The Amazing Incuriosity Of The New Atheists

The Amazing Incuriosity Of The New Atheists January 7, 2015

Fellow Patheosi Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist“, covers a new atheist book: How “God” Works: A Logical Inquiry on Faith.

When I saw this on Twitter, I naively thought: “A ‘logical’ inquiry on faith! Nice! Maybe we’ll finally see a serious treatment of the Cosmological Argument, or the question of existence, or causality, or an attempt to wrestle with the contradictions of materialism, or the problem of grounding morality without transcendence!”

Yeah, no.

Instead, we get this:

Millions of people pray to God every day to cure their diseases, solve their financial problems, help them win in Las Vegas, and so on. Christians behave in this way for many reasons: Because so many other people talk about answered prayers; because prayer is a big part of the culture; because of the many statements in the Gospels claiming that God will, in fact, do something as a result of prayer.


What happens if Jesus, who is supposed to be God incarnate, who is supposed to be perfect, omniscient, and incapable of lying, says, “I will do whatever you ask in my name” in a book that the majority of adults in America claim to be literally true? In that case, a critical thinker reasonably expects Jesus to do what he says he will do.

Bracket the merits for one second. What we have here is someone who, seemingly, has never spoken with an actual Christian or ever made any good faith effort to find out about the tenets of the Christian faith from a reputable source.

Classic traits of New Atheist polemic: the ascription of motives to ordinary Christians that sounds fantastic to anyone who is, or frequently interacts with, actual ordinary Christians; the identification of Christianity with the cruder forms of conservative American Evangelicalism that treat the Bible as a literalistically-explicit set of instructions without any sense that a regional, 150-year-old form of Christianity might not be the most representative of a 2000-year-old movement that has taken root in every continent and every culture, and so on.

The New Atheist obsession with petitionary prayer is so telling, because this stuff is only possible for someone who has never made any good faith attempt to find out what Christians believe, experience, or write about prayer. There are tons of books about prayer out there! This is not hard to do. Of course petitionary prayer is part of the Christian spiritual life, but it is not the central focus, nor the justification. I mean, I wrote a post titled “Everything I Know About Prayer“, which aims to be just what it says on the tin, and doesn’t mention petitionary prayer once.

This is just astonishing to me. There’s the step: “Hey, here’s a totally obvious apparent contradiction in the beliefs/practices of Christians!” And there’s the step: “Therefore, Christianity makes no sense!” And no attempt whatsoever to insert an intermediary step, like: “Hey, wait a second, maybe over two thousand years there has been at least one smart Christian or two who thought about this objection, and maybe I should check out what they have to say before jumping to my conclusion?” or “Maybe a good argument takes on the strongest possible version of an argument, rather than the weakest, so I should really make a good faith effort to find out the strongest version?” When I say I am astonished, you can take me literally, like the Bible (ha!): I just do not understand how minds that work like that work. It is a Zen koan-level of bafflement.

And there’s another level of bafflement, which is that it’s 2015. I am not exactly the first Christian to make this complaint. Sam Harris’s The End of Faith, which is usually thought of as the starting gun of the New Atheist movement, came out in 2004, more than ten years ago. There has been absolutely no change, no growth in awareness that these guys are just gesticulating in a dark room, punching shadows. It’s like we’re screaming into a hurricane.

In the end, I have to agree with David Bentley Hart’s analysis of the New Atheism. Why is it that Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great” has a howling factual error on every page, when if there’s one thing everyone can agree with, its that you can certainly come up with a very long, accurate list of depredations committed in the name of religion? (And why is it that the New Atheists, with all their commitment to reason and facts, don’t care?) Why is it that none of the New Atheists–even the philosophically-trained ones!–have never been able to produce a restatement, let alone a rebuttal, of the Cosmological Argument, when pretty much the first ticket for admission into civilized debate is that you can restate your opponent’s position in a way they would recognize? Why is it that Jerry Coyne exists?

The New Atheism are not primarily a philosophical or “religious” movement, they are a political movement: the books are written in the service of a specific cause, to eradicate religion from public sphere (or, really, the world), because they believe that this will make the world a better place–a project fundamentally political in nature. Now, as such, there’s nothing wrong with a philosophy that is “political” in that sense. But it raises a troublesome question: given that every single time militant atheism has gained access to the levers of state power, the result has been mass murder on an unprecedented scale, one can no longer be certain that a world of proud unbelief will be a good one. Maybe it’s still possible, but it’s certainly no longer possible to be certain, and the New Atheists are nothing if not certain. So, how does one believe things that it is impossible to believe? By actively refusing to think.

This is how the fundamentalist mind works: the very act of thinking rigorously is dangerous, because it threatens to expose the gaping void on which the worldview rests. And so even when it would help their cause, the New Atheists are simply incapable of thinking rigorously, or critically, or rationally, because then they would no longer be New Atheists.

Of course, the other constant of the fundamentalist mind is bloodlust. I don’t think I’m the first person to notice that ignorance and barbarism often go hand-in-hand, and if there’s another thing that unites the New Atheists, it’s not just their ignorance, but the profound, atavistic character of their hostility to religious belief and believers. Is it really that far-fetched to suggest that people who proudly wear on their sleeve (a) their absolute contempt for [group X] which they view as the scum of the Earth and the source of all evil in the world; (b) their disbelief in objectively-binding transcendent morality would, if able to, deploy relentless violence against [group X]? When they have given every indication that this is exactly what they want?

Now, I don’t want to be guilty of the same strawmanning that New Atheists deploy. #NotAllAtheists. Many atheists are upstanding moral people, and many atheists are subtle thinkers. And some of them are aware of the problem.

One of the best responses to the conversion of my fellow Patheosi Leah Libresco was this one. Ultimately, Leah had found atheist philosophy lacking, and found Catholic philosophy and theology much more robust, and converted. This blogger basically blames “foolish atheists”, conceding that New Atheism is no match for sophisticated Christian (especially Catholic) philosophy, and pointing to the conversion of someone smart and open-minded like Leah as the predictable result. Now, he thinks that there is a better atheist philosophy than the New Atheism and if Leah had just read that she wouldn’t have converted; but I’m pretty sure Leah did her homework, and I’m pretty sure no atheist philosophy comes close to Catholic philosophy–but then I would think that, wouldn’t I.

In any case: while you guys are over there pointing out the fact that nobody ever noticed that petitionary prayer doesn’t always magically work, I’ll be over here, having a cup of tea on the intellectual high ground, and welcoming other smart converts.


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  • DKeane123

    “never spoken with an actual Christian” – Considering the US is close to 85% Christian, I doubt this is true. Unless he isn’t speaking to the “right kind” of Christian

    “the identification of Christianity with the cruder forms of conservative American Evangelicalism…” Ever see football players praying on the sidelines for a kicker to miss/hit a field goal or for a singer to thank God for giving them a top charting single? These are everyday Christians. Basically the Author is making the claim that most other Christians are wrong and that he has the answer. No Tue Scotsman.

    Generally I agree that just because an opinion is popular (intercessory prayer), doesn’t necessarily mean it is correct, except, I would be more likely to apply the principle to all of religion. How do I determine this Author is correct? Is there a Bible 2.0? Is the failure of studies to show that prayer works somehow proof that the Author’s views are correct – you can’t measure prayer? BTW – astrologers and homeopaths make many of the same arguments.

    “petitionary prayer doesn’t always magically work” – Hilarious. The point of the post from the FA was that it never works. When it “works” there is always a more plausible naturalistic explanation. This is why you would have look at those scenarios where it is impossible to have a naturalistic cause.

    • So we essentially agree that the author hasn’t tried to make a good faith effort to encounter the most intellectually robust versions of Christianity he could find. Cool.

