Selling one’s soul to the cult of Dawkins

British journalist Andrew Brown wrote an extraordinarily brilliant article concerning Dawkins and angry militant atheists.

**************************

The bizarre – and costly – cult of Richard Dawkins

It’s like a church without the good bits. Membership starts from $85 a month
518 Comments 16 August 2014
DAWKINS16august

Listen

 

The other day I wrote something to upset the followers of Richard Dawkins and one of them tracked me down to a pub. I had been asked to give a talk to a group of ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ about whether there are any atheist babies — clearly not, in any interesting sense — and at the end a bearded bloke, bulging in a white T-shirt, asked very angrily where Dawkins had said there were any. I quoted a couple of his recent tweets on the subject:

When you say X is the fastest growing religion, all you mean is that X people have babies at the fastest rate. But babies have no religion.

How dare you force your dopey unsubstantiated superstitions on innocent children too young to resist? How DARE you?

These seemed to me to suggest quite strongly that Dawkins believes that babies are born atheists. But my heckler wanted scripture. ‘Where does he say this?’ he asked. ‘I’ve got his book, here!’ and he pointed to his bag. ‘Where does he say it? He doesn’t say it anywhere! You’re a liar!’

He reached into his bag and pulled out an iPhone, with a speaker already attached to it, and started to play a video clip in which, presumably, Richard Dawkins denied that he had ever claimed there were any atheist babies.

If this had happened even five years ago, the meeting would have been on the heckler’s side. In fact his performance was greeted by a general squirm. It’s difficult to remember the hosannas that greeted The God Delusion and the vote by Prospect’s readers that named Dawkins as Britain’s greatest public intellectual. Much of the atheist/humanist/secularist movement is now embarrassed by him, and repelled by the zeal of his cult of personality.

British ethologist, evolutionary biologi
Richard Dawkins Photo: AFP/Getty

My man in the pub was at the very low end of what believers will do and pay for: the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.

When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.

But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’

The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.

At this point it is obvious to everyone except the participants that what we have here is a religion without the good bits.

Last year he tweeted a recommendation of comments collected by one of his followers at a book signing in the US. Among them were: ‘You’ve changed the very way I understand reality. Thank you Professor’; ‘You’ve changed my life and my entire world. I cannot thank you enough’; ‘I owe you life. I am so grateful. Your books have helped me so much. Thank you’; ‘I am unbelievably grateful for all you’ve done for me. You helped me out of delusion’; ‘Thank you thank you thank you thank you Professor Dawkins. You saved my life’; and, bathetically, ‘I came all the way from Canada to see you tonight.’ With this kind of incense blown at him, it’s no wonder he is bewildered by criticism.

Like all scriptures, the Books of Dawkins contain numerous contradictions: in The God Delusion itself he moves within 15 pages from condemning a pope who had baptised children taken away from Jewish parents to commending Nick Humphrey’s suggestion that the children of creationists be taken away because teaching your children religion is comparable to child abuse. So believers can always find a scripture where he agrees with them, which naturally cancels out the one where he doesn’t.

Whether he means that religious believers are despicable ‘stumbling, droning inarticulate .. yammering fumblewits’ who are ‘likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt’ (that’s from a 2009 blogpost) or ‘I don’t despise religious people. I despise what they stand for’ (from a 2012 speech) can lead to arguments as interminable as those over the peaceful or otherwise character of the Prophet Mohammed.

Similarly, does he mean that genes are selfish, or that they are co-operative? Both, it seems, and with equal vehemence. As he wrote, ‘The Selfish Gene could equally have been called The Co-operative Gene without a word of the book itself needing to be changed.’ This doesn’t seem to me to be strictly speaking true: it subverts the sense of a famous passage to change it to read: ‘Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own co-operative genes are up to, because we may then have a chance to upset their design, something which no other species has ever aspired to.’

But what has got him in trouble with his own side is not biology of that sort, but the appearance of racism and sexism. Some of the stuff that he has written and retweeted about ‘evil’ Islam is shocking. A recent Dawkins tweet mentioning ‘mild paedophilia’ produced an eruption of outrage across the sceptical movement, not really helped by his claiming that it was all a matter of logic, and his opponents had had their thinking clouded by emotion — and the one thing everyone knows about Dawkins is that his followers are entirely rational.

*******************************

Here was my response.

Dear Andrew,

I cannot congratulate you enough for this incredibly profound, witty and insightful article.

As a progressive Christian I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote and I burst out laughing after having read your remark on all religious holy books being full of conflicting statements, leaving to devout believers the opportunity to pick and choose according to their good pleasure .

I’m a proud Germanic Frenchman living in the UK and I find that in Continental Europe, discussions between theists and atheists are far more civilized and reasonable than in the English-speaking world, especially in America.

When I look at religious fundies in the States on the one hand and at Dawkins and his underlings on the other hand, I cannot help but see a clash of irrationalities.

Anti-theists have a bigoted, intolerant as well as dangerous mentality and they have conspicuous similarities with religious extremism.

It is no wonder if one considers the fact that most belligerent atheists have been deeply traumatized by abusive religious groups in the past .

If you’ve been raised to believe that most human beings will be tortured forever in a fiery place, it’s no big surprise you can come to see the books of the New Atheists as genuine daylight in a world of darkness.

I think that all moderate and liberally-minded people should join their forces against all extremisms for ensuring an open society accepting all tolerant folks regardless of their worldview.

One first step in that direction consists of overcoming binary thinking . Questions such as “Is religion good for the world?” are extraordinarily unhelpful and misleading because there are countless harmful and beneficial secular and religious groups under the sun.
Pointing out the atrocities of Islamists and drawing the conclusion that ALL religions are bad for mankind is breathtakingly absurd.

