The New Yorker once again slams New Atheism

About two weeks ago I dissected an interview at Vox in which Sean Illing talked to John Gray about Gray’s new book, Fifty Shades Seven Types of Atheism, and both interviewer and interviewee embraced each other in their hatred of New Atheism. Their mutual beefs (both are atheists but are “atheist-butters”) include these four:

1.) Religion is not mainly about factual assertions but about other things, and ignorant New Atheists fail to recognize that.
2.) Atheism is just an attempt to replace conventional religion with other forms of “religion”, and contains its own mythology.
3.) Religion answers the questions that science can’t, and tells us about meaning and purpose.
4.) Science is seen by New Atheists as a substitute for religion, and a bad substitute, because science can cause harm.

You can see my response to these canards (an insult to ducks) at the link above.

The New Yorker, which like Vox is a left-wing website that dislikes New Atheism, recently published an article that is a combination of a review of Gray’s book (along with some history taken from Laurence Moore and Isaac Kramnick’s new book Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic: Atheists in American Public Life) along with the New Yorker‘s usual overwritten bloviating on the topic of atheism. You can read the article by clicking on the screenshot below:

The potted history of atheism won’t tell you much you don’t know (e.g., “In God we Trust” was added to currency only in the 1950s), but may interest those not involved with atheism. But much of the article is an uncritical presentation of Gray’s ideas, which include a critique of New Atheism and a denial of progressivism. One gets the strong idea that author Casey Cep, identified as “a writer from the Eastern Shore of Maryland”, is a big booster of Gray’s ideas. (Cep also appears to have no expertise in religiosity and its denial.) Her long and uncritical exposition of Gray’s ideas begins, of course, with a shot over the bow of New Atheism, demonstrating where Cep’s allegiance lies:

[Gray’s book] is also a refreshing look beyond the so-called “new atheists” who have lately dominated the conversation surrounding unbelief. Gray does not brook what he describes as their “tedious re-run of a Victorian squabble between science and religion,” and, in contrast to Moore and Kramnick, who believe that new atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have generated an “Atheist Awakening,” Gray dismisses them in a single chapter. “New atheists have directed their campaign against a narrow segment of religion while failing to understand even that small part,” he writes. By Gray’s account, they ignore polytheism and animism almost entirely, while insisting on reading verses of Genesis or lines of the Nicene Creed as if they were primitive scientific theories. Not all monotheists are literalists, and, for many of us, both now and throughout history, the Garden of Eden is not a faulty hypothesis about evolution but a rich symbolic story about good and evil.

Here again we have a Sophisticated Believer asserting that he is representative of most believers in not being a literalist and in not accepting that Abrahamic religions are based on factual assertions. Try telling a Catholic that Jesus wasn’t divine or can’t forgive your sins; try telling a Southern Baptist that Adam and Eve are lovely symbols of good and evil; try telling a Muslim that Muhammad’s “night flight” from Mecca to Jerusalem and back on the steed Buraq is just a lovely but a false story, or that the Qur’an wasn’t really dictated to Muhammad by an angel in a cave. I’d love for Gray to go to, say, Tehran and give a lecture about how the Qu’ran is a “rich symbolic story about good and evil.” Well, actually, I wouldn’t, because he’d be dead within a day or so.

As I’ve shown repeatedly on this site, and in my book Faith Versus Fact, a huge fraction of believers in both the UK and US take things like the existence of an afterlife, Heaven and Hell, angels, Jesus’s resurrection, and so on as literal truths. Granted, not all religionists take the whole Bible or Qur’an literally (though a higher proportion of Muslims than of Christians are literalists) but, as I’ve said in one of my few bon mots, “Some believers are literalists about everything, but every believer is a literalist about something.”

You can hardly call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe that Jesus existed, was divine, and was crucified and resurrected. And so on and so on and so on. As the Bible says, in fact, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). In claiming that religion has very little to do with literal (i.e., “scientific”) truth, Gray and Cep are simply ignoring how religion works, and how, at bottom, it depends on literal adherence to at least a few supernatural assertions. It is not a “small segment” of religionists who have some literal beliefs in the supernatural!

