Ed Feser on the Reason Rally

Ed Feser has a post up denouncing the Reason Rally on the grounds that it is a mass gathering and all mass gatherings are bad. Among other things, Feser wonders if there will be a “Two Minutes Hate” at the rally. I am suddenly eagerly looking forward to his denunciation of the next Catholic World Youth Day.

To get a sense of the scale of the hypocrisy, consider that the last World Youth Day was attended by an estimated one to two million people, while according to Jen Reason Rally is expected to get 50,000 tops. Also, the Catholic Church is well-known for holding regular large gatherings called “mass.” From this, it should be obvious that Feser started with his conclusion (atheists are evil) and then set out in search of a way–no matter how lame–to justify it.

Feser also repeats his tired shtick of complaining that atheists don’t pay enough attention to the philosophers he thinks they should be paying attention to (mainly Thomas Aquinas as interpreted by Edward Feser). Ed boy, you know why atheists don’t pay more attention to you? Because most of what you write is a transparent post-hoc rationalization for bigotry.

And now, some pictures of the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day:

  • jamessweet

    Ah hahahahah…

    The penetration of 1984 into popular culture has created the rather bizarre phenomenon of people who are the most guilty of employing 1984-style techniques accusing their opponents of employing 1984-style techniques — which is itself a 1984-style technique.

    Oceania needs to add a Ministry of Meta.

  • Eric

    This post isn’t fair at all, Chris.

    “Ed Feser has a post up denouncing the Reason Rally on the grounds that it is a mass gathering and all mass gatherings are bad.”

    Feser didn’t say that all ‘mass gatherings’ are ‘bad’, In the comments section of the post you’re responding to, he says:

    “At the same time, not all crowds count as rallies. For example, concerts, sporting events, funerals, and events whose aim is religious devotion (e.g. outdoor Masses or gatherings to receive a papal blessing) are not intended to promote an end of a political or quasi-political sort. These don’t bother me at all, because they don’t involve the paradoxical attempt to promote an ideology or program in an emotive rather than rational way.”

    This quote, which established demonstrations as a subset of gatherings, also knocks down this remark of yours:

    “Also, the Catholic Church is well-known for holding regular large gatherings called “mass.” From this, it should be obvious that Feser started with his conclusion (atheists are evil) and then set out in search of a way–no matter how lame–to justify it.”

    As Feser says, a Catholic mass can’t reasonably be identified with a political demonstration, and it’s only such demonstrations that he’s targeting.

    “To get a sense of the scale of the hypocrisy, consider that the last World Youth Day was attended by an estimated one to two million people, while according to Jen Reason Rally is expected to get 50,000 tops.”

    Feser went out of his way to make it clear that he doesn’t even favor ‘rallies’ for causes he supports. (“But I dislike such rallies even when the cause is good and the participants well-meaning.”) So I’m not sure whom you’re charging with ‘hypocrisy’ here. But second, it’s not even clear that World Youth Day should be categorized as such a demonstration. Anyway, I don’t know Feser’s opinion on the matter, and neither do you, which is more to the point.

    You also wrote:

    “Feser also repeats his tired shtick of complaining that atheists don’t pay enough attention to the philosophers he thinks they should be paying attention to (mainly Thomas Aquinas as interpreted by Edward Feser).”

    No, Feser doesn’t refer to atheists simpliciter, but only to the New Atheists (and their many followers). Indeed, in the comments section of the very post you’re responding to he goes out of his way to make this clear: “Groupthink is evidenced by things like being moved by the feelings prevailing in a mob rather than by reason (as at a rally) or by mostly reading only each other’s work, and ridiculing and demonizing outsiders without even attempting to understand their views (as “New Atheists” do though other atheists — e.g. Mackie, Smart, Smith, Sobel — do not).”

    • http://oldtimeatheism.blogspot.ca/ andyman409

      I don’t know. My old Catholic congregation and school seemed to put much a lot of emphasis on political issues like abstinence and contraceptives. They also regularly encouraged the students to go to world youth day.

  • inflection

    *eyes that last photo*

    Man that’s a lot of human beings.

    Our species does such cool things. Why they gotta be for the Pope?

    • dukeofomnium

      They could also be for Kim Jong-un. Once upon a time, they would have been for Chairman Mao or Il Duce. But when you have crowds that large, it ain’t gonna be about the thinking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

    Beth, Eric, what evidence is there that would convince a neutral observer that the purpose of World Youth Day is significantly different from the purpose of Reason Rally?

    It’s *obvious* that if pressed, Feser would claim they were different somehow. Maybe he would claim that none of the gatherings his Church ever has have a purpose analogous to the Reason Rally. Or maybe he would claim that some are a case of a necessary evil, another defense he gestures at. The question is whether he has a principled reason for doing so.

