Atheists Undermine Their Own Talking Point

It’s beginning to look more and more like the attempts to define atheism as a mere lack of belief in God are rooted in sneakiness and intellectual dishonesty.

According to the NYT:

the University of Miami received a donation in late April from a wealthy atheist to endow what it says is the nation’s first academic chair “for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics.”

Religion departments and professors of religious studies are a standard feature at most colleges and universities, many originally founded by ministers and churches. The study of atheism and secularism is only now starting to emerge as an accepted academic field, scholars say, with its own journal, conferences, course offerings and, now, an endowed chair.

Does this mean some university will soon be offering an endowed chair for atoothfairyism?  And maybe another will have one for non-stamp-collectors? When we have “the study of atheism” emerging  “as an accepted academic field, scholars say, with its own journal, conferences, course offerings and, now, an endowed chair,” it’s dishonest to insist that atheism is akin to atoothyfairyism or not collecting stamps.  To study atheism, there must be something more to it than a mere lack of belief in God.

The article also notes:

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Posted in academia, atheism, atheist news, New Atheism, Secularism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Argument From Evil: Toothless and Useless

The modern day atheist movement has only one argument to support atheism – The Argument From Evil.  Anytime an atheist tries to make the case that there is no God, chances are extremely high that some version of the Argument from Evil will be used.  Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it this way:

OK, if that god is described as being all-powerful and all-knowing and all-good, I don’t see evidence for it anywhere in the world. So I remain unconvinced. If that god is all-powerful and all-good, I don’t see that when a tsunami kills a quarter-million or an earthquake kills a quarter-million people. I’d like to think of good as something in the interest of your health or longevity. That’s a pretty simple definition of something that is good for you. That’s not a controversial understanding of the word “good.” So if Earth in two separate events separated by just a couple of years can kill a half-million people, then if the god as you describe exists, that god is either not all-powerful or not all-good. And so therefore I am not convinced.

Essentially what Tyson is saying here is that God cannot co-exist with tsunamis and earthquakes.  That God’s existence is incompatible with tsunamis and earthquakes.  Okay, so let’s imagine God did exist.  According to the atheist’s Argument From Evil, this would mean there would be no tsunamis and earthquakes.  So let’s imagine God magically changes our reality such that there are no tsunamis and earthquakes.  Has the Argument From Evil been neutralized?  Has it been taken off the table?

Not so fast.  Sam Harris tells us “There is No God (And You Know It).”  In fact, it’s “obvious” to him.  What makes it obvious?

Consider: the city of New Orleans was recently destroyed by hurricane Katrina. At least a thousand people died, tens of thousands lost all their earthly possessions, and over a million have been displaced. It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Katrina struck believed in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God. But what was God doing while a hurricane laid waste to their city?

Hurricane Katrina?  How could I forget?  Look, I thought that was supposed to be President Bush’s fault, but we’ll say Harris has a point.  Let’s say that if God did indeed exist, He would have magically stopped hurricane Katrina because God is all-good.  So, suppose He did.  Are we good now?  Of course not, since Harris could have cited countless other hurricanes.  Well then, let’s say God magically changes our reality such that there are no tsunamis, earthquakes, or hurricanes.  Everything okay?  Please.

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Posted in atheism, Evil, God, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 38 Comments

Getting Sent to the Kids Table

Over at his blog, dangerous ideas, Victor Reppert reports that Peter Boghossian has sent Reppert to the “kid’s table” because of Boghossian’s problems with reading comprehension.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Victor also writes:

What I said was that having a course at a public university that brings up religious issues, and in that course makes it evident that if they have certain religious views and express them in the course, they cannot get a passing grade, or will not have the same chance to get a passing grade as those who adopt another religious perspective, then serious questions from the point of view of the Establishment Clause have to be raised.

Yet I’m not sure the bar is set that high.  Thanks to the FFRF, that is.

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New Atheist Subtle Attack on Science

What do you do if you are an activist who does not do science, but want your activism to be perceived as science so you can exploit the cultural authority of science to carry out your activist agenda? Well, you do what activist Sam Harris does – you dumb down the definition of science so it becomes nothing more than “adhering to the highest standards of logic and evidence.”

