The ultimate dumb atheist-bashing article

As you know if you’ve followed this site for the past two months or so, the media have taken it upon themselves to declare the end of the Era of New Atheism. The time of the Four Horseman is gone, they say. Dawkins is now irrelevant, and New Atheism is giving sway to a kinder, gentler movement that is not only less “strident,” but more friendly to religion.

I see no reason for this declaration save the desire of journalists to create a controversy where none exists, and their sneaking suspicion, based on living in religious countries, that there must be something good about faith.

If you want to see this “trend creation” in its full flower and ugliness, have a look at the new article by Theo Hobson in The Spectator:Richard Dawkins has lost: meet the new atheists” (subtitle: “Secular humanism is recovering from its Dawkinsite phase – and beginning a more interesting conversation”).

From the very first paragraph, you see that it’s a put-up job:

The atheist spring that began just over a decade ago is over, thank God. Richard Dawkins is now seen by many, even many non-believers, as a joke figure, shaking his fist at sky fairies. He’s the Mary Whitehouse of our day.

Dawkins is no more a joke than he’s always been to the offended faithful and accommodationists; he continues to draw huge crowds and The God Delusion still sells like hotcakes. What we’re seeing now is a pushback from journalists and faitheists who, dismayed at the success of New Atheism, have decided to declare it dead. But it won’t lie down.

Hobson goes on to argue that it’s ludicrous for New Atheists to heap such scorn on the kindly country vicar, a man just trying to do good and shepherd his flock. But maligning such vicars was never the object of New Atheism. Its intent was twofold: 1) to point out that the fact claims of faith are ludicrous and largely refuted (that is, God is an empirical hypothesis that’s been pretty much refuted), and  2) that much evil is done in the name of religion, and we’d be better off without any religion at all. Imagine no religion; we’d be like Denmark instead of Mississippi or Saudia Arabia. There are far worse fates.

The Spectator then names and anoints the leaders of the “new new atheism”, all of whom, it claims, share the view that religion is largely beneficial and has much to teach us.  To that I say “bollocks.” Yes, perhaps the new new atheists say that, but they’re wrong. All the beneficial teachings of faith are inherent in humanism, and on display in secular countries like Sweden and Denmark. Here are what the Spectator sees as the new role models for atheists (Spectator quotes are indented).

Julian Baggini

A good example is the pop-philosopher Julian Baggini. He is a stalwart atheist who likes a bit of a scrap with believers, but he’s also able to admit that religion has its virtues, that humanism needs to learn from it. . .  he has observed that a sense of gratitude is problematically lacking in secular culture, and suggested that humanists should consider ritual practices such as fasting.

First of all, Baggini is not a “pop philosopher”; he’s far more serious than that, I think. But neither is he an atheist leader. He sometimes has good things to say, but lately has been less positive about religion, and at any rate doesn’t have either the gravitas or literary skills to replace any of the Horsemen or the new Horsewoman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (an undeservedly neglected New Atheist).

And really, Julian—fasting??? Did you really say this? Sorry, but I like my noms too much. I don’t see the value of fasting, nor do I see atheists fasting all over the world because of Bagginis’s suggestion. That’s a non-starter.

Alain de Botton

This is also the approach of the pop-philosopher king, Alain de Botton. His recent book Religion for Atheists rejects the ‘boring’ question of religion’s truth or falsity, and calls for ‘a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts’. If you can take his faux-earnest prose style, he has some interesting insights into religion’s basis in community, practice, habit.

Seriously? “Pop-philosopher king”? Pop philosopher he may be, but de Botton is no king, rather a genuine figure of fun to serious nonbelievers.  His call for atheist churches, services, and didactic artwork has been met with no practical response. Dear Spectator, Get serious. Yours, Jerry Coyne.

Zoe Williams and Tanya Gold

When Zoe Williams attacks religious sexism or homophobia she resists the temptation to widen the attack and imply that all believers are dunces or traitors. Likewise Tanya Gold recently ridiculed the idea of religion as a force for evil. ‘The idea of my late church-going mother-in-law beating homosexuals or instituting a pogrom is obviously ridiculous, although she did help with jumble sales and occasionally church flowers.’

I may not be paying attention, but I’ve heard of neither of these people. Are they seriously poised to replace Dawkins, Hitchens, or Harris? But again, the Spectator completely mistakes the thrust of New Atheism. Who seriously claimed that liberal religionists wanted to beat homosexuals? What we did suggest is that many Protestants, Catholics, and Muslims, including liberal ones (i.e. Catholics) try to deny gay people their rights.

Andrew Brown and John Gray

A polemical approach to religion has swung out of fashion. In fact, admitting that religion is complicated has become a mark of sophistication. Andrew Brown of the Guardian has played a role in this shift: he’s a theologically literate agnostic who is scornful of crude atheist crusading, and who sometimes ponders his own attraction to religion. On a more academic level, the philosopher John Gray has had an influence: he is sceptical of all relics of Enlightenment optimism, including the atheist’s faith in reason.

Andrew Brown is a clown, and has played absolutely no role in the supposed “shift” in viewpoint. From the very outset, criticism of New Atheism has involved the Courtier’s reply: that religion is more complicated than people like Dawkins make out—that it has its good side and, at any rate, the Sophisticated Theologians™ show that religious belief is nuanced and that God is by no means either personal or intercessory.

I have news for these people; most religionists really do believe in a personal God, and many try to enact their superstitions into public policy. In fact, it’s only insofar that religion is political–that it intrudes into the public sphere or law–that we decry it. If people restricted their faith to their homes or churches, few of us would object.

As for John Gray and his criticism of “faith in reason”, I reject it.  As Anthony Grayling has noted, no society has become dysfunctional because it relied too much on reason; I’ll add that plenty of societies have become dysfunctional because they tried to run themselves based on the tenets of faith. Have a look at the Islamic countries of the Middle East, or Ireland in the last few decades.

Hobson goes on, but I’ll let you deal with his lucubrations on your own. I’ll reproduce just one more paragraph, summing up his beef against New Atheists:

What, if anything, do these newer atheists have to say? In previous generations, the atheist was keen to insist that non-believers can be just as moral as believers. These days, this is more or less taken for granted. What distinguishes the newer atheist is his admission that non-believers can be just as immoral as believers. Rejecting religion is no sure path to virtue; it is more likely to lead to complacent self-regard, or ideological arrogance.

Insofar as atheism is now not seen as an immoral and unidirectonal path to perdition, well, that’s largely due to the New Atheists. The trope that “non-believers can be just as immoral as believers” is a canard, smacking of the accusations that Pol Pot, Hitler, and Stalin did their deeds in the name of atheism.

And, in fact, there is some immorality that is unique to religion, for that immorality derives from and is codified in faith.  Marginalization of women, for example, is endemic in most faiths—certainly in Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism, and Islam. Many Muslims kill and impose fatwas in the name of faith, and prevent women from getting an education. Catholics fight against the use of condoms and HPV vaccines, preferring people to die instead of copulate. Conservatism Protestants, Muslims, and many Catholics discriminate against homosexuals, and in fact being gay is a capital crime in some Islamic nations.

Rejecting religion may not be a sure path to virtue, but, given the above, it certainly helps.  It’s not a tenet of atheism to turn women into chattel, persecute gays, teach creationism in schools, or stick their noses into people’s sex lives. To do those things takes religion.

Complacent self-regard and arrogance, my tuchas. Even if that were true of atheists, isn’t it better than inflicting palpable suffering on much of humanity, or preventing women from achieving their full potential?

The problem with people like Hobson, and his “heroes” of new new atheism, is twofold, mirroring in reverse the accomplishments of New Atheism. First, they fail to admit that the tenets of faith are false: there is no evidence for a god or any knowledge about the nature of said divinity, and so the conclusions about what God wants us to do are simply fabrications. Religious people are living much of their lives based on a lie. What implications does that have? Hobson ignores this important question, one raised by New Atheists alone. And, indeed, many people really do believe simple things; their faiths aren’t “complicated,” and they neither share nor understand the obscurantism of Sophisticated Theology™.

Second, while many liberal religionists aren’t directly inimical to society, many not-so-liberal religionists are.  Should we ignore them or their injurious beliefs? Hobson, for instance, doesn’t deal with the problems of Islam and Catholicism. And those people are enabled by liberal religionists who, while doing no direct harm, nevertheless endorse the very superstitions that give rise to religious harm.

I’m not sure exactly what is motivating this journalistic animus against New Atheism, but I suspect it’s New Atheism’s very success, as well as the fact that many people have a “belief in belief”—a sneaking respect for religion and a condescending idea that although there’s no evidence for God, faith is still something good for society. This was suggested by a friend who wrote me after reading Hobson’s piece:

In just a few years we’ve moved from “I love Richard, but” articles, to “I’m an atheist, but religion is good and people need it” (the stupid people, not me).

253 Comments

  1. Chris
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    Not really on topic, but you mention it:
    I agree that being more like Denmark (where I live) would be good thing for almost any other place, but I have to say this: Denmark has a state religion. And most citizens pay what I recall is 1% tax that goes directly to the church (if you are a member, which most people are). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Denmark
    The Netherlands where I am from, on the other hand, are a secular state, but the influence of religion seems much higher there than in Denmark.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      That’s because we have strong christian parties like CDA, SGP and ChristenUnie, who are able to pursue their pervers agendas though coalition politics as result of our multi-party system.

      • marvol19
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        They are fortunately slowly but surely on the way out.

        The main “problem” in the Netherlands, as I see it, is that there is a lot of “belief in belief”, and non-Christians vote for the Christian parties if they agree with them for non-religious reasons (left-wing social policies combined with right-wing foreign policy, for instance, or support for farming).

    • Jens-Kristian
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      It’s true that Denmark has a state religion to which most contribute. It is however optional to do so. As it is now, it is an opt out system which it would be good to see changed to an opt in system instead.

      I’m from Denmark but now live in Australia and while Australia does not have a state religion, there’s no doubt that here, like in the Netherlands, religion plays a much more invasive part in politics and general social life.

      I think a lot of Danes who have not opted out of the church tax are paying it mostly because they just haven’t gotten around to opting out. Personally, I never got around to it and was a church-tax paying atheist for a good decade before I moved out. A bit silly, I know. Despite most still paying the tax though, I would think church attendance in Denmark is either the lowest in the world or very near to it (although that’s only personal observation).

  2. Jorita
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    Well written. I use the word atheist to refer to myself so that people understan where I stand on religion, it frustrates me that they now make it out to be a religion. The only reason I can think they do this is because of the theist part in Atheist. I am thinking of calling my self a NR short for non religious, as it pisses me of that the religious feel the need to attach religious meaning to everything even Atheism

    • Susan ingram
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      I’ve started to say Non Religious because Atheist is too religious a word for me, and I want to make it clear it’s not just god I don’t believe in but organised religions aswell. Especially the privilege’s that religions seem to enjoy.