      • Dulius

        That wasn’t what the OP said. At all.

        • DKeane123

          He is referring to intellectually robust as being the “right kind” of Christians that I mentioned initially. Of course even the intellectually robust can’t decide among themselves what the right kind is. Mostly because they don’t have a rigorous method of discerning what is correct.

          The mention of Hart means they are of the “ground of being” types, which means their God has been defined so broadly as to be essentially meaningless.

          • Do you think Thomas Aquinas’s ontology of God (which is also Hart’s) is so broad as to be essentially meaningless? You should totally write that paper, man, you’d revolutionize Thomistic studies. They’d grant you tenure just for that.

          • DKeane123

            I would love to, but as a Geologist – I tend to be more data driven in my approach to writing papers. Not sure there has been any real research into the nature of God for a very long time. I think we need bigger telescopes.

          • I suppose you don’t know who Robert Spritzer is either.

          • DKeane123

            He is the Catholic version of the Templeton Foundation.I wish him the best of luck.

          • And so therefore you actually do know that there has been real research into the nature of God within the last 5 years. Which means that in addition to being a narrow-minded geology expert, you’re also a liar.

          • DKeane123

            I would love to see the paper. I have doubts that we have the same definition of what consiitutes “real research”.

          • It’s a book, called “New Proofs for the Existence of God”. But I’m sure you don’t consider math and observation to be real research, if they’re not done by one of your approved authorities, using a methodology approved of by your authorities.

          • DKeane123

            A quick look indicates that all the reviews are from religious websites – doesn’t seem to have caught on in the physics crowd. They are usually big into proofs.

            But it looks like the same old stuff:
            cosmological argument.

            teleological argument – btw – lots of physicists have refuted this.

            metaphysical argument

            and so on…

            There is not actual real “research” here – it is all just mind exercises.

          • “A quick look indicates that all the reviews are from religious websites – doesn’t seem to have caught on in the physics crowd.”

            Appeal to authority, and in fact, the wrong expertise. There is no need to consult physicists about theology.

            “There is not actual real “research” here – it is all just mind exercises.”

            Based on your authoritative definition of research, I assume.

      • DKeane123

        I’m not sure I would use the word “intellectually robust” when discussing any version of theology, Especially when the very base assumptions are extremely questionable – but that is a discussion for a different day.

    • There is a Bible 8.0 (3.0 is what most people read, 2.0 is in Latin). It is called the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I would recommend reading it.

      • DKeane123

        I’ve read the whole thing a couple of times. I always have a hard time with the slavery, genocide, and eternal torture – probably will never get past those issues. I suggest they take them out of Bible 9.0.

        • Please point me to the passages in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that endorse slavery and genocide.

          • DKeane123

            I can cite the bible directly – but I’m sure you are well aware of them yourself.

          • You mean Bible 3.0. Try Bible 8.0.

        • I take it you are for slavery, genocide, and eternal torture? Since the catechism is clearly against them:

          1221 But above all, the crossing of the Red Sea, literally the liberation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, announces the liberation wrought by Baptism:

          You freed the children of Abraham from the slavery of Pharaoh,
          bringing them dry-shod through the waters of the Red Sea,
          to be an image of the people set free in Baptism.

          62 After the patriarchs, God formed Israel as his people by freeing them from slavery in Egypt. He established with them the covenant of Mount Sinai and, through Moses, gave them his law so that they would recognize him and serve him as the one living and true God, the provident Father and just judge, and so that they would look for the promised Savior.

          421 Christians believe that “the world has been established and kept in being by the Creator’s love; has fallen into slavery to sin but has been set free by Christ, crucified and risen to break the power of the evil one. . .” (GS 2 § 2).

          2744 Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin. How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?

          Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy. . . . For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.

          2061 The Commandments take on their full meaning within the covenant. According to Scripture, man’s moral life has all its meaning in and through the covenant. The first of the “ten words” recalls that God loved his people first:

          Since there was a passing from the paradise of freedom to the slavery of this world, in punishment for sin, the first phrase of the Decalogue, the first word of God’s commandments, bears on freedom “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

          549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.

          601 The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of “the righteous one, my Servant” as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin. Citing a confession of faith that he himself had “received”, St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” In particular Jesus’ redemptive death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering Servant. Indeed Jesus himself explained the meaning of his life and death in the light of God’s suffering Servant. After his Resurrection he gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.

          1733 The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to “the slavery of sin.”

          2057 The Decalogue must first be understood in the context of the Exodus, God’s great liberating event at the center of the Old Covenant. Whether formulated as negative commandments, prohibitions, or as positive precepts such as: “Honor your father and mother,” the “ten words” point out the conditions of a life freed from the slavery of sin. The Decalogue is a path of life:

          If you love the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply.

          This liberating power of the Decalogue appears, for example, in the commandment about the sabbath rest, directed also to foreigners and slaves:

          You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.

          205 God calls Moses from the midst of a bush that burns without being consumed: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God is the God of the fathers, the One who had called and guided the patriarchs in their wanderings. He is the faithful and compassionate God who remembers them and his promises; he comes to free their descendants from slavery. He is the God who, from beyond space and time, can do this and wills to do it, the God who will put his almighty power to work for this plan.

          “I Am who I Am”

          Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’. . . this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”<


          2313 Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely.

          Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide.


          2297 Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong.Terrorism threatens, wounds, and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity. Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity. Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law.

          2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

          2148 Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one's speech; in misusing God's name. St. James condemns those "who blaspheme that honorable name [of Jesus] by which you are called." The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ's Church, the saints, and sacred things. It is also blasphemous to make use of God's name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death. The misuse of God's name to commit a crime can provoke others to repudiate religion.

          Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. It is in itself a grave sin.

          • DKeane123

            Yes I am aware of the catechism – although it holds the same weight as statements of Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon, and Islamic principles. They are based upon an argument from authority in the same way the Bible is.

          • So is geology, for that matter. All human knowledge is argument from authority, including the logical rule against argument from authority.

          • DKeane123

            There are no authorities in Geology, no one decrees something “is so”. Measurements are made, the data is interpreted and then it is verified independently – the process allows any historical information to revised as new data comes in. The best example is the more recent theory of plate tectonics (60’s) it overthrew everything that was previously thought about continent formation. And not because someone “said so”, but because the data was a better fit and also explained current processes.

          • “There are no authorities in Geology”

            Where did you get your degree from?

            Penn State’s seems to be full of white papers from authorities.

            “Measurements are made, the data is interpreted and then it is verified independently”

            Which is a form of authority.

            “And not because someone “said so”, but because the data was a better fit and also explained current processes.”

            And thus is an authority. Sorry, you can’t get around the concept of authority by citing the authority of the scientific method.

          • DKeane123

            You confuse expertise with authority.

          • No, you confuse authority with expertise.

          • DKeane123

            You are twisting definitions to make appear as if geology (science) is somehow structured in a similar fashion to religion, in how it finds and disseminates information. It is a poor attempt to try to rub some the credibility that science has earned over the past couple of centuries onto your religion.

            If it was based upon authority, science wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.

          • “You are twisting definitions to make appear as if geology (science) is somehow structured in a similar fashion to religion, ”

            No need to twist definitions. Science has always been a form of theology, ever since human beings started looking at the natural world to get a glimpse of the creator.

            “in how it finds and disseminates information.”

            There is only one way to find and disseminate information.

            ” It is a poor attempt to try to rub some the credibility that science has earned over the past couple of centuries onto your religion.”

            Science has not “earned” any credibility beyond “because we way so”.

            “If it was based upon authority, science wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.”

            It doesn’t work in all cases, like any other system of thought, it only works within its own axioms- which are authoritative.

