National Post: Atheism is hurting the West

Conrad Black is an ex-con who once owned a newspaper empire (including the Torygraph) and then spent three years in prison for mail fraud and obstruction of justice. He apparently found religion in jail and has engaged in bashing atheists ever since, We met him in the atheist-bashing mode in 2015, and he hasn’t gotten any better. He now pushes his delusions in Canada’s National Post.

In a 2015 column, he evinced a Plantinga-ian view that the reality of God was simply self-evident:

Intellectually, the problem is that religion is essentially reasonable and atheism is unreasonable and the consequences of the militancy of contemporary atheism are not only unreasonable but offensive to reason. Few things in our murky lives could be more obvious and indisputable than that there must be some force in the cosmos that causes spiritual insight, authenticated miracles, and is able to grasp the notion of the timeless, the limitless, and the fact that at some point in our past there was some kind of creation.

Now he continues in this vein with a newish column, “I put this as simply as possible: Many atheists are excellent, but atheism itself is hurting the West“. Now my first response on reading the title was this: “Even if it is hurting the West, and I believe the opposite, that says nothing about the existence of gods!” But Black still thinks that the existence of the Abrahamic God is self evident, and, moreover, that atheists, by reaping the benefits of a “Judeo-Christian civilization” without accepting God, are simply parasites on society.

First, Black reprises his evidence for God:

Because there was so much misunderstanding and overwrought, misplaced hysteria from some readers, I will wind this up by restating key points with mind-numbing simplicity. We have no idea how the universe, or any version of the life and context we know, originated. We have no idea of the infinite, of what was before the beginning or is beyond any spatial limits we can imagine, even with the great exploratory progress of science. Miracles sometime occur and people do sometimes have completely inexplicable insights that are generally described as spiritual. No sane and somewhat experienced person disputes any of this. But there is a cyber-vigilante squad of atheist banshees that swarm like bats over such comments and are hyperactive philistines better responded to with pest control measures than logical argument.

My contention is that it is more logical and reasonable to attribute these phenomena to the existence of a supernatural force or intelligence than either to deny that they exist, or to take refuge in the faith that they are merely aspects of our environment that we will eventually understand as we explore our planet and the contiguous universe.

He’s equating scientific ignorance with the existence of God: the classic “god of the gaps” argument. We don’t know what the first form of life was like, either. Does that prove God? And thanks to Cantor and others, we do indeed have an idea of the infinite. As for miracles and spiritual insights that would convince a skeptic of God, Black doesn’t give any. He rejects Hume’s argument for the dubious “miracles” that he doesn’t mention, and fails to note the many “spiritual insights” gained by people on drugs like LSD or ayahuasca. Are those evidence for God, too?

According to Black, this is how atheists are free-riding on the accomplishments of religion:

Of course, in our society, most people, including most atheists, are reasonably honest and decent and get through their lives without horrible outbursts of sociopathic behaviour. I did write that those atheists who purport to espouse the Judeo-Christian life without admitting the probability of some supernatural force are essentially enjoying the benefits of Judeo-Christian civilization while denying even the least onerous definition of its basic tenets. Thus do schism and hypocrisy raise their hoary heads.

As atheists renounce the roots of our civilization, they are troublesome passengers, and are apt to be less integral defenders of the West in time of challenge.

First of all, although many of our ancestors were religious, that doesn’t mean that our society is a “Judeo-Christian civilization”. That means that Jews and Christians helped build it, but it doesn’t mean that all the precepts of society come from religion. Many of America’s founders, for instance, were either atheists or deists who explicitly wanted to take religion out of government. And many of the modern scientists who contributed to our well being were avowed atheists.  If there is no evidence to skeptics for a god, why must they “admit the probability of some supernatural force”? If atheists don’t, are we to be deprived of our social benefits?: “No soup for you, Heathen!”

I won’t need much more space to dissect this befuddled curmudgeon, whose presence in the Post I find baffling. He also makes the familiar claim that without God there’s no basis for morality:

I also wrote that the atheists are becoming steadily more aggressive, more generally dismissive of the supernatural tradition, while swaddling themselves in commendable precepts that are generally variants of the Golden Rule and other such formulations. These are fine, but they will not in themselves assure a norm of social conduct and they have already led to the  ghastly enfeeblement of moral relativism. Alternative scenarios emerge of equal worthiness, as right and wrong are concepts that are diluted by being severed from any original legitimacy. All schools of behavioural conduct compete on a level playing field and disorder gradually ensues. Man is deemed to be perfectible, the traditional matrix for authoritarianism. Where there is deemed to be no God the classic human deities — or Robespierre’s Supreme Being, the Nazi Pagan-Wagnerian leaders, or the Stalinist incarnation of the toiling Slavonic masses — replace deities. Anyone who imagines that our legal system, unto itself, will assure acceptable social conduct has had little experience of it. The entire apparatus of our society of laws has degenerated into a 360 degree cartel operated by and almost exclusively for the benefit of the legal profession.

