearly all the time. A judge decides by opting for the position she or he finds MORE reasonable, and NOT by declaring that the losing party is an imbecile — which, at risk of offending, seems to be the usual tack for blog-posting atheists. Reasonableness is not a 0/100 proposition; the law, with its preponderance of the evidence standard, recognizes as much.

    I can believe (and do) that certain pro-Christian arguments are reasonable, while at the same time finding that anti-Christian arguments are, at least at the moment, MORE reasonable. That’s pure rational decisionmaking. Perhaps you believe that staking ground in favor of “A” means, means, ipso facto, that all arguments against “A” are necessarily stupid, silly, and groundless, but I do not. Such a reaction would be childish, as I am sure you would agree.

    Also, while I’m not sure I understand your point, I certainly DO “choose . . . to question others about their beliefs,” and thus do NOT “admit[] that [I] cannot change other peoples’ minds.” Where you got this notion from my post, I am clueless. I question and challenge others (e.g., Christians and Muslims) all the time. Such persons’ positions are almost NEVER irrational; instead, I find that they simply require less evidence than I would want to reach their positions. (Again, LESS evidence, not NO evidence.) To return to the legal analogy, different judges issue conflicting decisions all the time, because each judge views equivalent evidence differently. I simply allow that reasonable people can disagree — and that includes allowing that reasonable people can be, and sometimes are, deeply religious.

    Finally, I have never claimed not to be “smug.” I don’t think I am smug, and seriously doubt that I fit your curious definition of the term. But, as a reasonable person, I can be persuaded otherwise.

  • George Bailey

    Hemant: Thanks for the reply. I was simply defining “friendly” the way you do on your blog, and am not convinced by your response that you meet the definition. Some points, though I doubt you’ll pay much heed:

    (1) I use the term “smug” as my dictionary defines it — “Exhibiting or feeling great or offensive satisfaction with oneself or with one’s situation; self-righteously complacent.” Perhaps it’s not an entirely pejorative term, but it fits Dawkins, et al. to a tee. Atheists criticize Christians for self-righteousness, but seem blind when it is exhibited by their idols.

    (2) What do “rock star” pastors have to do with Dawkins’ adoring throngs? I’m not defending rock star pastors in any way. If you feel obliged to have rock star atheists because those damn Christians have their rock star pastors, I can’t stop you — but what is reasonable in that? You say that Dawkins is “not right because he’s popular. He’s popular because he’s right.” That is your conclusion, and you have the right to express it — but are you willing to consider that he might NOT be right? He, in my view, has no doubts about his intellectual and reasoning superiority to ANY Christian (see “smug” above).

    (3) Is it “friendly,” as you claim to be, to endorse Greta Christina’s vitriol as “better than I could have said it”? Any endorser of her article — which spews anger like a busted radiator — cannot reasonably call himself “friendly.”

    (4) A statement may be untrue, but such untruth does not provide you a license for nastiness. Why not just refute Prather’s wrong statements point by point, and let the reasonable readers of your site draw their own reasonable conclusions? Or, as I fear, is the object to gain more attention by hyperbole? Why the nastiness?

    (5) You say you “would love to know one thing that a ‘serious Christian intellectual’ like William Lane Craig has said that atheists should take special note of.” I doubt that you would, but your phrase “that atheists should take special note of” belies a predisposition to reject anything Craig or others MIGHT say. Preexisting bias is also reflected in your statement that Christian intellectuals “don’t say anything that would make any atheist think twice about god.” If this is your starting position, then you cannot reasonably criticize a Christian who ignores Dawkins, Dennett, or Stenger because those fellows “don’t say anything that would make any [Christian] think twice about [God].” You’re trying to have your cake and eat it too.

    I understand if your site is meant to be a sounding board for atheists who think believers are pure idiots. If that’s the point, however, you should change the name to something more appropriate — like “Spleen-Venting Atheists Who Like to Bash Believers.”

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond. (I still liked your book, by the way.)

  • Aj

    George Bailey,

    Many Christians have reasonable grounds for belief, and also reasonable beliefs…

    Frankly, that’s just not true. At least I’ve sought out the arguments of Christians for believing in a god, and they’re not reasonable at all. At the most basic level of deism, there are no reasonable arguments. Yet Christians are not deists, they are theists, which means they have to account for much more than deists, and they do not do this. Further, they are not just theists, they are Christians, which means at least they have to believe in Jesus the miracle making deity manifestation.

    Such persons’ positions are almost NEVER irrational; instead, I find that they simply require less evidence than I would want to reach their positions. (Again, LESS evidence, not NO evidence.)

    If this were the case, and it isn’t, then religious people would have to concede that there are many contradictory claims to their beliefs with equal evidence of similar quality (anecdote and personal conviction). If they were forming their beliefs based on evidence, they would find it impossible to choose which claims to believe. Furthermore, they usually end of believing what their parents believe, evaluating evidence doesn’t usually lead to neat geographical or hereditary relationships to belief.

    That’s accepting that anything put forward for a claim is to be considered “evidence”. That’s certainly what some consider the word to me. That’s not what I consider the word to me, as to me the word usually confers an element of justification in connecting the evidence to the conclusion. When defining the word evidence, there is usually a reference to the concept of proof and truth. Some forms of “evidence” should not be considered legitimate if they in no way further the search for truth.

