Coyne Lashes Out at Myers

The Atheist Wars continue. Coyne writes:

Here’s how you don’t respond to Williams death: as P.Z Myers has in a post at Pharyngula, in which he claims that the media (and our government) has taken advantage of Williams’s death to draw attention away from racism and other social problems. In other words, we’ve been manipulated:

And then quotes PZ Myers:

I’m sorry to report that comedian Robin Williams has committed suicide, an event of great import and grief to his family. But his sacrifice has been a great boon to the the news cycle and the electoral machinery — thank God that we have a tragedy involving a wealthy white man to drag us away from the depressing news about brown people.

. . . Boy, I hate to say it, but it sure was nice of Robin Williams to create such a spectacular distraction. No one wants to think the police might be untrustworthy. [This refers to the police shooting of black teenager Mike Brown in St. Louis.]

Coyne then comments:

Wealthy white man? Really? This is one of the most contemptible and inhumane things I’ve ever seen posted by a well-known atheist. It reeks of arrogance, of condescension, and especially of a lack of empathy for those who loved and admired Williams not because they knew him, but because he brought them happiness and made them think.

(emphasis added)

Further demonstration that a world run by those “committed to reason and evidence” would be such a better place. 😉

When these atheist leaders are arrogant, inhumane, and condescending to religious people, their colleagues and followers pat them on the back. But then when they take the very same approach to a topic other than religion, POOF!, we have a serious problem.

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18 Responses to Coyne Lashes Out at Myers

  1. The Deuce says:

    LOL! Weren’t Coyne and PZ allied in the previous atheist war, pitting the PC feminist atheists against the somewhat less PC Richard Dawkins? And now they’re smearing each other because PZ is slightly more slavishly devoted to PC shibboleths than Coyne. None of them is capable of getting along with any of them in the absence of a common enemy.

    And why is Coyne morally indignant over PZ’s lack of empathy over the expiration of a well-known meat machine anyhow, particularly when, as Coyne would tell us, PZ had no moral choice? It’s not like it’s going to hurt Robin Williams’ feelings.

  2. Mark Plus says:

    And again you focus on the shortcomings of some atheist bystanders who have attracted negligible followings as bloggers, while ignoring the real show. The rapture has already started for christians: They have started to disappear over the long run, but not because of anything the New Atheists and similar writers have done. People hold religious beliefs as superficial opinions to manage existential anxiety, and they those interest in these beliefs when they live in well run countries which provide protection against life’s predictable adversities.

    Ironically this finding conflicts with the beliefs of the firebrands on both sides of the god debate. The atheist activists assume that education and “enlightenment” make people lose interest in religion, when at best they act only as secondary causes; while the religious obsessives assume that religion addresses man’s deepest longings, or words to that effect. What a letdown to realize the banality of how religion really works, and what little it takes to make religious belief go away.

  3. Bilbo says:

    Hi Mark,

    I think Mike’s point is that there’s no reason to think human behavior in an atheist society would be any better than in a society where religious belief is dominant. If so, then it’s very unlikely that we would ever achieve a society where all of our needs were taken care of. Thus, even if you are correct about the real causes of religious belief, it will very likely be with us as long as we exist.

  4. Atheist Wars? How many of you have ever talked to an Atheist? How many have even met an Atheist or read a book by one (one who wasn’t trying specifically to anger you). I suggest Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am Not a Christian.

    First Atheism is not a religion. A religion requires a common body of doctrine. Most Christians believe in the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ Our Lord…” I’m sure you all know it better than I do. The Apostle’s creed part of a body of doctrine that, I believe, is common to all Christian denominations from Russian Orthodox to Pentacostal. It’s doctrine and all Christians share it. Full Stop.

    There is no Atheist body of doctrine. There is nothing to believe. They just disbelieve something. Here’s an example. You don’t believe in fairies and I don’t believe in fairies. That doesn’t mean we’re members of some anti-fairy religion or army. Neither of us believe in fairies, but it’s silly think of us as part of some world-wide anti-fairy conspiracy. We might also like beer, fishing, and watching the Ravens, but those things have nothing to do with being Atheists and they certainly are not a “doctrine.”

    Here’s another example. There are people who believe in the Loch Ness Monster because they believe they have seen him. There are other people who haven’t seen them but still believe on faith. (Faith is belief in things unseen.) Then there are those who don’t believe in the Monster. A few (very few) of them are “anti-Monster” and go down to the Loch and try to convince believers that there is not a Monster, but most of them just don’t care. They don’t go around repeating “I don’t believe in the Monster, I don’t!, I don’t!, I don’t!” They can go months, even years, without giving the Monster a single thought. They might see an article about it in the newspaper or hear about it on TV, but they will have forgotten about it in a few minutes — perhaps an hour at most.

    Sometimes something happens so that Atheists can’t forget the Monster and and have to care. Perhaps someone puts a sign up in their front yard exhorting people to believe. But they’d probably be just as unhappy if it were a sign selling bath soap. Unless someone gets up right in their faces, they just don’t care.

    That’s the way it is with most Atheists. They just don’t care. God is not on their radar screens. They don’t spend Sunday afternoon cooking up conspiracies to destroy Christianity as we know it; they watch football. Most Atheist don’t mind prayers, ever Christian prayers, before such things as School Board or Town Council meetings. They just stand quietly or sometimes even say the prayer. It makes their neighbors feel good and doesn’t hurt them.

    Again this can change. Something such as “Dear Lord Jesus we ask thy blessing on this meeting and everyone here tonight” probably will be fine. Something such as “Dear Lord Jesus, we invoke thy name to protect this meeting against the curse of unbelievers and their master Satan.” probably will not.

    Of course there are a few Atheists who do care and go down to the Loch and harass the Monster’s believers. I think Richard Dawkins may be one. But Christians have Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, John Hagee, and Pat Robertson (to name just a few) who are just as strident and a lot most hostile to Atheists than Atheists are to them.

    And that brings up my last two points. First, Atheists are in the absolute bottom of almost every opinion poll about popularity, intelligence, and so forth. Being thought of as an Atheist provokes such comments as “Atheists have no morals. You can just go home and [screw] a dog,” “This is a Christian country, why don’t you go back to Islam where you belong,” “We should lock you all up and take away your kids so they can be raised as good Christians,” and (my personal favorite) “The First Amendment only protects religion. It doesn’t protect people who don’t believe in any religion. Atheists shouldn’t have any rights.” Frequently this is changed to “The First Amendment only protects Christians.” This might also provoke some Atheists into caring. But most Atheists would just as soon have the whole thing go away so they can care about more important things, such as getting the shopping done on Sunday morning when the lines are short.

    (If anyone finds any of these attractive (and I don’t think anyone will) then I believe you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution and the principles on which it was founded. If this is so, then I recommend two classes of things to read. The first are descriptions of what happened when the Church joined with the state. The second is a list of writings by some of the Founding Fathers illustrating how much they believed in the separation of church and state.

    Here’s my very last point. Most Christians, at least those on many blogs, use the word “Atheist” as a general term for anything they don’t like. If you oppose teaching Creationism, you’re an Atheist. If you think that public prayers should be nonsectarian, you’re an Atheist. If you think that it’s improper to march a battalion of Marines 10 miles up a mountain so that they can stand in front of mountain-top cross while their Sergeant Major exhorts them to choose Jesus and not the Pit, you’re an Atheist. If you think that military Chaplains should not use counseling sessions to Evangelize, you’re an Atheist. But perhaps you just think that when a soldier comes to a Chaplain in crisis the Chaplain should try to strengthen the faith he has rather than try to tear it down to build another. Nah, you’re still an Atheist.

    Calling people “Atheist” and then calling them nasty names is silly. It portrays you, and by extension Christians in general, as rude and not very smart.

    My last paragraph. You don’t know what my beliefs are. All you know is that I’ve written here. Never once did I claim to be either an Atheist or a Christian. I never discuss my personal beliefs with anyone. They are between God and me. I might have accepted the Word and know that my soul is forever safe in the comforting arms of Jesus. Or I might be a minion of the devil with my black arts and horrific sacrifices. You don’t know. You won’t know. You can’t know.

    But I’ll bet that some (many?) of you will call me “Atheist” anyway.

    Surprise me and don’t.

    Here’s the first set of books illustrating what happens when church melds with state:

    “The Spanish Inquisition” by Joseph Pérez, translated by Janet Lloyd, “The Inquisition” by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh (Pay particular attention to the siege of Beziers in which a good Christian ordered the slaughter of 20,000 men, women, and children on suspicion that some my Cathar heretics.), and finally read any good book on the First Crusade in which when the Crusaders took Jerusalem they slaughtered everyone in the city (including all the Christians) and it is said that blood ran in the streets as high as a horse’s knees.

    Here’s a set of readings illustrating the Founders’ ideas on the separation of church and state.

    To get a feel for this,
    read the “Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom,” and the “Letter to
    the Danbury Baptists,” both by Thomas Jefferson. Follow those with
    James Madison’s “Remonstrance and Memorial.” Then look at the Treaty
    of Tripoli, signed by John Adams, and approved by the Senate,
    containing the words “the Government of the United States of America
    is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

    Finally, read what George Washington wrote to his agent when hiring
    workmen for Mount Vernon, “If they be good workmen, they may be from
    Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mohammedans [Muslims], Jews, or
    Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists.” I don’t think that
    his tolerance, and therefore his belief in the separation of church
    and state, could have been plainer.

  5. Kevin says:

    Mark, living in well run countries that provide protection against life’s predictable adversities may make people stop thinking about the big picture, but it does not make atheism logical. Some of us who think for ourselves are religious because it makes far more sense than atheism and is a far more helpful and coherent worldview than atheism.

    But if it makes you feel better to ignore our actual reasons for believing and think that we are religious because we’re scared of the dark, and giving us some extra money would suddenly make us think “God is an imaginary sky fairy hurr durr” then by all means, do so. Just be prepared to get laughed at.

  6. The Deuce says:

    You know you’ve hit on an effective point regarding atheism when the atheists show up to write book-length dissertations informing you about how ineffective your criticism is.

  7. Kevin says:


    Michael can shoot me down if I’m way off base here, but this is a blog dedicated to talking about the New Atheist movement. By that term, Christian apologists are almost always referring to the strident, hateful, antitheistic atheists who blame religion for absolutely everything and firmly believe that they are Reason Personified, despite the opposite being true. The list of prominent New Atheists includes Dawkins, Harris, Myers, Coyne, Dennett, and their legions of devoted followers who are in lockstep with both their views and their anti religious bigotry. They are absolutely pathetic in how hatefully they treat religious people, particularly Christians, and defend those tactics as completely justified (Dawkins encouraged it at the misnamed Reason Rally), but as soon as someone is mean to one of them, well then boo hoo that’s not nice at all. It’s that hilarity that Michael is pointing out. It’s not against Atheism, like Gnus do with Religion.

  8. James says:

    Oh, goody. Mark is here to rescue us dullards with armchair psychology in one hand and a genetic fallacy in the other. You know it’s pretty obvious that when my salary goes from $85,000 to $120,000 and my healthcare benefits are upgraded to give me a nice $10 co-pay for physician visits, I’ll be jumpin’ off the Jesus train posthaste !

  9. Martin Tuelay says:

    General comment for Christians –
    Go to the link below, comments section, find poster ‘Martel’. This guy is an Apologist who knows how to argue. Bilbo, TFBW, The Deuce, and you other regulars here. If this group could state their positions and arguments more clearly I’d visit/comment more often and liven things up.

  10. Kevin says:

    You called him an arrogant lump of useless DNA. You want us to be more like him?

