Posts Tagged ‘ The backlash ’

A very different intellectual tide. Not.

Apr 9th, 2012 1:12 pm | By

Nicholas Kristof spots a trend.

A few years ago, God seemed caught in a devil of a fight.

Atheists were firing thunderbolts suggesting that “religion poisons everything,” as Christopher Hitchens put it in the subtitle of his book, “God Is Not Great.” Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins also wrote best sellers that were scathing about God, whom Dawkins denounced as “arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction.”

Yet lately I’ve noticed a very different intellectual tide: grudging admiration for religion as an ethical and cohesive force.

Lately? He hasn’t been paying much attention, has he. It’s not ”lately”; it’s been all along; it’s been simultaneously and before that and for the past 30 centuries or so.

I mean honestly, … Read the rest

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Part deux

Apr 5th, 2012 4:26 pm | By

More on O’Neill. (Don’t ask ‘why.’ I’m interested in this kind of thing – the blithe indifference to facts, the perversity, the malice, the lack of responsibility, the should-know-better quality; the smugness, the preening, the bullying on behalf of the already powerful.)

on 31 March, atheists in the US military had their first-ever get-together on a military base, under the banner ‘Rock Beyond Belief’. ‘All of us want to come out of the closet and demand equality’, said one sergeant, no doubt pissing off gay military servicemen who, not unreasonably, probably think that such phrases are best used by them rather than by their godless colleagues.

Note that “no doubt.” Note the “probably.” He doesn’t in the least know … Read the rest

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How dare you rebel against the tyrant

Apr 5th, 2012 12:38 pm | By

Brendan. At it again. Possibly more indifferent to the facts than ever.

I know Easter is traditionally a time when Christians give praise for the rising again of Jesus after his flagellation and crucifixion by the Romans. But this year, in the midst of your Easter egg-eating and possible Mass-attending, try to spare a thought for the modern-day equivalent of whipped, weeping Jesuses – that is, the New Atheists, the non-believers, who would have us believe that it is they who face persecution in the twenty-first century. Playing what we might call the Crucifixion Card, the atheist lobby now argues that its members suffer the slings and arrows and jibes of the heartless hordes in a similar way that Christians

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What “everybody knows”

Apr 2nd, 2012 1:56 pm | By

Eric MacDonald has a very good piece on Julian’s humanist manifesto. He makes the same point I kept making (and really, it’s hard not to – it’s so obvious):

Julian Baggini has now published his Heathen’s Manifesto, which he begs atheists to read. I wish I could understand the motivation behind it. It seems to be based on the premise that atheists, and new atheists in particular — an unidentified assemblage of nonbelievers who are, it seems, strident, obtuse, impolite, and seek to banish religion from the world  — need to grow up, be sensible and kind, and ally themselves with their allies amongst religious believers, something that, so far, they seem disinclined to do. I sometimes simply

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Vocational hazards

Mar 27th, 2012 11:32 am | By

Barbara J King at NPR is repeating her mantra that it’s wrongwrongwrong bad awful reprehensible to say that absurd beliefs are absurd.

Last Thursday, I spoke with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in a recorded interview at the NPR studios in Washington, D.C. That meeting was suggested by the American arm of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, in the wake of a post I wrote here at 13.7 last month.

In my original post, I questioned whether Dawkins was the best choice to be headline speaker at the March 24 Reason Rally in Washington, given that one of its goals was to change negative stereotypes about atheists.

Yes she did. She wondered if Dawkins was “the … Read the rest

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A tribe of one

Mar 26th, 2012 12:08 pm | By

There was an earlier Heathen’s Progress a few days ago, which did hint that the series isn’t in fact intended to go on forever. That’s good to know. (One needs to know what to pack.) On the other hand, Julian used it to treat all disagreement as “tribalism,” which looks to a naive observer like an unfair move.

First of all, it is dispiriting to see how tribal so many people seem to be. For all the interesting, thoughtful comments that have been posted on the pieces I’ve written, and supportive emails I’ve been sent, there have been many more that have used whatever the subject of the week is as a simple pretext to get in the familiar old

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A spectre is haunting the Guardian Open Weekend

Mar 26th, 2012 10:33 am | By

Oh no not that – not another installment of Heathen’s (ant-like) Progress. But yes, it is so.

This time it’s a manifesto. Oh good, more management of atheism by a self-nominated boss of atheism. More telling us all how to do it more korrektly by some random guy. More “we have to do it this way” from one person who keeps forgetting to show us his Certificate of Rulership Over All Atheists.