            Sorry, science isn’t God either, much as you treat it as such.

          • Asemodeus

            False equivalencies are hardly interesting seeber. But at least you are not sexualized it yet. A improvement.

          • There is no false equivalency. Science is a philosophy like any other, and can be studied as such.

          • Asemodeus

            It is a false equivalency because falsification exists in science but not in religion. You would know this if you ever bothered to educate yourself.

          • Falsification exists in religion, what do you think all of those classifications of “heresy” and “anathema” are about?

            But on a meta level- then show me the falsification of the scientific method.

          • DKeane123

            Einstein overthrowing Newtonian physics. Unlike physics, one man’s heresy is another’s valid beliefs.

          • And yet, Newtonian physics also still work for 99% of general human experience.

            But both of those are *within* the scientific method. I asked for falsification OF the scientific method.

          • DKeane123

            A falsification of the scientific method would be satellites that don’t work, nuclear reactors that don’t generate electricity, and comment sections of blogs that don’t allow people to discuss things they nothing about from thousands of miles away. The proof is in the pudding – it works.

          • It is possible for a false theory or methodology to produce a working result (see above example where Newtonian physics still works at non-relativistic speeds), so no, can’t falsify dogma like the scientific method that easily.

          • DKeane123

            The reference you give is science correcting itself because the old theory did not fit the most recent data. You have supported my point.

          • Except for, the old theory *does* fit most of the most recent data, doesn’t it. Not everybody in the world gets to experience traveling at relativistic speeds.

          • DKeane123

            Why are you so hung up on Newton being mostly right? Did you know that GPS satellites have to correct for relativity because their atomic clocks go a bit slower at that speed? Same goes for modern transistor based electronics. Yes Newton was correct for a canonball, but our modern society would not exist without the correction by Einstein.

          • Asemodeus

            Seebers worldview revolves around Catholicism and there us no rational means to blame the onvention of general relativity on it. So he has to downplay its significance because he is a misogynistic toolbag.

          • Actually there is. A whole bunch of Jesuits contributed work to general relativity and to quantum mathematics.

          • Asemodeus

            And yet none of that field of science relies on any god to work. Weird how that works out, hm?

          • Actually it all requires God to work. Because without God, you have a universe without reason, laws, or coherency.

            Which the Jesuits know and have brought up repeatedly- that for the scientific method itself to work, you first need a rational universe to study.

          • Asemodeus

            Now we are entering gibberish territory. If you had a QM proof of god you would not be wasting your time with me and would be instead publishing your findings and becoming instantly famous.

            How you are not belittles your claims.

          • Well, you’re entering into gibberish territory, I’ve had the copenhagen interpretation for quite a while now. And some people did get instantly famous by publishing it.

          • Asemodeus

            Then why are you not famous yet seeber? If quantum uncertainty proved a god you would be famous right now. So come on, I expect to see you in the news any day now.

          • Because I didn’t invent the Copenhagen interpretation. It proves a rational universe, but I didn’t invent it. It exists outside of me.

          • Asemodeus

            Yeah that doesn’t back up your claim at all. Why are you such a bad liar?

          • Backs up my claim enough to disprove your claim that the universe is chaotic and irrational, which is all I need to prove the scientific method is Catholic.

          • Asemodeus

            Lying and presuppositions are not good arguments seeber. Try again and try to not assume conclusions because they are easier for you.

            Why are you so dishonest? Bad parenting or some other form of negative reinforcement. Your toxic religion alone cannot be purely blamed for your dishonesty.

          • You are the one who is dishonest from my point of view. You refuse to look at the evidence before you, so why should I bother?

          • Asemodeus

            The difference is that I have a Masters in Science and you clearly do not. Any outside observer would observe this conversation and correctly point out how illogical you are being.

            Presuppositions are not evidence seeber. You cannot just assume conclusions without first offering proof. Something you clearly do not have since you would be famous for them. Your actions betrays your false arguments.

          • “The difference is that I have a Masters in Science”

            Appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, by your logic 101 God, you blasphemer.

          • Asemodeus

            Already explained to you why appeal to authority is not always fallacious. Are you that dishonest seeber that you would feign ignorance on this?

            You alsoappeal to authority when you cite the catholic dogma. So you can add hyprocrisy to being dishonest to your resume.

            I do have to wonder what happened in your life for you to be this broken. You have a hard time grasping fundamental logic that a grade schooler could understand. Are you just so cowardly at being proved wrong that you’ll go to absurd lengths to protect your ego?

          • “Already explained to you why appeal to authority is not always fallacious. ”

            And I rejected your explanation as just another appeal to authority.

            “You also appeal to authority when you cite the catholic dogma.”

            Yes I do. The difference being that I don’t accept the rules of your logic 101, and thus, do not have this fallacy in my reasoning.

            “I do have to wonder what happened in your life for you to be this broken. You have a hard time grasping fundamental logic that a grade schooler could understand.”

            Abuse from people like you, that I’ve lived with all my life, causes me to strongly distrust your reasoning. What is the matter, can’t you stand dissent from your dogmas?

          • I don’t even need quantum uncertainty to prove God. I just need repeatable hypothesis to be repeatable. Without God, repeatability is impossible.

          • Asemodeus

            A claim made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. What you are doing is called presupposition and only liars use that rehetoric.

            Why are you so dishonest seeber?

          • You claim that the world is without God, and is therefore chaotic. A chaotic world would not have repeatable predictions. Therefore, the existence of repeatable predictions proves that the world is deterministic- that is, not chaotic. Which proves the existence of something keeping it deterministic.

            This is all very basic, and is the explanation of why science was able to continue to exist in Christian countries but not Islamic countries.

            Your utter lack of understanding has no bearing upon my honesty at all.

          • Asemodeus

            Nope. It is the one making the positive claim that is burdened to provide evidence of that claim. You are making a positive claim that god exists, therefore it is your responsibility to prove it.

            This is logic 101 seeber. You should know better. All you have done so far is lied.

            Also the second paragraph is colossally wrong on several levels. While european christians were wallowing in the dark ages Muslims were expanding human intelligence. It is the reason why we have arabic numerals and not roman numerials. Algorthym and algebra are both arabic words for a reason.

            Whoever taught you history did a terrible job of it.

          • It isn’t a positive claim, it’s a simple statement of fact, and as I said before, I do not accept the authority of the god “logic 101”, which you have yet to proove is anything other than an irrational appeal to authority.

            “While european christians were wallowing in the dark ages Muslims were expanding human intelligence.”

            And were promptly executed when the Ottoman Turks came to power in Islam and cemented the Sunni-Shia insistence on an irrational God and an irrational universe- the very universe you claim is true.

          • Asemodeus

            Facts need to be proven first seeber. Something you refuse to do. Are you just lazy or dishonest?

            And thanks for proving my argument about muslims. At one point they were advancing science and mathmatics. Maybe next time you can get it right the first time and not lie so badly.

          • Just making a point that Newton is still right for marbles in two dimesions. That relativity being also correct did not erase what Newton was correct about, but rather added to it.

          • Asemodeus

            Newtonian physics is simply wrong on how the universe works. How the math works within certain parameters is just mathmatics being logical. How you cannot tell the difference is your own fault.

            I am still waiting for a falsification of your religion seeber. You already reneged on your first failed attempt.

          • “Newtonian physics is simply wrong on how the universe works.”

            And yet it isn’t locally.

          • Asemodeus

            It is fundamentally wrong. Ask any physicist.

          • And yet, experimentally it still works in every high school in the nation, despite your insistence that it is “fundamentally wrong”.

          • Asemodeus

            See above. Unlike you seeber I actually asked a physicist this question a few years back. As a explanation of how the universe works newtonian physics is wrong as wrong can get.