Harris, who spends most of his day practicing his martial arts, meditating, reading, and writing, wants all this to be perceived as science. That way, he can posture as a “scientist” when advocating for his activist agenda. Going into the lab, developing a testable hypothesis, doing the actual experiments, analyzing the data, well, that’s all superfluous fluff when compared to Sam sitting in his armchair using the “highest standards of logic and evidence” to pound out a new chapter for his latest upcoming book.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to dissect his intellectual slop and expose its errors. Fortunately, New Atheist arguments are a dime-a-dozen, and it just happens to turn out that his activist allies, Jerry Coyne and Stephen Pinker, have been making similar subtle attacks on science. And I do have responses to their “arguments.” So I’ll repost those responses below:
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Friendly Atheist Claims Science and Religion are Incompatible. He’s Wrong.

Brace yourselves. The Friendly Atheist has shown us that Religion and Science are Incompatible:

Oh boy. Throughout Mehta’s four minute sermon, there is not one single original thought or argument.  Instead, Mehta simple regurgitates old talking points that apparently derive largely from his slavish devotion to Sam Harris.  From where I sit, it is kind of sad to see how New Atheism can intellectually cripple people. Anyway, let’s have a closer look.

Mehta:But I don’t think those two worlds are really compatible. I think if you’re a religious person and someone who accepts the scientific method, something’s gotta give.

Yes, what has to give is simple-minded, shallow thinking about science and religion.  Unfortunately for Mehta, his talking points are premised on simple-minded, shallow thinking.

Whenever science succeeds, religion loses, because a gap was just filled by something other than God.

This is nonsense.  When scientists discovered chromosomes, did religion lose because God was supposed to have created non-physical heritable material?  When scientists discovered the double-helical nature of DNA, did religion lose because God was supposed to have used a different form?  When scientists discovered that ribosomes synthesized proteins, did religion lose because angels were supposed to be making proteins? When scientists discovered the horizontal transfer of DNA among bacteria, did religion lose because God was supposed to have disallowed that?  I could go on and on and on.  The bottom line here is simple – the vast, vast majority of scientific discoveries have not caused any “losses” for the Christian religion.  Christianity never entailed the denial of chromosomes, DNA. ribosomes, horizontal transfer, etc.

Part of the problem with this idea of NOMA is that science does have something to say about morality.

More nonsense.  At this point, Mehta is referring to Sam Harris’s pseudoscience:

And, like I said, science has something to say about morality. Sam Harris wrote a whole book about it (the Moral Landscape). One of his ideas in the book is that science can show us what increases or decreases people’s pleasure and we can work to make the good stuff happen more often. I’m just exploring the surface here.

The only people who take Sam Harris’s whole book seriously are Sam Harris and his small community of devoted fans.  That this thesis resonates only among such a fringe group should tell you something.  That, and the simple fact that Harris has never been able to use science to resolve a single moral dilemma.  Look, if there was anything other than pseudscientific posturing to Harris’s crackpot thesis, he would have used science to solve a moral problem by now.  Then, scientists and philosophers everywhere would have noticed, praised him, and followed his lead.  A fruitful track record of success would emerge and Mehta wouldn’t have to appeal to some 6-year old book that has been rejected by mainstream scientists and philosophers (even Jerry Coyne doesn’t buy into it!).  Instead, he would point to the scientific community resolving the various moral disputes all around us.  But he can’t.

And religion has plenty to say about what happened and how things happen. The magisteria overlap all the time. And they can’t both be true.

I don’t think Mehta understands what “all the time” means.

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Posted in atheism, God, New Atheism, Religion, Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

Why Are Internet Atheists So Gullible?

Over at the Richard Dawkins webpage, they showcase a youtube video by internet atheist  Jaclyn Glenn entitled “How to make an atheist cry.”

Glenn spends 9 minutes responding to a comment she received that began, “Warning: the following story has been known to make atheists cry!”    The comment then tells the story of an atheist father who takes his 5 year old son to the zoo to feed the animals pages from the Bible (it’s supposed to make the point that God does not exist, otherwise God would have prevented this).  When he gets to the last page of the Bible, he tries to feed it to an octopus on a rock.  The octopus doesn’t eat the page, but instead, with an inhuman voice, reads Psalm 14:1 –  “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God! ” The atheist then converts to Christianity.