Finally, let me say there was a time Dawkins made me really angry. Not because I found his arguments for atheism convincing (they’re only good against Biblical inerrancy) but because of the constant misrepresentation of his strongest opponents.

Now I just find him utterly pitiful and merely hope he’ll let go of his hate-mongering because he’s truly making a fool of himself.

 

 

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

Advertisements

50 thoughts on “Selling one’s soul to the cult of Dawkins

  1. It’s the binary absolutist who does harm. The kind of fevered radicalism that defines both the antitheist and the fundamentalist keeps you from seeing other human beings for what they are: complex, amazing, sentient creatures.

    • Thanks for these wise words, David 🙂

      Of course, we are all works in progress for what pertains to seeing EVERY other person as “complex, amazing, sentient”.

  2. “Anti-theists have a bigoted, intolerant as well as dangerous mentality and they have conspicuous similarities with religious extremism.”

    I find that quote laughable, when was the last time an atheist crashed a plane into a building? Or tortured someone until they denounced creationism? Or killed their own children because Neil deGrasse Tyson told them to? Atheists don’t band together to pass laws preventing theists from holding office, or walk around telling christians they will burn in hell forever for believing in jesus.

    • Atheists don’t band together to pass laws preventing theists from holding office, or walk around telling christians they will burn in hell forever for believing in jesus.

      How quickly they forget.

      Militant atheists do those sorts of things in countries like North Korea or China or Stalin’s Russia, where they have the power to do so. They don’t try to do so in, say, the US, because the result would very likely just be a lot of dead atheists.

      • But Crude, that doesn’t count because they’re not doing it BECAUSE of their atheism! It just so happens that the philosophies they held stemmed directly from logical conclusions one would almost always draw from the position of atheism as opposed to theism, and that it was those philosophies that underlined those actions.

        But, well, that’s TOTALLY different!

      • It just so happens that the philosophies they held stemmed directly from logical conclusions one would almost always draw from the position of atheism as opposed to theism, and that it was those philosophies that underlined those actions.

        And what logical conclusions and philosophies would that be?

      • And what logical conclusions and philosophies would that be?

        Given both atheism and materialism as commitments, ‘Might makes right’ is immediately on call.

        On the flipside, given both atheism and materialism, a commitment to either or both atheism and materialism isn’t necessary anyway, as odd as that sounds.

      • Given both atheism and materialism as commitments, ‘Might makes right’ is immediately on call.

        And “might makes right” is a logical conclusion in that case because….?

        On the flipside, given both atheism and materialism, a commitment to either or both atheism and materialism isn’t necessary anyway, as odd as that sounds.

        No that doesn´t sound odd at all, because given theism, a commitment to theism isn´t “necessary” as well – and that statement would be true for pretty much every word that could be meaningfully substituted for “theism” in this sentence.

      • Andy,

        And “might makes right” is a logical conclusion in that case because….?

        Because it’s a conclusion you can logically come to given the parameters set? Maybe what you mean is that it’s not the only logical conclusion – but I already suggested as much.

        No that doesn´t sound odd at all, because given theism, a commitment to theism isn´t “necessary” as well

        Rather depends on the theism.

      • Because it’s a conclusion you can logically come to given the parameters set? Maybe what you mean is that it’s not the only logical conclusion – but I already suggested as much.

        So how does that syllogism look like?
        1. Atheism is true.
        2. ???
        3. Ergo, might makes right.

        Rather depends on the theism.

        And which form of theism makes a commitment to said form of theism “necessary”?

      • Andy,

        So how does that syllogism look like?

        A is an atheist and materialist. A decides that ‘right’ is whatever he wants it to be. He decides that might makes right.

        What’s “illogical” about his decision? Point out the violation of logic, given atheism and materialism.

      • A is an atheist and materialist. A decides that ‘right’ is whatever he wants it to be. He decides that might makes right.

        Ok, not really a “logical conclusion” but what the hell – kind of like B being a christian who decides that Yahweh likes gratuitous violence and alpha male behaviour (like for example David cutting off the foreskins of 200 of his enemies when he only needed 100 to buy King Saul´s daughter) and thus acts accordingly, that´s also not exactly a “logical conclusion” of biblical christianity but if B “decides” that then this is what he has decided.

      • Andy,

        Ok, not really a “logical conclusion” but what the hell

        What’s illogical about it?

        I keep asking that – why not point out the violation of logic? Or do you consider a logical conclusion to be ‘the only possible conclusion available’?

        Maybe the problem is the particular conclusion of ‘might makes right’. Okay, go back a step. “Right and wrong don’t exist/are determined by the individual”.

        Are you saying that nothing follows at all about right and wrong given the premises of materialism and atheism?

      • What’s illogical about it?

        It is not so much “illogical” as “non-logical”, you are talking about someone making a certain decision not based on logical reasoning but rather for no apparent reason at all, and that is, as I just said, not “illogical” but rather “non-logical” because it doesn´t involved flawed logic but rather no logic. And, as I also mentioned, you can make such decisions for no apparent reason given anything else (like “biblical christianity” for example) as well.

        Are you saying that nothing follows at all about right and wrong given the premises of materialism and atheism?

        The only thing that logically follows from atheism wrt “right and wrong” is that there cannot be a true claim about right and wrong that implicitly or explicitly relies on the existence of one or more deities.

      • The only thing that logically follows from atheism wrt “right and wrong” is that there cannot be a true claim about right and wrong that implicitly or explicitly relies on the existence of one or more deities.

