More stupid claims that atheists are the same as religious fundamentalists

Don’t websites or magazines require original content any more? I’m not referring to sites like BuzzFeed that recycle or collect stuff from other sites, but places like Psychology Today that purport to publish original material.

Apparently not. The public, or editors, still seems to have an hearty appetite for atheist-bashing, even though every type of bashing has long ago been exhausted.  Yet in a new piece at Psychology Today, “Atheists are fundamentalists too” by Loretta Graziano Breuning, we see the tired and bogus accusations surface once again, and from an atheist-butter (see below).

Breuning is described as “author of Meet Your Happy Chemicals, Beyond Cynical and I, Mammal, and founder of the Inner Mammal Institute. Dr. Breuning is Professor Emerita of International Management at California State University, East Bay, and a Docent at the Oakland Zoo, where she leads tours on mammalian social behavior”. But her expertise on social behavior apparently doesn’t extend to H. sapiens. Have a gander at this shopworn accusation (my emphasis):

The self-righteousness of atheists always surprises me. I’m an atheist myself, but I’m fascinated when atheists engage in behaviors they disdain in religion: the judgement, the in-group/out-group dynamics, and the insistence that others think like us to be saved.

This is human nature at work. The brain is always making predictions about how the world works in order to feel safe. Each brain builds a mental model for doing “the right thing” and avoiding wrongs that could lead to disaster. Atheism thus ends up with the familiar features of religion: community, scripture, priests, and agonizing over sin, shame, and apocalypse.

If you’re going this route, you might as well call politics a religion, and Democrats or Republicans “fundamentalists.” For they engage in precisely the same behavior as do members of any group that adhere to a philosophy, worldview, or set of principles. If you think others are wrong, and try to point out why, that’s apparently both “in-group/out-group dynamics” and “the insistence that others think like us to be saved.”  (Does Breuning, by the way, not see a difference between being saved by having eternal life, and being “saved” by becoming rational?) And why does this make us fundamentalists, anyway? Why doesn’t it just make us “religious,” another accusation often leveled at atheists?

But what does Breuning see as our main “fundamentalist” tendencies? In brief (her quotations are indented):

Community
Politics and science are the congregations of atheism.

Lots of atheists are apolitical and not that into science.

Scripture
Quoting the New York Times makes you right among atheists. You can also quote the New England Journal of Medicine or the Huffington Post, depending on which atheist sect you belong to. These sacred texts are infallible so you can trust them for the righteous truth.

That is pure, unadulterated idiocy  Which atheists see those papers as providing dogma? Do atheists quote Ross Douthat as scripture? And who quotes the NEJM or HuffPo as “sacred” and “infallible”? After all, the NYT publishes corrections, but I’ve never seen God do that for his Holy Word. The NYT and NEJM do have one advantage over the Bible, though. By and large what you read outside the opinion columns is true.

Priesthood
You can be a spiritual leader among atheists if you go to grad school and work for a non-profit.

Really? There sure are a lot of obscure spiritual leaders among us!

Prayer
From the brain’s perspective, meditation is the functional equivalent of prayer.

Really, how many atheists meditate? And when we do so, does Breuning not see that we’re not addressing a divine being, trying to propitiate it, or asking for favors. And meditation may be a functional equivalent in its physiological effects, but it’s surely not equivalent in its purpose.

This is a good one:

Sin, Shame and Apocalypse
America has sinned. Capitalism is sinful. You should feel ashamed of yourself for associating with them. But you can redeem yourself by supporting a non-profit that’s saving the world. That makes you holy enough to look down on those still living in sin in capitalist America. It will all go to hell in a handbasket if they don’t “get it.”

That’s stretching her simile beyond redemption. Again, Breuning seems to either know nothing about religion, or willfully ignores what she knows.  In Christianity and Islam, “sin” comprises thoughts and behaviors that determine where you spend eternity.  What Breuning means by “atheist sin” is simply “bad human behavior.” And is she not aware that lots of atheists are capitalists, or promoters of capitalism? Ayn Rand is one of many examples.

And here’s the best one:

Separation of Church and State
Atheists want to exclude religion from the public forum. That means excluding all belief systems but their own, which makes sense because they know their position is right on each issue. How conveeeeeenient, in the words of The Church Lady. Fortunately, democracy requires atheists to compete in the marketplace of ideas with all other belief systems.

This is ridiculous.  Who among us wants atheism but not religion promulgated in schools and the organs of government? I can’t think of a single atheist who wants that. What we want is simply enforcement of the First Amendment, which Breuning again fails to understand.  Virtually all of us want this: no official endorsement or promulgation of belief or unbelief by the organs of government. Unlike the fundamentalist Christians of, say, Lebanon, Missouri, we want a true separation of church and state. Breuning again fails to understand something fundamental: “competition in the marketplace of ideas” is not the same as “separation of church and state.”

