Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Karl Giberson Challenges the New Atheists

posted by Scot McKnight

From USAToday

For the sake of argument, let us set aside questions about the truth of religion vs. the truth of science. Suppose there is no such thing as religious truth, as Richard Dawkins argued in The God Delusion. Allow that the “New Atheist Noise Machine,” as American University communications professor Matt Nisbet calls it, has a privileged grasp of the truth. Even with these concessions, it still appears that the New Atheists are behaving like a boorish bunch of intellectual bullies.

There is something profoundly un-American about demanding that people give up cherished, or even uncherished, beliefs just because they don’t comport with science. And the demand seems even more peculiar when it is applied so indiscriminately as to include religious believers with Nobel Prizes. What sort of atheist complains that a fellow citizen doing world-class science must abandon his or her religion to be a good scientist?

Our commitment to pluralism and individual freedom should motivate generosity in such matters and allow people “the right to be wrong,” especially when the beliefs in question do not interfere with us. Nothing is gained by loud, self-promoting and mean-spirited assaults on the beliefs of fellow citizens.

The New Atheists need to learn how to play in the sandbox.



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Justin Topp

posted May 26, 2010 at 1:12 am


I have to say, I wasn’t really fond of this article by Karl. I liked much better his post on BioLogos recently on evolution and theodicy (http://bit.ly/bUCJyg). This is the 2nd recent article by Karl that has missed the mark to me. He seems to be getting drawn into the personal-level attacks/discussions instead of sticking to the ideas. I think the Christian argument, in general, and BioLogos’s approach to the integration of evolution and Christianity, in particular is/can be strong enough on its own and thus we don’t need to delve into these attacks.
I’ll be attending a BioLogos conference in June and look forward to meeting Karl. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to ask him about these last couple of articles. I’ve heard wonderful things about his other works so I simply wonder why he’s getting drawn in to this. He’s such a great advocate of science and religion… but I know this stirring of the pot, does just that…
http://scienceandtheology.wordpress.com/
Twitter: JustinTopp



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Matthew

posted May 26, 2010 at 1:43 am


I’m aware of Dawkins and his peers criticizing scientists who write apologetics. However, I’m unaware of Dawkins “demanding that people give up cherished, or even uncherished, beliefs just because they don’t comport with science.”
Could someone point me towards an essay or video in which he does this?



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Hrafn

posted May 26, 2010 at 6:26 am


It would seem that the only ‘good’ atheist is one who is depressed-near-unto-suicide by their lack of faith. To actually be happy as an atheist, and to openly suggest that atheism makes for a better world than theism (and what genuine believer in a worldview does not believe that this worldview is superior to that worldview’s anithesis?), is to place yourself beyond the pale.
It would seem that Coyne, by describing Giberson, along with Miller, as “men of good will” is not “play[ing] well with others”. So what does constitute ‘playing well’? George “I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots” Bush?
Yes, Richard Dawkins is not-an-American, for which he must be very happy — as it means that he is not under the thumb of Bush & Nisbet’s’ “under God” atheism=unAmerican ‘Neo-McCarthyist Christianist Bigotry Machine’, that appears to dominate the US (in violation of the tenets of the US’s own constitution).
To the best of my knowledge, Dawkins has made no ‘demand’ that theists give up their faith. Nor would any such demand be taken seriously (as a retired college prof is in no position to enforce it). So Giberson’s New-Atheism-bashing would appear to be nothing but ‘boorish bullying’.
I would point out that the First Amendment gives every person (citizen or non-citizen) the right to advocate any worldview (even those that are themselves inimical to the Constitution, which atheism is not). To declare somebody “unAmerican” (particularly under the colour of national office) for advocating a viewpoint that is not-inimical-to-the-Constitution would appear to go against the spirit of the Constitution.



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Larry

posted May 26, 2010 at 9:09 am


Matthew, just Google “Francis Collins Richard Dawkins” for a bunch of articles written when Collins was nominated to head NIH.



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T

posted May 26, 2010 at 9:26 am


Isn’t the Fox-news-style of brash, angry, and sound-bite quality confrontation and argument what makes ‘the New Atheists’ new? That seemed to me to be the main thing that separated the ‘new’ atheists from the old ones.
And for an atheist to insist that someone, even a Nobel winner, would be a better scientist by becoming an atheist doesn’t seem outlandish to me. It may make an atheist a poor scientist for insisting that, but not necessarily a bad atheist. Atheists believe their paradigm allows people to see the world more accurately, no? As a Christian, I think the same about Christianity. It seems only logical for atheists to have faith that their particular beliefs help even very smart people see things more accurately.



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Helen

posted May 26, 2010 at 9:32 am


Isn’t it rather boorish to (implicitly) demand that people who are not American behave in an ‘American’ way or hold to ‘American’ values?