          • Asemodeus

            Falsification does not exist in religion. It is a simple question to ask of you that you will ignore hardcore:

            What empirical piece of evidence would you accept that would convince you that religion was wrong?

          • A fully working civilization with zero reference to any of the values my religion used to create western civilization to begin with.

            It is, after all, the only reason I’m still Catholic.

          • Asemodeus

            Several of those existed. Thanks for admitting that you’ll be dropping your silly religion any day now.

          • Existed. Past Tense. Under Survival of the Fittest, Christianity won out.

            Religion won out.

            Atheism has yet to produce a viable society that does not refer to religious virtues in some form. The closest was Russian Stalinism, and even that borrowed several virtues from the Russian Orthodox Catholic Church.

            And need I say, it wasn’t very viable.

          • Asemodeus

            Without those civilizations Catholicism would not have had gotten a foot hold in europe. Thanks for admitting that your original argument was based off of a false promise. Very christian of you.

            The rest is gibberish. You do not need christianity to have a viable civilization. Using those cultures that had zero contact with christians to defend Christianity is the hallmark of a deranged mind. The whole of world history stands testament to the fact that no one religion has to be required for civilizations to work.

          • Did you actually understand the existence of Christendom, or have you been reading heavily edited histories again?

            If you truly believe that you do not need Christianity to have a viable civilization, I invite you to invent your own language, find some land, and start a town. Prove it.

          • Asemodeus

            Do you actually understand that Romans were getting along just fine way before catholics came around? History doesn’t start in the third century seeber.

          • Getting along just fine? Rebellions every other generation, infanticide rampant, and for all of their power, they were destroyed by somebody preaching that maybe enemy soldiers were human too.

            Try again.

          • Asemodeus

            Compared to their neighbors the romans managed their civilization for centuries before anyone ever heard of jesus. Your very religion piggybacked off that success, so watching you deny it is rather laughable.

          • And yet you cannot name a single viable civilization without Christianity.

          • Asemodeus

            Romans. Not that hard seeber.

          • NAME ONE that still exists.

          • Asemodeus

            Not going to entertain your goal post shifting seeber. Pick something else to be dishonest about.

      • EveTushnet

        OK this is the only comment I’ll make: That’s not what the Catechism is. I’m Catholic, I think the catechism is underrated as a source of practical wisdom and a kind of map to the patterns of the Gospel, but it’s a book of explanations. The Bible is a book of true stories, explicitly-made-up stories, songs, problems, rules, andexplanations, plus a lot of other stuff. It’s a completely different (and richer) kind of text.

        If you think of the Bible as a cathedral, the catechism is semi-analogous to the map with a key telling you what the font is and what it’s for, what the painting in the chapel depicts, etc.

        All right, y’all carry on now.

        • Somehow, I’d expect the queen of the homophiles to say that, since you seem to directly dissent from homosexuality being intrinsically disordered, and refuse to discuss the possibility of “Once Gay always Gay” being wrong with anybody.

          • Dan F.

            wtf Ted.

          • I’ve tried to engage Eve on her page about this, and any mention just gets moderated out of existence.

          • Dan F.

            I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark and guess that’s because you’re being an ass.

            I’m not sure if that’s because you are unable to empathize with Eve’s (and other SSA/Gay Catholics’) struggles (which may be the case based on your autism) or because you really think that she is dissenting from Catholic teaching when she acknowledges that her own inclinations seem stubbornly persistent and is looking for ways to fulfill the human need for intimacy through deeper friendships while being obedient to the Church’s teaching on sexual relations.

          • “I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark and guess that’s because you’re being an ass.”

            Somebody being an ass is no reason not to answer reasonable criticism of a work.

            Empathy is a myth, but even that would be a reasonable answer to why she didn’t just join Courage, or why her particular struggle is any different than any other persistent temptation to sin. Few people are willing to accommodate my autism, why again should homosexuals not have to learn coping skills?

          • Dan F.

            That’s just it, I think that she *is* working on coping skills while at the same time acknowledging the reality of her condition. I don’t understand why that is an issue for you.

            It’s an imperfect analogy but your autism colors the way you see the world. It’s part of who you are and isn’t likely to change. For *some* self-identified homosexuals, the inclination/attraction is deep-seated and persistent. It’s not going away.

            2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

            2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

            As far as I can see, Eve is working hard on that last paragraph, and the last sentence in the first paragraph. My suggestion is that you try to accept her “with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

          • I hope so, and have said so quite often in the past.

            I see the myths of homosexuality being similar to the myths of the autistic neurodiversity community. There are autistics out there who actually believe this disease is the next stage of human evolution (a belief that Jim Parsons plays to greatly with his character of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory), and that neurotypicals are the outmoded neanderthal cousins to be pitied at best, ridiculed at worst. They’re like the homosexuals you see in Pride parades, and someday I’m sure that ASAN will be holding “Autistic Pride” events.

            Then there are the Son Rise people, who are more like the new homophiles. They know there is something wrong, but they want the best of both the autistic and the neurotypical world, so they focus their coping skills on “friendship” and attempt to use social behavior to make autistic behavior more acceptable.

            Then there are people like John Elder Robison, Temple Grandin, and myself. We’re like Courage. We know there is something extremely wrong with US, and we’d like to manage better our ability to survive on this strange planet and spread the secrets of our success to the younger generation. Those secrets of success are more like what Autism Speaks promotes- ABA therapy to break out of obsession, and promote socially acceptable coping skills.

  • Dulius

    The Cosmological Arguement runs something like
    1) Everything that exists has a cause
    2) The universe exists
    3) Therefore it had a cause
    4) Therefore God

    Of course, one could ask “What caused God” which leads to Special Pleading or Infinite Regression

    Another rebuttal would be “See; Quantum Mechanics” As this has stuff popping in and out of existence all the time with no determinable cause

    • You, sir, are a genius. Thanks for solving metaphysics for us. If only Plato and Aquinas had you!

      • Dulius

        Well, not me, i’m not a quantum physicist. But if Plato and Aquinas had access to today’s knowledge of Physics then we would all be able to tune into a very interesting conversation between them and leading Quantum Physicists.

        • thursday

          You, sir, are also a case in point!

          • Dulius

            A case in point of? I stripped the Cosmological argument down to the framework I could understand from listening to WLC’s tortuous whining and I even reproduced it almost verbatim from one of his presentations.. I thought WLC was the best of the best in terms of apologists the Christianity could provide at the moment

      • CowsomeLoneboy

        And yet, when stripped to its essence, that is precisely the cosmological argument. Your appeal to 2 well regarded writers who have provided the world with nuanced discourse on this subject notwithstanding, you yourself should be able to offer a plausible and succinct counterargument without relying on the snob appeal of alluding to those 2 writers as a way of ridiculing Dulius.

        • For the record, it’s the cosmological argument, grossly oversimplified and skipping a few steps between 3 and 4.

          1) Every contingent thing that exists depends on another for its existence
          2) The universe is a contingent thing that exists
          3) Therefore the universe depends on another
          3a) Nothing comes from nothing
          3b) An actually infinite line of contingent causes is impossible
          3c) The universe must depend on a non-contingent being as its ultimate cause
          4) The non-contingent cause of all contingent being is called “God”

          • CowsomeLoneboy

            Fair enough, but the punchline remains the same. There is not now, nor has there ever been, an offer of proof that gets to that final step without relying on some version of faith or the simple insistence that such must be true because there is no other satisfactory answer, which is itself a confession of faith. Many other possibilities actually do exist beyond the reduction of the cosmological argument and the more that physicists and other scientists discover about the nature of matter and of the cosmos, the richer those possibilities become.