If you think atheists behave the same way as fundamentalists, I commend to you the latest article on Daylight Atheism: “Outrageous attacks on supporters of church-state separation: death threats, murdered pets, and vandalized property“, in which Adam Lee gives some examples of all the hatred and violence experienced by atheists or secularists who speak out for the First Amendment.  Now do atheists do that to religious people who don’t want a separation of church and state? If Breuning analogy were true, we’d be killing the pets of people like Eric Hedin, Kevin Lowery, or the riled-up Christians of Lebanon, Missouri—or threatening them with death. But we don’t do that. Instead of making threats, we file lawsuits, and write public critiques. The cartoon below has been reproduced many times, but it’s worth showing again:

militantatheist

along with its photographic alternative:

Militant Atheist

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Dr. Breuning!

In  the end, atheists simply can’t be religious, and can’t be fundamentalists, because those two concepts require belief in the divine, centering one’s belief not on humans, but on the supernatural. Just because Breuning can make tortured parallels between religion and atheism doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. I could write a similar article to Breuning, but substituting “Republicans” for “atheists.”

But Breuning even thinks we have gods! Here they are:

When you were born, your mother was the supreme being. Over time, you broadened that view. If you were exposed to religion, it helped you believe in a power beyond the authority figures in your life. If you were not religious, you found other ways to believe in powers beyond your everyday routine. It’s nice to believe in your own power, but it’s not nice to think of yourself as the supreme being. The human mind is always trying to figure out who to trust, and it’s so hard to find a reliable being that many people end up worshipping Bono, Madonna, Lady Gaga, or Che Guevara.

Does she even have an inkling of the difference between admiring rock musicians (or politicians) and thinking that they have divine powers? Even Dawkins, who many atheist-butters see as the “high priest” of atheism, is not beyond criticism, and atheists at certain websites, in fact, see him as Satan.  If people who admire public figures are behaving “religiously,” then that word loses all meaning.

Finally, I’d recommend that Breuning have a look at Anthony Grayling’s pointed and funny article, “Can an atheist be a fundamentalist?” (If you haven’t read it, you should, too.) I love the beginning:

It is time to put to rest the mistakes and assumptions that lie behind a phrase used by some religious people when talking of those who are plain-spoken about their disbelief in any religious claims: the phrase “fundamentalist atheist”. What would a non-fundamentalist atheist be? Would he be someone who believed only somewhat that there are no supernatural entities in the universe – perhaps that there is only part of a god (a divine foot, say, or buttock)? Or that gods exist only some of the time – say, Wednesdays and Saturdays? (That would not be so strange: for many unthinking quasi-theists, a god exists only on Sundays.) Or might it be that a non-fundamentalist atheist is one who does not mind that other people hold profoundly false and primitive beliefs about the universe, on the basis of which they have spent centuries mass-murdering other people who do not hold exactly the same false and primitive beliefs as themselves – and still do?

I’ve put a link to this piece (mine, not Grayling’s) in the comments section of Breuning article.

 

 

 

108 Comments

  1. Gerry
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Totally unhinged.

  2. Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Ah, the old “false symmetry” belief…

    I admit that I have an operating assumption of “no supernatural action” in my life, but then again, so does a professional plumber and auto mechanic (when they are doing their jobs).

  3. JBlilie
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Jerry, isn’t it Lebanon, MO (or am I remembering it wrong? Probably am …)

  4. Robert Bray
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Ad hominem & tu quoque; add to these relying on deduction instead of analysis and we have the perfect set of rhetorical tools for a sophist. This author doesn’t even have to wield these tools well–the prose reveals mediocrity at best– in order to be published in PT.

  5. GBJames
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    If anyone was wondering whether an atheist can also be shallow and inane, Loretta Graziano Breuning has provided the unhappy answer.

    • bobsgutarshop
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      I think her claim to atheism is dubious.

  6. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    “Quoting the New York Times makes you right among atheists.”

    We gave up quoting the NYT when they put up their paywall. L

    • Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      What *you said, Linda!

  7. JBlilie
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Excellent piece sir, thanks. She really is silly, isn’t she? The analogies are real laughers. You’d think one of our high-priestesses (PhD and all) would be able to think more clearly than this! 🙂

    • Dominic
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:26 am | Permalink

      What in? International Management?

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

        Not zoology, I’d guarantee.

  8. TJR
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Dawkins on a bike.

    This article makes Psychology Today sound a lot like History Today.

    “See those religious fundamentalists who go around telling everyone what to think?”

    “I am aware of their work”

    “That’s you that is”

    • Dominic
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:28 am | Permalink

      That’s your mum!