Well, you already know the argument against the “original legitimacy” of morality derived from religion. It’s threefold. First, Plato’s Euthyphro Argument. Does Black believe that we should stone to death those who work on the Sabbath because God said so, or do the same to kids who curse their parents? If not, why not? For the same reasons that underlie the second point: every believer picks and chooses their morality from scripture or dogma, which means there are pre-scriptural moral feelings that dictate our actions. The Golden Rule has arisen many times in history independent of religion, and had religion not arisen I’m sure someone would have adumbrated it. Further, even if it were true that people need a god so much that they accept Hitlers and Stalins as gods if they give up on conventional faith, that still says nothing about the existence of God. All it says is that some people need a godlike presence in their lives. Or does Black even really care whether or not people accept God, so long as it’s good for society?

Finally: Scandinavia, including Iceland. Those are godless countries full of moral people. I suppose Black would argue that their morality must come from their religious background, but that would ignore the recent innovations in morality, like gay marriage, that came independent of religion. Read Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature for more examples. If there were a jail for intellectual miscreants, Black would be in it.

Again. why does the Post give this guy space to make such poor arguments?

h/t: Mark

74 Comments

  1. Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    sub

  2. Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    We have no idea how the universe, or any version of the life and context we know, originated.

    He has no idea…ergo his confidence in one particular conclusion is unshakable.

    You know, it’s a perfectly wonderful thing to admit ignorance. When you don’t know the answer, admitting ignorance is exactly the right thing to do!

    Where he and all the rest of the faithful go off the rails is where they start from ignorance and therefore conclude certainty….

    Cheers,

    b&

    • darrelle
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      Yes, his confidence in the conclusion that he is incapable of understanding even the basics of what modern science has discovered about our reality is unshakable. I’ll give him the respect of taking him at his word.

  3. Roger
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Intellectually, the problem is that religion is essentially reasonable and atheism is unreasonable and the consequences of the militancy of contemporary atheism are not only unreasonable but offensive to reason. Few things in our murky lives could be more obvious and indisputable than that there must be some force in the cosmos that causes spiritual insight, authenticated miracles, and is able to grasp the notion of the timeless, the limitless, and the fact that at some point in our past there was some kind of creation.

    Is it opposite day already or something? He got everything completely backwards. He must be trolling lol.

    • Ian Clark
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Every day is opposite day with these numpties.

    • darrelle
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Pretty much exactly what I thought on reading that. “He’s batting -1000. And being a dick about it to boot. That can’t be due to chance.”

  4. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Black’s arguments are so weak and simplistic that following a mild evisceration by Jerry, there’s little left to say.

    Finding religion is, it seems, a good way to make money.

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Yes indeed. I can think of nothing to add.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 5, 2017 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Finding religion is, it seems, a good way to make money.

      Me, I smell the smell of a parole officer.
      I don’t know what Black’s sentence was, but many criminals are released from jail before completing their sentence, but released “on parole”, but subject to recall if they break various rules supervised by parole or probation officers.
      Sucking up to god with outwards displays of religiosity is a common woollen blanket to pull over the eyes of such ossifers.
      Colour me cynical.

  5. M
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    “I won’t need much more space to dissect this befuddled curmudgeon, whose presence in the Post I find baffling.”

    Shouldn’t be baffling. He’s the founder of the paper, and although he doesn’t still own it, I’d imagine he has some sway there.

  6. Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    PZ Myers has recently made the same argument that atheists – devoid of higher purpose – are bereft of morality in the Putin propaganda rag Sputnik:

    “The New Atheist movement was established on the basis that there is no God and that is not really something that reaches out and grabs people. I think we have squandered the effort to develop a deeper meaning. If there is no God, we need a better foundation for morality, we need human interactions and atheists just haven’t grasped that yet,” Mr. Myers added…

    “What is happening is that a number of us are falling away and it’s because the New Atheist movement doesn’t give us that peace. Some people tried to start a new movement called Atheism Plus, in an effort to combine concern for our social needs and it got shattered by the New Atheist as it was seen as repelling. People don’t want to repeat the same mistake, Mr. Myers told Sputnik.

    https://sputniknews.com/society/201705031053247150-new-atheism-movement-alienation/

    • Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Wow. PZ’s lack of insight is mind-blowing.

