Rex Murphy writes the worst anti-atheist column ever; Graham Templeton takes him apart

UPDATE: Over at Choice in Dying, Eric MacDonald, an ex Anglican priest, weighs in. His verdict has special weight since he was a religious “chaplain”:

While it is true that, for the religious, chaplains provide the opportunity for service members to continue, during their military service, the practice of their religion, and have the comfort of their religious beliefs in the performance of duties that are often difficult and, at the sharp end, concern things which religions often concern themselves with: moral and spiritual reflection on things like being required to kill or to accept suffering and death in the performance of their duties, reflection on the suffering and death of comrades, and the reception of comfort, reassurance and counsel at moments of crisis in their lives, crisis which so often attends the performance of military duties. It is not only about church services, hymns, prayers or other forms of religious practice. Indeed, as a priest, religious ritual or belief often did not enter into the practice of ministry to those in times of crisis. To be a listening and sympathetic ear is often much more important than prayer or the sacraments.

. . . As a priest, I often thought that religious belief was an impediment to good pastoral care, for the temptation was always there to intrude religious belief into contexts where only the patient human ear, and the genuine presence of one human being to another was the crucial element of caring. This is not always possible. Pastoral relationships are often exceptionally intense, and I know many clergy who cannot forbear intruding their religious beliefs into contexts where their intrusion short-circuits the important work that simple human closeness and understanding can do. So Murphy is doubly wrong. Religious chaplaincy should often not be explicitly religious, and, since this is always a danger, only a humanist chaplaincy can really do the caring work that is necessary for those who do not believe at all.

________________

If I tried to refute every atheist-bashing column or op-ed in the popular press, I’d never get anything done. And it would be tedious, for most of them say the same thing, or use the same tropes. I’m singling out one today, however, because the author is well known and his piece is ineffably stupid.

I have to admit that my knowledge of our Friendly Neighbors to the North is pretty much on a par with that of other Yanks: i.e., very little. So when a reader called my attention to a vicious and ignorant column by one Rex Murphy, I didn’t know who the man was. Wikipedia has now enlightened me, and I see that he’s a widely published Canadian columnist and broadcaster with some outré views:

He is a vocal in his denial of climate change and proposed policy responses for it, such as the Green Shift. On September 29, 2011, Murphy hosted “Climate Change 101” at the University of Calgary. The event was sponsored by W. Brett Wilson, a Canadian entrepreneur and a former employee of Imperial Oil.

He also looks a bit mean!

sharma-obesity-rex-murphy

But of course that’s irrelevant to his latest column, “The angry atheist“, published three days ago in The National Post.  It is a vicious diatribe about a fracas in the U.S. about nonbelievers wanting “humanist chaplains” in the military. (Many religious denominations have their own chaplains.) This week the U. S. House of Representatives passed a bill preventing the appointment of humanist chaplains in the military. That seems unfair, because although “chaplain” has the connotation of “religion”, there are nonreligious humanist chaplains (Harvard has one); because unbelievers can get counseling for such people if they need it, just as believers do from religious chaplains; and because if Christians can turn to a like-minded person for solace, why not atheists?  It also seems to me like a violation of the First Amendment.

But before Murphy gets into that, he takes some pretty serious (and stupid) licks at Hitchens and Dawkins:

Anger seems a common condition among this kind [those who engage in “anti-God apologetics”]. Hitchens’ grim, self-advertising equal, Richard Dawkins, is a very bundle of anger and aggressiveness. Dawkins can be quite the toad, a kind of Don Rickles for unbelievers. He appears not so much as a person who subscribes to a particular philosophy or worldview as someone who cannot abide the thought that others do not wish to think the same as he. There’s something almost fanatic about the intensity with which he derides and insults Christians and other faiths (but, it seems to me, mostly Christians).

Such “professional” atheists also display an unseemly infatuation with being regarded as victims. When they are not being superior and angry, their more frequent pose, they are whining that their non-beliefs do not receive the respect or standing of their opposites. They cannot stand to be reminded of the mere presence of what they have absolutely no regard for. A strange posture.

I met Hitch only once, but I know Richard pretty well, and “anger” is not the word that comes to mind when I think of these men. “Passion,” maybe, but I’d rather spend an evening with either of them than with, say, an earnest and kindly preacher—or Rex Murphy. Hitchens was, and Dawkins is, a man of thought and erudition, and very pleasant in person.  If Murphy thinks that Dawkins is the “Don Rickles of unbelievers,” he knows neither Don Rickles nor Dawkins.  And really, how often have you heard Hitch or Dawkins “whine” about their lack of respect? I can’t remember a single time!

But here’s Murphy’s main beef:

Evidence of this prickly, acutely self-regarding perspective comes from the U.S., where a group of forlorn and (by their measure) much put-upon atheists are making angry demands that atheists in the military be granted their own chaplain.

Other than the whiny schoolyard temper-tantrum logic of “He’s got one, so I want one too,” what has this silly demand got going for it? How can a system of thought built on the not believing of/in something, on the non-existence of any god, require the services of a chaplain, a — need the qualifier be emphasized? — spiritual counsellor. Chaplains offer mediation on the supernatural, the afterlife, the individual’s relation with the/a creator.