In recent years, we atheists have become more confident and outspoken in articulating and defending our godlessness in the public square. Much has been gained by this. There is now wider awareness of the reasonableness of a naturalist world view, and some of the unjustified deference

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Another week, another inch of heathen progress

Mar 16th, 2012 11:08 am | By

Oh dear god, Julian is still boring for Britain. What in hell do the people at Comment is Free – Andrew? David? – think they’re doing? Do they really think the series – Heathen’s Progress – is so brilliant or witty or enlightening or whatever to be worth carrying for all this time? Didn’t it start last October or something?

[pause to look]

No. Even worse: September. September 30, but still September.

Maybe the subhead for the series is all the explanation needed.

Julian Baggini sets out on a pilgrimage towards the truth, picking his way past the noisome swamp of New Atheist controversies…

It’s a chance to stick a finger in the eye of the noisomely swampy gnu … Read the rest

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Keep your little pulses

Mar 14th, 2012 10:45 am | By


Melvyn Bragg?! I liked Melvyn Bragg; I think In Our Time is a great thing and I wish we had anything nearly as good in the US. But this is a nasty, ragey, wrong, silly outburst.

What he says about reason is ridiculous, for a start. He begins with a superfluous and venomous announcement that Hume is a much better philosopher than Dawkins, then goes on to argue from authority that Hume said so ha. He also misunderstands what Hume said (which must have been calculated; he’s bound to know better).

Here’s my transcript of that part:

He uses reason to destroy Christianity, and says that reason says there is no all-good god – that’s fine. Reason says there

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People who know what god likes

Mar 6th, 2012 8:09 am | By

I have a squillion things to do before I leave again tomorrow (like preparing my talk, for instance…), including offering some more detail on the conference, but I can’t ignore a new bit of point-missing and god-frotting from Be Scofield.

It’s about how Natalie Reed says god doesn’t love transgender people and Be responds (by saying yes they do too so, of course).

Natalie Reed, an atheist who is transgender has a new article called “God Does Not Love Trans People” over at Free Thought Blogs.

I have to interrupt for just a second. I do wish people would learn to use that comma properly. I keep seeing this mistake, and it’s very irritating. If you interrupt … Read the rest

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You can’t win

Feb 27th, 2012 5:29 pm | By

Richard Dawkins has a very amusing piece about the journalistic take on his discussion with the archishop the other day. One stupid cliché after another, most of them derogatory. Dawkins is a charismatic preacher haw haw; bust-up; ardent atheist – and so on. There was no bust-up, so the audience was in despair – in the imagination of one of the reporters. Dawkins “confessed” to being an agnostic shock-horror; never mind that he said that in the book that triggered all these stupid witticisms.

It’s hard to resist a feeling of “You can’t win”. On the one hand we ‘horsemen’ and ‘new atheists’ are attacked, often aggressively and stridently, for being aggressive and strident. On the other hand, when journalists

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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.… Read the rest

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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 … Read the rest

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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 … Read the rest

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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,

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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

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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 … Read the rest

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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

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Up for a prize

Feb 20th, 2012 10:13 am | By

Good morning girls and boys, it’s time for Monday’s entries in the “What Week-old Dead Fish Can We Throw at Richard Dawkins Today?” contest.

A big round of applause for Mary Ann Sieghart at The Independent, who wastes no time but gets to the vulgar abuse right out of the gate.

The Church of England couldn’t hope for a better enemy than Richard Dawkins. Puffed-up, self-regarding, vain, prickly and militant, he displays exactly the character traits that could do with some Christian mellowing. In fact, he’s almost an advertisement against atheism. You can’t help thinking that a few Sundays in the pews and the odd day volunteering in a Church-run soup kitchen might do him the power of good.

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And now for some good Twitter jokes

Feb 19th, 2012 11:14 am | By

Martin Robbins@mjrobbins And here is The Telegraph’s Charles Moore in 2005 attacking Blair for apologizing for slavery


So according to the Telegraph, you shouldn’t hold guilt for your ancestors’ actions, unless you’re Richard Dawkins. Neat.

David Aaronovitch@DAaronovitch

The Telegraph attack on Dawkins for having slave-trading forebears two centuries back, is wonderfully bizarre. Mad, really.


Information is invited on ancestral sins, going back three centuries, of Telegraph editors, sundry bishops and Tory politicians. #pastsins


Re Telegraph outing of past Dawkins, I have to confess to being descended from Sir Darcy O’Ronovitch of the Hellfire Club, hanged in 1782.

Mr Roger Quimbly@RogerQuimbly

According to Richard Dawkins, the Sunday Telegraph is descended … Read the rest

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