A perfect example of ANTI-theistic irrationality

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser just posted a wonderful post responding to one of his atheistic commentators.

Atheism, free thought, and Bible burning

The other day I posted an interview with the apologist and philosopher Matthew Flannagan. The interview consisted of a forty-five minute conversation in which Matt developed a thoughtful and nuanced perspective on the nexus between biblical hermeneutics, metaethics, and normative ethics. The Atheist Missionary responded in the comment thread. While he declined to offer any substantial engagement with Matt’s position, he did offer the following comment:

“I can honestly say that listening to this exchange was the first time in my life I have ever considered whether humanity would be better off if we just started burning Bibles.”

Apparently this was not just a passing fancy, TAM then tweeted the same sentiment:

The Atheist Missionary

Do you remember about a decade ago when some atheists tried to rebrand themselves as “brights”? Not surprisingly, it never caught on, and atheists continue to have an image problem in certain spheres of society. But it isn’t all bad news for they have nonetheless managed one public relations coup: just consider the common association people make between “atheism” and “free thought”. According to a very popular narrative, religion breeds dogmatism and intolerance while atheism encourages free thought, open-mindedness and tolerance. As a result, people have come to think there is some natural association between atheism and free thought.

But it just ain’t so. Atheism has no essential connection with free thought. At most, the connection that does exist is a result of historical accident. Given that atheists are often a marginalized minority defending their rights in wider society, it is no surprise they tend to be de facto defenders for free thought.

However, one can readily find examples of atheists who act as enemies of free thought. And here we have an example. In his comments here, TAM reminds us that being an atheist does not ensure that one is a real advocate of free thought. Nothing could be more inimical to the spirit of free thought than book burning. And yet, rather than attempt to engage in Matt’s philosophical argumentation, TAM condescends to him whilst advocating for censorship and book burning, and burning of a text accepted by many people as sacred! Incredibly, TAM is behaving like Terry Jones, that pastor in Florida who gained notoriety after advocating for the burning of Qur’ans. And then just to make sure that we know he means business, TAM reiterates his position, tweeting out his intolerance to his 5896 followers.

Maybe TAM was just “venting”. Yeah, that’s it!

But is that an excuse? So the next time a Christian encounters a nuanced and sophisticated proponent of atheism, is he free to “vent” by ignoring the arguments, condescending to the atheist, and advocating for the burning of atheist books?

The lesson of the day? If you’re an atheist you just might be a free thinker. But if you are, it is not because you’re an atheist.

This was my own response.

Hello Randal.

It is planned I am going to interview Matt on the topic of Biblical atrocities as soon as I’ll find the time (right now I am painstakingly writing a scientific paper).

Otherwise, this comment confirms me that the New Atheism is a far right hate group .

As illustrated by my interaction with two militant atheists, they often reason in the following way:

1) If there are divine atrocities in the Bible, the WHOLE Bible is an evil book
2) There are atrocities in the Bible
3) Therefore the Bible is an evil book.

Now both you and I agree with 2) .

But 1) is an utterly irrational premise. What is called the Bible is made of many different books by many different authors having various and conflicting perspectives, as made clear by Thom Stark.

So it is absurd to think that because the apocalyptic imagery of John contains morally dubious content, the sermon on the mount was bad or evil as well.

By acting like this, anti-theists clearly show they are not true scholars trying to objectively analyze the religious texts they are critical of.
No, they act like French and German far-right and racist ideologists, picking and choosing whatever fact and interpretation suit them for painting their adversaries in the most negative light AND fostering a self-righteous hatred among their followers.

Like you I want to promote a respectful conversation between atheists and believers, and am convinced there are many very nice atheistic scholars, such as Jeffrew Jay Lowder, Jason Thibodeau or your commentator Nate.

But anti-theists should be regarded as hateful bigots in exactly the same way one sees nasty fundamentalists and other far-right ideologists.

There should be no tolerance towards anti-tolerance and hate-speech.

20 thoughts on “A perfect example of ANTI-theistic irrationality

  1. Dear Lotharson, I do find I squirm a bit when I read some of the statements you make. In theory I believe it good to avoid demeaning ourselves by lowering ourselves to the same level of ridicule, mockery and emotional bullying of those who hold offensive views, particularly regarding the terms we use to describe them. In practice I admit this is very difficult to achieve and I can see that we may join with Jesus in describing “snakes and vipers” as such.

    If you have the time and inclination I have just drawn a close to a fairly fruitless and frustrating “discussion” with Tildeb on the “Hell. callous indifference….” page.

    I believe he has shown a fairly typical example of anti-theist irrationality there and a fairly clear descent to the techniques of ridicule, mockery and bullying. I’d be interested in any observations you may make.