Well, I bet chaplains offer a lot more than that: probably a fair amount of psychological counseling. I imagine, for instance, that chaplains in Afghanistan are consulted more frequently about fear, trauma, and death than about “the individual’s relation with the creator.” And, at any rate, if a humanist chaplain had some psychological training, he/she might be far more effective at such things than a conventional religious chaplain. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to confidentially, and I bet that’s a very important function of military chaplains.  So why shouldn’t atheists get that, too?

Although  I call people names only under duress, this is what really brands Murphy as a wingnut:

Very odd, to say the least. But, as usual, the professional non-believers see themselves as much put-upon and ignored. They claim, in fact, to be (within the Army) more numerous than “Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims.”

It’s very telling they make this comparison, for here, as in much else of modern atheism, they betray the need to be seen in the very category of those they derogate: a religious one. Why should those who don’t believe at all clamour for the same structures, assists and services of those who in fact do believe? Funny, you never hear them wishing for their own Hell.

After all, to chase the religious analogy to its limit, then they should equally be asking for prayer, the remission of sins, occasional fasts and Lenten exercises, and at least Sabbath and Sunday services. At which, under clouds of incense, they could intone from the works of George Orwell and Thomas Huxley and chant a hymn: Our Dawk, who art in the Guardian, and always on the BBC, hollowed be thy fame, thy royalties come, thy shill be done … “

When atheists wail for a chaplain, when they lament their status vis a vis Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Christians, we have a group athirst for what they otherwise proclaim they despise. They unwittingly manifest an admiration and hunger for religion and its many solaces, and proffer anger as a cover for envy.

How anyone can think that wanting a humanist chaplain shows “thirst for what they otherwise proclaim they despise” is wrong on many fronts, not the least being that most atheists don’t despise God, since we don’t believe in him, nor have any hunger for the solaces of religion. The desire for a humanist chaplain is the desire to have what religious soldiers have: a sympathetic ear in times of trouble. It is, in effect, a psychologist in uniform. For Murphy to use that desire to attack atheists shows his complete lack of empathy, and also a covert hatred of atheists (is he religious?).

***

Fortunately, several people have taken up the cudgels against Murphy, one being Graham Templeton, a Vancouver journalist who deftly purees Murphy in a HuffPo Canada column, “How Rex Murphy went from critic to crackpot.” Templeton doesn’t pull any punches, and he hits Murphy right in his solar plexus:

In this article, Rex Murphy is upset with atheists. I am an atheist, but I’m also very open to hearing criticisms of the sometimes sickening levels of self-pity in which this group can indulge. Rather than point to such faults, he displays them himself, repeating the common, spineless complaint that prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins are just too darned mean. He characterizes the writer of a frankly dry philosophical treatise like The God Delusion as the Don Rickles of religious conversation. It’s idiotic, but hardly new. Along with a deliberately obtuse confusion of atheism with nihilism, the article begins as just another disappointing rehash studding the decline of a formerly great thinker.

. . .Let’s be clear. Rex Murphy is arguing that if you are a soldier who does not believe in God that you do not deserve access to a counselor as you risk your life to preserve his liberty. You simply ought not to need a sympathetic ear or calming word from someone trained in providing them as you lay wounded or dying — and if you do, well, isn’t that just proof that your atheism wasn’t as strong as you’d claimed? In our most harrowed moments, we all need someone who knows what to say — and rejecting belief in God doesn’t change that. To Murphy though, if you were really an atheist you would stride confidently into that good night, still scoffing at the weakness of the Christians and Buddhists who reach for a hand to hold as they shiver their last under the beating Middle Eastern sun.

In his own words, proudly pull-quoted for emphasis: “Why should those who don’t believe at all clamour for the same structures, assists and services of those who in fact do believe?” Read that again. Rex Murphy has devolved so far as to ask why an atheist should be subject to the psychological pressures of military service, the traumatic stresses of combat, or the grief of losing a friend. His thinking is so paper-thin that he truly believes these are religious issues, rather than human ones. He seems to almost take pleasure in the idea that the most vulnerable moments of brave atheist members of our Canadian Forces might play out like a believer’s small-minded thought experiment. A fitting punishment, in Murphy’s eyes, for being convinced by the arguments of BBC personalities whose highfalutin accents he finds annoying.

This is one of the more repulsive articles I’ve ever read in a professional publication, and it is beneath the dignity of someone like Rex Murphy. It’s one thing to resist this push for non-religious chaplains, to say that secular soldiers should have to get by with the help of counseling that stems from beliefs which they do not hold. I think that’s unfair and unjust, but it at least would not so callously disregard the basic humanity of many thousands of men and women in uniform. It would not use an article by Christopher Hitchens as evidence that atheists are less deserving of regard from the government that sends them into mortal danger. It would not literally ask why an atheist might want comfort while enduring the pressures and the horrors of war.

Templeton’s conclusion?

It’s time for Rex to get out of the game. His heart clearly isn’t in it anymore, and it’s becoming ever more difficult to remember a time when it was.

Well, the man is only 2.5 years older than I, and I haven’t followed his other journalism, but he should certainly be taken to task. Go over to HuffPo Canada and comment—there were only 59 comments a few minutes ago.

For more criticism of Murphy’s ill-advised column, see the “Open letter to Rex Miller” by G.R. M. Miller at Digital Journal, and the post on Canadian Atheist by reader Veronica Abbass.

104 Comments

  1. Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    nuts!!

  2. Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    If all the adjectives were removed from Murphy’s piece, what would be left? I am reminded of an SMBC comic suggesting that everything but nouns be removed from political speeches.

  3. Logiciphilosophicus
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    “Well, I bet chaplains offer a lot more than that: probably a fair amount of psychological counseling. I imagine, for instance, that chaplains in Afghanistan are consulted more frequently about fear and death than about ‘the individual’s relation with the creator.’ And, at any rate, if a humanist chaplain had some psychological training, he/she might be far more effective at such things than a conventional religious chaplain. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to confidentially, and I bet that’s the main function of military chaplains.”

    No need to bet or imagine:

    “Mission Statement:
    “The U.S. Army Chaplain Corps provides religious support to America’s Army while assisting commanders in ensuring the right of free exercise of religion for all Soldiers. In short, we nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen.”

    “Vision Statement:
    “Religious and Spiritual Leadership for the Army Family.”

  4. Kevin Alexander
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Our Beloved Rex is a Newfoundlander of a certain generation so he has been steeped since birth in the most regressive kind of Roman Catholicism. If he’s brain damaged it’s not his fault.
    Also should be noted that the National Pest is a right wing rag that has never made any money. It’s propped up by Republicans (yeah, we have them in Canada too, we just call them something else)so that the Right views get printed. They also have a column by David Frum. Nuff said.

    • Jeff J
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      That did it. Rex Murphy and Don Cherry now occupy the same brainspace for me.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

        I prefer to put him in the same class as Mike Duffy. Someone suggested in the Huffington Post article (chillingly) that Rex Murphy is gearing up for his conservative appointment to the Senate. It certainly has precedence with the appointment of other journalists like Mike Duffy & Pamela Wallin.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

          That should be Huffington Post article comments.

          • worried secularist
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

            Actually, Rex Murphy is on record many times that not only would he never consider a Senate appointment, but that no journalist should.
            His views on other matters notwithstanding.

        • Marella
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          People get APPOINTED to the Senate in Canada instead of elected?! Wow.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

            Yes. Our senate is appointed. There are pros and cons. The con is it’s a job for life so that can mean laziness and the pro is strangely that it’s a job for life and that can mean there is no need to pander to politics – senators are free to get things done within a broader scope of a political term. In my experience, you get a mixture of both pro and con results.

    • JT
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Jerry, I’m a Canadian and I have no idea who Rex Murphy is.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        That’s it, turn in your Tim’s and Optimum Points cards. You’ll get them back after you attend Canadian remedial training where you learn to say sorry a lot and feel ashamed about Canada’s achievements 🙂

        • Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

          Reminds me of a joke I heard recently…

          Q: How do you get 100 drunk and rowdy Canadians to stop horsing around in the pool?

          A: Walk up to the edge, and quietly ask them if they wouldn’t mind not horsing around in the pool.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            You’ll enjoy this skit from This Hour Has 22 Minutes with Shaun Majumdar, showing what it would be like if there were a Canadian Pope.

            This same comedy show used to have a funny skit that mocked Rex Murphy with a character Colin Mochrie played called Max Pointy. He’d start with a point and go all over the place. It was so funny but I can’t find any videos of it.

    • mat'iibn
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Convicted felon Conrad Black also has a home at the Post in fact he helped start it. I stopped paying attention to Rex Murphy the day his first column appeared there.

    • gbjames
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Bummer that he so discredits Newfoundland.

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        Not to worry, it would take a hundred Murphys to discredit Newfoundland there’s so much great positive talent from there.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

          Yes, and as Newfoundland exports go, I consider Shaun Majumder to be a good Rex Murphy antidote. I especially like his Newfoundland Directions bit.

          • gbjames
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

            Thanks. I feel better now.

  5. NewEnglandBob
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    The vitriol and hate just pours out from Rex Murphy. His stupidity shines like a clarion.

  6. Gary Allan
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    I am a Canadian and I read that column by Murphy yesterday. It is ridiculous and beyond the pale, but I could not have articulated Murphy’s failings of reason and humanity in the way that you and Templeton have. Thank you for that.

  7. Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    “And it would be tedious, for most of them say the same thing, or use the same tropes.”

    The golden rule of propaganda is, if you tell a lie frequently people might (start to) think it’s true.

  8. Gary Allan
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Mind you, I am a bit upset at Templeton referring to “sickening levels of self-pity” amongst some atheists as I cannot say I have noticed that in reading the posts of atheists here or at other sites. It would have been better to simply say that atheists are as fair game for criticism as any other members of society

    • Matt G
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:08 am | Permalink

      Yeah, me too. We ARE justified in saying that we are almost universally despised – not because we wallow in self-pity, but we have the polls to back it up!

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        Rather than “universally despised,” I prefer to think we are universally feared.

      • jesperbothpedersen1
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

        Universally may be a bit over the top. In America, sure, but I’d like to see a global study before making that claim.

      • Henk M
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

        We, atheists, also have much evidence to back us up. What do they have? NOTHING

  9. darrelle
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    That column reveals nothing but a bitter little man. His shallowness, lack of empathy and spitefulness is pretty typical of a certain type of apparently fragile believer.

  10. Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    §

  11. gbjames
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    And the name “Templeton” gets some redemption.

  12. Fry
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Just another example of fashionable atheist-bashing from a member of the the herd mentality, me-too, too much time on their hands opinionistas brigade. Burnt out is too kind a description for this bleached-white dried-up old turd.

  13. Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Hemant Mehta has been following this issue and one of the important things about it is that if believers in the military get a truly confidential resource for counseling/venting/etc, so should non-believers. Arguing that a non-believer can see a psychiatrist ignores the fact that counseling from chaplains doesn’t go on one’s record while a visit to the psychiatrist does. It doesn’t matter if the content of that visit remains confidential. The issue is that visits to chaplains aren’t reported, visits to psychiatrists are. Having that on one’s record may negatively influence decisions others with access to that record may make.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

      Yes, exactly. This bill clearly and unambiguously favors religious believers over non believers.

      I am no expert on any kind of law, but congress passing a bill that excludes certain people from receiving a benefit that is afforded to other groups, and that the criteria by which it is determined whether an individual is excluded from receiving the benefit is religious belief, seems to be a serious Constitutional violation. As Jerry mentioned briefly above.

      I find it disgusting that the same hypocritical asshole historical revisionists who whine endlessly about how “liberals” have, or are, destroying the Constitution have no problems with legislation like this that really does go completely against the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution.

      All you believers and accommodationists asking why atheists feel like they have to be so rude as to speak plainly about religion? What harm can it be? Right here is a perfectly clear example. One of thousands.

    • Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Exactly right, and it leaves the 20% or so of unaffiliated/nonbelieving service men and women without confidential counseling. While chaplains are required to have advanced degrees in some form of oogity boogity from an accredited school, there is no clear requirement for advanced training in psychology, social work, or psychiatry.

  14. johnnyrodgersmorris
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    One of the best comments: “You seem kind of angry, Rex.”

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Rex Murphy continues to disappoint me. I used to respect him for his sharp wit and oratory skills but that was when his content was less acerbic and more logical. Something bizarre has happened to Rex over the last few years that has turned him into Bizarro Rex espousing opposite views while he inhabits opposite land.

    I first noticed how bad it had become when he hosted a CBC broadcast asking if religion has a place in public life and institutions, inspired in part by the newly formed and repugnant Canadian Office of Religious Freedom, which many atheist and humanist groups deplored. During the show there was representation from various religious groups and people in the audience and on the phone could comment/ask questions. It was uselessly tepid and had a “let’s all get along and aren’t my Christian values great” feel to it. Until, that is Rex took part Dawkins bashing. It was so bizarre – it came out of nowhere. Rex must think the Dawkins is our atheist leader or something. He has totally lost it and should retire.

    As noted in other comments, he also writes for the National Post which is a right wing paper (the opposite of the more left leaning CBC where Rex “grew up”).

    Here is an example of how annoying the National Post is so you get an idea of the company Rex now keeps. It’s an article about opposing the accreditation of a Christian law school because it espouses anti-gay policies. Notice the last two lines, something I rarely see printed or uttered in Canadian media:

    But Canada has not yet become a country that bends to every demand from secular extremists — no matter how noisy their campaigns may be.

    WTF??

    • Matt G
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      I do not understand the gay-bashing that has become the norm on the right. It is a losing strategy, since younger people are far less homophobic than older ones (plus it makes them look hateful (which, of course, they are)). I guess this loss of composure comes from their realization that their brand is in decline, and their righteous indignation has bubbled to the surface in the absence of compelling arguments.

  16. Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Bravo to Graham Templeton. Here’s hoping he can form a foundation to combat this Murphy’s Law.

  17. Matt G
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    There are now over 2000 comments, and of the 50 or so I skimmed, the vast majority tear Rex a new one. If it is indeed a right-wing rag, where are his defenders?

    • Matt G
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      Sorry, this is the number of comments to the original article by Rex.

  18. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    “But, as usual, the professional non-believers see themselves as much put-upon and ignored. ”

    Hilarious! In the UK at least it is Christians who routinely bleat about being a persecuted minority. And that’s despite the fact that they get automatic representation in Parliament (house of Lords), a daily slot (along with other religious groups) on the BBC’s flagship morning current affairs radio show, and a whole heap of other privileges denied to atheists.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Yes, as I like to say to these misguided and confused folks in times like these, the statistics are not on your side. So nah nah nah nah nah!

  19. Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I’m reminded of the observation that there are nothing but atheists in foxholes.

    True believers wouldn’t need to rely upon dirt to protect them from the bullets the devils are throwing at them. True believers would instead rise up, clothed in the protective raiments of their gods, impervious to harm, and righteously and inevitably deliver divine justice upon their foes.

    Those who try such a maneuver and fail obviously lack the blessings of their gods (or their gods are weaker than the gods of the foe). Those who don’t even try simply lack faith — whether in the power and protection of their gods or that their actions are in accord with the wills of the gods or, most likely, in the mere existence of their gods.

    b&

  20. Sastra
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    He appears not so much as a person who subscribes to a particular philosophy or worldview as someone who cannot abide the thought that others do not wish to think the same as he. … They cannot stand to be reminded of the mere presence of what they have absolutely no regard for.

    Here it is again — yet another example of confusing conclusions with identity. “Here is why I think religious beliefs are wrong and pernicious.” “Stop trying to change me!”

    So you don’t wish to think the same as Dawkins? Is that because God really does exist … or is it because you want to present yourself as different than him and you want to believe in different things? Are you sure you know what it means to “think?”

