Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Atheism's Army Of The Smug
National Post ^ | 2006-12-23 | Robert Fulford

Posted on 12/23/2006 7:01:57 AM PST by Clive

This time of year makes atheists especially cranky; O Little Town of Bethlehem, played in a shopping mall, does nothing to lift the spirits of an unbeliever. But even by seasonal standards, the letters attracted by my column last week on The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, demonstrate astonishing vehemence. They leave the impression that atheists are sensitive about their non belief and easily hurt by criticism.

A friend of mine, who used to run a radio program about religion, noted recently that "militant atheists were our most intolerant and angry listeners." The atheists I've lately heard from bring such passion to their hatred of religion that they can be fairly classed as religious fanatics.

Dawkins and people like him pour ridicule on believers. But, as evolutionists, they can't credibly explain why hundreds of different civilizations across the globe have felt the need to believe in a divine force. Billions of people have accepted what Dawkins considers are stupid, easily refutable and harmful ideas. How did those beliefs evolve? Were they an evolutionary advantage?

Dawkins thinks they may be the result of a misfiring or by-product similar to the reason moths immolate themselves in candles. Over eons, moths evolved a system of navigation based on light from the moon; this still usually works, but sometimes light from a candle (or another source) fatally tricks them. In the same way, Dawkins suggests, humans evolved a system of thought that has led them astray.

Children who obey adults have a "selective advantage" in evolution. They are more likely than disobedient children to survive because they won't have to learn on their own that, for instance, crocodile- infested rivers are dangerous. "Natural selection builds child brains with a tendency to believe whatever their parents and tribal elders tell them." But this valuable quality can go wrong, allowing parents to pass on their crazy religious ideas to the young. Dawkins has more trouble explaining how, in each civilization, the first wave of parents acquires religious convictions.

Atheists (my atheists, anyway) think that if you do not accept atheism outright then you're likely to accept the Bible literally -- which hasn't been true, in the case of most Christians and Jews, for generations. One reader demands to know whether I believe human life began 6,000 years ago when God created the first man and woman. No, I don't, and I hardly know anyone who does.

Atheists are arguing against a literalism that has never been accepted by anyone who is likely even to hear of Richard Dawkins. One reader demands I ask myself why I'm so sure of my beliefs. But I'm not. In fact, my beliefs hardly deserve the word "beliefs" and I'm certainly not religious in any traditional sense. My strongest belief is that a gigantic mystery still dominates this entire realm of thought.

Dawkins, and apparently most militant atheists, don't seem even slightly interested in the fact that something almost inconceivably mysterious happened at the birth of the universe. As a result, they can bring little of interest to any conversation about the origins of life.

Last March, astronomers (working with data from a NASA satellite circling the Earth since 2001) concluded that time began 13.7 billion years ago, a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. At that instant the universe (as a New York Times writer put it) expanded "from submicroscopic to astronomical size in the blink of an eye." Why would it want to do that?

I have no idea, but we now know that at least one planet that developed in the universe, Earth, would develop elements of genetic material that would make life possible though not, of course, inevitable.

Thomas Nagel, the philosopher, recently pointed out that if we are to believe evolutionary explanations, and therefore that the necessary seed material existed at the time of the Big Bang, we have to realize that there is no scientific explanation for the existence of that material in the first place. A complete understanding of evolution would involve answering a question as complex as evolution itself: "How did such a thing come into existence?" We have done nothing but push the problem one step back.

Or, as Stephen Hawking put it, "Why does the universe go to the bother of existing?" On that point we are all ignorant -- and only a little closer to knowledge than our ancestors who believed that sacrificing a goat would bring good crops. The profound intellectual failure of atheists lies in their fundamentalist-like aversion to the words, "We don't know."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: ac; atheism; atheists; dawkinsthepreacher; persecution; postedinwrongforum; stephenhawking
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-5051-100101-125 last
To: Sir Francis Dashwood
It supports itself...

I can't see that it's even any form of syllogism. It's simply a statement, and an incorrect one at that unless you very vaguely define "higher power."

101 posted on 12/26/2006 8:02:11 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 99 | View Replies]

To: antiRepublicrat
I can't see that it's even any form of syllogism. It's simply a statement, and an incorrect one at that unless you very vaguely define "higher power."

The very concept of rights is also founded in religion.

Since the enlightened person is freed from any superstitions about some "God," they are free from having to worry about "rights." Only raw power counts and humans are just meat puppets for the powerful...

Morality is an esoteric ideal, no more real than those hobgoblins that seem to appear before us in a dream.

Returning to Plato's Euthyphro, Socrates advanced the argument that piety to the gods is impossible if the gods all want different things...

Morality is impossible, because all humans have different morals... Claims of morality is sophistry without some higher power defining what it is.

Morality and all of its associated ideals are rooted entirely in the presupposition some higher power defines what is correct for human behavior.

102 posted on 12/26/2006 8:09:17 AM PST by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 101 | View Replies]

To: Junior

You said (in response to a post asking if anyone else has had the influence that Christ has):
Well, Mohammed, and to a lesser extent Buddha. And that Princip fellow who shot Archduke Ferdinand is pretty much singularly responsible for the current geo-political situation...
***

The world, not part of it, but all of it, says that we are living in the year 2006.... A.D. The influence of Christ's life is so pervasive that every day testament is given to it simply by writing down the year in which we are living. In the year of Our Lord. Older dates are referred to as B.C. (forgetting for a moment those PC efforts at calling this the "Common Era" and prior to Christ as BCE (before the common era)-- even those terms center, without saying so, around Christ as the center of time itself).

I readily, and happily, concede that what I believe, I believe by faith. Nevertheless, there is a lot of historical evidence for the life and influence of Jesus Christ. To mention Joseph Smith or Jim Jones in the same paragraph is to elevate them beyond their worth.

I respect the right of those who live without faith to do so, and I also respect their integrity in not simply saying that they believe when they do not. That said, I do hope that those who do not believe in God can looking outside of themselves as well as within themselves to see and feel that there is more than our observable existence to this world.




103 posted on 12/26/2006 8:33:30 AM PST by NCLaw441
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 98 | View Replies]

To: Sir Francis Dashwood
Claims of morality is sophistry without some higher power defining what it is.

I posit to you that morals were invented by societies as they started banning those things that were found to detrimental to the society, and promoting things that were found to be beneficial. They later ascribed these rules to their god for enforcement.

And even if a higher power defines morality and rights, they are always subject to interpretation by humans, and therefore a completely fluid concepts. Whatever the book says, society will interpret it to their current mores, just as it conceived of those morals in the first place. For example, the Catholic Church used to freely endorse the death penalty based on scripture, but society has changed, so the Church no longer endorses it.

104 posted on 12/26/2006 8:40:18 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 102 | View Replies]

To: Sir Francis Dashwood

And you still haven't shown how that is a bullet proof syllogism that works in truth tables. Or is that just some apologetics you read without verifying it for yourself?


105 posted on 12/26/2006 8:42:13 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 102 | View Replies]

To: antiRepublicrat
And you still haven't shown how that is a bullet proof syllogism that works in truth tables.

Do it yourself... it is very easy... of course, that would require you to know what you are talking about... it only takes one side of a sheet of paper...

GET AN EDUCATION, then come back...

106 posted on 12/26/2006 8:56:50 AM PST by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 105 | View Replies]

To: antiRepublicrat

Might makes right... anything else is religion...


107 posted on 12/26/2006 8:57:50 AM PST by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 104 | View Replies]

To: antiRepublicrat

Oh, here try this syllogism...

So long as someone is willing to pay, there will always be someone willing to collect...


108 posted on 12/26/2006 9:02:24 AM PST by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 105 | View Replies]

To: Sir Francis Dashwood
So long as someone is willing to pay, there will always be someone willing to collect...

Also not a syllogism. A truism maybe, but not a syllogism.

109 posted on 12/26/2006 9:10:36 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 108 | View Replies]

To: Sir Francis Dashwood
Do it yourself... it is very easy... of course, that would require you to know what you are talking about... it only takes one side of a sheet of paper...

Going very basic here, a syllogism has three parts. Yours didn't even have that.

110 posted on 12/26/2006 9:11:54 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 106 | View Replies]

To: NCLaw441
The world, not part of it, but all of it, says that we are living in the year 2006.... A.D.

Oh ye of little education (and probably a government school education at that). Much of the world uses different calendars:

Just because you don't know about these other calendars does not mean they do not exist and are not followed by significant portions of the world's population.
111 posted on 12/26/2006 9:13:11 AM PST by Junior (Losing faith in humanity one person at a time.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 103 | View Replies]

To: antiRepublicrat
Going very basic here, a syllogism has three parts.

You are learning... keep trying...

112 posted on 12/26/2006 9:16:32 AM PST by Sir Francis Dashwood (LET'S ROLL!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 110 | View Replies]

To: Sir Francis Dashwood
You are learning... keep trying...

I don't have to learn. Your statement was simply not a syllogism.

113 posted on 12/26/2006 9:32:38 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 112 | View Replies]

To: qam1
But even it is is true that they did die in the way reported it's still a bad argument, people have died all throughout history for things that were not true and/or lies.

On the contrary, your counterargument is so stupid it's surprising to see it presented seriously. You should have given a moment's thought to your examples; you didn't, because you haven't even considered the original argument. Here's a clue: it's not simply "they died for it, so it's true". For what it is, you could try reading. Or just go on making a fool of yourself; your choice, really.

Joseph Smith never recanted even when faced with death by an angry mob.

He went to his death shooting and shouting the Masonic distress call, and the crowd never offered the chance to recant anyway.

Why did Jim Jones kill himself, when he knew that all he had been preaching was false?

And how do you know he did? More relevantly, if every single follower had known he was preaching falsehood, how do you suppose it would have went?

The Waco Branch Davidians died believing David Koresh to be the next Messiah

And?

What about the early Muslims who volunteered to die in Muhammad's cause (i.e. The Battle of the Trench), according to your logic they wouldn't have if they knew that Muhammad had not been visited by Gabriel

Now explain how they would have known.

No, don't. Just throw up some more non sequiturs.

114 posted on 12/26/2006 9:42:20 AM PST by A.J.Armitage (http://calvinist-libertarians.blogspot.com/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 67 | View Replies]

To: SoCal Pubbie
They never seem to think about the good, like the fact that abolition was led my Christians, for example.

Your Christians?

Gotta love them solid 'anti-slavery' Christians ...

... caused by atheists like Hitler, Mao and Stalin, ...

Hitler was a Catholic.

115 posted on 12/26/2006 10:29:10 AM PST by dread78645 (Evolution. A doomed theory since 1859.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: steve-b
I used to say "Merry Christmas" until Bill O'Reilly annoyed me enough to switch to "Happy Holidays".

He does that to some people ...

116 posted on 12/26/2006 10:36:53 AM PST by dread78645 (Evolution. A doomed theory since 1859.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: Junior

I do know of those calendars, and I receive mail from a fair number of Jewish folks (I confess my mail from Islamists and Buddhists has been light of late) and they use the same dats as well. I know those calendars exist, but they are not used with great frequency. I wonder what dates newspapers in Israel use, for example? If those calendars are used to a great extent, they are yet further examples of the influence of religion (and thus God, of one sort or another) in the daily lives of most people. I apologize if I came across as xenophobic.


117 posted on 12/26/2006 11:17:37 AM PST by NCLaw441
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 111 | View Replies]

To: dread78645
Wow, you really felt the need to expend a lot of energy there, didn't you? Lots of writing, none of which addresses that fact that Atheists regimes have slaughtered more people than all others combined.
118 posted on 12/26/2006 11:58:06 AM PST by SoCal Pubbie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 115 | View Replies]

To: SoCal Pubbie
Wow, you really felt the need to expend a lot of energy there, didn't you?

Not really. Just addressing your (faux) point 'that abolition was led my Christians'.
The Christians were deeply divided over slavery and only a subset (Congregationalists, Quakers, Mennonites, Free Methodists , Unitarians, etc) were actively involved in freeing slaves and getting them to safety.

... Lots of writing, none of which addresses that fact that Atheists regimes have slaughtered more people than all others combined.

One of Communism's hallmarks in the Soviet Union and China was its aggressive and violent suppression of other religions. Communism was "anti-religious" only in the sense that it forcibly suppressed all religions other than itself.

> atheists like Hitler, Mao and Stalin, than all religionists combined, they'd rush to outlaw atheism instead.

So you'd like to 'outlaw atheism'?
Hmm ...

119 posted on 12/26/2006 12:51:43 PM PST by dread78645 (Evolution. A doomed theory since 1859.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 118 | View Replies]

To: dread78645
Again, my point was not that religionists were perfect, but the emphasis on focusing on the negative without recognizing the positive, as it seems you do. The mention of abolitionists was not a "faux" point, it was factual. It is not mutually exclusive that Christians were leaders on both sides of the slavery issue. Your arguments are vivid examples of the dichotomy of human nature, something anti religionists refuse to acknowledge. They wish to throw out the baby with the bath water, so to speak.

I'm not sure what to make of your second point. Religion is generally agreed to mean a system of worship of a deity, and as Communist outlawed such belief systems it was by definition atheist.

Finally, your last comment shows you completely missed the point of my initial post. It was an atheist I know who commented about the need to outlaw religion based on fanatics like those who flew planes into the World Trade Center towers on 911. Now, based on HIS logic, HE should be trying to fight atheism, since they have a lot more notches on their belt.
120 posted on 12/26/2006 1:22:43 PM PST by SoCal Pubbie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 119 | View Replies]

To: A.J.Armitage
On the contrary, your counterargument is so stupid it's surprising to see it presented seriously. You should have given a moment's thought to your examples; you didn't, because you haven't even considered the original argument. Here's a clue: it's not simply "they died for it, so it's true". For what it is, you could try reading. Or just go on making a fool of yourself; your choice, really.

<Yawn>

Joseph Smith never recanted even when faced with death by an angry mob.

He went to his death shooting and shouting the Masonic distress call,

Regardless, previously he and his followers were chased from place to place, and they even had for all intensive purposes the whole state of Missouri declare war on them. By your logic why would JS and the rest of them go through all that based on lies?

and the crowd never offered the chance to recant anyway.

Same is true of the apostles.

No where does it say they were persecuted for their beliefs, they were more in trouble for their political acts, primarily the refusal to pay homage to the emperor and their tendency to incite the public to rebel against civil authority. Anyone who was arrested and charged with civil disobedience, treason, inciting riot, or other such crimes couldn't avoid punishment simply by recanting. In the other cases, the crowd turned on the apostle and kill him before any chance to recant.

Why did Jim Jones kill himself, when he knew that all he had been preaching was false?

And how do you know he did? More relevantly, if every single follower had known he was preaching falsehood, how do you suppose it would have went?

They most likely wouldn't have killed themselves

What about the early Muslims who volunteered to die in Muhammad's cause (i.e. The Battle of the Trench), according to your logic they wouldn't have if they knew that Muhammad had not been visited by Gabriel

Now explain how they would have known.

Here's a list of  some of The Miracles of Prophet Mohammad as his companions witnessed

Now again, according to your logic if Mohammad's followers didn't see him do such things like crack the moon or have flowing water out of his fingers then they wouldn't have fought and died for such lies, so these miracles must have been true!!

No, don't. Just throw up some more non sequiturs.

Sorry but I need more than everyone else's ancient desert wandering goat herders were tricked or delusional but my ancient desert wandering goat herders were correct. 

121 posted on 12/26/2006 10:50:18 PM PST by qam1 (There's been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that's left is the bill to pay)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 114 | View Replies]

To: Junior
...Mohammed, and to a lesser extent Buddha. And that Princip fellow...

Perhaps they're closest (maybe a little generous on Princip however...)

In the end (or in the beginning in my own case) I found it unreasonable to dismiss the life and events of the most influential individual this planet has ever seen - without closer examination.

I assume that you assume - that you're not the only skeptic...

122 posted on 12/27/2006 6:25:23 PM PST by jonno (...it almost seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known that we were coming...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 98 | View Replies]

To: qam1
< Yawn >

Perhaps the most cogent thing you've said.

He went to his death shooting and shouting the Masonic distress call,

Regardless, previously he and his followers were chased from place to place, and they even had for all intensive purposes the whole state of Missouri declare war on them.

You mean "all intents and purposes".

By your logic why would JS and the rest of them go through all that based on lies?

Just Smith -- "and the rest" is your lack of comprehension. One bold impostor makes sense. Smith was the only one who ever saw the plates; at least one of the "witnesses" later admitted they saw it with "spiritual" rather than literal eyes and his translation procedure involved reciting letters he saw in a peepstone rather than directly handling the plates in front of his collaborator.

You need everyone who would have had access to the tomb including the Pharisees to be in on it.

No where does it say they were persecuted for their beliefs, they were more in trouble for their political acts, primarily the refusal to pay homage to the emperor and their tendency to incite the public to rebel against civil authority.

Every single claim in that paragraph is wrong.

In Acts 4:17-21 the Sanhedrin dragged them in and threatened them unless they stopped preaching and doing miracles in the name of Jesus. Then in Acts 5:17-18 they were arrested, and in 5:40 they were beaten and again told to stop preaching. In Acts 7 they killed Stephen for describing a vision of Jesus at the right hand of God. In Acts 8 Saul persecutes all the Christian he can get to precisely because of their beliefs.

I assume by "pay homage to the emperor" you mean the pinch of incense. This is badly anachronistic; the mandatory pinch of incense was instituted several centuries later as a specifically anti-Christian measure. Christians did refuse to participate in the then-existing civil rites, but Christianity was at that time considered a sect of Judaism and Jews were exempt.

Finally, the Apostles told people not to rebel against civil authority, most famously in Romans 13.

You are not entitled to your own facts.

They most likely wouldn't have killed themselves

Now run with that thought a little.

Here's a list of some of The Miracles of Prophet Mohammad as his companions witnessed

All citing hadiths. Hadiths are oral history collected well after the original generation died. (And no, the New Testament isn't.)

123 posted on 12/27/2006 9:37:24 PM PST by A.J.Armitage (http://calvinist-libertarians.blogspot.com/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 121 | View Replies]

To: Junior; antiRepublicrat; qam1; Sir Francis Dashwood; SoCal Pubbie
Not to beat a dead horse (very bad pun... 8^), I found this an interesting account. I received it as a link in an email just today:

(In the spirit of full disclosure, the author's background is believer-athiest-believer)

-snip-

Skeptical Arguments: Some of the Worst and Most Biased Scholarship

What gradually came clear to me was that many of the skeptical arguments—arguments that insisted most of the Gospels were suspect, for instance, or written too late to be eyewitness accounts—lacked coherence. They were not elegant. Arguments about Jesus himself were full of conjecture. Some books were no more than assumptions piled upon assumptions. Absurd conclusions were reached on the basis of little or no data at all.

In sum, the whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified by nobody and had nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and would be horrified by it if hew knew about it—that the whole picture which has floated in the liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for thirty years—that case was not made. Not only was it not made. I discovered in this field some of the worst and most biased scholarship I’d ever read.

I saw almost no skeptical scholarship that was convincing, and the Gospels, shredded by critics, lost all intensity when reconstructed by various theorists. They were in no way compelling when treated as composites and records of later ”communities.”

Contempt for Jesus & the Sneer of Secularism

I was unconvinced by the wild postulations of those who claimed to be children of the Enlightenment. And I had also sensed something else. Many of these scholars, scholars who apparently devoted their life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ. Some pitied him as a hopeless failure. Others sneered at him, and some felt an outright contempt. This came between the lines of the books. This emerged in the personality of the texts.

I’d never come across this kind of emotion in any other field of research, at least not to this extent. It was puzzling.

The people who go into Elizabethan studies don’t set out to prove that Queen Elizabeth I was a fool. They don’t personally dislike her. They don’t make snickering remarks about her, or spend their careers trying to pick apart her historical reputation.

They approach her in other ways. They don’t even apply this sort of dislike or suspicion or contempt to other Elizabethan figures. If they do, the person is usually no the focus of the study. Occasionally a scholar studies a villain, yes. But even then, the author generally ends up arguing for the good points of a villain or for his or her place in history, or for some mitigating circumstance, that redeems the study itself. People studying disasters in history may be highly critical of the rulers or the milieu at the time, yes. But in general scholars don’t spend their lives in the company of historical figures whom they openly despise.

But there are New Testament scholars who detest and despise Jesus Christ. Of course, we all benefit from freedom in the academic community; we benefit from the enormous size of biblical studies today and the great range of contributions that are being made. I’m not arguing for censorship. But maybe I’m arguing for sensitivity—on the part of those who read these books. Maybe I’m arguing for a little wariness when it comes to the field in general. What looks like solid ground might not be solid ground at all.

-snip-

Link

124 posted on 12/28/2006 8:56:46 AM PST by jonno (...it almost seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known that we were coming...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 122 | View Replies]

To: jonno

I don't understand the hatred of Jesus either. Whether you're an atheist or not, whether you actually believe the religious context and claims of deity, you pretty much have to admit that Jesus was a great man who brought some wonderful ideas to the world. Even the Muslims revere him.


125 posted on 12/28/2006 9:16:52 AM PST by antiRepublicrat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 124 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-5051-100101-125 last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson