It never took

Feb 27th, 2012 11:00 am | By

Several of you replied to Julian’s claims about atheists’ deafness to religion by pointing out that most atheists were raised theist by theists so we’re not deaf at all, we’re familiar with the music. It’s a good point, but at the same time – I’m not sure it’s always true. I’m not sure that being raised theist is enough to make one not deaf to religion.

I was nominally raised as a theist, sort of, but it never took. I think I probably am deaf to religion in the sense that Julian had in mind - I think that’s what “it never took” means. I should add that I’m glad to be that kind of deaf, but still – I think Julian is probably right that people like me don’t “get” whatever it is that real believers do get.

I never really believed any of it. I can’t remember the faintest trace of feelings of love for or trust in “God.” Nothing. All sorts of tv cowboys and characters in novels were far more real to me than “God” ever was. This means that I don’t know what it’s like to really believe it. I probably can’t even properly imagine it, because the awareness that I don’t believe it gets in the way, like a filter.

If I’m right about that, though, it could be argued that what Julian is really talking about is credulity. I know, his point was that there’s more to religion than what-is-believed and that it’s the “more” that we’re deaf to – but I don’t think that works. I think if you don’t have the requisite credulity about god then the “more” doesn’t hook you in that way – that intense, felt way whose opposite is deafness.

That looks as if I’m paying myself a compliment for not having credulity, but I’m not, really. It may have been sheer shallowness that saved me. I just preferred the tv cowboys. I’m serious about that: my childhood was made up of pretending to be either tv heroes or characters from for instance The Secret Garden; fantasy all the way.

I did at least know it was fantasy though.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



The majority has spoken

Feb 27th, 2012 8:44 am | By

A historian named Timothy Messer-Kruse has been doing research on the Haymarket riot and trial of 1886 for the past ten years. He was prompted by a student question about the orthodox version of the trial, which was that the prosecution did not offer evidence connecting any of the defendants with the bombing.

 One of my students raised her hand: “If the trial went on for six weeks and no evidence was presented, what did they talk about all those days?” I’ve been working to answer her question ever since.

I have not resolved all the mysteries that surround the bombing, but I have dug deeply enough to be sure that the claim that the trial was bereft of evidence is flatly wrong. One hundred and eighteen witnesses were called to testify, many of them unindicted co-conspirators who detailed secret meetings where plans to attack police stations were mapped out, coded messages were placed in radical newspapers, and bombs were assembled in one of the defendants’ rooms.

So “no evidence” turns out to mean the testimony of 118 witnesses. I’m reminded of theists like Nick Peters who claim that Dawkins simply makes assertions about theism, without defending them, when in fact there’s a whole thick book that defends them.

One day Messer-Kruse read the Wikipedia entry on Haymarket and found it repeating the orthodox version, so he made a correction.

I removed the line about there being “no evidence” and provided a full explanation in Wikipedia’s behind-the-scenes editing log. Within minutes my changes were reversed. The explanation: “You must provide reliable sources for your assertions to make changes along these lines to the article.”

That was curious, as I had cited the documents that proved my point, including verbatim testimony from the trial published online by the Library of Congress. I also noted one of my own peer-reviewed articles. One of the people who had assumed the role of keeper of this bit of history for Wikipedia quoted the Web site’s “undue weight” policy, which states that “articles should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views.” He then scolded me. “You should not delete information supported by the majority of sources to replace it with a minority view.”

There is something fascinating about that. I do get the reason – there are always going to be more cranks and monomaniacs wanting to publish their “original research” than there are genuine historians and people who know how to do original research, so Wikipedia errs on the side of caution - but it does mean that mistaken conventional wisdom trumps accurate new research.

The “undue weight” policy posed a problem. Scholars have been publishing the same ideas about the Haymarket case for more than a century. The last published bibliography of titles on the subject has 1,530 entries.

“Explain to me, then, how a ‘minority’ source with facts on its side would ever appear against a wrong ‘majority’ one?” I asked the Wiki-gatekeeper. He responded, “You’re more than welcome to discuss reliable sources here, that’s what the talk page is for. However, you might want to have a quick look at Wikipedia’s civility policy.”