Another claim of both Gray—and by extension, Cep—is that atheism doesn’t offer a solid ground for morality. Here’s Cep osculating Gray:

Gray’s larger complaint is that the new atheists fail to offer a more coherent moral vision than the one they want to replace. The strategy they champion, scientific ethics, has been tried before, with a notable lack of success. Auguste Comte and his fellow nineteenth-century positivists envisioned a Grand Pontiff of Humanity who would preside alongside scientist-priests; unfortunately, scientists at the time were practicing phrenology. Later on, evolutionary humanists and monists replaced God’s order with “scientific” anthropologies, then constructed racial hierarchies and put white Europeans on top. Today, the voguish version of science as religion is transhumanism, which claims that technology will overcome human limitations both physical and mental, perhaps through bioengineering or artificial intelligence or cyborgs that can carry around the contents of our brains. Gray is not sanguine about such developments, should they ever occur, because we already have a model of the mayhem that takes place when some mortals are granted godlike powers: “Anyone who wants a glimpse of what a post-human future might be like should read Homer.”

Umm. . . . the only New Atheist who champions scientific ethics, as far as I know, is Sam Harris, who claims there are empirically determinable “right” and “wrong” statements. I disagree with him, though I think most versions of morality do rely on a consequentialist view of what constitutes greater or lesser “well being.” But defining “well being” is slippery, and in some cases the currency of morality might not be “well being.” In the end, I maintain, as do other New Atheists, that morality is grounded on what kind of world you prefer, which is a subjective judgment. As for transhumanism, that’s irrelevant.

True, consequentialists know that empirical data does play a role in secular ethics (as oppose to the divine fiat of religious ethics). But really, isn’t it better to base your morals on how they affect people’s lives rather than on propitiating the dictates of a God who, to even Gray, doesn’t exist? In the end, why does having a God in your sights give you a better morality than relying on reason and preference? After all Plato showed with the Euthyphro argument that even religious morality has an extrabiblical (i.e., nonreligious) philosophy behind it.

Cep goes on:

On the whole, Gray is a glass-half-empty kind of guy, and what others regard as novel or promising he often sees as derivative or just plain dumb. He argues, for instance, that secular humanism is really monotheism in disguise, where humankind is God and salvation can be achieved through our own efforts rather than through divine intervention. Unlike the linguist—and new atheist—Steven Pinker, Gray regards the idea that the world is getting better as self-evidently silly. “The cumulative increase of knowledge in science has no parallel in ethics or politics,” he points out. Religions are still thriving, as are wars between them, and secular regimes have wrought as much, if not more, havoc under the auspices of Jacobinism, Bolshevism, Nazism, and Maoism.

Secular humanism is the philosophy that humans can find moral and material fulfillment without the need for gods. In what respect is that “monotheism” in disguise? Does it put humanity as a sacred and numinous object, like God? No way! There’s a big difference between saying we have to help ourselves on one hand, and saying on the other that we need the intervention of a being for which there’s no evidence. Gray should know this, and Cep, as a supposedly savvy New Yorker writer, should know that difference even better. But she falls for Gray’s “sophistication”, offering not a word of critique.

As for the statement that it’s “self-evidently silly”, to say the world is getting better, that statement itself is arrant nonsense. Clearly we’re materially better than we were a few centuries ago (would Gray like to live as a medieval peasant with infected teeth?), and you can see the evidence for that in Pinker’s last two books. And we’ve improved not just materially (here I count “health and well-being” as material goods), but also morally. Attitudes towards gays, women, minorities, children, and other once-oppressed groups have changed much for the better. Slavery is no longer tenable, and we have much more concern about the welfare of animals.

Finally, I needn’t address the canard (a word that’s an offense to ducks) that “secular regimes” are fraught with “havoc.” From Nazism to Bolshevism, the state simply replaced God with Dear Leaders, and Nazism wasn’t even atheistic. Perhaps Gray and Cep should be pointed toward Scandinavia to see that “secular regimes” in the modern world, so long as they’re democratic, need not be bastions of immorality or oppression.

Cep goes on to note that Gray’s version of “good” atheists include those atheists who (like him) have no faith in humanity, as well as “apophatic atheists” who simply shut up about their unbelief and, indeed, accept some kind of numinous philosophy like pantheism.

At the end, Cep alludes to the specious claim that all of us, atheists and nonbelievers alike, are similar in having faith. We’re all brothers and sisters under the skin!

Still, as Gray might have predicted, it is difficult, in this particular political moment, to believe that the circle of rights is expanding for atheists or for anyone else. Moore and Kramnick, who have written a thorough and useful history of the legal and political status of atheists in America, unsurprisingly believe that such work is salvific—that understanding the bias against atheists in the past can help end it in the future. Gray holds no such hope, and yet his book offers a way forward. In it, he helps us understand how those who do not believe in God, or, for that matter, those who do, have oriented themselves in the universe. Faith, after all, drove the Puritans to Plymouth Rock but then led them to execute three of their Quaker neighbors; it inspired American slavers but also American abolitionists; and, whatever else atheism is accused of doing in this country, it sustained the scientific curiosity and profound pacifism of the two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie, and the art and activism of Lorraine Hansberry. All of us, nihilists included, believe something—many things, in fact, about ourselves, the cosmos, and one another. In the end, the most interesting thing about a conscience is how it answers, not whom it answers to. ♦

This conflates “faith” as “a belief in a proposition not well supported by evidence”, with “optimism” (the Puritans) and “confidence based on data and reason” (i.e. Linus Pauling, the abolitionists). Saying that Jesus was resurrected does not lie on the same playing field as the statement that “Slaves are better off not being slaves.” “Belief” can be based on wish-thinking, as it is in religion, or on data and experience, as it is in science and many other areas. Those simply aren’t equivalent ways of determining what’s true, or equally valid supports for what you believe.

And the last sentence is classic New Yorker nonsense: a nice-sounding Deepity that, if taken seriously, dismisses religion as of no importance whatsoever—after Cep and Gray have just told us why religion remains important.



  1. Linda Calhoun
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    “Atheism…contains its own mythology.”



  2. alexandra Moffat
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    It is sad that The New Yorker is going that route. Sad & bad. Have been a subscriber since the inception – my parents, then me. Earlier days were wittier, the fiction better (IMHO), the cartoons funnier and there were marvelous authors , both fiction and non. Can’t take Rachel Carson away from TNY. There are still non fiction writers I wouldn’t miss – and I’d miss those covers coming almost every week. Clinging to the past? Maybe….

  3. Posted November 16, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    EVOLUTION seems to have wired a certain percentage at least of human brains if not most or all of them with a need for a context of meaning shareable and used by the individual human being to make decisions about how to behave to live and experience pleasure moving through time. Call it what you wish.And yes, a lot of our beliefs are incoherent and dysfunctional for the survival of the species.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    “esposition” — I think x would mark the spot.

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Casey Nicole Cep: I don’t like her writing. As Jerry says it’s overwritten & takes bloody ages getting to the point. She did journalism as a fellow, but can’t write like a journalist. I also think she should lay her own beliefs on the table when writing in the area of beliefs/religion. What does she stand for? Is she an atheist or what?

    To further confuse things…

    I don’t understand this from HARVARD MAGAZINE 2007:

    “Casey N. Cep

    Ledecky Fellow ’07

    Casey N. Cep is a writer from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a variety of other publications. She is presently studying at Yale Divinity School, seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America”

    To get a Ledecky Fellowship [in journalism] I think you have to be a Harvard undergraduate, but the Harvard Magazine says she’s studying at Yale Divinity School in 2007.

    Elsewhere and eleven years later for the blurb of her book it says this:

    “After graduating from Harvard she earned an M.Phil. at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The New Republic, among many other publications. This is her first book”

    I’m not doubting the above, but it all seems a bit peculiar. In 2007 she’s at Yale, but has a Ledecky Fellowship for Harvard undergraduates. In 2007 she’s studying divinity at Yale, but gets a Rhodes Scholarship to ‘do’ theology at Oxford later AFTER graduating from Harvard.

