Why are New Atheists So Intolerant?

So why are New Atheists so intolerant?

First, it is crucial to remember that New Atheists are more than mere atheists. They are anti-religious atheists. It’s more accurate to think of the Gnus as anti-religionists than atheists.

Second, the anti-religious, militant atheists tend to think in simplistic, black-and-white terms. Consider something that Jerry Coyne wrote on his blog (it is something Harris or Dawkins could just as easily have written):

Our writings and actions are sincere attempts to rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion. Whoa, there’s that accusation of “fundamentalism” again! What, exactly, is fundamentalist about noting the evils of faith?

Evil? Rid the world of evil? Clearly, if you think the other tribe is “evil” and that we must rid the world of this “evil,” intolerance will thrive. For it is not our natural instincts to tolerate “evil.”

Gnu atheists are so extremely intolerant because they think in extreme terms – they see religion as “evil” and something that must be gotten rid of. It’s part of their fundamentalism. If you dare to let Christians run a federal agency or speak at a commencement, you are allowing Christianity some form of public credibility. And if you do that, how in the world are you ever going to rid the world of such EVIL? Y’see, the faith-based approach of the Gnus’s has them believing it is absolutely crucial that we rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion. That’s how we create a utopia – a Gnutopia, where everything, while not perfect, is supposed to be much, much better.

The ironic thing is that Coyne, Dawkins, etc. are supposed to products of academia, or “higher education.” They are supposed to excel at sophisticated thinking. Yet they blatantly promote intolerance and black-and-white thinking, even to the point of railing against EVIL. They are blind to the fact that they violate the values of academia and higher thought. So breathlessly caught up in their extremism and agenda, they never pause to engage in some self-reflection and ask if their simple-minded views really do match up with reality.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in militant atheism, New Atheism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to Why are New Atheists So Intolerant?

  1. ChazIng says:

    On atheism, there is no basis for this thing called “evil”

  2. thesauros says:

    Gnutopia – first time I’ve seen that. If it’s your word you might even make the dictionary at some point. Good observation. Good post.

  3. Justin says:

    Let me see if I can rephrase this in logical Gnu terms (I probably cannot).
    Given:
    1) Coyne’s actions are predetermined by the laws of physics,
    2) Coyne will pretend he has free will anyway (the act of pretending also not his choice because of #1)
    3) Coyne’s special purpose in life is to rid the world of religion,
    4) Religion is evil, and
    5) Morality is not objective.

    So, Coyne is predetermined to pretend he has free will and his predetermined but chosen destiny is to rid the world of religion because it is evil, which [evil] according to Coyne, does not exist.

    And religion is dangerous? I once met a homeless man in Whataburger while pulling an all-nighter studying for a Partnership Taxation final. I bought the man a soda and he sat down with me and told me that he was THE original astronaut and how he had traveled to the moon in 1947. The government, realizing how the public would not believe they had successfully been to the moon, kept the project secret until such time as the public could accept the news, fired the astronaut, and destroyed his records and credit, causing him to be homeless.

    I’m having trouble trying to decide who, precisely, has a larger mental issue here.

  4. Darren says:

    “Our writings and actions are sincere attempts to rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion. Whoa, there’s that accusation of “fundamentalism” again! What, exactly, is fundamentalist about noting the evils of faith?”

    His logic is stunning. There is certainly nothing “fundamentalist” about noting the evils of faith (..and I’m sure his definition of “faith” is incorrect…). However, there is certainly something fundamentalist in thinking that religion is one of the world’s greatest evils. That’s that equivocation that gnus are so famous for: evils of faith = religion is evil.

  5. Sam says:

    Justin wins Comment of the Year.

  6. stevefarrell66 says:

    It seems you’d rather wallow in your defensive siege mentality about religion than understand what atheism is truly about. Our position isn’t that everyone on Earth should admit there’s no God. Limiting the influence of religion in our secular society is much closer to our aim than “ridding the world of religion.”

    Sure, a lot of atheists waste their time playing the God-is-God-ain’t game. I’d much rather get believers to realize what atheists really believe: that religious belief is irrelevant to matters of public policy, our understanding of the physical universe, and the basis of our morality.

  7. Michael says:

    It seems you’d rather wallow in your defensive siege mentality about religion than understand what atheism is truly about.

    I’m afraid you have just side-stepped everything I wrote. Perhaps it would help if you quoted something I wrote and showed where I went astray.

    Our position isn’t that everyone on Earth should admit there’s no God. Limiting the influence of religion in our secular society is much closer to our aim than “ridding the world of religion.”

    No, that’s your position. Jerry Coyne’s popular position is this: “Our writings and actions are sincere attempts to rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion.”

    So is faith and religion evil?

  8. stcordova says:

    “wallow in defensive siege mentality”

    I won’t speak for Michael, but I do feel like GNU atheists have been out to make sure I personally don’t matriculate through academia. Limiting the influence of religion also translated in my case to limiting pious individuals from matriculating through academia and enjoying all the privileges and benefits that folllow. Not all atheist had malice toward me, but enough did, soley because I was a Christian. I felt like I personally was unwelcome as part of society.

    How would you claim to limit the influence of religion? Deny diplomas, deny entry to universities, deny opportunities to work? Throw parents or adults in jail for preaching what they believe to kids? Deny people the opportunity to vote (which can be done by throwing them in jail for preaching)? How do you propose to limit the influence of religion — through the spread of more reasoned discussion like we witnessed with Elevator gate?

  9. Frederick says:

    As far as I know in the USA one is more likely to suffer some kind of in-your-face discrimination if you are an atheist rather than a Christian. There are even laws in various States and I would imagine counties too where it is illegal for an atheist to hold a public office. In many places it would also be impossible for an openly declared atheist to run for any kind of elected public office including for instance sheriff. And of course impossible for an atheist to even be chosen by either of the two major parties for their Presidential candidate.
    Furthermore, it is now common knowledge that atheists, and even members of non-Christian faith traditions are actively discriminated against and harassed in the various USA armed forces. Indeed there is both an actively “evangelical” campaign (and political strategy) encouraging this – even at the highest levels of authority and power.
    Fortunately, and necessarily an organized movement has formed to try to stop such harassment.

    Once upon a time Jews were subject to quite open discrimination especially via self-righteous Christians. There is still a large reservoir of anti-Semitism lurking just below the surface of the collective USA Christian mind.
    Once upon a time Catholics used to suffer open discrimination too. Prior to the election of J F Kennedy it was impossible for a Catholic to be elected in White Protestant AmeriKa. Again, such discrimination is still there just below the surface.

  10. Justin says:

    ” I’d much rather get believers to realize what atheists really believe: that religious belief is irrelevant to matters of public policy, our understanding of the physical universe, and the basis of our morality.”

    This is about worldviews. Mine has a God, yours doesn’t. Neither are irrelevant to public policy. This is the Lie of Secularism. Exclude all the worldviews except atheism because they have God or gods, call them “religion”, and demand that “religion” be left out of it. Heads I win, tails you lose.

    We can’t even begin a discussion if you really believe that is the way the debate should take place, and I’ve heard atheists give this spiel several hundred times. It’s a flimsy attempt to define the rules in your own favor. And since most all atheists reject objective rules, it’s amazing that you would even type that. I suppose it’s another example of the incoherency and self-contradictory nature of atheism. But this actually goes beyond self-contradiction, it is dishonest.

  11. Excellent articulation.

    I have no issues with atheist if they disagree with my belief and as well as disagree with all the arguments I produce to defend my faith. It’s absolutely fine.

    But there is a problem with the New Atheists. They disagree, at the same time they mock and lose their character by displaying utter madness and hate towards me, just because I believe in God. For example: Richard Dawkins – He is a religious, especially a Christian mocking star.. He desire is to destroy the peace and harmony by targeting young minds. And he wants to achieve this by encouraging hatred amidst young minds. He is going beyond disagreement and turning militant in his views. He wants to destroy religion, faith and belief systems by manipulating the minds of younger generation by projecting religion and faith as social evil. The same characteristics can be seen in the new atheists. The anger of New Atheists is slowly taking a new shape, it’s taking a shape of The New Militant Atheists. They not only disagree but they mock and damn you severely until they are satisfied. I think this is where the serious problems arise.

    To answer these New Militant Atheists. Few Christians are adopting their own style as well. I strongly condemn all those Christians who are resorting to what I call Militant Theism or Militant Evangelism. They are going against the World Of God. This is not our approach and God will not accept it. If Christ can be hated then how can we be excluded? Did Christ resorted to Militarism when He was rejected? Never. He died to save us from our sins and to give us eternal life if we believe in Him. But I am sure that the reports of Militant Thesim or Militant Evangelism are rare when compared to the spread of New Militant Atheism.

