Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
"There are certain experiences that atheism simply cannot explain"
First, let me get the initial paragraph out of my system.
In my last column, I examined some of the challenges facing religion today. Those challenges are serious. But that doesn't mean that atheism has the upper hand. On the contrary, as I've argued many times before, atheism in its currently fashionable form is an intellectual sham. As Exhibit 653, I give you Jerry Coyne's latest diatribe in The New Republic, which amounts to a little more than an inadvertent confession that he's incapable of following a philosophical argument.It would appear that I, Jerry Coyne (exhibit nº 653), all atheists who open their mouths against superstition, and a large swath of scientists everywhere are all duped by this intellectual sham. Or so says Linker, who, I'm sure, understands these things better than all of us. We're just not smart enough to grasp the wafer thin and ever so intricately subtle philosophical arguments which undeniably show Linker's deity exists. We've been unconvinced for hundreds of years. Indeed we must be very dim.
I would just chuckle about this and leave it there, but Linker goes a step further here.
The fact is that there are specific human experiences that atheism in any form simply cannot explain or account for. One of those experiences is radical sacrifice — and the feelings it elicits in us.Maybe I'm reading between the lines here, but it seems like Linker is saying that self-sacrifice really relies on Christianity - somehow, hanging by some kind of philosophical thread thingy. Well, I guess he's right. Sacrifice is a Christian trait that was somehow vacant from us before Christianity came along. Just take a look at other mammals, I'm certain mommy moles would have never defended her young to her death before Jesus.
What a load of hooey. I would suggest that Linker cut through some of his mumbo jumbo and have a frank discussion with the soldiers over at the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers about self-sacrifice and how it is Christianity that truly compels one to lay down their lives for fellow soldiers and country.
Linker demands an explanation for human behaviour. Can Science explain it?
Pick your favorite non-theistic theory: Rational choice and other economically based accounts hold that people act to benefit themselves in everything they do. From that standpoint, Vander Woude — like the self-sacrificing soldier or firefighter — was a fool who incomprehensibly placed the good of another ahead of his own.Newsflash: atheism is the non-belief in any gods. Of course it doesn't explain empathy and self sacrifice. These are two completely different and unrelated questions: Is there a God? and Why do mammals self-sacrifice? How is this so unclear? Why is this so difficult? A lack of an explanation does not prove religion or God.
Oh, and who has time to pick their favourite non-theistic theory? People feel compassion for others, this is Humanism. It's part of being human. This happens naturally because it works. People who must rationalize this constantly frighten me a little.
Other atheistic theories similarly deny the possibility of genuine altruism, reject the possibility of free will, or else, like some forms of evolutionary psychology, posit that when people sacrifice themselves for others (especially, as in the Vander Woude case, for their offspring) they do so in order to strengthen kinship ties, and in so doing maximize the spread of their genes throughout the gene pool.Altruism, in its purest sense, is unlikely to be 100% detrimental to the one doing the altruism - or them passing their genes on. And don't get me started about free will, which I do subscribe to as compatibilism. Free will is free within the very real limitations of our own bodies which are machines bound to physical needs and brain processes.
Linker seems to attribute some kind of goal or motivation necessary for evolution. There is no motivation here. Nobody is doing anything to spread their genes through the gene pool. It just so happens that some behaviours have resulted in this outcome more than others. That's it really.
And just when I thought, perhaps, he got evolution above, we get this.
But of course, as someone with Down syndrome, Vander Woude's son is probably sterile and possesses defective genes that, judged from a purely evolutionary standpoint, deserve to die off anyway. So Vander Woude's sacrifice of himself seems to make him, once again, a fool.There is no deserve when it comes to natural selection. It's perfectly possible for someone with Down syndrome to pass on their genes. I'm often left speechless at just how much contempt folk like Linker have for evolution driven by natural selection. This is how things work on a daily basis.
Look, life is not fair. Truly, can we not all see this with our own eyes? To help those in need is a human trait that has had the effect of softening the blow of a heartless and mindless reality which cares not for what is right or wrong. The ability to feel empathy for others and the revulsion we feel when justice is undermined are evolved traits that have proven very useful for us as a species. They have gotten us to where we are now and they are essential for us to save ourselves on this planet with a short term sacrifices needed for long term survival in a climate the grows more fierce.
But why is that? What is it about the story of a man who willingly embraces a revolting, horrifying death in order to save his son that moves us to tears? Why does it seem somehow, like a beautiful painting or piece of music, a fleeting glimpse of perfection in an imperfect world?I suppose it seems this way to Linker. To me it seems utterly tragic. The father's behaviour is commendable and worthy indeed, but I would never call it beautiful.
I'd say that only theism offers an adequate explanation — and that Christianity might do the best job of all.Okay! Let's see this explanation then! It must be really good because Science is still working on it with fields like evolutionary ethics.
Christianity teaches that the creator of the universe became incarnate as a human being, taught humanity (through carefully constructed lessons and examples of his own behavior) how to become like God, and then allowed himself to be unjustly tried, convicted, punished, and killed in the most painful and humiliating manner possible — all as an act of gratuitous love for the very people who did the deed.Well that sounds fucking insane. Proof for creator, please? Proof for diving incarnation, please?
It turns out today is Easter Sunday. On it some celebrate the Son of God (who is also his own father) who allowed himself to be nailed to a tree. He did this to appease himself because he was very angry at humans. Apparently God is into self-destructive behaviour.
God went through all this pain and suffering so he could forgive human transgressions of his many laws - some of which are rather silly and even Christians no longer follow them. Naturally, his divine mind would have foreseen all this. With complete foreknowledge, he crafted humans who were indeed perfectly free but were too weak and stupid to control themselves so they deserved eternal torment. They were perfectly free to go through all the motions God had already seen for himself. They were free to dance - at the end of strings.
What sane being would have to torture and murder himself, go live with Lucifer for a couple of days and pop back up and sit at his own right hand so he can feel better with himself for not eternally punishing the human race for being unable to properly behave? What being could ever be so melodramatic? Well, no being we've ever reliably detected so far; thank goodness for that!
Of course, none of it makes any sense at all. Vander Woude was better than his God because unlike Yahweh, Woude was human.
If Vander Woude were like God, he would have personally thrown his son down the well. He would have declared that his son deserved it - perhaps because he was disabled. Unlike the tragedy that did occur, Woude would have remained dead for only two days and would have risen on the third unscathed. He would have then demanded that his son bow down to him and worship him so that he may continue to pad his ego into eternity without end.
Someone needs to tell Linker that atheism means lack of belief in gods. A system like his own Christianity possesses a great deal of baggage that can be examined, critiqued or attacked. Christianity is making a positive truth claim. Perhaps he should identify more substantial movements like secular Humanism when launching attacks.
Otherwise, it just looks like that old Christian habit of building atheism into a tall straw man.