    People like Murphy pretend to an intellectual rigor they belie with the very criticism they hurl against the atheist. It comes out every time they try to turn a serious debate into an unwarranted personal attack on them.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      I think what this rant really showed us is Rex Murphy is a bigot.

      • Henk M
        Posted July 30, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

        He s just terrified. Terrified to have lived a false life all his life.

        We should feel pity for the man.

        Well .. I am no saintly material

  21. Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    While I deplore fundamentalists [or extremists of any stripe for that matter] I would point out that Murphy’s rant was most likely inspired by the interactions many average theists have had online with vocal and intolerant anti-theists [who seem far more numerous, or at least more out-spoken, than atheists].

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      If that is the case then Rex Murphy is triply wrong: doubly for the reasons Eric MacDonald outlines with the extra one for being a crappy journalist. He was once a fastidious journalist. Now he just makes bigoted, unsubstantiated claims.

    • jesperbothpedersen1
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      In that case he should’ve written anti-theists instead of atheists.

      What’s wrong with being an anti-theist btw?

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        Technically, an anti-theist would be somebody opposed to theists.

        That’s why, if I ever describe myself in similar terms, I always make sure to put it as anti-theISMist.

        b&

        • NewEnglandBob
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

          I would rather be an anti-religionist. It is organized religion that generates most of the problems. Let people have their theism at home with their family. Get rid of the preachers, priests, rabbis, imams, theologians, etc.

          • Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

            The problem goes to yesterday’s discussion about if it’s okay to believe pleasing lies.

            The religions wouldn’t be able to sink their claws into people if people apportioned their beliefs in proportion with a rational analysis of empirical observations. The true heart of the problem is faith. Belief in gods is incoherent without faith. Religion is nonsensical without belief in gods.

            The closer to the source that one knocks out the supports, the better. A world without organized religion would be better than a world with unorganized religious beliefs, but a world without unorganized religious beliefs is far superior to either. And best of all is a world in which all forms of faith, including those that cause us to buy grossly overpriced used cars or Bernie Madoff investments or to bail out banks too big to fail, are unknown.

            b&

            • Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

              There is no reason to believe a world without religious or spiritual beliefs would be superior to this one. As for the rhetoric about believing “pleasing lies” — that would be a matter of perspective now wouldn’t it? To the atheist it may seem that the Hindu believes in lies – but they both have a right to their beliefs.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

                First, of course, you have absolute right to believe whatever you want.

                Wisdom and prudence dictate aligning your beliefs in proportion with a rational analysis of empirical observation. And Hinduism falls as laughably far short of such a standard as any other primitive superstition.

                If you think otherwise, do please present the empirical evidence so that we may rationally analyze it.

                There is no difference between the religious variety of faith and that demanded by any other confidence scam. We don’t grant special tax status to people running pyramid schemes because they and their followers have faith that they will work. But the religious have the ultimate scam going — unlike claims of rapid return on investment, they charge people for choice accommodations after they’re dead. And, of course, there’s not even any point in pretending that one could demonstrate or falsify such a claim.

                It’s high past time we started treating these fraudulent parasites for the criminals they so shamelessly should be.

                b&

              • NewEnglandBob
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

                “There is no reason to believe a world without religious or spiritual beliefs would be superior to this one”

                Except that most wars over the last few thousand years involve religions, so there are plenty of reasons.

                “– but they both have a right to their beliefs.”

                Let everyone believe whatever they want, but no one needs to respect it, if there are no facts or evidence to back it up.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

                “that would be a matter of perspective now wouldn’t it?”

                Well, yes. If your perspective involves reason and empiricism, they are. If your perspective involves pretending to know things you don’t (i.e., faith), you might not think them lies. (But they still would be!)

                /@

        • jesperbothpedersen1
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          I think the definition of an anti-theist is a bit fuzzy.

          A lot of us are actively opposed to religion which technically makes us anti-theists and yet many of us claim that we are mere atheists.

          Depending on the situation I wouldn’t hesitate to call myself an anti-theist.

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        By anti-theist, I mean people who spend their time advocating against people’s human rights in regards spiritual beliefs and actively deride anyone who possesses spiritual beliefs as somehow being lacking in intelligence. Thus defining themselves and the relative small % of humans who are atheists as the only one’s worthy of full rights — the new “intellectual elite” apparently.

        Personally, as a deist and a progressive liberal, I support the human rights of all people to their beliefs – which need never be justified nor defended via evidence as the spiritual and physical are separate concerns.

        • gbjames
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

          Well, rjpare, I think you conflate and confuse a few things.

          First, please provide examples of atheist advocacy against anyone’s human rights, specifically the right to believe whatever nonsense one wants to. Specifics would be helpful.

          Secondly, while I am also a progressive liberal, it find that many of my fellow prog-libs have difficulty distinguishing people from ideas. People deserve respect. Ideas do not. It is perfectly reasonable, and correct IMO, to deride religion for the idiocy it is. This is no way diminishes respect for human beings. Very decent humans can hold entirely ridiculous ideas and false respect to these ideas is no respect at all for those who hold them.

          I doubt you would substitute “global warming denialist” or “racial supremacist” for “religious believer” in your comments. You would immediately recognize that those bad ideas deserve no respect or protection from critical comment. The same holds for religion.

          • Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

            Actually, I view anti-theism the same as any other form of bigotry against human beings. All humans are deserving of equal respect and equal treatment under the law, regardless their skin colour, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or spiritual beliefs [or lack thereof].

            • gbjames
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

              Yes, we understand your point of view. It is very common. And it is wrong. It confuses people with ideas.

              People are deserving of respect. Ideas are not. It is not bigotry to criticize religion any more than it is bigotry to criticize political theory.

              • Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

                Yes, exactly. This extends to any form of woo. Religion, of course, not being woo. 😉

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

              Hmmmm then you need another word than anti-theism. I went to Wikipedia and looked it up to be sure and it says “direct opposition to organized religion or to the belief in any deity, while in a theistic context, it sometimes refers to opposition to a specific god or gods.”

              No where in it do I read “a bigoted view of those with religious beliefs”.

              My conclusion therefore is it is not bigoted to be anti-theist because it is an opposition to an idea. In this way it is no more bigoted to be against any other idea; people who are against the idea that there are no gods (atheism) are not bigoted against atheists; people who are opposed to a classless social order with communal ownership (communism) are not bigoted against communists.

            • NewEnglandBob
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

              You have been told a half dozen times. Respect the person, not the ideas unless they have merit. Everyone but you here understands that.

        • jesperbothpedersen1
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

          By anti-theist, I mean people who spend their time advocating against people’s human rights in regards spiritual beliefs and actively deride anyone who possesses spiritual beliefs as somehow being lacking in intelligence. Thus defining themselves and the relative small % of humans who are atheists as the only one’s worthy of full rights — the new “intellectual elite” apparently.

          Who claims that there are no intelligent believers and who claims that religious people should not be allowed to believe?

          Do you not think that it is possible to be opposed to religion and at the same time accept that some people believe?

          Personally, as a deist and a progressive liberal, I support the human rights of all people to their beliefs – which need never be justified nor defended via evidence as the spiritual and physical are separate concerns.

          Also if their belief is causing harm?

          I doubt that many anti-theists or atheists are interested in denying other people their basic human rights, but more interested in pointing out the flaws of the reasoning behind those beliefs.

          BTW as far as we know there is no difference between the spiritual and the physical in the sense that spirituality is a human emotion. The cause of human emotions are physical. It’s all about brains, mate. 🙂

          • jesperbothpedersen1
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

            Woops. blockquote fail. Supposed to go like this:

            Personally, as a deist and a progressive liberal, I support the human rights of all people to their beliefs – which need never be justified nor defended via evidence as the spiritual and physical are separate concerns.

            Also if their belief is causing harm?

            I doubt that many anti-theists or atheists are interested in denying other people their basic human rights, but more interested in pointing out the flaws of the reasoning behind those beliefs.

            BTW as far as we know there is no difference between the spiritual and the physical in the sense that spirituality is a human emotion. The cause of human emotions are physical. It’s all about brains, mate. 🙂

            • Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

              That’s just it though – one human being’s spiritual beliefs are not another’s right to judge, deride or denigrate – at least, IMHO.

              • Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

                What on Earth is so special about “spiritual” beliefs that put them beyond criticism?

                You’d judge a person for political beliefs, no? You’d ridicule somebody for believing in a Flat Earth, right? Would you respect somebody who thought his lucky penny would guarantee him wealth and prosperity?

                Except, of course, that you want to shut down all such discourse the instant somebody slaps the “spiritual” label on anything like that. We mustn’t criticize the Morons for their sponsorship of Prop 8 because that’s a deep spiritual belief of theirs. And hands off the Idiot Designers for wanting Creationism taught alongside biology; they’re entitled to that because of their spiritualism. And no snickering at Tebow.

                Fuck that shit. Sideways, with the proverbial rusty Leica and NO LUBE.

                b&

              • jesperbothpedersen1
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

                One human being’s spiritual belifs are not sacred.

                The right to ridicule ideas you find silly are one of the foundations of human rights. For a reason.

                While you may find it intolerant and narrowminded, it is important to call bullshit when bullshit is present. It may not be pleasant and pretty to watch, but it is a necessity if we value truth.

                Reality doesn’t care about religious feelings, and if we want to live according to reality and facts, neither should we.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

                Moreover, we extend the “call bullshit” to ourselves. Go ahead and challenge our atheism and we’ll reply. It’s all we ask from anyone else. We’ll be respectful if others are.

              • jesperbothpedersen1
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

                Agreed.

                The bullshit detector also applies to oneself although it can be a pain in the arse sometimes.

              • gbjames
                Posted July 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

                one human being’s spiritual beliefs are not another’s right to judge, deride or denigrate – at least, IMHO

                And yet, here you are, judging those mean and intolerant and shrill anti-thesits who ought to know better than to speak public about what they think. Irony, much?

    • gbjames
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Oh! Those angry, strident, shrill, intolerant atheists! Like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens! Not those nice ones who quietly keep their atheism to themselves!

      Thanks for clarifying, rjpare. We’ll all be quiet now so that Rex Murphy doesn’t get inspired.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      He didn’t seem to have any reservations about saying what he was thinking. If what you say is accurate I am puzzled that he didn’t, you know, actually saythat.

      In any case I have no concerns for the well being of, or sympathy for, you, Murphy or any other theists or accommodationists that might encounter a “vocal and intolerant anti-theist” on the internet. First, in my experience I have found that what most believers and accommodationists label “vocal and intolerant” rarely fits that description.