    PS. Hope you are on top of your current academic endeavour and not being overwhelmed by it. 🙂 Ross

    • Hello Ross, I found your discussion pretty interesting and think you have responded in an admirable way to his attacks.
      I am very glad that you now regularly comment on my blog , you are really enriching the conversations,

      As I (hopefully) made it clear, I am completely in favor of respecting nice atheistic thinkers and would step in if a Christian bullied them due to their intellectual convictions.

      However I no longer think we should respect hateful bigots.
      And neither Jesus did, as shown by his interactions with the religious leaders of his day.

      I have VERY LONG tried to remain respectful towards nasty fundies and anti-theists, in the hope this would lead them to more rational and moderate views.
      My respectful tone changed absolutely nothing and they kept insulting me, calling me a “deluded liar”, “moron” and stating that I am “calling for insults”.

      If people are constantly hateful, they certainly deserve a harsh treatment in return.

      What is more, since man is not a rational but an emotional animal, responding them with a kind tone is counter-productive, because many people confuse their self-righteous confident arrogance with an indication that their beliefs are right.

      Otherwise, I see nothing wrong with calling nasty bigots the “scum of the world”, As I said Jesus also employed a very strong language while exposing evil.

      But I do want anti-theists to give up their militant atheism and become respectful thinkers criticizing Christianity in a rational and not emotional manner.

      Nate (who I mentioned above) is an example of a former New Atheist who now respectfully criticize the ideas of Randal Rauser on his blog.
      It is very pleasant to interact with him, even if some of his arguments against our faith are pretty challenging,

      • “If people are constantly hateful, they certainly deserve a harsh treatment in return. ”

        Careful now! That’s eye for an eye thinking rather than love and grace. It’s a fine line between calling out hypocrisy and entering the world of hateful bigotry yourself. Realize that the anti-theist movement is a reaction to fundamentalism. They are not scum, neither side is. They are only working from understandings that they are able to connect with. Eye for an eye is an easy road to take, as anti-theists demonstrate. Be careful not to take the same road and become an anti-extremist – as you will only reflect such extremism.

        I would suggest focus on identifying and calling out the hypocrisy of the sides, much as Jesus called out hypocrisy. It’s not about the tone you take, it’s about the information you present and knowing when to move on from the interaction.

        • The Bible (and perhaps Jesus Himself) is pretty ambiguous about love, grace and justice.

          We should always hope and pray that someone will let go of his wickedness.
          If he sincerely apologizes, we should certainly reconcile ourselves with him., however painful this might be to us.

          But what if he keeps uttering hateful sentences?
          Not reacting often means getting beaten up.

          I removed the word “scum” which probably sounds much more offensive than I originally thought.

          I am not sure at all that anti-extemism is wrong. It might very well be necessary for upholding a tolerant open society .
          It would have been great between 1920 and 1933 in Germany.

          Otherwise I agree with you, anti-theists are most often former fundies.



          • Not reacting is also not a good way to approach it. It is possible to speak sharply in response to hateful remarks without reciprocating the attack. It takes a little more thought though to hone in on an aspect of their attack that you can reveal to be troublesome in their approach. Or do as Jesus did, move on to finding others who are more receptive. Continue to build greater understanding where it can be built and those with faulty understandings will gradually be taken over with more thorough understandings.

            Also, if their attacks are causing you to move into a more defensive mode, maybe they are keying in on an issue with your understandings that needs to be better-connected in order for you to stand behind it more strongly.

            Just because someone comes across as an inconsiderate jerk doesn’t mean that everything they say has no value. It all comes as a response to something. Find something in their response you can connect with, and build from there. Focus on examining the source of their point of view. Understand where they are coming from, and let them talk their own way into bringing better connection to their understandings, even. Attack them with questions and show concern for troubles in their line of thinking. Eventually they’ll talk themselves into a corner.

    • Hello Sheila, thanks for your interesting question!

      I (along many other people) think that Western militant atheists often have a far-right ideology.

      1) Many of them passionately hate socialism and communism which they view as irrational religions which also ought to disappear.

      2) They support Western neo-imperialism and offensive “just” wars against Muslim countries for “introducing” democracy.

      3) They use the same type of reasoning as European racists.

      For instance, they pick and choose the WORST atrocities ever committed by Christians and Muslims and draw the conclusion:
      “This how ALL Abrahamic religious communities and confessions are”.

      This is very similar to far right politicians picking and choosing the worst misdeeds committed by immigrants, and then concluding:
      “This is how ALL immigrants are”.

      I could go on and on showing that anti-theists have a far right way of thinking.

