Arkansas is promoting sexual ignorance »« I, for one, welcome our future squishily pneumatic robot overlords

You, too, can be a good atheist if only you respected God a lot more

I just can’t warp my brain in the way required to be a good atheist, I’m afraid. R. Joseph Hoffman is doing his usual schtick of whining about those philistine New Atheists, and this time his point is that we’ve diminished atheism and turned it into a “little idea” instead of the grand powerful concept it ought to be. And how did we do that? By not giving enough credit to a god.

When did atheism cease to be a big idea? When atheists made God a little idea. When its idea of god shriveled to become a postulate of a new intellectual Darwinism. When they began to identify unbelief with being a woman, a gay, a lesbian, or some other victimized cadre. When they decided that religion is best described as a malicious and retardant cultural force that connives to prevent us being the Alpha Race of super-intelligences and wholly equal beings that nature has in store for us. When they elevated naturalism, already an outmoded view of the universe, to a cause, at the expense of authentic imagination.

Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion: its god is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will. –Let alone a God so powerful that this will could evolve into Nature’s God–the god of Jefferson and Paine–and then into the laws of nature, as it did before the end of the eighteenth century in learned discussion and debate.

What a load of jaw-droppingly stupid bollocks.

Atheists believe god is non-existent — you can’t make it much smaller than that. If you’re postulating a grand great god while proclaiming your atheism, you’re doing one or the other wrong.

There is no requirement to be a lesbian to be an atheist (there are a lot of us who’d be very surprised to discover that the people he later names as prominent are all gay or lesbian minorities). But there is an appreciation that you don’t have to be an old white heterosexual guy to benefit from reason and science and liberation from old superstitions.

I don’t believe atheists are an “Alpha Race of super-intelligences”, or that they are becoming such. Atheists are just people…people who’ve shed a parasite.

Naturalism is outmoded? Hoffman doesn’t get out much, I guess.

I have an interesting mental picture now of who R. Joseph Hoffman regards as a good atheist: it’s an old white heterosexual guy (so far I qualify!) who thinks god is all-powerful and that religion is a useful way to understand the universe. Poor Hoffman. He’s searching for a paradox, so I think he’s going to be a frustrated crank the rest of his life, as he watches a logically consistent form of atheism overwhelm his impossible ideal.


Larry Moran also finds Hoffman to be a bit dotty.

Comments

  1. Glen Davidson says

    Oh well, nothing like Darwin to blame for yet another fatuous expositor.

    Gee, with the “God” we’re told about being so little, how was atheism supposed to be a big idea? And don’t tell me about how grand the Deistic god was, that’s nonsense. Inflated, true, but really it was such a distant and small god that you could pretty much ignore the little thing.

    God always got smaller, and was always being purported to be bigger in order to compensate.

    Glen Davidson

  2. shouldbeworking says

    With logic like that I could be a famous NHL player, if only I believed I could skate, check, shoot and not die of a heart attack. Look out you Calgary Flames, Gretzky Mark Ii is coming to a rink near you!

  3. melody says

    R. Joseph Hoffman only cares who is buttering his bread. Let a “New Atheist” hire him and he’ll change his tune.

  4. janine says

    Funny thing. I did not become an atheist because the concept of evolution dislodged god from my thought process. In fact, it took a few years for me to become comfortable that life’s only goal is to make more life.

  5. Mattir says

    Hoffman is obviously an idiot. But I do think that it’s really helpful to recognize how beliefs in gods started out as a quasi-scientific hypothesis, and how the idea of god has shifted from the Magic Sky Fairy to non-theistic ideas about values, ethics, human rights, and the like.

    My atheism draws on a long intellectual tradition with a whole lot of theism in it. With this perspective, I even read theistic stuff, from the Bible to Gilgamesh to Ignatius Loyola to Nachman of Breslov, and find useful ideas in it without having to believe in a Super-Duper-Omnipotent-Master-of-the-Universe-Magic-Sky-Fairy™.

    Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God is a very good tracing of the idea of god from shamanism through universal human rights.

  6. d cwilson says

    Isn’t this just another variation on the old canard that “atheists are angry at gawd”?

    I will give him one point, though. Gawd should be considerd a “big idea”. Few ideas have had as much influence over the course of history.

    But that’s all gawd is, an idea. Like Luke Skywalker is an idea.

  7. kosk11348 says

    If you’re postulating a grand great god while proclaiming your atheism, you’re doing one or the other wrong.

    Yep. Hoffman reminds me of Scheisskopf’s wife:

    “Stop it! Stop it!” Leiutenant Scheisskopf’s wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists. “Stop it!”

    “What the hell are you getting so upset about?” Yossarian asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

    “I don’t,” she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.”

    –from Catch 22

  8. daenyx says

    You would think that, by now, I would know that seeing comic sans meant I was about to experience a mental segfault, and at least be prepared for it. Not so much. The stupid is so intense it burns.

  9. Brownian says

    Gosh, if we’re that unsophisticated and small-minded in our thinking about GOD!!one!!, I wonder what Hoffman (and David Hart, and James Wood, and Terry Eagleton) must think of all of those believers who believe in a green elf with a stick and outnumber us four or five to one.

    Or is it still their contention that every theist besides Fred Phelps and Mohamed Atta has a nuanced understanding of god that written down would rival the works of Aquinas if it weren’t for their illiteracy in Latin?

  10. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    1.Fuck you, Hoffman, for dismissing me and my compadres and our experiences.

    2. If you hate candid atheism so much go work for Templeton. Seriously. You malign people who agree with you quite viciously. It’s impossible to grok.

  11. you_monster says

    I don’t get what his beef is. If a theist is positing a HUGE, MAGNIFICENT GOD, i’ll disbelieve hir. If xe is positing a tiny, deistic god, I’ll disbelieve that one too.

    Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion: its god is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will.

    I don’t conceive of god in either of those ways because i don’t think a god fucking exists. What a fuckwit.