            The author of this article chastises “the New Atheists” for not understanding Christianity as he believes it should be understood, but he fails to acknowledge that perhaps there are legitimately more productive uses of time for others who do not share his zeal for Christianity, or at least claiming every bit as much benefit for the use of one’s time, and in this life we all know that time is finite and constrained. The author has rejected the New Atheists’ beliefs and contentions, I have no doubt without years’ long study of astrophysics, quantum mechanics or cosmic biology, so who is he to criticize those who have looked at the basic concepts of monotheism and Christianity and found them wanting?

          • Dulius

            I am curious.. which out of the 41,000+ versions of Christianity does the author believe should be understood? There is a reason a lot of people go after the bible and then refine when specific denominations come into play

          • CowsomeLoneboy

            That’s a great question! Let’s see if he monitors this thread and provides any kind of answer.

        • Technically, you are, of course, correct. But this is a comment thread. Plenty of other people (PLENTY) have patiently exposited the cosmological argument and why those objections are just misunderstandings, and yet the New Atheist reply is always just “derp.” They are a google search away. That’s not where the problem is.

          • CowsomeLoneboy

            Ah, yes, technically. Nice word, that.

            Technically this is a comment thread on a blog that you host. Technically at least one of its missions is to explicate Christian thought, even, presumably, to those who are not believers. Please forgive me, then, if I find the humility and charity of your response to Dulius to be underwhelming. Maybe what you tapped out here can help to explain your posture: “…I’ll be over here, having a cup of tea on the intellectual high ground, and welcoming other smart converts.”

    • And who invented quantum mechanics?

      • Dulius

        Max Plank is often considered the father of Quantum Theory.. And it wasn’t “invented” per say.. it is, like basically all mathematics, our way of explaining stuff we don’t normally get to see.

        And in your anticipation of “Well who created him..” we would end up at the big bang, and then the standard objections to the cosmological argument would be in play

        • And in fact, may be completely imaginary. But that’s true of everything we can see as well.

          • Dulius

            This is Hard Solipsism, and whilst it may be true.. it’s an unproven idea, like theism, so I don’t walk around egotistically assuming that I am the only real one/ A sky-parent made all of the billions of galaxies just for me

          • Hard Solipism is the only reasonable end to skepticism about authority. Either you accept that there are theistic authorities in all disciplines, and that each discipline has its own axiomatic dogmas, or you do not. Objective reality is binary, it either exists to glorify it’s creator or it does not exist at all.

          • Dulius

            Skepticism is not just about authority, it’s about following evidence… this might surprise you, but you can be a Skeptic in every sense of the word and still follow the group if that is where the evidence points.

            There is no evidence that Hard Solipsism is true, therefore I don’t believe it.

          • My point, if you follow the full thread, was about the appeal to authority objection. Since all evidence comes from an authority, following the evidence is in and of itself an appeal to the authority of the evidence, and is thus a logical fallacy under the same rules that skeptics have set up for themselves. Which of course is just another appeal to authority.

          • Dulius

            I’m not sure if you’re a POE, a troll, or just are really this clueless so I’ll explain it once and once only.

            1) It does not in anyway matter who presents the evidence, it stands and falls on it’s own merit. Darwin wasn’t a scientist but his ideas underpin the entirety of biology
            2) Skeptics are not adverse to ‘authority’ – i already explained this
            3) You do not understand the “Argument from Authority” fallacy. If I say “Human beings are related to the other apes and descended from a comman ancestor” and I cite (for example) some work by Proffessor Dawkins, this is not a fallacy because his qualifcations are in the field of Evolutionary Biology. If i said “Human beings are related …” and finished with “,.. because President Obama says so” it’s a fallacy because Obama’s qualifications have nothing to do with the subject at hand

          • 1 is obviously false from the existence of peer reviewed journals and the necessary credentials needed to get published in a peer reviewed journal.
            2 is false just by going to the top of this thread, which started with a skeptic referring to the difference between science and faith being appeal to authority.
            3 Is shown to be false because it is directly contradictory to 1- that is, if you are claiming argument from authority is dependent upon a source’s qualifications, then you are not accepting evidence regardless of the source, you are sorting evidence by the source- you are judging the worth of the evidence by the qualifications of the source.

          • Dulius

            Look, having read everything else you’ve posted here.. you’re obviously stuck in a very very narrow world view and this will really truly be my last reply to you unless you actually come up with someone worth responding to

            Logical fallacies are when you are debating a point and you commit a logical error. One of these errors is citing an ‘authority’ that has no actual expertise in the subject at hand, the Religious and YECs especially do this all of the time. This is called the argument from authority fallacy.

            As for 1) Yes, getting a paper published is hard, because it has to be worth the time to publish, and it has to be well written. If your evidence is good however, you can be in a journal without being well known. If (say) you managed to totally and utterly smash the big bang theory into small pieces and you were only doing your Batchelors.. you would still get published because the community would want to know about that stuff, cause it would be interesting.

            As for 2) I saw that argument about authority and expertise. Skeptics question the evidence no matter who puts in front of you. If it checks out, you change your view on the thing the evidence is about. If it doesn’t check out… you get to call bullshit and it doesn’t matter who presented it

          • And once again, I reject your authority to determine what is or is not a logical error (and likewise, I reject the authorities that everybody commonly cites on what are logical errors). I’m only pointing out that your argument is self-contradictory; if you accept evidence based on credentials and deny other evidence based on credentials, then you are decidedly NOT questioning the evidence no matter who puts it in front of you. The two concepts are in fact self contradictory- if you want to be a good skeptic, you need to ignore bogus data like “logical rules”, but if you want to use logical rules, you cannot be a good skeptic.

    • Asemodeus

      The fun part if that argument is that even if it were true it actually disproves christianity. Since you cannot get from step 4 to the god protrayed in the old testament without using tons of logical absurdities. Step 4 only proves a deistic creator god not a god that drowns puppies and hates snakes.

      • Dulius

        Oh yeah, I was thinking about this when I was driving. The final premise of the argument could well be true, but that would only give you a Deistic creator. All the work is left to show a Theistic one, and then you’ve got to compete with over 4,000 current religions (not counting denominations) which doesn’t count all of the old Pantheons etc etc to prove it’s Yaweh (presumably) over the FSM, Xenu, Allah etc etc

        • Asemodeus

          Theologians are very guilty of these logical absurdities. Since they know that their audience is too gullible/stupid to understand the difference between a deistic god and a theistic one
          Craig is especially guilty of this and when he is pressed about his dishonesty he just shrugs and blows raspberries. He knows the idiots who buy his books are too dumb to notice the sleight of hand.

  • montanajack1948

    As a God-haunted atheist, I agree that the most prominent and popular of the New Atheists show no interest in or awareness of actual theological arguments, preferring to tilt at the windmill of Biblical fundamentalism. Such atheists simply have no respect for religion or for religious believers, which is to say they have no respect for human beings–which is why I find Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris to be so unpalatable. I’d like to think they’re unrepresentative of atheists in general, but I honestly don’t know; I just know they don’t represent me. That said, it’s an open question whether the “average Christian” is all that theologically sophisticated; if you compare the book sales of David Bentley Hart to those of, say, Joel Osteen, you have to wonder.

    • That’s fair enough. But if you ask DB Hart or Tim Keller or Scott Hahn or take-your-pick of a prominent representative of a robust Christian tradition they will revile Osteen. Who is to Dawkins as Tim Keller is to Joel Osteen? The closest I can think of is Thomas Nagel, who is even less read than Hart and whose book against reductionism seems to have been at least as much criticized as praised by other atheist thinkers (when they took note of it, which wasn’t often).