        We’re not talking about just atheism, but atheism and materialism.

        So, what follows?

        And should I take your above claim to mean that “atheism” is “the positive claim that there are no gods”?

        It is not so much “illogical” as “non-logical”, you are talking about someone making a certain decision not based on logical reasoning but rather for no apparent reason at all, and that is, as I just said, not “illogical” but rather “non-logical” because it doesn´t involved flawed logic but rather no logic.

        So, we’ve established the logic isn’t flawed. Nor is there a violation of logic. Okay, that’s progress of a sort.

        Now, you say “no logic” is involved. So, a person is an atheist and a materialist. You’ve granted that, given the premise of atheism, it would have to follow that “right” and “wrong” can’t rely on Gods – and, given materialism, “non-material things” would have to follow.

        What candidates are left? Since you seem to deny that “right and wrong don’t exist” or “right and wrong is a subjective determination” follow from those premises. Accent on seems – maybe you disagree there.

      • And should I take your above claim to mean that “atheism” is “the positive claim that there are no gods”?

        IMO, both gnostic atheism and agnostic atheism are “atheism”, you disagree with that IIRC but I doubt that settling this issue is very relevant here.

        So, we’ve established the logic isn’t flawed. Nor is there a violation of logic. Okay, that’s progress of a sort.

        Not exactly, I said that the logic could not be flawed because there was no logic to begin with. Do you disagree that the exact same applies to my counterexample about B given biblical christianity? If so, where exactly is the difference?

        Now, you say “no logic” is involved. So, a person is an atheist and a materialist. You’ve granted that, given the premise of atheism, it would have to follow that “right” and “wrong” can’t rely on Gods – and, given materialism, “non-material things” would have to follow.

        What candidates are left? Since you seem to deny that “right and wrong don’t exist” or “right and wrong is a subjective determination” follow from those premises. Accent on seems – maybe you disagree there.

        A “subjective determination” of claims about right and wrong does not necessarily mean that said claims cannot be objectively true, it just means that it was a subject (e.g. a human being) that determined those claims. No matter whether your position entails objective moral values or not, you can only arrive at this position by means of a “subjective determination” qua being human. And the candidates that are available given materialism and atheism are a variety of realist (most prominently utilitarianism) and subjectivist positions (note that “subjectivist” here doesn´t mean that moral propositions cannot be objectively true, it only means that they have no mind-independent truthmakers as they would have in realist positions).

      • IMO, both gnostic atheism and agnostic atheism are “atheism”, you disagree with that IIRC but I doubt that settling this issue is very relevant here.

        Okay, so you comment only applies to ‘those who believe God doesn’t exist’. We’ll roll with that. Those who don’t believe that have different constraints – which is actually a pretty important detail, but one that can be set aside here.

        Not exactly, I said that the logic could not be flawed because there was no logic to begin with.

        You’re saying that if I note my intellectual commitments rule out possibilities A->X, and therefore my possibilities are ‘Y’ and ‘Z’, that my intellectual commitments have no logical bearing on the possibilities I select among?

        And the candidates that are available given materialism and atheism are a variety of realist (most prominently utilitarianism) and subjectivist positions

        Are you aware that there exist criticisms of what some describe as “realist” moral views that suggest they are, ultimately, non-realist and ultimately reduce to subjective appeals? Grant that there are replies and people who disagree with that. You’ll concede this much, right?

        Let’s go further. Intrisic good/value is incompatible with materialism, just as intrinsic meaning is. You agree?

      • Okay, so you comment only applies to ‘those who believe God doesn’t exist’. We’ll roll with that. Those who don’t believe that have different constraints – which is actually a pretty important detail, but one that can be set aside here.

        No, I think my comment applies to gnostic and agnostic atheists equally, why wouldn´t it?

        You’re saying that if I note my intellectual commitments rule out possibilities A->X, and therefore my possibilities are ‘Y’ and ‘Z’, that my intellectual commitments have no logical bearing on the possibilities I select among?

        No, I´m saying that your intellectual commitments are irrelevant if you just decide something for no apparent reason (certainly no intellectual and / or logical one) at all.

        Are you aware that there exist criticisms of what some describe as “realist” moral views that suggest they are, ultimately, non-realist and ultimately reduce to subjective appeals? Grant that there are replies and people who disagree with that. You’ll concede this much, right?

        Of course. This is true for all moral positions, there are people that say that natural law theory is purely subjective and involves the defense of preconceived ideas in an arbitrary fashion. And there are people that say that divine command theory is nothing but Bible thumpers claiming divine support for their primitive and flawed moral views. There might be some moral positions for which no criticism exist – those that are so obscure that virtually no one is even aware of their existence.

        Let’s go further. Intrisic good/value is incompatible with materialism[1], just as intrinsic meaning is[2]. You agree?

        Hmm, good questions.
        1. No. Assuming naturalism + moral realism, it could be intrinsically wrong for you to rape your wife, assuming naturalism + moral subjectivism, this could not be intrinsically wrong (but certainly objectively wrong).
        2. Here it depends a little on what you mean by “intrinsic”, if you mean intrinsic / extrinsic wrt what goes on in a human mind for example, then only intrinsic meaning can exist but no extrinsic one, while for actions having “meaning” or not it could only be the other way around – actions could only have extrinsic meaning but no intrinsic meaning.

      • Andy,

        Materialists, which are almost always atheists, in general would be more likely to believe in might makes right policies because they have no reason to believe in an objective moral code.

        Now, you can say that you can use theism or Christianity to justify all sorts of bad things also. But who is denying that?