I tried to edit the page again. Within 10 seconds I was informed that my citations to the primary documents were insufficient, as Wikipedia requires its contributors to rely on secondary sources, or, as my critic informed me, “published books.” Another editor cheerfully tutored me in what this means: “Wikipedia is not ‘truth,’ Wikipedia is ‘verifiability’ of reliable sources. Hence, if most secondary sources which are taken as reliable happen to repeat a flawed account or description of something, Wikipedia will echo that.”

Again, you can understand the reasoning – not everyone knows how to use primary sources, and academic secondary sources have been peer-reviewed. The result however is that what you get at Wikipedia is the existing conventional wisdom, and not the new research that corrects or expands it. We knew that, but the example is interesting.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Oh they’re all like that

Feb 26th, 2012 5:44 pm | By

Mark Jones has an excellent post on Julian’s tone piece.

A snippet:

As often when it comes to this sort of accusation, no evidence is linked to support Baggini’s position. To be clear, I don’t doubt that the occasional atheist might make a tone-deaf pronouncement. I object that atheists are characterised as a group with this clumsy stereotype, and I object that the four horsemen, and gnus, are too.)

Yep. Atheists are this, the new atheists are that, the online atheists are the other. And as for the new online atheist bloggers – ! No stereotype can be too stale or too general or too wild for them. They must be destroyed.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Will he never arrive?

Feb 26th, 2012 10:40 am | By

Via Ericmore of Julian’s interminable Heathen’s Progress. This one is about tone: not just the tone that “new atheists” use but the allegation that they (we) are tone deaf to religion. Religion is comparable to poetry and pop music. Some people don’t “get” poetry, or pop music, or both. They can’t say anything interesting about either one, because they don’t get them. They’re tone deaf to them. It’s the same with religion.

Right, except that it isn’t. Poetry doesn’t tell everyone what to do. Poetry doesn’t have a billion or more “members” or “believers” or other kinds of belongers. Poetry doesn’t have dogma. Poetry doesn’t have a single “sacred” book that many believers take as god-inspired or god-made, and authoritative, and not-to-be-disobeyed. Poetry doesn’t treat rules invented by a few pastoral men 3 thousand years ago as binding on all of humanity still and forever.

I could go on. I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s all very well, all this “yes but you’re missing the music” line of chat, but religion makes claims on us, huge claims, and that makes mollifying talk about its music 1) beside the point and 2) a dangerous side-track.

But anyway it’s bullshit. It’s like saying that religion is like everything good that humans do - art and sport and wonder and imagination – and that therefore atheists should just stop being atheist in public or else art and sport and wonder and imagination will disappear!!1!

…to say that an abrasive tone is not constructive is to say more than something about a person’s manner of speech. It’s not constructive because it is rooted in a one-dimensional understanding of the phenomenon under discussion. Atheistic tone-deafness misses many of the things I’ve talked about in this series, such as placing mystery at the heart of life, and living with the aid of beneficial rituals and practices. The abrasiveness is not some kind of independent, wilful rudeness that could be smoothed over while keeping the message intact. We talk about people who are rude as being ignorant and more often than not, when someone comes over as too hostile to religion, ignorance is at the root of it, not simply an absence of good manners.

What’s at the root of it when someone comes across as too friendly to religion? What’s at the root of Julian’s tortured back-and-forth yes-but friendliness to religion? I don’t know; I leave it to your artful speculation.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



What price the golden rule eh?

Feb 26th, 2012 9:16 am | By

Another truculent Christian who plans to go to the Reason Rally in order to interfere with other people’s event.

Richard Dawkins will be one of the  main speakers, which tells us about all we need to know. Richard Dawkins of course is the leading horseman of the new atheism with his book “The God Delusion.” This book has practically become a Bible for most online atheists today with a new fundamentalism that says “Richard says it! I believe it! That settles it!” Dawkins has spoken. The case is closed.

Never mind that Dawkins has ran with his tail between his legs from William Lane Craig and most recently has done so from a clergyman who interviewed him. In reality, most of us who are in the field of Christian apologetics would love a chance to debate the horseman.

Yes of course they would! It would be great for them. For Dawkins, not so much; he’s a busy fella with a lot to do, so he chooses how he spends his time. For him it makes a good deal more sense to debate the archbishop of Canterbury than it does to debate Craig. That’s not “running” (much less with tail between legs), it’s allocating time wisely.

Dawkins proclaims himself as a champion of science and reason, as if not believing in God automatically means you are a person of reason. Obviously anyone who is a Christian or a believer in any sort of deity has sold themselves out to delusion and abandoned reason. This assertion is not defended. It is just asserted.