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Chris

posted May 26, 2010 at 9:34 am


“There is something profoundly un-American about demanding that people give up cherished, or even uncherished, beliefs just because they don’t comport with science.”
You’re assuming that these beliefs do not harm society. Looking at homosexuality as a sin, believing that you can rely on prayer alone for healing, and teaching creation stories do certainly cause harm if the religion they represent is incorrect. There are more, of course, but I’m not here to try and put fuel in the fire. People certainly have the right to be wrong, but when these wrong ideas turn harmful don’t be suprised when some people say “enough is enough”.
I will agree with you about the Nobel Prize topic, but I’m not too fond of throwing out victim cards. It happens to all groups at all levels. Sure, this doesn’t make it right; I’m not trying to justify it. What I am saying though, is that nonbelievers can mention events where they aren’t shown respect either.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 9:43 am


Larry – Arguing that someone is a bad candidate for a position based on their beliefs is not the same thing as “demanding that people give up cherished, or even uncherished, beliefs”…



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stann

posted May 26, 2010 at 10:44 am


There are kids in the sandbox with invisble friends. Some flew two planes into the sandbox because of that friend. Before and after that, other kids have been keeping people out of the sandbox because of that invisible friend. We’ve just been saying there’s no invisible friend. Who’s unAmerican? Quit projecting the collective hate of your holy books on us. You should be ashamed of yourself.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 10:51 am


“For the sake of argument, let us set aside questions about the truth of religion vs. the truth of science.”
You can’t exactly “set aside” these two positions: they are central to the argument. Aside from the fact,
“The New Atheists are behaving like a boorish bunch of intellectual bullies.”
Agreed. He hit the nail on the head. Furthermore,
“Our commitment to pluralism and individual freedom should motivate generosity in such matters and allow people “the right to be wrong,” especially when the beliefs in question do not interfere with us.”
I actually disagree with this worldview. I think truth should be the focus of our pursuits, and not comfort or personal happiness, but yet,
“Nothing is gained by loud, self-promoting and mean-spirited assaults on the beliefs of fellow citizens.
The New Atheists need to learn how to play in the sandbox.”
Absolutely; I agree 100%.
I don’t dislike the New Atheists because they’re atheists. If they genuinely do not believe in anything non-material then I can respect that. But they need to play fairly.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 10:59 am


Matthew @ #2: I am not sure Dawkins’ or anybody else “demands” that people give up beliefs, cherished or not-so-cherished. However, it is clear by the way Dawkins n’ company speak to religious people that they don’t have much respect (if any) for people who believe in God. It is implicit in their treatment that religious people are intellectually inferior. So, in a way, they are “demanding” that people give up their beliefs. That is, if they want to be treated with academic respect.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 11:02 am


Ray, same thing as I said to Matthew above.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 11:11 am


Hrafn, in your own words:
“It would seem that the only ‘good’ atheist is one who is depressed-near-unto-suicide by their lack of faith. To actually be happy as an atheist, and to openly suggest that atheism makes for a better world than theism (and what genuine believer in a worldview does not believe that this worldview is superior to that worldview’s anithesis?), is to place yourself beyond the pale.”
I don’t think anyone is suggesting this (I certainly wouldn’t). That is simply not the issue. Respect, common courtesy, and humility are the issues. It is not wrong or bad to genuinely believe that you are correct and that your position is the right one. I hope anyone who believes something believes it enough to say that it is better than beliefs that are incompatible with it. However, that does not mean arrogance. That does not mean belittling and demonizing opponents, making them out to be ignorant, naive and foolish (though some certainly may be). If we disagree with one another, then they should be for good reasons, disagree with an argument at its highness point of sophistication. Straw-men attacks, ad hominem attacks, red herrings, etc. are simply unnecessary.
But I disapprove of the “Un-American” rhetoric that clouds the issue. It’s completely unnecessary. Making this a matter of patriotism and bringing the Bill of Rights into just makes the entire conversation ridiculous. I desire intelligent dialogue: why do we need to resort to shoving our rights down each other’s necks?



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 11:15 am


Stann, in your own words,
“There are kids in the sandbox with invisble friends. Some flew two planes into the sandbox because of that friend. Before and after that, other kids have been keeping people out of the sandbox because of that invisible friend. We’ve just been saying there’s no invisible friend. Who’s unAmerican? Quit projecting the collective hate of your holy books on us. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
This sounds like something taken out of The God Delusion (resembling his comparison of Christianity with the flying spaghetti monster or the stork theory). Thank you for vindicating any Christians who believe that the New Atheists are incapable of intelligent dialogue. They cannot respond without using ad hominem attacks.
Muslims and Christians are not the same religion: they do not believe the same thing. Christians did not fly two planes into the World Trade Center because God told them to.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 11:17 am


T @ #6: interesting comment. Very nice.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 11:23 am


Chris @ #7, in your own words:
“Looking at homosexuality as a sin, believing that you can rely on prayer alone for healing, and teaching creation stories do certainly cause harm if the religion they represent is incorrect.”
Possibly, that is not necessarily substantiated. How exactly do these beliefs cause harm? Furthermore, if it is true that they may cause harm if the religion they represent is false, is not the reverse equally true: that they are the source of a lot of good, and that atheism would be causing harm? In reality, I don’t believe this myself, but I am only suggesting that the same logic be equally applied to both sides here.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm


However, it is clear by the way Dawkins n’ company speak to religious people that they don’t have much respect (if any) for people who believe in God. It is implicit in their treatment that religious people are intellectually inferior.