  9. Dominic
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    We need to know Bruening’s backgound, upbringing & political position as all these will be feeding her prejudices against ‘Atheism’. What she is doing is writing about her hang ups.

    Loretta is a retired professor of international management for crying out loud!!

    Her books are self published – & anyone who puts Phd after their name these days is surely just trying to justify their academic credentials when they are irrelevant.

    Now I must go & worship my late mother….

    • TJR
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      That’s your mum!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      I see a pattern here (ok the sample size is small) and I’m worried about it. In many statistics, women are more religious than men (internationally this seems to be the case). Also, in several cases atheist women write these sort of articles to put down atheists.

      I suspect there is a “play nice” thing going on with women that bothers me deeply.

      • Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Perhaps it will make you feel better if I say I see a different pattern.

        The pattern I see is not restricted to discourse having to do with atheism, but can be found in pretty much any discipline.

        It is this: a would-be public intellectual writes something that demonstrates just how in-love he/she is with Argument to Moderation. The writing will also contain ideas that are calculated to seem just counter-intuitive enough to give it a quasi-credible edge, if you don’t think about it too hard. As Robert Bray already observed, tu quoque is a common tactic for achieving both those goals.

        The main trick is to try to inflate trivial or incorrect ideas into “profound insight”.

        • Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

          Actually, the kids these days have a word for this kind of writing: trolling.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        If by “play nice” thing, you mean ‘atheist buttery’, I don’t see it that way. I see it as an extremely arrogant position to take. As in, “I am psychically strong and mentally healthy, so I can handle atheism, but the ‘little people’ out there aren’t as strong as I am so they need their warm cocoon of fuzzy religious falsehoods, and I am going to make sure you strident atheists don’t try to take it away from them.”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          I see it as play nice to the non believers – as in, “I know atheists can be mean and I’m going to distance myself by showing that I’m not mean by criticizing atheists for being mean”.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        Diana:

        This has nothing to do with either this thread, or your comment, but as you’ll see, I was presented with a moral obligation to make you aware of this cartoon.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 18, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

          Haha!

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        Speaking of playing nice, I thought of you when I saw this:

        http://www.gamepolitics.com/2014/06/17/research-polite-female-and-rude-male-gamers-accepted-most-online-games#.U6JBKWdOVuG

        One reason we learn to play nice is because it works better in many situations.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 19, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

          In male dominated sites (eg car sites) I don’t use my name. That way there are no preconceived notions.

          • Diane G.
            Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

            I’m too old for video games, but on some other interest forums I’ve occasionally tried using neutral nyms. Eventually my comment style (responsive; supportive; basically “nice,” I guess) gives me away. Or, if the ruse is successful, I start feeling guilty about it.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted June 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

              Yes I use a neutral nym and it is funny when others refer to me as , “he” but I don’t get guff when asking car questions.

    • Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      I quite agree!

      /@

      Ant Allan, Ph.D.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        😏 I see what you did there. Subtle but elegant.

  10. Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Atheism is merely disbelief in the absence of evidence. Only that and nothing more.

    Religious fundamentalism is tenacious faith in spite of disconfirming evidence.

  11. Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    One wonders how accurate she is as a docent at the Oakland Zoo.

    • Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      It would not surprise me if she was a self-appointed “docent”.

      • Posted June 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        Judge for yourself!

        /@

        • Posted June 19, 2014 at 6:04 am | Permalink

          Cool, so she is official. It does concern me that she says this “One day, I heard a three-year old girl saying “But Mommy, how did they get the skin off?” They were standing in front of sarcosuchas (the big skeleton of a crocodile ancestor in the Children’s Zoo). That’s not an easy question to answer.”

          um, what would be hard about that question? Or perhaps she means that it would be long and involved to answer….

  12. Alex Shuffell
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    “The self-righteousness of atheists always surprises me. I’m an atheist myself, but I’m fascinated when atheists engage in behaviors they disdain in religion: the judgement, the in-group/out-group dynamics, and the insistence that others think like us to be saved.”
    Then she proceeds to show how atheists can be self-righteous and judgemental by giving her opinions as a perfect example of how atheists can be judgemental and self-righteousness.

  13. Desnes Diev
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    “[X] thus ends up with the familiar features of religion: community, scripture, priests, and agonizing over sin, shame, and apocalypse.”

    This analogy is more adequate in the case of ‘real’ sport fans behaviors. In that perspective, the author could even have added that they follow ‘services’ in huge temples/cathedrals (aka stadiums).

    Desnes

  14. August Berkshire
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    It must be nice to sit in an ivory tower and bash your fellow atheists, whose speaking up gives you cover to say you’re an atheist too. What a hypocrite.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      “…whose speaking up gives you cover to say you’re an atheist too.”

      Excellent point.