That’s just a falsehood. Of course the assertion is defended; it’s defended in a book and many articles, talks, debates, and the like. Nick Peters could say it’s not well defended, if he chose, but it’s just mendacious to say it’s not defended period.

Let us keep in mind the saying of Chesterton. “There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.” Chesterton would see the Reason Rally as an example. While the new atheist crowd wishes to speak against dogma, they simply take one dogma and replace it with another.

Dogma is one of those terms not really understood. In reality, we all have some dogmas. We all hold some beliefs in high honor that we wish others to hold. The difference between myself and the new atheists is that I know I am dogmatic. The new atheists do not know it and in turn end up pushing their dogma the most.

Ah no, that’s not right at all. Dogma is not a belief we hold in high honor and want others to hold. No no no. It’s a truth claim from authority that must not be questioned. Makes a difference, doesn’t it.

Why not try to make a presence at Reason Rally, as I hope to do…I will be doing what I can to be there and I’d love to see you there. Let’s be there to argue not against reasoning, which we should all love, but to argue against bad reasoning. Let us replace the reason of Dawkins with what Ratio Christi is named for, the Reason of Christ.

It’s just as he admitted (apparently without realizing he’d admitted anything) – “most of us who are in the field of Christian apologetics would love a chance to debate the horseman.” They’re all excited about the treat, and not the least bit concerned about intruding on people who don’t want to be intruded on. Do unto others chiz chiz.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



More “confronting with love”

Feb 25th, 2012 11:40 am | By

From “the Thinking Christian” (they do love to pretend it’s all perfectly reasonable, don’t they).

In the meantime I’ve joined up with a handful of Christian thinkers and leaders planning to bring Christians to the Reason Rally for the purpose of sharing quiet conversations with Reason Rally attendees, offering bottles of water to the thirsty, and letting them know of a new book that will take an extended look at atheism, Christianity, and reason.

I’ve joined up with some Christians for the purpose of harassing Reason Rally attendees because we think that what we think gets to trump what they think.

It’s fascinating to me how the New Atheists have chosen reason as their main brand image. It’s clear that they have…

Over the next several weeks we’ll have opportunity to look at how well that fits the New Atheist reality, and whether they have chosen wisely in taking that name up as their brand. I have my doubts about it.

Uh huh. Tell them that at the rally. Tell them what Jesus thinks about it.

Please notice that we are not planning this as a counter-demonstration, but rather as a quiet presence. We don’t think there will be any need to raise our voices, and we have no desire to disrupt their program or proceedings. We want to share a few things with those who want to talk, and we won’t press ourselves upon anyone else.

Have it both ways why don’t you. Eat your cake and have it why don’t you. You’re going there to set people straight, but you plan to be a “quiet presence.” Quiet? Talking in a lowered voice is being a quiet presence? Bullshit. You’re going there to intrude and impose, so don’t pretend you’re not.

From “Apologetics Guy”:

I just learned that some of my brothers and sisters from around the world—people who believe that Christianity is a reasonable worldview—also plan to gather in D.C. on March 24 to “demonstrate a humble, loving and thoughtful response to the Reason Rally.” They’re mobilizing people via a Web site called TrueReason.org.

It’s so odd that they just can’t see it – that it can’t be considered humble and loving to intrude on someone else’s rally that way…

Well no come to think of it it’s not odd. That’s the wrong word. What it is is deceitful – of themselves most of all, probably. It’s a sop to cognitive dissonance. They probably half-realize that it’s an aggressive intrusive thing to do – so they squelch that realization by summoning all the adjectives they can think of that re-describe it as the opposite of aggressive and intrusive.

More later.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Prepared to confront them

Feb 25th, 2012 11:08 am | By

It’s getting meta. (It always does, doesn’t it. Internet–>everyone can answer–>everyone does–>everything always goes meta.) Fans of Christians who crash non-theist events are indignant that atheists think Christians who crash events are obnoxious belligerent intrusive shits. Like this guy at the Blaze; he reports the plans of the “True Reason” people then adds:

The Christians behind the effort want atheists to know that they’re reasonable individuals who are prepared to confront them with love.

Typical, innit – first, the stupid assumption that atheists are unaware that Christians see themselves that way, and second, the blithe assumption that “confronting” people with a religious ideology they are known to reject is a benevolent thing to do. The atheists at the Reason Rally aren’t going there to be “confronted” by Christians, any more than Christians go to church to be confronted by atheists. (No, I’m not saying the rally is atheist church. None of that now.)