    When they decided that religion is best described as a malicious and retardant cultural force that connives to prevent us being the Alpha Race of super-intelligences and wholly equal beings that nature has in store for us.

    What a beautiful strawman. Take out the bullshit second half of that statement and it makes some sense though. I do see religion as a malicious and harmful cultural force.

  12. Larry says

    So, to be an atheist, one must first believe in a powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, god-thingy, right?

    But then, one wouldn’t be an atheist because atheists don’t believe in god-thingies, all-knowing or not.

    Re-compute…

    Abort…
    Abort…

    {…head explodes…}

  13. lofgren says

    I don’t really get the outgroup cadre thing. It does seem to imply that these groups have trivial problems with religion, as if their atheism is entirely reactionary and not the result of the same processes that led us white heteros to atheism. My neighbor is a gay Christian, so I know that being gay does not turn you into an atheist. Could it be that gay people are also capable of critical thinking and investigation of the world around them? It’s unsurprising that they would feel a stronger impetus to do so when religious people loudly insist that their love is evil.

    I think the most telling sentence is here:

    ["New" Atheism] cannot represent skepticism in a methodological way because science and philosophy and even theology have been there and do it.

    Theology is methodological skepticism. It’s like he has no idea what any of those three words mean.

    I think the idea of god has been shrinking for the past five centuries or so. In order to make it into a big idea, atheists would have to actually build it up before we tear it down again. That’s silly. Better to just squash it under our heels like the impertinent wasp it has become. After all, we’re not the ones who have relegated Jesus’ modern miracles to a self portraits on burnt toast. That was the believers all the way.

  14. says

    Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion: its god is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will.

    Jesus Christ, I just decoded everything Hoffman says. It’s the Hipster’s Lament

    “It’s popular now it sucks!”

  15. Randomfactor says

    Ing, I think he’s more telling atheists to shut up and stop complaining about the discrimination–since that kind of inaction worked so well for women’s suffrage, black civil rights and the like.

  16. Dhorvath, OM says

    I wish deities were a small idea, something we could just ignore in the corner like fantastic creatures. Sadly it’s bigger. It’s bigger because there are so many who believe, it’s bigger because they believe so many different things, it’s bigger because believers see that diversity as evidence for their belief, it’s bigger because it influences how believers think and behave – often in horrible ways, and it’s bigger because the deity idea even forces non-believers to think about it.
    This is one of the broadest problems going, and no amount of reduction makes it tractible.

  17. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    That’s what the atheist militia, the campaigners, the billboard mongers are: people who just say “Duh” when they are asked about the existence of God.

    I’m eagerly awaiting the day when most people’s response to that question is “Duh” or “Yeah, right” or something equally pedestrian. We’re not taking discussions about the existence of fairies and unicorns seriously, right? But gods need to be discussed with respect and all seriousness.

  18. consciousness razor says

    Atheists believe god is non-existent — you can’t make it much smaller than that.

    Oh, PZ, how terribly wrong you are. My non-existent god is much, much larger than you or I can possible imagine. I have made it so mind-bogglingly, impossibly powerful and huge because that is the only way I can convince myself it might not exist. It is a being made of so much straw that it will take longer than the lifetime of the universe to burn it. Yet that is exactly what we must do. Nothing, not women or gays, not even naturalism, can save us from spending the rest of our pathetic lives setting it afire and savoring the caustic fumes. Only the non-existent God can.

  19. Stacy says

    You malign people who agree with you quite viciously. It’s impossible to grok.

    Oh, if you know much about Hoffman, it’s very easy to grok. Hoffman cares about Hoffman. He wants to be seen as an Important Intellectchoowul. Most of all, he wants attention, and it frosts his weeny that the Gnus get more than he does.

  20. says

    Call me a literal nitpicker, but doesn’t he call his god an imaginary thing?

    “…they elevated naturalism, already an outmoded view of the universe, to a cause, at the expense of authentic imagination.”

    Apparently, the true ability to imagine is found by blindly following a religion, and then you worship that imaginary god. I’ll pass.

  21. illuminata says

    He, at most, implied it…the most charitable explanation is that he is just a hopelessly confused and incompetent thinker and writer.

    Agreed. And, the way its written, he actually sort of comes off as a befuddled old white dude from “yesteryear” who has traveled to our time and is totally confused why all those not-white, not-male and/or not-straight creatures are allowed to have an opinion.

    Not in the bigotted sense (necessarily) but in the clueless and obliviously privileged sense.

  22. vicarofartonearth says

    Saint Czar Nicholas II said it best, God creates everything and God created me Czar and autocrat of all Russias, to go against me is to go against God.

  23. lofgren says

    [Atheists believe that religion] connives to prevent us being the Alpha Race of super-intelligences and wholly equal beings that nature has in store for us.

    Riiight. Atheists believe that nature is directed and purposeful. That sounds like a completely accurate assessment of belief system. I had no idea that theistic evolution was an obvious necessary conclusion of atheism. Clearly, we should all apologize for all of those stealth attempts to smuggle atheism into classroom with intelligent design.

  24. illuminata says

    and it frosts his weeny

    I have no idea what this means, but I LOL’d at it. You win the thread.

  25. =8)-DX says

    “When they began to identify unbelief with being a woman, a gay, a lesbian, or some other victimized cadre.”

    You turn that round and it comes out as:

    “When they began to say that religion in the West had been helping to enforce the White heterosexual patriarchy.”

    Yeah, nonbelievers REALLY started getting petty when they were taking seriosly the rights of women and minorities, and talking about an egalitarian society, and how damaging religion is and has been in this regard.

  26. says

    It’s totally a class argument, isn’t it? The philosopher/academic class is allowed to be atheist because they have the natural benefits that suit their exalted position. In their mindset, scientists are mere technicians no different than a plumber or mechanic, and are therefore unworthy of holding a position on matters above their station. Just imagine the clutching of pearls at the idea of ACTUAL plumbers and mechanics being atheists… they can hardly conceive of the idea.

