Nick Cohen Tries to Deny the Existence of Militant Atheists

Militant atheists don’t like people noticing they are militant. In fact, Nick Cohen denies the existence of militant atheists with some rhetoric:

My family went into central London last week. After they’d gone, I found myself checking the web for reports of bomb blasts. Absurd and paranoid of me, of course. Rationally, I know that a motorist is more likely to kill you than a terrorist. Ever since Iraq, I have also known that the intelligence services’ “threats” can be imaginary. But I know this, too, and so does everyone else: if a bomb explodes, no one will think that a “militant atheist” has attacked his or her country. No one will mutter: “I wonder if someone has taken this god delusion argument too far.” Or: “Atheists should have known that violent words lead to violent deeds.”

The police don’t send undercover agents into sceptic societies and parliament doesn’t pass emergency laws to combat atheist violence. Fanatics threaten European Muslims if they abandon their faith but no atheist will attack them if they keep it. No one thinks that atheists threaten the lives of their fellow citizens anywhere in the west.

Oh, please. Let’s turn to reality. 

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Posted in atheism, militant atheism, New Atheism | 6 Comments

Sam Harris’s Lame Argument

Let’s refute one of Sam Harris’s arguments.

After three hours of conversation, I turn off my tape recorder, which is around the time I can’t help myself: I push back. When I tell Harris I’m an agnostic, he tells me I’m just confused about the term. (Which according to the dictionary and/or my master’s degree in religious studies, I’m not—but whatever.)

“It’s a safe thing to say,” he tells me, his voice gentle yet cold, “but it’s usually ill considered. You aren’t agnostic about Zeus or Apollo or any of the thousands of dead gods who are no longer worshiped. The atheist says, ‘Bullshit.’ The agnostic says, ‘I don’t know. How could we possibly know about the validity of these claims?’ That is bullshit. If we’re talking specifically about Jesus being resurrected from death, or born of a virgin, or able to hear prayers, this entails a host of scientific claims—about biology, about telepathy, about human flight without the aid of technology. Are these claims that an agnostic wants to accept? Agnosticism is just a way of being polite in the face of people’s unjustified religious convictions. But if you maintained that attitude on other topics, you’d be considered an imbecile.”

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1. Is Harris under the impression that all those 1000s of perceptions of God or the divine are all the same?  People are not agnostic about “Zeus or Apollo or any of the thousands of dead gods” who are no longer worshiped because their nonexistence is trivial. The nonexistence of Zeus or Apollo has no implication for the human condition. Now, contrast this with the denial of God’s existence. We all know the implications and can see them in the positions and writings of the New Atheists themselves – the sense of self is an illusion, the sense of moral responsibility is an illusion, and the sense of free will is an illusion. God’s nonexistence is tied to the non-existence of self, free will, and morality.

So it is easy to see how one can be an agnostic about God. They don’t see the evidence of God’s existence, but neither can they buy into the notion that our sense of free will, morality, and self are all illusions.

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Posted in atheism, God, Miracles, Sam Harris, Science | 30 Comments

Gnu Atheists Starting to Show Respect for the Spiritual

Earlier this morning, I noticed that Jerry Coyne had a post entitled, “David Brooks and his weakness for the spiritual” and promoted it on twitter:

A weakness for the spiritual? This makes “the spiritual” sound like a bad thing. So I chuckled to myself, as the same Jerry Coyne had previously promoted Sam Harris and his efforts at promoting the spiritual!

Now, you have to wonder if Harris sent Coyne a testy email. Why? Coyne has since gone back and quietly changed the title of his blog to David Brooks and his weakness for the sacred

Credit goes to Sam Harris for teaching atheists not to disrespect the spiritual. :)

Posted in atheism, New Atheism | 2 Comments

Sam Harris Continues to Expose the Religious Side of Atheism

Atheism is supposed to be nothing more than a lack of God belief. But if we consider the empirical evidence – focusing on what leading atheists claim and do – that’s just a dictionary definition that is rapidly becoming an anachronism. A religious dimension to atheism is clearly emerging before our eyes. And this can be seen by focusing on one of the most popular lead atheists – Sam Harris.