      • No, I think my comment applies to gnostic and agnostic atheists equally, why wouldn´t it?

        Because someone who believes there is no God has delimited more possibilities compared to a person who really has no idea at the moment.

        No, I´m saying that your intellectual commitments are irrelevant if you just decide something for no apparent reason (certainly no intellectual and / or logical one) at all.

        So then you’d agree that a person’s intellectual commitments are playing a role in what conclusions they accept, if they reject A-X and are thus left with Y and Z?

        Of course.

        Thank you. On we go.

        No. Assuming naturalism + moral realism, it could be intrinsically wrong for you to rape your wife, assuming naturalism

        We’re dealing with a backdrop of materialism + atheism. If materialism is now compatible with accepting intrinsic meaning and goodness, then it’s just another demonstration of the elasticity of materialism.

        Divine command theory: a materialist theory of ethics.

      • Malcolm,

        Materialists, which are almost always atheists, in general would be more likely to believe in might makes right policies because they have no reason to believe in an objective moral code.

        So what you actually mean is not that might makes right views are a logical conclusion given atheism, but rather that this is “more likely”. This is an empirical claim, and even if it were true, I doubt that it could be proven to be likely true.
        Have you ever met anyone who actually admits, or is even proud of believing that the strong have the right (or maybe even the duty) to take what they want from the weak? I haven´t. There are certainly people whose actions can be explained with a “might makes right” mentality, but in my experience, those people do not admit that but rather try to find some justifications for what they did which don´t boil down to “I did it because I wanted to and was powerful enough to do so and because I didn´t care what happened to the people I´ve hurt by doing it”.
        The only exception I can think of where people not only admitted but where rather even proud of acting according to might makes right views were the Nazis. The Nazis quite explicitly said that the strong have the right to take from the weak and after they were in power for some years, this even shifted towards the strong having a moral duty(!) to exterminate weakness so that “the strong can thrive” (Hitler even went as far as condemning compassion as the moral evil). And both the Nazis and their supporters were overwhelmingly (>98%) theists, atheism and materialism were virtually non-existent in Nazi Germany (the handful of atheists + materialists that existed tended to be socialists or communists and were the first ones that were murdered or sent to concentration camps).
        What also seems obvious is, that merely having an objective moral code doesn´t mean that you´ll actually follow it – the IS fighters in Iraq theoretically have an objective moral code, a very strict one to boot, but they violate it on a daily basis or try to find ways to game the system (the justifications that islamists are able to find in order to kill, rape or hire prostitutes without breaking their “objectival moral laws” are both hilarious and sad (and the same could be said for christian justifications for slavery for example)).
        Do you have any evidence for your “more likely” or is this just an intuition?

      • So what you actually mean is not that might makes right views are a logical conclusion given atheism, but rather that this is “more likely”. This is an empirical claim, and even if it were true, I doubt that it could be proven to be likely true.

        You doubt that someone can take a look at the evidence and reasonably come to a provisional conclusion that it’s likely true as well?

        There are certainly people whose actions can be explained with a “might makes right” mentality, but in my experience, those people do not admit that but rather try to find some justifications for what they did which don´t boil down to “I did it because I wanted to and was powerful enough to do so and because I didn´t care what happened to the people I´ve hurt by doing it”.

        What does ‘admitting it’ have to do with it? You’re making the assumption that people for whom honesty is, at best, something they engage in if they like it are actually quite honest when presenting their views.

      • You doubt that someone can take a look at the evidence and reasonably come to a provisional conclusion that it’s likely true as well?

        My comment included the sentence:
        “Do you have any evidence for your “more likely” or is this just an intuition?” – if there is such evidence, I´d like to see it and then I can say whether I would agree that this is a warranted provisional conclusion.

        What does ‘admitting it’ have to do with it? You’re making the assumption that people for whom honesty is, at best, something they engage in if they like it are actually quite honest when presenting their views.

        No. Not at all. I assume the exact opposite actually. What I said was is that people who have such views will in my experience NOT be honest about it, which presents a problem if you are interested in knowing how many such people exist in the first place and how they are ticking / what their background beliefs are. The only obvious example I can think of are the Nazis, because they actually did admit that – I can´t think of anyone else who has a might makes right mentality and doesn´t try to hide it somehow (maybe even from themselves). So beyond this obvious example you only have some mostly clear-cut cases of people who claim to follow an objective moral system but actually act according to might makes right views (or do follow their moral system *technically* but game the system constantly), like for example the IS in Iraq, and some extremely ambiguous cases – I´d for example include laissez-faire capitalists in general, and pretty much every successful investment banker and hedgefund manager among people that largely act according to might makes right views but don´t admit that they do, but many would obviously disagree.

      • My comment included the sentence:
        “Do you have any evidence for your “more likely” or is this just an intuition?” – if there is such evidence, I´d like to see it and then I can say whether I would agree that this is a warranted provisional conclusion.

        Sure, but my question was with reference to the historical evidence already supplied, not an in-principle question.

        So beyond this obvious example you only have some mostly clear-cut cases of people who claim to follow an objective moral system but actually act according to might makes right views (or do follow their moral system *technically* but game the system constantly), like for example the IS in Iraq, and some extremely ambiguous cases

        The IS in Iraq? They’re pretty explicit about what their views are.

        Sure, it’s possible to have people who -claim- to follow an objective moral system that denounces might-makes-right views but who actually do follow it. That would just be, with some qualification, yet another example of people who do NOT follow an objective moral system. Or at least, it seems reasonable to infer as much, even if situationally. (This can be full-blown 24/7 bullshit on their part, or conditional lapses in judgment, etc.)