  27. janine says

    When they began to identify unbelief with being a woman, a gay, a lesbian, or some other victimized cadre.

    If only they all became atheists.

  28. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    and it frosts his weeny

    I have no idea what this means, but I LOL’d at it. You win the thread.

    I have experienced a “frosted weeny” and I will tell you, it is no laughing matter.

  29. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Come, fellow atheists, join me in song!

    Our god is a slightly nonexistent but awesome god,
    He reigns from heaven above
    With wisdom, power, and love;
    Our god is a slightly nonexistent but awesome god. (repeat)

    When he rolls up his sleeves,
    He ain’t just putting on the ritz,
    (our god is a slightly nonexistent but awesome god)
    There is thunder in his footsteps
    And lightning in his fists
    (our god is a slightly nonexistent but awesome god)

    The lord wasn’t joking when he kicked them out of eden,
    It wasn’t for no reason that he shed his blood,
    Coming soon, you better be believing
    (our god is a slightly nonexistent but awesome god)

    And now everybody!

  30. illuminata says

    I have experienced a “frosted weeny” and I will tell you, it is no laughing matter.

    Aer we talking frozen hotdogs, or a much, much, MUCH worse frozen weenie?

    *starts knitting the Rev a weeny warmer*

  31. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    It’s totally a class argument, isn’t it?

    Oh yes, it’s about class. In the section surrounding the part I quoted in #23 he talks about dumb people who used “Duh” as an added explanation to already obtuse comments. As far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong) that’s a word associated with uneducated and/or poor masses. Basically, modern atheists are dumb people who can’t discuss God properly. At least, that’s what I’m getting from that part.

    I really should finally read the whole article.

  32. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Aer we talking frozen hotdogs, or a much, much, MUCH worse frozen weenie?

    There was a frozen Wyoming waterfall, a 3 hour belay and a shitty climbing partner if that’s any hint.

    no bueno

    I would have killed for a weeny warmer… hell any kind of warmer.

  33. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Tyrant of Skepsis ,

    I haven’t had much chance to hear the word in the wild, only on TV, so my perception might be wrong.

  34. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Really though, is this guy complaining about “new atheists” not making nay new arguments while making the same tired arguments that all “new atheists” critics make and have made for years?

  35. ombak says

    So among the many strawmen contained in the article is the “science is your religion” nonsense. And he thinks “some scientists are religious” is somehow a way of dealing with that strawman.

    Bizarred nonsense, all of it predicated on his own false image of who I or any other atheist is.

  36. illuminata says

    There was a frozen Wyoming waterfall, a 3 hour belay and a shitty climbing partner if that’s any hint.

    omfg no. Apologies for cracking the joke. I was actually thinking “frosts his weeny” as is cake frosting, not frostbite.

  37. cafink says

    I agree that it’s not particularly clear, but I’m pretty sure his point about “a woman, a gay, a lesbian” is that the new atheists consider themselves a victimized minority in the way that the aforementioned groups are.

  38. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Also, I’ll totally use “Duh” in discussions about God from now on. I wouldn’t want to be mixed with those sophisticated atheists who contemplate God for ages and look down on everyone who doesn’t disrespect him with enough respect.
    Duh!

  39. says

    Its god is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will. –Let alone a God so powerful that this will could evolve into Nature’s God

    Wrong, Hoffman. The gods atheists don’t believe in include the green elf with a stick, the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will, and the Nature’s God of the 18th Century deists. All three of those god concepts are equally ridiculous and equally useless.

  40. ombak says

    Apologies for the extra post, but the whole idea of discussing god on the terms he expects is no more interesting to me than discussing Star Trek continuity or LotR mythology and so on. No amount of discussing it makes it real. That he values it based on tradition alone is not enough to make me pick that discussion over any other fictional subject I could spend my time on.

  41. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    omfg no. Apologies for cracking the joke. I was actually thinking “frosts his weeny” as is cake frosting, not frostbite.

    Ha, yeah it happened but I was joking about not joking about it.

    Or something like that.

    frosted weeny is no bueno.

    Never climbed with that guy again.

  42. pacomius says

    Alas, I could not find a link to a video clip of the classic Not the Nine O’clock News skit, but I was immediately reminded of the following:

    Counsel: This receipt is for the digital watch…
    Judge: …a digital watch? What on earth is a “digital watch”?
    Counsel: Sorry m’lud. A digital watch is a watch worked by microelectronics.
    Judge: Oh! How fascinating. Proceed.
    Counsel: The next receipt is for an automatic video recorder…
    Judge: …”automatic video recorder”?
    Counsel: Yes, I’m sorry m’lud. It’s a machine that records television programmes on special tape.
    Judge: Oh, how fascinating. What will they think of next? Proceed.
    Counsel: Thank you m’lud. And finally, a receipt for a “deluxe model inflatable woman”, whatever that is.
    Judge: The Deluxe is the one with the real hair…

  43. says

    I think what he’s really asking for isn’t a contradiction, exactly. I think what he’s asking for is the same thing other accomodationalists are asking for, just in a more awkward way. It seems like he longs for the time when The Learned™ could debate politely amongst themselves, some believing in God, some not believing, but all having a jolly sophisticated time of it. I think he imagines Spinoza and Hume and Jefferson and Thomas Aquinas all sitting in a mahogany drawing room, sipping tea when he thinks of religious discussion, and he expects the rest of us to live up to that nonsensical ideal.

  44. Glen Davidson says

    In many ways, Darwin’s God was enormous early on, a God who made a whole lot of “laws” that drove evolution without his having to step in at all.

    But his God was also very thin and misty, easily brushed aside. That’s why he went agnostic at the end (sure, the daughter’s death, but again, that’s part of his being a huge and useless god that did nothing).

    Glen Davidson

  45. Randomfactor says

    All we atheists want to do is shrink the “god” notion until we can drown it in the baptismal font.

