The Alt-Right and Atheism

I was going to comment on this, but Dhay did a better job that I would have.  So I thought I would repost his observations here:

Only three days after Sarabeth Kaplin’s 13 August 2017 post on the Friendly Atheist blog entitled “I’m Christian, But I Can’t Ignore My Faith’s Role in the White Supremacist Rally” and commenting on the protesters versus Rally participants inter-group violence, there’s Hemant Mehta’s own 16 August post entitled “Alt-Right Expert Claims Movement Includes a “Lot of Agnostics and Atheists””.

In her post Kaplin claims – actually no, she insinuates, insinuates strongly, several times, without actually saying it – that “the vast majority” of the Charlottesville White Supremacy Rallyers were Christians.

Gosh, she’s “annoyed by the refrain of #NotAllChristians” apparently flooding in on her social media feeds – perhaps those people social-media-feeding her that #NotAllChristians refrain are as prejudiced and stereotype bound and ignorant of the reality (read on) as she herself is – is annoyed because “these “reminders” that not all Christians act a certain way is irritating”; and she then insinuates that “the vast majority” of the Charlottesville Rallyers are Christians: yes, “the vast majority”. To use a phrase we will see Mehta using later, “There’s no evidence to back that up, though. It’s pure anecdote.” Or in Kaplin’s case, it’s pure speculation and prejudice.

Though I hardly recognize the Jesus that racist Christians claim to worship, it’s time to admit that being a Christian and a bigot are not mutually exclusive identities

Sam Harris began The End of Faith with a story of a hypothetical terrorist attack designed to kill innocent people and asked of the terrorist, “Why is it so easy… so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy — to guess the young man’s religion?” Using similar logic, is there any doubt which religion is followed by the vast majority of white supremacists marching with their tiki torches in Virginia?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/08/13/im-christian-but-i-cant-ignore-my-faiths-role-in-the-white-supremacist-rally/
[Already commented on,see three responses above.]

Kaplin is obviously clueless about what the Rallyers’ religions or none might be, but that doesn’t stop her projecting as truth what her own extreme prejudices tell her “must” be the case.

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The Overconfidence of Modern Day Atheism

In a previous posting, I noted that modern day atheism is defined by its overconfidence, lack of nuance, and lack of curiosity.  The New Atheist movement itself is merely something that naturally emerged as a means to celebrate and amplify these traits given the right catalyst – 911.

Recently, J. H. McKenna makes a point that adds further support to my thesis.  Consider what he observes:

When I speak with atheists nowadays, I sometimes ask them to compose a short 200-word essay explaining why they disbelieve. (That would be about three paragraphs in this piece you are reading—not long.) But these atheists refuse to write 200 words and tell me they would just as soon write 200 words on why they don’t believe in the Phoenix as write 200 words explaining why they disbelieve in God. To them, the notion of God is as fabulous as the Phoenix. Why waste time composing 200 words justifying incredulity about the Phoenix?

And there it is.   You could not ask for a more clear demonstration of overconfidence coupled with a lack of nuance and curiosity.  This is, after all, an argument from incredulity.  The overconfidence is so extreme they cannot be bothered to write a 200 word essay explaining why they disbelieve.   And the notion that “God is as fabulous as the Phoenix” crowds out any sense of nuance and curiosity.

So we now have two lines of powerful evidence for thinking modern day atheism is characterized by overconfidence, a lack of nuance, and a lack of curiosity.

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Atheists and Ghosts

Atheist activist  David Mcafee writes:

This weekend, I spoke at “Gateway to Reason,” an atheist convention in St. Louis. It was a large gathering of non-believers, including big names like Seth Andrews and David Smalley, but there was still something missing: scientific skepticism.

Many atheists are also skeptics, but that’s not always the case. This is something I already knew, but it became even more apparent after my talk on Saturday. The topic was “You Don’t Have to be a Scientist to Think Like One,” and I talked about all that is pseudoscience – from acupuncture to UFOs, and everything in between.

I expected most people to be on board, but as my talk progressed it became clear that I had offended a number of audience members by categorizing their particular beliefs as “false.” After I left the stage, the first person to approach (confront) me was a 9/11 “Truther” asking me about the “missing engine” from the plane that hit the Pentagon that tragic day (anyone who asks this question seriously is more of a denialist than a scientific skeptic).

The second person to come up to me, believe it or not, was also a Truther who wanted to know why I believed the “official government story” about what happened. But they weren’t the only ones. People who believed in ghosts, psychics, and other assorted woos all came to tell me why they’re right despite a complete lack of supporting evidence.