    Such persons positions are almost always irrational, when considering that what they use to support their beliefs does not nor would it ever justify that belief.

    I can believe (and do) that certain pro-Christian arguments are reasonable…

    Enlighten us, perhaps they’re rare enough that we haven’t heard them, and your reference to “many Christians” is exaggerated.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    George Bailey,
    I think you will find that most Christians believe in a heaven and hell. As far as Dawkins and company getting aggressive, they just simply got sick of sitting back while creationists have attempted to get the teaching of evolution replaced by creationism. Creationism does literally believe everything in the Bible including Noah’s ark and that everything was created approximately 5000 years ago.

    BTW, all Christians still believe Jesus was God and are still waiting for his return even though he stated “There will be still some of you standing when my Father arrives in glory in His Kingdom. It was supposed to happen in the lifetime of most of the people he was fervently preaching to to prepare for the coming Kingdom. Since it didn’t happen, there is only one thing that I can conclude, and that is that Jesus was a failed prophet.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    Plutosdad,
    Thank you I will check out the books you mentioned.

  • Rosanna

    Both atheists and religious people ARE fundamentalists. Why? Because the latter say “Such and such saw Christ after death therefore I believe” whereas the former say “nobody ever saw Christ after death therefore I don’t believe”. The ONLY reasonable (ie scientific) way to think is “As long as I have no proof of the existence – or lack of existence – of god I can’t either believe or not believe”.
    Think about a new medication… saying “it must work because somebody claimed it once did” is fool. Saying “it must not work because nobody saw it working” is EQUALLY fool. The only thing that can be said is “I don’t know whether it will work or not”. There absolutely is NO WAY to rationally prove or disprove the existence of god. Whoever thinks s/he can do so (or the reverse), is fooling him/herself. That’s why believers and non-believers are both delusional, albeit with a different gist.

  • Aj

    Rosanna,

    Both atheists and religious people ARE fundamentalists. Why? Because the latter say “Such and such saw Christ after death therefore I believe” whereas the former say “nobody ever saw Christ after death therefore I don’t believe”. The ONLY reasonable (ie scientific) way to think is “As long as I have no proof of the existence – or lack of existence – of god I can’t either believe or not believe”.
    Think about a new medication… saying “it must work because somebody claimed it once did” is fool. Saying “it must not work because nobody saw it working” is EQUALLY fool. The only thing that can be said is “I don’t know whether it will work or not”. There absolutely is NO WAY to rationally prove or disprove the existence of god. Whoever thinks s/he can do so (or the reverse), is fooling him/herself. That’s why believers and non-believers are both delusional, albeit with a different gist.

    Very few atheists think they can disprove gods, actively believe gods don’t exist, or can prove a negative. Atheism as defined by the people who call themselves that, or are called that by others, don’t believe what you say they do. Atheism is defined by a lack of belief in gods. If you answer the question: “Do you believe in any gods?” with a “no” then you are an atheist. Most atheists answer: “Do you believe there are no gods?” with a “no” as well.

    To be called a fundamentalist religious person you have to take a literal interpretation of scripture, to subscribe to a set of fundamental principles based on revelation, and to be a reactionary against modernity such as secularization and the advancement in knowledge.

    To be called a fundamentalist atheist you have to be anti-religious and express your views honestly in public.

  • Wayne Dunlap

    p.s.,
    I still say there are two basic choices. Either it all came about by chance or a creator started it off.
    I agree that I probably do not have a firm grasp on what quantum mechanics is saying.
    I will check out A Universe in a Nutshell,
    Why ask where a creator came from? It could have always existed.
    I have given a reason why science cannot investigate the supernatural because science can only investigate material things.
    I haven’t seen the show Ghost Hunters. I do not get cable. I do remember reading a book years ago by Hans Holtzer who supposedly had a medium who would go into a trance and the dead would talk through her. I don’t believe it though.
    I am speculating, but I don’t consider it wild.
    Supernatural: Of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially: of or relating to God or gods.
    Nothing: No matter, energy, space or time. Did I leave anything out?
    Outside of space and time: Since these do not exist when there is nothing, this is the only place a creator could exist. Again, I have no choice but to speculate.
    You asked how I know that space didn’t exist and was merely empty before the big bang. The reason it wasn’t there is that space was created as expansion began due to the big bang.

  • Bob

    Extremists and fundamentalists exist regardless of the whether the medium is religion or atheism. It’s just that simple.

    Some are also very rude and very intolerant in the process, but that is entirely beside the point.

    Under fundamentalism, some atheists, no less than theists, want to suppress what they do not believe is true, or what they think is dangerous. And, atheists are just as capable of anger, intolerance, tyranny and violence as anyone else.

    There’s nothing about “new atheism” that distinguishes it from “old atheism” or that morality under atheism will develop towards greater perfection and a diminution of violence, or why humanity should develop in this direction at all.

    The cause of fundamentalism isn’t specifically religion. It’s arrogance, ego and fear with regard to beliefs, even metaphysical naturalism, and the desire to suppress the beliefs of others. And atheists are not unique, exempt or special in this regard.