Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

I have little patience for promoters of secular causes who resort to religious appeals. I’m happy that you’re collecting pledges to stop breast cancer, but I don’t need a speech about how Jesus would have cured the Cancer-Sufferer if only the cave-people of his era had known what cancer was. It’s fine if you want to Save the Whales, but don’t use the Book of Jonah to convince me it’s an important cause. It’s great that you’re feeding the hungry, but do it because you want to help the hungry, not because Mohammed had a seizure 1200 years ago and hallucinated that some sky-man commanded it.

Avital Binshtock’s HuffPo piece on “Greening Your Spiritual Life” is a prime example of this kind of dreck:

Christians and Jews can refer, among other passages, to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Buddhist Sutta Nipata instructs: “Within yourself let grow a boundless love for all creatures.” Hindus reading the Dakshinamurti Upanishad pray: “Let there be peace in my environment.” Muslims are instructed by the Qur’an (2:60): “Do not commit abuse on the earth.” The Wiccan Rede says, “Heed the flower, bush, and tree.” Atheists, many of whom revere Darwin’s writings, hold that humans should refrain from destroying the earth of their own accord.

Wait, what? “Revere Darwin’s writings?”

I’m sorry, I thought it said that atheists “revere Darwin’s writings.” What’s that? It does say that?

Just so we are clear, atheists do not “revere Darwin’s writings.” Most atheists have never even read Darwin’s writings. You could pull out a copy of On the Origin of Species, light it on fire, pee on it, and flush the charred ashes down a toilet, and no atheist would even blink an eye. (Unless the atheist in question owned the bookstore and you hadn’t yet paid for the copy.) I dare you to try the same with the Quran in front of Muslims.

Atheism, in case (like Avital Binshtock) you have no idea what it is, refers to the lack of belief in a god. It has nothing to do with Charles Darwin and nothing to do with “reverence” for any books, Darwin-authored or otherwise.

It is true that most atheists are familiar with Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection and sexual selection because they became the jumping-off point for all kinds of interesting scientific research that demonstrated how life could have evolved on earth, destroyed the teleological argument, and provided a sensible alternative to the panoply of ludicrous creation myths.

But a fundamental part of being an atheist is not having sacred texts. Anyone who “reveres” The Descent of Man in the same way that Christians revere the Bible or Wiccans revere the Rede (whatever the hell that is) is some kind of freaky “book-worshipper,” not an atheist.

What an insulting essay! Maybe if I go chop down an old-growth tree it will make me feel better.

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I don’t know if you read the LA Times. I do, mostly because I used to live in LA, and I’m always curious to keep track of where the hipsters are hanging out these days, which celebrities are selling their multi-million dollar mansions, and how voters and politicians are driving the state into bankruptcy.

This morning I was greeted not only with the aforementioned journalistic staples, but also by the op-ed piece “Atheists: No Zeus, no reason, just whining”:

The problem with atheists — and what makes them such excruciating snoozes — is that few of them are interested in making serious metaphysical or epistemological arguments against Zeus’s existence, or in taking on the serious arguments that theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, Zeus’s omniscience with free will or Zeus’s goodness with human suffering.

Although it may be tough to believe, I have in the past been accused of lacking seriousness. Nonetheless, I am perfectly capable of being serious, as the following argument demonstrates:

A Serious Metaphysical Argument

1. I am not an excruciating snooze.
2. Typically, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
3. “Zeus exists” is an extraordinary claim.
4. A recurring appearance on a syndicated television drama does not count as extraordinary evidence.
5. Therefore, we shouldn’t believe in Zeus.

Given this serious argument, there’s little point in further addressing the arguments trying to reconcile Zeus’s omniscience with free will. That’s no better a use of our time than taking on theologians’ “serious” arguments about whether Zeus was raised by the goat Amalthea, the nymph Adamanthea, or the nymph Cynosura. Or theologians’ “serious” arguments about why Zeus would have married his sister. Or even theologians’ “serious” arguments about whether Zeus punished Tantalus for cannibalism or for stealing a golden dog.

In fact, given the wide range of things Zeus is claimed to have done, one could spend one’s entire life grapping with philosophers’ “serious arguments” about them. It’s pretty obvious that this wouldn’t be a productive use of anyone’s time.

(The article also contains a wide variety of name-calling, which doesn’t really merit my attention, as it didn’t mention me explicitly.)

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Roger Ebert is one of my favorite essayists. I don’t tend to agree with him on which movies are good (mostly because I only like movies if they are about wizards or vampires or both), but I tend to find his musings interesting. Unfortunately, this week his essay demonstrates a pretty fundamental confusion about atheism:

If I don’t believe God exists, that doesn’t mean I believe God doesn’t exist.

I shouldn’t blame him, as it appears that even the normally-infallible Wikipedia accepts this distinction too.

According to this line of thinking, there is some sort of “important” difference between the statements:

1. I believe there is no god. (strong)
2. I do not believe there is a god. (weak)

This is stupid, as the following conversation demonstrates:

Woman: It looks like your battery is dead. Are your jumper cables in the trunk?
Man: I don’t think they’re in the trunk.
Woman: You think your jumper cables aren’t in the trunk?
Man: THAT’S NOT WHAT I SAID! I said, I don’t think they’re in the trunk.
Woman: Isn’t that what I said?
Man: No, you said that I thought they weren’t in the trunk!
Woman: What’s the difference?

Of course, we are sympathetic to the woman here, not only because she got called a “philosophical ninny”, but also because (unlike Ebert) she makes total sense.

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