At particular issue, the site proclaims, is the idea that atheists are using their “Reason Rally” “to trumpet the message that reasonable people reject belief in God.” Christians, of course, disagree with this notion. To ensure they interact with and combat the overwhelming aura of non-belief, “True Reason” participants will give out free bottled water, a printed mini-book called “Reason Really” and copies of a book about Christianity and atheism during the “Reason Rally.”

Notice again the entitled privileged obtuse assumptions – that it’s a bad thing that there should be an “overwhelming aura of non-belief” at a rally for reason, and that TR participants have every right (moral, social, etc) to interact with and combat that aura – that they get to intrude on an occasion that they disagree with in order to interact with and combat it.

Theocrats in action.

 

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Christians got no manners

Feb 24th, 2012 3:51 pm | By

More from ill-mannered intrusive uninvited missionary Christians planning to crash the Reason Rally, this time from a site called Ratio Christi: Student Apologetics Alliance. They call their rude intrusive uninvited plan Reason Rally Reachout 2012. “Reachout” is it – crashing other people’s event in order to harass them with dogmatic nonsense that you know they dislike and don’t want – that’s “reachout.” Nice name for it. Yo student apologists: if we all turned up for one of your Apologetics meetings would you consider it Reachout?

Ratio Christi, along with some other groups and campus ministries, are planning on attending the rally to interact one-on-one with skeptics and atheists in attendance, conduct surveys, engage in dialogue, and present the Christian view in a well-reasoned and respectful manner. This trip does not involve street preaching, tract distribution, or blind faith.

That’s just fucking rude. It’s aggressive and obnoxious and rude. They don’t want to interact with you, do they – they’re there to interact, for once in their lives, with thousands of people who are not theists, all in one place. They’re not there to get the Christian view, are they – they’re there to escape from it, and enjoy their freedom from it. Do you creeps think they’ve never had the Christian view presented to them before? Do you really think they need to get it from you, on that one day at that particular time and place?

Of course you don’t. You just want to mess it up. You just want to be theist pains in the ass. You just want to patronize and be passive-aggressive pseudo-nice and do your best to muck up everyone’s fun.

There will be two mandatory training sessions for all UNCG participants. The dates and times will be decided soon (they will be in late February and early-mid March). Failure to attend the training may result in an inability to attend this trip as this is a mission trip into the “lion’s den” so to speak.

Ah so you admit it. How obliging. Fuck you and fuck off.

Really; what is the matter with you? Why can’t you leave them alone? They don’t intrude on you, why are you insisting on intruding on them?

Also, as with anything like this, please pray. While we are promoting a reasonable faith and offering well-reasoned responses to questions, we also believe that the Holy Spirit works through our reason to draw people to Himself. Please bath this event in prayer and ask others to do the same.

Or bathe, whichever works worst.

But seriously. I find this “offensive” the way some people profess to find Motoons “offensive.” I consider it deliberately hostile and aggressive – a flat refusal to let people do a perfectly reasonable (yes reasonable) thing unmolested. A flat refusal to just mind their own god damn business. It’s like Joe Lieberman and others announcing that freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion. Yes it does!! That’s exactly what it means, and it would be nice if the Christians would allow it.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Baby steps

Feb 24th, 2012 10:54 am | By

Well that’s one good thing.

The Vatican, which previously enjoyed an exemption, must now pay taxes on its commercial properties, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, has announced.

Like anyone else. Why did it enjoy an exemption before?

The state has been exempt from paying property taxes since 2005, one of several  fiscal perks enjoyed by the Catholic Church and introduced by the Berlusconi  administration.

Ah! Of course. One autocrat doing a favor for another. Naturally.

The Vatican owns 110,000 properties, including shopping centres and  residences, which are collectively worth about $12 billion, the Business  Insider said.

As Italy tightened its belt to deal with the financial crisis, more than  130,000 people signed an online petition calling for the Church’s tax-exempt  status to be revoked, it said.

”This is a victory for public pressure,” Mario Staderini, the leader of the  Italian Radicals party, told The Independent.

”We’ve managed to break down – a little bit – the wall protecting the  Church.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Defiantly wholesome

Feb 24th, 2012 10:21 am | By

Want to splash around in morbidity for a moment?