    Is Yale Divinity School at Harvard? I’m misunderstanding something I think.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 16, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Noting the religious involvement in her education certainly sheds light on her apparent, indirect, disdain for New Atheism.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted November 16, 2018 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        She’s intellectually dishonest – taking potshots at unbelievers while not revealing her own beliefs/unbeliefs. I’ve lightly google trawled** her articles & can’t see anything committing her to a belief although she’s been writing for more than a decade. She lets us know about her Rhodes Scholarship Oxford MPhil, but leaves out that it was in theology [specifically Christian Ethics].

        Something doesn’t add up…

        Parents, Sandy & Bill Cep of Cordova, MD
        2002 graduate Easton High School, MD
        2006:- “Cep is majoring in English and American Literature and Language at Harvard College, where she is president of the Harvard Advocate literary magazine and editor of the Harvard Crimson and Harvard Book Review.” SOURCE And yet at the same time:

        “She is presently studying at Yale Divinity School, seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America”

        ** looked at article headlines & read the openings & closings for revelation about herself. Playing her cards so close to her chest is suspicious. I checked her Twitter etc too.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 16, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          I took Cep’s sentence “[n]ot all monotheists are literalists, and, for many of us, both now and throughout history, the Garden of Eden is not a faulty hypothesis about evolution but a rich symbolic story about good and evil” to be an explicit (albeit well-buried) acknowledgment of her own religiosity.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted November 16, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            Very well spotted! I speed read this kind of stuff & hence missed the all important “of us”. Perhaps she thinks it pays to tone down the God stuff to be taken seriously in the world [it does]. Her folks back in Cordova MD are active [tellers, users] at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – the church to which she declared she wished to be ordained.

            She’s keeping her godliness low key out here & only waves it about for home visits?

        • rickflick
          Posted November 16, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

          Maybe she was a Yale Divinity and enrolled in a correspondence coarse at “Haaavud” to yank her resume out of the dust.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted November 16, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            The other way around? Or she wouldn’t be doing all that extra-curricular good stuff at Haaavud

  6. Posted November 16, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    One might have thought that after a decade and a half critics of ‘New Atheism’ might have come up with something more than arguments about tone and vague hand-waving about metaphors.

    …On second thoughts, I guess it was always clear. They’ll still be ranting about Hitchens Dawkins and Harris 50 years from now.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    … the New Yorker‘s usual overwritten bloviating …

    I dunno, I kinda like the recounting of Daniel Seeger’s travails with his draft board in the lede.

  8. Christopher
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Let’s rework that last point so it makes logical sense:
    4.) Religion is seen by religious apologists as a substitute for science, and a bad substitute, because religion can cause harm.

  9. Ty Gardner
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never really met a Christian of any kind who didn’t really believe that Jesus died for our sins, wiping away the original sin of Adam and Eve. Without a literal belief in at least part of Genesis the whole idea of Christianity falls apart, at least as it has been shared with me by Christians. Jesus either literally died for a metaphor or simply metaphorically died. In either case, that pretty much nullifies the common Jesus died for your sins argument and any indication that Jesus, if he existed, has any relevance beyond his own lifetime.

    • Posted November 16, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      That’s exactly right. Just read St. Augustine’s “City of God.” He knew more about the Bible and what he imagined were the “proofs” therein for his beliefs than any pack of “sophisticated” Christians on the planet. He believed that God was so angry with us because of original sin that we would all burn in hell for all eternity unless we were touched by grace and accepted the sacrifice of Christ to save ourselves. The hell he describes is virtually identical to the one described in the Quran. Islam and Christianity certainly have that much in common. Virtually all Christians believed in that hell until relatively recently. Occasionally they will “retranslate” the Bible to erase things like that if they become too absurd to swallow. Thus, “punishment” has been changed to “cutting off” in the newer versions of the Bible, in the same way that “firmament” was “retranslated” into “sky.”

  10. revelator60
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Not the New Yorker’s finest moment, to be sure.

    New atheists certainly have not “lately dominated the conversation surrounding unbelief.” New Atheist-bashers have! Witness the fawning reception of Gray by the media. Our intelligentsia seems hellbent on coddling religion for the sake of the “little people” argument.

    Watching Gray squirm in Tehran would be fun, though I wouldn’t wish him dead either. But maybe he’d acknowledge the errors of his ways after being rescued.

    Gray’s praise of atheists “who simply shut up about their unbelief” is incredible hypocrisy, since he never shuts up about what a good atheist he is and wrong other atheists are.

  11. BJ
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Many in the media are clearly still very sour over the failure of “Atheism +”, huh?

    • BJ
      Posted November 16, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      It’s like articles that continue to mention Gamergate.

    • mikeyc
      Posted November 16, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      “Atheism +”? Is that the thing PZ Myers and his acolytes conjured up? If I recall it killed itself with infighting and back-biting or something, no?

      I had no idea anyone outside the weird incestuous circle around Pharyngula even knew it existed. The media is sour over it? I missed ANY media mention about it. But then, I really wasn’t paying much attention.

      • BJ
        Posted November 16, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        Oh, yes. It was a huge deal. They and their media supporters fought for long after the battle was clearly over, and websites continued to write about how atheism was some sort of cis-het-white male patriarchy. Atheism+ was, at its core, the idea that atheism needed to be infused with social justice, and anyone who didn’t agree should be kicked out of the community. They even managed to take over a couple of regular conventions by instituting codes of conduct and whatnot, and those conventions, which had previously been extremely popular and would draw thousands of people, almost immediately died. As did Atheism+.

        It fell due to its rejection by the wider atheist community (even people like Richard Dawkins spoke up about it), but also because of its infighting (as is so often the case, social justice splinter groups end up destroying themselves by continually ramping up purity tests until even the leaders they appointed fall to scandal. Go look up Richard Carrier). They accused multiple prominent atheists of rape without any evidence. They did so many terrible things in pursuit of power that even some of the people who originally joined them ended up becoming disgusted.

        I’d post links, but there’s so much to the story and history of it that I’ll just encourage you to look it up for yourself. There’s a lot of good material on Youtube, assuming the videos are still up.

      • BJ
        Posted November 16, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Oh, and freethoughtblogs was the central hub of “leaders” who founded and were pushing A+. Over the next year or two, many of these people were kicked off the blog and out of the A+ community for having opinions that ended up failing the increasing purity tests. All of those posts are now deleted, but, if you look up Ophelia Benson, for example, you can find out about that story. Like I said, the post in which she was considered to have transgressed and which led her to be kicked out has been thrown down the memory hole.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve read Cep’s full piece now. It’s well-written, and the first half works fine as a précis limning the history of atheism in America. It’s only about halfway through, when she gets around to discussing Gray’s book and its bogus criticisms of New Atheism, that she gets lost in the weeds, for the reasons you’ve set out at some length in your post. Then, in the final two paragraphs, upon returning to a discussion of atheism and the law, Cep does fine again. (Were her article a pop song, the verses and chorus would work well, but the “bridge” sucks.)

    Anyway, I’m always surprised and disappointed to see the mental origami some otherwise bright and articulate people will go through to protect their a priori commitments to an immaterial world.

  13. harrync
    Posted November 16, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    “Why are Americans still uncomfortable with atheism?” First of all, it isn’t Americans, it is fundamentalist religious Americans. And from what I have seen, it is because as long as atheists exist, there is a danger that their little darlings will become atheists, spend eternity in hell, and never join them in heaven. Sort of like as long as homosexuals exist, my little darlings will become gays. But unlike the homosexual threat, the atheist threat is real.

  14. Posted November 16, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Cep and Gray can only be regarded as theocrats who mistakenly believe that religions play an important role for government, and the law, or ought to play one. Otherwise the assertion that atheists need to replace a “moral vision” makes no sense. Nothing important needs replacing. Civilisation started somewhere in lower Asia, then apparently spread towards the East and West, creating a series of impressive empires, with laws and people who kept records, so we know they had laws, and moral intuitions not unlike what came later. Hindu, Buddhists or Shintoists never were “less moral” than others because they hadn’t a Jesus to tell them how it’s done. They had golden and silver rules, respected the elders, urged to use common sense, be compassionate towards the unfortunate and so on, without any Christian guidance, and long before any Abrahamitic prophet allegedly came along (e.g. Confucius lived a few hundred years earlier!).

    In Europe, the legacy goes to the Roman Empire, its institutions and the law, which it assumed from other cultures and developed further, mainly the Greek and the Persian one. If Cep and Gray aren’t utter imbeciles, they know this, too. Why then, are these people apparently lying? You cannot honestly look at history and think that Christian rule suddenly improved the well-being of everyone. To be very charitable, Christian history is checkered. Some of the bleakest episodes in history have such an obvious religious reason, that it shatters any claim to moral superiority, and it’s not witch hunts, or crusades for which there were also socio-political reasons, but religious teachings of psycho-torture where people were told their suffering was their fault, a lack of devotion and that it will continue in the purgatory when they die (where loved ones might roast at present, but they could reduce the sentence, for a fee).

    So what’s the problem then? The problem isn’t even ill-defined “religion”: first, religious authoritarians can use the alleged existence of a God and His will to make political demands. It is a rhetorical device that works first on the believers so they want some backwards, bigoted, hateful stuff — always! — which then goes on to subvert democracy proper. It works precisely because the Godfearing are convinced He exists, and hates gay people, for example.

    The second problem is that religious ideas are untethered from reality. If the deluded develop some wacky ideas, like that albino people are witches whose body parts have miraculous healing powers, then with authoritarian rule and self-reinforcing mobs, such beliefs have gruesome consequences.

    In sum, Cep and Gray are either lying or totally unlettered.

    My quota is up, I stop here 😉

  15. Posted November 16, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    “Gray’s larger complaint is that the new atheists fail to offer a more coherent moral vision than the one they want to replace.”

    So we can’t have a “coherent moral vision” unless we believe a pack of childish nonsense? That makes sense! As Prof. CC says, morality is subjective, and to say anything useful about it you have to understand what it is, and why it exists. Darwin explained it in Chapter IV of his “The Descent of Man.” Until we learn to understand morality, it will remain highly dangerous, and often lethal, as it always has been in the past. Just ask the millions of heretics, infidels, and other unfortunate denizens of theistic outgroups who have been murdered by pious theists over the years. No doubt these faithful believers all had a “coherent moral vision.” Indeed, they imagined themselves to be paragons of morality.

  16. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    The word canard, for a hoax, ‘fake news’ appears to have a respectful age.
    “The Chambers Dictionary of Etymology says “the sense of a false or exaggerated story comes from a French expression of the late 1500s vendre un canard à moitié to half-sell a duck (i.e., not to sell it at all), hence to take in, deceive, make a fool of.” “.(from: )
    Others see a link to ‘quacking’.
    Whatever the truth, I think that few ducks would take offense.
    Great post, btw.

  17. jose
    Posted November 17, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Sophisticated believers claiming their metaphors are representative of what people believe should come to my town. I have a neighbour who goes to pray to a figure of Saint Anne every Thursday. She goes to that one specifically because, quote, “she’s the most miraculous Virgin in the area”. My mother once pointed out to her that Saint Anne is no Virgin: the Virgin is Mary, not Saint Anne. My neighbour dismissed that as nonsense. To her, every female figure is a Virgin regardless of her name.

    THAT is the sort of stuff your average believer believes.

  18. Diane G
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 4:49 am | Permalink


  19. peepuk
    Posted November 18, 2018 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    “All of us, nihilists included, believe something”

    But not in God’s, a deeper purpose or objectively true moral claims.

    “… secular Humanism …”

    When I want to point out one of the shortcomings of any form of humanism I use always this :
    xkcd webcomic.

    The actual numbers maybe incorrect, but you get the idea; the data is taken from an older book “The earth’s Biosphere (2002)” by Vaclav Smil.

    Ironically it can be used against competing memes like religion-is-good, science-is-good and humanism-is-good. But it definitely shows us that modern human primates have made a lot of progress in only 80000 years.

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