      • gbjames
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:59 am | Permalink

        “Atheist is too religious a word”

        You’re making me dizzy.

        • bric
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

          Well it’s definition depends on a religious concept. It’s NO religious concepts we are after.

          • Yiam Cross
            Posted April 21, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

            So let me get this right. A-thiest (without god) is a religious concept but non-religious is not? Even though it uses the word religious? Now I’m dizzy too.

            One point I would make, though, is that many fundamentalist creationist the bible is the infallible breathed word of god types describe themselves as not having a religion. They consider religions to be corrupt and they are too pure so they just believe directly in god without any of the ceremony and other diversions of religion.

            So, you claim to have no religion, are you a hardline fundamentalist christian?

      • TJR
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

        Indeed, I reject all the religions, not just the theistic ones.

      • hanspolak
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

        I say poly-atheist, because it doesn’t attack any personal believes.

        • Yiam Cross
          Posted April 21, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

          Yeah, personal beliefs are okay. So long as you personally believe people of other races are inferior, that’s okay. So long as you personally believe women are second class citizens, that’s okay. Etc.

          Strangely enough, without personal belief in some god or other there’s no religion.

          I’m failing massively to understand why being poly-athiest doesn’t attack any personal belief, apart from the fact that it’s completely meaningless. a-without, thiest-god has not ambiguity about which one, it means all of them.

          Being an atheist, then, simply means to have no belief in god. It does not mean to believe there is no god, it has no direct or implied attack in it. You have simply swallowed the nonsense believers assault non believers with, which is that atheists are actively against god and all their believers.

          • gbjames
            Posted April 21, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

            To be fair, there are many of us who are actively against the belief in gods, though being “against god” makes more sense than being “against Sauron” or “against Hermione Granger”. And one us are “against all believers”, whatever that means.

            Perhaps we should more often use the label “antitheist” for ourselves.

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Trouble is, (and I point this out simply for discussion’s sake) saying that one is “Non Religious” implies a possible deity-centric philosophy which has no dogma constructed by priests. But a deity is nonetheless in the picture. That is the impression I get with Non Religious.

        If I am among atheists, I just say “atheist, with no accommodation with any religious moralities.” If the people in the conversation are unknown to me, or, say, overtly religious, I say, “I am a naturalist, I believe in the natural world. No gods, no dogma, just atoms and real stuff. And my morality stems from the rule to treat all others as you would want them to treat you.”

    • JBlilie
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      I’ve had believers (on dicsussion forums) argue vociferously that atheism is a religion. Of course it’s not. But I think it comes from their inner conviction that religion is universal and ours is just a flavor of it.

      And also from this: The fact that we unashamedly proclaim our disblief strikes them as aggressive and proselytizing. Hence also the nonsense about “angry” and “strident” atheists. The only atheist they would deem not strident is a silent one.

      Atheism is not a religion. Atheism fails to possess the key characteristics of religion:

      1. It is not a system of beliefs. One factor alone determines atheism: lack of belief in any God or gods. Disbelief in any gods doesn’t constitute a religion any more than disbelief in fairies or trolls does. Of course, you may have some very vociferous and outspoken atheists who exhibit the metaphorical sense of religion: “he was religious in his rejection of all things supernatural.” Everyone understands this sense of the word to be a metaphor: derived from the fervor and ritual conformity exhibited by many religious people throughout time for long enough for the characteristic to become recognizable and memorable to all.

      2. Atheism does not include belief in anything supernatural (“beyond nature.”) If a religion does not entail belief in something supernatural, then metaphysically it is simply an acceptance of the natural world as fact. It makes no sense to call such a thing “religion.” It would rob the word of any meaning. We use the word religion to indicate belief in the supernatural: that is its function.

      3. Atheism does not involve worship of any sort. It does not imply any worship.

      4. There are no “priests” or “church” hierarchy in Atheism. There are admired atheists; but their pronouncements are not taken as “holy writ” as in religions. Rather, they are subjected to the same scrutiny and skepticism as anyone else. A casual look at any on-line atheist discussion board immediately shows how quickly prominent atheists attract (often vehement) criticism from their fellows.

      5. There is no training or “confirmation” needed to be an atheist. One doesn’t even need to know they are an atheist: if they simply fail to believe in the supernatural, they are an atheist. No action is required by the atheist.

      6. There are no: creed, catechism, holy books, oaths, or liturgy associated with atheism in any way (A. de Botton take note!). Again, simply failing to believe in any supernatural entities makes one an atheist by default: No action is required.

      7. There are no rituals, rules of conduct, taboos, ceremonies, or any other social hallmarks of atheism, as there are in religions.

      8. Atheism doesn’t splinter into multifarious “sects” of atheism each devoted to their own particular opinion on the correct way to not-believe in the supernatural, each denouncing the others and perhaps even killing each other over fine points of disbelief. (Though of course we do disagree with eachother. Herding cats comes to mind.) No one is starting groups of people who fail to believe in any gods in new and different ways (Re: Mormonism, Scientology, Crystal “power”, etc., etc.)

      Any dispassionate assessment of atheism can only conclude that it is not religion.

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink

        Re your opening remarks:

        The unbelief in unbelief is very common. [Believers’] faith is so deeply engrained in [their] minds that they find it very difficult to grasp an unbeliever’s position.
        — Torcant Torcant, “Sevan Nisanyan gets a lot of death threats”, Butterflies and Wheels

        /@

        PS. Re 8: A+? :-o

        • JBlilie
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

          Ant: On your PS, yeah, I thought about that. But I would say that A+ is a difference in methods, not basic beliefs about the unreality of the supernatural.

          I have only recently become aware of the A+ movement. And I agree with its goals, as far as I can discern them, mainly from reading Richard Carrier’s articles on it, which, it seems to me, are laudable liberal social policies, inclusion, and particular care to look after, encourage, and include those socially disadvantaged by the rest of society: Racial minorities, women, gays, etc.

          I’m not sure this constitutes a “sect” of atheism. It’s a grouping based on social values, not atheist principles. But maybe I’m not up fully on my religious studies! :)

      • Don
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        Small point, but let me suggest that it’s a mistake for us to define atheism as a “lack of belief in gods.” That is the theists’ definition of the word. Many dictionaries offer this definition, I know–but dictionaries are largely written by theists who fail to recognize their implicit bias. The word “lack” carries the connotation of deficiency, the sense that what is lacking is something to be desired. By definition, to lack something is to be in want of whatever one lacks. Atheists are not in want of theistic belief. To hold no belief in gods is not a deficiency.

        The more accurate definition is: “the absence of [belief in] gods.” It’s from the Greek; “a” meaning “not” or “without,” and “theism” meaning [belief in] gods.

        As George Smith has written:

        “Atheism, therefore, is the absence of theistic belief. One who does not believe in the existence of a god or supernatural being is properly designated as an atheist. Atheism is sometimes defined as ‘the belief that there is no God of any kind,’ or the claim that a god cannot exist. While these are categories of atheism, they do not exhaust the meaning of atheism–and are somewhat misleading with respect to the basic nature of atheism. Atheism, in its basic form, is not a belief: it is the absence of belief. An atheist is not primarily a person who believes that a god does not exist, rather he does not believe in the existence of a god.”

        “Atheism: The Case Against God” (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1989)

        • Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

          Concur. There’s no God-shaped hole.

          /@

        • JBlilie
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

          I agree: No God-shaped hole.

          However, I think the one single thing that does unite all atheists (we being incredibly diverse*), is, in fact, a disbelief in the supernatural (gods by whatever name you prefer to put on them).

          Call it a failure to believe, a lack of belief, an active disbelief, a decision to not acknowledge, a freedom from religion of belief, or a 7 on the Dawkins scale. I think these are not important distinctions and we should not be concerned by them.**

          (* There are politically liberal, conservative, and libertarian atheists, for example. You can’t group us by race, social position, politics, nation, food preferences, or taste in movies. We do, however, all not believe in gods. Many atheists I would consider not to be “in my tribe” based on their social or political positions; but we are still fellow atheists.)

          (** Unless they harm us politically; but, as far as I can see, the term atheist itself has such a huge social/political burden of stigma (at least in the US, where I reside) that these others words carry very little weight.)

          • Chris
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

            No, not the supernatural as a whole, just the existence of god(s).

            You can believe in ghosts and still be an atheist.

            • Kevin
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

              How the hell does that work?

            • JBlilie
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

              Chris: I would not agree with that. Ghosts are supernatural and I don’t think an atheist would ever believe in such a thing. Ghosts also entail belief in a soul-thing that is separate from the body, which is also something an atheist would not accept.

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

                I’m afraid that’s not true: Being an atheist doesn’t preclude being stupid believing in the supernatural. Strangely (spookily?!), I’d literally (literally!) just had an About Agnosticism/Atheism email linking to this.

                /@

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

                I’m afraid not all atheists are skeptics/empiricists/naturalists and many believe in all kinds of supernaturalist woo.

                /@

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        The short answer, of course, to “atheism is a religion” is this analogy:

        There are no “sports” with the titles “Not Bowling” or “Not Playing Golf”. The lack of participation does not give you “sports” attributes of the activity you are not-participating in.

        Most of the world would fit in the category “Not a player of Australian-rules Football” yet one does point at someone as possessing all sorts of attributes of a player, though not a player.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          I think one reason some people are pursuaded by the “atheism is a religion” idea is because there really are epistemic limits, and there are limits to how much any human can literally know from first hand experience. Much of the science we know, for example, is based on trusting authoritative sources. So in a limited sense we need a kind of faith, or belief, that the core of the sun is a nuclear fusion reactor converting hydrogen into helium. How many have done the experiments and tests on radiation from the sun, and know the physics needed to reliably make these deductions? Very few. But I believe it is true.

          A lazy minded person can take these facts and end up with the idea that scientific knowledge really is a kind of faith, and then once this enormous cognitive error has been committed its off to the races for all kinds of bad conclusions about atheism.

          The fact is that there is no comparison between faith without evidence, revelation, or relying on religious authorities, and how we gain trust in scientific knowledge.

          The difference is in mountains of evidence, available means of testing the evidence, and authorities who base their knowledge on much more than opinion or gut feelings, and who are constantly monitored and checked by other authorities with real means to verify or falsify any claim of authority. Thus information from scientific authorities is trustworthy because it is based on rigorous standards. Religion has none of this.

          • Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

            I was once accosted by a Jehovah’s Witness, who insisted on reading Bible verses to me from King James with interpretation. These interpretations were at odds with my Lutheran upbringing, so i insisted on readings in context, where it became clear (at least to me) why the Jehovah’s Witness interpretations were in error, and I pointed these issues out. This went on for over an hour, until she got tired of it and wandered off. These days, after a couple obvious errors, I might point out that the source is unreliable, and that perhaps a new source of information is warranted.