    Both believers and nonbelievers existed together from the day of Christ and we will continue to exist together till the end of tribulation. As Christians what we can do is to try convince as many as to believe in Christ with the best evidence, facts and argument we have. It’s up to non-believers to accept it or deny it.

    We as Christians are ready to accept your disbelief but not the actions of the New Militant Atheism which is characterless and unacceptable. At the same time we don’t turn militant. I thinks that’s the fine line that should and will prevail till the coming of the Christ.

    How do I resort or reply to The New Militant Atheists? The only weapon I have is – Prayer. We as Christians have nothing else to do or can really do apart from spreading the Good News. We pray and leave it to Christ. Instilling faith in non-believers is not our job at all.

    Sorry, I mixed up so many things. Hope it makes sense.

  12. stevefarrell66 says:

    Justin, I think the problem is that we’re so seeped in religiosity in this country that believers never have to distinguish between secularism and atheism. The game is rigged all right, but it’s in favor of the religious: they demand that their beliefs about the world, society, and morality be taken seriously, but they refuse to allow them to be subjected to the same critical scrutiny that any other ideas in society have to undergo.

    I live in Massachusetts. After the Marathon bombing incident, the President himself attended an “interfaith” service that was intended to bring the community together to address our collective grief and outrage. However, this service was held in a church, and no humanist or nonbeliever was allowed to address the community there alongside the religious leaders. It’s clear that believers feel that religious worship is the only relevant response to a tragedy, and that they have no qualms about the propriety of excluding nonbelievers from an event that was supposed to be all about community.

    Like I said, believers don’t even recognize how privileged their beliefs are in our society. If an investment firm offered an account that only paid dividends after the investor died, it would be an obvious scam. If a pharmaceutical company claimed that reductionist scientific methods were useless in testing the efficacy of its wonder drug, we’d be within our rights to suspect fraud. But religious believers expect that their beliefs should be exempt from criticism, no matter how unjustified or inhumane they are.

    Why should any Scripture or religious belief be considered relevant in public policy? This is a nation, after all, where religious arguments about “when life begins” have been used to deny women’s reproductive rights, and to prohibit public funding for potentially life-saving embryonic stem-cell research. Catholic hospitals want to be allowed to deny women emergency contraception because of religious dogma. Believers in the USA feel that Scripture should be respected in the debate over gay marriage. Every so often, educators and school systems have to waste time and money to fight the creationism wars, because religious believers want secular society to consider their Scripture science.

    Religious beliefs aren’t the only bad ideas in society: plenty of people have strange beliefs about vaccination, UFOs, and Obama’s birthplace. However, religious beliefs comprise an entire category of ideas about human well-being that we’re supposed to tolerate regardless of how much damage they do in our society.

  13. stcordova says:

    stevefarrell66,

    I despise the Muslim faith, I hate it that kids are taught it and indoctrinated in it, but passing laws as to what is taught and can’t be taught to kids won’t stop the spread of bad ideas.

    But consider the case of Francis Collins whom Jerry Coyne despises. Was Collins raised in a Christian home? No, he was raised in an agnostic/atheist home. His enormous scientific knowledge really didn’t stop him from becoming a Christian. So here is a man, of his own free will as an adult that came to believe that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be. Now, do you think then that governments should have the right to dictate to him, one of the top scientists in the world, what he can or cannot say to his kids, or that his vote based on his faith should be negated in society.

    Have you, being an atheist, been deprived of major economic or professional opportunities because of your atheism. I can tell you from first hand experience to be a Christian, even in the USA, can be harmful in certain quarters. But if you want to see where atheistic thought control is promoted by the state, one only need look to North Korea. Compare that to Christian South Korea and tell me which place is a happier place for secularists to prosper.

    Sure, I understand you just want everyone to believe what you believe. I’d rather see places like Saudi Arabia secularized like Europe versus they way it is now.

    But do you really believe de Christianizing the USA will make the USA a better place to live? If the USA will be run like the GNU conducted themselves in Elevator gate, or the atheists in North Korea, or Cambodia, or the Soviet Union, or Mao’s China, or Castro’s Cuba…..I’m not so sure it will be the utopia you apparently presume it will be.

    FWIW, I know a few atheists that are grateful for the Christian “superstition” because it gives them confidence that Christian “superstitions” in society will help enforce better behavior. Atheist David Sloan Wilson and other atheists have scientifically demonstrated this.

    Now, maybe something you may not have considered. Your sample size of knowledge is of necessity limited, there is a chance what you are so convinced is true, could be false, and wouldn’t it be a bad outcome if there really is a God and that at the end of your life you realize you lived your life for a lie. I could be wrong about what I believe, so I don’t go around telling other people how to raise their kids, especially because I could be wrong. But apparently, people like Dawkins (married 3 times), quite willing to cheat on his wife, feels he can be a moral light and examples of how to live, and worse, write laws about how families ought to be run.

  14. stevefarrell66 says:

    “I understand you just want everyone to believe what you believe.”

    Since you completely disregarded everything I said, I’m going to return the favor. Rant away at your imaginary online foes to your heart’s content.

  15. Justin says:

    “Justin, I think the problem is that we’re so seeped in religiosity in this country that believers never have to distinguish between secularism and atheism. The game is rigged all right, but it’s in favor of the religious: they demand that their beliefs about the world, society, and morality be taken seriously, but they refuse to allow them to be subjected to the same critical scrutiny that any other ideas in society have to undergo.”

    How, exactly, are Christians refusing to allow scrutiny? Let’s be clear, refusing to acquiesce to poor atheistic arguments is not refusing scrutiny. Besides, atheists seem to be doing pretty well for themselves writing books attempting the exact scrutiny you describe. That much of that effort fails because intelligent scientists dont necessarily make for good philosophers is also not because Christians refuse scrutiny.

  16. stevefarrell66 says:

    Justin, believers act like they’re being persecuted when secular society expects them to abide by the same rules as everyone else: you can’t discriminate against gay people just because your Scripture says you can.

    And believers never assume the burden of justifying their beliefs or making a case that belief is good for society. Like conspiracy theorists, they just claim that their opponents are biased against the obvious truth and virtue of religious beliefs. As I mentioned in my response to you, religious belief has been used to discriminate and push pseudoscience in the USA. Can you defend that?

  17. stcordova says:

    “Since you completely disregarded everything I said, I’m ”

    I didn’t diseregard everything, just that most of what you said lacked substance, logic, and coherency and facts. Your advocacy of limiting religion is the presumption that no religious notion is ultimately correct, that there is no possiblity of God as accepted by various religions. You cannot logically or empirically or scientifically demonstrate that. It doesn’t mean your inability to do so implies that God exists, but it does demonstrate you’re desire to squelch religious beliefs is based on your set of unprovable beliefs. You only think in your mind the universe and life came to being without God, but that has not been proven scientifically, that is your unproven assumption.

    And you said this: “I’d much rather get believers to realize what atheists really believe: that religious belief is irrelevant to matters of public policy, our understanding of the physical universe, and the basis of our morality.”

    Realize what atheist believe? Sure we realize that’s what some atheists believe, but that’s not the same as agreeing is it. I realize that’s what you believe, and I don’t agree that what you believe is correct.

    Steve Farrell believes: “religious belief is irrelevant to matters of public policy, our understanding of the physical universe, and the basis of our morality.”

    I’ve just acknowledged that this is what you believe, and I acknowledge that I don’t think you’re correct. I’m sure most religious folk can easily accept that is what you and other atheists believe just as easily as we can accept the fact you are an atheist, but that’s not the same as agreeing with what you believe.

  18. stevefarrell66 says:

    “Steve Farrell believes: “religious belief is irrelevant to matters of public policy, our understanding of the physical universe, and the basis of our morality.””

    Yeah, but the basis of a secular society, the one the Founders envisioned. They knew all too well that you can’t conduct a society by having it controlled by people who presume to speak for God. You’ve already expressed scorn for the notion that Muslims know what God wants, and they’d most likely say the same about you. Our society should concentrate on real human well-being and keep beliefs about God private.

  19. TFBW says:

    This is a nation, after all, where religious arguments about “when life begins” have been used to deny women’s reproductive rights…

    “Reproductive rights” is a superb piece of propaganda. It’s all about the framing isn’t it? If you can frame something as a right, then you barely need to argue that it’s wrong to interfere with it: you just call it a denial of rights, and the job is done.

    Personally, I’m all for reproductive rights, but I’m pleased to say that the violations aren’t as common as they used to be — although they’re probably more common than I think they are.

  20. stevefarrell66 says:

    TFBW, I don’t want this to degenerate into a poo-flinging match about abortion. All I wanted to point out is that religious believers appear to think that the opinions of Bronze Age men are relevant to the matter of contemporary women’s rights. And they feel it’s “intolerant” to question why secular society should agree with them.

  21. Justin says:

    “Justin, believers act like they’re being persecuted when secular society expects them to abide by the same rules as everyone else: you can’t discriminate against gay people just because your Scripture says you can.”

