Bullying in the name of Reason and Science

I just stumbled across a blog post from anti-theist Jerry Coyne where he took to task Lawrence Krauss for being too “moderate” (according to Coyne’s own enlightened standards).

I really think it’s a masterpiece in its own rights.

 

“Lawrence Krauss’s new book, A Universe from Nothing, is supposed to be very good; one of its points, I think, is to show that science disproves the cosmological argument for God.  In today’s Notes & Theories from the Guardian‘s science desk, Krauss has an essay called, “The faithful must learn to respect those who question their beliefs.” I suppose this stuff needed to be said, but if Krauss is calling for accommodationism, as he seems to be doing, his argument is naive.  Saying that the faithful must learn to respect those who question their beliefs is like saying, “tigers must learn to be vegetarians.”

I was a bit peeved from the opening paragraph:

Issues of personal faith can be a source of respectful debate and discussion. Since faith is often not based on evidence, however, it is hard to imagine how various deep philosophical or religious disagreements can be objectively laid to rest. As a result, skeptics like myself struggle to understand or anticipate the vehement anger that can be generated by the mere suggestion that perhaps there may be no God, or even that such a suggestion is not meant to offend.

Really? Is it really such a struggle for Krauss to anticipate and understand the anger of THE (my emphasis) faithful? I think not. And yes, some of the strategy is to offend, directly or indirectly, because one of the best ways to reveal the emptiness of faith is to mock it, and mock it hard in front of the uncommitted. That’s what P. Z. was doing when he nailed that cracker, and what I was doing when I drew a picture of Mohamed.

After citing several familiar examples of how reviled atheists are in America, Krauss concludes:

It is fascinating that lack of belief, or even mere skepticism, is met among the faithful with less respect and more distrust even than a fervent belief in a rival God. This, more than anything, leads to an inevitable and deep tension between science and religion. When such distrust enters the realm of public policy, everyone suffers.

It is fascinating, but understandable.  If someone believes in a rival God, they’re at least confessing belief in a sky-fairy—something transcendent. I can easily see why that’s far less threatening than suggesting that one’s belief in sky-fairies is unjustified and ludicrous.  For deep down, many religious people are deeply worried that they may be wrong.  If you put the basic beliefs of Catholicism in simple language, for example, as I think P. Z. Myers has (and Ben Goren on this site), they sound absolutely ridiculous. No wonder religious folks get all huffy if you suggest that they’re wrong or deluded, and why, in the end, they resort to asserting that evidence isn’t relevant at all: what’s relevant is revelation and what feels good to believe.

Krauss continues:

As a scientist, one is trained to be skeptical, which is perhaps why many scientists find it difficult to accept blindly the existence of a deity. What is unfortunate is that this skepticism is taken by many among the faithful to be an attack not only on their beliefs, but also on their values, and therefore leads to the conclusion that science itself is suspect.

The first sentence is bloody obvious.  And yes, it’s unfortunate that this situation exists, but it’s also inevitable—for religious values stem from religious beliefs. Where else would you get the idea that aborting an early-stage zygote is the same as human murder, or that it’s a sin for a man to lie with another man?

Krauss, who appears to have done a good job showing that the Universe could have arisen ex nihilo, then turns accommodationist, saying that new scientific knowledge need not drive a wedge between science and society.

As a result, the longstanding theological and philosophical question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”, like many earlier such questions, is increasingly becoming a scientific question, because our notions of “something” and “nothing” have completely changed as a result of our new knowledge.

As science continues to encroach on this issue of profound human interest, it would be most unfortunate if the inherent skepticism associated with scientific progress were to drive a further wedge between science and society.

As a cosmologist, I am keenly aware of the limitations inherent in our study of the universe and its origins – limitations arising from the accidents of our birth and location in a universe whose limits may forever be beyond the reach of our experiments.

As a result, science need not be the direct enemy of faith. However, a deep tension will persist until the faithful recognise that a willingness to question even one’s most fervently held beliefs – the hallmark of science – is a trait that should be respected, not reviled.

The last paragraph seems rather naive. Unless there are mercenary considerations at issue, I’m baffled why he thinks science need not be a direct enemy of faith.  It need not be a direct enemy of only one kind of faith: deism.  As for the remaining thousands of faiths that see God as interceding in the world, yes, science must be their enemy. For religion—especially theistic religion—is based on revelation, dogma, and indoctrination, while science is based on reason, doubt, and evidence. No rapprochement is possible.