None of this surprises me at all.  In fact, I have noted it for some time now.   For example, while the atheist activists like to point to various European countries and the decline in religion, they rarely mentioned that this decline is religion seems to be correlated with a rise in paranormal beliefs.

All of this is significant.  As I explained over a year ago:

Thus, while we are told that atheists, as a group, reject belief in God because of critical thinking and a lack of evidence, there are many who believe in ghosts, spirits, along with other supernatural and paranormal phenomenon, ……because of the same critical thinking and consideration of evidence?  Look, if the atheist is going to posture as a member of a group devoted to critical thinking and evidence, that message is contradicted when you also admit the existence of ghost-believing fellow atheists.

I think very few people become atheists because of reason and evidence.  They become atheists for personal and emotive reasons and then, after the decision is made, logic and evidence are used after the fact to make it appear like it was all a rational choice.  The very fact that many atheists believe in conspiracy theories, ghosts, witchcraft, etc. simply supports my point.

Atheist:  There is no God.

Theist: How do you know?

Atheist:  My aunt Elma told me. 

Theist:  But isn’t she dead?

Atheist:  Yes.  That’s how she knows.

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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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The Confused Thinking of a Social Justice Atheist

Earlier I extracted the most important aspect of Phil Torres argument – modern day atheism itself is intrinsically overconfident and lacking in nuance and curiosity.  In a sense, it is rooted in the thinking level of teens. More to come on that later.  Right now I want to focus on his social justice posturing, as the rest of his proposed values for reforming New Atheism seem to converge on support for social justice ideology.

First, speaking like a true activist, he proposes that New Atheists prioritize their “causes”:

 I mentioned this in my previous article. Examples include, first of all, spending a larger amount of time on unprecedented global challenges like climate change, the sixth mass extinction, nuclear proliferation, the rise of Christian dominionism, the rise of Islamic extremism and so on. Even the most cursory glance of the social media feeds of many new atheists reveals a fixation on the “regressive left,” a community that poses a far smaller danger to civilization than the alt-right and its political leaders.

Let me simply zero in on one claim – the global challenge of The Rise of Christian Dominionism.  Huh?  Later in his essay, Torres gives us the typical Gnu talking point about the need for rational, evidence-minded, thoughtful people.  Well, as a thoughtful, rational, evidence-minded person, I find this notion of some global challenge of The Rise of Christian Dominionism to be nuts.  It’s the same chicken little dance about the Coming Theocracy I have heard my entire life.  Light on the evidence; heavy on the conspiracy theory.  Torres has exposed himself as a crackpot with this nutty concern of his.

Then again, it could just be shallow-minded, social justice preening.  That is, if Torres is going to cite “Islamic extremism,” as a good social justice warrior, he needs to throw in something about Christian Dominionism as a shield against the horrid Islamophobia accusations.  If true, it would simply mean social justice convictions push people more than half way to Crazy Town.  But we knew that already.

Then there is this:

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You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Phil Torres wrote another article entitled, “Beyond “new atheism”: Where do people alienated by the movement’s obnoxious tendencies go from here?”

He suggests what New Atheists can do to reform their movement:

Others suggested that rather than retreating from the “new atheist” label, one should say: “I’m not going anywhere — I’m here to reform the movement.” There’s something to this idea. After all, I decided not to move to Amsterdam after Donald Trump’s election but to stay in the United States and fight the Zeitgeist of anti-intellectualism and bigotry that Trump represents.

So in that spirit, I thought it might be helpful to outline some values that I think our society desperately needs to reaffirm — values that led me away from new atheism in its current manifestation.

So what are the values that the New Atheists are supposed to adopt?

Avoid overconfidence.

Embrace nuance.

Be curious.

Four words – Not. Going. To. Happen.

This is because an overconfident, ham-handed approach with blinders is built into the fabric of New Atheism.  In fact not just New Atheism, but most modern day atheism (at least that which is expressed on the internet).

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New Atheist Phil Torres Wants People to Believe He is Not a New Atheist

New Atheist Phil Torres claims he is no longer a New Atheist.  The problem?  He’s finally come to the realization that the New Atheist movement is a hate movement.  Well, when it comes to women, people of color, and Muslims, that is.

As examples of the New Atheist hate, he cites comments from Harris in 2014 and 2012.  He cites the rape allegations among the various New Atheists in an article from 2014.  And he cites a tweet from Dawkins in 2016.

What supposedly led Torres to finally break away from the New Atheists was the hoax article by Boghossian and Lindsay that embarrassed academic feminism.