      In any case, as a smart “God-haunted atheist”, this should be irrelevant to you: if you lean to the “atheist” side you should wish for “your team” to step up its game; if you lean to the “God-haunted” side, you should look for the best version (I can’t resist recommending Fr Robert Barron’s “Catholicism” series) because you can be sure that the dumb versions aren’t going to take care of that haunting problem.

    • Dan13

      “I’d like to think they’re unrepresentative of atheists in general, but I honestly don’t know; I just know they don’t represent me.”

      I think they are unrepresentative. There are several classes of atheists and they only represent one faction. In addition, among others, there are the agnostic hedonists who are ambivalent to religion, the conservative atheists (e.g., George Will) who believe religion is a sort of noble lie that holds society together, and people like you who–if I understand you correctly–would like to believe but simply cannot wrap their heads around faith.

    • Dulius

      Hitchens had a lot of respect for people who had religious belief, and I believe the person who lead his cancer treatment was a close personal friend and a devout believer. I would say he was also more well versed in the theological arguments than even most believers, he debated against these points regularly.

      As for the other two.. I’ve not read anything from Harris yet, but Dawkins attacks religion, I’ve never seen him go after religious people (other than flat refusing to debate WLC for standing up and literally said that mass infanticide was ok because God did it) – I could be wrong as I’ve mostly only read his stuff on Evolution

      Expecting these three to represent Atheists is a little extreme. All three are/were actively opposed to religion, Anti-theists if you will, rather than just “not believing”

      • lacourt

        The existence of god or gods is not really the problem. Any honest agnostic will tell you that. If we are actually honest, we are all agnostics. NOBODY knows for certain there is or is not a first cause.
        It’s religions that have the hubris to KNOW what their god or gods were thinking when they constructed their various religions. All of them, religions, were constructed by men, delusional men who attributed their delusions to their particular creator. All of them were misonygists.

  • claycosse

    Condolences to you and your countrymen, brother. Y’all are in my prayers.

  • Tom

    “Why is it that Jerry Coyne exists?”

    Jerry Coyne, like all contingent things, is a mixture of actual and potential. Because no potential can actualize itself, it must depend for another thing on its existence. Because you can’t have an eternal chain of complete dependence, there must be something outside the chain that has no potential, and this we call God.

    Wait, I don’t think that’s exactly how you meant it…

  • Asemodeus

    The author is relying on a common logical fallacy called The Courtier’s Reply. Being that you do not need a doctorate in any field in order to call out absurdities used to defend that field.

    Another way of looking at it is that a layman can call BS on a physicist if he were to claim that a particle accelerator gives out excellent blow jobs. We know enough about particle accelerators to see how wrong that would be, but we allow theologians to do basically the same thing because their opinions are “respected” by a small minority of crazies.

    Reality is not determined by authority but by evidence based reasoning.

  • Sophia Sadek

    You say, “But it raises a troublesome question: given that every single time
    militant atheism has gained access to the levers of state power, the
    result has been mass murder on an unprecedented scale, one can no longer
    be certain that a world of proud unbelief will be a good one.” This sounds like a rationale for some witch hunting. “Round up the infidel before the infidel rounds you up.”

    • Dulius

      The author also fails to understand those regimes that have been “atheistic” have done so specifically to then put the Dictator in total charge. Stalin made the state a religion with himself at the head, and North Korea is only one short of it’s own Holy Trinity.

      I would postulate (although i could be wrong) that what Atheists actually want is secular countries where the forum of free ideas and free speech is open to all, including Religion. Of course Religion kinda fears this because it’s very likely to loose, badly.

      I think Hitchins put it best

      “We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.”

      • The idea that communist deaths “do not count” as the result of atheism because communism is a kind of religion is the sort of hilarious nonsense that in a good world would have you laughed out of public debate.

        It’s also funny how all those (very Anglo-centric) debates conveniently forget the French Terror, which murdered priests and nuns not in the name of Marxism but in the name of Enlightenment reason and freethought (since you cannot have freethought while obscurantists are brainwashing the common people). As I point out in the post I link to, there is plenty of New Atheist discourse that lends credence to the idea that this is where their ideology is headed.

        Diderot was a fine thinker, and it may well be the case that he would have been horrified to know that the Committee of Public Safety took him very literally when he wrote that people would only be free when the last king is strangled by the entrails of the last priest, but the fact that when his ideas came to power this is exactly what happened should nonetheless give us pause, no?

        And finally, re: “free debate of ideas”, the rationale behind the Vatican II declaration on religious freedom was precisely the idea that in a free, open exchange of ideas, Catholicism would win. Maybe that’s deluded but there you go.

        • Dulius

          I’m sorry? I said they didn’t count? Where?

          Also, I would like citations of this “New Atheist” discourse that shows we want to install stalin-esc Atheism. From what I’ve read all of the New Atheists that you’re doing such a good job of straw-manning would be appalled at such a notion.

          I’m going to clarify my point and respond to that vacuous single sentence rebuttal anyway.

          To blame the killing’s on “a lack of a belief in a god or gods” is utterly ridiculous. Stalin was at the very least a sociopath who used all of the tools of religion and called it Atheism. Atheism makes no claims at morality or “defense of the ‘faith'” that Theism has to by it’s very nature. If you want to look at ‘Atheist’ countries, then what you actually need to look at is secular ones, like the Scandinavian counties. Lowest crime rates, higher levels of education, highest levels of happiness in the world and all over 80% Atheist.

          Do I want religion to be one day consigned to the past? Sure, I view it as harmful both physically and mental. Would I enforce this by law? No, other than total legal separation of Church and State (which we don’t have here in the UK). If religion is to survive then it should survive on it’s own merits, but it can’t cope with those terms because it is opposed to free thought and skepticism due to the nature of it’s own unsupported and unsupportable claims.

        • Sophia Sadek

          Most of the people in the Soviet Union who participated in the program of enforced famine were not raised as atheists. Just like the people who staffed the death camps in Germany, most Soviet citizens had been indoctrinated into a Christian tradition.

          • Asemodeus

            As a matter of fact, Stalin went out of his way to establish the russian church under his rule in the 1940s. He did so because dictators like to use preestablished propoganda centers to prop up their rule, and religion is perfect for that. Russian church leaders proclaimed Stalin as gods defender of russia for the perk of getting legal permission to polyetize the masses.

            The vatican did the same thing with fascists Italy. They were allowed to exist in rome because they backed the fascists government.

    • Right, except that as a Christian I would revile that. (I am writing this the day after the Charlie Hebdo affair.)

      • CowsomeLoneboy

        All the world was horrified by what happened at Charlie Hebdo. Your country has the world’s condolences. Je suis Charlie.

        Your answer that “as a Christian I would revile that” is more than a little bit egocentric, doctrinaire, and self-serving. History rebuts your claim, unless you’re willing to be so brash as to assert that no one knows how to be a Christian but you.

        While I agree that the results of state-imposed atheism have in the main been horrifying, the experiential data come from a much shorter run than those that come from state-imposed Christianity or any other religion. Your analysis of the atheistic experience, therefore, is in a vacuum–one might add, rather conveniently and in a manner that is strikingly similar to your jabs at the New Atheists, because the information is certainly out there, just a Google search away. (In reality, of course, it is such a part of common knowledge that no such Google search would even be necessary.)

        If one doesn’t limit the field to atheism that was wrapped up in dogma that subsumed it, but asks about what would occur in a society where atheism becomes the norm organically–which to me is not only more interesting but also has greater intellectual integrity, your insistence that atheism per se is troubling–“…one can no longer be certain that a world of proud unbelief will be a
        good one. Maybe it’s still possible, but it’s certainly no longer
        possible to be certain…”–becomes less certain. I recognize that you qualified your statement with the modifier “proud.” I have no quibble with you regarding the ugly character of the proselytizing zeal of the New Atheists and find most of them to be as abhorrent as fundamentalists of any other stripe.

