Another New Atheist Attacks Monogamy

I had some fun mocking Dawkins’ logically inconsistent/incoherent defense of adultery in the last post (something I originally posted here about 3 years ago), but there is a dark side to his “argument.” Reconsider one of his claims:

Just as we rise above nature when we spend time writing a book or a symphony rather than devoting our time to sowing our selfish genes and fighting our rivals, so mightn’t we rise above nature when tempted by the vice of sexual jealousy?

The vice of sexual jealousy? Note the game Dawkins is playing. If he was to cheat on his wife, he would not be the one engaged in vice. Oh, no, his wife would be guilty of vice if she became upset about it. According to Dawkins’ Gnu sense of morality, the cheater is the victim and the victim of adultery is the villian. Dawkins, as an atheist, is attacking the whole concept of monogamous fidelity.

Yet, as it turns out, Dawkins is not the only New Atheist to have such views.

Back in February, Gnu atheist Richard Carrier, whose “avid readers span the world from Hong Kong to Poland,” made the following announcement on his blog:

After twenty years of marriage Jen and I have decided to get a divorce…..Several years ago, after about seventeen years of marriage, I had a few brief affairs, because I found myself unequipped to handle certain unusual circumstances in our marriage, which I won’t discuss here because they intrude on my wife’s privacy. In the process of that I also came to realize I can’t do monogamy and be happy.

Carrier proudly announces he is “polyamorous”:

I have, and will continue to have, multiple girlfriends who are likewise poly or aware of my being so, and that will be the way of my life from now on. And I am going to strive from here on out to live that way as ethically and honestly as I should, working to grow and improve as a human being.

And then claims to have discovered his “sexual orientation” (although being in his mid-40s, I think this “sexual orientation” is more commonly called the “mid-life crisis”).

Carrier not only rationalizes his adultry, but proceeds to behave (surprise!) as if he is the victim of “culture.”

So what I said before remains the case: I have a great deal more sympathy for people who cheat on their spouses than our culture would expect me to, and not merely because I’ve been there, but the more so because I’ve been intimately familiar with many other people who have as well. I am starting to think expecting monogamy is the actual problem, just as expecting people to be straight has been.

What’s interesting is how Carrier tries to make his obsession with sex and pleasure sound like it is the conclusion of some objective, analytical inquiry (although I am somewhat surprised Bayes Theorem wasn’t mentioned in his analysis). One has to wonder if Carrier engages in such ad hoc rationalization when it comes to other areas (such as, say…..mytherism?) And notice that while both Dawkins and Carrier rationalize adultery by posturing as victims, they cite different causes – Dawkins blames evolution and Carrier blames “our culture.” Interesing how the scapegoat, I mean, cause just happens to line up with each man’s area of interest. So which is it? My guess is as more and more New Atheists become addicted to their brain’s pleasure center, culture will be blamed, because this better fits the narrative of their activism. I predict one day we shall begin to hear that societal expectations of monogamous fidelity are actually expressions of bigotry and discrimination derived from eeevil Christianity.

In fact, in another one of his word blizzards, Carrier already does seem to blame Christianity for his wasted years of monogamous misery. In responding to one of his critics, Carrier claims:

Of course, Shermertron doesn’t even consider the possibility that sometimes maybe this feared breaking up of families should happen. If his wife wants to have sex with other men so much that she would actually cheat on him with me, and he doesn’t like that, then maybe they shouldn’t be married. And maybe trying to manipulate her environment (by keeping us from ever meeting or being away from his monitoring eye) in order to keep her chaste, is sexist and controlling. But thinking that would just get you to the even scarier prospect of realizing that maybe our current model of monogamy is a Christian, fear-based, moralistic invention that reduces women to sexual and reproductive property and denies they even have desires much less the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Give it some time, but how long will it take for New Atheism to become incompatible with monogamous fidelity?

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13 Responses to Another New Atheist Attacks Monogamy

  1. advancedatheist says:

    Richard Carrier probably has had the ability to run several sexual relationships concurrently all along, regardless of what he believes about god. His polyamory has nothing to do with his atheism, in other words. As I keep posting on Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog, christians and atheists have implicitly shared the assumption that abandoning belief in god somehow opens up a whole world of sexual fulfillment.

    Well, believe me, it doesn’t. A sexually unattractive christian guy who becomes an atheist will discover pretty quickly that his apostasy doesn’t improve his sexual market value. Just look at all the neckbeards who call themselves atheists these days. I bet most of them have had little to no sexual experience, despite their commitment to sexual freedom as a consequence of atheism.

    We can even see this in the family of America’s most famous atheist in the latter 20th Century, Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Madalyn in her Playboy interview back in the 1960’s says that she thought girls should have the freedom to have sexual relationships as early as 13, and boys at 15.

    Wow, what a cool, sex-positive mom, you might say. But then look at what happened to her younger son, the atheist Jon Garth Murray. Jon never moved away from home and reportedly never had a girlfriend. He probably died a 40 year old virgin at the time of his murder in 1995. Despite Madalyn’s explicit ideology, one of her own sons apparently had to live like a sexually abstinent christian.

    What a letdown. But I suspect Jon has plenty of company in the 21st Century. If we had a survey, I predict that it would discover that quite a few of today’s male atheists have not had much better luck than Jon’s at living out the atheist dream of sexual fulfillment, for the same reasons that many men in general have had this problem. Refer to the well-known blogs by PUA’s like Roosh and Heartiste to see why.

    If anything, the secularization of sexual relationships has made rejections more psychologically damaging to men. In the Before-Times, when everyone shared similar religious beliefs and they took them more seriously, girls could reject the advances of sexually yucky guys by invoking a higher authority: God forbids fornication. The young men shared this belief, and because it deflected attention away from the real reason for the rejection, it had the effect of sparing the men’s feelings.

    Now, in our “Jesus who?” age, girls feel free to come closer to stating the real reason: You don’t make me wet, so go away and leave me alone. The unbangable young man in a secular society who gets scores of these kinds of rejections must wind up feeling a lot worse about himself than the one in a religious society where the girls use the religion excuse for rejection. At least in the latter he can maintain the illusion that god still values him, even if the girls he knows don’t.

  2. And then claims to have discovered his “sexual orientation” (although being in his mid-40s, I think this “sexual orientation” is more commonly called the “mid-life crisis”).

    So wanting to have sex with multiple women is an “orientation” now? Awesome, where do I apply for my Sexual Minority Victimhood Card?

    But thinking that would just get you to the even scarier prospect of realizing that maybe our current model of monogamy is a Christian, fear-based, moralistic invention that reduces women to sexual and reproductive property and denies they even have desires much less the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

    The irony being, of course, that it actually tends to be polygamous societies which view women as more-or-less interchangeable “sexual and reproductive property”. Monogamous societies tend to be notably better for members of the female sex.

  3. mechanar says:

    so we have

    1) Its okay to feel superior to other humans that are not like you

    2) Extreme violence could be a legit form to fight those People

    3) Drugs for everyone hurray!!

    4) My wife is to blame when I cheat on her

    next stop! Why is stealing wrong? I mean I want it way more than the other guy!

  4. UpstateIslandersFan says:

    Putting aside the questions of whether or not wanting to have open relationships is indeed a sexual orientation, I think the most telling thing about this man’s narcissistic announcement was the way in which he chucked his ex-wife under the bus by implying that there was some feature of their marriage that was beyond his ability to handle, but that he couldn’t discuss it because it would infringe on her privacy. That is absolutely pathetic and to me the behavior of someone who must rationalize bad behavior in order to give the appearance of being right.

  5. That is absolutely pathetic and to me the behavior of someone who must rationalize bad behavior in order to give the appearance of being right.

    “Hypocrisy is the unwitting tribute that virtue pays to vice,” as someone or other once said.

  6. Michael says:

    If anyone is interested in seeing another atheist take Richard Carrier apart, check out this blog entry:

    https://theyetisroar.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/dr-richard-carrier-phd-a-creepy-dishonest-hypocrite/

  7. Dhay says:

    Quoted and linked to from The Yeti’s Roar blog, well worth reading through, which you linked to above, are Richard Carrier’s own words:

    We must integrate this ideal of personal integrity into our very self-identity. Those who don’t, those who aren’t shamed by being exposed as liars or hypocrits, those who persist in being dishonest or inconsistent even when their dishonesty or inconsistency has been soundly proven, is not one of us, and is to be marginalized and disowned, as not part of our movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.

    I’d say the TYR blog well demonstrates that at the time of writing that, Carrier was himself a liar and hypocrite, and that he is persisting “in being dishonest or inconsistent even when [his] dishonesty or inconsistency has been soundly proven”; hence that Carrier should fall under his own condemnation and proposed sanctions for someone who does not meet Carrier’s stated standard: he “is not one of us and is to be marginalized and disowned, as not part of our [New Atheism +], movement, and not anyone we any longer wish to deal with.”

    While we’re discovering New Atheist hypocrisy and marital infidelities, here’s Carrier’s scathing (and hypocritical) judgement on Michael Shermer:

    Shermer pursues sex with women a lot, both one-night stands and ongoing affairs, and he has often enough done so without telling his wife or his various girlfriends.
    https://web.archive.org/web/20131028072623/http:/freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4419

    I’d say that the TYR blog misses something: although TYR says, “He cheats on her, waits until he is making enough money where he no longer needs her income, and kicks her to the curb.”, it looks like he “kicked [his wife] to the curb” round about when she chose to return to education and her income reduced.

  8. Chuck says:

    Anyone else notice Carrier bragging about being invited to orgies at atheist conventions?

  9. stcordova says:

    I’ve seen polyamorous lifestyles become increasingly popular in the last 10 years in the secular circles I’m a part of. I hang out with free thinkers, and in 2014, I was shocked how many of the young kids considered themselves polyamorous. Prior to that, I didn’t even know what the term meant!

    Sal

  10. UpstateIslandersFan says:

    Gosh, I can’t believe I’m wasting the time looking in on this conversation, because whether or not his marital infidelities have anything to do with his world views, this guy seems so self-satisfied with himself and sel-insulated from any critique. He actually seems quite stupid. Just don’t say anything. He’s hardly the first person who has cheated on his wife and yet his self-serving and self-aggrandizing manner makes his failed mea culpa worse than many others which have been made. But, I suppose you guys who believe in God don’t get it. You simply don’t understand how people who are sure they are only comprised of matter in a puposeless universe can embrace a worldview in which there is sense and goodness, and because you aren’t sophisticated enough to understand how people who believe in science know they can make moral claims with science… This is hardly a person worth focusing on. I think I remember him saying nobody should take serious a Catholic, ever. I believe its statements like that which invalidate a person as worth engaging. I am sure they weren’t perfect, but the Carmelite sisters who looked after my Protestant grandfather for a decade, who were there when he was in his last days and attended his memorial service, were far more enlightened and emotionally intelligent than Richard Carrier. I’d wager they were more sensible and good in the full scope of their work than this man, and certainly far smarter. I feel like as the world becomes more fixated on materialism it becomes more cruel and uncaring and so delusional as not to understand that its claims to moral truth are more specious, less honest. At least a straight forward nihilist has the sense and goodness to tell someone who believes in a God and a concept of moral truth that his own moral claims are more or less self serving. Sanctimony is easy to fall into. Sometimes we’re deep in it without knowing it. It’s those moments when we smell its fetidness exuding from us in which we are truly humbled. If tgere is such a thing as objective sense and goodness, Richard Carrier and his sophistry is certainly not where its found.

  11. Dhay says:

    UpstateIslandersFan > … you aren’t sophisticated enough to understand how people who believe in science know they can make moral claims with science.

    The main protagonist of the idea that “people who believe in science … can make moral claims with science” is Sam Harris — I’m afraid I have no knowledge of whether Richard Carrier also does so, but it’s not what Carrier is famous for — especially via his book, “The Moral Landscape”.

    While I consider Harris to be the master of persuasion by misdirection, rather than having the honesty he misdirects the unwary into thinking he has, I expect Harris to be the solid family man he seems to be. And I note that rather than taking every opportunity to get laid, his speaking fees — exorbitant! — seem designed to avoid his often attending conferences or speaking engagements.

    Dawkins, Carrier, Shermer, but probably not Harris.

    @UpstateIslandersFan : I appreciate your sideways-on views.

  12. UpstateIslandersFan says:

    @Dhay, I realize your point. I think I’m conflating the ideas of two philosophers (I think they’d call themselves that?) who I don’t particularly care for all that much.

  13. stcordova says:

    I liked AdvancedAtheists insights. On a slightly related note, I have to criticize this claim by Carrier:

    “monogamy is a Christian, fear-based, moralistic invention ”

    No. Guys hating adultery, even guys that have harems and don’t want their wives being polyamorus, are seen not just in human affairs but in the animal kingdom. Guys being jealous was never just a moralistic intervention, it’s written in our genes.

    For girls it’s a bit more complex. They find married men attractive. We see this also in the animal kingdom. But females won’t always like their mates spreading their resources to support other females and their offspring. Occasionally some females in the animal kingdom are OK with harems. Human females have had mixed feelings about it. There was a time in Japanese culture where men could acceptably love someone other than their wife.

    Carrier is just making a smear of Christians.

    I suspect there atheist guys who’d feel betrayed if the girl he truly loved spread herself around. I suspect atheist women who depended on a guy for some level of support and comfort would not feel as secure once the guy is constantly being pleasured and fulfilled by someone else.

    Carrier is just trying to pin this all on theism. That’s just a smear, imho.

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