      • Sure, but my question was with reference to the historical evidence already supplied, not an in-principle question.

        Then this provisional conclusion is IMO exactly as warranted as saying that christians are more likely to act according to might makes right views then non-christians based on the last 1000 years of european history. Or in other words, not warranted at all (particularly because this is a statistical claim that cannot possibly be supported by this evidence without doing an actual statistical analysis on it).

        The IS in Iraq? They’re pretty explicit about what their views are.

        Yes, and they violate their own rules all the time, or don´t technically violate them but rather game the system (by for example redefining terms like “innocence” or “marriage” on the fly and in ways that run clearly counter to the spirit of the laws they claim to follow).

        Sure, it’s possible to have people who -claim- to follow an objective moral system that denounces might-makes-right views but who actually do follow it. That would just be, with some qualification, yet another example of people who do NOT follow an objective moral system.

        That was my point, people merely saying that they do as much doesn´t mean a thing.

      • Andy,

        Then this provisional conclusion is IMO exactly as warranted as saying that christians are more likely to act according to might makes right views then non-christians based on the last 1000 years of european history.

        Not at all. The evidence instead indicates that many people who claim to be Christian are actually paying lip service to the whole thing, and you can’t go by claims alone. The latter of which you already said is the reasonable conclusion, so…

        Yes, and they violate their own rules all the time, or don´t technically violate them but rather game the system (by for example redefining terms like “innocence” or “marriage” on the fly and in ways that run clearly counter to the spirit of the laws they claim to follow).

        Okay, I’m game. Can you show me where and how this runs counter? Drum up the Quran quotes.

      • Not at all. The evidence instead indicates that many people who claim to be Christian are actually paying lip service to the whole thing, and you can’t go by claims alone. The latter of which you already said is the reasonable conclusion, so…

        Well, then I´ll simply deny that there were any atheists in Stalin´s or Mao´s empires – they clearly worshipped Stalin and Mao as infallible quasi-divine overlords whose commands have to be blindly obeyed, and they just payed lip service to the ideas of atheism and marxism – the latter of which you already said is the reasonable conclusion. No true scotsman for the win. Well, at least for North Korea, what I just did actually would not even be a no true scotsman but rather unambiguously true, because the Dear Leader is literally being worshipped as a God and many even believe that the Dear Leader literally created the world. And the term “political religion” has been invented for stalinism and maoism for a reason.

        Okay, I’m game. Can you show me where and how this runs counter? Drum up the Quran quotes.

        Not interested.

      • I’ve been out all day, so hi everybody! Anyway:

        So what you actually mean is not that might makes right views are a logical conclusion given atheism, but rather that this is “more likely”. This is an empirical claim, and even if it were true, I doubt that it could be proven to be likely true.

        Not at all. I’m saying that a logically consistent materialism, which is pretty much exclusively atheist, should lead to this conclusion, or at least more naturally follows it.

        In a theistic system it is nearly impossible to justify materialism at all, which is a brutal philosophy.

        My only claim here is that I don’t think atheists have a get out of jail free card because “atheism isn’t religion”. You can give me all of the examples you want of religious people committing atrocities. Okay, that’s granted. But there are certain philosophies, and certain governments that were explicitly anti-religious, and if you tell me that’s not somehow bound up with a worldview that follows from atheism, you’ll have to excuse me while I guffaw.

      • Well, then I´ll simply deny that there were any atheists in Stalin´s or Mao´s empires – they clearly worshipped Stalin and Mao as infallible quasi-divine overlords whose commands have to be blindly obeyed, and they just payed lip service to the ideas of atheism and marxism – the latter of which you already said is the reasonable conclusion.

        Not at all. I said that it’s reasonable to conclude that people who are acting inconsistent with their stated philosophies are either A) bullshitting about their stated commitment, or B) are having moments of weakness/making mistakes, as humans do.

        The problem with your reply: Stalinists, Maoists and otherwise who butcher people, even innocents, to achieve ends they want… are being quite consistent with atheism and materialism. Remember, there’s not much to those systems morally. There’s not much that can be to them, in fact. Consistency is easy.

        That said, I can actually get on board with part of your move here: if you want to insist, contra their stated claims, that the Maoists and Stalinists were actually quite religious, I can be game for that. Just keep this in mind: that same card can be played with modern atheists as well. Likewise: that means parallels can still be drawn between the modern atheists and the Maoists and Stalinists – and if the goal is to remove the comparison, the move you’ve made just made things worse.

        Not interested.

        Alright. Do you think it’s fair if I remain skeptical of the claim, then?

      • Malcolm,

        Not at all. I’m saying that a logically consistent materialism, which is pretty much exclusively atheist, should lead to this conclusion, or at least more naturally follows it.

        It “should” lead to this conclusion – why? Where is the argument for that?

        My only claim here is that I don’t think atheists have a get out of jail free card because “atheism isn’t religion”. You can give me all of the examples you want of religious people committing atrocities. Okay, that’s granted. But there are certain philosophies, and certain governments that were explicitly anti-religious, and if you tell me that’s not somehow bound up with a worldview that follows from atheism, you’ll have to excuse me while I guffaw.

        ??? The british empire in the colonial era was explicitly religious / explicitly christian, and it was responsible for about a dozen holocaust scale atrocities in its colonies. (in terms of body count, for several that exceed the holocaust). Is it logically valid to say that because the british empire was explicitly christian and because it was responsible for those atrocities, that therefore a) christianity was responsible for those atrocities and / or b) such behaviour naturally follows or is more likely given christianity?
        Yes or no?