    What do you mean discriminate? Does it mean I can’t hire who I want or associate with those I choose? Or does it mean that I must be forced to recognize their lifestyle as moral by being forced to recognize their sexual lifestyle as “marriage”? What are you talking about here?

    “And believers never assume the burden of justifying their beliefs or making a case that belief is good for society.”

    Sure they do, you just don’t read those types of books I suppose. At this point, you’re 0 for 2, just throwing vague incoherent generalizations against the wall hoping something will stick.

    “Like conspiracy theorists, they just claim that their opponents are biased against the obvious truth and virtue of religious beliefs. As I mentioned in my response to you, religious belief has been used to discriminate and push pseudoscience in the USA. Can you defend that?”

    Strike three. Be specific. Who said that Christians have always acted perfectly? Are you claiming atheists do? If you’re going to criticize Young Earth Creationists, help yourself. Keep in mind fundamentalist scientism proponents have done the same in the name of science, including fraudulent “discoveries” to bolster evolutionary claims, the advocation of eugenics and euthanasia, and now even post-birth “abortions”. People do bad things, no matter what their beliefs. This is, in fact, a fundamental tenet of Christianity. Would you agree with this?

  22. stevefarrell66 says:

    Justin, the title of this article is “Why are new atheists so intolerant?” And yet, like I said, what we atheists seem to be “intolerant” of isn’t people’s thoughts about the Almighty, what we object to is the way religion is used to push anti-gay bigotry, limit women’s rights, promote pseudoscience, and shut down federal funding for potentially life-saving research. Christians keep crying that they’re facing “intolerance,” instead of justifying their beliefs with anything other than the fact that they have a “right” to believe it. Are your beliefs justified, or aren’t they?

    I’ve repeated myself a few times now, to no avail. You essentially demonstrated the validity of the point I was making: you’re a Christian, so it’s not bigotry if you denigrate and dehumanize homosexuals. And you’ve made it sound like you’re being victimized by atheists because we object to the way Bronze age literature is used to validate discriminatory policies.

  23. stcordova says:

    what we atheists seem to be “intolerant” of isn’t people’s thoughts about the Almighty,

    Agreed, sort of. GNUs tolerate people thinking about God, but GNUs like Coyne and Harris don’t like religious people to succeed in professional scientific disciplines.

    “it’s not bigotry if you denigrate and dehumanize homosexuals.”

    If that’s the case, then it would seem a GNU could feel justified in supporting policies whereby believers are denied jobs, diplomas, and opportunities as long as they view and teach that homosexuality as wrong. The same would go for people who doubt evolutionism.

    You never said you are advocating denial of jobs, diplomas, and opportunities as a means of enforcement of GNU doctrine, but GNU leaders certainly have. You’ve remained silent on the topic, or was I right to assume you are eager to see believers marginalized professionally and academically in society when then publicly disagree with the GNU line.

    If someone said, “homosexuality is wrong, and so is the theory of evolution, and there is a God”, what measures should society take against him? Deny him entrance into college, make sure he flunks certain classes, make sure he doesn’t get promotions, make sure he doesn’t become a teacher, etc.

  24. stevefarrell66 says:

    Like I keep saying, Christians think that anti-homosexual bigotry is just some opinion, like not liking sun-dried tomatoes or something. You feel affronted that anyone, Christian or nonbeliever, would take you to task for this hateful view. According to a selective reading of scripture, slavery is permissible; should a Christian who believes in slavery be surprised that people don’t consider his belief justified?

    Personally, I think that expressing doubt about a well-established scientific construct like the theory of evolution should absolutely deny you opportunities in the science industry or academia. It’s the same as expressing the notion that the germ theory is a hoax or that the Earth is flat; it betrays such a gaping ignorance of empirical evidential inquiry that anyone who goes on record as holding that view should suffer professional consequences for being so imprudent.

  25. Justin says:

    “Justin, the title of this article is “Why are new atheists so intolerant?” And yet, like I said, what we atheists seem to be “intolerant” of isn’t people’s thoughts about the Almighty, what we object to is the way religion is used to push anti-gay bigotry, limit women’s rights, promote pseudoscience, and shut down federal funding for potentially life-saving research. Christians keep crying that they’re facing “intolerance,” instead of justifying their beliefs with anything other than the fact that they have a “right” to believe it. Are your beliefs justified, or aren’t they?”

    Yes, my beliefs are justified, based on rational conclusions I’ve reached and based in large part on observation of life in general. There’s no need to debate every single moral issue to arrive at a couple of conclusions;
    1) for an atheist who probably believes in subjective morality, you certainly throw around a lot of moral accusations without realizing how self-defeating that is. It’s actually comical, and
    2) as usual, most of your moral differences have to do with sexual libertinism… Sexual libertinism must be maintained at all costs, abortions, gay marriage, etc.

    And drop the pseudoscience charges. There’s no need to start listing all of the bad science that has come from both sides of the aisle. If you really think that Christians are the only ones that have been off base in claiming certain scientific truths, then you’re either naive or blatantly dishonest. Further, not all Christians are Young Earth Creationists and many Christians fully support scientific inquiry.

    “I’ve repeated myself a few times now, to no avail. You essentially demonstrated the validity of the point I was making: you’re a Christian, so it’s not bigotry if you denigrate and dehumanize homosexuals. And you’ve made it sound like you’re being victimized by atheists because we object to the way Bronze age literature is used to validate discriminatory policies.”

    Unless you are a homosexual yourself, you are the one dehumanizing homosexuals by treating that group of people as if they are nothing more than a sexual orientation, useful for argumentation purposes only. You seem incapable of separating an act from the person committing the act. I don’t know where the charge of denigration comes from, you’ve been vague in all of your claims.

    The Bronze Age routine is also silly (and partially inaccurate anyway). It’s comical because you think that your views are novel. Supporters of homosexuality and baby killing and sexual libertinism have been around just as long.

  26. stcordova says:

    “Personally, I think that expressing doubt about a well-established scientific construct like the theory of evolution should absolutely deny you opportunities in the science industry or academia.”

    Well, thank you for your honesty. 🙂 It’s been a pleasure hearing you say like the way you really feel it.

  27. Justin says:

    Wow, if you have doubts about the current scientific consensus, you should be denied the opportunity to participate? And you seriously question why we think Gnu atheists like yourself are intolerant? That is the most anti-scientific stance one could take, lol.

  28. stcordova says:

    stevefarrell66,

    Thanks for your earlier reply, but just to set the record straight, if someone was discovered to have said “homosexuality is wrong”. Do you think that person should be denied a job if he applies for a government job or government grants for his research project or government contracts. How about employers in the private world? Should that person be denied a job? That would seem like a powerful way to enforce GNU conformity.

    I do appreciate that you responded previously.

  29. stevefarrell66 says:

    I assume that you fellows wouldn’t be so supportive of a scientist who claimed that the Earth is flat, nor would you undergo surgery at the hand of a doctor who claimed that germ theory is a fraud. As I’ve already said, expressing doubts about the validity of a well-supported scientific construct like evolution by natural selection exposes someone as a scientific ignoramus, and that person should expect to be shunned by conventional scientists or academics.

    In the same way, I assume you’d think that anyone imprudent enough to admit in a college admissions review or job interview that they hate black people should expect such a statement to reflect poorly upon them. However, you don’t consider that your religiously-inspired hatred of homosexuality should be viewed as bigotry. You feel well within your rights to call people “baby killers” for supporting a woman’s right to choose, then resent when reasonable people accuse you of extremism.

    As I’ve pointed out, there’s real misunderstanding and exclusion of nonbelievers in America, and religious people get to impose their beliefs on society in many matters where they don’t belong. But believers like to portray themselves as victims of atheist intolerance, because it allows them to ignore any valid criticism of the undue influence of religious belief in public policy.

  30. stcordova says:

    Steve,

    Thanks for your candid reply. We obviously won’t agree, but it was good to know what you really think. Thanks.

  31. Justin says:

    How is being racist the same as disapproving of a sexual act? And in the other thread, you asked to keep the conversation “civil”. That’s rich.

  32. stevefarrell66 says:

    Justin, I wasn’t equating slavery and homosexuality. I just wanted to make the point that society is under no obligation to respect bigoted beliefs simply because the believer claims they were derived from Scripture or religious dogma. Christians aren’t the victims of “intolerance” if people are opposing the pernicious influence of bad ideas in our supposedly secular society.

  33. Michael says:

    Steve,
    You must not have seen my reply. So here it is again:

    It seems you’d rather wallow in your defensive siege mentality about religion than understand what atheism is truly about.

    I’m afraid you have just side-stepped everything I wrote. Perhaps it would help if you quoted something I wrote and showed where I went astray.