Sorry, I’m not buying that. Dawkins et. al. are a lot less circumspect than many atheists have been. And they’ve certainly been aggressive going after religious ideas. Harris and Hitchens have labeled religious belief ‘dangerous’ at times. But I haven’t seen any quotes that show them calling religious believers “intellectually inferior”. Wrong, yes. Stupid, no.
I honestly believe that most – if not all – of the ‘offense’ the “New Atheists” inspire is in the ears of the receivers rather than what they are saying.
Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, some atheists in Iowa took out ads on buses. It said, “Don’t Believe In God? You’re Not Alone.” In essence, all it said was, “More than one atheist exists.”
One bus driver refused to drive a bus with that ad on it. The governor of Iowa said he was “disturbed” by them. In Cincinnati, a billboard with the same message had to be moved because the owner of the building it was on reported he received threats.
If that’s considered offensive, just how obsequious do atheists need to be to avoid giving offense, exactly?
The “New Atheists” aren’t saying anything that the “Old Atheists” didn’t. They even say it in about the same style. See, e.g. Bertrand Russell in 1959: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aPOMUTr1qw
So far as I can see, the only difference is that more people are paying attention to what they are saying now. (Note: “paying attention”, not necessarily “agreeing”.)



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RJS

posted May 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm


Ray,
I have no desire to defend Giberson’s article on all (or many) fronts.
But Dawkins most certainly implies that believers are intellectually inferior, in most cases subtly and occasionally overtly. One example is in the section of The God Delusion where he discusses the correlation between belief and intelligence. Among other things he makes a point in his use of language to belittle any real creative scientific contribution by Francis Collins giving the impression that he is something of a petty bureaucratic. (The real creative genius comes from others more in line with his hypothesis.)



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 12:38 pm


Ray, in your own words:
“Dawkins et. al. are a lot less circumspect than many atheists have been. And they’ve certainly been aggressive going after religious ideas.”
To repeat back what you said to me: sorry, I’m not buying that. Even if it was true (and it isn’t) that they have only attacked religious ideas- suggesting that they have attacked religious beliefs and not the people who hold them is a false dichotomy. By insulting somebody’s beliefs or attachments, you’re insulting them (that’s why you don’t make cat-calls at somebody’s wife or make fun of someone’s mother).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO9If_23cfU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmHDiJHxEic
“I honestly believe that most – if not all – of the ‘offense’ the “New Atheists” inspire is in the ears of the receivers rather than what they are saying.”
That is certainly possible. In arguments as passionate as this one, it is difficult to separate personal bias from the issues and be objective. But this works both way. I honestly believe that you fail to see how offensive they are because you agree with them. If Christians take offense because they’re Christians, are you not equally likely to look over this offense because you’re an atheist?
If that’s considered offensive, just how obsequious do atheists need to be to avoid giving offense, exactly?



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stann

posted May 26, 2010 at 12:51 pm


Josh Wooden: Thanks for showing faith cannot heal obsessive-compulsive disorder (LOL). You were incapable of identifying where any comparison you attributed to me was actually in MY comment, or where I made an ad hominem attack, plus you said we are all incapable of intelligent dialougue. Your comment is based entirely on a strawman and betrays your projection, hypocrisy and dishonesty. I did say “some” fly planes, which was too inconvenient for you to mention. Indeed, Christians have not flown planes into buildings in the name of their deity, rather choosing to bomb abortion clinics. Keeping others out of the sandbox seems a universal for you and your fellow theists, another fact you conveniently left out.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 1:22 pm


Even if it was true (and it isn’t) that they have only attacked religious ideas- suggesting that they have attacked religious beliefs and not the people who hold them is a false dichotomy. By insulting somebody’s beliefs or attachments, you’re insulting them…

No. Full stop.
Attacking – even insulting – ideas simply is not the same thing as attacking people. Many people do respond that way (example below) but that’s their problem.

(that’s why you don’t make cat-calls at somebody’s wife or make fun of someone’s mother).

May I diffidently point out that both your examples (wife, mother) are people and not ideas?
Let me give you an example you might relate to. As C.S. Lewis put it, many Catholics respond to any question of the veneration of Mary with “the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honor of his mother or his beloved is at stake.” But I assume you can see that disagreeing – even vehemently – with the level of veneration of Mary that the Catholic church holds is not the same thing as insulting Mary.
This common Catholic reaction to the disputation by many Protestants is understandable and human. But it’s still wrong.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm


RJS –

One example is in the section of The God Delusion where he discusses the correlation between belief and intelligence.

Statements of fact – at least in the U.S. – cannot be slander or libel. Studies do, in fact, indicate such a correlation. Just to be clear, are you saying that Dawkins should not present such data because it might hurt someone’s feelings?
Other studies show that atheism and secularism is correlated with somewhat less charitable giving. Should theists refrain from pointing this out on similar grounds?