Claire Hoffman wrote an interesting article about Sam Harris entitled, Sam Harris is Still Railing Against Religion. Let’s consider some excerpts.

Although Harris regards Waking Up, in part, as a “seeker’s memoir,” he shares little about his life in the book. It’s a somewhat clinical treatise on what he knows and thinks about religion, consciousness, spiritual traditions, and meditation. I wonder whether Waking Up might be found in the self-help aisle. “There’s definitely a self-help component to it,” he says over his pot of coffee. “I’m giving people an experiment to try in their own lives. But you don’t usually find in the self-help section the level of intellectual hairsplitting and science and philosophy that’s in this book and all my other books. I would be disappointed and annoyed if it were categorized as a self-help book instead of nonfiction.”

LOL. So Harris thinks his self-help book is somehow special and different because it has crossed some mysterious threshold of “intellectual hairsplitting and science and philosophy.” Really?

It gets better.

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Sam Harris, spirituality | 5 Comments

Atheists Leaders Embrace the Spiritual

Atheist activist Jerry Coyne gushes about Sam Harris’s spiritual life:

As my blurb notes, it’s a wide journey through the land of spirituality, ranging from the latest findings of neuroscience to a chapter on gurus Sam has known. He recounts his experiences with drugs, and tells us what he’s gained from his own many years of Buddhist study and meditation.

Wow. A a wide journey through the land of spirituality? I thought atheism was nothing more than a lack of belief. It turns out we can’t define Sam’s atheism as just a lack of God belief. His atheism is a spiritual journey.  Considering Coyne’s positive reaction, it looks like he too has a spiritual journey to share.

And given the inherent nihilism associated with atheism, it is no surprise that Harris’s spirituality amounts to distractions from reality with the use of drugs or meditation.

The book will surely anger or confuse those people who think Sam has gone soft on religion, but take my word for it, there’s not an iota of sympathy for the divine in the book.

Coyne is confused. “Relgion” and “the divine” are not the same thing. Yes, we know Harris hates God. But he also has clearly gone soft on religion through his attempt to turn atheism into a religion by blending it with a sanitized version of Eastern mysticism. Sorry guys, but when you turn atheism into a religion, you have gone soft on religion. 

And, having taken psychedelics in my youth, I have considerable sympathy for trying to understand what the brain is really capable of, and how our perceptions can be altered. (I myself am really glad I tried those consciousness-altering substances, for such experiences are both perceptually stunning and potentially life-changing.)

Is Coyne promoting the use of psychedelics?  Perhaps Coyne should share the way these drugs have changed his life?

Posted in atheism, Sam Harris, spirituality | 24 Comments

Is Richard Dawkins a Eugenecist?

Back in 2006, Dawkins wrote the following letter to the editor of Scotland’s Sunday Herald:

IN THE 1920s and 1930s, scientists from both the political left and right would not have found the idea of designer babies particularly dangerous – though of course they would not have used that phrase. Today, I suspect that the idea is too dangerous for comfortable discussion, and my conjecture is that Adolf Hitler is responsible for the change.

Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular. The spectre of Hitler has led some scientists to stray from “ought” to “is” and deny that breeding for human qualities is even possible. But if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as “these are not one-dimensional abilities” apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.

I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?

Keep in mind that Dawkins is not a philosopher and neither was he writing for some obscure philosphy journal. Dawkins is an activist who was writing to the general public. When you keep that context in mind, one has to wonder WHY Dawkins felt it important to distance eugenics from Hitler. If Dawkins is a eugenicist, this would make sense. He can’t advocate for some eugenics approach because of its association with Hitler and thus begins the slow, gradual process of getting the general public to divorce eugenics from Nazism. If there is a better explanation, I am all ears.