      I entirely agree that there are many fundamentalists who act in a wicked way towards atheists, calling them liars, obese gluttons, immoral fools and so and so forth. This is clearly atrocious as well.
      This clearly fosters a militant form of atheism in turn.

      The antidote to the culture war is promoting BOTH progressive Christianity and a tolerant and respectful atheism so that nice rational discussions will replace emotional debates and insults.
      In many respects this works very well in secular France.

      So I want to be impartial and oppose all extremists in the same way.

      • I had tried to post here, but yet again it fell out of t’internet.

        I was thinking that extremists are themselves more of a personality type than of a particular position. So extremists, whether religious, anti-religious, far right or whatever are more similar than dis-similar, even if they hate each other.

        I also think the old definitions of “left and right” may now be outmoded due to the changes of society within the past few decades. “Far right” extremism may be much more common as it focuses hate at some definable other, generally a minority or far away type which can be conceived as “controllable” or “manageable”. For a traditional leftish view, the enemy would probably have to be the monolithic all-empowering state-industrialist complex which is much less “controllable” or “opposable”.

        I think the older territories of left and right have “dissolved” and been replaced by more global strata, e.g. the “elite” who own and control most things (a tiny group), the comfortable professional middle (a fairly small group globally, including politicians) and everyone else, being the massive majority, who either labour away relatively unrewarded to keep everyone else up, or just scrape by making a living or not.

  2. I can’t find a button to reply to you sheila (aargh, techno-fear). My thoughts were a bit nebulous and more about thinking through Lothar’s comment.

    The possible scenario I’m thinking through is that the old “left” as typified by Marxism, was an idealogical answer to a perceived “problem”, E.g. Capitalism. At this point capitalism wasn’t an ideology, it was essentially just what was happening. Some of the reasoning was to do with unfairness due to people’s state in life. As proponents of the “Marxist” (or similar ideologies) grew, I think an apologetic or defence of capitalism was developed. So in a way the development of “ideologies”, may well have been something new. At this time I think possibly due to the status of people in the contemporary Western societies, the development of two main opposing “ideological camps” was a natural consequence.

    I think the development of the fundamentalist identification with the “right”, which I perceive as a much more recent happening and particularly noticeable in America, was a consequence of a strong identification with capitalist America, particularly as a Christian country.

    More historically I think there would have been much more of an association of many Christians, with what became issues of the left, E.g. social justice etc.

    So maybe the ideologies were themselves to some great extent tied closely to individuals state in life.

    I think also “ideologies” were themselves a product of the modernist age, which itself had much more hope in “Utopian Idealsim”. Possibly there is a link with the “Millenial Idealism” here and maybe Christians, particularly fundamentalists were more more likely to side with this.

    With the change from modernism to “post modernism” and maybe the change in peoples’ status, I think this is where the old definitions are no longer working. I’m not sure if on any grounds we are likely to see some kind of competing ideologies developing into two camps.

    So historically we may have seen fundamentalists fitting into the ideology of the right and possibly atheists fitting into the ideology of the left, but I think the old paradigms are now failing to fit the current World, or at least how it’s perceived. Maybe the old extremists were similar but could take two opposing positions, possibly due to their state in life, or an identification with a particular state.

    Nowadays I think “extremists” are now still similar, but don’t have particularly obvious opposing camps to fit into, So maybe it’s much easier to clump them together. There may now be many camps for them to fit into, not a dichotomous duality but more of a plethora of difference, all which can oppose each other.

    It may well be that extremists of the right are very similar to extremists of the left, extremists of religion and extremists of anti-religion.

    It may or may not be that they get some definition from status and whether this is linked to ideology. Possibly there are now a plethora of ideologies to chose from so the extremist can pick that which fits most his/her status of life, personality type, background, whatever.

    It was interesting to read a link Lotharson posted to an anti-theist critiquing anti-theists. He pointed out the massive predominance of men in the militant anti-theistic World, so I wonder if there may be a correlation with maleness to extremism. This is why I think extremism may also be related to the personality type, rather than anything else.

    • Thanks for your reply. I agree with what you said, about one’s state/status in life, as well as personality type, being a source of ideology and/or activism.

      By the way, if you click “Notify me of follow-up comments via email”, you will get your replies in your email inbox. Read through a comment to the end, and there should be a reply button just under the emailed comment. I hope that helps.