    Our position isn’t that everyone on Earth should admit there’s no God. Limiting the influence of religion in our secular society is much closer to our aim than “ridding the world of religion.”

    No, that’s your position. Jerry Coyne’s popular position is this: “Our writings and actions are sincere attempts to rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion.”

    So is faith and religion evil?

  34. stevefarrell66 says:

    Michael, everything you wrote in this article supports my claim that believers have a siege mentality that allows them to ignore any criticism of religion.

    First off, i don’t know why Jerry Coyne is all of a sudden the spokesman for atheism, except that you’ve run across something he said that stokes the flames of your insecurity. Nowhere do you deal with the reasons Coyne may have for considering religion an “evil,” because you’re content to feign outrage at how blatantly religious believers are being oppressed and persecuted by the big bad new atheists. So you’ve cherry-picked a few sentences from some atheist blogger that inflame your paranoia, but you resent the accusation that you have a siege mentality? How convenient.

    You criticize atheists because “they never pause to engage in some self-reflection and ask if their simple-minded views really do match up with reality,” but you’re obviously an expert at avoiding the same self-reflection you demand from atheists. Do you really think nonbelievers are persecuting the Christian majority in this nation? Do you even know the basis on which atheists criticize religion, or do you assume our position to be groundless because religion is beyond criticism?

  35. Justin says:

    Hey Steve, let’s back up for a minute. You say, “society is under no obligation…”

    Where, on atheism, does society (really just a group of people) have any moral obligations in the first place? This is the problem I have with atheism and its bedfellow, subjective morality. There is no ultimate logical grounding for atheist’s moral claims. In other words, on atheism, morality is ultimately irrational.

  36. TFBW says:

    TFBW, I don’t want this to degenerate into a poo-flinging match about abortion. All I wanted to point out is that religious believers appear to think that the opinions of Bronze Age men are relevant to the matter of contemporary women’s rights. And they feel it’s “intolerant” to question why secular society should agree with them.

    I have no interest in poo-flinging either, except to point out the techniques of propaganda and rhetoric when I see outstanding examples. And rhetoric certainly seems to be your forte — as it is in new-atheist circles more generally. Your comments offer a rich smorgasbord of propaganda techniques. It could keep a fellow entertained for hours. Do I even have the time to review? I’ll try.

    Your appeal to chronological snobbery with “the opinions of Bronze Age men” is one such example, with its implicit assumption that any idea from so long ago must be ignorant or irrelevant. Chronological snobbery and scientific progressivism are very much two sides of a coin.

    Religious beliefs aren’t the only bad ideas in society: plenty of people have strange beliefs about vaccination, UFOs, and Obama’s birthplace. However, religious beliefs comprise an entire category of ideas about human well-being that we’re supposed to tolerate regardless of how much damage they do in our society.

    A nice triple-whammy: place “religious beliefs” in a list with a bunch of other unrelated ideas of somewhat ill-repute, and create doubt by association. Then bring in the second punch and claim without support that such ideas are specially protected above and beyond those other ideas, and finish off by implying that the ideas are vastly damaging to boot. The great thing about that whole “vastly damaging” angle is that you can always cherry-pick some example of damaging religious behaviour if you need to back up the claim. Female circumcision is always a good one for emotional appeal, so long as you can maintain a straight face while you tar the whole of religion with that brush.

    Justin, believers act like they’re being persecuted when secular society expects them to abide by the same rules as everyone else: you can’t discriminate against gay people just because your Scripture says you can.

    This is a fun game of cherry-picking, too. Appeal to the fairness of “abide by the same rules as everyone else” when the rules happen to express your ideals, and rail against those who object as whiners who demand special privilege. But, of course, when the tables are reversed, accuse the existing rules of being archaic, “bronze age”, “discriminatory” (i.e. pile on whatever negative language you can muster), but never, never let it slip that you also don’t like being forced to “abide by the same rules as everyone else” when those rules don’t suit you.

    And believers never assume the burden of justifying their beliefs or making a case that belief is good for society. Like conspiracy theorists, they just claim that their opponents are biased against the obvious truth and virtue of religious beliefs. As I mentioned in my response to you, religious belief has been used to discriminate and push pseudoscience in the USA.

    This is weaker. It’s a meme that appeals to the scientism crowd, but has considerably less traction outside that sphere, I think. This is because it’s much more obviously prone to a reversal attack. Consider the first two sentences when reversed, as follows.

    And atheists never assume the burden of justifying their assertions or making a case that their policies are good for society. Like conspiracy theorists, they just claim that their opponents are biased against the obvious truth and virtue of science.

    Really good propaganda isn’t this transparently symmetric. You need to frame your accusations in such a way that they don’t lend themselves to simple reversal. If you make the converse accusation hard enough to find, hardly anyone will notice that the finger can point the other way. Now, you might object that scientific atheists do assume the burden of evidence, etc., but I’m afraid that this is becoming an untenable position, what with Dawkins continuing to assert (on the basis of personal intuition and one anecdote) that teaching the doctrine of hell is worse than sexual abuse. There is a distinct lack of evidence in support of the benefits of new-atheist social policies, despite the constant parroting of “evidence and reason”, and a distinct ignoring of contrary evidence that might support the beneficial effects of religion — any religion — over atheism.

    The “pseudoscience” accusaion is also getting worn out, I think. Fifty or so years ago, plate tectonics was pseudoscience: now all its competitors are. Pseudoscience might be junk, or it might be a revolution waiting to happen. Even if people are dubious about non-mainstream theories in general (as they ought to be, I think), the outright censuring of unaccepted theories as “pseudoscience” is obviously dogmatic closed-mindedness. New-atheists tend to assume that they can’t possibly be closed-minded because they are so excellently scientific, but that just leads to a personal blind spot and corresponding over-estimation of the strength of their position.

    Our society should concentrate on real human well-being and keep beliefs about God private.

    Not bad. It’s an appeal to a moderate sentiment — why would anyone but an extremist disagree? The trick, of course, is that it has implicit assumptions and understates the real case. The implicit assumption is that “real human well-being” can be meaningfully discussed in entirely materialist, secular terms. The understatement is that keeping “beliefs about God private” means banning it from all public life — education, academia, public office, the public square, and so on. Heck, most of the new atheists seem to think that parents should “keep God private” from their own children until they’re old enough to resist indoctrination.

    And yet, like I said, what we atheists seem to be “intolerant” of isn’t people’s thoughts about the Almighty, what we object to is the way religion is used to push anti-gay bigotry, limit women’s rights, promote pseudoscience, and shut down federal funding for potentially life-saving research.

    Again, not bad. Aside from the “pseudosciece”, which I think is losing its effectiveness (although maybe it isn’t with the broader public), the other points are excellently framed as indefensible. Make your opponents defend “bigotry” and condemn “life-saving research”. That will take some masterful re-framing of the debate, indeed.

    Like I keep saying, Christians think that anti-homosexual bigotry is just some opinion, like not liking sun-dried tomatoes or something. You feel affronted that anyone, Christian or nonbeliever, would take you to task for this hateful view. According to a selective reading of scripture, slavery is permissible; should a Christian who believes in slavery be surprised that people don’t consider his belief justified?

    Sir, you are on a roll here — I hardly need comment. Keep pushing the “bigotry” angle, try to force your opponent to defend the indefensible, and offer him a no-win situation with regards to the subject of slavery to boot. If he takes the bait and says that defending slavery is a misinterpretation of scripture, don’t hesitate to say that his biblical interpretation of homosexuality is therefore just as suspect — and, frankly, that any interpretation of anything is possible. I’m sure you’ll find a more eloquent turn of phrase for that, of course.

    Personally, I think that expressing doubt about a well-established scientific construct like the theory of evolution should absolutely deny you opportunities in the science industry or academia. It’s the same as expressing the notion that the germ theory is a hoax or that the Earth is flat; it betrays such a gaping ignorance of empirical evidential inquiry that anyone who goes on record as holding that view should suffer professional consequences for being so imprudent.

    Nice try, but you lost ground there. You’re defending intolerance, you see, and it’s obvious. This whole article was about specific instances of new-atheist intolerance. You’ve been doing very well to stay away from specifics, and accuse some nebulous group of people associated with “religion” of being intolerant, while insinuating that the atheistic crowd were immune to such intolerance by merit of their lack of religion. But now you’ve confessed a specific intolerance, and tried to defend it by saying that your opponents would also be intolerant of analogous things. That appeal loses its rhetorical effect in these conditions, because you were going for a “holier than thou” thing, but now you’re falling back on “no different than you”. Your aim was to discredit by association again, lumping evo-scepticism with flat-earthism and such like, but that was undermined by the other faux pas.

    At this point your opponents are all “QED” and saying game, set, match. It’s going to be an uphill fight getting them on the back foot again. On the Internet, at least, you can always start from scratch with a fresh sock-puppet if you want to.