      “The New Atheist movement was driven by the September 11 attacks, but now it’s evolved into something else that says, ‘we hate those people with foreign ideas,’ and this is not what atheism is all about,” Mr. Myers added.

      It’s like he’s never read his own blog’s comments section. “We hate those people with foreign ideas,” could be their motto. The “New Atheists” almost always attack statements, arguments, and ideas. It’s the PZ Myers crowd who routinely attack the people behind the comments or ideas they don’t like; often with name-calling and fantasies of violence. Hearing Dawkins read his hate mail is so funny because it’s so out of character to hear those kinds of words coming out of his mouth. He doesn’t call people “dick-bags” or whatever and describe how he’d like to physically harm them.

      • Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        Its a complete rewrite of history. Dawkins became a spokesperson for atheism because the religious Right were encroaching on science teaching with their intelligent design horseshit.

  7. DrBrydon
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I want to stop as “religion is essentially reasonable,” but continued.

    Of course, in our society, most people, including most atheists, are reasonably honest and decent and get through their lives without horrible outbursts of sociopathic behaviour.

    I would ask Black, as the one who went to jail, what sociopathic behavior he has seen from atheists. (And I would remind Black that disagreeing with the religious — or with him — does not count as sociopathic behavior.)

  8. Posted May 4, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Did Black discover religion in prison? Because if he was already religious and still committed his crimes religion didn’t do his morality much good. I’ve managed to get through my life so far without so much as a fine for an overdue library book.

    If Black was incapable of behaving morally at least an understanding of what does and what doesn’t constitute evidence might have helped him get away with it.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Or perhaps he has come to realise that he did bad things because it was God’s will for him to redeem himself? Refusing to accept personal blame for past crimes because they were part of finding the greater good. The ends retrospectively justifying the means.

    • Tom
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps he is still on parole and needs to come across as a true repentant?

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      During his trial it was evident that he and his hideous moral troll of a wife are so besotted with themselves that they seemed literally incapable of understanding that looting other people’s money to maintain themselves in the manner of faux royalty was wrong. The level of hubris is breathtaking. Think Trump with a decent education and a better vocabulary.

    • Peter
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      I recall that he once described his family as all atheists and agnostics. His interest in religion started some time around 1973 while he was completing his MA at McGill University in Montreal. I believe it was there that he met Cardinal Leger and Cardinal Carter and started his conversion to Catholicism. He is currently a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great,a major shareholder in The Catholic Herald, and was the vice-president of Cardinal Léger’s charity until around 1990. He is obviously heavily invested in the Catholic Church.

    • John Taylor
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Black is better than the little people. Any law he breaks is meant for little people and not Conrad.

      • Mike
        Posted May 5, 2017 at 4:50 am | Permalink

        He is the very definition of “an arrogant arsehole”

  9. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    As atheists renounce the roots of our civilization, they are troublesome passengers, and are apt to be less integral defenders of the West in time of challenge.

    Well, that’s me told. I guess I’d better brush up on the rituals for the Greek pantheon of gods (approximately 12). Surely only a fool would worship a single god when the task of creating and maintaining a universe could be shared around?

    • Sastra
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Yes, apparently the big question here is “who makes a more passionate, obedient fighter — someone who thinks it’s God’s will that he march off to battle and he’ll be rewarded in heaven if he dies, or someone who considers right and wrong intellectually and believes life really matters?” No doubt he’s right. Religious fanatics make model soldiers.

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    The euthYphro (a middle ‘y’ belongs there) argument and the problem of evil are two of the best arguments against theism I know, as well as the lack of strong direct evidence.

    (Arguably, the relatively best arguments for God are the hard problem of consciousness, and the fine-tuning of the physical constants, but they hardly seal the deal.)

    Mr. Black says he has “no problem with agnostics, who at least imply that their minds are open.” Ah, but what Mr. Black do you do with agnostics like Robert Ingersoll and Vincent Bugliosi who combine their agnosticism with strong confidence that Christianity is false??

    He claims that “atheists renounce the roots of our civilization”. Not if you count ancient Greece as one of those roots! Aristotle (minus his physics) and Cicero remain appreciated among atheists.