There’s always the new season of 19 and Counting.

And Counting – geddit? It’s not really “and Counting” now because Michelle Duggar miscarried #20. The new season is kind of morbid that way.

And not just that way. I find it kind of morbid overall. “Morbid” isn’t really the right word, I suppose – the Atlantic’s “creepy” is better – but it is, in a way – what’s dead is the mind. The whole atmosphere is Stepfordish. Yes they’re all very cheery and smiley and friendly and warm – but so would programmed pod people be.

This is, at least on film, a defiantly wholesome family; these kids aren’t constantly moaning about shopping malls and video games, cellphones and parties. Maybe that stuff factors in off-air, but in TLC’s carefully edited version of the Duggars’ world, all children, ages 2 to 18, are happy to be gamboling about together in a cornfield. That’s fine! It’s a little weird, of course, but why would anyone watch TLC if they didn’t want something a little weird?

Yes but the weirdness isn’t really fine, given what we know about how this weirdness is achieved. As Richard Lawson goes on to say.

And then of course there was the infusion of religion that probably earns the series a fair number of looky-loos (ahem). Michelle Duggar, the broodmare who gave birth to this baseball team, was invited to speak to a ladies group at a nearby church, and though what we saw of the speech was mostly a series of platitudes about family and children and all that, there was a single shot that said much more — the camera panned over a handout that Michelle brought to the event, and the content was pretty unsettling. TLC maybe included this shot for people like us, who of course paused it and advanced the frames to read as much of it as we could, and, whooo boy, was it unpleasant. It was all about how to make your husband happy in a marriage, which is of paramount importance to patriarch-dominated Quiverfull families. There were things about how wives shouldn’t refuse their husbands’ sexual advances, about how self-reliance is what kills marriages, about not stepping out of bounds in terms of what your responsibilities are as a wife (do too much and you emasculate him, you see). It was all reeeeally gross stuff that you never really hear the Duggars talking about on the show, but is absolutely the unspoken (on camera, at least) foundation of their family.

We know. We know this thanks to Libby Anne and Vyckie Garrison and others. 19 and Counting is morbid because of the death of potential and freedom and exploration.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Guest post by Musical Atheist on Richard Dawkins

Feb 24th, 2012 9:29 am | By

After the torrent of spiteful dreck we’ve seen directed at Richard Dawkins lately, the comment by Musical Atheist came as a blast of cold fresh air in a stuffy room. Therefore, I’m putting it up on the main page.

Musical Atheist says:

February 24, 2012 at 12:03 am  (Edit)

I don’t like my own country very much at present. I think our politicians and our press display the lowest sort of sneering childishness, on a regular basis. Playground bullies who grew up to apply their bullying on a wider scale.

For this reason, when I first discovered Dawkins’ writing, I felt that he was one of the few public figures in Britain I could find genuinely inspiring. He’s honest, his moral integrity is innately bound up with his passion for his work, which is the noble work of the pursuit of truth. You’d think the religious authorities ought to get that, even if they think he’s wrong. He’s flawed and human, he’s made errors in judgement and sometimes takes cheap shots, but he still stands out as one of the few British public intellectuals engaged in doing active good and treating moral ideas seriously.

When I read TGD a few years ago I, as many Christians keep saying,  didn’t recognise the god he described. I thought it witty, acerbic and entertaining, but not applicable to me. But I gradually realised that the example of scepticism and rigorous commitment to evidence that he was describing was applicable to all types of spiritual belief. When I began to apply it to my own (woo, new agey, vaguely pantheist, occasionally animist) spiritual ideas, I was genuinely shocked to find how much baggage of unjustified belief I’d accumulated over the years, and how much, if I was being honest with myself, I had to throw out.

Reading Dawkins got me interested in scepticism; led me to other writers and blogs like B&W and Pharyngula; reminded me of my childhood pleasure in science, long stifled by mediocre teaching; but more than anything, gave me the tools to reclaim my own mind. How do you repay the people who help you do that?

And he did it with one entertaining bestseller that didn’t even address the specific beliefs I actually held, but that I was able to use as a springboard for my own thought process.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Shall I compare thee to a spotty adolescent

Feb 23rd, 2012 11:56 am | By

Well at least Amol Rajan gets it.