Among other things he makes a point in his use of language to belittle any real creative scientific contribution by Francis Collins…

Can you cite a specific passage to illustrate this?



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Ann F-R

posted May 26, 2010 at 1:32 pm


Many “New Atheists” err in failing to distinguish between people who utilize a subjective “god” to justify whatever behavior these people want to do. Likewise, many people who have faith in a god fail to honor that god in their behavior. When people make “god” in their own image, humans cannot discern god from human, it seems.
So, ISTM that an atheist is the only one who can justifiably say that “I can treat people however I want to, and there is nothing/noOne to stop me, aside from other humans.” The atheist is s/he whose “god” looks as humans do, hears as they hear, sees as they see, acts as they act, and talks as they please. Given that there are billions of individual humans on earth, there are likewise billions of little “gods” deciding how to act according to their own perceptions.
Why any atheist considers to have legitimate credibility to decry how another human appears, acts, hears, sees, and talks, stretches the imagination. There is no “higher” power to appeal to, and the concept of an overarching “truth” metanarrative is eviscerated by the subjectivity of individual humans set in culture, relationships, language, and experiences.
So, it seems to me a equally useless endeavor for Giberson (or any of us who seek to live humbly according to God who loves, acts justly & mercifully to others, etc.) to appeal to atheists’ sensibilities for not treating anyone who isn’t in accordance with individual atheists’ thoughts and behavior. They have “reason” to do whatever they want, because their choices and lives reflect their individual selves/gods.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm


Ray, thanks for the response. Fair enough. But note that I specifically said, “by insulting somebody’s beliefs or Attachments….” By insulting someone’s mother or wife, you’re not insulting that person directly. But in a way you are, because you’re insulting someone that more-or-less represents them. If one does not believe in God, then they do not believe He is a person- only an idea. But Christians do not see it that way Ray; they take it as an attack on God Himself, who represents them. They are attached to Him. To use language common in Christian circles, they have a relationship with Him. So attacking, the “idea” of God, to Christians, is attacking God, and is much worse than insulting someone’s mother or wife.
I think that I should add, I actually am appalled when I hear about Christians who threaten others for things that are as petty as signs on buses. This is not Christian-like. But in saying it isn’t Christian-like, I am presupposing that there is such a thing as true Christian behavior. In short, I believe that they are failing to live up to a standard that is good, right and just. They are guilty of hypocrisy, but this has nothing to do with what Christians believe. On the contrary, what Christians believe confronts and denounces such actions as wrong.



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RJS

posted May 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm


Ray,
I am fully aware that statement of fact isn’t the problem. There is no doubt that atheism and agnosticism dominate among “elite” scientists. I’ve put up the charts myself. I didn’t claim that Dawkins was biased in pointing out that the data supported his conclusion.
I claimed that it was the language and form he used in discussing Collins that displayed bias.
p. 125 – “There are some corresponding examples in the United States, for example Francis Collins, administrative head of the American branch of the official Human Genome Project.*”
Footnote same page – “*Not to be confused with the unofficial human genome project, led by that brilliant (and non-religious) ‘buccaneer’ of science,Craig Venter.”
Dawkins could not allow Collins any real scientific credit as he didn’t fit the “mold” and thus discounted his accomplishments and position. Collins made his name in creative and important science before he went to the NIH and continued creative output while at the NIH. If Dawkins was content to allow him to stand as an exception to the rule, I’d make no complaint.



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Justin Topp

posted May 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm


I mentioned in comment 1 what I thought of this Giberson article. I don’t think it’s productive at all. That being said, I can understand why he would want to write it. The “new atheists” are, of course, actively seeking new members. They are using the usual tactics to do so. One only needs to spend a few minutes on PZ Myers blog or even Jerry Coyne’s blog (where he rightfully ripped Karl’s article) to realize that the “new atheist” following is quite similar to that of the fundamentalists that they so greatly dislike.
The message that Creationists are “idiots” is one thing, but this is then extended to anyone who espouses a belief in God (whatever that looks like) or attempts to even reconcile science and belief. So, prominent scientists who “come out of the closet” are labeled idiots and then discredited (I had a post on my blog about this nonsense). And this following chimes in with delight. I doubt very highly that this following is questioning their “authority” or using that reason card that they are so fond of. Again, this is very similar to the fundamentalists.
It doesn’t surprise me that well known atheists are attempting to distance themselves from the “new atheist” group. Two that come to my mind are David Sloan Wilson and Michael Ruse. Michael Ruse even had a positive blurb on the cover of Alister McGrath’s book, The Dawkins Delusion! Of course, the “new atheists” are now cutting Wilson and Ruse out of their “flock”. Again, similar to fundamentalists.
Frankly, it doesn’t seem to me to be really worth the time and effort to attempt to get in a discussion with most of the “new atheists” or their following. It just doesn’t seem like a productive endeavor. While I have enjoyed listening to talks by Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett, I don’t think that there is room for discussion, especially with their following. It’s possible that this is by design…
http://scienceandtheology.wordpress.com/
Twitter: JustinTopp