    He does not in this essay explain why he believes in the Christian God instead of Brahma or deism (or Islam’s Allah), except to protest that Christianity is part of the root of our civilization.

    I dislike the word “supernatural” as much as most atheists dislike the word “spiritual”.
    It has a built-in incoherency built into it.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      I always bridle at the “fine-tuning” argument, because I think it is always couched in way that assumes an actor. Nothing fine-tunes itself. Why does the earth, for example, exist in just the right orbital zone for life to flourish? Well, it didn’t have to. It just happens that it does, and if it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here arguing about it.

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        Agreed: the “fine-tuning” argument is just a sophistimimicated version of Douglas Adams’s “argument from the shape of a puddle”. Adams at least knew that the argument was nonsense when he wrote it – that’s why he wrote it, but the “fine-tuning” folks just keep right on.

      • Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        If the Earth’s orbit is fine-tuned, why is it tuned to be a perfect ellipse with one of the nodal points at the center of gravity of the Sun-Earth system?

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted May 4, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          Well, I honestly cannot accuse you of making an elliptical argument.

      • Kevin
        Posted May 4, 2017 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

        Strictly speaking, minimization of energy is an automatic law of nature.

        Likewise, thermodynamic (entropic) pressures to move a system are actually unavoidable.

        Fine-tuning may have an ‘actor’ in mind, but the process does not care…it will continue with or without the actor.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, ladies and gentlemen about the Douglas Adams riposte.
      However, if both Sean Carroll and Christopher Hitchens can say that compared to other arguments for God, this is one of the best, I think I can chime in with concurrence.

      Most arguments for God set up a philosophical dilemma for which God is one possible resolution to the dilemma (such as the First Cause argument), but by no means a necessary one.

      PLantinga claims that no one argument is too convincing, but the cumulative weight of all of them somewhat is. I’m not sure how to quantify that, but it seems to me that he omits counter-arguments from the mix.

      • Posted May 5, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Yes, I would say the cosmological argument is the least susceptible to instantaneous dismissal. It’s still pretty dismal though.

        At least Black is sort of honest about it: We have no idea, therefore I am very certain it was (my particular flavor of) god. This is what “they” are all saying; but won’t admit.

      • Posted May 8, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        I think Carroll and Hitchens are wrong, myself: the “fine tuning argument” is terribly flawed. In a naturalistic world view, the universe (or an appropriate part of it) *has* to appear fine tuned. In supernaturalistic world view, presumably we could also exist miraculously. Consequently there is no way to tell the two apart. (Ikeda-Jeffreys)

    • revelator60
      Posted May 5, 2017 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Since Black does not believe in any of the Greek Gods, he is, by his own logic, renouncing the roots of our civilization. And what about all the Gods of ancient Egypt, Persia, and Babylon? Osiris and Marduk are angry!

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted May 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        Well, Thor has his own film series.

        • revelator60
          Posted May 5, 2017 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          True, and I believe a Hollywood movie made about the Egyptian Gods was recently made. However, I heard it was unbelievably terrible, which is a shame, since Egyptian mythology is weird and wonderful. Down with Jehovah and up with Amon-Ra!

    • Posted May 8, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      The “roots of our civilization” argument is classic conservative boilerplate, and Black is certainly a classic conservative in some ways (he’s also neo- in others).

      In my view it is an argument from consequences – and a bad one, since I do not know anyone who rejects *all* the roots. And I for one have no problem borrowing from others where something has merit; there’s a whiff of opposition to this sort of idea in what he and others say – I find that to be a (relatively mild, but still …) form of racism.

  11. Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    The idea that the West owes everything to its Judeo-Christian past and that we should be damn grateful is the flipside of post colonial theory which tells us everything in the West has been plundered from somewhere else so we ought to be damn grateful. They are both based on the idea that we are born into a debt we can never repay.

  12. Eduardo
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    “Few things in our murky lives could be more obvious and indisputable than that there must be ‘SOME FORCE’ in ‘THE COSMOS” that causes ‘SPIRITUAL INSIGHT’, ‘AUTHENTICATED MIRACLES’, and is able to ‘GRASP THE NOTION’ of the ‘TIMELESS’, the “LIMITLESS”, and the fact that at some point in our past there was some ‘KIND OF CREATION’.
    Yes, very obvious and very indisputable. This is very, very deep. Only a superb eminent mind could have come up with this deepity.

  13. LukeReeshus
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Where there is deemed to be no God the classic human deities — or Robespierre’s Supreme Being, the Nazi Pagan-Wagnerian leaders, or the Stalinist incarnation of the toiling Slavonic masses — replace deities.

    Ah yes, the “atheism automatically leads to Stalinism” trope. I suppose he deserves some credit for at least dressing it up.

    Also, can we dispense with this notion of our Judeo-Christian civilization? I think the historical case could easily be made that we are just as much, if not more, a Greco-Roman civilization.

  14. Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Haha. I can’t make it through all this drivel (the original article, not the commentary). Right, denying miracles is just NOT rational. Take that, David Hume!

    • Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      To further that thought, why do these people so consistently seem to know nothing about what they are talking about? In this case, rationality, critical thinking and logic, and even a smattering of philosophy.

      • DrBrydon
        Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        His target audience isn’t seeking erudition, they are seeking affirmation.

  15. prinzler
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    “But there is a cyber-vigilante squad of atheist banshees that swarm like bats over such comments and are hyperactive philistines better responded to with pest control measures than logical argument.”

    Flattery will get you nowhere.

    • Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      The pest control comment is particularly disturbing.

      • Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. I recoiled when I read that. What did Black have in mind, Zyklon-B?

        • noncarborundum
          Posted May 4, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

          Maybe he means to send sterile sexual partners our way so that we don’t reproduce. That would at least be more fun than being sprayed with a deadly compound.

    • Sastra
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Ironically, this seems to be a clear-cut case where we can say that the writer is “denying our humanity” and, possibly, our “right to exist.”

      But it’s not hate speech because faith is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

  16. Randy schenck
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Seems that Conrad Black has been very consistent moving from one form of fraud to another. At least he can avoid prison with is new form.

    • Tom
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      If he keeps his wits about him and avoids being too greedy

    • ploubere
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. How rich to be preached at by such a lowlife con artist.

  17. Taz
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Miracles sometime occur and people do sometimes have completely inexplicable insights that are generally described as spiritual. No sane and somewhat experienced person disputes any of this.

    Seriously? No sane person disputes the validity of miracles? This guy is delusional on an astronomical scale.

    • Sastra
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Oh, eyewitness testimony is the most trustworthy testimony there is.

    • Sastra
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Oh, eyewitness testimony is the most reliable testimony there is. That’s just common sense.

      • Sastra
        Posted May 4, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        Sorry for the double post. For some reason it looked like my first one didn’t get through.

        Or maybe eyewitness testimony is so trustworthy and reliable that it bears repeating.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted May 4, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Yes–and hearsay eyewitness testimony is even better. Especially when seasoned by, oh, IDK, about 200 years…

        • Posted May 5, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          The famous “eyewitnesses” in the New Testament are the 500 cited by Paul. Not a single one of them is even so much as identified by name.

          But, much, much worse…we don’t have Paul’s original manuscript. We don’t even have copies of copies of copies of Paul’s original manuscript. All we’ve got are centuries-late manuscripts of piss-poor provenance.

          And, contemporary with the manuscripts we do have, we also have Pagan accounts of how gullible the Christians were and how easy it was to dupe them into believing newly-“revealed” “scriptures.”

          Anybody today who thinks we have anything even vaguely resembling “eyewitness” accounts of the Jesus incident is at least as gullibly deluded as the second-century Christians Lucian of Samosata and others ridiculed….

          Cheers,

          b&

    • Posted May 8, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      A good example of the “poisoning the well” fallacy for sure.

  18. nwalsh
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I believe Black was incarcerated in Florida. That could explain a lot of this nonsense.

  19. Claudia Baker
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Conrad Black is a joke to most Canadians. Not too many shed a tear when he went to jail. He remains, though, a vain and narcissistic moron. And now he’s found god. Good grief. One has to wonder what’s in it for him (aside from Paradise).

    The Nat’l Post is almost as much of a joke. No one in their right mind reads it anymore. So, there’s some comfort in that: only idiots will read Black’s drivel.

    • Steven
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the NP. It is a fine paper even though it has a conservative bent. But it’s also irrelevant to the matter of
      Black’s religiosity; the two issues aren’t related and the paper does not spout faith.

    • Dan Paslawski
      Posted May 4, 2017 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      I stand with Steven here. NP does have a conservative lean, but supports some of the best of Canadian journalism. I skip Black’s and Lawrence Solomon’s columns, but I find Andrew Coyne, Terry Glavin, and John Ivison all to be objective and insightful.

  20. Charles G. Watson
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Conrad Black started the National Post newspaper, and at one time he owned it.

    That’s why they give him space to write this drivel.