But here’s the problem.  In 2016 (just last year), Torres co-authored a paper with Boghossian and Lindsay aggressively promoting New Atheist extremism. In other words, even after he knew about the evidence of rape allegations, sexism, and racism among the Gnus, he still willfully joined hands with his fellow culture warriors.  In fact, he has no choice but to admit it and try to get out in front of it:

Yet some of us — mostly white men like myself — persisted in our conviction that, overall, the new atheist movement was still a force for good in the world. It is an extraordinary personal embarrassment that I maintained this view until the present year.

In other words, according to Torres’ atheistic sense of morality, it was okay to team up with people he perceived as racists and sexists as long as they could all direct their hate at Christians.  Once again, the end justifies the means. Torres broke away probably because he began to realize just how toxic the New Atheists have become among the social justice atheists who dominate academia and the tech world.  In other words, he is in damage control mode.

But I personally don’t give him much credit.  Social justice atheists are no different from New Atheists with one exception.  Social justice atheists believe that their hateful mocking, sneering arrogance, and manipulative propaganda should be targeting solely Christians.  And there is not a shred of evidence that Torres thinks the New Atheist approach to Christians has been a problem.

Put simply, Torres is a New Atheist who simply doesn’t want people to think he is a New Atheist anymore.

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Can’t Get Their Story Straight

There really isn’t a New Atheist movementJerry Coyne

Jerry is an indispensable asset in our movement.Richard Dawkins Foundation

 

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Sam Harris is a Religious Man

New Atheists like to sell themselves as people who are critical of religion, but in reality, they are better described as anti-Christian and anti-Muslim.  A nice illustration of this is Sam Harris.  As we know, Harris is a Buddhist who preaches about meditation, psychedelic drug use, and even floated the plausibility of reincarnation in his first book.

Thus, it’s not all that surprising that Harris is the secretary/treasurer of the the Hanuman Foundation.  This foundation is essentially a New Age religious organization:

The Hanuman Foundation was established in 1974 as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit educational and service organization in order to “promulgate spiritual well-being among members of society through: a) education and media including events, trainings, publications and recordings, and b) community service programs that support practical applications of benevolent knowledge and ongoing spiritual wisdom traditions in the areas of health, education, the arts, social responsibility, civil society, water and environmental sustainability.”

Jonas Spooner & JB Stubbings note the Foundation is a “Non-Profit whose tax documents list it’s purpose as “Religious publishing activities; Other religious activities”.

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The Arrogant Defense of “Infant Euthanasia”

Jerry Coyne continues his effort to defend “infant euthanasia.” If you’ll remember the first time around, Coyne completely failed to address the slippery slope problem that is entailed in these calls to legalize infanticide.

Given his failure to address this problem, his most recent attempt to defend the practice can’t even get off the ground.  He writes:

The opposition, predictably, comes from the religious, the conservatives, and disabled people who argue that Singer’s ethics could have called for them to be killed. But virtually none of those disabled people would have been euthanized under a strict protocol, for if there was a chance they could live a decent life and not be too onerous to care for, there are many parents who would either care of them or find others to adopt them.

Why should anyone believe Coyne on this point?  After all, he can’t stop himself from weaseling even while trying to answer his critics.  Note it is “virtually none,” not none. And note the need that the infant “not be too onerous to care for.”  Depending on the person you ask, you’ll find a huge sliding scale when it comes to determining whether it “is too onerous to care for.”  After all, an unemployed, single mother with no family support might argue that any baby is “too onerous to care for.”

Coyne then tries to posture as if he is drawing a line in the sand:

Of course I don’t think that all newborns—or those with mild conditions that can permit a life that’s not full of pain and misery—should be candidates for euthanasia. The notion should be limited to infants with conditions that will kill them soon or, with near certainty, within a few years, and will cause them to suffer. There should be strict conditions (parental consent, medical and legal regulations, agreement of physicians, etc.).

I’m sure you all have heard the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  Why are we supposed to believe such “strict conditions” will be enforced and not challenged?  Why are we supposed to believe no court will trim those strict restrictions away?  Why are we supposed to believe that children’s rights activists will not do away with the need for parental consent?  In other words, these promises of “strict conditions” come across as nothing more than a sales pitch to nudge us down that slippery slope where infants can be euthanized for all the same reasons fetuses are aborted.  For it doesn’t matter if people like Coyne enact “strict conditions.”  The next generation of Coyne’s will simply strip them away once we have begun normalizing the killing of infants for their own good.  We’ve seen this movie before.

Coyne then makes the argument about pets without realizing how it undercuts the credibility of his position:

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