Getting the faithful to show respect for the way science works will not bring about a truce between science and religion, for lots of religious people already have that respect for science. They just don’t apply it to their own beliefs. That “deep tension” will persist not until religion respects science, but until the hokum that is religion goes away forever. (And if you think that’s not possible, look what’s happened in Europe over the last 200 years.) I wish Krauss had had the guts to say that in his essay.  But then he wouldn’t sell so many books.”

 

The hate of the New Atheists

 

I am thankful to Coyne that he showed us the true face of anti-theism. It is certainly not just about “ending religious  privilege” or “relegating religion to the private sphere”.

No, it is about WIPING OUT all religions by using vile emotional bullying and all sorts of vicious propaganda.

There was a time where I tried to patiently dialog with anti-theists and wanted to understand their stories. All I got in return were the most intolerable insults you can think of and the conclusion that I must either be a lunatic, a hopeless idiot or a liar.

 

As the Great Richard Dawkins put it:

““Mock them, ridicule them in public, don’t fall for the convention that we’re far too polite to talk about religion…Religion is not off the table. Religion is not off limits. Religion makes specific claims about the universe, which need to be substantiated.  They should be challenged and ridiculed with contempt.

“I suspect that most of our regular readers here would agree that ridicule, of a humorous nature, is likely to be more effective than the sort of snuggling-up and head-patting that Jerry is attacking. I lately started to think that we need to go further: go beyond humorous ridicule, sharpen our barbs to a point where they really hurt … I think we should probably abandon the irremediably religious precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.”

https://i1.wp.com/www.machosofty.nl/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/130304RD-religion-shirt-_G0G5019final4.jpg

Militant atheist Richard Carrier added:

“By and large the minds of the ridiculous can’t be changed. It’s their flock we’re talking to. But even the ridiculous change under ridicule some respond by getting more ridiculous (and those are the ones who could never be swayed even by the politest methods), but others accumulate shame until they see the error of their ways (I’ve met many ex-evangelicals who have told me exactly that). Thus, ridicule converts the convertible and marginalizes the untouchable. There is no more effective strategy in a culture war.”

 

I constantly speak out for the need for a reasonable and polite dialog between moderate atheists and religious believers and am certainly willing to read challenges against theism from respectful atheistic authors.

Yet I hate being mocked and ridiculed by people towards whom I have only been friendly. This makes me angry and causes me to boycott all kinds of writings resorting to a similar strategy.

According to Carrier, the fact I did not react to emotional bullying by becoming an atheist means that I am a ridiculous and incorrigible “untouchable”.

 

I cannot help but consider Coyne, Dawkins and Carrier as anti-theistic prophets calling their followers to a holy war for getting the world rid of religious darkness once and for all.

 

The last lines of Coyne were particularly troubling. Basically his (implicit) reasoning was as follows:

1) It would be good to live in a world where creationism (and other anti-scientific beliefs) have wholly disappeared.

2) If ALL religions were to fade away, creationism would be no more.

3) Hence it is morally good to use our best types of psychological warfare to utterly destroy ALL religions.

 

Interestingly enough, French racists use exactly the same kind of reasoning:

1′) It would be good to live in a France where anti-white racism no longer exists.

2′) If ALL blacks and Arabs were driven out of the land, anti-white racism would be no more.

3′) Hence it is morally good to expel ALL blacks and Arabs from France.

 

Let us grant that both 1) and 1′) are true.

2) and 2′) are certainly technically true in both cases.

If ALL religions were to go away, there would be no longer any form of creationism, and if ALL blacks and Arabs no longer lived in France, anti-white racism would be no more.

But it should be clear that a vital fact has been entirely left out of the picture in the second racist reasoning. There are countless blacks and Arabs who are not racist against white folks and are completely respectful of French laws and customs.

It would be egregiously wrong to expel them as well for this would be a gruesome form of collective punishment.

 

Exactly the same thing can be said about Coyne’s reasoning.

There are countless moderate, progressive and even conservative religious believers who are not opposed to science and reason and who do not cause any harm to the society in which they live.

Advocating to systematically bully them out of their faith is equally egregious.

The fundamentalist mindset of the New Atheists is crystal-clear when you consider the number of times they fall prey to the cognitive distortions “binary thinking”, “overgeneralization” and “focusing on the negative”.

They all too often seem utterly unable to realize and recognize that like everything in our universe, the religious landscape of planet Earth is extremely complex and multifaceted. There is not one Islam and one Christianity but many forms of them, some of them promoting peace and tolerance, some of them fostering hatred, superstitions and (verbal or physical) violence.

