A Critical Look at Common Atheist Talking Points

Atheist blogger Kevin Davis attended a Lifetree Café gathering at a Lutheran church where the topic of discussion was atheism.  Davis was annoyed by something:

The next discussion question: What is the attraction to atheism?  This one bothered me. I took the opportunity to clear up some misconceptions.  Atheism isn’t something people get recruited into or attracted to from an ideological perspective.  It has no dogma or doctrine.  Atheism is a conclusion based on a lack of evidence.  No one decides to become an atheist because it’s glamorous.  Why would you willingly join a minority position that is attached to an unshakable stigma and is legally discriminated against?  We’re not “giving up on God” or “angry at God” or any of those other assertions. We simply used critical thinking to come to the conclusion that the supernatural folklore of millennia ago is unfounded and archaic.  

This is a very common self-serving talking point among the atheist activists and I find it to be highly inaccurate.

First, when Davis insists it is the mere use of critical thinking that leads to atheism, he paints a picture where it is atheists alone who have a special talent for such thinking.  For it is clearly implied that those of us who are Christians lack this skill, otherwise, why are we still Christians?  The problem for Davis is that there are many Christians who use critical thinking to reach the conclusion that Christianity is likely to be true.  This means that since critical thinking can lead to two opposite conclusions, the mere use of critical thinking is insufficient at explaining why people become atheists.

Of course, at this point, the atheist is likely to double down on that self-serving self image, arguing that critical thinking skills are not involved in anyone becoming a Christian because if critical thinking skills were involved, the person would reach the conclusion of atheism.   And round and round it would go.  So let’s use some critical thinking skills to analyze Davis’s talking point.

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Another Bold Gnu Prediction

Atheist activist and blogger John Loftus has yet another book out arguing that philosophy of religion should be banished. AFAICT, his argument boils down to this:

  • God is no different from a fairy
  • There is no philosophy of fairies.
  • Therefore, there should be no philosophy of religion.

The guy actually wrote a whole book built on this false analogy.  Anything to squeeze another dollar out of the Gnu community, I suppose.

Peter Boghossian, the atheist activist who has also made this argument, of course promotes the book with a blurb:

 “Unapologetic offers the philosophy of religion the swift, ugly end it has long deserved. This single book will cause the death of a discipline.” —Peter Boghossian, author, A Manual for Creating Atheists

Over three years ago, Loftus reviewed Bognossian’s pseudoscience book (activists always prop each othe up):

Peter Boghossian’s new brilliant book will change our nomenclature and effectiveness in disabusing believers of their faith. His book will definitely change the religious landscape.

Er, we’re still waiting for those predictions to come true.

I’d say it’s about as likely that Loftus’s book “will cause the death of a discipline” as Boghossian’s book actually changed our “nomenclature” and “religious landscape.”

The grandiose claims of these atheists activists is an endless source of amusement.

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Hitler vs. The AntiChrist

Over at the “Friendly” Atheist blog, someone named Sarahbeth Caplan is informing the Gnus she can no longer support evangelical Christians.  She begins as follows:

I saw a post on my church’s bulletin board several weeks ago that read, “Hillary Clinton wants to take away your religious liberty and arrest Christians! Do not vote for this anti-Christ!”

All posts are supposed to be approved by staff before they can be pinned to the board, but it’s possible this one didn’t wait for permission. At least that’s what I’m telling myself to feel better, but regardless, this is the type of attitude that is causing me to distance myself from all things evangelical.

Okay.  Fair enough.  There are plenty of such Christians who buy into this paranoid apocalyptic thinking.

But then, a few sentences later we read:

But until this election, when many of my fellow Christians eagerly jumped to support a man with frightening similarities to Hitler circa the 1930s, I had no idea how little in common I actually have with many of the people I worshiped with. (emphasis not added)

Sheesh. This is where the face palm comes into play.

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Hope For the New Atheists?

Over the last couple of years, I have documented the demise of the New Atheist movement.  And as we have seen over the last eight years, without their Common Enemy to focus their negativity, the internet atheist community consistently lashed out at each other for a variety of reasons.  For just one example, Sam Harris has accused PZ Myers of being the “shepherd of Internet trolls” while Myers has accused Harris of being a racist and a sexist.   They have also accused each other of being liars.

But these days, Myers and Harris, along with various other New Atheist pontificators speak with the same apoplectically apocalyptic rhetoric.  In fact, Tweety Dawk seems to be waking from his slumber.   The reason?  President-elect Trump.

Could a Trump presidency actually heal all the wounds in the New Atheist community?  Will Dawkins and Myers be able to rekindle their bromance?

Stay tuned…….

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Are Anti-Trump, New Atheist Parents Abusing their Children?

According to this article, little children are scared of President-elect Trump.

Here’s a couple of examples:

Let’s be real here, shall we?  If little children are afraid of Trump, it’s very, very likely they are afraid because their parents have taught them to be afraid.  In other words, this is the likely outcome of parents indoctrinating their children with their own political views.

Now that’s just fine with me.  Republican and Democrat parents have a right to teach their children their political views.  It happens all the time.

But according to New Atheist logic, indoctrination is child abuse.  Thus, the reason these children are afraid is because their parents have been abusing them with anti-Republican and anti-Trump political rants and sermons for some time now.

And this raises the obvious question.  If New Atheists are so opposed to religious indoctrination of children, so much so they label it child abuse, do these Gnus abuse their own children with political indoctrination?

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The Theocracy is Coming!

Now that Donald Trump has become President, how long before we begin to hear about The Impending Doom of the Inevitable Theocracy that is Supposed to be Right Around the Corner?

