Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


The New Atheists: Just like fundamentalists

posted by Rod Dreher

So says the Canadian philosopher (and 2007 Templeton Prize winner) Charles Taylor, whose masterwork “A Secular Age” I’ve just started. What follows is a passage from an interview Taylor did a couple of years ago, in which he pointed out that the New Atheism is the secular equivalent of Christian fundamentalism, an intense rear-guard action to the crumbling of a world they thought was secure — and the rapid decay of which makes them panic. The passage is too long to excerpt, so I’ve put the whole thing below the jump. But do go read the entire lengthy interview here. Having gotten only as far as the introduction to “A Secular Age,” I can tell you that Taylor sets out to explore why it was virtually impossible not to believe in God in the year 1500, why it’s far more difficult to believe in God today — and how we got from there to here. Read on for this provocative excerpt from the interview.

TOJ: Just to bring us back to the topic of atheism, I wonder if you have any opinion regarding those who are being called the “New Atheists,” say Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, who happen to be quite militant in their rhetoric.
CT: Yes, I happen to have quite a negative view of these folks. I think their work is very intellectually shoddy. I mean there are two things that perhaps I am just totally allergic to. The first is that they all believe that there really are some knock-down arguments against belief in God. And of course this is something you can only believe if you have a scientistic, reductionist conception and explanation of everything in the world, including human beings. If you do have such a view that everything is to be explained in terms of physics and the movement of atoms and the like, then certain forms of access to God are just closed. For example, there are certain human experiences that might direct us to God, but these would all be totally illusory if everything could be explained in scientific terms. I spend a lot of time reflecting and writing on the various human sciences and how they can be tempted into a kind of reductionism, and not only would I say that the jury is out on that, but I would argue that the likelihood of that turning out to be the proper understanding of human beings is very small. And the problem is that they just assume this reductionistic view.
The second thing I am allergic to is that they keep going on and on about the relationship between religion and violence, which on one level is fine because there is a lot of religiously-caused violence. But what they consistently fail to acknowledge is that the twentieth century was full of various atheists who were rampaging around killing millions of people. So it is simply absurd that at the end of the twentieth century someone would continue to advance the thesis that religion is the main cause of violence. I mean you’d think these people were writing in 1750, and that would be quite understandable if you were Voltaire or Locke, but to say this in 2008, well it just takes my breath away.
But then what we need to do, and this is something many religious people fail to do, is to consider why this phenomena of the new atheism is happening at this time. Atheists are reacting in the same way that religious fundamentalists reacted in the past. They are people who have been very comfortable with a sense that their particular position is what makes sense of everything and so on, and then when they are confronted by something else they just go bananas and throw up the most incredibly bad arguments in a tone of indignation and anger. And that’s the problem with that whole master narrative of secularization, what’s called the secularization thesis, that people got lulled into–you know, that religion is a thing of the past, that it’s disappearing, that it did all these terrible things but it’s going to go away and so on–because when it comes back people are just undone.
TOJ: Or when they realize it never went away….
CT: Yeah right, not only did they not notice that it was always there and never really went away, but phenomenologically in their experience it came back suddenly. Religion returned! And why? Well, for no apparent reason. It doesn’t make any sense in light of the secularization thesis. And it’s wrecking the whole universe they had tidily built. So they get terribly angry. And that makes for a very curious kind of atheism. So this tells us something about the zeitgeist, about what’s happening, about people’s having bought very deeply into a particular master narrative, namely the secularization thesis that religion is on its way out, and from which they are getting a certain degree of spiritual comfort, and now that this has been disrupted they are reacting with rage.
TOJ: That’s very interesting. So if I’m hearing you correctly you’re saying that the extreme atheist reaction to the return of religion is actually a spiritual reaction to an interrupted spiritual narrative.
CT: Exactly, and people are very deeply invested, I mean we’re all deeply invested in our spiritual narratives, but we don’t all have this sense that history is on our side. It’s terrible in that sense.
TOJ: In A Secular Age you suggest that there is a parallel between these militant atheists and really dogmatic religious people. Would it be on that score?
CT: Exactly, exactly. The militancy is stronger in the U.S. than in Canada because there is this sense among many American Christians, more so among Protestants than Catholics, that America is founded on a certain kind of inter-denominational Protestant Christianity. I mean we know that a lot of these founders were closet Deists, like Thomas Jefferson, but for the majority of Americans it really was about a providential carrying out of God’s plan and so on. And America is now split between people who hold onto this kind of national identity and others, a much smaller but more influential group who dominate the media and the universities and so on, that have a completely different read. The same constitution and the same constitutional rules are read in a secularist light; that is, there is no privileged position and that all religions are equally to be abstracted from. And the upshot is that each of these groups thinks the other has betrayed America, and is being un-American.
TOJ: So would you see both the religious fundamentalists and the militant atheist then as reactionaries? You know, driving wedges between people and leading to more misunderstanding and demonization?
CT: Absolutely.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(24)
post a comment
Crustacean

posted February 1, 2010 at 5:25 pm


I’ve read *A Secular Age* from cover to cover and I recommend it highly — though don’t let that fact scare some of you off.
I wonder if there’s a way in which, after radical political revolution failed to come to the West in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and after Communism collapsed in the 1980’s and 1990’s, secular-progressives didn’t pin their remaining millenarian hopes on a purely cultural revolution, the ultimate fruition of which would be the collapse of religion in general and Christianity in particular. I wonder, in other words, if the “inevitability” of the secularization thesis wasn’t what secular-progressives took solace in as the “inevitability” of radical political revolution in the West came more and more not to seem quite so secure as they had formerly believed it to be. And now, with the secularization thesis collapsing just as the prospect of radical political revolution in the West did before, I wonder if Taylor isn’t right that what we’re seeing now from secular progressives of the Ditchkins sort is a kind of frantic, desperate reactionary flailing as their worldview circles the drain. And I’m wondering what sort of frantic, desperate reactionary flailing from secular progressives we are likely to see as Obama-messianism — Obama as the Incarnation of the spirit of secular progress within “the religion of humanity” — comes more and more to circle the drain. My guess is that these things run in cycles and that what we’re likely to see in the wake of a thoroughgoing route for even the scaled-down secular-progressive millenarian hopes represented by the Obama-messiah phenomenon is something not unlike what we saw as the secular progressive project reached one earlier cycles’ limits at the end of the 1960’s: first a certain degree of domestic-terrorist violence of the Weather Underground sort emanating from dead-enders on the secular-progressive hard left, followed by a period of theoretical retrenchment, mostly in academic circles and in think-tanks, with the aim of repackaging secular-progressive ideology in the same way that it was repackaged in the works of figures like Derrida and Foucault the last time around. In other words, some bombs being set off, some innocent people being killed, then a generation of students subjected to unreadable commentary on the lessons learned from the “martyrdom” of the Obama-messiah to the nefarious and dastardly forces of Christianism and/or “tea-baggers” and/or Sarah Palin and her lower-middle-class womb.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted February 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm


This post is a perfect example of how you are the enemy of your own best interests, Crusty. You are plainly an intelligent person with a strong analysis of these cultural matters. But you make it difficult for people to hear you by throwing in “fighting words” like “Obama-messiah,” “Christianism” and the bit about Sarah Palin’s “lower middle class womb.”
Why do you want to make it so easy for people who might actually learn something from you to dismiss you as a crank? I’m genuinely curious about this, and wish you would write me privately about it (rdreher – at – templeton.org), because I’m feeling like you’re leaving me no choice but to give you the boot, because you seem bound and determined to instigate a pointless political fight instead of invite conversation around your viewpoint. If it comes to that, I’ll have to ask you to leave this blog, and that will make me sad.



report abuse
 

TTT

posted February 1, 2010 at 5:45 pm


Taylor started out by saying “atheists must be wrong,” then in about two sentences dashed into “I really hate their arguments, maybe I’m just allergic to them.” If he seriously thinks those two concepts are equal, then color me unimpressed by his philosophy.
Just look at him come out and grant that if a scientific, matter-based view of the universe were to be used to explain humankind, why, of course it would shut down some of the arguments for gods and divine intervention…. but that none of that matters, because “the likelihood of [scientific, matter-based anthropology] turning out to be the proper understanding of human beings is very small.”
Is that supposed to carry any weight? From a scientific, atheistic perspective, the likelihood of ANYTHING is very small. So what? Earth could just as well have been sterile, or our ancestors could have been purged along with the dinosaurs, etc.etc., and we’re all well and lucky to be here. Simple statistical unlikelihood never, ever trumps facts. It’s unlikely that any one sperm could fertilize an egg and give rise to a human, and it’s much more likely for any one fertilization to end in natural, unnoticed miscarriage than a successful birth. Does this mean the people who do get born don’t count? “It isn’t likely” is a really limp argument to bring against an atheist–it’s just argument from personal incredulity.



report abuse
 

Turmarion

posted February 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm


TTT: Simple statistical unlikelihood never, ever trumps facts.
Yes, but facts by themselves don’t automatically imply a particular metaphysic, as Hume pointed out long ago in a different context. It has yet to be proven (and may be neither provable nor disprovable) that an atheistic, matter-based view of the universe is indeed correct. Advocates on both sides of the issue ought to acknowledge that there are some thoughtful people on the other side who have good points, and that the question isn’t settled. Of course, that’s what a lot of people on both sides are unwilling to do, since they are absolutely sure God does (or does not) exist, and that pure material forces explain everythig (or some things, or nothing). I think that’s the point he’s making.
Also, I think Taylor sees the type of argumentation for which he is criticizing the New Atheists as being the same type characteristic both of fundamentalists and a broader swath of believers a century or two ago. I think it’s the mode of argumentation, not necessarily that it comes from atheists, to which he’s “allergic”. I get the impression that there are modes of atheistic arguments that he could respect, if not agree with.
Respcting, while disagreeing, btw, is IMO the whole point. Many atheists are totally incapable of respecting anything believers say at all; and of course, vice versa.
Anyway, the interview is fascinating–I need to get hold of the book. Thanks, Rod!



report abuse
 

Crustacean

posted February 1, 2010 at 7:02 pm


Rod,
I’ve told you before that my interest in Obama — and for that matter Palin — is not “partisan” or “political” but rather *cultural.*
In this particular context, Obama-messianism figures alongside New Atheism as one of the forms that secular-progressive millenarian hope has taken in the absence of faith in God and in the wake of the failures both of the prospect of further radical political revolution in the West and even the perpetuation of those prior radical political revolution in the West represented by the Soviet Union and affiliated Communist regimes.
There is a sense in which, as it becomes more and more clear that Marx’s predictions for history aren’t coming to pass, and as the secularization thesis’s predictions for history aren’t coming to pass, one consolation that secular progressives are left with is the hope of “immanentizing” their particular “eschaton” through conventional electoral politics, in the person of a charismatic political celebrity, one who will use the bully-pulpit and related quasi-monarchical functions of the President as Head of State to personify — to incarnate, if you will, in a quasi-messianic way — secular progressive ideals.
The University of Virginia political theorist James Cesar has written about this recently — the phenomenon of Obama as the Incarnation or Messiah of the secular progressive “religion of humanity” initiated by Auguste Comte in the 19th century.
My take on Obama is far more in line with that of someone like Cesar’s than it is with that of some “partisan” or “political” commentator on Fox News or conservative talk-radio of whatever other non-SWPL outlet of opinion I am alleged by some to get all of my ideas from.
If you’re going to talk about the collapse of a certain form of secular progressive modernity — and that’s what Taylor is talking about — then I don’t think it’s inappropriate to mention the current President of the United States, because his his highly unusual rise and the highly unusual tenor of his presidency is (in part) one manifestation — the most widely visible manifestation — of that collapse which Taylor is talking about.
And if you’re going to posit the collapse of one form of secular progressive modernity throwing up in its dying phase a secular progressive “Jesus,” then it stands to reason that it might also through up a secular progressive “Satan” (i.e. Palin) accompanied by secular progressive “demons” (i.e. “tea baggers”).
As for “Christianism,” well that’s not a “fighting word” of mine, rather it’s a “fighting word” used by New Atheists, secular progressives, and — yes — dare I say it — left-liberals in the midst of their fortunes’ collapse.
Honestly, Rod, rather than trying to generate “partisan” or “political” heat here, I’m trying to generate theoretical *light,* albeit sometimes on “partisanship” and on “politics,” which I don’t think can ever be as neatly and surgically cut off from the rest of cultural life as you seem to suppose — again, as per example, a figure like Obama whose significance as a politician is utterly negligible, but whose significance as a *cultural* icon — as a personification and incarnation of certain central ideals of our culture — is immense.
Your own post begins with the recognition that there actually *is* a “partisan” cultural conflict between the New Atheists and those — like yourself and myself — who are theists.
Does that recognition — and your post’s subsequent dissemination of Taylor’s ideas, which are not especially flattering to New Atheists — make your post nothing more than an attempt to stir the “partisan” point by employing “fighting words?”
I don’t think that it does — nor do I think that my own posts do that.
I’m sorry if you disagree on the latter count.
It *would* be sad if I were banned from the site, less for what it would do to me and less for what my particular absence would do to the site — which is not that much in either case — than for what it would say about the unwelcome circumscription of acceptable discourse on a site that has always been, and — one hopes — will continue to be notable for the service it does as a venue for provocative and idiosyncratic points of view.
Anyway, I’ll take a break from the site for awhile — my schedule the next few days will force me to, anyway — and perhaps when I return (assuming the welcome mat is still outside for me) I will be the occasion of less offense being taken than seems to have been taken on my account today.
No hard feelings. All the best.



report abuse
 

Siarlys Jenkins

posted February 1, 2010 at 8:15 pm


These people are NEW atheists? They’re kind of old and tiresome. I finally got around to reading one of Dawkins’s books when I found The Selfish Gene at a rummage sale for fifty cents. An old copy.
Fundamentally, it is impossible to PROVE that there is no God, in scientific terms, just as it is impossible to PROVE in scientific terms that there is a God. Respectful engagement between science and religion needs to accept each, for the sake of argument, on its own terms. Any other form of engagement is a waste of time — go your separate ways and ignore each other, if you can. You can’t have a conversation that begins “You are utterly wrong in all you stand for, now let’s talk about it.”
The meaning of the First Amendment is pretty simple if you don’t have an ax to grind. It did not say that any religion is the One True Faith. It did not say that no religion is the One True Faith. It frankly confessed that the federal government is incompetent to judge which, if any, is the One True Faith, and therefore denied congress the authority to legislate on the matter. It also explicitly protects the individual right to the free exercise of religion. So, the government is also forbidden to endorse atheism as the One True anything. Atheists get to compete in the public square with all the other evangelists.
Militant atheism is silly. Why get all worked up over something you believe does not exist?



report abuse
 

TTT

posted February 1, 2010 at 9:32 pm


Personally I find the term “militant atheist” to reveal a great intellectual laziness. These are people who talk about how they understand the universe to work. And that’s all. There’s nothing about punishment and certainly no threats. Your average person is far, far more “militant” and “religiously fundamentalist” about brushing their teeth and putting their paychecks into a bank account.
And Crusty, one eensy itsy-bitsy little problem with your theory is that “Obama-Messianism” does not exist. Nobody worships Obama, nobody attributes special providence to him–which definitely wasn’t the case with W., who was the subject of gushing documentaries like “Faith In The White House” sold at megachurches throughout his term. Like the “teleprompter” meme that was so deservedly and brutally annihilated at last Friday’s smackdown of House Reps, it is another example of social conservatives laughing so hard at their own jokes that they convince themselves the joke is true. If you really think he’s a brainless empty suit and the only reason people could ever not-hate him is because they’re in a religious fervor, you’ll underestimate him all the way to 2017.



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted February 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm


“Militant atheism is silly. Why get all worked up over something you believe does not exist?”
Well, there are several reasons. I’ll do my best to illustrate one.
The majority of the populace in this nation hold the belief that an atheist is unfit for public office. From the atheistic standpoint this means that the only people who can be elected to public office, until very recently, are people who hold an irrational, unprovable belief in the existence of a mythical being. More importantly, to be “qualified” for public office belief in any such mythical being is not sufficient. One must believe in one specific being named God, Jehovah, Jesus, or any of the other names given in the book called the Bible.
Imagine if you will a group actively seeking to defeat a candidate for office who clearly and unequivocally stated she did not believe in Zeus, and would not believe until some substantive, scientific proof of his existence was presented. No doubt that many Christians would accept and agree with such a statement, and would view such a person as having a sound mind.
But, substitute Jehovah in place of Zeus and those same Christians would believe the person to be fundamentally defective in her moral beliefs. This is not because of any provable existence of Jehovah but, rather, their subjective belief and unverifiable personal gnosis.
This poor statement represents one possible reason that atheists may wish to react in what you would call a “silly” militant behavior. From their standpoint, silly militant theists are insisting that their particular belief deserves to hold primacy in our national “public square”, and that those who dare disbelieve are defective.



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted February 1, 2010 at 9:58 pm


“Nobody worships Obama, nobody attributes special providence to him…”
From what I recall, this meme began in the right-wing press, was picked up by a number of conservative blogs (including Crunchy Con). The earliest mention that I have found of Obama being a Messiah is this quote from a 2004 article in the Chicago Sun Times.
http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1541582.html
“A chance encounter in the elevator of the Hilton Boston Back Bay Hotel, where the Illinois delegation was staying … and a whispered comment by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. about the Democratic Party’s new messiah, Barack Obama.”



report abuse
 

Kauko

posted February 1, 2010 at 10:14 pm


“The majority of the populace in this nation hold the belief that an atheist is unfit for public office.”
Is there any reliable study to prove this claim or is this just an example of truthiness striking again? Certainly, neither I nor anyone I know believes that. And there are many, many public offices in this country and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if many of them are being held by atheists.



report abuse
 

Jon in the Nati

posted February 1, 2010 at 10:20 pm


Taylor mentions two groups later in the interview: Christians who subscribe to the America-as-a-Christian-nation-God’s-providence-so-on-and-so-forth narrative, and those who reject it and, by the same token, reject most forms of religious belief, Christian or otherwise.
I would add a third group: believers in traditional religions (Christian or otherwise) whose belief is just as strong as the first group above, but who harbor no particular theological attraction to the American nation. Their theology just doesn’t have a lot to do with it.



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted February 1, 2010 at 11:24 pm


Are there studies regarding the electorate’s opinion of atheists? There is this study from the University of Minnesota, described in the press release below.
www1.umn.edu/news/news-releases/2006/UR_RELEASE_MIG_2816.html
And there is this article from the American Sociological Review concerning public opinion of atheists.
http://www.soc.umn.edu/~hartmann/files/atheist%20as%20the%20other.pdf
However, there are numerous polls conducted by several of the major polling organizations. One such poll is discussed in the following article from The Legal Times, published by George Mason Law School.
http://www.law.gmu.edu/faculty/LegalTimes_Somin_OpEd.pdf



report abuse
 

Quiddity

posted February 2, 2010 at 12:15 am


There is a lot going on with this particular discussion, so I’ll only address one small aspect. Taylor says that atheists “keep going on and on about the relationship between religion and violence”.
But there is a problem because the texts contain explicit statements about how it’s fine to kill people of other (or no) faiths. This can be found in the Hebrew Bible, the Koran, and is implied in some New Testament books (e.g Matt 27:25).
Why haven’t the texts been revised to eliminate such passages? This fidelity to words on paper – even though it violates contemporary moral standards – is puzzling.



report abuse
 

Hector

posted February 2, 2010 at 12:24 am


Jon in the Nati,
Quite true. I’d consider myself a strongly religious Christian, but I also think that it’s simple historic fact that America was founded mostly by Deists (which by Christian standards is just one step away from atheism), that its founding principles had little to do with Christianity, and that America is not now nor ever has been a Christian nation. I owe loyalty to this country because I was born here, but I would never consider that God particularly likes America more than any other nation, or anything like that.
On balance, while I’m anything but a secularist, I think the secularist account of America’s founding is much closer to the truth than the evangelical Protestant America-and-divine-providence idea. For better or worse, this isn’t a Christian country and it never has been.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted February 2, 2010 at 9:32 am


I think what most people of the Protestant-America variety actually think is that the nation was founded upon a Judeo-Christian worldview. Jefferson, Franklin et.al. may have been deists, but their education was rooted in Judeo-Christian teaching. There wasn’t any other kind of teaching available. So while perhaps Christians shouldn’t assume a privileged place for Christianity as an ‘official’ religion, it is simply ridiculous for others to think that because the founders weren’t all traditional Christians, America was somehow founded on secular prinicples.
It’s a little like Voltaire, railing against religion, when he lived in a free society with guaranteed rights that was the direct outworking of Judeo-Christian teaching (if not always practice). Prof. Bruce Thornton wrote a great book which references much of this sort of thing “The Decline and Fall of Europe”.



report abuse
 

AC

posted February 2, 2010 at 9:54 am


Considering the wildly different views on so many issues of Hitchens and Dawkins, I always find it quite surprising when they are lumped together. I don’t believe they (or others like PZ Myers) are out to “prove” atheism, or even “disprove” the existence of God. If they are “militant” opponents of anyone, it is those who attempt to discount, misrepresent, or tear apart good science (the big one is evolution, but also things like anti-vaccine advocates, alternative medicine, etc.).
Regarding our alleged Judeo-Christian roots: considering that Thomas Jefferson wrote something to the effect of “The United States of America is in no way founded on the religion of Christianity”, and that our bill of rights EXPRESSLY protects the right to violate several of the Ten Commandments, I am skeptical. The argument that because their educations were rooted in Judeo-Christian teaching could be used to say that EVERYONE ever raised in a Western, majority Christian country has their values and life guided by Judeo-Christian teaching- obviously a false statement. I think it’s false the way it was used here too.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted February 2, 2010 at 10:54 am


AC, I appreciate where you’re coming from. I agree with Jefferson’s statement that America isn’t founded on Christianity per se as dogma. I don’t understand your allusion to the Ten Commandments. In fact, I might suggest that the very notion that man cannot be legislated into religious and/or moral behavior is itself a Jewish-Christian idea.
As to your last statement, I think it obvious that most people in this nation take for granted the Judeo-Christian roots of our nation in morality, law, freedom, and the worth of the individual. I think they take a lot of Greek and Roman ideas for granted as well, just to be fair.
I don’t think it’s false at all to suggest that lots of thinking – especially from Sam harris and Christopher Hitchens – is parasitic on an old Christian worldview. It’s often obscured and maybe even invisible, but it’s still there.



report abuse
 

AC

posted February 2, 2010 at 11:27 am


I think we’ll agree that Western religions (Christianity, and therefore its progenitor, Judaism) had some influence in the formation of the United States. I think what we disagree on is how much influence it had, and continues to have.
I don’t see how the RIGHT to blaspheme, worship idols and other gods, etc., “is itself a Jewish-Christian idea”. Throughout history, the vast majority of nations (or authorities in general) claiming to be Christian (or Jewish perhaps, but there are far fewer examples, especially recently) EXPLICITLY outlawed such behavior- including adultery, blasphemy, idol-worshipping, and related stuff like witchcraft. It’s hard for me to see how the right to violate some of the Ten Commandments is a Jewish-Christian idea.
The Commandments which ARE enshrined in our laws (don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness), are pretty much common to ALL governments and authorities, and predated Christianity (and even Judaism) by probably thousands of years. Taking that into account, I don’t see more than a small but significant Judeo-Christian influence on our nation’s ideals.



report abuse
 

Franklin Evans

posted February 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm


Excellent discussion so far, and I respectfully include Crustacean’s contributions.
Some of you will resemble the following remark, I know I do at times, so please avoid taking it personally: The primary flaw in the reasoning going on, on both sides, is the insistence on taking a binary view. It is a flaw because neither side can validly claim to have the whole story, let alone have all the details correct and accurate.
The rhetoric of “binarism” (“binaryism” perhaps?) is easy to spot.
Crustacean’s implied and explicit invocation of agenda. TTT points out that “militant atheism” as a term is intellectually lazy, an observation of a symptom and cause with which I agree. In the tangent concerning the foundational sources of our government, there is mention of the extreme claim by some that we must needs be a Christian nation despite the clear wording of the establishment clause of the First Amendment. One can examine other discussions on this and similar topics, and see binarism at work.
I submit that this flaw is a direct result of human nature: The overriding need for stability in all things. Religion is an active participant in that need. Science not only flies in the face of that need, it is constantly arguing in favor of ignoring stability as a necessary attribute of scientific endeavor. What most discussions descend into is dueling stabilities (why is it necessary to decide whether science can prove or disprove the existence of deity? Human nature…) amongst individual representatives of the opposing points of view, who are so stuck in the subjective need for stability that they are blind to the flaw itself.



report abuse
 

AC

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:01 pm


Sure, stability is a need. But it’s not overriding, at least not for everyone (probably not even for most). An “overriding” need for stability would preclude change, and obviously the human experience has changed much over time. Many of those changes were spurred by science, some were probably even spurred by religion. I see it as a need, but only one among many.



report abuse
 

Franklin Evans

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Point taken, AC. Perhaps I chose the wrong qualifier. Maybe “emphatic” works better.
To clarify: I don’t mean to imply that a need trumps everything else. We also have a trait called impulse control, and it applies to deferring needs as much as to curbing desires.
But the impulse to achieve stability is usually and mostly unconscious. We don’t often stop to consider why we are tense, but hindsight will uncover aspects to a situation that built from mild discomfort to full-blown angst because they were random, unpredictable, startling, etc. Heck, I swore off the major highways for my daily commute for exactly that thought process, and I swear my blood pressure dropped back to normal after only one week. It was hindsight that uncovered that detail.



report abuse
 

Michael C

posted February 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm


Seems to me that atheists in America have become more militant since G. Bush the First said they were NOT citizens and NOT patriots.
“No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God”



report abuse
 

ds cartes

posted February 5, 2010 at 6:08 am


Seems to me that atheists in America have become more militant since G.



report abuse
 

Pingback: Intellectual Divide: Reason v Passion | The 50 Yard Line

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another blog to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Rod Dreher. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Most Recent Scientology Story on Beliefnet! Happy Reading!!!

posted 3:25:02pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mommy explains her plastic surgery
In Dallas (naturally), a parenting magazine discusses how easy it is for mommies who don't like their post-child bodies to get surgery -- and to have it financed! -- to reverse the effects of time and childbirth. Don't like what nursing has done to your na-nas? Doc has just the solution: Doctors say

posted 10:00:56pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Why I became Orthodox
Wrapping up my four Beliefnet years, I was thinking about the posts that attracted the most attention and comment in that time. Without a doubt the most popular (in terms of attracting attention, not all of it admiring, to be sure) was the October 12, 2006, entry in which I revealed and explained wh

posted 9:46:58pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Modern Calvinists
Wow, they don't make Presbyterians like they used to!

posted 8:47:01pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

'Rape by deception'? Huh?
The BBC this morning reported on a bizarre case in Israel of an Arab man convicted of "rape by deception," because he'd led the Jewish woman with whom he'd had consensual sex to believe he was Jewish. Ha'aretz has the story here. Plainly it's a racist verdict, and a bizarre one -- but there's more t

posted 7:51:28pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.