Greedy Atheists

There is one thing New Atheist leaders are good at – coming up with ways to make lots of money off their devoted, gullible atheist fans. Andrew Brown skewers Richard Dawkins:

My man in the pub was at the very low end of what believers will do and pay for: the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak.

When you compare this to the going rate for other charismatic preachers, it does seem on the high side. The Pentecostal evangelist Morris Cerullo, for example, charges only $30 a month to become a member of ‘God’s Victorious Army’, which is bringing ‘healing and deliverance to the world’. And from Cerullo you get free DVDs, not just discounts.

But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’

The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.

At this point it is obvious to everyone except the participants that what we have here is a religion without the good bits.

LOL!

BTW, check out the comments section. Over here, we are told very few atheists take Dawkins seriously, so why talk about him? But over there, you will find an army of Gnu drones desperately defending their idol.

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27 Responses to Greedy Atheists

  1. Crude says:

    I’ve said for a while now, Dawkins and company are atheism’s versions of Jim Bakker.

    And their fans are the atheist equivalents of the fans of Jim Bakker.

  2. Peter Olsen says:

    I must ask again. Has anyone here ever spoken with an Atheist (as opposed to ranted at or about)? Has anyone ever tried to understand the reasoning of a typical Atheist? My guess would be no “on” both counts.

  3. Michael says:

    I must ask again. Has anyone here ever spoken with an Atheist (as opposed to ranted at or about)? Has anyone ever tried to understand the reasoning of a typical Atheist? My guess would be no “on” both counts.

    I have spoken to hundreds of atheists. Yes, I have tried to understand their reasoning and found it to be quite flawed.

    BTW, have you joined the Reason Circle yet?

  4. Peter says:

    This behaviour is what economists call Rational Utility Maximization.

  5. Bilbo says:

    Hi Peter,

    Two of my siblings are very strong atheists, but very good people. In fact, I would say that my brother is one of the best people I have ever known. However, he doesn’t mind a good laugh at religious people, now and then. I think I’ll have to return the favor.

  6. TFBW says:

    Has anyone ever tried to understand the reasoning of a typical Atheist?

    Yes, I have tilted at that windmill at great length. Here’s a thesis-length example in the public record from about a year ago. So many words; so little progress. I still try here, but the atheists rarely engage for long, if at all. It’s mostly just pot-shots at theism.

    This behaviour is what economists call Rational Utility Maximization.

    The unwashed masses refer to it as “milking it for all it’s worth”.

    I can see how celebrities lose touch with reality, given the perspective offered by those numbers. Imagine the effect of being surrounded by admirers and like-minded individuals who shower you in gifts and tell you how wonderful and wise you are, and shout down those who disagree with you. Under those conditions, I doubt it matters whether you’re a rock-star anti-theist or a hallelujah-amen mega-pastor: there’s nobody left (that you’ll listen to) who’ll tell you when you’re running off the rails.

  7. Michael says:

    I can see how celebrities lose touch with reality, given the perspective offered by those numbers. Imagine the effect of being surrounded by admirers and like-minded individuals who shower you in gifts and tell you how wonderful and wise you are, and shout down those who disagree with you. Under those conditions, I doubt it matters whether you’re a rock-star anti-theist or a hallelujah-amen mega-pastor: there’s nobody left (that you’ll listen to) who’ll tell you when you’re running off the rails.

    That’s why it is so fun to watch Dawkins – he embraces all that worship and is the type of person who can’t admit being wrong. Since he can’t stop himself from putting his foot in his mouth, and his fans would never admit his foot was in his mouth, he often puts his foot in his mouth for all the world to see and then insists the world is wrong in thinking his foot is in his mouth. It’s quite the show.

  8. Crude says:

    Has anyone here ever spoken with an Atheist (as opposed to ranted at or about)? Has anyone ever tried to understand the reasoning of a typical Atheist? My guess would be no “on” both counts.

    I’ve talked with plenty. Some are thoughtful and relaxing, though I disagree with them. Some are embarrassed by Dawkins. A very sizable proportion of the outspoken ones are ignorant rubes. That’s just my experience, and it’s not an exhaustive list.

    Are you under the false impression that the only people who can have a dismissive view of the Cult of Gnu are people who haven’t interacted with them at length, trying to be sincere and understanding? Are you open to the possibility that someone can come to a low opinion of them -because- of such interactions?

  9. GM says:

    Peter,
    I think there’s a danger and distraction in saying “typical fill-in-the-blank.” I know hundreds of Christians and I don’t necessarily know how to typify them for the purpose of conversation, because the immediate local communities they belong to vary greatly in the kind of behavior and attitudes that they engender. Also, individuals are just different enough sometimes that averages don’t really work or matter. I couldn’t appeal to you to engage with MY idea of what the typical Christian has been in my experience, because I have no idea what your experience has been, and your experience is legitimate. If it’s been bad, generally speaking, I would have nothing to say to alter your experience. I would have to take your complaints seriously, especially if they were examples of failures to live up to the Christian ideal. All I could say is “they aren’t all like that.” which is more often than not, cold comfort.

    The examination, from inside and outside of the church, of highly visible Christian “leaders” who are self parodies of that Christian ideal (Dobson, Comfort, et al) has been a very important process for the church as a corrective mechanism for many other pastors and congregations in so far as what not to do. That examination has also provided fascinating and important lessons in how an embattled community that surrounds those leaders becomes entrenched in vitriol and paranoia.

    The thing with the NA movement is that the exact same thing can be said. My personal experience with atheists has varied greatly. Some have been very good friends of mine who accept my beliefs as part of who I am and we know how to disagree and even find our friendships stronger IN our disagreements. We have the safety in respect and mutual admiration that we can argue without fear and without resorting to personal attacks. There are also atheists that I know who love a good pot-shot and their opinions of me and how they behaved towards me changed for the worse once they found out that I’m a Christian, and have delved into public cruelty. Who should I consider typical? Against what standard should I measure either case? Yours? PZ Myers’? Grayling’s? Nagel’s? Zizek’s? All I can do is hope for the best out of anyone and not let the rabble rob the individual’s chance of being a good person. But that doesn’t diminish the urgency of the lunatic vitriol of a substantial group of people.

    There’s definitely a time and place to put any and all ideas on trial, and I appreciate that necessity. The NA community, however, is at LEAST worth close, continued examination even entirely apart from any ties to “atheism-in-general,” whatever that means. It’s a look at how a 21st Century “community” forms and maintains itself, on the internet and off, around a handful of key personalities and literature. Whenever that happens, it’s worth watching. What makes the NA community so uniquely fascinating is the way full license for anti-social behavior has been encouraged from the top down, coupled with really not much to say. As much time as they spend defending their brand of atheism, they seem to spend equal time justifying behavior that would be rightly excoriated in primary school. Any time you have a community that insulates itself with righteous indignation and hate with really nothing else to do with itself, it’s worth watching how it unfolds, while adding necessary commentary.

  10. Dhay says:

    I see that the Dawkins Circle(s) is plainly modelled on one of the British Conservative Party’s methods of fund-raising (see http://www.conservatives.com/donate/donor_clubs.aspx). The Tories have seven circles, ranging from the £600 per annum “Party Patron” level which appears to be targeted at mere idealists, up to “The Leader’s Group”, which for £50,000 per annum will guarantee those who are greedy and manipulative access and influence at the very top levels.

    (It’s easy to see why people should want to donate money to a political party — I use the Tories merely as an example of them all — ‘one man, one vote’ is the ideal, but ‘one large donor, one policy swerve’ seems to be the practice; except at the very bottom level, naked self-interest is the most plausible reason for donating.

    So what can Dawkins’ prospective large donors get for their up to $500,000 per annum? On the face of it, food and company, mostly. But I see that one of the circles is named the “Fifth Horseman Circle”, presumably aimed at those who want to imagine themselves as a “Horseman” without first enduring the boredom of writing a book.

  11. Bilbo says:

    Victor Reppert is having fun with this , also, here:

    I heard that Richard Dawkins had a vision of a 90-foot Charles Darwin, who told him that evolution would take him home if he didn’t raise 10 million dollars next year.

  12. Kevin says:

    Yes, Peter, I have interacted with dozens, if not scores or hundreds, of atheists in the past decade. I could possibly count the number of reasonable anti-theists I’ve encountered on two hands, though I doubt the second hand would be required.

    You see, the difference between an atheist and a so-called New Atheist is that an atheist does not believe there is a god. A New Atheist actively believes there is no god, despite what they say when you try to pin them on that certainty. New Atheists could more accurately be called anti-theists instead of just atheists. There is nothing thoughtful about their positions. There is nothing reasonable about their overall goals and worldview. Both their atheism and their vocal opposition to religion are driven exclusively by hyper-emotional rationalizations that overlook anything good about religion and paint the entirety of “Religion” – whatever that is – as evil, ignorant, misguided, delusional, anti-science, anti-reality, anti-human, backward, and whatever else you can think of.

    And that is why those of us who post regularly on this and other blogs have such a low opinion of the New Atheist movement. It’s not because they are atheists, it’s because they are irrational, anti-religious bigots. And how do irrational, anti-religious bigots manage to foster positive feedback? They don’t.

  13. Peter Olsen says:

    Thank you for all your comments. I appreciate your pointer to Dawkin’s “Reason Circle.” I haven’t joined it yet because it’s not yet clear to me that his beliefs, or lack of them, comport with mine. I really haven’t given Richard Dawkins any attention, save in his work in evolutionary biology in which he appears to be a towering expert. The tiny snippets I’ve seen portray him as a little more strident that I prefer.

    I can say that Dawkins is at a grave disadvantage in comparison to Word of Faith mega-preachers when it comes to raising funds. He can’t promise miracle cures and he can’t say that God has anointed him with the power to bring prosperity to those who give. Nor can he plan to live in a $20 million tax-free parsonage. Nor can he invoke the Rapture as a reason to give quickly to insure a place in the Rapture. (Exactly what kind of a place and when depends on whether you are a pre- or post-millenialist.)

    I don’t recall saying that I’m an Atheist. One of the interesting things about participating in this type of discussion is how rapidly one can be classified as a member of the opposition and how little evidence is required.

  14. Crude says:

    I really haven’t given Richard Dawkins any attention, save in his work in evolutionary biology in which he appears to be a towering expert.

    Can you tell us the last time the towering expert was active in the field? According to EO Wilson, Dawkins isn’t even a scientist anymore – he’s a popular writer, who left behind evolutionary biology a while ago.

    I can say that Dawkins is at a grave disadvantage in comparison to Word of Faith mega-preachers when it comes to raising funds. He can’t promise miracle cures and he can’t say that God has anointed him with the power to bring prosperity to those who give.

    He can promise that he’s acting as a bulwark to stop the spread of theocracy, which is – even as we speak – an imminent threat in America. Or to keep the world from being blown up – another imminent threat – by crazy religious people. He can promise quite a lot, as a matter of fact.

    Now, *delivering* is another issue. But Bakker didn’t need to deliver either.

    I don’t recall saying that I’m an Atheist.

    Can you tell us, then, whether or not you’re an atheist?

  15. Crude says:

    By the by,

    One of the interesting things about participating in this type of discussion is how rapidly one can be classified as a member of the opposition and how little evidence is required.

    You know what’s also interesting? The fact that you say that, after walking into this thread saying this:

    Has anyone here ever spoken with an Atheist (as opposed to ranted at or about)? Has anyone ever tried to understand the reasoning of a typical Atheist? My guess would be no “on” both counts.

    …About which you were completely wrong. And it was a conclusion for which you apparently required very little evidence.

    I suppose that’s interesting too.

  16. Dhay says:

    Interesting: the Richard Dawkins Foundation has responded to the criticism and ridicule by reducing the number of circles from six to three — my favourite “Fifth Horseman” circle has disappeared — and the maximum annual donation now being solicited is down from $500,000 to a paltry $9,999.

    The rewards are down, too, for if I add up all the “All the benefits listed above, plus:“, the maximum benefit used to “plus” to: a discount on merchandising, plus an opportunity to go (ticketless) to an event with at least one RDFRS celebrity present, plus six opportunities to go (tickets provided) to events where Richard Dawkins himself is present, plus one-and-a-half reserved tables (15 places) at formal meals at (possibly, possibly not) two additional events where Dawkins is present — and I seem to remember breakfast with RD and his Director at an event was in there as well; is that seven events, nine events, or ten? Now the maximum is: a discount on merchandising, plus an opportunity to go (ticketless) to an event with at least one RDFRS celebrity present, plus three opportunities to go (tickets provided) to events where Richard Dawkins himself is present.

    Having signed up to your annual donation, what will your money be spent on? I found this report on the 2010 Richard Dawkins Foundation returns: https://docs.google.com/document/d/12WNaq29-iEAATE6RhhD91MRo6qFZIofxPxb6ulbYiJg/edit. It is obviously not up to date, but will give an idea of how monies received have been spent in the recent past.

    A lot seems to have gone to fund disaster relief charities (does this promote reason and science in any way?); a lot seems to have gone on “operating costs” — presumably those many events and formal meals, plus the inevitable administration, staff salaries, and speaker fees to such as, er, Richard Dawkins; very little seems to have gone to organisations involved in advancing reason and science, which seems to have been a small part of the work of the RDFRS — as the writer of the linked document complains.

    Of course, the RDF has plans to promote reason and science — they say; but the promised RDFRS initiatives for the year up to the 2010 returns seem to have come to very little — as the writer of the linked document complains.

    The old website was entitled, “The Richard Dawkins Foundation For Reason and Science”; I notice that the new website is entitled, “The Richard Dawkins Foundation”; so is the promotion of reason and science now being downplayed in the stated aims to match its de facto practical downplaying.

  17. Michael says:

    I really haven’t given Richard Dawkins any attention, save in his work in evolutionary biology in which he appears to be a towering expert. The tiny snippets I’ve seen portray him as a little more strident that I prefer.

    Dawkins was never a “towering expert” in evolutionary biology. You are confusing fame with expertise. Dawkins, who never did much evolutionary research, is famous for writing popular science books which came up with clever and catchy metaphors for evolution. For example, he popularized the gene-centered view of evolution (an idea he did not himself come up with) with the phrase “selfish gene” (the title of his most popular pop science book). That was his greatest contribution.

  18. Reflecting your own flaws upon your opponent is one of the simplest and easiest ways get at them without even bothering to know anything about them. For a theist to understand, and truly understand why is an atheist an atheist is a very difficult task to achieve, since the very nature of theism is to isolate the believer in a safe bubble from uncomfortable and new ideas. Needless to say, the Catholic church is the single biggest property owner in north America, yes, that is the continent. So no wonder you would like to project that flaw upon your adversaries. And if you happen to be Evangelical and trying to use that as a sly dodge, yes, evangelical mega churches are a close second in wealth accumulation and retention.

  19. Crude says:

    For a theist to understand, and truly understand why is an atheist an atheist is a very difficult task to achieve, since the very nature of theism is to isolate the believer in a safe bubble from uncomfortable and new ideas.

    Spoken like someone who does not understand theists, theism – or for that matter, a good share of atheists and atheism.

    Doubly amusing, since the comparison to Dawkins was made with theists, in this own thread – by theists. It’s the (Cult of Gnu brand) atheists who are displaying a near complete inability to acknowledge the embarrassment of their beloved leader. Even more funny since said leader seems to have been shamed into backing off on this point.

    You’re welcome, by the by.

  20. Billy Squibs says:

    You have to demonstrate that “very nature of theism is to isolate the believer in a safe bubble from uncomfortable and new ideas”, _7654_ (@_7654_). It might play well to the atheist crowd but the uncomfortable truth is that saying it don’t make it so.

    Anyway, what have any of your red herrings and irrelevancies got to do with the sustained attempts by Richard Dawkins to launch the Atheist Bus off the cliff?

    Stay on topic man.

  21. Billy Squibs says:

    “That was his greatest contribution.”

    I disagree. This is his greatest contribution – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tIwYNioDL8.

    I await the difficult second album.

  22. Kevin says:

    I’ve noted this trend with New Atheists. 7654, if we take him/her at their word, apparently cannot comprehend the reality that not only are theists not these little pansies that can’t handle any criticism, but that it is possible to confront atheists’ arguments, consider them, and utterly reject them based on logic and reason.

    New Atheists think so highly of their own powers of reason that they honestly believe the only way their arguments wouldn’t instantly and magically convert someone to atheism is for their arguments to either be avoided or misunderstood. Laughably arrogant and far from the truth.

  23. Peter says:

    I can say that Dawkins is at a grave disadvantage in comparison to Word of Faith mega-preachers when it comes to raising funds. He can’t promise miracle cures and he can’t say that God has anointed him with the power to bring prosperity to those who give.

    You don’t need to invoke God to do that sort of thing. He could claim to have discovered new insights into psychology using his superior powers of reason, which can bring you success in business, better health, the ability to seduce any woman in the room, and so on.

    There’s no “grave disadvantage” preventing Dawkins peddling that kind of stuff if he wanted to. Plenty of others have made money that way.

  24. Dhay says:

    Michael Shermer comes to mind.

    (Don’t Shermer’s books just look dated, following the general adoption of the (Thinking Systems) System 1 / System 2 paradigm shift. If he’s going to continue producing books, he will have to update his understanding and presentation considerably.)

  25. Dhay says:

    I see Shermer is indeed continuing to produce books: http://www.amazon.com/The-Moral-Arc-Science-Humanity/dp/0805096914/ref=pd_sim_b_7?ie=UTF8&refRID=1PBK58415XRFRASD4RBC, due January 2015.

    How odd that the title, “The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom”, should emulate Harris’, “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values”.

  26. Dhay says:

    Peter Olsen > I can say that Dawkins is at a grave disadvantage in comparison to Word of Faith mega-preachers when it comes to raising funds. …. Nor can he plan to live in a $20 million tax-free parsonage.

    Odd that Richard Dawkins should be relatively short of money, for over at FreeThought Blogs I find the claim:

    … (Far be it from the author of The God Delusion, worth $135m according to the Sunday Times, to engineer controversy for profit.) …
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/godlessness/2014/09/20/exposing-adam-lees-lies/

    If the figures are correct, looks like Dawkins can easily afford a home costing $20 million. (And the taxes: I’m not sure how tax works in the US, but in Britain house purchase tax — “stamp duty” — is pretty light, and annual house taxes — the “community charge” — max out very quickly.)

    Getting back to Michael’s blog post about the RDF’s money-raising scheme, I feel sure that if Dawkins cares about the Richard Dawkins Foundation (the “For Reason and Science” has now been abandoned) and the RDF’s projects, he could repeatedly fund them single-handed, a $1 million at a time, with scarcely a dent in his finances. Does he actually care for the RDF? Is he himself prepared to make large donations, say $1 million at a time, to the RDF whose aims and projects he cares so passionately about.

    For such a large donation, he would not just feel good about supporting atheism, the RDF would surely reward him with that ultimate, innermost, ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’ reward, of breakfast with the RDF’s Director.

  27. Dhay says:

    April 2007: “Born into a British colonial family in Kenya, Dawkins is a self-described member of the political Left who lives comfortably in a 3 million-Euro house just off Oxford’s exclusive Norham Gardens.”
    https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/dawkins-delusion-0

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