  15. Chris
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    This might be a bit OT, but having a look at Dr Breuning’s books, they do seem to be self-published. They may be good books for all I know, but as *any* fool can self-publish anything it’s not a guide to quality.

    Unsure what field her qualifications are actually in either, truth be told. Again possibly irrelevant!

  16. Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Looks like she should have taken her own advice:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-neurochemical-self/201404/why-you-need-take-break-criticism

    “It takes effort to activate new circuits in our brain, but activating the same circuit over and over builds it up to the point where it activates easily. That’s why so many people fall into the habit of repeating their usual critiques—while ignoring the rest of the story. If this is your routine, you can end up feeling bad without realizing that you have created the feeling yourself.”

    Let’s hope she feels better soon.

  17. NewEnglandBob
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    Can we kick Breuning out of the atheists’ club due to stupidity?

    Maybe we can trade her away to another group such as the Mormons or the Taliban.

  18. Bruce Gorton
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Community

    There is nothing “fundamentalist” about community. You will find communities forming around what kind of porn people like for fucks sakes (cough, cough).

    Saying that atheists are like fundamentalists in that both groups engage in communal action is like saying atheists are like fundamentalists in that both groups are mostly humans.

    As to identifying politics and science as being like churches – no. They really aren’t.

    The common political dimension involved in a lot of atheist thought is essentially due to the hostility of the religious majority to the atheist minority – so the comparison in that case comes off like declaring civil rights workers to be the same as the KKK.

    Take out general hostility to atheists, and suddenly that commonality will evaporate due to the fact that most atheists disagree with each other on a lot of political issues.

    Science meanwhile is pretty hostile to community – it is simply a matter of establishing fact. While that can provide tools for creative thinking, most of the time it involves deconstructing ideas which would otherwise be accepted on a communal basis.

    We see this quite often with regards to guys like Bill Maher – medical science does not exactly serve to boost his authority within atheist circles.

    Scripture

    Okay, who actually trusts either news source? If I was to say which paper I trusted, it would still be The Guardian if anything and even they fall into the trap of crap journalism every now and then.

    In terms of scripture there is none, because there are no universally accepted sources that we trust. Fuck we look at peer reviewed journals critically.

    That is not the same as one is supposed to do with scripture, scripture is supposed to be accepted truth.

    Sin, Shame and Apocalypse

    America is fucked or not fucked because of some fantastical sin, it is fucked or not fucked because actions cause consequences. Global warming isn’t some magical man in the sky out to punish you for driving an SUV, it is the result of certain gasses which are very good at trapping heat accumulating in our atmosphere.

    And I don’t know of a single atheist who would argue that this is going to somehow get magically fixed by donating to some non-profit. You want to fix the environment, stopping driving that SUV is maybe a good first step.

    Seperation of church and state

    Atheists want a separation of church and state because get this – when the state starts messing with religion it invariably ends badly.

    It ends badly when it is in favour of religion – just look at the Middle East or certain African states – and it ends badly when it is opposed – just look at communism.

    The state should deal with issues of state. Religion shouldn’t come into it because religion is ultimately irrelevant.

    It doesn’t matter if you think God doesn’t like gay people, the state has to consider that they are people with human rights.

    And lets face it every time religion has gotten involved with human rights it has been as an obstacle.

    And before you bring up the example, the entire reason Martin Luther King Jnr is so well respected is because he came up with a means of overcoming the religious authority of the Southern Baptists.

  19. Hempenstein
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    After all, the NYT publishes corrections, but I’ve never seen God do that for his Holy Word.

    God gets paid by the word (lower case) and so doesn’t do corrections. He expects nobody will notice the contradictions.

  20. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Wait until you see the latest issue of the Skeptical Inquirer. They address the issue of science & religion which they usually tippy-toe around. And it’s so unsophisticated it makes Dawkins look like a master philosopher.

  21. Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Of course almost all atheists worship or at least profoundly admire Lady Gaga, who has cited atheist icon Deepak Chopra as the biggest influence on her life. Atheists are also known for generally preferring mainstream radio-friendly music like U2, Madonna, Gaga, etc instead of more intellectual, creative or obscure fare. And when it comes to worshipping Marxism and other highly theoretical and simplistic “isms”, atheists are well-known for abandoning critical thought, nuance and independent perspectives in order to revel in the pleasures of group-think banner-waving. Yes, it’s rare to hear an atheist offer idiosyncratic or critical opinions about public figures or ideologies. Atheists are basically sheeple who huddle in fear of even hearing or seeing the word “god” anywhere. Speaking as an atheist myself, I rarely venture outside my home or dare connect to the internet because of the constant danger of encountering “god” stuff. I’m generally content to stay in the little bedroom I’ve set aside as a Lady Gaga shrine, where I pass the hours reciting her lyrics.