In fact, Dawkins is less unsure of himself in a less public context when reviewing the book of Steve Jones, president of the Galton Institute, the lineal descendant of the Eugenics Education Society. Here is what Dawkins wrote (note my added emphasis):

“I’ve enjoyed Steve Jones’ recent book The Language of the Genes. He’s a little bit too eager to bend over backwards to be politically respectable, because of the unsavory history of genetics, and he rather goes out of his way to disown those aspects of genetics that are politically disrespectable. I feel that that’s over and done with now, and we can forget about it and get on, and I feel he’s still a little bit unnecessarily eager to distance himself from the bad aspects of the history of genetics. But I have a lot of time for him;I greatly respect him.”

Recently, Dawkins’ tweets have provided further evidence that Dawkins is a eugenicist:

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | 4 Comments

Once again, Dawkins has to “apologize”

Tweety Dawk did it again:

Richard Dawkins has apologised for the “feeding frenzy” triggered by his tweet claiming it would be immoral to carry on with a pregnancy if the mother knew the foetus had Down’s syndrome.

The geneticist’s latest Twitter row broke out after he responded to another user who said she would be faced with “a real ethical dilemma” if she became pregnant with a baby with Down’s syndrome.

Dawkins tweeted: “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

I see. So a woman who chooses to give birth is being immoral. He wants to blame the mother for the unfortunate situation by classifying her decision as “immoral.”

In a fuller explanation on his website – entitled Abortion & Down Syndrome: Apology for Letting Slip the Dogs of Twitterwar – the author tried to set the record straight.

He wrote: “To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most of us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.”

Dawkins again “apologizes” by blaming other people or something else for being misunderstood.

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | 7 Comments

Dawkins Quietly Tosses Inner Circles Into the Memory Hole

While Gnu Atheists seethed and lashed out at Andrew Brown, the evidence indicates Brown’s criticisms struck a very raw nerve.

From Dhay:

Interesting: the Richard Dawkins Foundation has responded to the criticism and ridicule by reducing the number of circles from six to three — my favourite “Fifth Horseman” circle has disappeared — and the maximum annual donation now being solicited is down from $500,000 to a paltry $9,999.

Why do you think Dawkins so quietly made this change?

Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | 9 Comments

Greedy Atheists

There is one thing New Atheist leaders are good at – coming up with ways to make lots of money off their devoted, gullible atheist fans. Andrew Brown skewers Richard Dawkins:

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.


BTW, check out the comments section. Over here, we are told very few atheists take Dawkins seriously, so why talk about him? But over there, you will find an army of Gnu drones desperately defending their idol.

Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Richard Dawkins | 25 Comments

Jerry Coyne’s Conversion To Atheism Had Nothing To Do With Science

It looks like Jerry Coyne’s conversion to Atheism had nothing to do with science. Here is an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune, 1/20/2008 [HT: Dhay

One of the more colorful scientific de-conversion stories comes from Jerry Coyne, a professor of genetics and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. It happened in 1967 when Coyne, then 17, was listening for the first time to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album while lying on his parents’ couch in Alexandria, Va.

Suddenly Coyne began to shake and sweat. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, it dawned on him at that moment that there was no God, and he wasn’t going anywhere when he died. His casual Judaism seemed to wash away as the album played on. The crisis lasted about 30 minutes, he says, and when it was over, he had left religion behind for good. He went on to study how new species evolve, and found the Darwinian view of nature perfectly in tune with his abandonment of faith.

That Coyne’s conversion came from listening to the Beatles also means his conversion had nothing to do with reason or evidence and instead occurred because of some sudden, intuitive insight. Yet, to this day, Coyne tries to make it sound like he is an atheist because of reason, evidence, and science.

The most significant part of the story is that Coyne is like Dawkins and Myers – they all became atheists when they were teenagers. This means it was “adolescent logic” that led to their atheism. For example, having abandoned belief in God at 17, it’s safe to say Coyne has never given any serious, open-minded thought to God since he was 17. To this day, when he thinks about God and argues about God, he does so with the mind of a 17-year-old (or an adult trying to explain why a 17-year-old’s logic was right). And that explains why his arguments about God and religion are the arguments of an adolescent – demanding signs and magic while treating religious people, and those not hostile enough to religion, as if they are not part of the right clique.

Posted in atheism, Jerry Coyne, New Atheism | 28 Comments