  21. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Just another w**ker pratting on about the decline of morality, so far as I can see. They pop up all the time. It’s like whack-a-mole.

    He’ll be on to ‘family values’ next, see if he doesn’t.

    cr

  22. Posted May 4, 2017 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    The best way to counter the Christian claim to morality is not pointing to the “Founding Fathers”, to Scandinavia, to “Better Angels of Human Nature”, it is — Confucius (around 500 years before alleged Jesus).

    He lived comfortably before Christianity, or Judaism. He walked the earth, and he is a historical character. His moral ideas are well documented. And above all: he never had anything to do with a Christian deity. His teachings are more useful than abstract Persian laws.

    He’s the single most tangible, uncontroversial evidence that completely ruins the Christian narrative. Innate altruism — too complicated. Founding Fathers — they were secretly influenced by Christianity, weren’t they? Scandinavia — some communist, socialist, country that isn’t Murica!? Forget about it. Some Chinese dude can be dismissed as well, but not so easily. Also, the Faithful haven’t heard that one that often, I guess.

    Confucius (551—479 BCE) is the man.

  23. somer
    Posted May 4, 2017 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Conrad the Messiah saves the West … this sort of entitled whining for an age when people could more or less be compelled to believe is a violation of my rights. Why aren’t the regressives complaining about this instead of demonising “New Atheists”?

  24. Tom
    Posted May 5, 2017 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Just a thought, since most scientists are atheists or agnostics, could a god inspire their achievements or is it the result of study and hard work?
    If a god why aren’t saints mystics and gurus top of the science tree?

  25. Bruce Gorton
    Posted May 5, 2017 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Here is another thing: Fuck The West.

    Seriously, fuck it. The West rose to its position of prominence on the back of violently robbing people of everything, including themselves, and the ground anything happened to be nailed to.

    I mean you can’t get The West without the genocide of the American native population, the enslavement of Africa’s population, the drugging of China’s population and the list goes on.

    The West as an ideology is pretty uniformly awful, with the major good that is credited to it such as human rights or even technological more often than not arising as a reaction to its excesses.

    This is not to say that The East or The South or The North are in any way better – my country has cultural practices like kidnapping little girls into sexual slavery – sorry marriage – generally all culture exists to maintain the power of shitty people.

    I mean seriously, kings are basically the children of tyrants who convinced people that keeping their line in charge was traditional. The queen of England may be a lovely woman, but she is there on the backs of mass murderers.

    The glamourisation of “our way of life” has never been a good thing, the idea that we have some sort of unique us-ness that makes us better than everyone else has generally been the enemy of any values that we might claim to promote.

    Those who torture and set up the surveillance state will claim they are doing it for freedom and “national security” – because nothing makes you feel more secure than having cops who kill children, and nothing says freedom better than detention centers that torture confessions out of people.

    “Our way of life” for the vast majority means working for such low wages that slavery might have actually cost the owners more.

    The West is not what we seek to further, what we seek to further is humanity. Not just one corner of humanity, the whole lot of it, and so long as we are fighting for a cardinal direction rather than the whole compass, we’re failing.

    • aljones909
      Posted May 6, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      “Fuck the west”?
      “The West rose to its position of prominence on the back of violently robbing people of everything, including themselves, and the ground anything happened to be nailed to.”
      Science, technology and The Enlightenment might also have had something to do with it. The European countries which embraced modernity prospered. Spain and Portugal, despite having large empires and a huge slave trade, remained backward peasant countries. Scandinavia and Germany grew rich without empires. The United States also indicates that slavery and exploitation were not responsible for creating a modern economy. The southern slave states, until fairly recently, lagged behind the industrial north.
      We might also give the west some credit for :- 1) eradication of smallpox, 2) 99% reduction in polio cases 3) Malaria cases halved in 15 years. The WHO forecast a 90% reduction in the next 15 years 4)75% reduction in extreme poverty in the last 30 years.

  26. Posted May 5, 2017 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    “authenticated miracles” Quick, notify James Randi to get a check ready.

  27. Posted May 8, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Dr. Coyne, you write “he evinced a Plantinga-ian view that the reality of God was simply self-evident.”

    Plantinga would not say that the existence of God is self evident. That would render a lot of his work in epistemology unnecessary, since there is no epistemology that does not permit accepting a self evident belief. What he thinks is that we lack clear, defensible criteria for distinguishing between beliefs that are and are not properly basic, so the beliefs that a given person should take as properly basic will depend in part on the norms of his community.


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