    • TJR
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Heretic! We will burn your Lady Gaga shrine and force you to worship at our communal Richard Dawkins shrine.

  22. Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    ah, lying to sell books. How nice. It does go to show that atheism doesn’t mean anything more than not believing in gods. Atheists can be jerks just like everyone else.

  23. Frank Bartell, Chair Dept. Soc. Sci.
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Re the cartoon, well maybe a little ranting too but no starting of wars. If you site the communist states – Communism is a religion too w/ SS. Marx, Engels & Lenin.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      And also evidence why state enforced atheism doesn’t work and why atheists, contrary to what Ms Breuning proclaims, do not want to force others to see things their way. It isn’t successful long term and atheists who have been forced to practice religion know quite well, it is a miserable thing to force beliefs on someone.

      • reasonshark
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        I think it also highlights an all-too-common confusion between atheism and anti-religious or anti-theistic views, which was one of the facets of Communism (though it’s debatable how stringent it was, given that there were churches still in Russia at the time, as far as I recall). And even then, a big difference between atheistic communist ideologies and the vast majority (one would hope totality) of modern atheists is that the communists used the time-dishonoured solution of wiping out those it disagreed with, something which nearly every ambitious ideology had used throughout history (such as the Crusades, the French revolution, etc.). If we’re the fundies, what word is left to describe these genuine monsters?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          Soviet communism in Russia was pretty hard on the faithful. If you really wanted to get a good job or go to university, you made sure you proclaimed yourself an atheist. Further, priests were sent to the gulag and churches converted to be used for other things (so the churches that remained standing were most likely not functioning as churches). Now, there is a bizarre uptick in religion in Russia. I’ve thought about this and collected a bunch of survey data and I’ve concluded that this is because religion is used as a unifying force or a type of nationalism among ethnic Russians. I came to this conclusion because a large portion of Russians identified as Russian Orthodox while few attended church regularly, few (something like at most 7%) describe themselves as very religious and even fewer believe in life after death (this part made me chuckle a bit and think that there is hope for Russia).

      • Sastra
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the idea that rational persuasion is an aggressive act involving force is a bizarre one — and common even within religious systems. Consider the rationale often offered for why God is “hidden” so that belief in His existence requires “faith”: if God made Himself obvious, then that would take away our free will. We’d loose our freedom and our capacity to choose whether to follow God or not. Providing good, solid information in a clear and obvious way forces people.

        That makes no sense.

        I’m so tired of hearing the accomodationists insist that we’d all be so fine and lovely together if atheists would only stop talking and trying to change people’s minds about religion. An ecumenical tolerance and disinclination to argue over facts is the hallmark of sophistication and love … because people of faith believe that becoming an atheist is just about the worst thing that could happen to them. Their identity degrades.

        Right. This is apparently okay, and just another reason for atheists to stop sounding like “fundamentalists” by focusing on the issue instead of avoiding it. Agree to disagree. No right, no wrong, just different.

        On our side, at least. I’ve got my suspicions though about how equal and harmonious we all can be when we begin by accepting that the worst thing that could happen to someone in the Happy Group is to change their mind and become like one of us.

    • reasonshark
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t call Communism a religion, though. That’s too slack a use of the word. It’s a political ideology, which ended up in the hands of some unpleasant and dogmatic dictators. Although they killed more people than ideologues of prior centuries, they were still essentially the latest in a long line of political revolutionaries who thought killing the opposition would solve their problems.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t call communism a religion but I’d say that totalitarian states, such as the soviet one is state religion – in other words, it adopts the dogma and theatre of religion. Marx would have laughed at the irony I’m sure.

  24. Kevin
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Well said Jerry.

    Atheists are fans of science. Those who are atheists either employ science or endorse its methods.

    Science is an attempt to understand, explain, and predict natural phenomena. Atheists are attracted to this concept mostly because they find it interesting that we can know anything about the universe, but also because we have come to learn that it is the only way we know anything about the universe.

    • Posted June 17, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      “Atheists are fans of science. Those who are atheists either employ science or endorse its methods.”

      Sadly untrue for perhaps the majority of atheists.

      /@

  25. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Of the hundreds of atheists I have had the pleasure to know, I have met two or three that I would consider over-dogmatic on specific selected issues. Even in their case, I would simply describe them simply as narrow in their thinking and would refrain from using the f-word. It’s a way of using a pigeon-hole that has a special stigma associated with it, without addressing any concrete problems, a triumph of snarkiness over any substance, and basically a cheap shot!! The relatively eloquent critics of the new atheism (such as Vincent Bugliosi) never use this word, even when in waxing on the cult of celebrity around Richard Dawkins (as VB does) it would be verrry tempting to do so!!!

    Incidentally, in the Middle Ages “fundament” was another word for the human posterior.