Proof, if proof were needed, that “militant secularism” isn’t having such a great time of it in modern Britain has been in plentiful supply over the past week, during which there has been a sustained and vicious assault in our media on one of our most distinguished academics. Professor Richard Dawkins (FRS, FRSL) presumably personifies militant secularism, and has been made to suffer for it.

Or if not suffer, at least be the object of a lot of mud-throwing. (Being the object of something is the core meaning of “suffer,” but that meaning is intransative; you can’t just “suffer” in that sense without a direct object.)

In the Daily Mail last week, A N Wilson launched a nasty attack on him, comparing him, among other things, to a “spotty adolescent”. The lead interview in The Sunday Times was one long personal attack on his character, rather than an examination of his ideas. My distinguished colleague Mary Ann Sieghart, who at least has met him, described Dawkins yesterday as “puffed-up, self-regarding, vain, prickly and militant”. Rod Liddle wrote a blog for The Spectator with the ludicrous title “Dawkins exposed”.

Damn, I’m not even caught up. I haven’t seen the Wilson or the Liddle.

Dawkins has done a number of valuable and important things, Rajan goes on.

These are achievements and contributions to the cause of civilisation that none of his critics can boast. Their assault illustrates the extent to which defenders of religion still dominate our press, the brutal retaliation exacted on clever opponents of faith and the incorrigible stupidity of Sayeeda Warsi’s claim about “militant secularism” last week.

Why yes, yes it does. Thank you for noticing.

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



However childish

Feb 23rd, 2012 9:57 am | By

Speaking of the dopy endlessly-recycled vendetta against gnu atheism, John Gray obliges with another iteration of his version, via a perfunctory review of some book or other which he barely notices.

It is only the illiteracy of the current generation of atheists that leads them to think religious practitioners must be stupid or thoughtless. Were Augustine, Maimonides and al-Ghazali – to mention only religious thinkers in monotheist traditions – lacking in intellectual vitality? The question is absurd but the fact it can be asked at all might be thought to pose a difficulty for de Botton. His spirited and refreshingly humane book aims to show that religion serves needs that an entirely secular life cannot satisfy. He will not persuade those for whom atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish.

I can do that. It is only the thoughtless stupidity of the current generation of John Grays that leads them to think atheists must be illiterate. See? It’s easy! Shall I try another? He will not persuade those for whom hatred of atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish.

I can haz New Statesman gig now?

[De Botton] shows how much in our way of life comes from and still depends on religion – communities, education, art and architecture and certain kinds of kindness, among other things. I would add the practice of toleration, the origins of which lie in dissenting religion, and sceptical doubt, which very often coexists with faith.

Depends on? Communities, education, art, and architecture depend on religion? No they don’t. (The “certain kinds of kindness” can be made true just by definition – religious kinds, for instance.) And toleration has other sources than dissenting religion, and very often coexisting hardly amounts to depending on. Skeptical doubt can coexist with “faith” (though not really with faith, which is its opposite), but coexisting with is much more minimal and undemanding than depending on.

Today’s atheists will insist that these goods can be achieved without religion. In many instances this may be so but it is a question that cannot be answered by fulminating about religion as if it were intrinsically evil. Religion has caused a lot of harm but so has science. Practically everything of value in human life can be harmful. To insist that religion is peculiarly malignant is fanaticism, or mere stupidity.

He says, insisting and fulminating, either fanatically or stupidly.

The church of humanity is a prototypical modern example of atheism turned into a cult of collective self-worship.

Oh look, it’s narcissism again!

It’s good that John Gray is so thoughtful and careful and non-self-worshipping.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Humbly lovingly thoughtfully crashing the party

Feb 23rd, 2012 9:04 am | By

Here’s something I hadn’t seen before. I probably could have predicted it if I’d thought about it, but I didn’t, so I didn’t. It’s a website called True Reason, set up to rally Christians to go to the Reason Rally in D.C. next month in order to pester it, because religion doesn’t get to pester us enough already without shoving itself into an event that is not all about religion.

It has a nice line in passive-aggressive pseudo-decency.

This is not a counter-demonstration. We are going there to share Christ person to person as opportunity arises. We will not raise our voices. We will talk with those who want to talk with us. We will offer gifts and materials to all, but we will not press ourselves on those who do not wish to converse.

Nonsense. They’re already pressing themselves on those who do not wish to converse by horning in on an event that they know perfectly well is about not doing the kind of thing they do. The Reason Rally for instance is about realizing that “sharing Christ” is a bit of empty jargon.

