Atheists Undermine Their Own Talking Point

It’s beginning to look more and more like the attempts to define atheism as a mere lack of belief in God are rooted in sneakiness and intellectual dishonesty.

According to the NYT:

the University of Miami received a donation in late April from a wealthy atheist to endow what it says is the nation’s first academic chair “for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics.”

Religion departments and professors of religious studies are a standard feature at most colleges and universities, many originally founded by ministers and churches. The study of atheism and secularism is only now starting to emerge as an accepted academic field, scholars say, with its own journal, conferences, course offerings and, now, an endowed chair.

Does this mean some university will soon be offering an endowed chair for atoothfairyism?  And maybe another will have one for non-stamp-collectors? When we have “the study of atheism” emerging  “as an accepted academic field, scholars say, with its own journal, conferences, course offerings and, now, an endowed chair,” it’s dishonest to insist that atheism is akin to atoothyfairyism or not collecting stamps.  To study atheism, there must be something more to it than a mere lack of belief in God.

The article also notes:

The university had reason to be cautious, Thomas J. LeBlanc, executive vice president and provost, said in an interview.

“We didn’t want anyone to misunderstand and think that this was to be an advocacy position for someone who is an atheist,” he said. “Our religion department isn’t taking an advocacy position when it teaches about Catholicism or Islam. Similarly, we’re not taking an advocacy position when we teach about atheism or secular ethics.”

Yet Peter Boghossian appears to get away with advocacy in his class.   Question him about it and he’ll send you to the “kid’s table.”   Isn’t Atheist Privilege grand?

Pitzer College, a liberal arts school in Southern California with about 1,000 students, became the first to begin a program and major in secular studies five years ago. Phil Zuckerman, a sociologist of religion who founded the program, said it now offered four courses on secularism of its own and many others by the six professors associated with the department. Only two students have chosen to major in secular studies, he said, but the courses are popular.

Secular studies?  What in the world is that?  When I went to college, you could have classified every course I took as “secular studies.”  Seriously, what distinguishes a “secular studies” course from any other course at a typical university?

“There is a real need for secular studies,” Mr. Zuckerman said. “As rates of irreligion continue to rise, not only here in the U.S.A. but all over the world, we need to understand secular people, secular culture, and secularism as a political and ideological force.”

Understand “secular people?”  What does that mean?  Are we talking about something like this?

 

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4 Responses to Atheists Undermine Their Own Talking Point

  1. TFBW says:

    And maybe another will have one for non-stamp-collectors?

    We prefer the term “aphilatelist”. As a long-standing aphilatelist myself, let me be the first to say that whatever universities decide to teach and/or research in terms of philately and aphilately, I pretty much don’t give a damn, but I’d suspect that there were some tomfoolery going on if anyone announced the creation of an academic chair for the study of aphilately, non-postmanism, and stampless ethics.

    Secular studies? What in the world is that?

    A euphemism for the study of anti-religious activism. And by anti-religious, I mean anti-theistic.

    Yeah, it was a rhetorical question. Consider that a rhetorical answer.

  2. Allallt says:

    “atheism, humanism and secular ethics.”

  3. FZM says:

    Michael,

    It’s beginning to look more and more like the attempts to define atheism as a mere lack of belief in God are rooted in sneakiness and intellectual dishonesty.

    Considering the idea of ‘atheism as a lack (or absence) of belief at the moment I think it plays out something like as follows:

    It can include:

    a) Non-rational forms of atheism; the atheism of inanimate objects, animals and so on incapable of forming and holding human beliefs.

    b) Atheism among humans which can be infered because the humans in question don’t or can’t articulate their belief in something that can be recognised as a ‘deity’; for example, the ‘atheism’ of babies without language or with limited language and cognitive capabilities.

    c) Atheism which is based on the rejection of theistic claims by sentient adults. Rejection might be grounded in beliefs that claims about the existence and nature of deities are false or improbable, or other reasons that aren’t about the truth of claims about deities but which arise from the belief that such claims are meaningless, otiose etc.

    I think the ‘atheism’ of a) and b) types is usually fairly irrelevant to the kind of debates about theism that go on between sentient adults. In some respects c) type may also be irrelevant, depending, for example, on that attitude of the atheist to beliefs that they find false or improbable, arguments that render theistic claims meaningless but which in the process also make many arguments against theistic claims, and alternatives to theistic claims, meaningless as well etc.

    So from what I can see there is scope, given its involved nature, to use this type of definition for intellectually dishonest or sneaky reasons. But I suspect, because of its involved nature and possible ramifications it also has the potential to give rise to confusion and lack of clarity even in the minds of those putting it forward.

  4. FZM says:

    I’d suspect that there were some tomfoolery going on if anyone announced the creation of an academic chair for the study of aphilately, non-postmanism, and stampless ethics.

    Then there seems to be this approach, that just a ‘lack of belief’ or the absence of something can’t be important and doesn’t require any justification (atheism is just like ‘not collecting stamps’ and non-postmanism analogy) to add to the mix.

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