Showing posts with label dawkins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dawkins. Show all posts

Friday, 1 August 2014

Atheism Didn't Cause 'King Richard' to Tweet That!

Richard Dawkins in a picture that doesn't make him look like an evil ogre. (source)
I give Elissa Strauss over at the Jewish Daily Forward kudos for clarity. She gives a very concise illustration of an underlying malevolent sentiment which I have lately found to be obfuscated in current coverage of Richard Dawkins' most recent Twitter gaffe. Up to this point, I thought I would have to dig through the innuendo to get to the underlying implied messaging against atheists but Strauss makes it clear as day.

In her post, When Atheists Talk About Rape -- rather than 'when Dawkins talks about rape' -- not far below the requisite ugliest-and-most-unflattering-picture-of-Dawkins-one-can-find, she concludes with the following gross generalization.
Dawkins comments don’t just expose his own capability for misguided thinking, but of Atheism’s as well. His thoughts on rape reveal what happens when Atheism becomes as much an orthodoxy as any religion, a belief system through which all thoughts and feelings must be processed and any lingering subjectivity sidelined. This tendency hardly appears to a predominant one among Atheists, but it is clearly a risk just like it is in more literal-minded approaches to Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

Dawkins has faith in science and logic. He believes in finding order through categorization, logic and proof. Except the experience of something like rape, which happens to individuals in a wide variety of circumstances and is colored by their personal histories and emotional make-ups, just can’t be subjected to any scientific system. Sure we can work hard to find a societally-agreed upon definition of rape for our legal system, but the actual effect it has on a victim is something only that victim gets to decide.

As our society continues to polarize, or at least as the media reports it, into firm believers and non-believers, it is crucial that both sides make room for the subjective nature of the individual experience and don’t let whatever orthodoxies guide them to get in the way. Otherwise we find ourselves doing something like, eh, ranking rape.
Eh, a lack of belief in a god does not in any way affect opinion on rape. One need only look at popular atheist blogs and the Twitter machine to discover that the very largest group of those who were offended are very likely to be atheists -- you know, people who care what Dawkins tweets late at night.

And this religion of atheism. Do tell me more about how being certain we do not believe in a god turns us into inhuman, unfeeling, cold and scientific steel-hearted robots. I assume Elissa doesn't believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster (tomato sauce be upon him). I therefore feel sorry for her inevitable lack of emotional and spiritual depth.

One more thing. Dawkins is only the most famous atheists; the most influential atheist; the most followed, adored, revered, worshipped Pope of all atheists because a mostly hostile media have elected him to be so. They were also the ones to coin the term 'New Atheists.' There is nothing new about those who do not wish to grovel to any deity or man - we are called freethinkers and they have been around probably since the beginning. It's just that we no longer wish to remain silently accepting the unproven nonsense that is theism and we will now speak out -- even if we risk being called fundamentalists.

But then, this isn't really about Dawkins at all.

There is one point in Strauss' conclusion upon which both I and many many many atheists agree: the actual effect it has on a victim is something only that victim gets to decide. Although things like laws must, by nature, be objective, Dawkins' tweets did indeed lack sensitivity and non-believers were the very first ones to point this out.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Stop Banging On At Me With Your Science!

Sometimes I read an article and just end up sitting there with my mouth hanging open wondering to myself how I'm supposed to react to it, what does it mean, do the tubes is my brainbox have enough capacity to process it?

It’s no good, Dawkins. No one’s going to abandon religion because some atheist is banging on at them about science
There’s a religious slot broadcast every morning on the radio, called Thought for the Day, and it’s marvellous. Because it usually involves some bishop telling you what he did the day before, and shovelling Jesus into it somehow. So it will go: “Last night I was watching an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, in which a poor hapless restaurateur once again found himself on the wrong end of Gordon’s somewhat ribald invective. And I began to think to myself ‘Isn’t this a bit like Jesus’? Because Jesus too went out for supper one night, and that turned into a bit of a nightmare. Good morning.” 
The fact that this quaint tradition endures with few complaints, despite a campaign led by the National Secular Society, suggests that the modern atheists are losing. So does the popularity of The Book of Mormon, the gloriously blasphemous musical I’ve finally seen, which, despite a swearing, camp Jesus and a plot revolving around religion being made-up nonsense, is strangely affectionate towards religion. You’re invited to judge the evangelists on what they do, rather than on what they believe, and that may be a vital part of its success, compared with the modern atheists whose attitude is: “Of COURSE Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, you idiots.”
So religion, the once all-pervading ruler of kings, emperors and countries has been reduced to a morning radio segment about how Jesus helped the line cook get through Gordon Ramsay's potty mouth. This is somehow a sign that religion's still doing just fine? Checkmate, atheists!

The broadway musical Book of Mormon, written by two atheists and sure to have been banned only a century ago and to have led to the burning of said atheists a couple of centuries before; how is this not a sign of religion losing its relevance and grip on our culture? A song and dance routine that affectionately undermines the primary claim of religion by pointing out it is merely a made up human artifice is not indicative of a weakening of the religious resolve? Really?

What could author Mark Steel be talking about? It's hard to say because then he goes on a well-worn attack against those nasty New Atheists who dare to question, ridicule or mock those who believe myths for which there is no credible evidence.
Richard Dawkins, for example, complained that a Muslim political writer wasn’t a “serious journalist” because he “believes Mohamed flew to heaven on a winged horse”. I suppose if Dawkins had been in Washington when Martin Luther King made his famous speech, he’d have shouted: “Never mind your dream, how can Jonah have lived in a whale, you silly Christian knob?”
I still don't see what the big fuss is with Richard Dawkins' comment. For me, the job of a serious journalist is to be skeptical and to dig for the facts. They should be as close to reality as possible. A journalist who seriously believes someone flew into heaven on a winged horse doesn't strike me as someone who has done all of his homework. In principle it's no different from a journalist who believes Obama is a shape-shifting lizard; John Smith found gold tablets in his backyard and translated them with a magical hat; or Thetans are the ghostly remains of a civilization that was blown to smithereens inside of a volcano with nukes billions of years ago.

Of course, this is all technical. I'm absolutely certain one could be a Muslim in name but not believe such fairy stories - a secular Muslim. And even if this were not the case, humans are gifted with a well-developed ability to compartmentalize competing beliefs. So the same mind could hold everything else up to a strong and rational critical eye and still believe in the most insane mythologies simultaneously. The journalist could be an excellent one, just don't trust him with any stories about religion that intersect this compartmentalized woo. Dawkins has every right to call him out on the Pegasus myth.

As for the comparison between Martin Luther King and journalist Mehdi Hasan, it is a false equivalence. It's Hasan's job to report on facts and communicate them to his readers. It was King's 'job' to stir the hearts and inspire America to rise up and fight for civil rights. Steele should be aware that facts are seldom required to arouse the passions of one's readership.

Steele seems to go on to say that folks like Dawkins are vile for judging the religious based on what they believe.
It’s almost as if the modern atheist is in agreement with the religious fundamentalist that a person’s attitude towards God is the most important aspect of their character.
As a modern atheist, I cannot help but feel rather sorry for those who believe in God, but this is their right. However, the real problem is those who let their religious beliefs affect their actions in ways that affect others in negative ways. Do not limit my rights based off some bronze age myth that would fail any modern day ethical sniff test.

I too am happy to judge anyone based on their actions but I'm also aware that one's beliefs inform their actions and that ridiculous beliefs are not above ridicule.

And when it comes to banging on about science: It has been an effective approach. Scientists and science popularizers have been doing this for years. Carl Sagan's Cosmos had a profound effect on me and many others and no doubt the modern Fox reboot will too. The only way to convince others their points of view are delusional is to expose them to as much reality as possible.

Okay, this is getting rambly. There seem to be four points here, I think.

First, religion is doing just fine thanks regardless of what the atheists are doing.
Religion is certainly losing a grip on power and influence in our society but I suppose many people still have warm fuzzy spiritual feelings? It remains to be seen whether this is directly due to the atheists, I would suspect it's a combination of things. I know I get warm and fuzzy spiritual-like feelings while watching Cosmos. I wonder if that's the direction things will go?

Second, mean atheists like Dawkins aren't helping to convert people to atheists:
Certainly, when I was on the fence atheist, The God Delusion helped push me over the edge and gave me the courage to tell myself for the first time that I was atheist. I would imagine it had the same affect on others.

Third, pushing science (e.g. reality) onto deluded religious folk is just not going to work. 
People leave religion for different reasons. However, from my personal experience at least, an increase in scientific literacy did weaken my belief in religious fairy tales.

Fourth, one should not judge people based on their religion but on their actions.
The modern atheist often points to atrocities carried out by religious institutions, such as the tyranny of the Taliban or the child abuse of the Catholic Church, but isn’t it the actions of these people that are vile, not the religion itself?
I've never been able to grasp this logic and this is why I cannot imagine how decent people can keep calling themselves Catholic and keep paying lip service to the Pope.

If mail carriers were found to quite frequently rob homeowners while delivering the mail, one would blame the postal service and demand a criminal investigation. The executives at the top would be severely punished if it was shown they knew this was going on. Well, the Catholic Church claims that the being ultimately at the top is God and God Knows.

I wonder if Steele has ever actually picked up a Bible or a Koran and read it. I would say that it's often the actions of the religious that are good in spite of their religions either being seriously flawed or vile - or at least large parts of their holy books. This is why the really nasty pieces of work are often the most religiously literate when it comes to knowing - nay, memorizing - the holy books upon which the religions are supposed to be based.

There is so much here to address that I hardly believe I was even able to begin.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Apparently New Atheism Is Dead, Again.

A much younger looking Dawkins.  He sort of reminds me of Bowie.
Back in January I commented about an article by Canon Ritchie, who works with a Christian think-tank in the UK, Decline of The New Atheists - (According to Canon Angus Ritchie At Least).

He was basically saying that those Mean New Atheists, who refuse to sit back and admire how nice religion is, are actually on the decline now.

No really, we're on our way back into harmless obscurity, curiosities really.  Back to being atheists who roam obscure halls of academia and fringe political groups.  The bright future is to contain none of this public New Atheism business.  Oh no! Atheism is becoming lighter and fluffier again and religion is safe.

Well, if New Atheism means speaking your mind and calling out bullshit when you see it, then I'm not really sure where Ritchie got this from.  Perhaps he thought that if he repeated this mantra long enough it would become true.

Well, another very similar article has materialized over at the Catholic Herald by blogger Ed West.  Now you'd think they'd have more important things to think about, like how their bishops and cardinals keep getting caught molesting children or sheltering pedophiles or being implicated in bank fraud.

Apparently, it's no longer cool to have harsh words for religion and the newer hipper generations think religion is all cool and stuff and that the Catholic Church is just fine.  No problems there.

Here's Ed West.
Amid all the warm words expressed by public figures after Pope Benedict announced his retirement one comment rather stood out. “I feel sorry for the Pope and all old Catholic priests. Imagine having a wasted life to look back on and no sex,” wrote Richard Dawkins on Twitter.
Even with the generally low standards of decorum on the site, the 71-year-old biologist’s comment caused groans.
I think Dawkins brings up a very good point.  Sex is great and it's a real shame the Pope and the old Catholic priests never had it.  Of course we keep finding out about their sex lives years afterwards when their cover is blown.  For the majority of priests and bishops we can only hope that if they did get laid it was with consenting adults, female or male - doesn't matter to me - and not with little children. Just sayin'.  If only some of these Church pedophiles could have just been caught with (legally aged) hookers like immoral politicians the world would be a better place.  Yes, if only they could be as good as cheating politicians.

I personally think that Dawkins' words could have been much harsher indeed.  In fact, I think he may have been restraining himself there.  I've heard much worse about this pope and would have a few choice words myself as well.

Decorum, eh?  Right, I think he was probably using too much decorum with the Pope and his priests in this case.  They deserved much less decorum than is possible within the 140 character Twitter limit.  But then the article gets a little weird.
Despite Dawkins’s continual attacks on religion, the basic premise behind New Atheism has turned out to be weak. Dawkins’s grand idea, set out in a 1993 essay, “Viruses of the Mind”, is that religion is essentially a parasite that spread in human populations that had no other way of handling the daily toll of misery and grief that was our lot until recently.
Okay, Dawkins had the whole meme theory, sure.  But unless I've misunderstood New Atheism, memes are not the basic premise behind the New Atheism.  What the hell?  Did I miss a memo here?  For me, the basic premise has to do with speaking out and calling out stupid theology bullshit rather than keeping quiet and playing along.  In other words, we don't believe the shit you're spouting and we're going to tell you our opinion. This cartoon from the Atheist Camel sums it up, I think.

(source: Atheist Camel)
Anyway, that was weird. The article goes on to mention some more concrete points - that the New Atheism is made up of mostly white middle class guys.  But this has been known for ages within the movement and it's been the case for longer than New Atheism has even existed.

He then quotes the Ritchie article I commented on back in January saying religion is on a rebound in Britain.  But he quickly follows up by saying it could also be the declining importance of religion in British culture.
Likewise, Christian campaigners on tax avoidance, debt cancellation and the living wage argue in secular language, playing down their faith.
Essentially, we have a situation here like that in certain very secular Scandinavian countries where people care so little about religion that a kind of apathetic vacuum arises where New Atheists would sound rather strident.  Atheists in these regions have a kind of neutered vestige of religion to fight against.  Or at least that's how I understand this part of the article.  You know, sometimes I think this is the case here in Canada and especially in Quebec where the culture has become very secular.  You seldom run into many New Atheists because religion is so weakened and nobody goes as far as call religion bullshit because that would be too impolite, rude or insensitive.

Anyway, in this article the primary thrust seems to be against Dawkins, Dennett and Harris.  Okay fine.  It's a fact  that new voices will come in and they will be eclipsed some day.  Already, Dawkins and Harris have met with some disapproval in the community due to opinions taken over issues like feminism, racial profiling and gun control.  And so what?  So long as New New Atheism continues to speak its mind and call bullshit when it sees it, I don't see a problem.

He goes on to quote a few atheist scholars who think religion isn't so bad after all and ends his article with a reference to the Sunday Assembly, an atheist church I've been covering for some time now on my blog.
Even to non-believers, the argument that religion is a damaging parasite seems implausible. In their everyday lives people see that atheism does not explain the fundamental questions and a godless world doesn’t make us happier or even more questioning. The popularity of the Sunday Assembly, an “atheist church” in Islington, or Alain de Botton’s “10 commandments for atheists”, reflect the growing belief in secular Britain that religion is not just a beneficial thing but perhaps an essential one. Perhaps that is why New Atheism is as dead as Nietzsche.
My response to the deeper questions part of this paragraph is as following: Blah blah blah.

Now on to the second part. Sunday Assembly and Alain de Botton's 10 commandments has nothing to do with religion.  Holy crap does that last statement get my goat.  The difference between a service at the Sunday Assembly and a regular Christian church really boils down to the second having 100% more bullshit in it than the first.  Think of the church going experience, the community, the awe and emotion as the "baby."  Now think of ridiculous unproven theological gobblygook as the "dirty bath water."  Let's throw out the superstitious nonsense and keep the fun.  Why the hell not?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Atheism+: A Rather Unfortunate Coincidence?

Above we have's
logo for their Non Believers Giving
Aid campaign and below we have the
spanking new Atheism+ logo.
I got a lot of constructive comments on my last post on Atheism+.  I jumped right onboard when the new movement was only a couple of weeks old but now my brain is starting to catch up with my heart, so to speak, and I'm starting to really think hard about whether that leap was not a tad premature.

A reader commented my recent post about my wife giving me a RichardDawkins.Net tee-shirt:

BTW, the A+ logo that Richard Dawkins owns is this one. It is still A+.
Well! He's absolutely right.  Houston.... I think there may be a slight problem here.  This is compounded by the fact that Richard hasn't exactly jumped out to support this new movement.

I'm pretty sure most other people in the community have known this for at least days.  I found discussion of this on the AtheismPlus Forums as well!

Thanks to reader Reality in Sarnia for bringing this to my attention!

Friday, 31 August 2012

A really nice surprise!

It took 15.7 billion years to make something this
perfect.  Perhaps the strongest evidence against God
to date!
A package came in the mail yesterday and I plunked it on the kitchen table for my wife.  She orders a fair bit of stuff off the web so I assumed it was hers.

When she got home she opened it and gave me a little box that contained a Scarlet-A lapel pin from the Richard Dawkins website store!  I also got the snazzy tee-shirt pictured here in this post and a nice Scarlet-A bumper sticker!  Nice!

No, I don't think this will affect my ongoing considerations about Atheism+, but it is rather an interesting coincidence. Or is it a message from the FSM?

What a nice gift!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins on Compulsory Religious Education in Quebec

Just a short post for today.  Pardon me for what I'm about to say but there appears to be a strange convergence in the memesphere.  Much of what I've been writing about seems to have fed its way back through fuzzy Jungian vacuum tubes back into our collective Zeitgeist.

In an interesting taped conversation with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett brought up the mandatory religious education courses here in Quebec again.  This is the second reference I've hear.  I wrote about the first here when he brought it up in a speech in Melbourne not long ago.

He said pretty much the same thing he did in Australia, but I'm rather fond of hearing about when my province gets things right.  We have our problems up here.  Believe me.  So it's nice to hear some positive words every so often.

Thursday, 14 February 2008


Editor's Note (2012-02-18): This post was made back when I considered myself a pantheist.  Things have changed since then, but I'm keeping this post here for posterity.

In this blog I hope to record some of my thoughts about my spiritual journey from devout traditional Roman Catholic to Pagan - Wiccan to be precise - and now finally to a Scientific Pantheist. (I'm very likely a Secular Humanist as well).

I do not claim to represent all Pantheists and the title of my blog is likely to offend someone I'm sure. I am in no way saying Atheism is inferior to Pantheism or somehow wrong. In fact, I still consider myself an "a-theist". I do not personally believe in the existence of a personal god, but I do feel reverent spiritual awe when contemplating the universe. I'll explain more about this later. As such, I believe I could be lumped alongside Einstein into what Richard Dawkins labeled as "sexed-up atheism." I have no problem being called an atheist, nor being called sexed-up. Mind you, I suppose he's calling the atheism sexed-up and not me!