 

Likewise, there are numerous kinds of atheists out there, many of them being nice and respectful people and some of them being hateful self-righteous bigots like the individuals I’ve dealt with in this post. And there are clearly forms of anti-theism preaching the use of physical violence for reaching their noble goal of annihilating all religions. This is all too obvious when one considers the persecutions of religious people by the hand of Chinese and the former Russian anti-theists in the name of making their respective countries free of religion.

 

I really think that anti-theism is a loathsome hate-group which should not be tolerated in an open society but harshly combated like all other extremisms.

In the same way hateful Christian fundamentalists are an utter embarrassment for the Master they pretend to follow, militant atheists are a shame for the very Reason and Science they profess to cherish.

 

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My criticism of militant atheism

On this page, I want to gather all materials I’ve published on anti-theism

This is meant as an index of contents and is not the appropriate place for posting any kind of comments.

In “On the difference between atheists, antitheists, Evangelicals and fundamentalists” I define what I mean by a militant atheist (or “New Atheist” or Antitheist) and think this fits rather well the way most New Atheists view themselves and are perceived by outsiders.

It is important to note that if you don’t fulfill my definition, many of my coming criticism won’t necessarily concern you.

In “The New Atheism as a hate group” I argue that the New Atheists are driven by the very same hatred which dominates the mind of political extremists.

In a more speculative post entitled “The link between religious fundamentalism and militant atheism” I argue that militant atheism is most often the legitimate child of religious fundamentalism and that many anti-theists have had terrible experiences with conservative religions in the past.

I think it is the case because (mostly American) anti-theists have kept a fundamentalistic mindset while evaluating the morality of Biblical books.

They ignore most of the time results from historical-critical scholarship and implicitly assert that if one finds atrocities at ONE page of the Bible, then the whole Bible is an evil book comparable to Mein Kampf.

Examples of this utterly irrational way of thinking can be found here:
A perfect example of ANTI-theistic irrationality
Tribalism, love and God’s shameless ploy: a response to Cyngus and Valdobiade
How to rationally criticize a religion: the origin of misogyny

In “New Atheism, Child Abuse and Deception: a Response to Tildeb”,  I responded to the claim that ALL forms of religious education are abusive for children.

“On the delusion of Crude and Lotharson: a response to Tildeb” is a further refutation of the same person.

The New Atheists constantly pick and choose their weakest adversaries and deceitfully assert that religious faith (in general) means pretending to know things you don’t know.

In “Faith, Richard Dawkins and Peter Boghossian“, I debunk this claim and point out that only a minority of believers hold fast to that notion.

I interviewed sociologist David Marshall on this and other false claims of militant atheists:

The truth about the New Atheism: an interview with David Marshall
I also analyzed several anti-theistic pamphlets where some of the leaders call their followers to use emotional bullying and verbal violence against ALL religious believers.

Bullying in the name of Reason and Science
Selling one’s soul to the cult of Dawkins

Finally, I want to point out there are MANY tolerant atheists out there who don’t bully all religious believers, such as the Irish Atheist: “Tolerant progressive atheists.

This list will be progressively updated as new posts come in.

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

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

 

On the delusion of Crude and Lotharson: a response to Tildeb

A fellow called Tilbed wrote the following comment:

Good grief, Crude and lotharson. Your misunderstanding of Boghossian’s thesis combined with your fear of atheists and lack of critical thinking leads you to draw conclusions that are not just wrong but borders on delusional.

His thesis is one I’ve long promoted, that how people come to conclusions about reality matters because they act on this understanding. There are justified beliefs and unjustified beliefs classified by how the conclusions and explanations are reached. When we allow reality to arbitrate our beliefs, we have some measure of independence from our biases and prejudices. This is essential to recognize in critical thinking. We can fool ourselves if we use only measures dependent on our beliefs. I’m sure you can appreciate how using beliefs to justify those beliefs is a method that doesn’t work very well. Yet this is <i.exactly the kind of justification used in any faith-based – and not adduced evidence – belief! If a religious believer had compelling evidence arbitrated by reality to support a particular belief claim, he or she would bring that forward to help justify why he or she believes that a particular claim had merit independent of the beliefs brought to the claim. this is the method of science… where no dependent faith is required.

But believers don’t have this arsenal of evidence adduced from reality available. That’s why they introduce faith into justifying the claim! And this inclusion is where disagreements arise between believers themselves.