    • bobsgutarshop
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      As in, “I’m working my fundament off!!”

    • Sastra
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      As Richard Dawkins argued, people who insist that outspoken atheism = fundamentalism are confusing passion for dogma. He knows what sort of evidence would change his mind about the existence of God, or what would have convinced him. When you have the perfect faith of the fundamentalist, however, you are proud of the fact that nothing would or could.

    • Posted June 17, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      In the present day, too, although mostly jocularly.

      /@

  26. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    atheist-butter

    Isn’t that what you get from putting atheists into a barrel lined with sticks and rotating it for several hours.
    Would explain – if not necessarily excuse – a lot.

  27. Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I think some of this attitude comes from overexposure to that particular group of atheist bloggers who conflate atheism with activism for social justice. To some atheists there does seem to be a kind of “atheist dogma” which is not to be questioned and certain topics which are off limits to discussion. Questioning this dogma makes you not only wrong, but stupid, racist, and misogynistic. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins know this all too well.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      “Trigger warning!”

    • Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:09 am | Permalink

      Hmm, perhaps you too (see Sastra’s comment above) “are confusing passion for dogma”. Atheists are allowed to be social justice advocates! you know?

      And perhaps people who are being criticised for being racist or misogynistic are being racist or misogynistic …

      /@

  28. bobsgutarshop
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Oh, for crying the f–k out loud!!!! Is there a more contemptible creature in all of discourse than the atheist butter??? Immediately before I read this post, I read a column by Paul Krugman from June 8th in which he analyzed the economic/political barriers to action on climate change and reached the conclusion that it was, “a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism” and not empirically sound concerns about cost and job losses that are the real encumbrances to progress. Of course most of the reader comments on Krugman’s column claimed that it is scientists who have “religious, dogmatic” beliefs, not the climate change denying conspiracy theorists. No one should be surprised that a group of people whom consider believing in that for which there is no evidence to be a virtue, place no value on evidentiary support. But anyone who values data over dogma, who places her trust in knowledge and agency rather than fear and superstition, ought to know better. One of two things is occurring here, either Ms. Breuning has no idea what atheism is or what atheists are actually like, or she’s an opportunistic pseudo-journalist who’s carved out a niche for herself as the dubious atheist who knows how craven and hypocritical we really are, in service of right-wing, Ayn Rand Jesus “news” outlets. So she’s either ignorant and talking out of her ass or she’s ignorant and lying in support of conservative orthodoxy. Her column is absurd either way. At least my fundamentalist christian relatives who love to set fire to atheist straw men have the discipline to wake up early on a Sunday and put on a suit.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Nicely ranted! I feel better now.

  29. Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    This person is being slaughtered in the comments. Many of them are excellent.

    I highly recommend perusing them. There’s some very bright people out there paying attention. Their insights are excellent.

    • Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      I always have a hard time deciding if I should go read the comments or if by clicking the link and giving her more traffic I am contributing to the problem. After all, these articles wouldn’t be written if they were consistently ignored. The fact that they are guaranteed to generate web traffic is a big reason why they keep getting written.

  30. jaxkayaker
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    People with graduate degrees working for (ostensible) non-profits? Are many ministers and Catholic priests actually atheists, then? Or shall we not count doctors of divinity?

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      To answer your questions: yes, yes, and what for?

  31. krzysztof1
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Prof. CC: “Who among us wants atheism but not religion promulgated in schools and the organs of government? ”

    Excellent point. I think she’s thinking that NOT talking about God in school is promoting atheism.

    • bobsgutarshop
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      While commenting on christian Tory MPs, I heard British humorist Marcus Brigstocke put it this way: “that some people are not chrisitan, to them, constitutes an attack on christianity.” And who amongst us would argue that the right- wing in America isn’t far more strident, intransigent and just plain old more conservative than Tory MPs.

      • krzysztof1
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” By not joining with us you are holding us back. So if we don’t progress, it’s your fault. Therefore you must be eliminated. That seems to be what any ideology boils down to. It springs ultimately from the conviction that one is right, and the sooner everyone else realizes that, the better off we will be.

  32. J Cook
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    THINKING! is the key.

  33. Draken
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Oh Jebus, later on in the comments she deplores that scientists take on creationists:

    Take, for example, the scientists who attack creationists. I think they exaggerate the threat because a common enemy builds social bonds. That’s not science, it’s fundamentalism, whether they are left wing or right wing. I love evolution and write about it a lot. I don’t focus on ridiculing or even debating creationism. I don’t need to fight an enemy to make my case.

    “Exaggerate the threat”? Has Breuning PhD completely missed the Dover case, the Texas schoolbook kerfuffle and dozens of other attempts of creationists to infiltrate and sabotage science?

    • Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      And does she not realize that by writing about evolution she is fighting creationism?

    • Sastra
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      If scientists are “exaggerating the threat” of creationism then she’s implicitly admitting there IS a threat. A teeny tiny little threat, I guess.

      So … what’s the magic number? How many scientists can refute creationism and it would be okay? One? Two? What about three? Three scientific atheists (or atheistic scientists) arguing for truth against falsehood — but only in a nondogmatic and totally unfundamentalist way.

      Why do I think she’d STILL be on their asses whinging about how they’re bothering over nothing, really, they should just let people believe what they want it’s a free country.

  34. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Whenever someone writes an article full of universal proclamations about atheists without meaningful statistics to back them up, you know its going to be another atheist slam fest.

    Atheists are a very diverse group – how could it be anything else when the only thing that unites atheists is their lack of belief in a supernatural god? It is like saying “people who like the colour blue are stingy” or “people who favour chip sandwiches all read newspapers”. Breuning’s article is full of spiteful assertions in what I suspect is a way to make believers feel better.

    • Hypatias Daughter
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      “Breuning’s article is full of spiteful assertions in what I suspect is a way to make believers feel better.”
      Otherwise known as “kissing ass”.

      • Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

        It’s “oscillating the rump (of faith)” around these parts!

        /@

        • Filippo
          Posted June 18, 2014 at 1:57 am | Permalink

          I’d think it would take a lot of skill and perseverance to osculate an oscillating object, especially were it simultaneously ululating.

    • Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:14 am | Permalink

      “people who like the colour blue are stingy”

      But isn’t that just self evident?

      /@

  35. Scientifik
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Religion is “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods” period. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/religion

    If someone has to resort to distorting the meaning of basic words in order to make an argument, it tells me everything about their “argument”.

  36. Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    “The self-righteousness of atheists always surprises me. I’m an atheist myself, but I’m fascinated when atheists engage in behaviors they disdain in religion: the judgement, the in-group/out-group dynamics, and the insistence that others think like us to be saved.”

    If there is disdain, it comes from theist attempts to impose their belief on others by challenging or circumventing the separation of church and state provision of the Constitution; by attempts to falsely revise the history of the nation’s secular origin; by making untruthful claims about science and the facts it has established; and so on.

    I have never heard an atheist express disdain for the religious who keep their beliefs to themselves and respect the Constitution even when inconvenient.

  37. pangurbanthecat
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Let me get this straight … the self righteousness of atheists? Is she serious?

  38. Michael
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I read Loretta Graziano Breuning’s article three times in an attempt to see any amount of reason in it.

    I failed. It’s just, well, blather. I find it difficult to believe how bad it is.

    How did it get published? I assume the editor is religious, or really needed to fill some space, or Loretta paid to have it published.

    I’ve heard of Psychology Today publishing some woo before, I think. I’ll have to look it up.

  39. nilou ataie
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    OMG, another testament to the deterioration of our mental health standards. Psychology Today should put a Stupid in front of its title.

    • Nick
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      In its nearly 50 year publication history, Psychology Today has never been anything but a “pop psychology” magazine. It is written for the general public, NOT professionals. Since its appearance on the internet it has become even less credible.

      • Posted June 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        It has devolved into an SEO click-bait advert platform, like HuffPo or Buzzfead, but without any decent content. As far as I can tell, almost anyone can sign up to be a blogger and they exercise no editorial control over the content. Some of the bloggers there are straight up religious nuts, MRA sexists trolls railing against feminism under the guise of EvoPsych, and new age/alternative medicine woo. I’m not even sure they publish a print magazine anymore – if so, they certainly do not feature it on their portal site.
        I discovered years ago that Psychology Today was not a professional journal or even a respected trade magazine but more of a tabloid when the editor published several articles approving of ex-gay therapy and allowed NARTH to run ads for its books. When challenged by a representative of the APA its official statements condemning the practice, the editor just cried “political correctness” like quacks always do. He left shortly after that and later spoke at one of NARTH’s conferences.

  40. Sastra
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    The self-righteousness of atheists always surprises me. I’m an atheist myself, but I’m fascinated when atheists engage in behaviors they disdain in religion: the judgement, the in-group/out-group dynamics, and the insistence that others think like us to be saved.

    Breuning is making a common mistake. She is assuming that the thing that atheists dislike most about fundamentalists is the same thing that the more moderate religious people dislike most about fundamentalists. What they dislike most about fundamentalism is its overt tendency to convert others. Fundamentalists act as if there is a way to tell who is right about religion and who is wrong … and they are right and other people are wrong.

    To the spiritually enlightened, this is anathema. Respect all paths equally. “Judgment” is bad. Religion is someone’s identity: bash it and you hit a person.