  3. I find it fascinating and quite disappointing that reasonable criticism of faith-based beliefs results in such extreme labeling and that this labeling is so widely accepted without any serious investigation. For example, I have asked Ross to quote me to back up his ludicrous description that I practice “ridicule, mockery and emotional bullying.” I don’t. I lay out my line of reasoning and ask for where he thinks I’ve gone wrong. He can’t or won’t tell me (unless he inserts a different meaning than what I presented), yet continues to assert that my arguments fit his description. This is another example of faith-based thinking in action. He simply believes I write the opinions I do for some other reason than it’s a demonstrably justified line of reasoning explaining how it produces confidence in the conclusions I reach. Lotharson knows perfectly well that if I am in error and shown to be so, I change my opinion. Yet Ross’ assertion is an assumption he makes that ignores what I have written and replaces it with favoured beliefs he maintains so that he can wave away my conclusions by claiming they are mean and churlish. They’re not; they are criticisms that I think are well founded. That’s not hate in action.

    The comparison lotharson uses to link such criticism with far right wing hate groups is revealed for the straw man it is by opening a newspaper and finding no examples of bigotry carried out by anti-theists. Sure, we can find many people who say stuff the religious find offensive. We can find people calling for the end to religious privilege and respect that the religious find offensive. We can even find people advocating for ridiculous actions like burning scriptures. Based on these kinds of things, lotharson identifies an Us and Them… the Them that is equivalent to right wing hate groups.

    So my question, “Is this true?”

    Well, let’s revisit the newspaper and see if we can find examples of bigoted actions that cause real harm to real people in real life justified by some religious belief. Lo and behold, we can’t find a newspaper that doesn’t contain such a story.

    This is not a case of equivalencies.

    We see religious belief in action and we see the bigotry and discrimination at work because of it and we see harm being done on a daily basis. We see a preacher in New York calling for the stoning of ‘homos’ today because this is what Jesus would do, the preacher tells us. We see service being denied to gays in Oklahoma because of line of reasoning that justifies the denial based on “their Christian beliefs led them to decline to make a cake for Mike Stephens and Shane Laney.” We see laws being passed in Arizona, Russia, and Uganda that target gays with legal discrimination… from denying equal service to denying equal human rights to denying life. This is hate in action and its root lies with empowering faith-based beliefs… in many cases religious beliefs.

    That’s not to say that all legal discriminations justified by faith-based beliefs are necessarily religious in origin – although scripture is widely used throughout the world to justify various kinds of discriminations whether rightly or wrongly – but they all share the same method of justification: a faith-based rather than evidence adduced one.

    The same kind of reasoning is used to justify belief in superstitions, conspiracies, alternative medicine, and all kinds of public policies that rely on a faith-based belief that exempt them from legitimate critical review. Why some otherwise intelligent people choose to castigate those who dare to question the justifications for these practices as some kind of extremists or fringe element brimming with character faults is serious cause for a re-evaluation of what is being promoted with posts like these.

    • I think there is a very great deal of confusion between principle and practice going on here.

      I find the overwhelming number of anti-theists are such because of reasoned principle and the practice that comes from it is support for secular enlightenment values in the public domain. I find far too much evidence of the contrary – anti-secular, anti-enlightenment values – supported by those who hold to faith-based methodology to justify their practices.

  4. A short but excellent videoexplaining why the method of investigating claims about reality matter… even for religious claims… and why respecting religious claims without reality’s arbitration of them doesn’t produce knowledge about how the universe operates (or the meaning it contains, or the purpose we assume is imbedded in it for us).

    • Thanks for the link.
      The video is quite ridiculous in its binary way of thinking and the overgeneralizations it promotes.

      I will write a response as soon as I find the time.


  5. Oh, I thought of this assertion you make about anti-theists (read ‘New Atheists) being equivalent to right wing hate groups with this little tidbit from Jerry Coyne’s post about the latest PEW Forum statistics correlating the strong link between social dysfunction and religious belief (to generalize):

    …if we want to eliminate religion’s hold on the world, we have to eliminate those conditions that breed religion. (snip) Lack of government healthcare and income inequality are good places to start.

    I don’t see the hate connection you think drives the reason d’etre for New Atheism here but a genuine concern for promoting and supporting public policies that are known to improve human well-being (which is how the anti-theists I read think we can eliminate the need for religiosity). If religious belief accomplished this goal of promoting human well-being, then it logically follows that the most religious populations should have the lowest social dysfunction abd the greatest well-being.

    They don’t; they have the highest rates of social dysfunction.

    This means the assumption that more, not less, religion is might accomplish what it has a long track record of not attaining, namely, promoting human well-being, is why it is unreasonable to presume otherwise. (Reality’s arbitration of the claim… and all that) In fact, there’s a definition in medical terminology for those who continue to believe that doing the same thing will somehow produce different results…. but I can’t say what that term is without being accused of “ridicule, mockery and emotional bullying.” Nevertheless, the evidence is there that the term seems applicable to those who base their beliefs on and apply confidence to such notions.

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