It’s obvious the comment was a Poe.  What makes it painfully obvious is the handle of the person who posted the comment: CopyPasta4CancerBanana.  As someone in the comments section of her YouTube page noted,

Title should read: “Women gets trolled by 4Chan/Reddit Full-time meme generator God into thinking that his copypasta was a legit post”

And for those atheists who badly want to believe the comment was posted by a sincere Christian, Google will help you find that CopyPasta4CancerBanana changed his/her YouTube handle to Cutie Patootie Senpai soon after Glenn’s video went viral and is someone interested in unwrapping a tesseract.  Sounds like someone who thinks atheists would cry because of that story, right?

Two questions come to mind.

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Posted in atheism, New Atheism, Poe, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Understanding Why New Atheists Mock

As we have seen, ridicule and mockery of the religious are key components of the New Atheist Movement. According to John Loftus, “It’s not just the so-called “new atheists” like Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and PZ Myers who advocate ridicule. I do too (see below). So does Richard Carrier, as does Stephen Law.” Hemant Mehta says, “We should absolutely mock religion.”  The ridicule not only come from the writings of the New Atheists, but they also engage in such tactics with their memes and their YouTube videos.

As we know, the mockery and ridicule is part of a socio-political plan, meaning that it is propaganda. Wiki defines propaganda as follows:

Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (perhaps lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information presented.

Clearly, the ridicule/mockery is “used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda” and to “produce an emotional rather than a rational response.” Thus, a movement that postures as if it champions reason is actually relying on propaganda, demonstrating the so-called committment to reason is a sham.

Yet there is another aspect to the ridicule/mockery – it represents aggression. In their research paper, Leslie M. Janes and James M. Olson survey some of the psychological theories about the use of ridicule. New Atheist propaganda would qualify as an example of disparagement humor, whch is defined “as humorous material in which one party is victimized, belittled, humiliated, or suffers some misfortune or act of aggression (Zillmann, 1983). Most disparagement humor targets groups or members of groups (e.g., women, ethnic groups, lawyers) rather than individuals.”

One theory that attempts to explain the use of disparagement humor is Superiority theory. Janes and Olson quote Thomas Hobbes:
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Friendly Atheist Insists We Should Mock the Religious

Hemant Mehta, the man who sells himself as “The Friendly Atheist,” explains why “We should absolutely mock religion.”

Okay, so we’ve established that the Friendly Atheist is an oxymoron. What’s funny is how Mehta tries to rationalize this mandate to mock others.

But for some reason, we’re afraid to make fun of religion. I understand that when it comes to Islam, where mockery could bring a death sentence. But not all religions are like that, and yet we still treat those beliefs with kid gloves.

In other words, it is understandable why atheists don’t mock Muslims, but since Christians are not going to kill you for mocking them, why aren’t more atheists mocking Christians? Now that’s a man who stands on principles, eh?
Mehta then unleashes his mighty logic:

In fact, I think it provides a more useful way to get people to rethink their beliefs. When you straight up challenge people’s ideas, they get defensive. They’ll rationalize whatever position they hold, no matter how absurd it is. If you’ve ever seen a politician getting interviewed, you know what I mean. But if you can make people laugh about the ideas they already hold? That’s powerful. That’ll get them rethinking those beliefs in the future. You could make the argument that George Carlin has changed more minds about religion than, say, Richard Dawkins. Because Carlin took those ideas you held and made you realize how illogical they were.

So making fun of people is a great way to get them to think “rethink” their beliefs as desmonstrated by Mehta’s faith that the power of Carlin is greater than Dawkins. Sounds like he is making this stuff up as he goes along.

The key justification (rationalization) for mocking others is that Mehta believes it to be an effective method of proselytization. Sheesh. So much about Gnu atheism seems to be about proselytizing others into their cult. Does this mean when some Gnus show up at your door and for some reason their app won’t load onto their phone, that they will then begin making fun of you?