      • The problem with your reply: Stalinists, Maoists and otherwise who butcher people, even innocents, to achieve ends they want… are being quite consistent with atheism and materialism.

        But stalinists and maoists who follow stalin / mao and believe the claims that stalin / mao spread about themselves can be neither atheists nor materialists because they believe in supernatural abilities and beings that are for all intents and purposes divine. Also, if we are not talking about christianity vs atheism but rather theism vs atheism (i.e. two comparably general / vague positions) or secular humanism vs catholicism (i.e. two comparably specific positions), then we can play this game of no true scotsman forever, and the result can only be a draw (by definition…)

        That said, I can actually get on board with part of your move here: if you want to insist, contra their stated claims, that the Maoists and Stalinists were actually quite religious, I can be game for that. Just keep this in mind: that same card can be played with modern atheists as well. Likewise: that means parallels can still be drawn between the modern atheists and the Maoists and Stalinists – and if the goal is to remove the comparison, the move you’ve made just made things worse.

        That is true for everything else you could substitute for “atheists”. A modern atheist can become something like stalinist zealot and a modern catholic can become something like a Nazi fascist.

        Alright. Do you think it’s fair if I remain skeptical of the claim, then?

        Yup.

      • I’d agree that

        1) The British Empire had many good points and many horrible points, but

        2) I don’t know if their beliefs arose from their form of Christianity, or something else. It quite well could have. But I think the oppressive Communist governments were CLEARLY anti-religious atheists regardless, and their horrors were bound up with their atheistic philosophy, yeah.

      • But stalinists and maoists who follow stalin / mao and believe the claims that stalin / mao spread about themselves can be neither atheists nor materialists because they believe in supernatural abilities and beings that are for all intents and purposes divine.

        Nah, for pretty well none of the intents and purposes.

        But feel free to document Stalin’s claim to supernatural powers, rejection of materialism, as well as his claim of divinity and theism. That will be interesting to see.

        There’s a reason Dennett (who was one of the first people to try and play this card) abandoned it.

        Also, if we are not talking about christianity vs atheism but rather theism vs atheism

        No, we’re talking about atheism + materialism versus Christianity. Hence your bringing up “bible thumpers” well on your own. It’s quite late in the conversation to want to reframe things, so we’re not going to be doing that. It wouldn’t even help your argument (more below).

        (i.e. two comparably general / vague positions) or secular humanism vs catholicism (i.e. two comparably specific positions),

        Secular humanism being cited as the “non-vague” position is funny.

        But atheism and materialism are plenty specific for the purposes of comparison. Now, you can argue ‘but they have practically no intellectually boundaries, rule out no acts as immoral nor do they rule in any as moral, save for personal, maybe even nihilistic preference’. True – that would be the point.

        Trying to fall back to the vagueness of ‘theism’ wouldn’t even work here, since ‘theism’, bare-bones, is open-ended. The resulting view isn’t ‘There exists no objective morality – whatever I say goes, goes!’ but ‘No idea.’ Hence why I said there was an intellectual distinction between ‘God does not exist’ and ‘I do not know if God exists’.

        That is true for everything else you could substitute for “atheists”. A modern atheist can become something like stalinist zealot and a modern catholic can become something like a Nazi fascist.

        Not at all, since what would identify someone as a ‘nazi fascist’ rules explicitly counter to Catholicism, whereas… well, nothing about being a stalinist zealot runs counter to being an atheist materialist.

        Besides, we’re not talking about limit-case possibilities in principle, but what’s left intellectually given atheism + materialism. And it turns out, well, quite a lot of things are ruled out, and what isn’t ruled out is in the small circle already noted.

        That said, again – I’m plenty happy to regard certain atheists as *religious* if you like. I mean, I thought that already, but if you’d like to second the view…

      • Malcolm,

        I don’t know if their beliefs arose from their form of Christianity, or something else. It quite well could have. But I think the oppressive Communist governments were CLEARLY anti-religious atheists regardless, and their horrors were bound up with their atheistic philosophy, yeah.

        A key issue here is consistency.

        A given person, even a given culture, can be at times consistent, at other times inconsistent, with their beliefs. It’s pretty easy to show various acts by a Christian to be inconsistent with Christianity – sometimes even their own Christian beliefs. People are fallen – even otherwise good people fuck up and make mistakes.

        But showing inconsistency with atheism and materialism is altogether different. If someone decides to engage in ‘holocaust level acts’ as an atheist and a materialist, there’s zero inconsistency. There’s likewise zero inconsistency if they decide to be Mary Poppins. No inconsistency if they’re the monster one day, the quasi-saint the next day.

        What’s being argued here is a little like saying, since it’s in principle possible for a fervent nihilist, even a lifelong member of the nazi/communist/whatever party, to be a sweet and caring individual, and likewise possible for someone to pretend to believe in love and kindness but actually be some kind of Stalin-level butcher, that we really can’t make reason inferences about the effect of fundamental beliefs/commitments on people’s acts or attitudes.

      • Malcolm,

        I’d agree that

        1) The British Empire had many good points and many horrible points, but

        2) I don’t know if their beliefs arose from their form of Christianity, or something else. It quite well could have. But I think the oppressive Communist governments were CLEARLY anti-religious atheists regardless, and their horrors were bound up with their atheistic philosophy, yeah.

        Is “bound up with” synonymous to “arose from” for you? If not, why do you use one construct for christianity and the other for atheism:
        a) ” I don’t know if their beliefs arose from their form of Christianity”
        b) “their horrors were bound up with their atheistic philosophy, yeah”
        ?
        Also, the only argument you have is an argument from capslock – if I said that I don´t know if atheism influenced the horrible acts committed by stalinists, but christianity CLEARLY did influence the might makes right views of european christians in the colonial era, do you think that would be an equally valid thing to say? If not, why? If you think this is about consistency – that, say, a soviet Gulag IS consistent with atheism but the spanish conquistadores for example were NOT consistent with theism, could you then please answer first whether you think that you are the ultimate authority of who is a “theist” / a “christian” or not, and whether you think that somebody can be a “christian” while fundamentally disagreeing with you on some moral issues?

      • Nah, for pretty well none of the intents and purposes.

        But feel free to document Stalin’s claim to supernatural powers, rejection of materialism, as well as his claim of divinity and theism. That will be interesting to see.

        – “For the rest of Stalin’s rule, the Soviet press presented Stalin as an all-powerful, all-knowing leader, and Stalin’s name and image became omnipresent. Since 1936 the Soviet journalism started to refer to Joseph Stalin as the Father of Nations”
        – “The image of Stalin as a father was one way in which Soviet propagandists aimed to incorporate traditional religious symbols and language into the cult of personality: the title of “father” now first and foremost belonged to Stalin, as opposed to the Russian Orthodox priests. The cult of personality also adopted the Christian traditions of procession and devotion to icons through the use of Stalinist parades and effigies. By reapplying various aspects of religion to the cult of personality, the press hoped to shift devotion away from the Church and towards Stalin.”
        – “Another prominent part of Stalin’s image in the mass media was his close association with Vladimir Lenin. The Soviet press maintained that Stalin had been Lenin’s constant companion while the latter was alive, and that as such, Stalin closely followed Lenin’s teachings and could continue the Bolshevik legacy after Lenin’s death.[8] Stalin publicly defended Lenin’s infallibility with a fierce loyalty; in doing so, Stalin implied that his own leadership was similarly faultless, as he was a faithful follower of Leninism.[9] Before 1932, most Soviet propaganda posters showed Lenin and Stalin together.[10] However, eventually the two figures merged in the Soviet press; Stalin became the embodiment of Lenin. Initially, the press attributed any and all success within the Soviet Union to the wise leadership of both Lenin and Stalin, but eventually Stalin alone became the professed cause of Soviet well-being.”
        Refs in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalin's_cult_of_personality
        Now explain how somebody can believe soviet propaganda about stalin and be an atheist-materialist and be consistent. We can also shorten this a little if you simply imagine that I ask you why a british colonialist working in a british concentration camp in colonial Kenya or India for example was not a “troo christian™”, and then further imagine that I copy-paste *your* response (maybe adapt it a little as necessary) as to why a believer of soviet propaganda absolutely can be a true atheist-materialist, and use it as a refutation of your claim that a british colonialist cannot be a true christian.

        No, we’re talking about atheism + materialism versus Christianity. Hence your bringing up “bible thumpers” well on your own. It’s quite late in the conversation to want to reframe things, so we’re not going to be doing that. It wouldn’t even help your argument (more below).

        If you are not interested in an honest conversation then we might as well stop right here.

        But atheism and materialism are plenty specific for the purposes of comparison. Now, you can argue ‘but they have practically no intellectually boundaries, rule out no acts as immoral nor do they rule in any as moral, save for personal, maybe even nihilistic preference’. True – that would be the point.

        Trying to fall back to the vagueness of ‘theism’ wouldn’t even work here, since ‘theism’, bare-bones, is open-ended. The resulting view isn’t ‘There exists no objective morality – whatever I say goes, goes!’ but ‘No idea.’ Hence why I said there was an intellectual distinction between ‘God does not exist’ and ‘I do not know if God exists’.

        This is illogical. Hilariously illogical. So “there exists no objective morality, whatever I say goes” logically follows from mere atheism while “no idea” follow from theism because crude sez so. Why do you need to be so verbose in order to merely repeat the same mere assertion that you started with? Well, thanks for proving my point that you are not supporting this assertion with an actual argument, no matter how often one asks you to, because you apparently cannot do so.

        Not at all, since what would identify someone as a ‘nazi fascist’ rules explicitly counter to Catholicism, whereas… well, nothing about being a stalinist zealot runs counter to being an atheist materialist.

        Yeah, not even the catholic priests, bishops and cardinals who supported Nazis before and during the war and helped them escape after the war could have been catholics. Obviously. With that amount of creative freedom I can show that a stalinist could not have been an atheist-materialist easily, see above.

      • crude,

        What’s being argued here is a little like saying, since it’s in principle possible for a fervent nihilist, even a lifelong member of the nazi/communist/whatever party, to be a sweet and caring individual, and likewise possible for someone to pretend to believe in love and kindness but actually be some kind of Stalin-level butcher, that we really can’t make reason inferences about the effect of fundamental beliefs/commitments on people’s acts or attitudes.

        You are trying to make the case that these logical connections exist:
        Mere atheism => ‘There exists no objective morality – whatever I say goes, goes!’
        Mere theism => ‘No idea.’ (wrt to morality)
        And when I ask you to justify those claims – provide an *argument* for why these conclusions logically follow – you try to defend the completely different position that we could potentially “make inferences about the effect of fundamental beliefs/commitments on people’s acts or attitudes” and don´t provide any arguments but rather ask me stuff like:
        “Are you saying that nothing follows at all about right and wrong given the premises of materialism and atheism?” – as if me acknowledging that would have any relevance for the case you are trying to make.
        Lets turn it around, imagine I said that these logical connections exist:
        Mere atheism => ‘No idea.’ (wrt to morality)
        Mere theism => ‘There exists no objective morality – if some prophet tells us that our neighbors are intrinsically evil, this must be so, and if he tells us to slaughter them, steal their stuff and kill their children except for their virgin daughters which we can keep as fucktoys for ourselves, then we have to blindly obey’
        or these:
        Mere atheism => ‘No idea.’ (wrt to morality)
        Mere theism => ‘No idea.’ (wrt to morality)
        And you ask me to justify those claims, but instead of giving you an argument, I just ask you:
        “Are you saying that nothing follows at all about right and wrong given the premises of theism or biblical authority?”
        This is precisely what you have been doing so far, maybe you see that this is completely irrational when the table is turned.