            While I can’t possibly repeat experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, the experiments I have done with light, gravity, electricity, kinematics, etc., have all worked for me within experimental error. And it’s not faith that engineers (like myself) have that their machines will work as designed, so much as experience that when the science is sound, the machines work. I have no doubts that the Curiosity rover is on Mars. It may be fantastic, but it’s work I could have done.

            If science wasn’t reliable when it says it’s reliable, then it wouldn’t be valuable, and would enter into historic obscurity quickly. Scientists have every incentive to shout out when something doesn’t add up. That’s what Einstein did. And there are tons of would-be Einsteins working with the LHC. Watergate only had about a hundred people and the conspiracy didn’t work.

            If epistemology means that you can only go as far as “I think, therefore I am”, then knowing anything for certain isn’t valuable enough. The next best thing is whatever works.

  3. David Duncan
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    “…or the new Horsewoman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali…”

    Is this official? I thought the spot hadn’t been filled yet, and that PZ was the stand out candidate.

    • Daniel Engblom
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:52 am | Permalink

      Victor Stenger, Lawrence Krauss also seem like reasonable candidates.

      • Daniel Engblom
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:55 am | Permalink

        Jerry Coyne here as well for that matter…

        • David Duncan
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:44 am | Permalink

          Not Jerry, he isn’t strident enough. Krauss might be a good pick, or Abbie Smith, who would bring gender balance. But PZ wins hands down if stridency is the main criterion.

          • Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

            PZ gets too caught up in politics and trying to turn atheism into a social movement. Jerry Coyne is next up.

            • Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

              “PZ gets too caught up in politics and trying to turn atheism into a social movement.”

              Really?

              /@

            • Don
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

              Or Greta Christina.

              • Marta
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

                +1

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

                If only Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless were as popular as The God Delusion!

                /@

                PS. az.com az.co.uk

            • gbjames
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

              Yeah. It’s bad when people try to help make the world a better place.

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                It’s great, but it’s not atheism.

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

                You think that pointing out that the fact claims of faith are ludicrous and largely refuted and that much evil is done in the name of religion is not trying to help make the world a better place?

                Of course, you can be an atheist and not give a light about mysoginy, homophobia, science-denialism, &c. But gnu atheism has some social corollaries.

                /@

              • gbjames
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

                So, randyextry, what’s the problem? Feel soiled by impure attempts to improve the world being done by people who are atheists?

          • Notagod
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

            Jerry Coyne does a very good job of standing his ground for reason, rationality, and honesty. Stridency is a label foisted on outspoken atheists not something that was chosen as a defining attribute.

            • David Duncan
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

              I was mocking the idea of stridency in atheists. Sorry for not making myself more clear.

              Dawkins and Dennett don’t seem strident at all. I’m not very familiar with Harris so I won’t judge him. Hitch, I think, was fairly strident, but not as strident as PZ. Not sure how PZ missed out. Yes, Jerry can be a bit strident, at times, but seems overall too mild mannered to be a good horseman… :-)

              • Notagod
                Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

                Yeah, I read that the first time you wrote it but, I’m not buying the frame you are selling.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      IIRC, if not for scheduling/logistical difficulties, she would’ve been part of the original “Horsemen” panel.

      It would certainly good to have more prominent atheists who aren’t old white men… but the best candidates either haven’t achieved the same public profile or deny they’re atheists (yes, Neil “The more I learn about the universe, the less convinced I am that there’s any sort of benevolent force that has anything to do with it, at all” deGrasse Tyson, I’m looking at you!).

      Apart from which, there isn’t really a “a spot to be filled”: “4. There are no ‘priests’ or ‘church’ hierarchy in Atheism,” as JBlilie noted above.

      /@

    • Kevin
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      There’s going to be a vote at the next atheist baby roast. White smoke from the baby means the new leader has been chosen. Black smoke means that you’re charring the baby.

      • gbjames
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

        Bwahahahaha

    • Notagod
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      I think the number four is given far too much respect.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 28, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      Susan Jacoby!

  4. Paul
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Typo in the ‘de Botton’ part: kind should be king

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Another item for correction:

      I believe Sam Harris is responsible for the bit about not knowing of any societies that suffered because they became too reasonable. He’s made this quip a inns few different places and formulations, but always addressing the argument that atheism leads to moral bankruptcy and violent totalitarianism.

      Love Grayling, but credit where credit is due.

  5. mrclaw69
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    Andrew Brown, John Gray & Alain de Botton “leaders”?!

    Are you kidding me?!

    Andrew Brown is the worst journalist this side of Richard Littlejohn or Jan Moir.

    de Botton is a joke.

    John Gray needs to think harder…

    They couldn’t lead their collected way out a paper bag!

    Yet another attempt to state that a thriving movement is dead for political reasons. Keep repeating it like a mantra and it’ll come true is the idea. Well, it’s not working.

    Hobson, btw, is a Protestant Theologian who’s long tried to bash the Gnu Atheism. He’s not really to be trusted on matters atheist…

    • mrclaw69
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      Gah! That reads horribly! Excuse me. I really shouldn’t type things on my phone…

      • Notagod
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Still readable, certainly not horrible, makes some good points, I think.

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        It was probably the steering wheel in the other hand that was detracting from your efforts!! :)

        • Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          I once overheard a person who was grocery shopping say: “I’ll call you back when I’m in the car and won’t be distracted.”
          :/

  6. Paul
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    My view on this, succinctly: stating certain things doesn’t make them true, Hobson. Still haven’t learned this lesson after millennia?

  7. Lurker #753
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    Zoe Williams and Tanya Gold write in The Guardian and are given to having the wrong opinions. ;-)

    • Aj
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Not sure about given to being “wrong”, but they’re both basically commentators. Neither produces any great deal of original material.

      In fact, it does rather seem as though Theo Hobson has mistaken the atheist movement for the Guardian’s Comment is Free section.

      Probably a side effect of his job. He genuinely thinks the London media’s public school circle jerk is actually important to the rest of us.

      Bless.

      • Notagod
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        What does “Bless” mean? Not your signature I hope.

        • gbjames
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          Maybe someone sneezed?

        • Fragmester
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          Bless is a rather condescending comment that suggests the person being written about is slightly deficient in the intelligent department.

          • Notagod
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

            So is that what Obama and the other politicians mean when they say “doG bless America”? That the “American” is slightly deficient in the intelligence department. At least somewhat true I suppose but, the audience never seems to suspect that it is condescending to them.

        • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          To flesh out Fragmester’s explanation: I think “bless” is an abbreviation of “bless his heart”, which can indeed be a condescending accusation of naïveté.

          • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            Or, “bless his little cotton socks.”

            /@

          • Fragmester
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. The bless is generally said in a sarcastic tone in this instance.

  8. Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    “Rejecting religion is no sure path to virtue; it is more likely to lead to complacent self-regard, or ideological arrogance.”

    Ergo, Dokka Umarov must represent the apex of virtue.

    • JBlilie
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      Yes, and we know the religious never have complacent self-regard or ideological arrogance, LOL!

      • Pete Moulton
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        Makes me wonder if they don’t own any mirrors. The projection is awfully strong, eh?

      • Notagod
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        It’s difficult to find a christian that isn’t overly self-important and ideologically arrogant in their actions, despite the flowery sounds they might emit from their mouths.

        Apparently the christian-alikes enjoy projecting their faults toward their adversaries.

        • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

          Chhhh! Difficult enough to find a Xtian following the basic precepts of Xtianity (poverty, unequivocal forgiveness, lack of hierarchy among believers).

  9. Erp
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist and probably not well known west of the Atlantic. She has written “I find all religion unpalatable from a feminist perspective” which hardly puts her in the soft side.

    Tanya Gold also a British columnist/journalist is a bit softer it seems. She also says she is not an atheist.

  10. brianbuchbinder
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    I do think some people are frightened by the implications of the end of religion. They believe they themselves can be good without it, but can the “lower orders” be good without an irrational basis? What will be the consequence: not of the loss of esoteric belief, or the elimination of “irreducible complexity” as a question, but of the loss of the rather less complex beliefs (Jesus will take care of me, God is watching and cares what I do) of ordinary folks? On balance, of course, I think it will be for the good, but any number of philosophers and writers might disagree. It may not be so simple as Smerdyakov’s cry of “Claude Bernard” to justify his crime…but there may be consequences, nonetheless of all humanity’s having to light their lives by reason alone.

    • Notagod
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      That’s the shaky assumption that belief in gods is indicative of better behavior. In my own observations I haven’t seen that, in fact when I’ve pointed out in conversations with christians that their described actions weren’t in keeping with popular opinion of what is often described as christian, they excuse themselves as not guilty, fall silent or change the subject. Or, they jokingly report that they are sinners due to the follies of their Adams and Eves.

      There was a study done of those entering prison in the US, asking what their religious status was. A disproportionately high number described themselves as christian.

      Christianity claims to do a lot of things that it has no evidence to support. And take a peak at the muslim nations which do have literal control within some nations and also note that christian lacks (wishing they had) control of that kind. My conclusion is that faith in gods in no way sways people to do better than otherwise.

    • eric
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      They believe they themselves can be good without it, but can the “lower orders” be good without an irrational basis?

      This is called the attribution bias, and its extremely common across societies and belief systems. I’d guess most atheists have it too.

      Here’s the atheist version of it: does society need a police force? Do YOU need a police force to stop you from committing crimes? If your answers to those two questions are “yes” and “no” respectively, you have the same attribution bias you accuse theists of having.

      Now, you may be absolutely right that the attribution bias could be part of the reason why theists are frightened by atheism or think widespread atheism is socially unworkable. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking this is a flaw of religion. It isn’t – its a flaw of humans that sometimes expresses itself in religious trappings.

  11. mrclaw69
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Comments on the Spectator piece are *terrible*!

    “No tranistional fossils”, “Big Bang proves god”, etc. The usual dreck.

    One clearly well-informed person suggested “There is no archaeological evidence that fish evolved into other species or monkeys into donkeys.”

    Although I did bite and point out that primates & ungulates split off ~100M years ago and that we have *ample* evidence of transitional fossils (evidence for fish transitions are rather good! – I recommended Don Prothero’s book), I don’t think I’ll get anywhere with IDiots of this sort.

    • Don
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      You never know. In any case, others who may be less sure of what they think are usually looking on.

  12. Marcoli
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    I want these sorts of articles to be countered by articles from the New Atheism spokespersons in the same outlets. This will not happen unless its spokespersons write them and publish them in those outlets.

  13. gbjames
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    sub

  14. Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    “I’m not sure exactly what is motivating this journalistic animus against New Atheism, but I suspect it’s New Atheism’s very success…”

    I think there’s a lot of truth in that. The NAs are the new New York Yankees. People root for the underdogs, a phenomenon seen all the time in the world of sports. It’s tempting to assume some kind of conspiracy against the NAs, but I think the recent spate of attacks is most likely explained in one word: envy.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      Well, maybe envy is at the root of the article by Hobson. But the recent attacks accusing the NAs of Islamophobia are simply an attempt to protect Islam from criticism. Apologists for Islam are starting to perceive that the NA arguments against religion are not so easily countered.

  15. mike
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    as i was reading his article i kept asking myself, who? who are these people? how come i never heard of them? maybe they arent on my radar because they are trying to get believers and non believers to ‘meet in the middle’, a truly impossible task. i can appreciate people that live logically but still cannot shake the indoctination of the childhood, but that doesnt mean i need to resepct it. its still faith. and its still a waste of time.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      The middle ground they want us atheists to meet on is this one: “I don’t believe in God but I have no problem if anyone else does as long as they leave me alone. Live and let live. I would never be so rude and cruel as to try to force my atheist views on other people.”

      But this is not a good strategy if the existence of God is supposed to matter … and it’s supposed to matter a lot. All it does is remove our voices.

      • Kevin
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Of course, that’s a false dichotomy.

        Because the religious can’t shut up about their religion. The two major players these days are called specifically to evangelize.

        So, while it is quite true that I would be happy to let everyone practice their own private woo in private (as long as all due attention was paid to not letting that private woo leak into politics, tax policy, health care practices, etc.), this cannot happen. Because religion demands that it doesn’t.

  16. Alexandra M
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Though I would argue that a close contender for Ultimate Dumb Atheist-Bashing Article status might be this:

    “Yet something quite pivotal is occurring that inflames strong feelings. The decision to remove the two videos [from TEDx] was apparently instigated by angry, noisy bloggers who promote militant atheism.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/dear-ted-is-it-bad-scienc_b_3104049.html

    So, could you please keep it down a bit, you “angry, noisy blogger?”

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Well, you can’t mean Jerry. He’s not a blogger.

  17. John K.
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I have found that fasting can be a decent method for exercising empathy for others. As a high school project many years ago I was compelled to live on a budget of food common to people living solely on welfare in a family of four, for one week. (I think it came out to about $6 a day, this being around the early 90’s. Not exactly a “fast” but along similar lines.) I found it very enlightening, a useful experience that I could apply when considering the plight of the hungry or poor. I really don’t know if this is the kind of angle Baggini was coming from, but experiencing in some measure the various hardships of the human condition can be valuable in developing empathy.

    Not that any of this needs to be religious in nature. Religion relies on blind faith in revelation. Anything it gets right is only by plagiarism or extreme luck. Religious thinking is inherently flawed thinking, prone to errors, with no corrective mechanism. There is no merit to believing in anything for bad reasons.

  18. Jeff Johnson
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I wish the title were “The Ultimate atheist-bashing dumb article” or “The Ultimate in dumb articles bashing atheists”.

    Or we could say this article glorifies the dumb atheists at the expense of smart atheists.

    What really kills me is the phrase: “the ‘boring’ question of religion’s truth or falsity.”

    Aren’t boring questions the ones that can be trivially answered, or whose answers have no significance?

    I think “boring” is the put-down preferred by weak minded people when they have nothing intelligent to say, so they feign a lack of interest to cover for their ignorance.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

      indeed. Nothing becomes more “boring” to a theologian than a question that demonstrates his claims are false and he willfully keeps repeating them.

  19. JBlilie
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Hey! I fast every day! While I’m asleep …

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      Oh, really? And I suppose you break your fast at the start of each day, too.

      /@

      • JBlilie
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        Hey, how’d you know that?! :)

  20. Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    All these writers like Hobson seem to only be full of jealousy and desperation. I have yet to see any of them actually speak with any awareness of atheism other than their very own navel gazing. “Thank God” indeed. :) That’s just precious.

  21. cocacolafiend
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, the more you scrutinize religious communities, the more they see themselves as being “persecuted” and claim this is what is foretold in scripture, and it only works to confirm their beliefs.

    • Notagod
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      And the more you stay silent about their mess-inations the more force they use to obtain dominance and unjust rules.

      I prefer to not go silently into their uncouth dream of resurrecting the lives and times of zombies. The hope is that exposing the false claims of christianity to the light of day will cause Its followers to rethink their position, that they will then decide that truth and rationality is better than superstitions and deceptions.

      • cocacolafiend
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        Agreed. Just to clarify, I wasn’t stating it as a reason for not scrutinizing religions. It is just an unfortunate by-product.

  22. Andrew B.
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Accommodationists are very much into declaring things. Declaring New Atheism to be dead, declaring a cease-fire in the war between religion and science, declaring a ceasefire between creationism and evolution.

    Don’t they realize that you can’t just order reality around? That isn’t the way it works.

  23. Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Professor Coyne writes…

    The trope that “non-believers can be just as immoral as believers” is a canard, smacking of the accusations that Pol Pot, Hitler, and Stalin did their deeds in the name of atheism.

    The Soviets did act in the name of atheism. They formed an organisation named the League of Militant Atheists, whose leader, Yemelyan Yaroslavsky, said that “it is our duty to destroy every religious world-concept“.

    According to Philip Walters, in Religious Policy in the Soviet Union, the League attempted to eradicate religion by abolishing its symbols, prohibiting its texts and exposing youths to “intense atheist propaganda“.

    This is not to say that the Soviets were driven solely by a desire to see atheism become predominant, of course, but that it was one of their ambitions and one that they pursued brutally.

    It’s not a tenet of atheism to turn women into chattel, persecute gays, teach creationism in schools, or stick their noses into people’s sex lives. To do those things takes religion.

    This is untrue. Fidel Castro imprisoned gays and sent them to re-education camps, and Mao classed homosexuality among diseases of Western capitalism. If misogyny depends upon religion, meanwhile, I wonder how one could explain the denizens of 4Chan.

    Bigotry is not a tenet of atheism, of course, as it has only one, rather obvious tenet. The inclination towards perceiving others as inferior, though, and towards desiring supremacy for oneself and one’s own kind, are human and while they can find justification within and, thus, be exacerbated by religions they can be incorporated into ideologies and identities of all kinds.

    On a more puerile note, I would prefer to read Richard Dawkins on the subject of toenail clippings than de Botton on anything. What could be more offensive to religious people, indeed, than asserting that the truth claims of their beliefs are “boring“? It smacks of condescension. At least atheists who think religious people are being idiotic treat them like idiotic adults.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      “The Soviets did act in the name of atheism.”

      No. They acted in the name of Communism. Atheism was a part of communist philosophy, but not the driving force.

      “Fidel Castro imprisoned gays and sent them to re-education camps, and Mao classed homosexuality among diseases of Western capitalism.”

      Again, this was not done “in the name of atheism.” It’s right there in your own quote: disease of Western Capitalism; what has that to do with atheism?

      “If misogyny depends upon religion, meanwhile, I wonder how one could explain the denizens of 4Chan.”

      First of all, no one ever said that misogyny “depends upon religion.” Second of all, the denizens of 4Chan do not speak for atheists or atheism.

      Try again.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      No doubt one could set up a League of Militant Knitting fans in the same way, but that would hardly act to vilify the legions of honest grannies that are just knitting their grandchildren a wooly jumper.

    • Marcoli
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      That bit about the Soviets and the League of Militant Atheists is very interesting, and should be looked into. I read many of the Atheist web sites and have never heard of it before. However, even if true it seems to me that the Soviets and the others you cite were not acting in the cause of atheism, but rather were acting for purely secular ambitions. At most, they were cruel, despotic leaders who also happened to be atheists.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      Bless.

  24. William Yardley
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Is the new atheism waning? I saw a video of Sam Harris addressing a large crowd with King Richard sitting in the front row. Harris accounced his new plan for the great utopian society as “The Power of Now” and asked the crowd to close their eyes and just feel themselves breathing, etc….King Richard followed along and I tried to as well towards no avail. Yes, I’d have to say the new atheism is waning.
    p.s. I’m very interested to see if this post passes Jerry’s spam filter.If it does I commend the admins.Lets open the dialogue past Harris’ and Dawkins’ shallow rhetoric .

    • gbjames
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      It looks like the filter doesn’t keep out generic ass-hattery.

    • Marta
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      The “admins” is Jerry, and describing the contributions of Harris or Dawkins as “rhetoric”, never mind “shallow” rhetoric, would indicate that “opening” the “dialogue” should start with you. Your mind was made up and closed before you wrote your first word here.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Your comment is devoid of analysis ~ solely making spiteful assertions doesn’t cut it. It is no surprise then that you get nothing from a talk by Sam Harris ~ his approach is the antithesis of yours.

      William Yardley:-

      “I tried to as well towards no avail”

      The events you describe occurred at the Celebration of Reason – Global Atheist Convention
      13-15th April 2012 in Melbourne Where Dennett, Dawkins & PZ were sitting together in the audience during SH’s talk. But, have you considered William that this might be a failure in your outlook rather than SH falling short in some way?

      You don’t explain why your failure to get anything out of SH’s experiment leads to the conclusion that “new atheism is waning”

      William Yardley:-

      Harris accounced his new plan for the great utopian society as “The Power of Now”

      SH’s talk was called Death and the Present Moment ~ he’s giving the audience his views on living more in the moment & discarding worries that don’t amount to anything in the long run. To characterise the talk in the way that you have & to refer to Dawkins as “King Richard” is rather childish.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      For those possibly interested in the Harris talk I’m posting two video links below

      5:43 mins It’s always Now
      I assume Harris has drawn material from Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now but I haven’t read it so I can’t be sure. The uploader has put some interesting imagery with Sam’s words

      The full 56:31 mins talk is HERE

      The relevant *meditation* section is the 10 minutes from around 26:55 mins

  25. cocacolafiend
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    I think the only issue with new atheism is that, in people’s everyday lives, they are not dealing with religious organizations, they are dealing with ordinary people who happen to be religious

    These people are often friends and family, and loudly declaring how bad religion is often antagonizes those relationships.

    Most people would rather stay silent and not rock the boat.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Right. They stay in the closet out of fear of the consequences of being known as the atheists they are.

      This is a problem. The only way to address the problem is for more and more atheists to come out of the closet, allowing these friends, family, and colleagues to discover that they, too, know atheists. And they will realize that atheists don’t really eat babies.

      There are people who need to remain closeted because of real threats to their livelihood, family stability, etc. But this should not prevent others of us to be “out and proud and visible and frank”. The fact that some people are forced to live in the closet is not an argument for the rest of us to stay silent.

      • cocacolafiend
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        I’m not talking about hiding the fact you are atheist altogether, but trying to voice your opinion everytime you disagree with something they say is exhausting and pointless.

        • gbjames
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

          Please provide examples of people who advocate voicing opinions “every time you disagree”.

          What you are saying, in fact, is that you wish that those mean old atheists would just shut up.

          No. Shutting up is the wrong thing to do. Do you make a similar demand of religious people that they shut up? Please do. If you succeed in that effort you’ll find that we atheists will be similarly quiet. Atheist activity is completely reactive to the invasive activities of religion. You’re trying to shut the wrong people up.

          • cocacolafiend
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

            I think you’re really misunderstanding my point. Maybe you should read my blog so you have a better idea of where I’m coming from.

            Trying to shut someone up by shouting over them only makes them shout louder. Telling your friend to shut up about their religion isn’t going to help anyone, it’s only going to damage your relationship. You have to pick your battles carefully.

            There is a perception that New Atheism is aggressive, and that it involves going on internet message boards and bashing anyone religious.

            If we’re not careful how we approach the issue, we will only increase the amount of damage done by religion.

            • gbjames
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

              I don’t think I misunderstand your point. I simply disagree with it. You are wrong about blunt and forthright atheism. The only way to confront bad ideas is to frankly and clearly state why they are bad and in cases of willfully ignorant religious nonsense, to ridicule it for being ridiculous.

              If there is a perception that Gnu Atheism is aggressive it is because people like you are incapable of distinguishing an attack on ideas from an attack on people.

              Poisonous ideas do not cease being poisonous simply because you don’t like to hear the word “poison” spoken.

              • cocacolafiend
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

                In what kind of context are you talking about confronting bad ideas?

                When you are actually in a room with a real life person, stating why you disagree with someone often leads to them defending their point, and before you know it, people get upset. It’s always a good thing to state how you feel about an issue, but you can’t blame someone for finding the prospect unpleasant!

              • gbjames
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

                I’m talking about contexts like these:
                * Social media
                * Books
                * Articles
                * Letters to editors
                * Dining room table
                * Lunch rooms
                * Front doors when visited by Christians in white shirts and black ties
                * When someone signs a letter to me that closes with a prayer.
                * When someone asks what the red A pin on my jacket means.

                And any other places where the subject comes up.

                If someone is comfortable bringing up the subject of their faith to me then it seems perfectly reasonable for me to respond with the fact that I’m an atheist. If they want to go further, I’m happy to talk about why. What I’m not happy about is being told that I should kindly live in the closet.

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

                “When someone asks what the red A pin on my jacket means.”

                Oh, G.B., now that’s just being provocative! ;-)

                /@

            • Notagod
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

              Like gbjames, I don’t understand why you aren’t on a christian website telling them to be nice to atheists. Atheists aren’t advocating laws that would require christians to have abortions or, laws that restrict christians from holding public office or, using language in public speeches that indicate atheists as the only citizens in the nation or, speeches by public officials that atheists are superior to christians. That type of stuff doesn’t ever happen but the opposite is standard protocol. So, why are you putting the responsibility on atheists, why are you at an atheist website suggesting that it isn’t worth the trouble of wanting to be equal?

              • cocacolafiend
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

                Again, you’re really misunderstanding my context. You are talking in a very general sense. I am saying, that in my situation, and in many other people’s situation, there’s no shame in not being a “warrior” all the time.

                Maybe I misunderstood gbjames in thinking that he said that all atheists have to stand up and constantly fight unless their family are going to disown them or something.

                I’m just trying to get across that it’s not so simple as taking to the rooftops and yelling your opinion. That’s not how the world works.

              • Notagod
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

                Not the way your personal world works and that is fine, as you know, it is your life and you are welcome to your decisions there, of course. It is, unfortunately, the way the public sphere world currently works. But, that is one of the things public atheists are advocating, that neither loudness nor popularity equate to truth or correctness. However, we are obliged to do that loudly because that is the current state of the public sphere. For me, that is how it works in my personal life as well, my christian friends know that if they bring up the subject of religion or a christian topic, they will always get an atheistic response from me no matter where we are.

        • Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

          So, don’t loudly declaring how bad religion is when you’re amongst friends and family!

          That shouldn’t stop you being vocal in public fora.

          /@

          PS. There are many other points of disagreement amongst friends and family where argument is exhausting and pointless. Yet those arguments still happen! ;-)

          • cocacolafiend
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

            I don’t hesitate telling my family they are wrong. Me and my dad have a pretty crap relationship because of that/ Housemates I’m not related to, more difficult. They know I disagree with some of their opinions, but you have to approach it carefully. It’s important to me that they know I disagree, but sometimes small debates turn to emotional arguments, and it’s very hard when you’re very outnumbered.

        • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

          I disagree. It may be exhausting, but it is *never* pointless. That is how change is made, constantly confronting the thing you find wrong. By doing as much as possible, then it might finally sink in.

          I do not abandon the ideals I hold just because I get tired or that someone tells me I should be tired of doing it. I am vocal to friends and family because I care about them *and* I care about the problems religion constantly creates. I don’t want people I care about being harmed or killed by some damn fool who thinks they can do anything because their god approves of their insanity.

          • cocacolafiend
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            I pick my battles carefully. In a house with four other Mormons, that is essential. When their friends say something homophobic, I say something. When they stick pictures of the prophet on the walls, I don’t. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s important enough to risk causing friction with housemates, only one of which you are related to.

            • gbjames
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

              You are welcome to do it your way in your home. It may be entirely appropriate. Have at it. Go to town.

              But please refrain from telling those of us who confront religion in a more direct and public way that we’re all doing it wrong. OK?

              • cocacolafiend
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

                When did I say it was wrong?

              • cocacolafiend
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

                This is what I meant when I said you were misunderstanding me, I never said to NEVER EVER contradict religious people. I said, for some people, it’s not shameful to avoid arguments for the sake of it. At least that’s what I intended to say.

              • gbjames
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                Upstream, at “25”, you said.

                “I think the only issue with new atheism is that, in people’s everyday lives, they are not dealing with religious organizations, they are dealing with ordinary people who happen to be religious… Most people would rather stay silent and not rock the boat.”

                I’m not disagreeing with the “most people would rather…” part, which may in fact be true. I am disagreeing with the “the only issue with new atheism is” part. Gnu Atheism is, if it is anything worth the “Gnu” adjective, is simply a refusal to stay politely silent about the subject. Religion deserves no more respect than any other subject. And frankly discussing the problems with it is not an “issue”.

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                @ cocacolafiend

                Yes, it’s that initial comment that makes it seem like you’re criticising new atheism as if it forces you (always) to be vocal. It sounds like tone trolling.

                I’m sure even Dawkins et al. can be discrete in certain social situations. ;-)

                /@

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

                PS. I’m just had this image of Dawkins at a funeral. Vicar: “… in the sure and certain hope…” Dawkins: “But, how can you be ‘sure and certain’? Where is the evidence for resurrection and eternal life? …”

        • Christian
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          This is actually not my experience. When conversing with family or friends it’s usually the religious who bring up religion or even start proselytizing and this is seen as completely normal.
          Most atheists, even those who have come out, most often bite their tongues in such situations. But if they voice their opinions, no matter how polite, they are seen as the jerks.

          This only shows the privilege that religion still has in our society: the religious are cut a lot more slack when voicing their opinions than the irreligious.

          • cocacolafiend
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

            This is exactly the problem I have, all the time. A lot of the time, I do voice my opinions. But sometimes, I’m human, I’ve had a long day, I’m tired, it’s not worth it.

      • JBlilie
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        I am very very glad to see more and more atheists “coming out” publicly, including many prominent “celebrities” of various kinds. I see this as a direct consequence of the books and public appearances of the “4 Horsemen” and others.

        As Dr. C. has noted: We are winning.

        Most atheists (in the US) are rightfully concerned that they may lose jobs, promotions, positions, family relationships, friends, etc. if they “come out”. I agree that this is a problem; but I see us moving in the right direction (as a society) and am encouraged by the rise of the “nones” in polling.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      “These people are often friends and family, and loudly declaring how bad religion is often antagonizes those relationships. ”

      And yet these people are fine with antagonizing their relationship with you, which isn’t a balanced situation. How about shifting some of the burden of getting along onto their shoulders for a change?

      • cocacolafiend
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        They have irrational, emotional beliefs. They truly believe their eternal salvation depends on these things. They were brainwashed from birth. I can only feel pity.

        • Greg Esres
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          And intimidated into silence.

          • cocacolafiend
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

            Not really intimidated, just tired after too many conversations like this: http://cocacolafiend.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/beyond-awkward-kind-of-hurtful/

            • Greg Esres
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

              That conversation was awkward because you were on the defensive, which isn’t a pretty place to be.

              You really need to attack and make them feel awkward. It’s even better when you can completely blindside them by taking a shot at religion when the conversation isn’t even about religion.

              Attack, attack, attack. Atheists, as a group, tend to be weenies.

              • cocacolafiend
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

                I admit it, I’m a whore. Actually having friends is more important to be than being right all the time.

                I’m obviously a worthless human being

              • Sastra
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

                No, cocoacolafiend. You’re only a “worthless human being” to your friends. And that only happens when they remember that you don’t believe in God. So it’s not all the time, even for them.

                “You gotta know when to hold them; know when to fold them; know when to walk away; know when to run…” Nobody is on full alert all the time. This might not be a group you can deal with when it comes to discussing religion.

                Or it might be the group you do need to deal with when it comes to religion. Their questions were frustrating, but they were softball questions.

                The goal is not necessarily to turn them into atheists. If they just move over to “well, I don’t agree but I can see why YOU think what you think” then you can break out the … well, not champagne if they’re Mormons, but milkshakes maybe.

        • Greg Esres
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          “Actually having friends is more important to be than being right all the time. ”

          And that brings us back to being intimidated. They obviously don’t feel a need to suppress their views to keep your friendship, but you do. It’s not a matter of being right, but of being able to freely express your point of view.

          You don’t necessarily have to be a jerk about it; when I say “attack”, I don’t necessarily mean a verbal assault, but you need to push their boundaries back or they’ll be pushing yours. It’s the law of the jungle.

      • Christian
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Yepp, and you can observe this to a certain extent with believers in astrology, homeopathy or other woo: the skeptic is always the rude party-pooper who should better keep it to himself and not antagonize the believers.

        • cocacolafiend
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

          I only take issue when theists try to interfere in the lives of other people. Even when I believed in the LDS church, I told many people I disagreed with the church opposing marriage equality.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      New atheists want to see religion treated like politics, science, economics, etc. They’re all empirical truth claims and they’re all vetted through reason. So if you would not argue politics or science when in a family situation, then you should stay away from religion.

      I sometimes argue with “ordinary people who happen to be Republican.” I’m an ordinary person myself. If we must choose to remain silent and not rock the boat all the time, then something is not right. No special status. Religious people are supposed to care about whether or not their beliefs are true — and not just care about how useful they are.

      • cocacolafiend
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        In law, religion should be given no special status. I’d sign a petition for that, but arguing with my mum about it isn’t going to change anything.

        I’m sure you’ve argued with a religious person before. It’s really not the same as debating politics. It should be, but it’s not.

        Trust me, a lot of religious people don’t really want to know if it’s true or not, they just want it to be true.

        • Sastra
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          If we always back away from arguing religion, then how are debates on religion ever going to be seen as similar to debates on politics, science, and so forth? Sure, we pick our battles due to all sorts of factors. But we should not always pick the option of running off the field. Nothing will change.

          The goal of gnu atheism is to de-couple identity from religion. It’s a conclusion, not a way of expressing your moral virtue, worth, or existence. This is going to be a very difficult task, I agree. But the fundamental question is “Do you care if your beliefs are true — or only that they are useful?”

          Trust me, religious people do NOT want to say that it’s the second. Even if it really is the second. When they do that, then we have them. They’ve admitted that they don’t value truth OR God. So how can they scorn atheists who think it matters?

          And if they say no, they DO care whether or not their beliefs are true — then we also have them. Because they’ve let us into the discussion, and we’re standing on common ground.

          • cocacolafiend
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

            Easier said than done, my friend, easier said than done.

            • Sastra
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

              True. But then everything is easier said than done.

        • notsont
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          Funny, the only places I have ever seen arguments about religion that were not about politics is between atheists.

          The problems pretty much ONLY arise when the religious try to insert their religion into politics. it pretty much never happens any other way.

      • Christian
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Religious people are supposed to care about whether or not their beliefs are true — and not just care about how useful they are.

        I noticed that myself on several occasions where religious people made the argument how useful religion is, i.e. religion in general and not just their own version thereof. They’re probably not aware that this makes them look more like cynical atheists rather than believers whose main concern is the truthfulness of their own religion.

        This might also explain why the Sophisticated Theologians™ aren’t more eager to spread their Sophisticated Theology™ among the ordinary believers and dispel their simple folk theology. If truth were such a concern for these theologians then they should be more vocal in their criticism of the simpleminded beliefs of the common man than the Gnu Atheists.
        My guess why this isn’t the case is that they are afraid that the “little people” (bless their hearts) just can’t handle their Sophisticated Theology™ and that it will have the just same effect on them than pure atheism.

  26. @eightyc
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    lol.

    pop-philosopher king lol. that’s awesome.

    Marcus Aurelius is turning over in his grave.

    haha

  27. Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    [New Atheism’s] intent was twofold: 1) to point out that the fact claims of faith are ludicrous and largely refuted (that is, God is an empirical hypothesis that’s been pretty much refuted), and 2) [to point out] that much evil is done in the name of religion, and we’d be better off without any religion at all.

    Exactly! If there was anything truly new about the New atheists it was (1); treating religious truth claims seriously and subjecting them to the same empirical rigour as any in science.

    So these, “new new atheists” are certainly not “new New Atheists”, more like “new old atheists” (even though many old atheists – Ingersoll, Twain, &c. – were no less robust in their criticism of religion than the New Atheists). Or smorgasbord atheists (h/t Sastra).

    /@

    • JBlilie
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      And being very public about the criticism and writing truly excellent and well distributed (and read) books on the subject.

      I really think it’s ONLY the prominence and literary success that sets them apart. And Dr. C. well deserves a place with them, for the same reasons.

      • JBlilie
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        … their prominence … :(

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        Well, I was talking about the NAs/gnus in general, not Dawkins et al. in particular.

        /@

  28. Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    It is pretty clear to me, as an atheist, that Dawkins (et al) does more harm than good. As soon as you start calling theists “deluded” they tune out and any chance of dialog is gone. And I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve heard say something along the lines of “I don’t believe in god but I’m not an atheist because those guys are over the top”.

    In America, atheism is winning. More people describe themselves as having no religion every year and religion is becoming less and less relevant in public discourse. It is long past time to put down the vinegar and try the honey.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      BS. The progress we see is due to the action of direct confrontation of religion by those of us who are called “new atheists”.

      As to honey and vinegar, the analogy is flawed. We aren’t in a project to catch proverbial flies. We’re involved in a project directed at advancing reason and honest discussion of reality. We actually have more respect for people than one has when confusing them with files you are trying to trap.

      I’m willing to wager you haven’t actually read many books by “Dawkins (et al)”.

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        No, I haven’t read Dawkins’ books because what’s on the wrapper is so distasteful that I have no desire to put it in my mouth. And I’m an atheist in the first place so I can’t imagine that anyone who actually “suffers” from the “god delusion” is reading it either.

        Dawkins seems very good at preaching to the choir. I haven’t seen anything that convinces me he’s actually changing any minds, though.

        • JBlilie
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          Mr. Heffernan: Please do read The God Delusion. It’s very, very good. It helped me crystalize my disbelief and undergird its logical and philosophical bases.

          Another good choice is Sagan’s The Varieties of Scientific Experience, which really is hard-hitting, though not quite as confrontational as Dawkins’ book.

          • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

            I’m 49 years old, I’ve been an atheist my entire life and don’t feel at this point like I need to read the manual.

            • neil
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

              In other words, my mind is made up and it is closed. Meanwhile, I will feel free to criticize and characterize books I have never read.

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

              That’s fine. But don’t presume to offer opinions on authors you haven’t read.

            • Kevin
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

              Yeah, you’re a bit of a dick, too. Criticizing something you’ve not read.

              I’m not a great fan of Dawkins myself. But I’ve had the decency to read him before I critiqued his ideas.

              You might want to get your head out from your nether regions.

            • gbjames
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

              Mr. Heffernan,

              Our host has rools which prohibit me from saying what I really think right now. But your display of prideful ignorance is a good contender for the embarassing-comment-of-the-week award. Congratulations.

            • gbjames
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

              On a more serious note, I’m trying to understand why your age has the least relevance. I’m 62 and continue to read books on subjects I wish to comment intelligently about. Would it make a difference if I was 22? 35? I don’t remember being granted a membership in the Proud To Be Ignorant Club when I was 49.

            • DV
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

              Then you don’t even know what you’re talking about then.

            • JBlilie
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

              Yes, but you are tarring the authors with the “rude asshole” brush — and you haven’t even read them.

              This seems to lack something, maybe sincerity.

              • JBlilie
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

                Integrity.

              • JBlilie
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

                Honesty.

          • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

            It was a treat reading Sagan’s second post-death book! Who says life after death is impossible to naturalists? :)

            Seriously, it is a sort of sequel to Cosmos, but there’s a different feel, perhaps some of the urgency that Demon Haunted World and Billions and Billions had.

            • DV
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

              I have read most of Carl Sagan’s books starting with Cosmos. Haven’t read Varieties. Will definitely go and get it now. Thanks for your and JBillie’s endorsements.

        • notsont
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

          Also vinegar will actually catch more flies than honey, give it a shot.

          • Marta
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

            I don’t really want to catch any flies, but if I did, I’d probably use poop to do it.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

          Dawkns and Hitchens changed my mind, not from fundamentalist belief, but from one who accepted religion as a viable alternative, and one who entertained notions that there was something spiritual out there, even if it may differ from any religious doctrines.

          So perhaps they changed me from mushy accommodationist to something more clear eyed and honest.

          Because lets face it: truth is not a matter of taste or opinion, as poetry, literature, and music are. When it comes to natural reality, there is what is true, and there is everything else that is clearly wrong.

          This basic fact needs to be dealt with. Dawkins and Hitchens persuaded me that religion no longer deserves the special privileges and status it is accustomed to receiving, just as astrology is no longer entitled to be granted respect as a serious decision making tool.

        • Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:31 am | Permalink

          You couldn’t be more wrong.

          Dawkins does change minds.

          I was in a sort of gray area many years ago. I wasn’t sure what to think about religion. How could so many people be wrong? Yet it seemed so artificial. Dawkins helped me see just how crazy it all is.

          Also, check out Convert’s Corner at the RDFRS site.

    • neil
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      The demand to treat religion and religious belief with respect (honey) is part of the defense wall that religion has built around itself. It is past time to tear down that wall by demonstrating and repeating two simple and blunt messages:

      1) Religion is nonsense. Wake up and smell the coffee brewing. The world is far more interesting and beautiful than that stupid “holy” book.

      2) Religion can poison community. Do not drink from that well.

      This cannot be done with honey. Sorry.

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

        “… than that any ‘holy’ book.”

        FIFY ;-)

        /@

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        We do not need to “treat religion with respect”. We need to show people that atheists are not a bunch of rude unhappy nihilistic belligerent jerks, which is something the “new atheists” fail at.

        • neil
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

          You do not get it. The view that atheists are “a bunch of unhappy nihilistic belligerent jerks” is not an observational fact, it is a response by religion when its views are not given sufficient respect.

          I am sure that you can find an atheist somewhere who is a jerk. But why do you think that a vigorous statement that religion is bunk and dangerous, which is all that Dawkins, Coyne, etc. are contending, makes them jerks?

          • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

            No, it is an observational fact and it’s one that even other atheists are calling out. As I said, I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to or read who say they do not believe in god but refuse to call themselves atheists because they don’t want to be identified with “the movement”.

            When you are making people who agree with you distance themselves from you it is time to reconsider your approach.

            • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

              Now waiting for evidence for your claims of “observational fact”.

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

                Start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CzSMC5rWvos

                Remainder of proof left as an exercise for the reader.

              • Notagod
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

                Really? ’cause did you lose count on your way to two? Re:

                As I said, I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to or read who say they do not believe in god but refuse to call themselves atheists because they don’t want to be identified with “the movement”.

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

                Hmmm, totally unsubstantiated personal anecdotes. How “impressive”.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

                Start here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CzSMC5rWvos

                Remainder of proof left as an exercise for the reader.

                This Tyson video is a cop out. He makes good points. In some way his refusal to be labeled, and to only claim the title scientist, is more atheist than atheists who do label themselves. In some ways.

                But the “I don’t want to be labeled” line is a bit too easy and convenient. How much of that is because he fears negative consequences from angry religious believers? How much of that is because, as a public persona, he is in some senses a business, so he wants to protect his reputation as neutral?

                But in his heart, does he believe it equally probably that god does or doesn’t exist? I seriously doubt that. In fact in his heart, as a scientist, he probably feels pretty darn certain that a theistic type god does not exist. Hence his beliefs on god can be desribed as atheist, whether he likes it or not.

                The definition of agnostic and atheist are not completely settled or well understood. There is room for debate. In some senses I’m also an agnostic as well as an atheist, because I’m prepared to entertain the notion that a god could exist, and if shown evidence that could not be refuted, I would probably revise my inner probability map. Right now, as an agnostic, I’m about 99.9% atheist, with a realization that this could turn out to be wrong. But to be a 50/50 agnostic, acknowledging equal probabilities for either god or no god, is to adopt a fairly mindless default without having really thought very much about it, or not understanding very much about natural reality.

                And here is what is really bogus in Tyson’s arguments, which on the surface sound reasonable: if Golfers organized groups dedicated to forcing golf instruction in schools, and tried to convince children that they can not be happy unless they are golfers, or did any of the things religious people do beyond just playing harmless games of Golf, you can be damn sure there would be groups of anti-golfers organizing to resist it. Does Tyson really not see this, or is he just taking the easy way out to avoid conflict and controversy?

            • Sastra
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

              And I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to or read who say they do not believe in God and are coming out as atheists because of “the movement.” Perhaps the approach is working.

              I have no idea what you found so “distasteful” on the “wrapper” of The God Delusion. I just looked at the cover of mine and while I don’t have any desire to put it in my mouth either I don’t see anything which alarms me.

              It’s a very shiny silver. Maybe it startled you.

            • JBlilie
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

              They may say that; but it’s nearly certain that they don’t want to be labeled because of the social stigma associated with atheism. A stigma that long predates the NAs.

            • Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

              Have you considered the possibility that some non-believers want to avoid identifying as “An Atheist” not because if the behavior if other atheists, but because of what they fear such an identification will do to the opinions other people (i. e. theists) hold of them?

              I highly doubt people are reluctant to identify as atheists because Dawkins is direct. They’re reluctant because they fear it will be social suicide.

              And that is the theists’ fault.

              And that fear is probably why they claim their reluctance is predicated on Dawkins’ directness. They feel they have to show some kind of deference to religion: “No, I doubt god exists, but YES, you’re right. That Dawkins is awful!”

              This just demonstrates how one-sided society at large still is. Where are the theists that feel pressure not to identify overtly as theists because of some (allegedly) rude religious leader?

              • Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

                And I see JBlilie already made this point.

                Yesterday.

        • JBlilie
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

          Seriously, please read their books. You will find them direct and uncompromising* but rude or assholes? No.

          Richard Dawkins, and I have listened to and/or watched him in action for many, many hours, and I’ve read every one of this books, has never been rude. Firm, direct, assertive, yes, but rude? No.

          It’s only because religion considers itself immune from criticism that any criticism of it is automatically labelled rude or strident. As Dawkins has pointed out, we routinely hear much worse, more strident, more sarcastic, commentary on restaurants and politicians than is ever directed at religion and it’s taken in stride.

          Sam Harris, a rude asshole? You’ve never read him or listened to him speak. Dan Dennett, a rude asshole? You’ve never read him or listened to him speak.

          (*And sometimes sarcastic; but as Voltaire knew: Sometimes the best sunshine is ridicule.)

          • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

            I’m sorry but if you go around calling god and/or religion “delusions” you are being a rude jerk. No one on the other side is going to listen to a word you say after that.

            Theists are not deluded. They’re just *wrong*. They believe something that isn’t true. Everyone believes something that isn’t true. I’m sure I believe something that isn’t true. I just don’t know what it is, ‘coz if I did I wouldn’t believe it. :)

            • neil
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

              Maybe you need to look up the definition of the word delusion–a belief that is held with conviction despite being demonstrably false (i.e., wrong)–and then go away, troll.

              • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

                A *delusion* is a psychological condition, not just a mistaken belief. When you call people “deluded” what they hear is you calling them insane or mentally handicapped.

                Not the best way to open a dialog.

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

              You are confused on the definitions.

              http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/delusion

              The word “delusional” usually implies mental illness, because it describes a pattern of delusion. But suffering from a particular delusion does not.

              • neil
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

                Excuse me. As stated in the source you cite, a delusion is “something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated”. Dawkins titled his book “The God Delusion.” He did not psychoanalyze adherents as suffering from a delusional disorder.

              • neil
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

                My apology. I see that you are addressing Mr. Heffernan.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

                No problem neil. You are right, I was addressing Dennis. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

            • Sastra
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

              Dawkins didn’t use the term “delusion” in the clinical psychological sense, but to point out the cultural atmosphere which props up a bad idea. Deluded means wrong.

              You over-reacted to the title. Perhaps it is because you are so used to the air of privilege which surrounds matters of “faith.”

            • JBlilie
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

              Tone trolling.

              • Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:31 am | Permalink

                Not just that, but tone-trolling based on a single word on the cover of one book.

                Bone-lazy closed-minded tone-trolling.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

          You think Hitchens and Dawkins are “rude unhappy nihilistic belligernt jerks”? Have you read their writing? Evidently not. Read “The God Delusion” and “God is Not Great”.

          I will agree that many atheist commenters on PZ Meyers blog or on You Tube fit your description as completely boorish idiots. Many people are justifiably angry when they realize the scale of fraud and manipulation that religion has accomplished for century upon century while, incredibly, retaining special status as invulnerable and beyond reproach.

          It’s enough to make anyone livid when it dawns on you. For this reason, the New Atheists, even the most militant Internet commenters, are really quite restrained and civil compared with, say Muslims rioting over blasphemous cartoons or desecrated Korans, or Christians who shoot doctors for performing abortions or protest homosexuality at military funerals, or widely respected Christian leaders who claim America is being deservedly punished by God whenever some disaster strikes.

          Even if there are some rude commenters on the Internet, that doesn’t mean New Atheists as a group fit your description. You’ve gone way overboard it seems to me.

          • Don Quijote
            Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

            The boorish idiots on PZ Myers blog can spell his name correctly.

            • Jeff Johnson
              Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

              Well, that’s pretty relevant. Important point.

              Note that I have read PZ Myers with pleasure, but the comment sections attract some people who qualify, in my opinion, as boorish idiots, regardless of their spelling abilities.

              I’m not trying to malign PZ Myers or all of his readers. But if there are atheists who qualify as very rude and beyond civil, some of them can be found commenting there.

              • notsont
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                They can also be found here, whats your point?

              • JBlilie
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

                As a nice young woman in Oz once me, “Thayze dickhayds everywhaya.”

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

                “What’s your point?”

                My point is available to be read in the post above. It was not about PZ Myers. That blog, and You Tube, happen to be a places where I’ve seen many atheists commenting in ways I would consider extremely rude. I’ve not seen it so much here at WEIT.

              • Diane G.
                Posted April 28, 2013 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

                I completely agree with you Jeff, and the reason we don’t find that kind of boorishness here is because Jerry nips it in the bud.

        • gbjames
          Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

          My irony alarm system is shrieking in high alarm mode.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Nonsense Dennis. Lots of believers half know that what they believe is just fanciful. Dawkins et co have made nonbelief possible for thousands of people.

      • Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        I think what is perhaps missing – but this would have to be treated as a problem in social statistics – is that perhaps both approaches are useful, they get to different people, etc.

        That said, it strikes me as that the “quote mining” is where a lot of the rudeness actually comes from. I’d offer as a hypothesis that someone reads a line of whoever (say, Dawkins) and then *not* the followup, because someone failed to quote the explanation.

        Dennett (in Consciousness Explained) even has a footnote or the like on the remark “We are all zombies” (IIRC) to the effect to not quote this out of context!

        (Of course I’ve just done that, but for another point!)

    • Greg Esres
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      “In America, atheism is winning. More people describe themselves as having no religion every year”

      That isn’t clear to me at all. The None’s aren’t atheists.

      • notsont
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Close enough for me, I have no problem with people who believe in a deistic god or some form of spiritual god. Most if not all of the “nones” tend to want to keep religion out of politics. If the rest of the religious would do the same most of the vocal atheists would actually shut up and go away.

  29. Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Theists are amazing — they not only tell us all what [alleged] God thinks, they tell us all what we ATHEISTS think! I can’t tell whether Theo Hobson’s screed is the product of colossally arrogant delusion or an aberrant theological wet-dream, but if it is not the product of either then I most definitely DON’T want any of whatever Hobson was smoking when he wrote that screed!

  30. Julie
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Dawkins did a talk in Charleston, SC last month, and I drove from Columbia to hear his talk. When I arrived an hour early, the auditorium was already filled beyond capacity, two overflow rooms were filled, and there were, at a conservative estimate, 200 people in the lobby trying to get in. All total, I’d say 2000 people were trying to see Richard Dawkins in a seriously conservative, religious and reactionary state. Dawkins is still very much relevant, and people still want to hear what he has to say.

  31. Kevin
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    In fact, it’s only insofar that religion is political–that it intrudes into the public sphere or law–that we decry it. If people restricted their faith to their homes or churches, few of us would object.

    QFT.

  32. Robert Bray
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Such articles as these, I’m guessing, come directly from the editorial offices of magazines and newspapers. As a daily reader of the Chicago Tribune, I’ve noticed over the past couple of years the regular appearance of feature stories gushing over all manner of religious doings (especially Roman Catholic). This is the very definition of pandering: ‘to provide gratification for others’ desires,’ as Webster’s has it. Who knows whether the editors or even the writers ‘believe’ what’s behind the stuff they print. I doubt they do (I’ve known enough journalists to have this doubt). Stroke the ‘believers in belief,’ is the editorial mandate, for they are the larger demographic by far.

  33. Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Superb post, as ever!

  34. rdoggdrums
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on An Arkansas Atheist and commented:
    If anything, much of the movement has been, not to soft atheism, but to anti-theism. As more reports of injustice and pain come from religious sources anyone can notice, the negative seeks to outpace the positive. For every donation to charity of money or time, lives get destroyed by fundamentalist basket-cases. The only thing that can be said is that some of us that are younger and newer to the fight for open minds realize that compassion can work to win some minds, not that the older thinkers of “New Atheism” did not employ this tactic, but that it may seem because of their focus on reporting data they may have come of to some as a bit more unfeeling. Anyone on social media knows that atheists are stronger and more upset than ever before. We all make our ripples in the pond the best way we can, is your information making people better or worse. I saw a post today telling people that God was a person’s peace, strength, etc. Where as my posts tell people to take control of your life and make those emotions and traits your own. Take back your mind and realize that those things were good twenty thousand years before Yahweh ever took the scene, thousands of years before any god. You do not need it brothers and sisters, friends and enemies, you only need to look within to know the truth of what is right and wrong.

  35. seth
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    So I’m level 40, my archery is 99 and my one handed is 89. How should I prioritize my developement from here on out? And the first person to guess the exact game I am referencing gets a cookie.

    • seth
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Oh, and also (for fear of being viewed as a potential troll) I AM a turbo atheist by nature. Not a moronic christian wearing an atheist shirt. The cookies just came outta the oven…peanut butter chocolate.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Try some sneaking and lockpicking, Dovahkiin.

  36. koridee
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Hahaha…too funny, Richard Dawkins is a joke?…thats right crackerheads you just keep on thinking that….so i guess since atheism is “over” now, and everyone’s all safe with jesus again, the world will be a better place right?…hmmm guess everywhere except boston…

  37. Chris Quartly
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    There does seem to be some good evidence for fasting, I haven’t tried the intermittent fasting diet yet but I find the evidence compelling at the very least.

    Michael Moseley did a really good horizon documentary and has just released a book about it: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xvdbtt_eat-fast-live-longer-hd_shortfilms#.UXFzr2fiFTY

    Like I said, I haven’t taken the plunge yet myself, but find it persuasive.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      There is evidence that lower calorie intake is healthy. This really isn’t so surprising.

      A key distinction to keep in mind though is not that religion has merit if fasting has beneficial health effects, but rather that for the wrong reasons religion accidentally stumbled onto something beneficial.

      Fasting in order to punish one’s self and sacrifice for god is the wrong reason to fast.

      Fasting for objectively verifiable health reasons would be the right reason to fast.

      Religion has also emphasized breathing and cleanliness as relating to enhancing spiritual energy and spiritual purity.

      We know exactly why breath and cleanliness are important to health, and it has nothing to do with religion.

      • Christian
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        On the other hand many religious fasting practices aren’t that healthy to begin with: a case in point Muslims fasting during Ramadan.

  38. Brad
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    The fencing that separates irrational belief from atheism has never been more visible and unyielding. We have the fence posts of New Atheism (Dawkins, Harris et al. ) to thank for this. Naturally, opponents of NA will go to ever greater lengths in seeking ideological quarter. None should be granted.

  39. Tom
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I’ve nothing useful to add to a good article (or any of the squabbling in the comments), but just wanted to praise Jerry on his top usage of the word “bollocks”, one of the great British swearwords adopted beautifully by the American here. He’s also spot-on regarding Andrew Brown, who is a complete tool.

  40. Christian
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    An awful piece, indeed.

    BTW, have you seen this article at New Statesman: New Atheism should be able to criticise Islam without being accused of Islamophobia
    A piece that isn’t maligning Gnu Atheism for a change.

    • Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      I confess to “gravit-o-phobia”, the fear that I might be subjected to excessive acceleration by force of Earth’s gravity. I use the Earth’s gravity force constantly, but, I do have a “phobia” about it in certain circumstances.

  41. DV
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    None of these new new atheist arguments are new. They are old and already refuted. They’re the “i’m atheist but…” type of protestations that Dawkins and Dennett have already long killed. They are the resurrection of dead ideas.

  42. Fragmester
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I read the article in old fashioned dead tree copy of the magazine. I got to the end of the page and turned it to be surprised that there was no more. It felt as if the author, after a powder puff few paragraphs that there might be something worth reading to come. There wasn’t.

    I looked up some of this man’s other writings. I did so which means you don’t have to. It is just as devoid of content.

  43. Sastra
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Hobson’s choices for replacement atheists are odd. Does he think the gnu atheists never ever noted that there are positive aspects of religion which can be picked apart from the supernatural beliefs? Dawkins goes to the cathedral to sing Handel’s Messiah. Oh … music! Maybe he’s part of the rising tide of atheists-against-new-atheism. He’s giving the religious some credit for Handel. No gnu would do THAT.

  44. Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand the vitriol directed at Dawkins. He’s neither irrelevant nor a joke. His are the shoulders that a mainstreaming movement of atheism stands. Though even more important, I’d argue, are the shoulders of Hitchens. Sam Harris deserves some credit but as good as he is he doesn’t seem to radiate the kind of media charisma that a Dawkins or (even more so) Hitchens did. In any event, it’s all good. Sniping at atheism’s figureheads can only be self-destructive.

  45. kelskye
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Baggini’s books are fantastic, he should be a more widely known author. And in that vein, why not mentioned the philosopher Stephen Law too?

    As for “On a more academic level, the philosopher John Gray has had an influence: he is sceptical of all relics of Enlightenment optimism, including the atheist’s faith in reason.” I really wonder what that scepticism entails. Just where does the optimism and the reality diverge? I’m sure it does, but such sweeping statements are unhelpful.

  46. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Very well written, I love it! Especially the bit about “Religious people are living much of their lives based on a lie.”

    “New” atheism was old already at the time of H. L. Menken. (u.u)

    Sophisticated Theology™

    Aka Simplistic Mythology™.

    His call for atheist churches, services, and didactic artwork has been met with no practical response.

    I think it is correct to say that Botton’s call has been met with practically no response. But I recently read about a practical response, a UK atheist church launched in january:

    “Launched last month, as a gathering for non-believers, it is, in the words of master of ceremonies Sanderson Jones, “part foot-stomping show, part atheist church, all celebration of life”.

    A congregation of more than 300 crowded into the shell of a deconsecrated church to join the celebration on Sunday morning.

    Instead of hymns, the non-faithful get to their feet to sing along to Stevie Wonder and Queen songs.

    It feels like a stand-up comedy show. Jones and co-founder Pippa Evans trade banter and whip the crowd up like the veterans of the stand-up circuit that they are.

    But there are more serious moments.

    The theme of the morning is “wonder” – a reaction, explains Jones, to criticism that atheists lack a sense of it.

    So we bow our heads for two minutes of contemplation about the miracle of life and, in his closing sermon, Jones speaks about how the death of his mother influenced his own spiritual journey and determination to get the most out of every second, aware that life is all too brief and nothing comes after it.”

    “The Sunday Assembly certainly did better business than at the evangelical St Jude and St Paul’s Church next door, where about 30 believers gathered to sing gospel songs and listen to Bible readings.”

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I forgot to add the criticism. But go see the link, it’s not all roses and no thorns.

    • Dermot C
      Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Having just returned from a very moving service to remember my recently-deceased brother-in-law, I can certainly attest that we have to mark certain stages in life. The only two stages that I can think of which must be marked formally are birth and death (are these the same as the two Lutheran sacraments?). The rest we can share in an age-appropriate way (e.g. everyone get bladdered when you turn 21).

      As humanists, in a broad sense, we can write our own acknowledgement of birth and death; the latter is more difficult, obviously, but isn’t it right that we should see mourners cry and demonstrate heart-felt particular emotion for a bereavement, rather than our having to witness the trite generalities of the priesthood? I have even seen a priest mispronounce the surname of his deceased parishioner – that is disgraceful and wounding.

      As regards the atheistic Londoners who gather to celebrate wonder, some humanistic joy in life, I really fail to see the point; what I do know, or perhaps merely feel, is that it’s just a bit weird. I can find joy, discuss ideas with my family and friends, rather than with a bunch of disturbingly happy-clappy non-believers. This churchoid atheism reminds me of Comteism, God-builders, de Bottonists who recurrently appear within post-Enlightenment left-wing circles whenever they feel that they are on the defensive, when reaction has set in, or that compromise, however absurd, is preferable to principle.

  47. Dermot C
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    My brother works in a school. Talking to a very pleasant young female Muslim teacher, he was amazed to find that she had never drunk alcohol. He exclaimed that if she had never sipped of the nectar of champagne she was missing out on one of life’s great pleasures.

    Shortly after her wedding to a white guy, and which all her family boycotted, she went for a weekend to Lincoln. There, she had her first drink, a tequila slammer; followed by another one. She loved it!

    Move over New Atheism. Apostasy through alcohol.

    With apologies to Gnu feliphiles on JAC’s website, but, as Jack Charlton, the manager of the Republic of Ireland, after another inspiring but drab giant-killing victory during the golden age of Irish football explained, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:49 am | Permalink

      “he was amazed to find that she had never drunk alcohol.”

      Interesting. I would have thought it is a completely valid health choice to not consume a dangerous psychotropic substance.

      • Posted April 20, 2013 at 4:05 am | Permalink

        Go on give it a try, you know you want to. Might improve your sense of humor too, at least for a while.

        • Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          I have given it “a try”. Two in fact. With versions that ranked among the best (but which could still be paid for without amputations of certain limbs being required), according to the some connoisseurs. I found it to be rather bad and I had to stop after a couple of gulps each time. I’d suggest you try orange juice: I have found it is a great stimulant of the Sensus Humoris :).

          But more seriously, I just don’t believe in “acquiring” tastes that require so much of self-flagellation, and that can be rather risky to boot (for all it is worth, alcohol is a pretty dangerous substance o consume). Your mileage may vary.

  48. Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    The 4th horsemen predicting this move by “the enemy” precisely, and telling us all how to overcome it.
    In short – drop atheism as a concept and just point out the problems and flaws of religion wherever you find them.
    Even short – we are nor anti theist but pro reason!

  49. marvol19
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    “…to insist that non-believers can be just as moral as believers. These days, this is more or less taken for granted.”

    Spoken like a true citizen of a secular liberal Western European country. Blinkered.

    Taken for granted? Me arsey. Try getting this message across running for a public office in the US. Or announce it in any of the majority muslim countries. Or in sub-saharan Africa. You’ll quickly see how the majority of religious people still quite strongly – and often aggressively and violently – disagree with that statement.

    What a joker.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Yes.

      And even liberal believers tend to consider ‘belief in God’ a moral choice itself — akin to loving your mother or appreciating and protecting nature. Faith is a virtue. This makes atheism the immoral “choice.” By definition.

    • Hobbes
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Even if it were taken for granted we should not allow it:

      Bad people will do bad things whether they believe in god or not.
      Good people will do good things whether they believe in god or not.
      But good people can do bad things only in the name of god.

      Never forget how easy it is to get blind faith to do whatever you want!

  50. Venise Alstergren
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Nothing illustrated the decline of Christianity with greater effectiveness than the latest pope, Francis, and the Church’s future concentration on Latin America and Africa.

    Where are the people less educated, more prone to superstition, and more inclined to need a mystical prop to be found? Precisely, Latin America and Africa. And what the Christians don’t take, Islam will.

    Nothing like an adherence to a two thousand year old-Christianity, and a seven hundred year old-Islam to hold up the progress made by our scientists, all medical advances, literature, arts-all the good things which have furthered our knowledge, to keep people in ignorance, fear, hatred and superstition.

    If God ever existed he would have hated all the garbage sprouted/spouted in his name. Ditto the stupidity of the people who accept such evil banality.


3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] post, Jerry Coyne has scooped me, in his own response to Hobson (which I have yet to read): “The ultimate atheist-bashing article.” I already disagree with him on one point: nothing that Theo Hobson writes can be called […]

  2. […] Sorry, Theo, you’re writing twaddle again. Eric MacDonald hands you your arse on a platter, and Jerry Coyne does likewise. Stop […]

  3. […] Coyne (who I respect a lot, as a thinker on social issues and as a biologist), who is lambasting this article, and in particular laughing at the idea that humanists could learn anything from religion, and this […]

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