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Is atheism no different than atoothfairyism?

In the syllabus for Peter Boghossian’s university class on atheistic apologetics, we are told:

Logically and epistemologically, atheism is no different than atoothfairyism.

Really?  In the same syllabus, we are also told:

This course is a systematic examination and analysis of atheism. It is primarily focused upon understanding contemporary secular arguments regarding religion and faith-based belief systems. It is secondarily focused upon exploring what secularism means for metaphysics, epistemology, morality, politics, aesthetics, etc.

Hmmm.  Then what does atoothfairyism mean for metaphysics, epistemology, morality, politics, aesthetics, etc?

Look, if you insist there is no God, then much more is involved than denying the existence of some other Being.  As Boghossian himself admits, it also has implications for metaphysics, epistemology, morality, politics, aesthetics, etc.

For example, if there is no God, there is no ultimate meaning to life.  No reason why we exist.  We invent our own meaning (or pretend to have one).  What is of value is simply that which we decide to value.  Morality is what we want it to be.  In fact, many atheists also argue it means we have no free will and thus the concept of moral responsibility is an illusion.  Even our sense of self is an illusion.  If there is no God, everything changes.  If there is no tooth fairy, it merely means there is no odd creatures that swaps human teeth for quarters.  Other than that odd fact about the world, everything remains the same.

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Another Flimsy Disclaimer

In his syllabus for his course on Atheism, Peter Boghossian includes a second disclaimer:

Just as the purpose of religious studies is not to convert students to a particular faith tradition, this course is not about “converting” students to atheism.

Really?

First, here are the religious studies courses offered by Portland State University.  I see no class entitled “Christianity” taught by a Christian apologist who uses his own book, “Manual for Creating Christians” as a required text.  Sorry, but Boghossian’s syllabus doesn’t read like any religious studies syllabus from a public university that I have seen.  If it did, it would explore and describe the different types of atheism around the world (materialists, idealists, buddhists, communists, humanists, etc). But judging from his syllabus, Boghossian’s course is about viewing the world as an atheist.

Secondly, and more importantly, is the required text for the course.  Boghossian tells us “this course is not about “converting” students to atheism” yet this is contradicted by the title of the required textbook, “A Manual for Creating Atheists.”

The contents of the required textbook also contradict the disclaimer:

A Manual for Creating Atheists is a step beyond Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett. A Manual for Creating Atheists offers practical solutions to the problems of faith and religion through the creation of Street Epistemologists—legions of people who view interactions with the faithful as clinical interventions designed to disabuse them of their faith.

And if that wasn’t clear enough:

This book will teach you how to talk people out of their faith. You’ll learn how to engage the faithful in conversations that help them value reason and rationality, cast doubt on their beliefs, and mistrust their faith. I call this activist approach to helping people overcome their faith, Street Epistemology. The goal of this book is to create a generation of Street Epistemologists: people equipped with an array of dialectical and clinical tools who actively go into the streets, the prisons, the bars, the churches, the schools, and the community-into any and every place the faithful reside – and help them abandon their faith and embrace reason.

 Jerry Coyne promoted this book as “telling the reader how to become a ‘street epistemologist’ with the skills to attack religion” and John Loftus promoted as “There is nothing else on the market like this book that helps atheists talk believers out of their faith.”  The foreword by Michael Shermer is entitled “Born-Again Atheist” and boasts, “If I started reading A Manual for Creating Atheists as a Christian I would have been an atheist by the time I finished it.”  And the book also comes with this blurb:

“Since atheism is truly Good News, it should not be hidden under a bushel. Peter Boghossian shows us how to take it to the highways and the byways. I love it!” —Dan Barker, Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation

Given the purpose of Boghossian’s book is to convert people to atheism, and given the book is a required text in his course, where he spends 3-4 weeks going through the book, the disclaimer about the course not trying to convert people to atheism doesn’t sound very convincing.  Even less so once you consider that Boghossian has publicly advocated that “professors should have a primary goal of changing students beliefs if those beliefs are false and seek to replace those beliefs with true ones.

 

Posted in academia, atheism, education, New Atheism, Peter Boghossian, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments