Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

Creation “Museum” — Also Ugly

January 22, 2010

You might as well put a saddle on old Ken Ham these days. That poor old dinosaur is getting ridden constantly. Every time someone bothers to write about his Creation “Museum,” they come away with the same basic reaction: “Oh, the Creation … ‘Museum.'” It is important to make a full, and distinct, “airquotes” motion with your hands, because someday in the future, it will be the gold standard for denoting sarcasm.

This time, it is A.A. Gil from Vanity Fair who gets the sour taste of Ken Ham’s “museum” (Ken Ham will be alright though, most of his audience isn’t allowed to read a sinful thing like Vanity Affair).

What is truly awe-inspiring about the museum is the task it sets itself: to rationalize a story, written 3,000 years ago, without allowing for any metaphoric or symbolic wiggle room. There’s no poetic license. This is a no-parable zone. It starts with the definitive answer, and all the questions have to be made to fit under it. That’s tough.

Ahh, so true. It reminds me again of what Fred Clark has pointed out — these people are living with a serious false dichotomy. It is a sad thing to have people living with rigid minded thinking taken to its very limit — the impossible is true, or nothing is true. After writing my previous post on Ken Ham, I poked around Answers in Genesis a little, and came across this gem. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Dr. Jason Lisle:

Materialistic atheism is one of the easiest worldviews to refute. A materialistic atheist believes that nature is all that there is. He believes that there is no transcendent God who oversees and maintains creation. Many atheists believe that their worldview is rational—and scientific. However, by embracing materialism, the atheist has destroyed the possibility of knowledge, as well as science and technology. In other words, if atheism were true, it would be impossible to prove anything!

Oh snap! I was about to get popcorn but it looks like my frail worldview is about to get face-fucked by god again! Alright, I can take it, whip it out Jason!

Laws of logic are God’s standard for thinking. Since God is an unchanging, sovereign, immaterial Being, the laws of logic are abstract, universal, invariant entities. In other words, they are not made of matter—they apply everywhere and at all times. Laws of logic are contingent upon God’s unchanging nature. And they are necessary for logical reasoning. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without the biblical God.

The materialistic atheist can’t have laws of logic. He believes that everything that exists is material—part of the physical world. But laws of logic are not physical. You can’t stub your toe on a law of logic. Laws of logic cannot exist in the atheist’s world, yet he uses them to try to reason. This is inconsistent. He is borrowing from the Christian worldview to argue against the Christian worldview. The atheist’s view cannot be rational because he uses things (laws of logic) that cannot exist according to his profession.

Boom! GG fellow atheists, the jig is up. We cannot be rational because you can’t stub your toe on logic. With logic like that, who needs faith? The good doctor has just explained to us, (in so many words) that the god of the bible is literally true, or else there could be no such thing as ideas. And you certainly don’t think that there aren’t no ideas right? So God exists! GG again, thieving atheists. And to think all this time I thought logic proved god wrong, I was just proving *I* was wrong, because logic proves god! Bam! Dr. Jason Lisle continues on like this, even bringing up the smelly old arguing about the existence of air bit. Such thin gas, but so foul. QualiaSoup (from youtube) has several excellent videos that discuss this kind of flawed thinking quite well.

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It is a bad place for a person to be. Unfortunately, this is the place that millions of Americans are, and where people like Ken Ham are trying to keep them. Getting them to move away from that place is going to be a lot harder than it is to make fun of Ken Ham.

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Ricky Gervais answers: How Did You Lose Your Religion?

January 16, 2010

Ricky Gervais @ Big Think. •  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dknumOcNVcU

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The only part that slightly irks me is there at the end when he says “by accident,” — but I understand the colloquial shorthand used by a comedian. He’s probably more concerned with effect than precision of meaning.

Still, it’s a great to be able to distill “losing your religion” down to a precise moment like that!

Can Ken Ham can ham?

January 15, 2010

Around the World with Ken Ham. A, round world, Ken Ham? Where in the bible, does it say the world is round? I wouldn’t mind being literally shown, where someone literally explains, (or, this being religion, baldly asserts) that the earth is round. There is probably some apologetics for that somewhere, though. More importantly, Ken Ham comes from Australia. Atheists are having a big convention in Melbourne, and he does not approve.

Imagine—listening to a meaningless talk at a meaningless conference held on a meaningless planet in a meaningless universe! Now, that would be an uplifting conference

Alright Ken, I’ll play your game. Meaningless talk…got it….meaningless conference…ok….planet….universe….alright I’m set. So something like…..

The next generation is calling it quits when it comes to traditional church attendance, and it’s not just happening on the fringe—it’s occurring in main-line denominations as well, says a local church, pointing to national studies.

St. Luke Church in Haslett is holding an open discussion on how the church, Sunday School and families can more effectively pass on the faith to coming generations.

This 90-minute workshop will be facilitated by Nate Burmeister, director of Fellowship and Youth at St. Luke, on Thursday evening, Jan. 14 from 7–8:30 p.m., in classroom 203.

The general public is invited to attend this free forum.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! So empty, so void of life! Oh why, WHY did I chose to be on the wrong side of history?!!

Anyway, Ken Ham is obviously struggling with a bit of cognative dissonance here. I mean, he’s from Australia, and he’s a young-earth creationist.

Let those things sink in for a second.

As Fred Clark from slacktivist has pointed out, that is impressively absurd. Ken Ham is from a place with punchlines older than he claims for, say, all the existence of the universe. There are Kangaroo shits that have been around longer than Ken Ham gives for all of time.

I first was going to post about Ken Ham when the Secular Student Alliance, along with PZ Myers, went to Ham’s wretched Creation “Museum.”  Looking at various posts and videos that came out of that trip, I realized that the Creation “Museum” is really more like “The Creationist Hospital.” It is a tiny oasis in an otherwise relentless erosion of their beliefs, faith, entire world view.

Quoting Fred Clark again from the same post linked above,

The real problem with Answers in Genesis can’t be found in Genesis, or in their tortured reading of it. The real problem is that they’ve somehow become convinced that there exist two and only two possibilities. Either their particular, smallish reading of Genesis is “literally” true and the world was created in six, 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago by their particular, smallish notion of god, or else the universe and human existence within it are meaningless, a realm violence and death in which kindness, goodness, justice and beauty are nothing more than illusion. They believe that either the history of the universe is a brutally short 6,000 years, or else life in that universe is nasty, brutish and short and nothing but. They prefer the former, understandably. And any challenge to it — by argument or by exposure to science or reality — is thus interpreted as an affirmation of the latter view

This brings us back to the tragic figure of Ken Ham. The bitter apostate calling herself an atheist simply isn’t capable of organizing an international conference of like minded people. Or even imagining the point of going to such a thing.  How could she, devoting all her time to hating something she only pretends to even exists?

Ken Ham is not capable of engaging, or even honestly admitting the existence of, the people who make up the vast majority of atheists. That is a huge swath of a group that is otherwise quite diverse and fragmented.  But after the meat grinder that is Ham’s mind, it all looks the same.

We either all hate god, or all believe in nothing.  The rest is simply unthinkable.

Ruse the day

November 11, 2009

Philosopher Michael Ruse has recently put up an essay about the newest new atheism news: The Schism. Or as PZ Myers has described it Deep Rifts, DEEP RIFTS! that are rending the frail alliance of non-accomodationalist new atheists and the old republic of old accomdationalist atheist vangaurd! The drama! I can’t wait to hear of the latest encyclical from the pope his most rationalist Dawkins Darwin the Fifth on the dogmatic neccesity of philosophical naturalism and its twin sister the materialist evolutionism-ist neodawinianism-ist humanist secularism.

Anyway, Ruse says,

As a professional philosopher my first question naturally is: “What or who is an atheist?” If you mean someone who absolutely and utterly does not believe there is any God or meaning then I doubt there are many in this group. Richard Dawkins denies being such a person. If you mean someone who agrees that logically there could be a god, but who doesn’t think that the logical possibility is terribly likely, or at least not something that should keep us awake at night, then I guess a lot of us are atheists.

Seriously? His first question as a professional philosopher naturally is about who counts as an atheist? What a waste. Maybe he just means on this particular topic. Sure, in a certain sense, you can only be agnostic as to whether gods exist because, Jesus Christ could come back tomorrow (or some Other , Thing…)
and strike all his believers dead rapture them to heaven, forcing a reconsideration of a few points of view.

Atheists are even more complex than a these-and-those situation. “We”, as Ruse doesn’t seem to realize, form a continuum of different beliefs, just like any other group of people you might care to imagine in your granfalloon.

Moving on,

But there is certainly a split, a schism, in our ranks. I am not whining (in fact I am rather proud) when I point out that a rather loud group of my fellow atheists, generally today known as the “new atheists”, loathe and detest my thinking. …

and then he goes on to detail all the proud detestation he has earned, at length. Its a shame all Ruse got out of PZ’s response was “clueless and gobshite“.

I have had first hand experience with Michael Ruse. Both I and slightlyharmless were at the CFI World Congress in Bethesda, MD, where Ruse made the argument that, as he later states in this essay,

If, as the new atheists think, Darwinian evolutionary biology is incompatible with Christianity, then will they give me a good argument as to why the science should be taught in schools if it implies the falsity of religion? The first amendment to the constitution of the United States of America separates church and state. Why are their beliefs exempt?

Really. He makes this argument (At Bethesda it was phrased a bit different, the content was the same). As if somehow beliefs derived from the bible are on par with hard earned science. So apparently, if a well meaning parent feeds a child bullshit, we “atheists” are to blame for science teachers contradicting the bullshit put there. This IS America, after all. Just because it’s factually wrong doesn’t mean you can’t make your kids believe it. Ruse treats creationism leading to kids being christians, and evolution leading kids to being atheists sitting on exactly the same grounds.

Its insane. Even putting aside whatever crap someone put in a child’s mind, shouldn’t any kind of real education change a child’s beliefs about the world? Any deep understanding of the sciences (or history, languages, art, literature, etc) *should* change how you view the world, because it makes you think in new, different ways.

Ruse does have the drop on me though. I didn’t know that, as a “new” atheist, “that all religion is necessarily evil and corrupting”. I had previously thought that religions in general were full of good people because churches attracted a certain kind of them, but now I will dogmatically adopt the latest decree from the lords of new atheism. I hope they tell me to think for myself soon.

Ruse asks “us”, “how dare we be so condescending?” Oh, “we” new atheists, if we could just stop being such jerks! How dare we talk about the cause or contributing factor to many problems. Tough questions! The hard, varsity level ones like “should people be treated equally under the law?”. I’d say yes, but as Maine shows, religions can be part of the problem.

I’ve started re-reading Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and this part

But to tear down a factory of revolt against a government … because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. pg 88

The “new” atheist movement has a lot to do with religion. Mostly, against it. Some people just want religiously motived (or funded) groups to stop attacking the separation of state and church, and keep the god nonsense away from politics. Others would arrest all clergy for fraud. If the approach Ruse favors could work, it would have by now, and there would be no need for the entire “movement”, because we would all have moved on to moon bases, and free oral sex for everyone, and ending hunger and disease and overpopulation and all those other real problems, real people have, in this world, now.

It seems to come down to one main point Ruse seems to have for us: just shut up already.

Atheism with Stealth, part 2

November 4, 2009

In the second part of Atheism as a Stealth religion, Johnson takes up the unfortunate task of responding to the many wildly off-base comments that pop up, on most all lively internet discussions. Most of it is entirely beside the point, or re-explaining things for people who have trouble reading.

There are a few things worth commenting on, though:

Is the New Atheism a movement? Some readers objected to having atheism called a movement with designated leaders. For them, atheism is just a bunch of independent thinkers who refuse to be herded. That might be true for atheism as a whole, but can there be any doubt that authors such as Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Sam Harris are trying to start a movement?

If New Atheism a movement, its a granfalloon. The only thing that seems separates “new” atheists from the “old” atheists is the gall some have to actually say something once in a while. The horror.

I am sometimes chided for criticizing the books of the New Atheists as if they were scientific tomes, when in fact they are designed to attract the attention of the general public in the crowded cultural marketplace. … If the new atheists are not basing their claims about religion on the best that science has to offer, then they are part of the problem. My complaint about the New Atheism is that it is based on bad science

Criticism is a good thing, especially when it is pointed and insightful, or points out a weakness in an argument. Shitty criticism earns replies of its own. I’ll have to look up Johnson’s reviews of the books of “new” atheists, but I’m gonna stop if I read the word “shrill” about the God Delusion.

But new atheists not basing their claims of religion on the best science has to offer? Say what now? Isn’t it alright to criticize religion whenever it sucks? Hardly week goes by without me coming across some terrible story popping up which was enabled, fueled by, the product of, made much worse by, or could only arise in conditions created by — religion. You don’t need top science to point that out.

Atheism based on bad science? This is a strange idea. Not a whole lot actually flows from not believing in god, except that there….aren’t gods (Penn Jilette does a “This I Believe” that has a good take on moving past that simple fact). You don’t need science for that. It does help that, whenever religion has made claims about the universe, science eventually proves it wrong.

So atheism, that is new atheism, is based on bad science, which makes it a bad kind of atheism – atheism that is a religion (of loudly criticizing religions….) based on bad science. Well then. At least if that was true, new atheism would still be ahead of the old desert dogmas, which aren’t based on science at all.

It seems like Johnson’s definition of “stealth religion” is simply too broad (even though Johnson does explain that the definition was clear, because it’s written right there. See it? Clearly says, it clearly says clearly).

stealth religion as any belief system that distorts the facts of the real world … for the purpose of motivating a given suite of behaviors

This definition is given for the purpose of including all belief systems that distort reality in the discussion. But then are we going to say all belief systems that distort reality are religions? Does that mean religion is essentially distortion?

This definition could include so many non-supernatural twistings of reality. Is White Supremacy a stealth religion? What about plain ole sexism? Some people have elaborately constructed systems of the many ways women are inferior to, and less valuable than, men. Does that count? What about people who think gays are inhuman? Both these things are often given the full backing of supernatural belief systems, but they are only divine fuel to the fire. A “new” atheist can still be a sexist, racist, homophobic asshole, and none of those stealth religions will conflict with his or her disbelief in the supernatural.

This brings me back to the whole “new” atheism problem. You can call the writers of a few books that struck a chord with people a few years back as the leaders of movement, but it seems like an attempt to dismiss the unexpected response they got. Books about god not existing? You don’t say! At least no one will read them, pray tell.

I could be wrong, but much of the criticism of “new” atheists seems to be saying, one way or another, to shut up. I hope this is all not some long winded way of doing that.

But! All that said, there are still five parts to go, so hopefully there is some good stuff ahead, now that some of the stupidity has been addressed.

Religion is a Stealth Atheism

October 28, 2009

David Sloan Wilson, one of two new editions to scienceblogs, has a seven part series called “Atheism as a Stealth Religion”, by Erin Johnson. The title makes me roll my eyes, but it has seven parts, and if it has worthwhile or insightful criticism of atheists, I’d like to check it out and respond in turn.

Here we go:

The new atheists hate religion for causing between-group conflict and especially for its wanton disregard of the canons of rational thought. Yet, both of these problems extend far more widely than religion.

How long can people be “new atheists”? Another 5-10 years? 20? I can’t wait to have been a “new” atheist for 20 years or so. Kind of a blessing really, even as I age my atheism will still be “new”.

Of course irrationality extends beyond religion. All being an atheist means is not believing in deities. Get as many self-identified atheists as you can together, and all you will really be able to say about them is what they don’t believe. If the world was a saner place, “atheism” wouldn’t even be a word, any more than one needs to be identified as a heliocentrist or aheliocentrist in ours today.

The vast majority of atheists turned away from their given religion, so why is it such a big deal for them to voice their criticisms of it? There are all sorts of irrationality, supernatural or not, but few as persistent or large a problem as religion (political ideologies can be quite toxic).

Ayn Rand and her crappy “objectivist” nonsense might still sell thousands of books a year, and fleece thousands more from their money to chase some literary fiction, but they don’t insist on shitting their “philosophy” into as many schools, government buildings, and as much public property as possible. They don’t bankroll political campaigns to take away gay’s rights, or seek to ruin children’s education in the name of their god.

It is humbling to contemplate that the concerns typically voiced about religion need to be extended to virtually all forms of human thought. If anything, non-religious belief systems are a greater cause for concern because they do a better job of masquerading as factual reality. Call them stealth religions.

I agree with the first point. Atheism alone really doesn’t require rational thought or even critical thinking. You could not believe in deities for the same reason others do believe, because their parents told them so when they were young. For many though, atheism is really the result of trying to think in a more rational/skeptical/humanist/critical way. It is trying to get away from the errors and pains all forms of irrationality can bring about. Thinking about religion may have been the point of entry for many people who call themselves atheists, but that is just a launching pad for where to go next.

Johnson says the “new” atheists show many hallmarks of what he calls stealth religion. This is illustrated by using book titles (and subtitles). The points the authors actually make in the books mentioned are not the polarized us-and-them views put forward by the likes of fundamentalists.

Johnson also talks about fundamentalist religions portraying a world in which much “factual realism” is sacrificed for “practical realism” (if I am using the terms right), and how “at least some” versions of atheism fare no better. I agree again, and also that many “versions” of atheism (say, Bill Mahr) are still prone to large errors, irrational thought, and everything else. If anyone thinks not believing in deities makes them fully rational, they’ve fucked up.

And finally, Johnson can associate religion with humility, but that would be wrong. Astronomy and Cosmology teach humility better than most religions could ever imagine. What passes for humility in most religions is a kind of self-negation, declaring oneself to be worthless BUT for god. All this on top of the amazingly self-centered and arrogant view put forward by many religions that mankind is the whole point and center of the universe. What humility!