Hurrah for Old-Time Atheism

Well…call me delusional, call me hasty (call me a cab, call me for dinner, yeah yeah, I know), but I can’t help wondering if Salman Rushdie has been reading B&W, at least once. I started with surprise when I started reading this article.

“Not believing in God is no excuse for being virulently anti-religious or naïvely pro-science,” says Dylan Evans, a professor of robotics at the University of West England in Bristol…Evans’ position fits well with that of the American philosopher of science Michael Ruse, whose new book, The Evolution-Creation Struggle, lays much of the blame for the growth of creationism in America — and for the increasingly strident attempts by the religious right to have evolutionary theory kicked off the curriculum and replaced by the new dogma of “intelligent design” — at the door of the scientists who have tried to compete with, and even supplant, religion.

It’s not the Evans thing, it’s the combination of that with Michael Ruse, and then farther down in the article Richard Dawkins appears. Hit the End button and take a look at the N&Cs from the beginning of the month, and you’ll see why I think Salman may have been reading here. Maybe not! Maybe I am delusional. Only Ruse is not all that conspicuous, I don’t think; it just happens that I’m interested in him and why he thinks what he does, and so pay attention when he writes something or is reviewed. Then again…I think a review of Ruse’s new book showed up at Arts and Letters Daily, so maybe it is just coincidence. Still – ! It’s not impossible. There is Ibn Warraq’s address to the UN, for instance, and Azam’s, and there are Maryam’s and Homa’s articles. It’s not out of the question that Salman R has a certain interest in issues of this kind, is it now. Anyway, if so, if I inspired him to write about the Evans-Ruse Plan, then very good! Very useful of me. And if not, if he thought of it all by himself, also good, because I can think how clever of me to think of the same thing, and sooner.

Enough about me. It’s the article that’s interesting. Go, Salman.

Evans’ “Atheism Lite,” which seeks to negotiate a truce between religious and irreligious world views, is easily demolished. Such a truce would have a chance of working only if it were reciprocal — if the world’s religions agreed to value the atheist position and to concede its ethical basis, if they respected the discoveries and achievements of modern science, even when these discoveries challenge religious sanctities, and if they agreed that art at its best reveals life’s multiple meanings at least as clearly as so-called “revealed” texts. No such reciprocal arrangement exists, however, nor is there the slightest chance that such an accommodation could ever be reached.

Just so. That’s one of the things that made Evans’ piece so irritating. He’s so annoyed with atheists, and so non-annoyed with theists. Wait – huh? Why do we have to do all the accomodating and sucking-up? Why are we the only ones who have to abandon what we think at the door and sit still and be quiet while the theists stomp around and tear the house apart? Why’s he yelling at us and letting the theists just do whatever they damn well feel like?! We didn’t do anything – why doesn’t he go shout at them for awhile?! In fact why doesn’t he just go shout at them, period, and leave us alone.

Nor does the current behaviour of organized religion breed confidence in the Evans/Ruse laissez-faire attitude. Education everywhere is seriously imperilled by religious attacks. In recent years, Hindu nationalists in India attempted to rewrite the nation’s history books to support their anti-Muslim ideology, an effort thwarted only by the electoral victory of a secularist coalition led by the Congress party. Meanwhile, Muslim voices the world over are claiming that evolutionary theory is incompatible with Islam.

Yeah but see that’s okay because religion is art, man, so it’s harmless, and it doesn’t matter if it tries to eviscerate science teaching. No problema.

Meanwhile religions continue to attack their own artists: Hindu artists’ paintings are attacked by Hindu mobs, Sikh playwrights are threatened by Sikh violence and Muslim novelists and filmmakers are menaced by Islamic fanatics with a vigorous unawareness of any kinship.

Yes, they are, aren’t they. As are non-Muslim novelists who ought to be Muslims because their grandparents were. I’m not naming any names or anything, but I can think of one not a million miles from this very article.

Religions play bare-knuckle rough all the time, while demanding kid-glove treatment in return. As Evans and Ruse would do well to recognize, atheists such as Dawkins, Miller and Wilson are neither immature nor culpable for taking on such religionists. They are doing a vital and necessary thing.

Yeah! Attaboy, Salman! Sing it! Tell those bastards.

Excuse my warmth. But I do get so tired of all this rebuking of atheists even by other atheists for being too noisy or talkative or definite or ‘adolescent’ for Christ’s sake. I do get so sick of all this ‘Shh, shh, if you don’t talk too loud maybe they won’t get angry and will let us live, over here in this little corner with a heap of rags to sleep on, if only you don’t say anything – oh do please be quiet!’ I won’t be quiet. Why should I be quiet? I’m not the one who’s telling everyone there’s a giant Man in Heaven taking care of us, and that’s why the world is such a perfect place and so free of suffering, am I. They can be quiet. I’ve got stuff to say.

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