        With that in mind, I ask you to give your opinion of the moral and spiritual state of contemporary Japan. It has become a de facto atheist society. Perhaps a distinction that you would want to make is that they are not “proud” and there is no attempt to ruthlessly root out belief. Belief has seemingly simply withered for the majority of Japanese. But does Japan in any way represent your worst fears regarding a world where atheism is the new normal?

  • David Naas

    Truly wrestling with problems is almost always dismissed as not worthy of the effort by those who are too fearful to even admit they might be wrong.

    montanajack1948 self-identified as a God-haunted atheist. (If that is year of birth, so me also, and oh my.) My problem is that I don’t know if I am a Catholic masquerading as an atheist or an atheist masquerading as a Catholic.

    Atheism is a simple faith, but one whose seductive appeal has had much attraction on many a bleak and dark night. And in the midst of an ordinary vernacular mass, I wonder how I could have thought anything but that God IS. Yes, these are my emotions responding to environment, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

    As a science-fiction fan(atic) since early years, and concomitantly a science nut, I have never failed to wonder at the beauty and glory of the universe. But science does not have the whole answer I seek. As a religious dog, “saved” in my grandpa’s Baptist church at age six, I spent much of my life looking for God (in all the wrong places) and being disappointed with those who puffed themselves as God’s mouthpiece.

    Fairly late in life, I came to realize this is not going to be resolved while I am living. Some people have been graced with assurance one way or another, but not my own self.

    So. I became Catholic.

    It was primarily aesthetics. I did not realize this was a big motivator until I saw Fr. Barron’s video series “Catholicism”. It was then it became how apparent the beauty of the Church was an influence.

    Some think the truth will set you free. It will, if you can discover it. For others, it is beauty. for others, there will be other reasons to attain freedom.

    One thing I have noticed. God does not stand on ceremony or dignity or any other thing. He gets right down into the mud with us, foregoes His royal robes, and becomes vulgar. Like us.

    The New Atheists have too much dignity/self-importance to get down in among the plebes. We are so “common”.

    How does this relate? Well, I have observed the New Atheists acting exactly like the 1920’s Fundamentalists they seem to think are all of Christianity.

    The Fundies thought that beating someone over the head with a Bible verse, or an article of faith was “evangelism” to which the most hardened sinner would respond by falling on his knees and making the Sinner’s Prayer.

    The New Atheists seem to think that pointing out a problematical passage of the Bible, or reciting “E Equals MC Squared” will give a similar result. Both suffer from a naïve contempt for whosoever would dare to disagree with their Gospel.

    So, while I continue to wrestle, with my conscience, or with God, I have arrived at a certain comfort.

    If the atheist is right, I will have wasted my life, but I won’t know it. Moreover, the atheist will also have wasted his life, even if spent in the most egregious hedonism or the most abstract of thought and scientific endeavor.

    If Holy Mother Church is right, I (hope that I) will have attained at least to Purgatory, which is a place of cleansing (the ultimate psychotherapy?) and the lower part of Heaven.

    Yes, this is Pascal’s Wager, and I made it before I heard of Pascal. But it is not invalidated because it was thought up before I was born.

    • lacourt

      Faith is a belief without evidence.
      Of course science does not have all the answers. It has some.
      But faith has none of them.

      • David Naas

        God Bless You.

    • Dulius

      No, Pascal’s wager is invalidated because it’s a terrible argument. It imposes a false dichotomy after presupposing one deity over the pantheon of the others.

      Atheism is not a faith, it’s a lack of faith.

      The rest of this is a total strawman so I won’t bother addressing this.

      And how is advancing Human knowledge a waste of a life? I would say it’s one of the most important and noble things that can be done. I would say that praying to an abusive deity, that has no evidence other than a badly written book and who will not act to stop the child rape that his priests are committing, is a waste of life.

      • Hmm, so Atheism is not a faith?

        So which is it? Is it a faith deserving of equal treatment from government to every other faith, or is it a lack of faith that should be discriminated against?

        • Asemodeus

          If you bothered to read that article it stated miltiple times that the counties did not consider the question at all.

          Also I am still waiting on your falsification claim for your religion. You reneged on the last one like a total coward.

          • I am waiting on you to live up to the requirements of the original falsification claim and present a current high tech civilization that is not based on the cultural values of the Roman Catholic Church for me to examine. Extinct civilizations are not valid because they are extinct, civilizations that had trade with Europe are not valid because they are culturally contaminated.

          • Asemodeus

            You changed the goal posts and added the qualifier “high tech”. Civilization s do not exist solely to create gadgets, so when you are ready to stop being dishonest and present a valid falsification claim do not bother posting.

            To do otherwise will cement your reputation as a dishonest hack.

          • I didn’t change the goal posts, I am not responsible for your illiteracy and inability to understand what I wrote, so stop being dishonest and produce your existing civilization without relying on values from Christianity.

          • Asemodeus

            Yep you are a dishonest hack. Nowhere in your first falsification claim did you say high tech. Now you are since I blew up your first dishonest attempt.

            Try again seeber. Maybe you will strive to elevate yourself beyond your meager christian ethics and provide a rational means to falsify your religion. Because so far you are failing at basic skepticism.

          • I’ll accept the “high tech” level of say, ancient Rome. Open sewers, no electronics, around for a couple of thousand years, and still in existence today. That last bit being key to proving ability to survive and reason to destroy the church over. Do you have one?

          • Asemodeus

            Nope. Provide a valid means to falsify your religion seeber. Not going to let you change the topic like the dishonest hack you are.

            You are very cowardly at your reluctance to do so. Something I find amusing since I could come up with numerous means to falsify my position. That is because my worldview is tethered to reality and the knowledge that I am ignorant of the whole world and my willingness to change when evidence is provided.

            You are clearly too cowardly to notice your own shortcomings, which is why you cling to your impossible faith so tightly.

          • I have provided you with a valid means, you have failed to come up with even a single counterexample.

            Now show me one of the means needed to falsify your worldview. Action of God in the world? We’ve got thousands of stories of Saints and other assorted miracles. Workable civilization? In fact I’d say the church has the ONLY workable civilization. Control of evils such as Greed and Lust? The only demonstrable way to do so.

            On every measure that counts, the Church beats the New Atheists. But your worldview is demonstrably not tethered to reality, as proven by your inability to even come up with a single civilization based on your worldview.

          • Asemodeus

            Already refuted your fake falsification seeber. Stop being a dishonest hack for once in your life and provide a rational means to falsify your religion.

            Your consistent issues of not staying on topic is however funny to watch. You would have had, if you were honest with yourself, provided plenty of means to do so by now. How you are stuck defending a refuted one is even more evidence that you are a dishonest hack.

          • “Already refuted your fake falsification seeber”

            I must have missed the post where you put forth the name of a country or a civilization that is not based upon Catholic values and is still in existence. Can you repeat your refutation? That is the only way to refute it.

            “You would have had, if you were honest with yourself, provided plenty of means to do so by now.”

            I gave you the means- name one civilization, still in existence, not based on Catholic values. Double plus points if you can name one that is based on YOUR worldview.

            There is the challenge and the means, repeated, but you can’t be bothered to take up the challenge, how sad.

          • Asemodeus

            Already refuted it seeber
            Stop being dishonest. I will however give you a few hours to come up with one that you are not constantly changing the goal posts on. Since having to correct you via smartphone over and over is exhausting.

            This should be easy if you were honest with yourself seeber.

          • I did miss the post, as I was asleep 20 hours ago.

