Skip to comments.Atheists Split Over Message
Posted on 03/30/2007 6:20:58 PM PDT by buccaneer81
Atheists Split Over Message By JAY LINDSAY
Atheists are under attack these days for being too militant, for not just disbelieving in religious faith but for trying to eradicate it. And who's leveling these accusations? Other atheists, it turns out.
Among the millions of Americans who don't believe God exists, there's a split between people such as Greg Epstein, who holds the partially endowed post of humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and so-called "New Atheists."
Epstein and other humanists feel their movement is on the verge of explosive growth, but are concerned it will be dragged down by what they see as the militancy of New Atheism.
The most pre-eminent New Atheists include best-selling authors Richard Dawkins, who has called the God of the Old Testament "a psychotic delinquent," and Sam Harris, who foresees global catastrophe unless faith is renounced. They say religious belief is so harmful it must be defeated and replaced by science and reason.
Epstein calls them "atheist fundamentalists." He sees them as rigid in their dogma, and as intolerant as some of the faith leaders with whom atheists share the most obvious differences.
Next month, as Harvard celebrates the 30th anniversary of its humanist chaplaincy - part of the school's chaplaincy corps - Epstein will use the occasion to provide a counterpoint to the New Atheists.
"Humanism is not about erasing religion," he said. "It's an embracing philosophy."
In general, humanism rejects supernaturalism, while stressing principles such as dignity of the individual, equality and social justice. If there's no God to help humanity, it holds, people better do the work.
The celebration of a "New Humanism" will emphasize inclusion and diversity within the movement, and will include Pulitzer Prize-winning scientist E.O. Wilson, a humanist who has made well-chronicled efforts to team with evangelical Christians to fight global warming.
Part of the New Humanism, Wilson said, is "an invitation to a common search for morally based action in areas agreement can be reached in."
The tone of the New Atheists will only alienate important faith groups whose help is needed to solve the world's problems, Wilson said.
"I would suggest possibly that while there is use in the critiques by Dawkins and Harris, that they've overdone it," he said.
Harris, author of "Letter to a Christian Nation," sees the disagreement as overblown. He thinks there's room for multiple arguments in the debate between scientific rationalism and religious dogmatism. "I don't think everyone needs to take as uncompromising a stance as I have against faith," he said.
But, he added, an intellectual intolerance of people who strongly believe things on bad evidence is just "basic human sanity."
"We do not jail people for being stupid, but we do stop listening to them after a while," he said in e-mailed comments.
Harris also rejected the term "atheist fundamentalist," calling it "a silly play upon words." He noted that, when it comes to the ancient Greek gods, everyone is an atheist and no one is asked to justify that to pagans who want to believe in Zeus.
"Likewise with the God of Abraham," he said. "There is nothing 'fundamentalist' about finding the claims of religious demagogues implausible."
Some of the participants in Harvard's celebration of its humanist chaplaincy have no problem with the New Atheists' tone.
Harvard psychologist and author Steven Pinker said the forcefulness of their criticism is standard in scientific and political debate, and "far milder than what we accept in book and movie reviews."
"It's only the sense that religion deserves special respect - the exact taboo that Dawkins and Harris are arguing against - that people feel that those guys are being meanies when applying ordinary standards of evaluation to religion," Pinker said in e-mailed comments.
Dawkins did not respond to requests for comment. He has questioned whether teaching children they could go to hell is worse in the long term than sexually abusing them, and compares the evidence of God to evidence for unicorns, fairies and a "Flying Spaghetti Monster." His attempt to win converts is clear in "The God Delusion," when he writes of his hope that "religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down."
A 2006 Baylor University survey estimates about 15 million atheists in the United States.
Not all nonbelievers identify as humanists or atheists, with some calling themselves agnostics, freethinkers or skeptics. But humanists see the potential for unifying the groups under their banner, creating a large, powerful minority that can't be ignored or disdained by mainstream political and social thinkers.
Lori Lipman Brown, director of the Secular Coalition of America, sees a growing public acceptance of people who don't believe in God, pointing to California U.S. Rep. Pete Stark's statement this month that he doesn't believe in a supreme being. Stark is the first congressman to acknowledge being an atheist.
As more prominent people such as Stark publicly acknowledge they don't believe in God, "I think it will make it more palatable," Brown said.
But Epstein worries the attacks on religion by the New Atheists will keep converts away.
"The philosophy of the future is not going to be one that tries to erase its enemies," he said. "The future is going to be people coming together from what motivates them."
I find the New Atheists are as dogmatic and intolerant as any fundamentalist. We do not want to be tolerated as believers. We demand acceptance and inclusion in the public life, including protection from other religions and the government. Got that, bright guy?
Now THAT is a job. Follow the money...
Translation: "If we're more polite, maybe we can pull the wool over their eyes and turn these superstitious idiots into useful idiots."
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Best headline of the day!
Atheism (or as some of the militants ironically refer to it, "freethought") is easily the most dogmatic religion that exists. It requires more faith than most any other religion.
In short, it's perfect for the average person with a serious God complex.
Bet you could have a few beers and pick up some chicks with the chaplain.
Which group is likely to prevail, the United Atheist Alliance (UAA), United Atheist League (UAL), and the Allied Atheist Allegiance (AAA)?
Well, if you're an atheist (and I say this as a Christian) this life right here is all you get for all eternity and hence you might as well expend your energy on making it as free from these people that you think are harming things as possible.
How do you describe an atheist's funeral?
"All dressed up and no place to go!"
Atheists are a screwed up, obnoxious, in-your-face bunch.
Agnosticism is an intellectually defensible position.
Atheism is not.
Monty Python Bump!
I'm pretty much agnostic and agree whole-heartedly with your observation. Many of them (not all) do seem quite obnoxious in their belief of non-belief.
I personally have never met one I really thought they deep down inside believed there really was not a God. They remind me of children throwing temper fits against mommy, "I hate you Mommy".
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.
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An Atheist Split? Does that come with nuts, and a cherry on top?
By the way, I happen to be an atheist, and I would fully expect any group of people bound together by common belief to eventually develop schisms, and to attract a fair share of psychopaths, idiots of both the useful and useless variety, and assorted nuts.
As a great man of God, he'll be up close to the throne and I'll be way in the back of the crowd, making seeing him pretty tough. :)
Actually, South Park borrowing from MP. "Isn't that right, Cockathree?"
I'd still like to know how atheists believe in "matter in motion".
Rocks, dirt, minerals, etc. don't move on their own. "A body at rest stays at rest" as Newton pointed out.
So what is the source of movement in the cosmos and on earth?
What gives living things the ability to move, but dead things cannot? The chemical composition of a recently dead person and a person about to die is identical, but one can do many things the other cannot. What is the atheist's explanation?
Why didn't I get the memo?
So much for "for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with DARKNESS?..." Sigh
Depends on your definition of 'atheism.' If by atheism you refer to militant atheism, where the possibility that any sort of deity might exist is denied in priciple, then you are correct. But that definition of atheism is a strawman lacking any utility, since few 'atheits' are actually that dogmatic and closed-minded.
The preferred definition of atheism refers to the belief that the evidence for the existence of deity is so weak that it's safe to assume in practice that it doesn't exist, even though in principle (in theory) deity may in fact exist.
There are perfectly logical non-supernatural explanations for everything you mention. One can believe in life without believing in God.
Forgive me, but I don't understand your comment. My comments mentioned neither the word 'message,' nor any synonym thereof. Please explain?
I didn't get it either.
The article is essentially about a split between militant and moderate atheists.
The preferred definition of atheism
Preferred by whom?
I don't believe in a god, but cannot rule out the fact that a god may exist. In other words, my lack of belief is not proof of the non-existence of a god.
Furthermore, I do not find the concepts of Christianity (as emulated by Jesus, not the subsequent church) objectionable (like the guy who wears the T-shirt that says "Atheists for Jesus".
Who could object to Jesus, a man who taught total love and brotherhood and who laid down his life for those beliefs? Whether or not he was the son of God, the guy had balls.
I'm a little foggy on the difference between agnostic and atheist. Can someone tell me where I fall?
Agnosticism is uncertainly as to the existence of a god, atheism is outright disbelief. I don't know wbout you, but I'm pretty sure I fall in the latter category.
Atheists get angry when one points out that they hold to a non-diety religion. But their's is a belief based upon at least as much faith as any "normal" religion.
- G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Actually, agnosticicm is quite different, since it involves indecision/uncertainty not only in principle/theory, but also in practice. The agnostic is actively unsure. The atheist has decided the question does not deserve active consideration, and the possibility that God might exist, although not zero, is too small to be given any weight in making practical, strategic, hard decisions.
In other words, the atheist juror is sure beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no God (and so votes 'Guilty/No-God.') The agnostic juror is not sure beyond a reasonable doubt, and so votes 'Not-Guilty/Unsure.'
Preferred by whom?
I think you'll have to look a schleptillion miles.
I regret any confusion my post has caused, unless you're on the other side of the split from me, in which case you're a heretical, schismatic so-and-so and woe be unto you, etc.
No. It'll be the Front for the Liberation of Atheism. Wait--I mean, the Atheist Liberation Front. No, wait--
Wouldn't it just be simpler to follow the gourd?
Firstly, not everyone means the same thing by the word 'religion.' (Or by the word 'atheist,' for that matter.)
Secondly, if you define religion as belief, then all beliefs are religious--including the belief that the Sun will rise the next morning. Think of what that definition would do to the scope of the First Ammendment's guarantee of Freedom Of Religion.
Thirdly, both atheism and science are fundamentally different from religion (as I define those terms, at least): Both science and atheism are subdomains of an epistemelogical paradigm where there are no absolute beliefs. Scientific theories are not absolute beliefs that must be taken on faith--and that's true by definition.
By definition, a scientific theory (belief) must be falsifiable. Scientists must accept that, in principle, any of their theories/beliefs might be wrong, that new evidence may require that any belief/theory be discarded. Some even have begun to realize that the rationalist epistemology itself must also be falsifable (subject to the possibility of disproof, at least in principle.)
Oh--got it. Actually, that's funny :-)
Of course the real answer is that deep down, everybody knows (or at least suspects) that God exists. Le coeur á ses raisons que la raison ne connait point Pascal
So am I.
1. There is no such thing as an ecumenical atheist.
2. There is no such thing as an orthodox atheist.
As for myself:
- I do not like the sex perverts. (homosexuality is not an anatomical function)
- I do not like the illegal immigrants. (this is not a welfare plantation)
- I do not like the gun grabbers. (obvious)
- I do not like the baby killers. (no trial by a jury of their peers)
And for these few political opinions, I have logical, secular reasons most so-called atheists will run away from.
I also think evolutionists are on educational welfare.
Strong agreement. And I may steal that turn of phrase...
Of course the real answer is that deep down, everybody knows (or at least suspects) that God exists.
Strong disagreement. I no more suspect that God exists than I do that the Easter Bunny actually exists. Either could be true, but so far I have seen about as much evidence for the one as the other--which is asymptotically close to no evidence at all.
By definition, a scientific theory (belief) must be falsifiable.
And again, that makes atheism not scientific, because it's not falsifiable.
There is no such thing as an ecumenical atheist.
Militant atheism is itself a religion, with No-God as God.
Of course atheism is falsifiable. Although I'd agree that any atheist who won't admit to that is a "believer" following a religion.
Today, "morals" are a religious pagan philosophy of esoteric hobgoblins. Transfiguration is a pantheon of fantasies as the medium of infinitization. Others get derision for having an unwavering Judaic belief in Yahweh or Yeshua, although their critics and enemies will evangelize insertion of phantasmagoric fetishisms into secular law.
Excuse this bit of sarcasm...
But, since we are all properly obeying the * modern interpretation * of the First Amendment, good & evil isn't the question... Good & bad, right & wrong, etc., etc., ad nausea; are all inherently religious ideals.
The modern interpretation of the First Amendment (according to the liberal-tarians) says government must exorcise all traces of religion and theism from itself. Therefore, government must never consider issues of morality and right and wrong...
So, it becomes a question of benefits versus costs. Fetus killing has its benefits to society, especially if you like to sleep late on Saturdays. But it also has its costs as well. Society (by which I mean, whoever manages to seize power) needs to evaluate these costs and decide accordingly.
The mythical rights of men and women are also meaningless. 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...
I highly recommend it.
I feel the same way about the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. None of these entities have been seen (at least in the past 2000 years) and none have done anything to prove they exist-- like performing the impossible (not just merely the improbable).
There isn't even any verifiable value to strongly believing God. Matthew 21:21, John 14:14, Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, and Mark 11:24 didn't ring very true for Jessica Lunsford in this life, regardless of what castle in the clouds she gets in the afterlife.
Belief in God is just another anti-depressant, like Paxil, Prozac, or Zoloft. People are scared that there isn't some magical place to go to when they die and they are scared that there isn't a magical invisible man who can rescue them like a safety net when they need rescuing.
I think it's generally as harmless as people taking anti-depressants in pill form. It helps people to function when they would have difficulty doing so. Whatever. It doesn't really affect me.