It’s a favorite feverish argument of the “skeptics” everytime a Republican becomes President.



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Elite Scientists Don’t Have Elite Reasons for Being Atheists

One of the favorite arguments in the atheist movement is to point to leading scientists and note that a majority of them are atheists. The argument is, of course, pathetic and not much different from trying to score some point for male superiority because the same elite scientists are mostly white males. What matters are the arguments and evidence these elite scientists can come up with. If their atheism is linked to their expertise as scientists and scholars, surely this group of people must possess the most powerful and compelling arguments against the existence of God. So I have always said we need to hear these arguments.

Luckily for us, Dr. Jonathan Pararejasingham has compiled video of elite scientists and scholars to make the connection between atheism and science. Unfortunately for Pararejasingham, once you get past the self-identification of these scholars as non-believers, there is simply very little there to justify the belief in atheism. See for yourself. Here is the video.

What I found was 50 elite scientists expressing their personal opinions, but none had some powerful argument or evidence to justify their opinions. In fact, most did not even cite a reason for thinking atheism was true. Several claimed to have been non-religious their entire life and several more lost their faith as children or young students.  This is consistent with a recent study that found:

The majority of the nonreligious scientists we interviewed were nonreligious before acquiring a scientific education (emphasis added)

Clearly, the expertise of these scholars had no role in formulating their atheism.

The few that did try to justify their atheism commonly appealed to God of the Gaps arguments (there is no need for God, therefore God does not exist) and the Argument from Evil (our bad world could not have come from an All Loving, All Powerful God). In other words, it is just as I thought it would be. Yes, most elite scientists and scholars are atheists. But their reasons for being atheists and agnostics are varied and often personal. And their typical arguments are rather common and shallow – god of the gaps and the existence of evil. It would seem clear that their expertise and elite status is simply not a causal factor behind their atheism.

Finally, it is also clear the militant atheism of Dawkins is a distinct minority view among these scholars.
My summary of each scholar’s point is below the fold.

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New Atheist Author Raises the White Flag

I want to draw your attention to the Boghossian article I mentioned earlier.  While Boghossian does his best to talk up New Atheism as something that is very culturally significant, he actually illustrates the demise of New Atheism.

New Atheism may have inched into the Islamic world, but it has not found deep roots. And its current approach isn’t well-suited to further penetrate Muslim societies. The condescending speech of New Atheists—calling religious people delusional, for example—is not an effective cross-cultural strategy for generating change.

The next chapter in New Atheism will require a more nuanced, if not gentler, pen….. A matured New Atheism is needed more today than ever..

After Dawkins published his book, he and the other New Atheists began to fight with other atheists.  The New Atheists labeled them “accomodationists” and “faitheists.”  And here’s the thing.  One of the common arguments the accomodationists made is that the New Atheist over-aggressively approach was counter-productive.  As Gnu atheist Jerry Coyne once explained it:

but, in the tradition of Chris Mooney, he thinks that loud, strident atheism, à la Dawkins and Maher, is inimical to the cause of atheism itself. We are, he says, polarizing Christians and preventing them from accepting our message because we’re too “in your face.”

Coyne also once wrote:

(Note to readers: when you see the word “nuanced” used in criticism of atheism, run!)

So when Boghossian argues that New Atheists have been too condescending and their approach needs to “mature” with more nuance, Boghossian is making the accomodationist argument.  The New Atheist has conceded the accomodationists were right all along.

In fact, this may be what the app Atheos is really all about.  Instead of being an app that can help Gnus proselytize, maybe it’s more about trying to get the average Gnu to be more like an accomodationist.

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Posted in atheist wars, New Atheism, Peter Boghossian, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

The Fading Dawkins

Just a couple more data points that show the New Atheist movement is no longer significant to the mainstream culture.

The New Atheist movement has long been tied to the popularity of Richard Dawkins. Yet consider two recent facts about Dawkins that are quite different from the golden years of New Atheism.

First, I just posted about a published study that portrays Dawkins as being bad for science.  If you search Google news with Dawkins’ name, you’ll find more than a half-dozen articles promoting this study.  What you won’t find is the infamous Gnu pushback.  No angry tweets from Dawkins himself.  Nothing from Sam Harris.  Nothing from PZ Myers.  Nothing from Jerry Coyne or any of the other usual suspects.  The lone voice of pushback came from blogger Hemant Mehta, whose push back lasted about 2 hours given his 8-10 posts/day policy.

In the golden years of Gnu, there would have been the “rapid response” reply from various directions, especially with the juicy Templeton angle.  It’s starting to look like there’s no one out there to defend Dawkins.

Second, Dawkins has been on a speaking tour recently in the United States.  On Nov 1 and 2, he had a “public conversation” with Sam Harris.

In the golden years of Gnu, there would have been a couple of news reports about this talk filled with some click-bait quote and I’d probably be blogging about something they said.  But despite Dawkins’ return to the speaker circuit, and despite him teaming up with Sam Harris for two days, I can’t find a single report.  No one outside that theater is interested in what two of the Four Horsemen had to say.

Look, Dawkins and Harris will always have their place among the Madalyn Murray O’Hair crowd.   But as far as breaking out into the mainstream is concerned, the fad has run its course.

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Science shows that Dawkins Misrepresents Science

From here:

Controversial British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is well-known for his criticism of religion, but a new Rice University study of British scientists reveals that a majority who mentioned Dawkins’ work during research interviews reject his approach to public engagement and said his work misrepresents science and scientists because he conveys the wrong impression about what science can do and the norms that scientists observe in their work.

This is exactly right.

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