They admit they know this when they go on to say

We’ll provide you some advance training by way of Internet, so you will be prepared for interactions in this unique “Lion’s Den” environment.

They’re actually the ones who are importing the “Lions’ Den” by intruding on other people’s rally. The only sense in which the Rally will be a Lions’ Den is that the Christians weren’t invited and aren’t wanted (not as opponents and missionaries, that is).

They claim that they’re just as fond of reason as the people attending the Reason Rally.

A Reasonable Response to the Reason Rally

This website represents Christians from all over the country—even some from as far as Australia and New Zealand—who know that Christianity is both good and reasonable.

But you don’t know that. Christianity is not “reasonable” in the sense of being based on reason.

Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers and other New Atheists are planning a “Reason Rally” in Washington, D.C. on March 24. They’re billing it as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history,” and they’re using it to trumpet their message that reasonable people reject belief in God.

We disagree.

Together, we represent Christians from the United States and around the world who believe that Christianity is a reasonable worldview.

Well you would, wouldn’t you, but nevertheless, it isn’t.

Our goal is to demonstrate a humble, loving and thoughtful response to the Reason Rally.

Not possible. The only humble, loving and thoughtful response would be to mind your own business. It would be to stay away and let other people do what they want to do. It would be to refrain from intruding. We don’t pile into your churches every Sunday; why the hell can’t you just extend us the same courtesy? [I speak broadly when I say "us"; I can't afford to go to the Rally so I'm not part of that "us."]

They want it all, don’t they. They want to throw their weight around and they also want to get credit for being humble and thoughtful. Not going to happen.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Narcissus leaves the pool

Feb 22nd, 2012 4:49 pm | By

Some goon was sniping at FTB on Twitter the other day – stupid snipey generalizations that have nothing to do with reality. Why would anyone even bother sniping at FTB in general? We’re not all the same, so what can one say that will be true? We all post in English, mostly. Anything else? We all sleep with our eyes closed? We all eat food and drink water?

Anyway, the stupidest tweet said “narcissism is near a sine qua non for blogging at FtB.”

Oh yes? Why?

No seriously, why? Why more than any other group of bloggers, or just any other blogger? What’s so narcissistic about everyone at FTB?

(Note: I always spell it FTB, because Thought is a full-size word, not a mini-word like “the” which doesn’t get a capital letter in titles. Most people spell it FtB, I guess because Freethought is one word in the title.)

What’s so narcissistic about everyone at FTB? Nothing in particular that I know of. We all have our share, no doubt, but so do lots of people; why is narcissism a particular sin of FTB’s?

I don’t think it is. I think that was just one of those “whatever comes to hand” snipes, that don’t bother with accuracy.

But it pisses me off, because if we’re narcissistic just because we write blogs, then almost everything is narcissistic – gardening, writing poetry, playing football, composing music, decorating, scholarship, research – anything. It’s a nasty stupid small-minded little jeer at anyone having the gall to try to do something. It’s that “what makes you think you’re so special?” that a certain type likes to use to squelch everything but the blamelessly ordinary.

And because it’s a crock. I’ve thought of another thing we all have in common, and that is that we’re interested in things. Not just ourselves, but things external to ourselves. That’s why we write blogs, I think, most or all of us. (I can’t think of any exceptions.) We’re not exceptionally interested in our precious selves, we’re interested in the world. Yes it’s true that writing a blog involves one in the presumption of offering something for other people to read – but what is so terrible about that? Why does it deserve to be called narcissistic? (That’s the only reason I can think of for calling us that.) Should everyone everywhere stop offering things for other people to read or listen to or watch or play, thus ending narcissism?

The hell with that. The hell with sniping and spite and belittling. Only narcissists do that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



About us – except for who we are

Feb 22nd, 2012 10:12 am | By

Ben Goldacre wondered aloud on Twitter why it’s impossible to find out who is behind “Coalition for Marriage.” Why is it a secret?

Good question. What’s up with that? If you have a cause, why be secretive about it?

It’s a stupid “cause,” I must say.

The Coalition draws upon a substantial body of evidence showing that marriage – as it has been understood for thousands of years – is beneficial to society, and that changing its definition would undermine that benefit.

Except that marriage hasn’t been “understood” that way (they obviously mean one woman and one man) for thousands of years. The imbeciles are forgetting polygamy.

