Sunday, 29 December 2013

Pastor Rick Henderson Can Prove There Are No Good Atheists

So I came across this essay by a certain Pastor Rick Henderson over at the Huffington Post with a ridiculously trumped up link baited title.

Why There Is No Such Thing as a Good Atheist

Has he never heard of Jacob Fortin?

Okay, lame references aside, how could I not read this ridiculous article?
You clicked on this post for one of two reasons. Either you're hoping that I'm right or you know that I'm wrong. For those of you who are eager to pierce me with your wit and crush my pre-modern mind, allow me to issue a challenge. I contend that any response you make will only prove my case. Like encountering a hustler on the streets of Vegas, the deck is stacked, and the odds are not in your favor.
Pre-modern mind? Okay, whatever. This sounds like the sort of thing an apologist would throw at you. First they try to define you into a box and then they shout ah ha! and then you're trapped in their web of logique. I'm game, let's see where this path leads.

The first thing Rick does is set up a whole artifice around the word atheist that is simply not part of the meaning at all. Some people call this sort of tactic erecting a straw man but he calls it a worldview.

While I would agree with him that everyone does, indeed, have a worldview -- "your view of everything in the universe" -- one cannot peg atheism in as a coherent worldview. Atheism really does mean no belief in any gods.  This is the discussion Rick should be having when he makes a sweeping statement like there are no good atheists -- which is patently false to anyone who knows any atheists.

Instead, he is diverting our attention by altering the definition of atheism to correspond to a worldview which he conveniently has all the counter arguments to -- or so be believes. So this pretty much blows the whole thing out of the water but what would be the fun in stopping here.

Apparently, in order to be a true (orthodox) atheist, you must hold to these three holy tenets.

  1. The universe is purely material. It is strictly natural, and there is no such thing as the supernatural (e.g., gods or spiritual forces).
  2. The universe is scientific. It is observable, knowable and governed strictly by the laws of physics.
  3. The universe is impersonal. It does not a have consciousness or a will, nor is it guided by a consciousness or a will.

Listen, Rick, I've come across people who do not believe in God who are into all kinds of woo woo stuff like reincarnation and spiritual forces and even magick.

There are also people who are atheistic for purely non-scientific reasons. Perhaps they see the evil in the world and simply cannot fathom that there be a God... or at least one that's not an asshole.

Likewise with point three. I assure you there are people out there who believe in the Force or the Secret and hold there is no God -- or at least nothing like the kind of god Rick worships.

Even so, I would guess that a good number of atheists today do mostly line up with Rick's three points as stated above, but the devil's in the details.
Anything and everything that happens in such a universe is meaningless. A tree falls. A young girl is rescued from sexual slavery. A dog barks. A man is killed for not espousing the national religion. These are all actions that can be known and explained but never given any meaning or value.
I really don't understand why theists do not seem to get this. Meaning is assigned to things by brains. It's really that simple. It so happens to be that the vast majority of human brains are wired up in similar enough fashions that similar sorts and degrees of meaning get assigned to similar things. Of course, a small minority of people are wired up differently and may experience a might higher or much lower degree of meaning for some of these sorts of things. One example of one who is wired in a potentially dangerous way would be a sociopath.
A good atheist -- that is, a consistent atheist -- recognizes this dilemma
You know what really has been bugging me lately? Theists who keep writing about the kind of atheist they like, or can deal with, or are good. Or the New Atheists. Or the strident atheists, or militant atheists. Honestly, I think there is an assault afoot to have us all re-defined from the outside. Atheists do not believe in any gods, period.

Rick then offers some quotations to really hammer in that there is nothing but void, vacant, meaningless, darkness. Truly, atheists must all be nihilists.

Then two atheist arguments are brought out to be attacked.

First, we have Morality -- exact definition unclear -- evolved to ensure human survival. I like how this makes evolution a means to an end! As if the neck of the giraffe grew so that it could reach the leaves at the top of the tree. Now I'm no biologist, but it strikes me that this is just not the way evolution works at all.

I would say it's possible that our basic ideas of what's right and wrong came from a long process of local mutation (experimentation and deviation) along with natural sexual selection. I'm not professional here, but it seems to me like since we have tribes, communities, villages, cities and countries -- which have been growing over the centuries -- it's pretty clear that a pretty successful set of morals has evolved alongside us. Not perfect, of course, but adequate to sustain our current levels of social cohesion.
So this view of morality does nothing to provide a reasonable answer for why it would be objectively wrong to torture diseased children, rape women or kill those who don't affirm a national religion. It only provides a motivation for continuing the delusion of objective morality.
I find it shocking that Rick needs to look in his book or listen to the god-man voice in his head to determine whether these things are wrong. I makes me rather nervous to even contemplate being with him in a dark alley or empty room. And how precisely does his own worldview explain morality when his own God stands idly by while people are clearly and objectively harmed by evil acts every second? If he could please explain how he gets this from his magic book of rape, rapine, torture, slavery, genocide and murder, I would be pleased. Clearly, it's not as clearcut as Rick claims it to be or he wouldn't have to write essays like this.

The second argument trotted out is that morality is logical. I would say that the exercise of finding the most ethical solution to a moral problem can often involve the use of logic. Anyway, Rick goes back to the same incomprehensible argument that nothing really means anything at all unless we believe what's in his book. I really don't understand why it need be so difficult.
Intelligent people ask serious questions. Serious questions deserve serious answers. There are few questions more serious than the one I'm asking. How do we explain objective meaning and morality that we know are true? If a worldview can't answer this question, it doesn't deserve you.
Please talk more about your amazing worldview, Rick. Convince me with your evidence, please.

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