However childish


Speaking of the dopy endlessly-recycled vendetta against gnu atheism, John Gray obliges with another iteration of his version, via a perfunctory review of some book or other which he barely notices.

It is only the illiteracy of the current generation of atheists that leads them to think religious practitioners must be stupid or thoughtless. Were Augustine, Maimonides and al-Ghazali – to mention only religious thinkers in monotheist traditions – lacking in intellectual vitality? The question is absurd but the fact it can be asked at all might be thought to pose a difficulty for de Botton. His spirited and refreshingly humane book aims to show that religion serves needs that an entirely secular life cannot satisfy. He will not persuade those for whom atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish.

I can do that. It is only the thoughtless stupidity of the current generation of John Grays that leads them to think atheists must be illiterate. See? It’s easy! Shall I try another? He will not persuade those for whom hatred of atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish.

I can haz New Statesman gig now?

[De Botton] shows how much in our way of life comes from and still depends on religion – communities, education, art and architecture and certain kinds of kindness, among other things. I would add the practice of toleration, the origins of which lie in dissenting religion, and sceptical doubt, which very often coexists with faith.

Depends on? Communities, education, art, and architecture depend on religion? No they don’t. (The “certain kinds of kindness” can be made true just by definition – religious kinds, for instance.) And toleration has other sources than dissenting religion, and very often coexisting hardly amounts to depending on. Skeptical doubt can coexist with “faith” (though not really with faith, which is its opposite), but coexisting with is much more minimal and undemanding than depending on.

Today’s atheists will insist that these goods can be achieved without religion. In many instances this may be so but it is a question that cannot be answered by fulminating about religion as if it were intrinsically evil. Religion has caused a lot of harm but so has science. Practically everything of value in human life can be harmful. To insist that religion is peculiarly malignant is fanaticism, or mere stupidity.

He says, insisting and fulminating, either fanatically or stupidly.

The church of humanity is a prototypical modern example of atheism turned into a cult of collective self-worship.

Oh look, it’s narcissism again!

It’s good that John Gray is so thoughtful and careful and non-self-worshipping.

Comments

  1. says

    I would add the practice of toleration, the origins of which lie in dissenting religion

    Yes, because religion is so very tolerant of dissenting opinions.

  2. says

    Today’s atheists will insist that these goods can be achieved without religion. In many instances this may be so…

    If so, then they don’t depend on religion! Get your story straight, dude.
    For that matter, it’s not just that they can be achieved without religion. They are achieved without religion every day. This guy is so completely out of touch with reality, it’s not even funny.

    The Gnu atheists are often accused of being arrogant, but it’s kinda hard not to be when the people on the other side keep saying such stupid things.

  3. says

    “[de Botton’s] spirited and refreshingly humane book aims to show that religion serves needs that an entirely secular life cannot satisfy.”

    So do the myths of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. They arguably make life happier for many, particularly in their early years. Being ‘satisfied’ by a story as against being dissatisfied by reality has been the way to go for many. Trouble is, they get crappy with people who won’t buy the myth.

  4. devdasdavids says

    As I wrote on WEIT, I think of John Gray as a prime example of intellectualism gone astray. He is an atheist but you wouldn’t know that from many of the articles he writes.

    I often wonder about the thinking of such people: what exactly went wrong, where and how? In other words, what’s Gray’s pathology?

    (Having read his book Straw Dogs (a fascinating book btw), I’m tempted to think his problem is that he’s essentially a nihilist. If anyone familiar with Gray’s work thinks that’s a mischaracterisation, and can explain why, I’d be happy to be corrected.)

  5. Brigadista says

    Ian @ 5

    Trouble is, they get crappy with people who won’t buy the myth.

    Absolutely, and this is something I just don’t understand. What’s the big problem if we don’t buy into their fairy-tale world? Why should they be bothered if we blow our chance of entering their imagined paradise?

    Perhaps they’ve actually started to realise that their rituals and incantations seem rather foolish and don’t bear close examination. Next step: sticking their fingers in their ears and going “lalala not listening”.

  6. John Morales says

    Such people are best left with their certainties,
    however childish.

    Such rhetorical sophistry!

    (Semantically, this is equivalent to claiming “Such people are best left with their certainties, however not childish.”)

  7. avh1 says

    No, no you can’t have a New Statesman gig Ophelia. You’d raise the tone unacceptably. ;

    Also I’m bemused by this idea that an entirely secular life can’t be satisfying. I have a very happy life with no religion whatsoever (and the one exception to that isn’t one that more religion would solve anyway). And from what I’ve heard lurking here at FtB, I’m not the only one who could truthfully make the above statement, not by a long shot.

  8. Stella says

    I don’t find Augustine or Maimonides particularly brilliant, and certainly not vital for contemporary morality (misogyny, anyone?). Al-Ghazali I am not familiar with, though I have studied Islam a bit, including taking a university course on Mohammed and his era.

    Try again, John Gray!

  9. octopod says

    Al-Ghazali? The guy whose reasoning singlehandedly undermined the Islamic Enlightenment, and did to natural theology and rational inquiry a violence from which it has STILL not recovered?

    …ok then. O_o

    (To do him justice, he drew a totally reasonable conclusion; he just had one catastrophically bad axiom and was the first to notice that it was so…)

  10. David Evans says

    “Were Augustine, Maimonides and al-Ghazali – to mention only religious thinkers in monotheist traditions – lacking in intellectual vitality?”

    No. Nor was Newton – in fact I would argue that he outclassed them all. That does not mean I have to respect his alchemical ideas or his obsession with predicting the apocalypse.

    It’s very hard to completely escape the influence of one’s culture. Science may be our best way of doing it, and even that’s not guaranteed.

  11. Rrr says

    If it is indeed that John Gray, he was on Skavlan’s tv show recently, talking incessantly about the need to LISTEN to what The Other had to say. When the host finally got a word in sideways and suggested that maybe he could let another guest speak for 30 seconds, he managed to keep quiet for about 3. The entire tuned-in universe was immensely amused, but I suspect the point soared in a completely different orbit from John’s meteor [meatier?] trajectory.

  12. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Were Augustine, Maimonides and al-Ghazali – to mention only religious thinkers in monotheist traditions – lacking in intellectual vitality?

    If you can’t find anyone of “intellectual vitality” that lived after the 12th century to lend support for your opinion, that should be a major clue that it has problems.

  13. says

    And what’s really weird is that the Amazon.com image for the author of Straw Dogs is an image of the same man who wrote Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. (The actual author would need to personally contact Amazon.com to correct the erroneous Amazon.com author photo, it appears.) Wires are getting crossed all over the place because of the similarity of their names.

  14. Rich Woods says

    I had finished writing a carefully-reasoned rebuttal of John Grey’s remarks, but just as I was about to post it I remembered that I’m supposed to be childish so instead I’ll just say he’s a dick.

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