      Second, in the US anyway, since christianity so thoroughly permeates our culture that you can not help but encounter, many times a day, religiously inspired, mediated or justified, intolerance of non belief. Not to mention intolerance of many other types of religious belief, child rearing, sex, sexual orientation and all kinds of other intolerances inspired by the various neuroses that christianity has gathered and preserved over the millennia. A perfect example of this is the actual issue that Murphy was kvetching about in his column.

      So, you see, I am not concerned about the sensitivities of christians exposed to criticism of their beliefs.

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        I don’t live in the US – but I certainly don’t support anyone using their beliefs [or lack thereof] to discriminate or exercise intolerance towards other and their beliefs.

        • darrelle
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          Well, you seem to be a bit intolerant of those you label “anti-theists.” This may either demonstrate hypocrisy, realized or not, or it may demonstrate a problem with your concept of what constitutes intolerance.

          I think you have issues with terms like “intolerance.” You seem to think that intolerance of any kind is bad, immoral, unjust, or something. What do you mean by “intolerance?”

          By what little you have said here you seem to think that if someone causes another person to feel bad because they criticize that persons beliefs, that that person is being “intolerant.” and infringing the other persons rights.

          If that is indeed how you feel I respectfully suggest that you are doing your society a disservice.

          Also, I think you will find that a disproportionately large percentage of the people you are likely to run into around here tend to the liberal and are very firm supporters of equally applied human rights for all people. Including those that some of your ilk often demonstrate they would rather not include.

          • Posted July 29, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

            A common mistake amongst bigots [I see it all the time in hateful white power threads] — the absurd “you must be tolerant of our intolerance” argument.

            No, I believe in accepting everyone’s right to their spiritual beliefs and believe in equality for all people, regardless their skin colour, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, spiritual beliefs [or lack thereof]…. but I do not accept bigotry & intolerance.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

              I really hope you aren’t implying darrelle is a bigot. He actually makes some good points. I mean, he has an unnatural love of angler fish but this is worth considering because it seems from your other posts that this is at the root of why you feel religion should not be criticized:

              By what little you have said here you seem to think that if someone causes another person to feel bad because they criticize that persons beliefs, that that person is being “intolerant.” and infringing the other persons rights. </blockquote

            • darrelle
              Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

              A common mistake amongst bigots [I see it all the time in hateful white power threads] — the absurd “you must be tolerant of our intolerance” argument.

              I hope you weren’t stating or implying that I may be a bigot, or that this thread is a hateful white power thread, or that I or anyone here has promoted such an argument as you suggest. You should maybe clarify that and apologize if warranted.

              I don’t think you have a clue what bigotry is. This seems evident by the way you are strongly suggesting that some of the people in this conversation are bigots based on what they have said here.

              Your exaggerated inclusiveness of what qualifies as intolerance, bigotry and infringing others human rights is analogous to that old saying “so open minded that your brain falls out.” You say you deplore fundamentalists, by which you likely (also) mean extremists, and yet here you are displaying both of those traits and believing that your views secure your moral rectitude.

              • Posted July 30, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

                Then allow me to simplify, it is well established in my country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms [and recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights] that people have a right to live free of discrimination – that they are worthy of equal respect and equal treatment under the law -regardless of their:

                Skin colour, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion.

                It is at once a profound statement of human rights as well as a simple concept once you accept it. Discrimination – based on any of the above is bigotry – plain and simple.

                While an anti-theist may feel a person’s spiritual beliefs are merely “ideas” for billions of people they are in fact an intrinsic part of their culture, their heritage and who they are as a person.

              • darrelle
                Posted July 30, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

                Aside from the ironic hubris you display in assuming you need to educate me or anyone in this conversation about human rights, should we take this to be a confession of bigotry on your part?

                Also, are you claiming that religion by its very nature entails bigotry? That would seem to follow from many of things you have said here.

                If I were offended by your suggestions / accusations that I am an immoral bigot because I do not believe in any gods, and that I might hurt some believers’ feelings by telling them what I think of their religious beliefs when they confront me with them, are you not by your definition being a bigot?

                When you tell me I should sit down and shut up about my beliefs when I am confronted with other peoples religious beliefs, are you not, by your definition, being a bigot?

                People should have the right to hold and express any ideas they want. However, people should not have the right to not be offended by the ideas held and expressed by others. I think it would benefit you to take a look at freedom of speech. Both the concepts involved and comparison of societies that legally protect freedom of speech and those who don’t. And both the role that religion plays in that, and how religion is affected by it.

                I suggest that your concepts of what constitutes intolerance and bigotry are naive and inaccurate, and counterproductive to what your claimed goals are.

  22. Newt
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen a lot, and I mean a LOT, worse. This is pretty ignorant, though, but what do you expect?

  23. lamacher
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Poor Rex – from his picture it looks as though his hair hurts- all the time.

  24. Greg Esres
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    “And really, how often have you heard Hitch or Dawkins “whine” about their lack of respect?”

    People tend to anthropomorphize political positions, and ones you don’t like are characterized by unpleasant attributes like “whining” or “stridency”.

    Perhaps the best way to undermine these accusations is that the same claims were made against observations of racial and gender discrimination, and it’s less politically correct today to say that this was merely whining.