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:00 pm


I have to say this to any comments that say “Can you cite a movie, speech, letter, or passage that says this explicitly?”
I just got done watching a really interesting movie about how a man sued Ford company for infringing on his patent rights (he invented the “blinking eye windshield wiper”). For about 10 years, they buried him with boxes of paper after paper of mostly useless information. The court needed him to prove something that Ford knew was true. They knew that they stole his invention and paid him nothing for it.
I don’t like hearing stories about how much red tape and empirical evidence has to be demonstrated so that criminals everyone know is guilty are put behind bars (the story of almost every mafia man alive)- it’s ridiculous.
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris demonize and belittle religious believers. They believe that they are inferior intellectually and have tried to demonstrate (except Hitchens) that they are actually inferior morally, too. This is evident in what they say and how they say it, with smug, arrogant smirks on their faces. They do this with ad hominem attacks, red herrings and just about every other logical fallacy attributed to the psychological phenomena known as cognitive dissonance.
Every single comment they make can be attributed to some other cause: “They were attacking ideas and not the person who believes them.” “They weren’t being rude, they were only stating facts,” etc.
The truth is, though, if you can’t see them for what they are, then you’re not seeing straight.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:10 pm


So attacking, the “idea” of God, to Christians, is attacking God, and is much worse than insulting someone’s mother or wife.

Earlier, I asked, “If [saying that atheists exist is] considered offensive, just how obsequious do atheists need to be to avoid giving offense, exactly?”
Apparently, if I understand you correctly, atheists can’t say anything disputing the idea that God(s) exist without Christians taking offense.
Of course, that’s pretty much what I already said – no matter what the atheists say, and however they say it, people will take offense… whether or not offense is offered. What you appear to be saying is that, to use Giberson’s phrase, there’s no room for atheists in the sandbox at all.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm


RJS – So, just so I’m clear… Dawkins calling someone else “brilliant”, and not calling Collins brilliant, is an attempt to “belittle” Collins?

If Dawkins was content to allow him to stand as an exception to the rule, I’d make no complaint.

But… he does state Collins is an exception to the rule. To put some context around the passage you cite, before you find, “Nevertheless, there are some genuine specimens of good scientists who are sincerely religious in the full, traditional sense.” And immediately after, “But, as in Britain, they stand out for their rarity and are a subject of amused bafflement to their peers in the academic community.”



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm


Ray,
In all simplicity, no, that’s not true. Saying that Atheists exist is fine by me and doesn’t offend me. At least, it wouldn’t offend me if the motive for doing it was pure, which I don’t know. There’s what somebody says, and there’s what somebody SAYS. There may or may not be an implicit attack on religion in that simple phrase, but there’s no real way of knowing. How do you know that ill-will was not meant by putting that ad on the bus (note: a similar ad was placed on bused throughout the UK: “God probably doesn’t exist, so stop worrying about,” or something to that affect)? Was it aimed at freeing atheists or attacking Christians? Who really knows? I still don’t condone the threats and response by the population, but I am also not ignorant of the fact that you can SAY something, without actually saying it.
Saying that you don’t believe in God and stating your reasons why is not only fine- I would expect (at least hope) for intelligent reasons for believing what one believes.
But this is not what I am personally angry about. I am not angry that people don’t believe in God. I am not angry for many of their reasons (some of the reasons are well-warranted and fair, and I even could see myself leaving Christianity for the same reasons).
What is angering and frustrating is the association of religious people (explicitly or implicity) by Dawkins et al. with ignorance, naivet? and even a mental disability (something that Harris said, I believe, but Mill Maher said this explicitly at the end of Religulous). It angers me that they believe it is something that we should have “evolved away from” and that it should be regulated.
So Ray, it isn’t anything and everything that Atheists say, but they do say things that warrant anger, because the say things with the intention of provoking people.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm


Joshua Wooden –

I don’t like hearing stories about how much red tape and empirical evidence has to be demonstrated so that criminals everyone know is guilty are put behind bars (the story of almost every mafia man alive)- it’s ridiculous.

Why? Blackstone’s maxim is supported by Genesis 18:23-32, isn’t it?

Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris demonize and belittle religious believers.

And you don’t have to provide any examples of them doing so. They just do. Got it.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm


Ray,
“But, as in Britain, they stand out for their rarity and are a subject of amused bafflement to their peers in the academic community.”
You don’t see that as belittling?



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RJS

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:40 pm


No Ray … it is using “administrative head” and “official”
Come on – this was a clear use of wording and detail to minimize the significance of a noted exception to his general rule. Including the footnote to this passage put a hammer to his point. (The addition of “amused bafflement” was another way of driving home the point. After all what reader wants to be a subject of amused bafflement?)
I don’t have the book with me and had to rely on a search of amazon preview for the quote (the full page wasn’t included so I couldn’t give full context).



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:41 pm


Ray, I while back when I posted a comment from Will Provine about his belief in no ethics, free will, etc. you responded by saying that atheists don’t have pope, and are not obligated to think a certain way (something to that affect). May I ask, why do you go to such lengths to defend and dispute every single thing that Dawkins says, if you are not obligated to him in any way? What’s your stake in this argument exactly? If what Dawkins et al. says in no way reflects upon you as an individual, free atheist, then why do you so ardently defend them from the accusations that seem more-or-less self-evident to a great many people, atheist and Christian alike.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm


Joshua Wooden –

There’s what somebody says, and there’s what somebody SAYS.

Earlier, you yourself stated:

In arguments as passionate as this one, it is difficult to separate personal bias from the issues and be objective.

I suggest that such bias can affect what someone ‘HEARS’ much more readily than what someone ‘hears’. I personally try to address what people say rather than what the SAY, to use your terms. Particularly when dealing with written words, where tone of voice is a lot harder to parse out.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:48 pm


Ray,
What is your point about Blackstone’s Maxim?
In your words,
“And you don’t have to provide any examples of them doing so.”
No, but I think that there comes a point when the examples are so great that citing them every time they come up is a waste of time. Not that it matters anyway, because every example that can be given is going to be disputed tit-for-tat, and it goes absolutely nowhere. There’s no way to prove to someone who is so passionately for something of thinking anything differently. That’s the problem with Christian fundamentalists is it not?



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Joshua Wooden, and RJS:

“But, as in Britain, they stand out for their rarity and are a subject of amused bafflement to their peers in the academic community.”

You don’t see that as belittling?

As I said before, truth is an absolute defense against charges of slander and libel. Articles and comments on this very site corroborate what Dawkins says there.
Now, whether they should be “a subject of amused bafflement” is another subject. But noting that they are – if true – cannot be an insult.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Ray, in response to 35.
About written words, that may be true, but not everything that they say is written. They speak in public… frequently. One can pick up on how someone is writing something from what they say in public. For instance, it’s easy for me to pick up on what Dr. McKnight writes because I have heard him teach. There’s a specific way he does it, and there’s a specific way Dawkins speaks too. You can apply that to what they write, and it makes it easier to read between the lines.



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RJS

posted May 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm


Ray,
You would like us to believe Dawkins is pure as the driven snow; giving cold hard facts and nothing but cold hard facts – no twist, no rhetoric, no between the lines desire to push his point home?
Give me a break … you make many good points on this blog, but you are off in deep space on this one.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm


Ray, I gotta say this: I think you’re in denial. Dawkins simply is not the objective science scholar that you seem to say he is. He has an agenda, and the “facts” that he states are reflection of that agenda. As he mentioned in the introduction of his book, something to the affect of, “When people put this book down, if this book serves its purpose, they will be firm atheists.” For crying out loud, the title of the book is “The God Delusion.” Would he really have had that the title of his book, if he did not have the agenda of attacking religion and anyone who adheres to them? Bertstrand Russell’s book was a little better titled: “Why I am Not a Christian.” But Dawkins isn’t trying to provide an apology for his beliefs- he is attacking what religious people believe.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 3:10 pm


What’s your stake in this argument exactly? If what Dawkins et al. says in no way reflects upon you as an individual, free atheist, then why do you so ardently defend them from the accusations that seem more-or-less self-evident to a great many people, atheist and Christian alike.

When accusations that I perceive as unfair are leveled, I will dispute them. Many people belittle his theology without actually understanding his arguments. Many people misrepresent or misinterpret his words, and take offense when none was offered.
Dawkins can be fairly accused of errors and failures. For example, he’s too facile in his dismissal of the social utility that religion has provided in the past (see: David Sloan Wilson). For another, he is guilty of treating religion as a frequent primary cause of war rather than a catalyst amplifying existing tensions.
But he’s not guilty of “demanding that people give up cherished, or even uncherished, beliefs just because they don’t comport with science.” He’s certainly aggressive about trying to persuade people on that basis, but that’s not the same thing.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm


RJS –

You would like us to believe Dawkins is pure as the driven snow; giving cold hard facts and nothing but cold hard facts – no twist, no rhetoric, no between the lines desire to push his point home?

Hardly. He’s quite opinionated and blunt.
But I have only ever seen evidence of him attacking religious ideas, not people. I have seen no evidence of him saying anything that would warrant him being ‘kicked out of the sandbox’. Your best example so far of his rude, uncivilized behavior is… him not praising Collins enough.
Now, for Joshua, attacking ideas may be enough to condemn him. But as far as I’m concerned, all ideas should be fair game – and I’ve a long Western tradition to draw upon on that score.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm


Ray,
“Many people misrepresent or misinterpret his words, and take offense when none was offered.”
The flip side of that coin, however, is that people understand and take offense precisely because they understand what Dawkins says. Any, I’m not at all sure that Dawkins never says offensive things in order to offend. It can’t be proven either way.
And uh, I as a theology student, I gotta say, people don’t belittle his theology- his theology is little. There’s a difference.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm


Ray, I gotta say this: I think you’re in denial. Dawkins simply is not the objective science scholar that you seem to say he is. He has an agenda, and the “facts” that he states are reflection of that agenda.

Of course he marshals the facts that support his case. The problem is, so far, the only examples anyone has come up of him being rude or dismissive has been him… relaying facts. Those might be uncomfortable facts, but that doesn’t make them lies or even insults.

For crying out loud, the title of the book is “The God Delusion.” Would he really have had that the title of his book, if he did not have the agenda of attacking religion and anyone who adheres to them?

Attacking religion, sure. Attacking religious adherents? Haven’t seen anyone demonstrate that yet.
Let me pose a question for you: Alister McGrath’s “The Dawkins Delusion?” Attack on ideas or a person?



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 3:50 pm


Joshua –

And uh, I as a theology student, I gotta say, people don’t belittle his theology- his theology is little. There’s a difference.

See here. If you want to discuss it further, I suggest you take it to email. Hit my website up for the “contact” page.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm


Attacking religion, sure. Attacking religious adherents? Haven’t seen anyone demonstrate that yet.
Let me pose a question for you: Alister McGrath’s “The Dawkins Delusion?” Attack on ideas or a person?
Well, if I employ your logic, and Dawkins is not attacking God and the people who believe in Him (only ideas), then I would have to say that McGrath is only attacking Dawkins’ ideas and the people who believe them, rather than Dawkins himself.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 26, 2010 at 6:29 pm


Joshua – You concede that it’s possible for people to attack ideas – even pointedly and directly – without attacking the person holding those ideas?



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Eric Ragle

posted May 26, 2010 at 6:42 pm


It never fails that when a Christian realizes that all he has left is non-facted-based faith, he goes for playing the patriotism card.
No it’s not unAmerican to demand that supposedly intelligent people stop clinging to bronze-age superstititions.
You have a right to refuse and we have a right to doubt your credibility as a result.



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Hrafn

posted May 27, 2010 at 2:06 am


Joshua Wooden (13):
Yes, they are “suggesting this”:

But a different kind of atheism is possible, legitimate, and (in Hart?s view) more admirable. Let?s call it catastrophic atheism, in tribute to its first and greatest champion, Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote in a head-spinning passage of the Genealogy of Morals that ?unconditional, honest atheism is … the awe-inspiring catastrophe of two-thousand years of training in truthfulness that finally forbids itself the lie involved in belief in God.? For the catastrophic atheist, godlessness is both true and terrible..

Now of course Hart would prefer that kind of tragic atheism. He?s a believer, after all. But the fact is that a number of atheists themselves have staked out a similar position. http://www.tnr.com/blog/damon-linker/another-kind-atheism

“Respect, common courtesy, and humility are the issues.”
Where is the “respect, common courtesy, and humility” in Giberson’s own article?
Where is the “respect, common courtesy, and humility” in Nisbet’s “”New Atheist Noise Machine” name-calling?
Where is the “respect, common courtesy, and humility” in Bush’s exclusion of Atheists from being citizens and patriotic?
Where is the “respect, common courtesy, and humility” in Elizabeth Dole claiming that “protecting [Atheists’, among others] civil rights” “does not represent the values” of North Carolina?
Where is the “respect, common courtesy, and humility” in inserting “under God” into the Oath of Allegiance, with the explicit intention of differentiating America from Atheism, and thus disenfranchising Atheists?
Not only do Christians not display the “respect, common courtesy, and humility” that some are demanding of Atheists, the very ones doing the demanding are not displaying it.
Let’s face it: atheists have faced bigotry and discrimination for decades. That ‘New Atheists’ are being ‘loud and proud’ about their views and why they think their view is superior to theism, in response to this, is not much different from from gays holding a Gay Pride March. Yes, each offends the sensibilities of others. But the First Amendment protects free expression of ideas, not freedom from being offended.



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Dogger

posted May 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm


Basically he’s saying “sit down and shut up”. Nope, not gonna happen. Religion’s time of spouting lies unchallenged is over.



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Rodney Barbati

posted May 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm


Uuhhmm,
How about an atheist that knows that there is a god. But this god is not the god described in any religious works, and this god does not display any behavior comparable to that of man. This god is not consious, has no emotions, and yet, this is the one true god which will actually judge all of mankind, sometime in the future.
I am speaking of the one true god, the one which we were created within, and by. The god that simply is everything that is and was and will be. Call it nature if you want, but it did create us.
The judgement I am speaking of will come some time in the future, probably in the form of an asteroid or super volcanoe, or some other naturally occuring extinction event. On that day, the one true god will judge all of mankind – as one, in sum and total.
If we make it off the planet and have viable colonies on some platform other than earth, we will be judged as worthy to live. If we don’t have fully developed off earth colonies, we will be judged unworthy to live, and all of us will most likely die or be sent back to cave man days.
This is probably the god that the writers of the bible described when they first created the books – it’s easy to see in the bible. When you read the bible, simply ignore all references to god which attribute him/it with an emotion, goal, or other form of human attribute. Then you can see what the original bible read like.
Good luck,
Rodney Barbati



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 27, 2010 at 10:17 pm


Hrafn @ #49.
Thanks for your response, and I can see where you are coming from. I certainly agree with you that the New Atheism is more-or-less a reactionary movement in response to the Religious tension in the U.S. and the U.K. At least, I think that’s what you were getting at in the last part.
I don’t agree with Giberson’s comments. Or Nisbet’s or Bush’s or Dole’s. I don’t believe that “One nation under God” should be in the Pledge of Allegiance, just like I don’t believe that statues of the 10 Commandments should be in courthouses, or corporate prayer in public school etc. (although, I probably don’t agree with these things for different reasons than you- Civic Religion is counter-productive, in my opinion). I don’t think putting “One nation under God” was an attack on Atheism as much as a unification of the United States against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Even still, I don’t agree with it- cramming one’s views, beliefs and religions down other peoples’ throats seems to be counter-productive to me, as they tend to produce violent reactions to such movements, such as the case with the New Atheism.
I don’t think playing the victim card is in anyway beneficial or edifying. There is always a way to play victim. Everyone has a list of grievances that they can throw out when accused of acting in a way that is uncharitable, selfish, rude, violent, vicious malicious, etc. (not all of the terms can be rightly applied to the New Atheism). Atheists may experience isolation at the hands of the religious, but Christians can play the victim card to, being the the butt-end of many jokes, insults and cutting words that make them out to be intellectually inferior to the “more sophisticated and reasonable” atheists. I just don’t think playing victim is the way out.
I said that, “Respect, common courtesy, and humility are the issues.” I think your response points out the hypocrisy of Christians to demand such things. And you may be right. But doesn’t that only prove that it is all the more needed on both sides? In closing you said, “Let’s face it: atheists have faced bigotry and discrimination for decades,” and I agree with you, but in saying this you are proving my point: Respect, common courtesy and humility truly are the issues- this is something that is needed on both sides of the argument.
To finish, I want to respond to one other thing that you said:
“Not only do Christians not display the “respect, common courtesy, and humility” that some are demanding of Atheists, the very ones doing the demanding are not displaying it.”
That may be true, but that doesn’t prove me wrong. In fact, it just proves all the more that these things are what’s needed in this discussion specifically.



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stann

posted May 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm


Joshua Wooden: There is a cartoon of a Christian hitting an atheist over the head with a cross. The atheist takes it from him and begins to snap it over his knee. The Christian yells “Hey, hey! Show some respect.”
You are wrong, sir. People like you only get their dander up when non-believers get the upper hand. When your brethren are on the assault, you are as quiet as church mice. If you showed an ounce of the compulsion you showed on this blog towards your fellow faithful, there would be no need for us to do things that so offend you.
To whatever degree, you are in league with those who would deny us our rights. When they are done with us sir, who do you think they will come for? Clean up your own house before you lecture us.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 29, 2010 at 1:19 am


Stann, it’s best not to assume you know “people like me” when you have never even met me. And I don’t know how you intend to prove anybody has the upper-hand here, but that’s neither here-nor-there. Stann- you have no idea what I say or don’t say when other Christians do and/or say things that I disapprove of, and no, you are incorrect- I am passionately against those Christians who would threaten and bully non-Christians (something I believe is ironically unChristian). I’m not “lecturing” atheists. I’m not lecturing anybody. It is not unreasonable to ask for common courtesy when discussing things like this- it should be a given. I would very much like to “clean my own house,” (whatever that looks like in reality), but I don’t exactly have the authority to do that.
Stann, you are stereo-typing me based on your own prejudices against Christians. I’m sorry if you have had a negative experience with Christians in or out of church. But if you did, there’s no need to project. I haven’t said anything unreasonable and I’m not hitting anybody over the head with a cross, and then getting upset when the cross is taken from me and snapped in two. I know why there is anger (on both sides), but that’s really no excuse. Really Stann, you just plain don’t know me.



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stann

posted May 29, 2010 at 11:16 am


Joshua Wooden: Your multitude of comments on a blog dealing with atheists and the absence of any parallel for your brethren makes your intentions crystal clear. Bottom line: when your brothers and sisters let up, so will we. Until you can police your own, you have no cause complaining about us.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm


Stann, as I said before, I’m not lecturing atheists- I’m not lecturing anyone. In other words: I wasn’t addressing you. My comments were directed at specific people. I’m not speaking to the “society of atheists”- I’m addressing people specifically. There’s simply no way to “police my own brethren” (by the way, I have never heard the word “brethren” in church growing up) even if I wanted to, as I already said. And there’s no way for you to “police yours,” whatever that means and whatever that would look like in reality. The truth is, all we can do is speak to each other one-on-one, which is what I’ve been doing. I never suggested “letting up,” and I really don’t have any idea where you got that from what I’ve said. By all means, speak up, respond… whatever. But really, making the discussion uncivilized and rude- get’s us nowhere, and only exacerbates the issue.



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Joshua Wooden

posted May 29, 2010 at 2:57 pm


Stann, by the way, when you said,
Your multitude of comments on a blog dealing with atheists and the absence of any parallel for your brethren makes your intentions crystal clear.
I don’t know what you mean. Just what are my crystal clear intentions? What comments with no parallel for my “brethren” are you talking about?



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