    But atheists — the gnu atheists, at least — actually don’t have a problem with the idea of analyzing religion and debating over its truth. This basic approach bothers us no more in spiritual matters than doing the same thing in politics or science. We have to judge — to evaluate because we’re dealing with factual claims, not personal identity. Being outspoken and trying to convince someone to take your side is perfectly acceptable in and of itself. That’s not the real problem we have with fundamentalists — that they argue that they’re right and others are wrong.

    No, the thing which really bothers us atheists about fundamentalists is

    1.) We’re right and THEY are wrong.

    2.) They don’t argue fair… but think they do. They think they’ve made their case well enough to bring it confidently into areas where they don’t belong (like science or politics.) And then see point #1.

    Fundamentalists don’t play by the rules of rational debate, they convert through emotional appeals, underhanded tactics, and rational fallacies. They shift constantly between “just examine the evidence and draw the conclusion” and “without faith we know nothing.” Fundamentalists dance back and forth between wanting to argue over religion and demanding that religion be respected and placed above all argument, as sacred.

    Thus they shove their views into science or politics politically or socially — without doing the work. They don’t really try to establish the truth of their views rationally in a way which will persuade skeptics. They can’t. Their apologetics only work on those who are already convinced or who want to be convinced. Instead, they use pseudoscience and pseudo-reason and back it up with the bland insistence that nothing could change their minds … but it’s the nonbelievers who are dogmatic.

    Fortunately, democracy requires atheists to compete in the marketplace of ideas with all other belief systems.

    Oh please. She just made an extended whine about how atheists need to stop treating religion as if it were a marketplace of ideas and lay off the criticism because thinking in terms of competition is “fundamentalist.”

    • Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      “Fundamentalists act as if there’s a way to tell who is right and who is wrong.” You hit the nail on the head. The problem isn’t that we can’t discern who is right and who is wrong, it’s that the fundamentalists “know” they are right so there is no need for discernment.

  41. Michael
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    And now the article is gone from the Psychology Today.

    I cannot reach it by the link, I cannot find it at the home page.

    • Chris
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      I couldn’t reach Breuning’s piece by searching within Psychology Today either. However, if anyone wants to read the original article, it can (currently) be accessed via Google’s cache by googling “Atheists are fundamentalists too”, and clicking on the down-arrow below the first search result.

    • karled
      Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      If you go to the sub-section “your neurochemical self” there is still a link to an article called “Fundamentalism Comes Naturally to Atheists Too”, but if you click on that link, you get an error that the link is somehow broken.

      I suspect (hope?) that Psychology today got a lot of flack for this garbage and is in the process of pulling it.

  42. moarscienceplz
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    “Would he be someone who believed only somewhat that there are no supernatural entities in the universe – perhaps that there is only part of a god (a divine foot, say, or buttock)?”

    I do believe in the existence of a large number of supreme asses. Does that count?

  43. Filippo
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    sub

  44. glenn2point0
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    They try to project their thinking in their beilef systems onto atheists and it does not work. It seems to me that they fail to see the flaws in thier “logic”.

  45. Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Anecdotal examples are normally meaningless, but given the broad brush she paints atheists with, I will offer my personal experience as a counter example. I work at a financial services company, which is about as polar opposite as one can be from a nonprofit other than directly working for a Wall Street firm.

    The fantastic thing about conversing with atheists and free thinkers is that there are so many viewpoints out there and your opinion is considered based on its merits, not preconceived notions or dogma. Maybe Bruening has fallen prey to that old “opposite day” game that school children play.

  46. Posted June 17, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Anecdotal examples are normally meaningless, but given the broad brush she paints atheists with, I will offer my personal experience as a counter example. I work at a financial services company, which is about as polar opposite as one can be from a nonprofit other than directly working for a Wall Street firm.

    The fantastic thing about conversing with atheists and free thinkers is that there are so many viewpoints out there and your opinion is considered based on its merits, not preconceived notions or dogma. Maybe Bruening has fallen prey to that old “opposite day” game that school children play.

  47. Lauren
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 3:11 am | Permalink

    Just a linkbait article to drive traffic. No thinking person could possibly take her observations seriously. Unless she is only looking to her subjective experiences.

  48. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    ‘founder of the Inner Mammal Institute’.

    The woo is strong in this one, I think.

  49. Posted June 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Channeling SE Cupp it would seem…


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Don’t websites or magazines require original content any more? I’m not referring to sites like BuzzFeed that recycle or collect stuff from other sites, but places like Psychology Today that purport to publish original material. Apparently not. The public, or editors, still seems to have an hearty appetite for atheist-bashing, even though every type of bashing has long ago been exhausted.  Yet in a new piece at Psychology Today, “Atheists are fundamentalists too” by Loretta Graziano Breuning, we see the tired and bogus accusations surface once again, and from an atheist-butter (see below). [Read more] […]

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