Change The World!

I don’t pay much attention to PZ Myers these days, as he seems rather irrelevant. For example, there was a time when his blog entries would routinely net 100s of comments. But after checking out his blog recently, they seem to net only a few dozen these days.

Anyway, Myers is back to making the case that atheism is more than just a lack of belief in God:

I’ve been trying to understand how people — not just people, but self-declared “leaders of the atheist movement” — can claim that atheism is only the lack of belief in any gods, and further, that absence of god-belief entails no other significant consequences. It’s been difficult, because that way of thinking is alien to me; atheism for me is all tangled up in naturalism and scientific thinking, and it’s not just a single, simple cause but has a whole cascade of meaning. But I’m trying, and I think I’m beginning to get it. There is a reasonable way to regard atheism as important while at the same time limiting its import.

Yet as we have seen with the Elevator Wars, this extra dimension to atheism seems to be depend on the atheist. Myers mixes his atheism with some rather extreme political correctness and hedonism. Other atheists think he is a wingnut for thinking atheism needs these extra ingredients. Who is right? And how would we know?

He then pats himself on the back:

Being an atheist means you can no longer learn your moral code by rote and tradition and obedience to authority*, but have to rely on reason and empathy and greater human goals, and you don’t get to justify actions simply because they “feel” right or good — you have to support them with evidence or recognition that they directly serve a secular purpose. Our atheism, our secularism, our rejection of divinity and ecclesiastical authority determines how we move through our life, and that movement matters. It’s not superficial, it’s not a fashion choice, and the absence of god has meaning.

Actually, atheistic morality is indeed no different from a fashion choice. This explains why atheists simply cannot reach any consensus on morality or social policies, whether it is how to behave on an elevator to whether or not guns should be banned. Reason fails them. Every time. Every atheist has his/her own ideas about how to “rely on reason and empathy and greater human goals.” Just as they all have their different ideas about what is fashionable. And even if they think an action is wrong, there is no reason for them to refrain from behaving immorally (as we have seen with Dawkins and his meat-eating). So what’s the point, other than to wear their moral beliefs as some form of personal adornment?

Myers then gives us his own ideas about Gnutopia:

If religion were a purely personal matter, a case of individual preference (and for many people it is), the analogy would hold up. When we “militant” atheists speak about eradicating religion, that’s really what we mean — not that we’ll close all the churches and force everyone to publicly repudiate their faith, but that it will be reduced to a curious hobby or matter of choice, something that you might feel deeply (BLUE IS THE BESTEST COLOR!), but that you don’t get to impose that view on others, and that on matters of public policy, everyone will approach problems objectively and try to make decisions on the basis of evidence, rather than opinions about angels and ghosts and what’s best for your afterlife. So, yeah, someday I want your choice of religion to have about as much significance as your choice of a favorite color.

If he ever got to see his Gnutopia, my money says he’d still be bitching about someone’s choice of a favorite color. But note the deluded foundation of his thinking.First, there is this:

but that you don’t get to impose that view on others, and that on matters of public policy, everyone will approach problems objectively and try to make decisions on the basis of evidence,

This is naive. There is no such thing as someone who approaches problems “objectively.” The human brain simply does not work that way. When it’s a matter of public policy, everyone has their own idea about how things “should” be that is informed by their values and worldview. And as for making decisions on the basis of “evidence,” that’s nonsensical. It is that same biased brain that decides which data are “evidence” and which “evidence” are most important and trustworthy. Take yer picks. Myers, like so many others, fool themselves into thinking “evidence” is some aspect of objective reality that we detect.

And there is this:

rather than opinions about angels and ghosts and what’s best for your afterlife.

This is where atheists delude themselves in their anti-religious bubble. For when I observe the debates about gun control, immigration reform, healthcare, etc., I just don’t see where opinions about angels and ghosts and what’s best for your afterlife play any role in the debates. For example, with the recent scandals concerning the abuse of power from the government, no one is making a case that the government is sinful. They are making the case that the government is abusing its power. After all, I live in a country where even the very religious people know that if they want to make a case for this or that public policy, they have to make the case in secular terms in order to convince the most number of people.

Myers ends his sermon as follows:

Thank you to those who are willing to stand up for atheism simply as a matter of choice and principle, but you should know and be warned that we intend to change the world. We are more dangerous than you can even imagine. And apparently, more dangerous than even some atheists can imagine.

Well, yes and no. Militant atheism does have a rather bloody history. And it is tied to hate, bigotry, and intolerance. But given than Myers can’t even get his fellow atheists to stop being so damn sexist, and his “solution” to atheism’s sexism problem is to ban the sexists from his blog, me thinks his intention to change the world is melodramatic fantasy talk that helps to fill the donation cup.

So the “reality-based” Myers lives in some cartoon version of reality. His brain has him thinking we decide things like gun control based on the Bible, that atheists alone have this magical ability to objectively detect “evidence,” that atheism has more meaning than a fashion choice, that Gnu atheists are super duper dangerous, and that a community that rips itself to shreds over an elevator can show us to the Promised Land.

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4 Responses to Change The World!

  1. stevefarrell66 says:

    I tend to agree with Sam Harris, who says atheism is a word that would only exist in an overwhelmingly religious society. We don’t have a need for words for people who don’t knit or don’t speak Croatian, but we for some reason need to describe a phenomenon like atheism like it’s a belief system.

    But I don’t know, Myers might be right. Atheism does seem to go along with skepticism and a preference for explanations that invoke inanimate forces instead of intentional agency. Even theism is more than just the belief in God: there’s all sorts of auxiliary beliefs about authority, Scripture, agency, and other things that may or may not go along with belief in God.

  2. Justin says:

    Atheism is a belief system, if one is concerned with having a coherent worldview. If holding to a worldview that is self-contradictory and self-defeating doesn’t bother you, then Gnu atheism is probably right for you.

  3. stevefarrell66 says:

    Justin, perhaps you could demonstrate your insight into the “belief system” of atheism, and let me know just why it’s self-defeating and self-contradictory. Just one request, could we please keep this discussion civil?

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