Religion is not alone in utilizing the method of faith to justify claims made about reality. We see exactly the same method used to sell many dubious products and extraordinary explanations… from alternative medicine to conspiracy theories, from denying the efficacy of vaccinations to a refusal to accept climate change caused by human activity. Faith-based beliefs are not – ever – justified. And this is the claim Boghossian makes, teaching people that how we arrive at our conclusions and explanations about how reality operates is a vital component to evaluating their justifications. And that’s why he criticizes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders from exempting behaviours – listing the signs and symptoms of illnesses – if categorized to be ‘religious’. Is this exemption justified? Because the method of arriving at the claim is of dubious justification, Boghossian argues that this is insufficient reason to then allow the exemption. And he’s right.

But rather than understand Boghossian’s argument about why the method used to arrive at conclusions and explanations matters, you two saddle up your biases and prejudices and take them for a ride… allowing these biases and prejudices free rein to arrive at the destination you’ve preselected: accusing atheists of trying to impose a totalitarian anti-theist political system based on hate.

Both of you reveal a scope of mental processes deeply influenced by very poor reasoning, very poor comprehension, very high bias, very high prejudice, all in the service of what you assume is a pious regard for a broken method of thinking about how reality operates. The reality you’ve created exists only in your mind and you have no means at your disposal to self-correct these bizarre and absurd explanations. This is the very problem Boghossian is talking about, and you’ve demonstrated why your method is such a problem because you end up arriving at an unjustified, uncritical, delusional conclusion that if acted upon can and will cause real harm to real people in real life not based on reality but your unjustified beliefs about it.

As a person, I am offended by your unjustified and hate-inspiring attack on a group of people you demonize based on your own biases and prejudices; and that’s the very definition of discrimination you meet with flying colours. As a New Atheist, I’m not surprised. This is standard operating procedure for many theists who assume pious belief is good… because it’s supposedly good. Not sharing this ‘good’ belief must therefore mean those who do not believe is ‘bad’. And that’s the extent of critical thinking many theists undertake… a failure, in other words, of methodology (to find out what’s true, what’s justified by reality’s arbitration of the belief) – of epistemology, to use Boghossian’s description of this method – to use the brain (you believe) god gave you. In my mind, one does not serve the divine by being by exercising discrimination against one’s fellow human beings.

But you find that bit of wisdom in any ACE or PACE workbook any more than you will in any of scriptures used to defend claims of justified faith.

First of all, I am extremely thankful to Tildeb for his genuine kindness and respectful tone.

I would need incredibly much “faith” (as he defines the word) for believing he is one of the most loving human beings living under the sun.

I don’t agree, however, with this type of definition.

For me faith means hoping when the evidence is not sufficient. And it is my contention that everyone walks by faith so that Boghossian’s criticism utterly fails in my case. 

Tildeb wrote “There are justified beliefs and unjustified beliefs classified by how the conclusions and explanations are reached. When we allow reality to arbitrate our beliefs, we have some measure of independence from our biases and prejudices.”

How is it possible to use reality for disproving the claim you are a brain in a vat? All evidence you could come up with would be perfectly compatible with your experience being spawned by a program running your brain.

BildWhile empirical arguments are extremely important, they cannot be the whole story.

Finally I was truly dumbstruck by the following sentence: “As a person, I am offended by your unjustified and hate-inspiring attack on a group of people you demonize based on your own biases and prejudices”.

There are many errors and fallacies going on here.

1) There are countless atheistic philosophers and scientists arguing against belief in God  towards whom I feel a great respect.

Jeffrey Jay Lowder and Andre Comte-Sponville are two nice examples.

I always respect respectful opponents.

2) I profoundly despise anti-theist (also called the New Atheists) because we have strong grounds for seeing them as a far right hate group, who are animated by the same type of fundamentalist biases as those dominating their life as they were religious fundies.

3) It is ironic that Tildeb feels outraged whereas his fellow New Atheists use exactly the same type of hateful rhetorics for demonizing ALL religious believers, even liberal and progressive ones who fight religious extremists.

The aim of my blog is to foster a respectful and nice dialog between people having different worldview, thereby overcoming this loveless culture war.

Bild

So if Tildeb is ready to stop mocking and ridiculing progressive religious believers who have never harmed him, I will warmly welcome him as a conversation partner.

I am not, however, particularly interested in the perspective of yelling at each other.

The link between religious fundamentalism and militant atheism

In a previous post I gave the following definitions:

“An atheist is someone who sees God’s existence as being very implausible.