  46. Brownian says

    Really though, is this guy complaining about “new atheists” not making nay new arguments while making the same tired arguments that all “new atheists” critics make and have made for years?

    Yes. Apparently, one of the Big Truths™ that only theology can elucidate is that Contemporary New Atheists aren’t Nietzsche, which is probably apparent to any unsophisticate aware that he died in 1900.

    It’s too bad, too. If he were still around, he might remind them that wenn du lange in einen Bauchnabel blickst, blickt der Bauchnabel auch in dich hinein.

  47. says

    Wait, hold on… at least “green elf with a stick” are properties that can actually be tested and held up to some sort of inquiry. His BS “nature’s god” nonsense is indistinguishable for a nonexistent one… which I guess is his definition of “sophisticated.”

  48. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    A couple of years ago, as I left work at the end of the day, I started to walk past an older woman standing on the sidewalk. Knowing that the park would close soon, including the parking lot gate, I paused and asked if she needed help. No, no help needed, she was waiting for her husband to walk over to the mall, find their car, and then drive over to pick her up. I offered to wait with her (as I was the one locking the gate anyway, it made sense). Fifteen minutes later (trust me, I really am going somewhere with this!) her husband finally arrived. She thanked me and told me that I was truly one of gods’ treasures.

    I smiled and, since, though still in uniform, I was off duty, and said, “I doubt it ma’am. I’m an atheist.”

    She patted my hand and said, “Oh, no. You couldn’t be. You are far too nice. Forgive gods and he will come back into your life. There is no reason to be angry at him.”

    I replied, “Since ‘he’ is immaginary, you are correct. No reason to be angry.”

    The idea that atheists actually exist was so far outside of her world view that, even when talking with a self-identified atheist, she still refused to believe that I existed. Reading the OP, I had the nagging feeling that the writer was arguing that atheists do not actually exist, we merely lack the, uh, I dunno, ability? imagination? faith? to actually see the real big gods and that, once we get over our anger?, we will see that we are merely petulant youngsters meddling in things we cannot possibly comprehend.

    And, on another note, when did ‘naturalism’ get supplanted as reality?

  49. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Also from the article:

    Atheism until fairly recently has been about a disappointing search for god that ends in failure, disillusionment, despair, and finally a new affirmation of human ingenuity that is entirely compatible with both science and art.

    And people accuse PZ of attaching too much additional meaning to being an atheist.
    This guy would want us all to go through a Greek tragedy before we finally light up our cigars and contemplate God a bit more. What a pompous classist ass.

  50. ewanmacdonald says

    @cafink 51:

    That wasn’t how I read it, but reading it back now, it makes sense. Agree that it’s not clear but at least now it’s slightly less horrifying. I mean, aside from the fact that unbelievers quite simply are victimised in much of the world – even some in the West.

  51. ewanmacdonald says

    @65 Beatrice, anormalement indécente:

    What I want to know is, how is the frightful, modern, arriviste, unsophisticated atheism any less compatible with both science and art than that of someone who skipped the last chapter of Kierkegaard?

  52. says

    Everyone know that elves aren’t green. Heretic!!!! Let’s burn him at the stake!!! And they dare not carry something as worthless as a mere “stick”. No the grasp their mighty staff.

  53. kemist says

    That’s what the atheist militia, the campaigners, the billboard mongers are: people who just say “Duh” when they are asked about the existence of God.

    Does not compute.

    Isn’t that what atheists should strive for ?

    Heck, I live in a place where people under 80 who believe in gawd have to justify their kookiness, often blushing, stammering and blushing in shame as they do it. We have a mayor who is the butt of every crazy nut jokes because he hangs on to his prayers in office despite popular protest.

    And I wouldn’t exchange this incredible luck for a place where I must be ready to face discrimination just for speaking my mind on freaking nonsense.

    Maybe this doofus misses the attention that comes with martyrdom.

    Anyway god has no choice getting smaller. The gaps where he can hide are getting narrower day by day. It is the doing of science, and its seemingly “out-of-date” naturalism.

  54. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    I agree that it’s not particularly clear, but I’m pretty sure his point about “a woman, a gay, a lesbian” is that the new atheists consider themselves a victimized minority in the way that the aforementioned groups are

    If that’s what he meant, he is a terrible writer:


    When they began to identify unbelief with being a woman, a gay, a lesbian, or some other victimized cadre.

    From reading this, I think he laments the PZ Myers brand of progressive liberal non-dictionary atheism (TM), he’s not drawing an analogy here.

  55. Randomfactor says

    And, on another note, when did ‘naturalism’ get supplanted as reality?

    Haven’t you been watching the Republican debates? Since ’round about Reagan, I recall.

  56. Rey Fox says

    Holy shit, what a pompous smeghead.

    There was nothing “mistaken” about belief in God, and the fact that there is probably no god does not lessen his significance. No distant galaxy of more intelligent beings has sent us an error message about the God thing. God is no more “wrong” than a carriage is wrong in relation to a JAG XKR-S. Expensive strokes for modern folks, but as carriage is to sleek design and comfortable travel, so god is to modern understanding.

    I’m seeing echoes of Walton’s monarchy fetish here.

    They eschew mystery, unless it’s connected to a telescopic lens or an electron microscope or a neutrinometer at the Hadron Collider at CERN. “Mystery” is not a state to be enjoyed or celebrated like a good wine or a raven-haired woman with haunting and troubled eyes: it is a temporary state of befuddlement, an unknown sum, an uncharted particle, a glimpse of a distant galaxy, the possibility that Mars supported microbial life.

    Oh, heaven help me. We’re just too darned pragmatic. Not only that, but a significant chunk of us is probably not interested in “celebrating” the raven-haired woman in the way I’m sure he does.

    When they began to identify unbelief with being a woman, a gay, a lesbian, or some other victimized cadre.

    More straight white dudes mad that they have to share the clubhouse.