  37. stevefarrell66 says:

    Right back atcha, Justin. If a religious believer’s ethical foundation is a Scripture that’s thousands of years old, and/or the whims of an inscrutable deity, I’m afraid I don’t see how that forms a coherent, consistent basis for our society’s morality.

    I don’t actually subscribe to “subjective morality.” As Sam Harris outlined in The Moral Landscape, facts can and should be brought to bear on ethical issues. If as a society we decide that human well-being should be the objective of ethics, then we have a starting point for the vast undertaking of creating and maintaining a morality that has nothing to do with religious belief.

  38. stevefarrell66 says:

    “You’re defending intolerance, you see, and it’s obvious.”

    TFBW, the only thing that’s obvious is that I’m repeating myself here. I feel there’s certain beliefs about the universe that we shouldn’t expect scientists or academics to tolerate. Among them are flat-Earthism and creationism. If a religious believer wants to be a maverick and delegitimize the entire edifice of modern biology, he shouldn’t be surprised when he’s marginalized by the scientific mainstream. If he vindicates himself (like Wegener did, posthumously, about plate tectonics), it will be through presenting the results of conventional research with facts and evidence, not just by accusing his opponents of being biased.

  39. Justin says:

    “Right back atcha, Justin. If a religious believer’s ethical foundation is a Scripture that’s thousands of years old, and/or the whims of an inscrutable deity, I’m afraid I don’t see how that forms a coherent, consistent basis for our society’s morality.”

    That’s actually not what I believe as a Christian. Weren’t you just accusing me and others of failing to comprehend what it is that atheists really believe? Care to ask again?

    “I don’t actually subscribe to “subjective morality.” As Sam Harris outlined in The Moral Landscape, facts can and should be brought to bear on ethical issues. If as a society we decide that human well-being should be the objective of ethics, then we have a starting point for the vast undertaking of creating and maintaining a morality that has nothing to do with religious belief.”

    How, exactly, is that logical? You don’t subscribe to subjective morality, but morality is decided by society? I do note you use the words “if… we decide”. That’s subjective morality. What if a soceity decides otherwise? You do actually subscribe to subjective morality based on this explanation.

  40. stevefarrell66 says:

    Justin, I apologize for putting words in your mouth. Please explain how your Christian ethical reasoning works, and how it qualifies as being non-subjective even though it’s based somehow on your chosen Christian beliefs.

    I don’t really want to get into a mud-slinging match on the subject of ethics, but let it be said that I don’t believe that no moral code can be said to be superior to any other. I understand that there’s a subjective element to how we define morality and the objective of ethical behavior. However, if we have some sort of broad agreement as to why we should act morally, we can judge beliefs and behavior in a way that’s more than a game of because-I-said-so.

    Like I mentioned before, I think Sam Harris did an interesting job in The Moral Landscape of outlining a secular ethical program that brings facts to bear on our understanding of morality.

  41. stcordova says:

    Michael asked:

    “So is faith and religion evil?”

    I don’t think I saw a simple answer from SteveFarrell. I would like to hear won if he volunteers one.

    Let me offer my answer: yes if your faith is non-Christian, no if your faith is Christian
    Agnostics are my next favorite group, since I would probably self-identify with agnostics if I did not identify with Christians. Atheists are my third favorite group provided they are not the GNU variety, but are more like Peter Higgs, David Sloan Wilson, or Betrand Russell, Steve Fuller, etc. So I put agnostics and atheists (except for fundamentalist GNUs) in the neutral camp.

    I would prefer life in secular USA than Muslim Saudi Arabia or Atheist North Korea. I would prefer to live in secular Europe that Muslim Iran or Mao’s Atheist China. Secularism has shown to flourish in formerly Chrisitan lands.

    Let us say for the sake of argument that Christians can be viewed as intolerant of homosexuality, relative to what you see in Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Mao’s China, even today’s China, the Christian culture in the USA is far more tolerant.

  42. Justin says:

    “Justin, I apologize for putting words in your mouth. Please explain how your Christian ethical reasoning works, and how it qualifies as being non-subjective even though it’s based somehow on your chosen Christian beliefs.”

    That route of my arriving at my moral reasoning is backwards. I was raised Christian but went through quite a long period of religious apathy from which I only recovered about 5 years ago. I did not give much thought to religion during this time. Suffice to say it is the nature of morality which ultimately led me to question precisely what it was I believed and after exploring multipl religions including atheism, I arrived back at Christianity. My Christian upbringing, from a rational standpoint, had little to do with my conclusions, as what I’ve learned during the past 5 years is simply not taught by many typical Christian churches.

    That out of the way, I started with what I’ve observed and learned about morality and arrived at the conclusion that there is a higher power or god. I did not start with the idea of the God of the Bible and then accept the associated moral law.

    I view morality as objective for several reasons. First, as a novice student of history, the rise and fall of many societies can be traced back to internal failures and not conquest. Those that failed from the inside invariably did so because the society as a whole became lax with respect to morality. The fact that a society does have the ability to choose their own morality, yet cannot capably select just any old set of moral laws without imploding, tells me that morality is objective. No matter the collective will of society, if enough of the society ignores enough of the moral laws, that society will fail, even when they’ve happily chosen as a group to ignore those moral laws. Taking the example to the extreme, simply point out any society that has held murder of its own members, lying to its own members, cheating and stealing from its own members as moral duties to be honored and celebrated. Not only are there no societies like this in recorded history, there can never be one. Even in corrupt societies, the leaders attempt to feign an air of moral standing. If morality were subjective, this should not have to be the case. You can see this in history, and you can see it occurring in real time today as some societies advance and others collapse.

    Second, most differences of moral code boil down to matters of fact and not matters of morality. In the abortion debate, the argument is over whether a fetus qualifies as a person, not over whether or not it is moral to kill persons. The fact that different cultures have different moral laws is not a compelling evidence for the claim that morality is subjective, either. In the case of science and math, various cultures have had different theories. In those cases, it is later shown that one society is simply wrong. I don’t see why morality should be any different. Societies progressed and developed with incomplete and varying mathematical theories and they’ve done so with varying theories of morality. Societies with more advanced understanding of math and science tend to advance faster. Societies with more advanced understanding of morality also tend to flourish at a higher level. This is perhaps oversimplified, but empirical nonetheless, and is not subjective.

    Lastly, I don’t view the fact that morality has progressed in certain areas as evidence that morality is subjective. I saw this argument for subjective morality quite a bit along the way and don’t find it compelling at all. Our knowledge and understanding of mathematics has progressed throughout history, yet this is not evidence of the subjectivity of mathematics. It is simply not a compelling argument for the nature of morality being subjective.

    Once I came to the conclusion that morality is objective, then I was forced to conclude that there was a higher power. That the universe would arrive at a stage where sentient creatures could understand something about the way things ought to be instead of simply knowing how things are suggests to me that there in fact is a cause of the universe which contains the effect within itself – namely that the cause must also be of a moral and rational nature.

    That ruled out atheism for me, and after a brief period of time exploring other religious ideas, I arrived at Christianity. I won’t try to explain that process in this post as it’s long enough already. Suffice to say that our differences, in the grand scheme of morality are likely little different from each other. We focus on the litmus tests or politically keyed up moral topics, and from there discussion ceases.

  43. stevefarrell66 says:

    Justin, thanks for the thoughtful response.

    “Once I came to the conclusion that morality is objective, then I was forced to conclude that there was a higher power.”

    For the sake of argument, I’ll agree with you that morality is objective. I think that there truly are ways to maximize the well-being of conscious creatures, and that it behooves every society to develop an understanding of these ways. However, I don’t think one is forced to conclude that there’s a higher power as a result of that. I deny that intentional agency is necessary to explain phenomena such as the beginning of the universe or the evolution of life, so I don’t know why the existence of objective morality should be any different.

  44. Michael says:

    Michael, everything you wrote in this article supports my claim that believers have a siege mentality that allows them to ignore any criticism of religion.

    Hogwash. If that were true, you would pick 2-3 examples to score your point. That you cannot quote one excerpt, when asked to do so twice, tells me you are drawing from your own vague, delusional impressions.

    First off, i don’t know why Jerry Coyne is all of a sudden the spokesman for atheism, except that you’ve run across something he said that stokes the flames of your insecurity.

    Coyne is, unlike you, one of the leaders in the Gnu atheist movement. And that you think “the flames of insecurity” have been stoked in me tells me you are leaning heavily on your own stereotypes. The fact is that I value critical thinking and enjoy highlighting when Gnu atheist leaders eschew critical thinking to make their emotional, propagandistic pleas.

    Nowhere do you deal with the reasons Coyne may have for considering religion an “evil,” because you’re content to feign outrage at how blatantly religious believers are being oppressed and persecuted by the big bad new atheists.

    Why did you put “evil” in quotes? Coyne did not. And when I asked you twice whether you agreed with Coyne that religion/faith are evil, you ignored it. Did my question make you uncomfortable?