  11. GM says:

    I recently broke my no-comment policy on a gawker post about engagement between the secular world and the religious, and tried to talk about the dangers of acclimating to a culture where it was perfectly acceptable to verbally eviscerate another person due to a difference in beliefs: how that feeling of righteous indignation has a narcotic element that becomes difficult to control. I was eventually accused of being some kind of agent for the far religious right trying to deceptively quell dissent prior to establishing The Theocracy. (like, for real) I was also accused of sympathizing with abortion clinic bombers, murderers of gays, etc. Simply for saying “be nice.” Or at least, “don’t become intoxicated by anger to the point of acting like a rabid squirrel.”

    All I could think of is PZ Myers finishing his speech by saying something to the effect of “no one ever changed the world by being nice.” Martin Luther King, say word up.

    In the opening scene of the movie about the NA movement, a group of characters will be sitting around a table saying “Let’s indulge in the most venomous dialectical whims we can think of as a social strategy.” The film will be called “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”

  12. JWDS says:

    Yeah, ’cause all the regulars just lose sleep over the truly important question: “How can we get Martin Tuelay to come on this blog and talk with us?”

    Self-important much?

  13. Michael says:

    That’s the way it is with most Atheists. They just don’t care. God is not on their radar screens. They don’t spend Sunday afternoon cooking up conspiracies to destroy Christianity as we know it; they watch football. Most Atheist don’t mind prayers, ever Christian prayers, before such things as School Board or Town Council meetings. They just stand quietly or sometimes even say the prayer. It makes their neighbors feel good and doesn’t hurt them.

    That argument might have worked 10-15 years ago, but it’s less clear today with New Atheist Movement. Regardless, what we focus on here are the extremists and zealots of the New Atheist Movement.

  14. Vy says:

    Strephon, atheism is most definitely a religion.

    From Oxford Dictionary


    Line breaks: re|li¦gion Pronunciation: /rɪˈlɪdʒ(ə)n /


    1.2 [COUNT NOUN] A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion:

    ‘consumerism is the new religion’

    1) One atheist bible out of numerous versions.

    2) One atheist church out of numerous others.

    3) Materialism, Naturalism, Humanism, Scientism etc – several sub-beliefs inter-related within one, evolutionism.

    4) A purpose – to rid the world of other religions its adherents deem as “fairytales”.

    5) Leaders or apostles aka The Four Horsemen.

    6) Spirituality via Sam Harris’ recent teachings.

    7) A belief – atheism is the belief in the non-existence of God or gods.

    8) Most importantly, a name, atheism.

    * Religion isn’t determined by belief in God or gods

    * It’s no argument that atheists are greatly devoted to their cause.

    I know you can see quite clearly that atheism, is in fact, a religion albeit a terrible one.

  15. Vy says:

    Whoever wrote that article Martin posted is quite delusional. There is no concept of “evil”, “good”, “bad” etc. in atheism. Those are “illusions”.

    What happens is what is, that’s it. Some may not like it, some may, but that neither makes it wrong or right.

    As one evolutionary biologist rightly said on a NatGeo program, “talking about caring, kindness, love etc., in animals totally misses the point.” Evolutionists/atheists regard man as just another “animal” so when any atheist uses words like “evil” or “good”, it’s due to delusions.

  16. TFBW says:

    There is no concept of “evil”, “good”, “bad” etc. in atheism.

    That’s clearly false. The most common rational justification for atheism is the argument from evil — i.e. evil exists, so a perfectly good God does not, because a perfectly good God would not tolerate its existence (or some variation on that theme). I’m not saying that it’s a good argument, mind you — just an extremely popular one. The atheists who appeal to it rarely if ever go on to explain what kind of reality “good” and “evil” are, given that it’s a contrast between physical reality and a counter-factual ideal which seems glaringly incompatible with philosophical materialism.

    There are sub-species of atheism which deny the reality of good and evil (e.g. nihilism) but they’re relatively rare — particularly if you go by the number of atheists who make appeals to “religion is evil”, “atheists can be moral” etc.

  17. Vy says:

    TFBW, they do say “evil exists” but I see that as a delusion.

    They have to explain why it’s “evil”. “Our nearest evolutionary cousins” go around snatching babies from the backs of women in Africa after which they proceed to eat them and evolutionary biologists call it “nature”.

    So as you said, it’s “incompatible with philosophical materialism”.

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