    That’s the way Sartre thought of it. –A conclusion forced upon us by the dawning recognition that we are both the source and solution to our despair. That is what Walter Lippmann thought in 1929, when he described the erosion of belief by the acids of modernity. This atheism was respectful of the fact that God is a very big idea, a sublime idea, and that abandoning such an idea could not take place as a mere reckoning at one moment in time; it had to happen as a process that included hatred, alienation and what Whitehead saw as “reconciliation” with the idea of God.

    Ah, here it is again: The problem is that we’re just not SAD enough about killing God.

    When they decided that religion is best described as a malicious and retardant cultural force that connives to prevent us being the Alpha Race of super-intelligences and wholly equal beings that nature has in store for us.

    Oh for the love of fuck. It’s like those Prius haters out there, they can’t stand that someone is trying to make the world a better place in some small way, and have to bring them down to their level. Make the perfect seem like an absurdity and thus discredit any attempts to make things better. In other words, the view of the troglodyte.

    When they elevated naturalism, already an outmoded view of the universe, to a cause, at the expense of authentic imagination.

    This is, I guess, the part where he shows his better and more accurate view of the universe. Which is…authentic imagination? I wonder what it is about my imagination that makes it inauthentic? Is he seriously seeing the creation of grander bullshit as a virtue?

    Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion: its god is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will. –Let alone a God so powerful that this will could evolve into Nature’s God–the god of Jefferson and Paine–and then into the laws of nature, as it did before the end of the eighteenth century in learned discussion and debate.

    Hey Dingus, that “evolution” you’re seeing? That means we’re winning. That means we’re chasing God into smaller and smaller gaps. Maybe that makes him grander to intellectual masturbators, but to those who actually get shit done, it makes him smaller and smaller.

    Was it only ten years ago that relatively dumb people were saying “Duh” to obtuse comments that they were afraid equally dumb people might miss without the exclamation, usually prefaced with, “I mean like.…” The fad was almost as annoying as the similarly valenced interjection “Hello?” which had to be said with the speaker four inches from your face, head tilted. Modern culture, this is to say, has survived the tyranny of not very bright bright-lovers, the opinionated, the anti-obtusity of the obtuse. That’s what the atheist militia, the campaigners, the billboard mongers are: people who just say “Duh” when they are asked about the existence of God.

    I don’t know if this all is so much the Hipster’s Lament as it is the plaintive wail of the old-timer for the New Atheists to get off his lawn.

  57. says

    Hoffman: “In my day, we didn’t have no stones. If an atheist stepped outta line and said there weren’t no God, the Christians would beat ‘em to death with live chickens. And when an atheist debated, they put barbed wire on their tongue so their arguments would come out nice and sharp. And when atheists went to church (‘t was mandatory back ‘en), they had to carry ten foot wooden crosses on their backs in twenty feet of snow uphill. Both ways!”

  58. Rey Fox says

    His BS “nature’s god” nonsense is indistinguishable for a nonexistent one… which I guess is his definition of “sophisticated.”

    Pretty much. Define God all the way into invisibility, then you can have lovely discussions about the raiment of the Emperor.

  59. Stacy says

    All we atheists want to do is shrink the “god” notion until we can drown it in the baptismal font

    Love it! I think we should adopt this motto; think how us riffing on their slogan will piss off the conservatives.

    Re: “frosts his weeny”–Can’t take credit; IIRC I heard it on Married with Children.

  60. Mattir says

    Oooh, I know a lot of guys who need willy warmers for Kurisimasu, the Japanese festival of love and rampant consumerism. They would mostly be Gnu Atheists Who Disbelieve in Omnipotent Green Hobgoblins, of course.

  61. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    What I want to know is, how is the frightful, modern, arriviste, unsophisticated atheism any less compatible with both science and art than that of someone who skipped the last chapter of Kierkegaard?

    Maybe his “Get off my lawn” stance applies to art and science too? Kids these days can’t do anything properly.

  62. says

    It’s the wine-and-cheese argument. We should enjoy having wine and cheese with believers because that will make everyone happy. And in order to do that, we have to pretend to go along with the concept of a Very Big God, the bigger the better. Because the Very Big God is a concept more worthy of our fellow wine-and-cheese partiers.

    The fact that the Very Big God is just as vaporous as an elf with a stick … that fact must be ignored.

    Where this gets us, I don’t know. Invitations to more wine and cheese parties?

  63. ButchKitties says

    Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion: its god is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will.

    I think there’s a smidgen of truth in this for some atheists. (A smidgen which he lightly skips across on his way back to Stupidland.)

    I used to believe in the big omniscient, omnibenevolent, merciful and just God, until I really thought about what that meant and realized that it was a self-refuting, self-contradictory, and therefore meaningless concept. But I wasn’t ready to be an atheist. I went the Julia Sweeney route of trying to redefine God into something that made more sense, which led me to the God of the Gaps. Then I realized that as we fill those gaps with knowledge, God has fewer mysteries to inhabit. He shrinks. Eventually God shrank to the point that I realized I’d been proclaiming belief in a God so lacking in descriptive properties that it was functionally the same as not believing in a god at all, so I dropped pretense and admitted to myself that I was an atheist.

    Hoffman wishes I held to the hobgoblin theory, but the concept of god is even emptier than that. A green elf with a stick is tiny, but at least it has concrete properties. If I thought God was a green elf with a stick, then at least God is something more than a symbol defined by its inability to be defined, unlike a grand master of the Universe who controls everything with his omnipotent will, yet tells the universe to behave as if there is no will guiding it at all.

    Hoffman really needs to learn the difference between grand symbols and grand substance.

  64. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    I think he is a hopeless case,

    When they elevated naturalism, already an outmoded view of the universe

    this sentence shows that he’s not worth our time.

  65. Moggie says

    Rev:

    There was a frozen Wyoming waterfall, a 3 hour belay and a shitty climbing partner if that’s any hint.