    Had I wanted to write a detailed rebuttal to Feser, it would have went something like this: there are many purposes an event like Reason Rally (or a rally for a political party, or civil rights protests) can serve, like X, Y, and Z. So Feser’s view of what they do is overly simplistic.

    On the other hand, to anyone who doesn’t believe the Pope really has magic powers to bless people and turn wine and bread into the blood and body of Jesus, church services and larger religious gatherings do look like they’re about affirming and reinforcing commitment to a particular religion through means that don’t exactly involve sophisticated philosophical reflection, but I would never think to attack religion on that ground alone. I object to the message, but really couldn’t care about the medium.

    I didn’t go into any of this simply because it’s so transparent that Feser doesn’t have any kind of principled objection to Reason Rally, so why bother?

    And while Feser may occasionally find it in him to say nice things about atheist philosophers, the way he talks about them (and other people who otherwise really know their stuff) is frequently indistinguishable from the way he talks about the so-called “New Atheists”–see the ridiculous things he’s written about Keith Parsons, or his exchange with Jason Rosenhouse.

    • Beth

      I don’t know why you’re addressing this comment to me.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

        My bad. That was supposed to be Eric. Got confused because I typed it at roughly the same time I typed my response to you in the other thread.

  • Tony

    there’s just something vomit-inducing about the catholic church holding youth rallies.

  • Pingback: The term “New Atheism” is a lie | The Uncredible Hallq

  • Rob

    Wow! Feser is such a clown. A Catholic apologist criticizing the Reason Rally because “reason is impossible with a crowd”? What transparent hypocrisy.

    Feser is not a stupid man. But he is just so blinded by his bias and hatred that he repeatedly makes a fool of himself. Maybe one of these days he will grow up.

  • Arthur

    Here’s a tip, Hallq. When you’re trying to characterise someone, weave quotations from what they actually said into your own reply. It really cuts down on stupid misunderstandings like the one’s you’re peddling here. Feser never said that “all mass gatherings are bad”, and if you’d tried to quote him directly you would have discovered that for yourself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1405051812 richardnorris

    Putting what Ed said on the blog would mean that Hallquist takes Ed seriously, and for the New Atheists this is the one thing that can never be done. This is actually what makes them New Atheists rather than some breed of “popular atheist”. New Atheism entails a deliberate ignorance of the oppositions claims and a general sense of pride that their ignorance is so complete. When someone calls them on it, then they can dance around and sing “Courtiers Reply, Courtiers Reply!” and have their fellow New Atheists applaud rather than scold them. ANd so far as it goes for “popular atheism”, perhaps we can compare it to pop music? Repetitive and largely empty of substance.

  • Anteprepro

    At the risk of necroposting…

    New Atheism entails a deliberate ignorance of the oppositions claims and a general sense of pride that their ignorance is so complete.

    Funny. I tend to see more Gnu atheists that were former Christians than Christians that were former atheists. I tend to see more atheists who are familiar with the Bible than Christians who have read anything about atheism from an atheist. I tend to see thorough demonstrations that Christians are misunderstanding or blatantly distorting the views of atheists, but when Christians claim that atheists are doing the same, they rarely ever back up their claims in the same way.

    By a slight margin, atheists are even more knowledgeable about basic elements of Christianity than the average Christian. And atheists are more informed about non-Christian religions than the average Christian as well, by a much wider margin. I believe that we actually have a small piece of empirical evidence showing this to be true ( More details here ). If there is any party that is truly ignorant of the “opposition’s claims”, it would be American Christians.

    So, here’s my advice for you: If you seriously believe that atheists are not accurately addressing Christianity, then show how they are missing the mark. Because until you do that, you are just one more person regurgitating an old meme that is unsupported and contrary to evidence. Which is par for the course from the religious.

    • Arthur

      “If you seriously believe that atheists are not accurately addressing Christianity, then show how they are missing the mark.”

      One example would be that Dawkins wrongly assumes that Aquinas thought that the universe had a temporal beginning. If you want to find out about common atheist misconceptions, I recommend you read Feser’s blog. Heck, it’s helped me.

      A particularly good read would be his post on common misconceptions of the Cosmological Argument:
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/so-you-think-you-understand.html

  • Steve Willy

    What a highly logical and reasoned argument. Unfortunately for Nexkbeardom its just as easy to say ‘there is something vomit inducing about basement dwelling trolls who hide behind internet anonymity. Yours is a petty, trivial, localized, earthbound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.

  • Nullifidian

    No, of course we understand that only mass gatherings of atheists are bad. Mass gatherings of Feser’s co-religionists are a-ok.