    So you’ve cherry-picked a few sentences from some atheist blogger that inflame your paranoia, but you resent the accusation that you have a siege mentality? How convenient.

    Oh, please. No cherry picking. The quote clearly demonstrates that religion is something that Coyne and other Gnu atheists consider to be evil: “Our writings and actions are sincere attempts to rid the world of one of its greatest evils: religion.”

    This attitude/perspective nicely explains the intolerance of New Atheists.

    You criticize atheists because “they never pause to engage in some self-reflection and ask if their simple-minded views really do match up with reality,” but you’re obviously an expert at avoiding the same self-reflection you demand from atheists.

    Not at all. But then again, I am not part of any social movement that seeks to represent itself as the incarnation of reason, evidence, and science. Are you saying we should not expect atheists to practice what they preach?

    Do you really think nonbelievers are persecuting the Christian majority in this nation?

    Nope. Why would you even ask me that question?

    Do you even know the basis on which atheists criticize religion, or do you assume our position to be groundless because religion is beyond criticism?

    They have all sorts of rationalizations. For example, your attempt to behave as if atheists are being persecuted by Christians in paranoid nonsense. The whole notion of this nation being “seeped in religiosity” is delusional.

    Summary: Your stereotypes have misled you into thinking I am under some siege mentality when in reality, I’m simply highlighting another area of hypocrisy among the New Atheists while proposing an explanation for their intolerance. You have no counterargument. And your unwillingness to answer my question is worthy of note.

  45. stevefarrell66 says:

    Mike, for a guy who titled an article Why are New Atheists so Intolerant?, you don’t seem to want any answers. Have you or any of your fans here tried to engage with the arguments of the new atheists? Did I miss where you mentioned any of Coyne’s complaints about religion in your article? I noticed you answered your own question with a non-answer, intended to smear nonbelievers with the Intolerant label that’s getting so predictable:

    “They have all sorts of rationalizations. For example, your attempt to behave as if atheists are being persecuted by Christians in [sic] paranoid nonsense. The whole notion of this nation being “seeped in religiosity” is delusional.”

    I at least gave a concrete example of nonbelievers being literally excluded and marginalized, from the high-profile “interfaith” hoedown that took place in Boston after the Marathon bombing incident. It’s predictable that religious leaders circle the wagons whenever a tragedy happens, to reinforce the notion that religion is the sole source of solace for those in crisis. It’s quite another thing for government officials like the governor of Massachusetts and the POTUS to legitimize this exclusion, as if nonbelievers aren’t part of the community. Would the President have escaped criticism if he had gone to a Catholics-only service after the incident? I doubt it. Believers have never had to have qualms about excluding nonbelievers.

    Throughout this thread, I’ve argued that certain ideas don’t deserve our tolerance. And I know that you guys agree with me that there’s no reason to be tolerant of hogwash like the flat-Earth theory, or the belief that germs don’t cause disease. When we talk about the dangers of preferring religious dogma to scientific evidence, or of the pitfalls of ascribing agency to natural phenomena, we’re not being “fundamentalist.” We’re rejecting bad ideas.

  46. stcordova says:

    Michael asked:

    “So is faith and religion evil?”

    Possible answers:
    1. yes
    2. no
    3. depends
    4. haven’t thought about
    5. don’t know

    I gave my answers. It doesn’t bother me to be called intolerant by anyone as I’ve been labeled far worse things. Apparently the label of “intolerant” or “fundamentalist” is something GNUs don’t want to associate themselves with. Being caught calling something “evil” raises the possibility that someone is intolerant.

    Am I intolerant? Yeah, maybe, it doesn’t bother me that much to be called that, but I’d like to think I can also be called forgiving. But for a GNU to be called intolerant, it seems to make them really uncomfortable, maybe because it makes them look like atheist fundamentalists where dissenting views and FREETHINKING are not welcome. They really don’t like it when others (including non-militant atheists) point out that the way GNUs do business would fit well in Atheist North Korea or even theist Iran run by the Ayatollas. If you disagree with the GNUs you can expect to be marginalized personally and professionally.

    So the question again:
    “So is faith and religion evil?”

    Or another way of saying it:
    “Are GNUs intolerant of people they view as evil?”

    Should these “evil” people be marginalized personally and professionally in society when their beliefs (such as belief creation) disagree with GNU doctrine. The answer seems to be yes, but GNUs really don’t like that sort of behavior being labeled “intolerant” they rather wish to argue that they are acting like good guys on behalf of society weeding out the bad guys.

    They would prefer not to think of the possibility that they are ruining people’s lives who (even if presumably mistaken about a few things) could still be functioning and produtive members of society. It smacks of the Spanish Inquisition rather than tolerance of people who might be wrong, mistaken, but otherwise valuable members of society. Rather than try to cooperate with people that may have a mistaken understanding of things, crush them and marginalize them. That’s intolerance.

    And no, trying to label Christian’s as intolerant doesn’t remove the stigma that GNUs are intolerant. It’s possible both are intolerant, but the label is especially bothersome to GNUs. For me I don’t care if I’m called intolerant, but GNUs apparently do care if they are called intolerant.

    Bottom line question:
    “So is faith and religion evil?”

  47. Justin says:

    Hang around, Steve, I want to respond to your latest question but it will be just a while, unless someone else beats me to it.

  48. Michael says:

    Steve,
    You are the one who accused me of having some “siege mentality,” but as we can see, you have nothing substantive to support your accusation. Clearly, you were projecting your siege mentality on me. For it turns out that it is you who are complaining as if atheists are being persecuted.

    Yes, Steve, I have indeed engaged the arguments of the new atheists many times over on this blog.

    You write: “I noticed you answered your own question with a non-answer, intended to smear nonbelievers with the Intolerant label that’s getting so predictable”

    That’s your siege mentality again. The evidence clearly indicates that New Atheists are intolerant of religion. It’s not a smear to note a trait of the New Atheists. For example, they are so intolerant that they even attack and ridicule other atheists who think we should “accommodate” religion. What’s so difficult about understanding that the Gnu opposition to accommodation is intolerance?

    As for the persecution of atheists, let’s consider your example:

    I at least gave a concrete example of nonbelievers being literally excluded and marginalized, from the high-profile “interfaith” hoedown that took place in Boston after the Marathon bombing incident. It’s predictable that religious leaders circle the wagons whenever a tragedy happens, to reinforce the notion that religion is the sole source of solace for those in crisis.

    You are projecting your own sense of politicization that is starting to sound like a conspiracy theory. I doubt very much any religious leaders were motivated to exclude atheists as part of some agenda “to reinforce the notion that religion is the sole source of solace for those in crisis.” I think it has more to do with the fact that most people have some form of religious faith and such people have always, throughout all of history, turned to their faith in times of crisis. Atheists, on the other hand, have made it very clear that they despise faith. They ridicule it, call it evil, demonize it, etc. So if atheists hate faith so much, how much sense does it make to include them in some “interfaith” hoedown? Are you just sore because some atheist activist wasn’t given the chance to turn this event into another chance to advance the New Atheist agenda? For that matter, who was the person that was “literally excluded and marginalized, from the high-profile “interfaith” hoedown?”

    Seriously, are you trying to make the case that this event demonstrates this nation is “seeped in religiosity?”

  49. stevefarrell66 says:

    Michael, I did point out that your article, though titled as if you were truly wondering what atheists have against religion, completely ignored any points Coyne may actually make about the “evils of religion.” You merely take it as a given that atheists are unjustified in their intolerance, and you refuse to even entertain the notion that some of their criticisms might be valid.

    I mentioned religious interference in several matters of public policy: abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, and creationism in public schools. Could it conceivably be that people like Coyne aren’t just resentful of the virtues of religion, but they actually recognize its flaws?

    As far as the “interfaith” event goes, I would have appreciated if they had invited a humanist chaplain to speak alongside the religious leaders; the Harvard Humanists actually had a member wounded in the incident. I would have appreciated if it had taken place in a setting that wasn’t religious. And if the religious leaders had wanted to have their own private service, it would have been nice if the President had declined to attend unless it was a more inclusive event. The fact that you feign disbelief that anyone could take issue with the event makes it clear that, um, this country is so seeped in religiosity that believers resent even being reminded to have qualms about marginalizing nonbelievers.

    I’m not here for message-board grandstanding, I’m actually trying to have a patient discussion. I haven’t called anyone names and I’m not beating the God-is-God-ain’t drum. I want to demonstrate to you that it’s possible for believers and nonbelievers to have a civil dialogue about these matters.

  50. stcordova says:

    With respect to Coyne and others, they appear to veil their hatred under the guise of a crusade for the public good.

    Tolerance implies working and cooperating with people and institututions that may be flawed, mistaken, disfunctional but otherwise sufficiently worthy and capable of supporting and contributing to society. Intolerance is pouncing on any conceivable mistake, even fabricationg falsehoods, in order marginalize and punish people you hate. That’s GNU behavior. Sam Harris did that with Francis Collins and that just about blew my irony meter.

    Go after people to correct their “mistakes” is one thing, using “mistakes” as an excuse to ruin their lives and opportunities is quite another. You can cooperate with people whose minds you’ll never change without resorting to sledgehammers. For example, Sam Harris whining to keep Francis Collins out of a job. That had nothing to do with Collins qualifications as a scientist. That had little to do with homosexual rights or creationism in the public schools or abortion, just hatred.

    Take creationism for example. Suppose a student wants to go to university and get a science degree. Even suppose that he might not do quite as well. Does that justify denying him a diploma or even entry into school. Some GNUs have advocated that. That’s hatred and intolerance, not really an attempt to cooperate.

    Why is it so hard for them to admit this is just because they hate. All the other stuff is just to cover up and make it look like (if only to themselves and their followers) that they are on some crusade for the good of society.

    Bottom line question:
    “So is faith and religion evil?”

  51. stevefarrell66 says:

    “With respect to Coyne and others, they appear to veil their hatred under the guise of a crusade for the public good.”

    And it couldn’t be that they really are concerned for the public good?

  52. Michael says:

    Michael, I did point out that your article, though titled as if you were truly wondering what atheists have against religion, completely ignored any points Coyne may actually make about the “evils of religion.”

    The title did not wonder what atheists have against religion. It asked why new atheists are so intolerant.

    You merely take it as a given that atheists are unjustified in their intolerance, and you refuse to even entertain the notion that some of their criticisms might be valid.

    Now you are trying to argue both sides. First, you accuse me of trying to “smear” the new atheists because I note they are intolerant. Now, you seem to think the problem is that I won’t acknowledge the intolerance is justified. First things first. Are you acknowledging that New Atheists are indeed intolerant religion?

    I mentioned religious interference in several matters of public policy: abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, and creationism in public schools. Could it conceivably be that people like Coyne aren’t just resentful of the virtues of religion, but they actually recognize its flaws?

    It’s pretty clear that people like Coyne rely on confirmation bias. They hate religion and think it is evil, so their mind naturally cherry picks instances that help to reinforce this prejudice. They, of course, are going to be upset and outraged by any public influence from religion. After all, religion is evil. Yet, as far as I can tell, they have to keep digging deeper and deeper to find reasons to be offended and outraged. Take your laundry list and compare it to the time when President Kennedy delivered his proposal to put a man on the Moon before a joint session of Congress. Eight years later, the USA put a man on the moon. Yet the same society that carried out this major scientific accomplishment also had kids saying prayers in public school, outlawed abortion in many states, and classified homosexuality as a mental disease. You couldn’t even buy beer on Sunday. In fact, just about every store was closed on Sunday. If a nation can become an economic global superpower and put a man on the moon with those forms of religious influence, it’s hard to see the great dangers of religion that so occupy the modern new atheist movement.

    As far as the “interfaith” event goes, I would have appreciated if they had invited a humanist chaplain to speak alongside the religious leaders; the Harvard Humanists actually had a member wounded in the incident. I would have appreciated if it had taken place in a setting that wasn’t religious.

    And there you go. Y’see, it’s not just about “including” the atheists, now is it? Including the atheists means we’re supposed to put an end to public expressions of faith.

    And if the religious leaders had wanted to have their own private service, it would have been nice if the President had declined to attend unless it was a more inclusive event.

    So to be “inclusive,” we have to exclude public expressions of religious faith.

    The fact that you feign disbelief that anyone could take issue with the event makes it clear that, um, this country is so seeped in religiosity that believers resent even being reminded to have qualms about marginalizing nonbelievers.

    I don’t doubt many New Atheists “take issue” with the event, given many New Atheists are thin-skinned, delicate little flowers when it comes to religion. They are so easily offended and outraged. They hear a prayer said in public and actually throw tantrums. As someone who was once an atheist, and still lives a fairly secular lifestyle, it’s something that I don’t understand. I grew up as an atheist and never felt offended or attacked when confronted with public expressions of religious belief. In fact, it is ridiculously easy to live a completely secular lifestyle. Apart from being traumatized by this interfaith event, can you point out how religion has personally hurt you in the last month or so?

    I’m not here for message-board grandstanding, I’m actually trying to have a patient discussion. I haven’t called anyone names and I’m not beating the God-is-God-ain’t drum. I want to demonstrate to you that it’s possible for believers and nonbelievers to have a civil dialogue about these matters.

    So why didn’t you bother to answer my question or acknowledge that my OP does not demonstrate some siege mentality?

  53. stevefarrell66 says:

    Mike, just calling the new atheists “intolerant” (over and over and over) doesn’t tell us what the basis of this intolerance is. You assume that Coyne & co. are just prejudiced against religion, they simply believe “religion is evil” and that’s as much as you’ve ever said about the entire world view of the new atheists. Could it be they’re calling for an end to tolerance for ideas that don’t deserve it? Since you’ve never bothered to address what Coyne describes as the “evils of religion,” and have never so much as acknowledged the points I’ve made about the pernicious influence of religion in our society, I think I have every right to assume that you’d rather put up the siege walls and complain about how mean Coyne is being. As the old adage goes, when I criticize others it’s because I recognize their faults; when others criticize me, it’s because they resent my virtues. Are you satisfied that Coyne has no basis whatsoever to criticize religion? Is any criticism of religion allowed? Why should I come up with some way that religion has hurt me in the past month, when you’ve dismissed or ignored every criticism I’ve raised so far?

    You completely missed my point about the “interfaith” service after the Marathon bombing. I don’t think it’s out of line to expect that nonbelievers be represented in such a service, or that it take place in a venue more suited to our secular society, particularly if the President is going to attend. But you make it sound as if I’m just complaining about public expressions of religious faith. Where did I ever express that opinion?

    I’m amused by the way you handwaved away any points Coyne or I could conceivably make about the undue influence of religious belief in our society by opining that a more religious America put a man on the moon. Exactly what is it about prayer in schools or Sunday blue laws that made this technological feat possible? By the same logic, couldn’t I say that a more religious America maintained the tradition of slavery, killed Indians, and sterilized black people? If not, why not?

    Quite honestly, I don’t consider the question “are religion and faith evil?” a good one. I think religion is a vast and fascinating subject that involves history, literature, philosophy, and psychology. But I think that religion also has a lot of harmful effects on society and the individual. I guess I think there is, in fact, something “evil” about holding beliefs that you strive to never question, never change, and never subject to rational scrutiny. I believe it’s a good thing to change my mind when the evidence says I’m wrong; does religion ever say evidence is more important than dogma? I believe we should develop a secular society so people with many different beliefs (religious and nonreligious) can coexist in the same nation; what Scripture ever said that people who reject our chosen view of God are okay? And lastly, I believe there’s something evil about claiming to speak on behalf of the Almighty; but how many preachers or imams would admit that it’s presumptuous to claim to know the mind of God?

  54. Michael says:

    Mike, just calling the new atheists “intolerant” (over and over and over) doesn’t tell us what the basis of this intolerance is.

    I asked if you acknowledged that New Atheists are intolerant of religion. You ignored the question. Would you please answer? Are New Atheists intolerant of religion?

    You assume that Coyne & co. are just prejudiced against religion, they simply believe “religion is evil” and that’s as much as you’ve ever said about the entire world view of the new atheists.

    I am not assuming; I am observing. Clearly they are prejudiced against religion so much so that they insist one of the world’s greatest evils is religion and they have no tolerance for any atheist who does not subscribe to their extreme agenda. You seem to be under the impression that there is some substance to your leaders’ prejudice. Are you trying to insist they are standing on principle?

    Could it be they’re calling for an end to tolerance for ideas that don’t deserve it?

    So you concede they are advocating intolerance? I wish you would make an effort to clarify your views on this. One side of your mouth complains when I “call” the Gnus intolerant, yet the other side of your mouth insists the intolerance is justified.

    Since you’ve never bothered to address what Coyne describes as the “evils of religion,” and have never so much as acknowledged the points I’ve made about the pernicious influence of religion in our society, I think I have every right to assume that you’d rather put up the siege walls and complain about how mean Coyne is being.

    I understand that your favorite topic would be to discuss the pernicious influence of religion in our society, as religion is one of the world’s greatest evils in the minds of Gnus. But prejudice has a way in inducing tunnel vision. So let’s get beyond your laundry list and ask if you think religion is the only thing that has a pernicious influence on our society? And do you think this pernicious aspect of religion is something that is religion-specific?

    As the old adage goes, when I criticize others it’s because I recognize their faults; when others criticize me, it’s because they resent my virtues. Are you satisfied that Coyne has no basis whatsoever to criticize religion? Is any criticism of religion allowed?

    LOL. Criticism of religion is allowed, Steve. We’re talking about something that goes beyond criticism – intolerance. Are you implying I am not allowed to criticize the intolerance and prejudice of New Atheists? Is any criticism of New Atheism allowed?

    Why should I come up with some way that religion has hurt me in the past month, when you’ve dismissed or ignored every criticism I’ve raised so far?

    Every criticism you have raised so far are just the melodramatic talking points we have all heard a million times. I was wondering if you had something more substantial, something more rooted in reality.

    You completely missed my point about the “interfaith” service after the Marathon bombing. I don’t think it’s out of line to expect that nonbelievers be represented in such a service, or that it take place in a venue more suited to our secular society, particularly if the President is going to attend. But you make it sound as if I’m just complaining about public expressions of religious faith. Where did I ever express that opinion?

    More suited to our secular society?? Just a couple of days ago, you told us “we’re so seeped in religiosity in this country.” For someone who claims to be interested in dialog, you sure like to morph your positions midstream.

    I’m amused by the way you handwaved away any points Coyne or I could conceivably make about the undue influence of religious belief in our society by opining that a more religious America put a man on the moon. Exactly what is it about prayer in schools or Sunday blue laws that made this technological feat possible? By the same logic, couldn’t I say that a more religious America maintained the tradition of slavery, killed Indians, and sterilized black people? If not, why not?

    Not surprisingly, you miss the point. Gnu hand-wringing about the evils of religion always takes things out of their context. Here I am just providing context for your laundry list of evils to illustrate the melodramatic, exaggerated nature of your complaints about our society. You have to dig deeper and deeper to find some “outrage” to fuel your confirmation bias. Take your complaint that religion is trying to get creationism in public schools. How exactly does that translate as the end of the world?

    Quite honestly, I don’t consider the question “are religion and faith evil?” a good one.

    I see. So Gnu atheist leaders can call religion evil, but it’s not a good question to ask if religion is evil. Gnu atheists don’t like being questioned, do they?

    I think religion is a vast and fascinating subject that involves history, literature, philosophy, and psychology. But I think that religion also has a lot of harmful effects on society and the individual.

    Would you admit that religion also has a lot of good effects on society and the individual?

    I guess I think there is, in fact, something “evil” about holding beliefs that you strive to never question, never change, and never subject to rational scrutiny.

    So why is it that Gnu atheists never seem to question their own beliefs, never change their beliefs, and get upset if someone like me subjects them to rational scrutiny?

    I believe it’s a good thing to change my mind when the evidence says I’m wrong; does religion ever say evidence is more important than dogma?

    Yet Gnu atheists don’t change their minds when the evidence says they are wrong. Gnu atheists say evidence is so important, but they don’t practice what they preach.

    I believe we should develop a secular society so people with many different beliefs (religious and nonreligious) can coexist in the same nation; what Scripture ever said that people who reject our chosen view of God are okay?

    For cripes sake, we already live in such a secular society.

    Your message-board grandstanding is starting to bore me. Let’s stay focused on the topic I raised in the OP. I titled this blog entry “Why are New Atheists So Intolerant?” You seemed to have a problem with that. So do you agree that New Atheists are intolerant of religion? Yes? Or no?

  55. stevefarrell66 says:

    “I titled this blog entry “Why are New Atheists So Intolerant?” You seemed to have a problem with that. So do you agree that New Atheists are intolerant of religion? Yes? Or no?”

    Yes.

    And I think their intolerance is fully justified, just as our intolerance of bad ideas like geocentrism and white supremacy are justified. You don’t think the belief that the Earth is the center of our universe still has merit, do you? You don’t believe we should give “equal time” to people who think black people are inferior, do you? Aren’t these examples of intolerance valid?

    Religion takes many forms, and many seem quite benign: Jainism, for example, is a very docile religion. The mere superstitious belief that there’s agency behind all phenomena isn’t in and of itself dangerous. As a set of claims about reality, ancient scriptures are nearly useless, but they have redeeming literary quality. That said, I think that many forms of religion appeal to very unhealthy needs in people: the need for certainty, for superiority, and the need to make a display of one’s virtue. Religion has been used to oppress women by denying them reproductive rights and forcing them to wear ritual clothing under threat of violence. Religion is the very basis of anti-evolutionary pseudoscience. Most dangerous is the fact that religious extremism and fanaticism are immune to correction; believers presume to speak and act on behalf of the Almighty.

    Atheists think that religious beliefs are bad ideas, whether they’re claims about reality that are just plain wrong, or simply prejudices dressed up in religious language. Why would you expect atheists to be “tolerant” of the belief that women should be attacked for not wearing a bag, or that a zygote is a human being?

  56. stcordova says:

    “Yes.”

    Thanks for responding. Is it fair to say then given what you said, that NEW Atheists think religion is evil, and that they are justified in thinking religion is evil? Would it be fair of me to say:

    “Steve thinks religion is evil.”

  57. Michael says:

    Very good, Steve. So you admit New Atheists are intolerant. The problem is that just a couple of days ago, you accused me of trying to smear the New Atheists for noting their intolerance. You accuse me of having a siege mentality, but a) you could provide no evidence of such a siege mentality and b) accusing me of trying to smear a group for simply pointing out the truth about a group is evidence that you are the one with the siege mentality.

    So now we can move to the next stage. Since we can all agree about the intolerance of the Gnu atheists, I ask why the Gnu atheists are so intolerant. And my answer is that they think in black and white terms, viewing religion as some form of evil. Whether or not religion truly is evil is not relevant here. What matters is that they perceive religion to be evil. As that explains the intolerance. And that’s what we have with your comments – various ways to rationalize your intolerance by picking out the perceived evils of religion.

    Look, I’m not interested in addressing each and every Gnu talking point in the comments section of this thread. I’m satisfied to simply note that my OP was spot-on accurate: Gnu’s are intolerant because they view religion as some form of evil.

    Steve, most of my blog entries focus in on one aspect of reality or another. You could have saved yourself and me a lot of time by just acknowledging I was correct and then trying to make the case that such intolerance and perceptions of evil are justified.

  58. stevefarrell66 says:

    “Whether or not religion truly is evil is not relevant here. What matters is that they perceive religion to be evil. As that explains the intolerance. And that’s what we have with your comments – various ways to rationalize your intolerance by picking out the perceived evils of religion.”

    I guess you’re too closed-minded to assess whether this oh-so-terrifying intolerance actually has a basis in fact. I think I’ve presented a cogent argument that there are valid problems with religion, and you’ve just put your fingers in your ears and shouted I CAN’T HEAR YOU INTOLERANT ATHEIST LA LA LA! As I said, you’ve validated my suspicion that you’d rather play the put-upon victim of the intolerant-new-atheists than subject your beliefs to even the most moderate form of criticism.

    Sorry my attempt at dialogue turned out to be a lost cause.

  59. G. Rodrigues says:

    @ stevefarrell66:

    “Sorry my attempt at dialogue turned out to be a lost cause.”

    Your first message in the thread:

    “It seems you’d rather wallow in your defensive siege mentality about religion than understand what atheism is truly about.”

    Cut the crap, will you? You played the role of two-bit Gnu apologist all along, and if you ever desired “dialogue” is simply because your bluff has been called out.

  60. Michael says:

    Sorry my attempt at dialogue turned out to be a lost cause.

    If you were seriously interested in dialog, you would have made a serious effort to reply to my first reply.

    I wrote, “I’m afraid you have just side-stepped everything I wrote. Perhaps it would help if you quoted something I wrote and showed where I went astray.”

    You never made an effort to support your attack on me.

    Then, when I asked you “So is faith and religion evil?”, you ignored the question. I asked again. You ignored. I asked a third time, and you offered up some obfuscation such that we still can’t tell if you agree or disagree with Coyne.

    Add to this the way you talk out both sides of your mouth, and the multiple questions you ignored, and the evidence clearly indicates you were never serious about any dialog.

    And that makes sense. Since you are intolerant, why would anyone think an intolerant Gnu atheist would want a dialog about something as pernicious as religion? As your leader Jerry Coyne wrote:

    What about the many of us who feel that the best thing for science—and humanity as a whole—is not respectful dialogue with evangelical Christians, but the eradication of evangelical Christianity? The sooner that religion goes away, the sooner these ills will abate. “Dialoguing” with evangelical Christians (and granted, not all of them hold the beliefs I’ve just mentioned) only enables superstition

    It would be nice to have a dialog with you Steve, but your intolerance and wild-eyed extremism get in the way.

  61. Cesar Neri says:

    And they prescribe insult and ridicule to accomplish this feat of getting rid of religion. What a laugh.

  62. stcordova says:

    “And they prescribe insult and ridicule to accomplish this feat of getting rid of religion.”

    OUCH!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s