            Your example was Rome itself. Which was defeated by Catholicism, so is proof that Catholicism is superior to other non-Catholic civilizations.

            Got another example?

          • Asemodeus

            Thanks for admitting that your first falsification was a bad one. Got another?

          • My first falsification was good. Your refutation of it was what was bad. Try again, if you dare, but I don’t think you will, because you are dishonest and a liar.

            The pagan Romans weren’t civilized because they were defeated by civilized men.

          • Asemodeus

            You yourself admitted it was bad when you claimed that Catholicism defeated Rome. In order for that to be true Rome would have existed as a functional society in which it could be defeated on. To argue otherwise would be to belittle your own religions success at taking over Rome and its people.

            So which is it? Are you going to insult your own church by downplaying its accomplishments or admit that you are a dishonest hack? Those are your only choices.

          • “You yourself admitted it was bad when you claimed that Catholicism defeated Rome. In order for that to be true Rome would have existed as a functional society in which it could be defeated on. ”

            Functional societies are not able to get defeated, for their members defend them, try again.

            “So which is it? Are you going to insult your own church by downplaying its accomplishments or admit that you are a dishonest hack?”

            You have a very strange definition of the word functional.

          • Asemodeus

            Yep you are going with insulting your religion. Catholicism’s success at entering roman society can only be a success if that society was worthy of integration by catholics. Otherwise you are associating with trash cultures and insulting your very faith.

            You monster.

          • One of the basic axioms of Catholicism is that all human beings are worthy of “integration by catholics”. Level of civilization does not enter into it.

            Unlike atheists and academic elitists, who exclude most of humanity from their ranks.

            Which is another point against atheism. And yes, I’m sure “associating with trash cultures” is monstrous to a prejudiced bigot like you.

          • Asemodeus

            You just love to insult your religion. Which is understandable since you value your ego more than your faith. Since only losers associate with losers, so your downplaying of Roman success at engineering, industry, agriculture, mathmatics, and culture just to insult your religion is hysterical.

            In any case you proved me right by insulting your religion and discrediting your originial falsification claim. Which took you way too long to come to grips with. Since you yourself admit that catholics associate with bad civilizations discredits your originial claim that catholicism only uplifts civilization. You cannot have it both ways.

            Got any other sad attempts at falsfying that I can laugh at? This one is getting boring.

          • Funny how you see humanity as an insult, but that is exactly what I’d expect from a prejudiced bigot.

            Catholicism uplifts civilization- and continues to.

            You have failed to prove your claim that it doesn’t.

          • Asemodeus

            You just admitted that it doesn’t by downplaying roman accomplishments. Why are you so dishonest seeber?

          • From the article “Susan Tice, assistant Washington County attorney, confirmed that her county turns away all applicants who try to register as an atheist group.

            She cited a state law that allows judges or court administrators to officiate at weddings, as well as “a licensed or ordained minister of any religious denomination.””


            ““If you don’t want to believe in a higher power, that’s great, no problem,” County Attorney Pete Orput said Friday. “But [the atheists’] argument is that being an atheist is a creed. I argue that a creed is a belief in something and their view is somewhat of a nihilist’s. You can’t call that a religion. Belief in nothing is not a religion.””

            I would say that is exactly the thing that county is considering- whether atheism is a religion or not. If they are, they get the license to perform weddings, if they are not, they don’t get the license to perform weddings.

            So I ask again, is it a faith or isn’t it?

      • David Naas

        I see you have misunderstood.
        I am not making an argument for what I believe in order to convince others… I am describing how I got to where I am.
        You are entitled to rudely and arrogantly dismiss what I believe. You are entitled to see things as you want to. However, not being a game player, I have no interest in a discussion with someone who is lacking in the elemental particulars of civility.
        Sincerely, The Total Strawman.
        God Bless You.

    • I would point out it’s not quite Pascal’s wager, because Pascal was a bit of a Jansenist and refused to refer to Purgatory.

      I like to say that even an atheist can be saved if he can at least role play religion.

      • David Naas

        Well, the constraints of the combox often induce me into less-than-precise statements, so, yes. I confess to the fault of occasional over-simplification or appeal to a popular image. (Pascal’s Wager is not as simplistic as the other person would like to believe.)

        The other side of the coin is those who have come but late to the table and presume their little amount of knowledge supersedes those who have spent a lifetime of work on the problem.

        Specifically, the New Atheists are an arrogantly ignorant bunch, whose refusal to discuss issues other than on the basis of their “sealioning” (As evidenced by their abrupt dismissal of all opposing argument as not worthy of discussion, and their demand that you answer all of their red-herrings to their complete and total satisfaction or you are not “arguing if good faith”.)

        I shall not return to this particular thread, since I find no value in attempting a discussion with those who apparently think “discussion” is defined as submission to their intellectual supremacy.

        You are a hardier soul than myself for continuing to attempt to instruct the (willfully) ignorant.

        God Bless You.

        • Asemodeus

          Which sect of christianity do you belong too?

          • David Naas

            Since I am not yet gone, I refer you to my original post. (and, that is “to”, not “too” — but autocorrect is a pain.)
            God Bless You.

          • Asemodeus

            Rather weird that you cannot answer a simple question. Don’t you think?

        • CowsomeLoneboy

          “I shall not return to this particular thread, since I find no value in
          attempting a discussion with those who apparently think “discussion” is
          defined as submission to their intellectual supremacy.”

          Then you’ve apparently read Seeber’s exhaustive and exhausting screeds and been turned away by them.

        • “As evidenced by their abrupt dismissal of all opposing argument as not worthy of discussion, and their demand that you answer all of their red-herrings to their complete and total satisfaction or you are not “arguing if good faith”.”

          And then accuse you of dishonesty even if you do answer all their red-herrings.

  • lacourt

    Faith is a belief without evidence. Trust is a belief based on evidence and probabilities. The two should not be confused.

    • The probability is that faith in God brings more happiness than faith in nothing. The evidence shows this to be true.

  • lacourt

    Belief in the value of something should not be confused with the belief in the truth of something.

  • Galorgan

    This is just irony, I guess. This post shows why the “New Atheists” are popular and people listen to them. It’s the reason you chose to write a post about them rather than the subtle and engaging atheist writers.

    Let me explain. The New Atheists have gained traction because the things you criticized are what a lot of Christians actually believe. They might not believe it for good reason. It might be because they don’t have a robust intelligent understanding of their faith, but that’s irrelevant. The New Atheists’ arguments address the articles of faith of many Christians in the US, as you basically point out. It’s not a strawman if people actually believe it.

    “no growth in awareness that these guys are just gesticulating in a dark room, punching shadows.”

    They’re not punching at shadows. People actually believe this stuff.

    So the New Atheists are going after these beliefs because they are easier to argue against and way more popular than the subtle beliefs you allude to. So since they are arguing for political reasons as you say, then it only makes sense to go after the most commonly held beliefs.

    The irony comes from you doing the same thing. You are making a post about the New Atheists because (according to you) they are low-hanging fruit and because they are more popular. Where are your posts on the subtle-thinking atheists?

  • Ray Ivey

    On my Facebook page I see multiple please for petitionary prayer every single day. I wonder what Christians YOU talk to.

  • The point that leapt out at me from this post is the complaint that atheists must acknowledge the spectrum of Christian beliefs (valid) contrasted with the lumping of all atheists into the New Atheist bin (ironic).

    After painting atheists with a single brush, we do get the glimmer of understanding with “I don’t want to be guilty of the same strawmanning that New Atheists deploy.” A nice sentiment but nothing more.

    But my main point is that after stating that atheists are shooting blanks, the author gives us no reason to accept his side of the argument. What are the best arguments in favor of Christianity or against atheism?