Well maybe that’s why they don’t want us to know who they are. They’re sekrit imbeciles.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



What we talk about when we talk about blogging

Feb 21st, 2012 5:59 pm | By

A conversation among FTBers has (by a circuitous route, as is often the case) ended up in a discussion of the weirdness of the interpersonal dynamics of blogging – of the kinds and degrees of intimacy that can be created, and whether they’re an illusion or not.

I think the usual view is a brisk, “healthy,” matter of fact view that any sense of intimacy is an illusion, as is any sense of liking or friendship that may develop over time. That’s not my view. My view is pretty much the opposite, which is that it’s not an illusion at all, and that there are perfectly good reasons for this.

I was prompted to say some of this in the discussion after someone else mentioned that the person you see on a blog is not the whole person. That of course is true (ding ding! body missing! key ingredient of whole person!), but it’s also a little misleading. Yes of course you don’t get the whole person, but in a way you get a lot more of the person than you would in real life except in the most intense of relationships. In real life people don’t just sit around and listen to us blather on uninterrupted for two or three or ten minutes, but when we blog, they do. That too is not “whole” conversation; real conversation is full of interruptions and false starts, and laughter and gestures; but that’s just it – real conversation in real time in real life doesn’t allow for the kind of extended discussion you can have on a blog (or discussion board and the like).

This thought is probably more true for people who like to write and to whom it feels natural – but then so does blogging, I would think.

I would blather on uninterrupted more now but I have eleventy seven things to do so I have to go do them. Your turn to blather uninterrupted.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Former archbishop (ret’d) in Daily Mail

Feb 21st, 2012 10:08 am | By

The former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said, in an article for the Daily Mail, that the proposal to change the status of marriage ”constitutes one of the greatest political power grabs in history.”

The state does not ‘own’ the institution of marriage. Nor does the church.

The honourable estate of matrimony precedes both the state and the church, and neither of these institutions have [sic] the right to redefine it in such a fundamental way.

So who should? Lexicographers?

Whatever. There’s a poll, and the yes everyone should have the right to get married no matter what their sexuality answer is winning by an avalanche. Maybe that’s who gets to redefine the honourable estate of matrimony: people who vote in polls at the Telegraph.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Because Afghans have nothing more important to fret about

Feb 21st, 2012 9:28 am | By

Because Afghanistan is so peaceful and safe and prosperous, such a paradise of equality and freedom and happiness, people there have leisure to get wildly upset and furious when some books are accidentally sent to the incinerator in a consignment of waste paper.

US and Nato forces have rushed  to apologise for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of furious Afghans gathered to protest outside Bagram military airbase.

Some carried ancient hunting rifles and others used slingshots to pelt the outer walls of the airbase with stones for several hours, despite the bitter cold, shouting “down with America” and other slogans.

The crowd swelled to as much as three thousand, and police stationed on roads leading to the base turned back other would-be protesters from further away, according to General Mohammad Akram Bekzad, Parwan province’s police chief.

Because that’s the biggest problem Afghanistan has - a few copies of a printed book being accidentally destroyed.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Justin finds another consignment of atheist-bashing

Feb 20th, 2012 5:16 pm | By

One Reverend Bryan Griem, writing to the Pasadena Sun:

Look, you just read the stats: “Researchers have found that spiritual people have decreased odds of attempting suicide, and that spiritual fitness has a positive impact on quality of life, on coping and on mental health.” Atheists be damned. They will be. So I really don’t care what they think regarding these tests. I’m tired of having their constant nagging, their constant opposition against God — their evil. They contribute nothing positive in the long run. Their very name, “a” theist, means they are “against,” with a big “no” regarding America’s “creator” and “Nature’s God” (the one mentioned in our Declaration of Independence). I’m frankly sick of them. Why they are here on the In Theory cast is beyond me. It’s like saying, “I have no spiritual input because I don’t believe in the spirit. So here’s my ignorance….”

I wonder what the military puts on gravestones of atheists, a thumbs-down? Listen, all religions are protected by our laws, but atheists don’t countenance America’s documents that mention God. They don’t actually deserve rights that even bizarre religionists have. If it could be shown that people who deny God create military weakness, however small, what should commanders do when choosing a winning military?

Whee-ew. We’ll be damned. We’re evil. We contribute nothing positive. We don’t deserve rights.

Well at least he’s a civilian, so Justin can safely ignore him.

Justin’s post.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)