An antitheist (or New Atheist, militant atheist, atheistic fundamentalist…) is an atheist believing that all religions ought to disappear and that it is morally permissible (if not mandatory) to use ridicule, mockery and emotional bullying to destroy the faith of all religious believers.”

While I have a huge respect for many great atheistic thinkers of Western history (such as Nietzche, Sartre, Camus and Macky to name only a few) I have developed a healthy disdain towards anti-theists (as defined above).

I find that there is nothing glorious about using ridicule and mockery towards respectful and intelligent people you have a strong disagreement with.

Militant atheists are characterized by a bigoted self-righteousness and an intolerance towards all kinds of non-materialist points of view.
I have seen with my own eyes (across a screen) antitheists insulting and ridiculing nice persons defending the irreducible character of our conscious experience or of mathematical equations.

Following an extreme form of binary thinking, the New Atheists believe that since Islamic terrorists or Christian fundies are non-materialists, all non-materialists ought to be ridiculed.

But where does all this irrational and hateful thinking stem from?

David Leiter described in a short article what I and many other people have experienced:

“The theme that has emerged time after time, as I become closely acquainted with individual PhACT members is this: Each one who has disclosed personal details of their formative years, say up until their early 20’s,
has had an unfortunate experience with a faith-based philosophy, most often a
conventional major religion.
Very often, their family or community has (almost forcibly) imposed this philosophy on them from a very early age; but then as they matured, they threw off this philosophy with a vengeance, vowing at a soul level never to be so victimized again. Less often, it appears that they have instead voluntarily and enthusiastically embraced, for example, a New Age cult, or have become say, a born-again Christian. Then after a few years, they become convinced of the folly of that infatuation with the same basic result. They throw off this philosophy with a vengeance, vowing at a soul level never to be so victimized again.”

This leads me to make several empirically testable claims about the psychology of militant atheism.

1) The overwhelming majority of anti-theists have had a traumatic experience with one or several religions. In most cases they were raised as fundamentalists.

2) All things being equal, the strength of their materialist belief and intolerance towards other views is proportional to the amount of abuse and suffering they underwent in the past due to a religion.

3) All other things being equal, a bullying anti-theist is more likely to have always had a bullying personality to begin with,
There are many former fundamentalists who have become atheists without having taken on a hateful rhetoric.

Michael Shermer and Johny Scaramanga are two nice examples.

4) The intensity of the hostile and disrespectful rhetoric of a militant atheist is inversely proportional to the intellectual strength of his or her arguments.

(While it arguably concerns only a minority of cases, I do think this nicely illustrates the kind of vicious circle or hatred going on).

Now I would be glad if you could share your own experiences with me.

Young Earth Presuppositionalism

Young Earth Presuppositionalism

Presuppositionalism is an apologetic method developed by reformed theologians and philosophers which consists of showing that all worldviews except Christianity (and by that they really mean Calvinism) are self-contradictory.

It is contrasted with evidentialism which accepts the reliability of logic and our sense perceptions as a common ground with the unbeliever and tries from there to provide evidence for the truth of the Christian faith.

There was recently a discussion about presuppositionalism involving young-earth creationists.

This discussion makes it clear that there are different degrees of fundamentalism.

Dr. Richard Howe is an evidential philosopher and he took Ken Ham to task for calling creationists taking into account data from the external world “compromisers”.
He rightly pointed out that before Galileo, almost everyone thought that the sun once literally stood still as described in the book of Joshua. Only after heliocentrism had been accepted was the current interpretation considered as valid.

Dr. Jason Lisle does not agree and believe that the text of Genesis is clear and that we are not allowed to depart from the most obvious meaning,. He wrote a book “The ultimate proof of creation” arguing that the Genesis account must be true because there is NO OTHER alternative.

Towards the end of the video there was an interesting discussion about the viability of proving the truth of the Protestant Canon using a presupositional approach.

Dr. Howe asked wittily: “Would the laws of logic still be valid if the third book of John were not included?”

In a way typical of Calvinist fundamentalists, Dr. Lisle answered that if we reject the slightest verse of the Bible, we would no longer have any grounds for believing anything else in the Bible and consequently would no longer have any way to ground rationality and knowledge because this wholly hangs on the truth of Scripture.

I think that these folks give Christianity a very bad name and are creating insurmountable obstacles for intellectual people. Actually, I am sure that Ken Ham and his minions have brought much more people away from God than Dawkins and his minions could ever hope for.

Finally, we would happen if presuppositional young earth creationist were to have full power in a state? I consider it very likely that they would not content themselves with “teaching the controversy” but would also banish all other views.