      • Marc,

        If your criteria WERE true, we should conclude that the cult of Richard Carrier is a supernatural religion.

        I don´t know if you´ve read my comments completely but I´m not even remotely serious about there being no atheists in Stalin´s empire, this is a game of no true scotsman and what I´m trying to show is that the exact same arguments for dismissing all european conquistadores, colonialists fascists etc. as “not true christians” can be used to dismiss all stalinists as “not true atheist-materialists” as well. This is not logical reasoning, it´s just bullshitting and sophistry to represent [atheism / theism] in the best possible light – and if both sides are equally good at bullshitting, then the end result can only be a draw.
        It leads to some hilarious “conclusions” though, if crude now tries to argue that an atheist-materialist totally can be consistent and still believe that Stalin was infallible as a leader, then I can start to use this as a premise to “prove” that christianity and atheism-materialism are actually 100% compatible because following Jesus as an infallible leader doesn´t contradict atheism-materialism 😉

      • Andy,

        Is “bound up with” synonymous to “arose from” for you? If not, why do you use one construct for christianity and the other for atheism:
        a) ” I don’t know if their beliefs arose from their form of Christianity”
        b) “their horrors were bound up with their atheistic philosophy, yeah”
        ?

        Because I don’t know much about the British Empire, basically.

        Also, the only argument you have is an argument from capslock – if I said that I don´t know if atheism influenced the horrible acts committed by stalinists, but christianity CLEARLY did influence the might makes right views of european christians in the colonial era, do you think that would be an equally valid thing to say? If not, why? If you think this is about consistency – that, say, a soviet Gulag IS consistent with atheism but the spanish conquistadores for example were NOT consistent with theism, could you then please answer first whether you think that you are the ultimate authority of who is a “theist” / a “christian” or not, and whether you think that somebody can be a “christian” while fundamentally disagreeing with you on some moral issues?

        You keep trying to go back, “Well, you can justify bad things as a theist too!” Honestly, I don’t care. Or rather, I do care, but not for the purposes of this discussion.

        Do you or do you not agree that the government of Communist Russia was an atheist, materialistic regime that targeted the religious in order to kill or enslave them? Because you seem quite willing to say “You can, and people have, justified horrible things with Christian beliefs”, but you go around the world and back to avoid saying “You can, and people have, justified horrible things with materialistic beliefs”?

        Because now you seem to be going out of the way to define “anti-religious” to really mean “religious”. All that’s really an example of, though, is that you can use materialism to do pretty much anything and be logically consistent with it. But communist Russia still brutally persecuted people who followed actual, divine religions regardless.

      • Malcolm,

        You keep trying to go back, “Well, you can justify bad things as a theist too!” Honestly, I don’t care. Or rather, I do care, but not for the purposes of this discussion.

        Do you or do you not agree that the government of Communist Russia was an atheist, materialistic regime that targeted the religious in order to kill or enslave them? Because you seem quite willing to say “You can, and people have, justified horrible things with Christian beliefs”, but you go around the world and back to avoid saying “You can, and people have, justified horrible things with materialistic beliefs”?

        It seems we are talking past each other. What I was curious about was your first statement that atheism has certain “logical conclusions” like for example a might makes right mentality, then after I asked you shifted this to atheism making such a position “more likely”, but now you are apparently fine with there being no obvious difference between atheists and theists wrt people coming up with justifications for atrocious behaviour.
        In that case, we are in complete agreement.

    • Have you actually ever looked at what “atheistic regimes” have ever done in terms of oppressing people? Soviet Russia and the Khmer Rouge as well as Maoist China have all been “”atheistic” and it is very well known what they have done.

      there are many tortuous explanations of how these are not “atheists” but they have actually “banded together” to prevent “theists holding office” as well as torturing, killing and denouncing them.

      North Korea is currently persecuting Theists quite considerably.

      To believe that “atheists” have some kind of moral high ground and are unlike other people, beggars belief and shows a complete and total inability to actually see what is and has happened in the “real World”.

    • I have to laugh at you too then. It is very well known that “atheist regimes” have oppressed theists, including torture and preventing theists from office. (or maybe Soviet Russia, Maoist China, the Khmer Rouge are unfamiliar to you?)

      It may be argued that “anti-theists a-theists” are not known for “suicide/martyr” attacks, but that’s not actually a major for most theists either. If you have to lump together all “religious extremists” with those who commit “gross” acts of violence you are totally ignorant of what “religious people” are

      Maybe atheists can’t and won’t say that people will burn in hell, but they do mock theists and use other “emotional terrorism” to try and change people.

      It might be interesting to see if there is a distinction between “a-theists and anti-theists” which I think there is, but maybe that’s a different discussion.

  3. I have never been swayed by Dawkins’ rhetoric.
    I just think that atheism is a bit sad.
    They may be embarrassed when they die.
    It is true that religion has caused much conflict
    but it has also done much good for humankind.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: