I want to say a little more about George Pitcher…
There’s the way he began his nasty squib about the putative “shrillness” of Richard Dawkins.
There’s something divine in the air. Agnostics and atheists are beginning to nod respectfully in the direction of the Almighty, while still, of course, maintaining that He’s not there.
Jokey, in a way, but he also means it. He especially means the assumption that underlies it: that we (we atheists, we humans in general) owe “the Almighty” our respectful nods. That the Almighty is entitled to them, and that we are obliged to give them.
That’s a stupid assumption, but more than that, it’s an inherently authoritarian, illiberal, hierarchical, dictatorial one. It may seem less so than the demands of a physical, present dictator or mob boss, but in a way it’s more so because the dictator is not physical and present. Pitcher’s “Almighty” is explicitly absent; it’s unavailable; it’s hidden away and mysterious and sekrit. This means we can’t negotiate with it or protest its decisions, much less boot it out or send it to prison for crimes against humanity.
Pitcher is attempting to shore up the principle of submission. There’s nothing “divine” about that.
The same applies to his boneless gesture at the epistemology of theism –
The problem is that faith isn’t primarily evidential, as he demands it to be, but revelatory…
If that’s true, you see, it makes “faith” fundamentally arbitrary and incorrigible, and thus authoritarian and dictatorial. “Revelation” is in fact often treated as “dictation” by the deity. This is a bad way to think about things that people are supposed to heed and respect and obey. It’s morally bad, epistemically bad, politically bad – it’s bad all around.
That’s what the god-botherers need to start realizing. It’s not that atheists need to start to “nod respectfully in the direction of the Almighty,” it’s that theists need to stop trying to make everyone bow to the principle of arbitrary authority.