  25. Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    “Dawkins can be quite the toad…”

    Wait, has this guy looked in the mirror?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      I wish people would stop using toads as insults. I think it’s unfair to toads who look quite cute to me. Instead the insult should be, “this guy is quite the angler fish.

      • Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        Likewise, a Caulophryne jordani doppelganger might be more appropriate.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Hey! Angler fish look awesome!

  26. Greg Esres
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    ” moral and spiritual reflection on things like being required to kill ”

    Hmmm, and I suppose the chaplains typically say “yep, killing is just fine, God is a long-term fan of that. Just no murder.”

  27. Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    All I can say is, whoa, look at the 5-head on that guy. He could rent that thing out to a drive in movie theater, where they could play “Expelled” for all of his right-wing friends.

  28. Nwalsh
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    OMG, we have our own Rick Santorum, and he talks funny.

  29. James Louder
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Rex Murphy came to prominence for having native wit and an unusual take on most issues that was entirely his own. It wasn’t possible to pigeon-hole him as a liberal or a conservative and that was what made him worth listening to, whether you agreed with him or not. Unfortunately, fame seems to have gone to his head and with it has come the besetting problem of fame: all the adulation fans the ember of decent self-regard into a conflagration of self-importance that quickly consumes the quality that we valued in the man to begin with. Rex has fallen in love with his own voice and the wit he once sprinkled so deftly into closely argued discourse has degenerated into bombast and bluster. Meanwhile, his suspicion of the received ideas of the bien-pensant, which made him a valuable political and social critic, has drawn him into the orbit of the type of conservatives that no decent journalist should ever keep company with.

    Something very similar, let it be said, happened to Christopher Hitchens, who let himself be seduced by the glories of being a public intellectual in a country that adores a British accent. At least Rex Murphy never got to plumping for the Iraq war, the way Hitchens did–a position that reflected a murderous side to Hitchens’ atheism, for the guy truly hated Islam.

  30. Vothemort
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Last paragraph reads Rex miller when it should be Rex Murphey.

  31. eric
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Its the theistic two-step! Follow along and you’ll have an atheist tripping over your catch-22 in no time!

    Step 1: complain that all atheists ought to be angst-obsessed nihilists with no meaning in their life, if they are really athiests.
    Step 2: then complain that they don’t need any sort of spiritual counseling because they don’t believe in spirits.

  32. martyps
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Being a Canadian reader I am embarrassed that Rex is also a Canadian. For any of you who follow hockey he is the Don Cherry of politics in our country, he likes to blow a lot of hot air (probably a significant contributor to the climate change he denies)about things of which he has little understanding.

  33. Jeff Johnson
    Posted July 29, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Paraphrase of Murphy:

    Only people who believe in God need solace and support amid the stress and agony of combat, the sacrifice and strenuous work in service of one’s country.

    Atheists evidently don’t have the weakness that drives people to believe in God, so they don’t need any help from anyone.

    I would think that if he were to make an argument in favor of faith, he would want to argue the opposite: that those with God on their side don’t need chaplains, only atheists need that extra help.

  34. Posted July 29, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Rex is a well-known (in Canada), Newfoundland blow-hard. He has a reasonable command of the English language which belies the shit that he frequently spews. The latest national Post article is a case in point.

  35. Diane G.
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    sub

  36. George Rumens
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    I think that Rex Murphy should be better known. How about this…
    ‘Rexing’. Verb. To distort reality for comic or religious purposes. To reverse the personality of enemies; e.g. suggest that a mild-mannered man is a raging murderer. Examples…
    • St Francis of Assisi, the well-known womaniser who walked his garden just to kill birds with a hammer concealed under his habit. He was known to spit on insects and to embarrass cats.
    • The Pope who drives a car-bomb known as the Pope-Mobile, with which to kill his enemies.
    • Prof. Jerry Coyne, the shy and retiring happy-clappy born-again Christian. Famous for poisoning squirrels in Chicago.
    P.S. why did you put a picture of an axe-murderer in your report?

  37. Henk M
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    WEIT wrote:”For Murphy to use that desire to attack atheists shows his complete lack of empathy, and also a covert hatred of atheists (is he religious?).”

    That hatred of atheists is nothing else than fear.
    What if they re right???? good heavens …

    As for the lackof empathy: is the bible not the (only) source for ethics and morality? As they (Murphy and the likes) so often claim. What a shining example ….

  38. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    He also looks a bit Mekon.

    http://www.empireonline.com/50greatestcomiccharacters/default.asp?c=39

  39. Tim
    Posted August 1, 2013 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Hi! I’m Canadian! Please ignore Rex Murphy! We do! It’s good clean fun!

    Seriously, Rex Murphy’s raison d’etre is to make one run to the dictionary in a sudden panic. That’s a pathologically crappy reason to publish, but I think it’s his only reason. He is vapid. Other than that, he’s awful.


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  1. […] thought the piece so silly, cranky and idiosyncratic that it did not deserve a reply, but since Jerry Coyne and Veronica Abbass (over at Canadian Atheist), and a Vancouver atheist journalist by the name of […]

  2. […] Rex Murphy writes the worst anti-atheist column ever; Graham Templeton takes him apart « Why Evolut…. […]

  3. […] Graham Templeton here, but highly negative responses come from all over, like here, here, here, and […]

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