    Francis Collins encounters a frozen waterfall, and experiences God. You encounter a frozen waterfall, and experience… shrinkage. Epiphany: ur doing it wrong.

  66. says

    Francis Collins encounters a frozen waterfall, and experiences God. You encounter a frozen waterfall, and experience… shrinkage. Epiphany: ur doing it wrong.

    Francis Collins must have had a fur-lined weeny warmer.

    And that, my friends, explains a lot. That experience of the transcendent ….

    This is a thread derail that I like. It’s much more interesting to discuss the Rev BDC’s weeny, and the various hardships it has endured, that it is to figure out what the hell R. Joseph Hoffman hopes to accomplish.

  67. KG says

    I think he’s more telling atheists to shut up and stop complaining about the discrimination–since that kind of inaction worked so well for women’s suffrage, black civil rights and the like. – RandomFactor

    Well of course establishment atheists like Hoffmann have scarcely suffered from such discrimination, at least for the last century (the same, of course, is true of Dawkins, hence the tin ear he displays on occasion). What I pick up from his astoundingly self-satisfied blog is that he resents people who are not experts on early Christianity becoming atheists, and without even getting postgraduate degrees from the right universities. It’s telling that his latest whinge cites Leo Strauss approvingly; Strauss is often viewed as the progenitor of the neocons, and while probably an atheist himself, considered religion essential for keeping the proles in line.

  68. miker42 says

    Oh no. I’ve been calling the type of atheism defined by theists, “Goblin Atheism”. This is the mythical monster atheist invented by theistic propaganda. It is defined by theists without observing, interacting with, or trying to describe actual atheists. A Goblin Atheist has attributes like being angry with god or believing something comes from nothing.

    But I realize now that I got it all wrong. It’s actually Hobgoblins. I’m so embarrassed.

  69. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Reminds me that the uneducated James Randi always prominently featured the utterance “Duh” when referring e.g. to Homeopathy in public lectures. Unfortunately, he inadvertently confused it with the expression “D’oh” and wrongly attributed it to Homer Simpson.

  70. you_monster says

    Good Atheism (TM): for those who no longer believe in a Sky-daddy, but still desire to be self-righteous, groveling ass.

  71. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Lynna,

    the Rev BDC’s weeny, and the various hardships it has endured

    what ships?

  72. KG says

    That’s what the atheistleprechaunist militia, the campaigners, the billboard mongers are: people who just say “Duh” when they are asked about the existence of Godleprechauns. – Hoffmann

    FIFH.

  73. Randomfactor says

    What I pick up from his astoundingly self-satisfied blog is that he resents people who are not experts on early Christianity becoming atheists, and without even getting postgraduate degrees from the right universities

    I suspect it’s not commutative: he feels it unnecessary to have a basic understanding of evolution and the evidence for it, for example, since that’s “materialism.” Not important to the debate.

  74. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Ing,

    It calls for a comedy routine for the next atheist conference. “The old atheist’s lament”. It basically writes itself.

  75. KG says

    Damn! for got you need to spell out “strike” now. What I meant was:

    That’s what the atheistleprechaunist militia, the campaigners, the billboard mongers are: people who just say “Duh” when they are asked about the existence of Godleprechauns. – Hoffmann

    FIFH

  76. KG says

    It calls for a comedy routine for the next atheist conference. “The old atheist’s lament”. – Tyrant of Skepsis

    Paging Cuttlefish. Paging Cuttlefish…

  77. jflcroft says

    I don’t get Hoffmann at all. I’ve repeatedly tried to engage him to wring some clarity and sense out of his work, but I have never succeeded in getting anywhere. I think the best thing now is just to leave his stuff to wallow in obscurity.

  78. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    KG,

    splendid idea. Hard to believe that the ol comical cephalopod hasn’t covered that one yet.

  79. Father Ogvorbis, OM says

    Word has come from Morris City
    Word has come to our town
    Word has come from Morris City
    They tell me the gnuatheists are dead.

    Born in ‘ninetythree on a page in Yahoo
    With lots of great writings said
    Born with a spirit the web could not contain
    They tell me the gnuatheists are dead

    It died at the hands of a man named Hoffman
    In a flash of warm imagination
    In the dorm romms and labs the atheists hushed their griping
    They know that gnuatheism is shunned

    No stranger to life, we lived right enough
    No stranger to the glass in our hand
    No stranger to the cause we fought all our life
    Yet they tell me gnuatheism is dead

    Atheism has lost her sweet angry voice
    No longer small gods to behead
    No longer the killing of the gentle elf gods
    For alas! gnuatheism is dead

    (with profound apologies to Fred Geis)

  80. danielrudolph says

    He seems to be arguing that atheism is a distraction and humanism is what matter. This only makes sense if you think religion isn’t anti-humanist. His dismissal of the concerns of sexual minorities is a big give-away here: Religion never threatened his group, therefore anyone who says it threatens them is just a whiner.

  81. Owlmirror says

    I think I know how this works.

    If you say “I don’t believe in a cosmic, universe-sized God”, Hoffman sneers at you for not disbelieving in the still, small voice in the human heart.

    If you say “I don’t believe in a cosmic, universe-sized God or a still, small God”, Hoffman sneers at you for implying that the God that you disbelieve in even has an attribute like “size”, you unsophistimacated philistines who fail to understand proper theolology.

    If you say “I don’t believe in a cosmic, universe-sized God or a still, small God, or a God for whom size is a meaningless concept”, Hoffman sneers at you for being unsophistimacated and for trying to suggest that God is incoherent nonsense.

    He’s playing the semantic equivalent of “Heads I win, tails you lose”, and he plays it like a master debater.

  82. anubisprime says

    Ah Wait…what?… err no…what come again?…
    By the hairy great swinging sweaty danglers of Beelzebub ‘wot the tarnation is doofus claiming here?

    That atheists in order to have a great big valid world view of an idea must first believe in the very thing they do not in order to dismiss the concept?

    What a dork, that is ridiculous if not outright howling at the moon insane.
    Then he contends that we believe that our god is a green elf with a stick,..WTF?

    The meds are not working …up the dosage…or get better quality…maybe both.
    That is really quite insane babbling or….he is so confused and conflicted about atheism he cannot adequately express himself in words that actually make sense, which is much the same thing really! in that case he should quit making a public muppet out of himself, it is not clever interesting or even fucking cogent.
    Certainly more then enough to give atheism a bad press as if it has not got enough already, it is the religiotards that traditionally do the projection thang…just saying !

  83. Brownian says

    What I pick up from his astoundingly self-satisfied blog is that he resents people who are not experts on early Christianity becoming atheists, and without even getting postgraduate degrees from the right universities

    I suspect it’s not commutative: he feels it unnecessary to have a basic understanding of evolution and the evidence for it, for example, since that’s “materialism.” Not important to the debate.

    I find it rather base to consider the beliefs of early Christians as a problem to be solved, an unknown sum, an uncharted particle, a glimpse of a distant galaxy, akin the possibility that Mars supported microbial life. Rather, I like to enjoy or celebrate the feeling of mystery I have about about such theological history, much as I would a good wine or a raven-haired woman with haunting and troubled eyes.

    Nonetheless, it’s a real shame theists and the atheists who worship them don’t apply the same stringent criteria to religions such as Christianity. It would be refreshing to read the results of a Pew poll noting that of the more than six billion who claim to believe in gods, only a handful had the qualifications or expertise to explain why they did so with something more substantive than ‘Duh’, and therefore pretty much everyone aside from a few ivory tower holdouts was effectively agnostic.

    “Oh sure,” said the Pope in a recent interview, “there are reportedly over a billion Catholics in the world. But how many of them studied to become so, wrote and defended theses on Catholic dogma; as opposed to falling into it by virtue of birth to a family of Catholics, themselves only nominally so through daily practice, conscientiousness belief, and a few splashes of water at a baptism mill? It would be ridiculous to count them in our ledgers and accept their tithes. On my count, there’s like, six of—what’s that? Dave passed with minor revisions? Fucking A!—so that’s seven of us real, honest-to-God Catholics. Really, you people need to stop paying attention to me as a religious leader of note. We’re really quite a small and ineffective force in the world.”

  84. joshuafisher says

    If there is an award for using the the most words to convey the smallest amount of information I’d say Hoffmann has made a fair attempt at winning it here.

    If you want to protect precious minutes of your life that you will never be able to reclaim, just read this tl;dr

    tl;dr: I pine for the good ol’ days when real, smart people actually earned their atheism. Gnu atheists, you’re doing it wrong.

  85. says

    What James said (@ 96). I saw this days ago, and drew a breath to retort but then decided the hell with it. It’s better to ignore these repetitive mud-throws.

    I think melody has it right (@ 9) – it’s about who signs the paycheck. He writes this stuff to please Paul Kurtz.

    He keeps writing the same post over and over (when he’s not reposting versions he’s already written). It’s all very erudite and witty, but it doesn’t actually say anything. Lots of malevolent generalization about “new atheists” but no specifics so that one can check for veracity. That’s typical of the genre: 2 or 5 or 10 thousand words saying “the new atheists” are horrible horrible horrible. Very enlightening.

    The funniest part is reading the many helpful comments of Stephanie Louise Fisher, who generalizes just as wildly but can’t manage the feline wit. She’s Baldrick to Hoffmann’s Blackadder.

  86. Brownian says

    If there is an award for using the the most words to convey the smallest amount of information I’d say Hoffmann has made a fair attempt at winning it here.

    There is such an award: it’s called a degree in theology, and Hoffman has already won silver.

  87. Gregory Greenwood says

    When did atheism cease to be a big idea? When atheists made God a little idea. When its idea of god shriveled to become a postulate of a new intellectual Darwinism.

    Atheists didn’t make god a little idea. God never existed at all, and even the idea of a grand, sophisticated theology is bunkum – the god construct was always petty, parochial and irrelevant to reality, as is to be expected of a creation of the mythology of Bronze Age goatherds.

    It was the theists that kept trying to squeeze their god delusion into the ever shrinking gaps left by science that created the miraculous vanishing god myth that Hoffman so objects to. Back before reason and the scientific method ruined their fantasising, god was responsible, through direct personal, active agency, for everything from the germination of each seed to the movement of the planets. Unfortunately for the theists, science progressed, and no matter how hard we looked, never did we once find a magic sky fairy pulling levers and turning cranks behind the scenes – only more of those naturalistic processess that Hofman casually derides.

    This left theists with a choice:- accept that god doesn’t have a detectable hand in everything, and so doom their sky fairy to a slow death by a thousand irrelevancies, or declare war on science and reason in totality, and assert their god not merely without evidence, but in the face of evidence of other explanations. The crazy fundies chose the latter path, and continue to display their idiocy to the world to this day, whereas the marginally more sane theists who didn’t want to simply abandon their cherished sky fairy altogther, but couldn’t bring themselves to embrace the raw anti-intellectual madness of the fundmentalists, instead had to construct a rather unconvincing and feeble intellectual fudge that left god lurking just over the scientific horizon in perpetuity – just too small to be spied by the most powerful electron microscope, and just too far away to be seen by the most powerful radio telescope, a notionally omnipotent being forever limited to operating just outside the wavelengths of energy that our technology can detect.

    We didn’t create this curiously sad and limited concept of god – the theists did, as a defence mechansism against accepting that there simply is no evidence for their sky fairy, and that it is merely one more god myth among many, no more real that Zeus, Odin, the FSM, the Pink Qunatum Unicorns or Cthulhu.

    When they began to identify unbelief with being a woman, a gay, a lesbian, or some other victimized cadre.

    Is Hoffman a bigot, or simply a moron too dim to realise the implications of what he has written here? I honestly can’t decide.

    When they decided that religion is best described as a malicious and retardant cultural force that connives to prevent us being the Alpha Race of super-intelligences and wholly equal beings that nature has in store for us.

    I still don’t understand why theists insist on projecting this weird supremacist doctorine onto atheists – we don’t believe in god, that is it. Never once have I heard anyone go on to say “and therefore we are the ubermensch”.

    When they elevated naturalism, already an outmoded view of the universe, to a cause, at the expense of authentic imagination.

    Outmoded? Really? Seems to me that ‘naturalism’ – a materialist understanding of reality as supported by mountains of scientific evidence – actually has the ability to accurately predict phenomena. Unlike, say, religion.

    And as for imagination? That is a fine thing, just so long as it is not allowed to clash with that which actually exists. Imagining that gravity has no hold on you doesn’t allow you to fly without technological assistance, unless Hoffman would care to leap from the roof of a skyscraper and prove me wrong…

    Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion: its god is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will.

    Both these versions of god are equivalent to atheists – neither is supported by evidence, neither exists. What is so complicated about that?

    Let alone a God so powerful that this will could evolve into Nature’s God–the god of Jefferson and Paine–and then into the laws of nature, as it did before the end of the eighteenth century in learned discussion and debate.

    A nice try at stealing the thunder of science there. The ‘Laws of Nature’ amount to no more than a rather florid way of describing that about the natural world that has been observed to exist through the application of the scientific method. No imaginary deities required.

    Why is it that, whenever someone like Hoffman holds forth on how to be a ‘good atheist’, their definition of this supposedly enlightened state always amounts to not being an atheist at all?

  88. Gregory Greenwood says

    Ophelia Benson @ 104;

    The funniest part is reading the many helpful comments of Stephanie Louise Fisher, who generalizes just as wildly but can’t manage the feline wit. She’s Baldrick to Hoffmann’s Blackadder.

    Neither has a tithe of Baldrick’s intellect or natural cunning, let alone that of Blackadder (from the later series, at least).

    As to whether they can match Baldrick’s level of personal hygeine (or share his turnip fetish) I couldn’t possibly say…

    Besides, I think Blackadder may be on our side

  89. Glen Davidson says

    When did atheism cease to be a big idea?

    When people quit holding up pompous asses like Hoffman as the high priests of atheism.

    Now how’s a guy to make a high-class career out of denying totally unevidenced beliefs?

    Glen Davidson

  90. says

    I would imagine his comment about naturalism is a reference to our poor old abused friend quantum mechanics, who gets used by all sorts of crank inclined folks, including some atheists, as a “get out of jail free” card for the supernatural. So, even if there isn’t a God, we can have all sorts of fun stuff like eternal life and psychic powers, because you have all that wacky stuff going on in the quantum world.

  91. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    timgueguen, it is hard to figure out what he meant by that. Maybe he did mean quantum mechanics, but then I would have expected a different buzzword, like mechanistic or deterministic or materialistic or deconstructivist, but not necessarily naturalistic. Does he know what he means?

  92. cybercmdr says

    A green elf with a stick? As opposed to a carved figure on two sticks? I’d rather believe in a jalapeno… on a stick (ref Jeff Dunham).

    This Hoffman sounds like the Newt Gingrich of atheists. Tells everybody he’s smarter than them, and unfortunately he believes it as well.

  93. says

    “My brother (djfav) told me that he posted that Catch-22 quote over there. Let’s see if that comment gets through the approval process. ;)”

    Nah, it’s no longer awaiting moderation. He must have deleted it. Doesn’t surprise me. It was clear from the beginning that he’s a humorless asshole.

  94. mobius says

    Hoffman seems to be terribly confused about whether he is an atheist or some sort of deist. What part of “there is no evidence of gods, therefore we don’t believe in gods” does he not get?

  95. melody says

    Seriously, the guy has a screw loose. He deletes old blogs to cover his tracks and sometimes he writes blogs that completely contradict past blogs depending on who he wants to please. We shouldn’t give him the attention.

  96. Zeppelin says

    From the more complete version that Mr. Moran responds to on his blog:

    “[to those horrid atheists]“Mystery” is not a state to be enjoyed or celebrated like a good wine or a raven-haired woman with haunting and troubled eyes”

    Ah yes, Gallant Sexism.

    Those women are all so special and mysterious. Just look at all their lovely external features that make me want to put my penis in them! In fact, they’re basically the same as booze.
    I’ll just SIT HERE AND FUCKING STARE AT HER. Maybe if I’m feeling especially Gallant, I’ll tell her to “smile”, once I’ve had enough of her looking all haunting and troubled.

    …I can see why he would be confused by atheism’s inclusion of non-white non-heterosexual non-males.

  97. Sastra says

    What atheism and humanism have needed for a long time and once came close to having was a think tank to deal with the theoretical issues of these different movements.

    Ah, Hoffman seems to be very upset that atheists did not come up with the idea for the Templeton Foundation. He would have made such a good director, you see. This would have helped keep atheism away from being populist, i.e. popular among the hoi polloi.

    Others in the comments here have pretty much said what I wanted to say. Hoffman seems to think that the best way for atheism to gain stature is to do so by standing on the shoulders of theologians. That way, the God-shaped hole becomes a Whole-shaped God and we meet in the middle and all have wine and cheese and polite conversation on erudite subjects.

    I say he should be insulted by an invite to speak at the next Skepticon. Let him stew over the dilemma.

  98. KG says

    “a raven-haired woman with haunting and troubled eyes” – R. Joseph Hoffmann

    I imagine any woman having much to do with him would have haunting and troubled eyes, whatever the colour of her hair.

  99. doktorzoom says

    Came to post the Catch-22 quotation, saw it was already up.

    Isn’t it enough to reject all gods, and leave the believers to fight over whose imaginary friend has the toughest, baddest thunderbolts?

  100. =8)-DX says

    I’ve just read through the whole piece, and I think my previous “re:lesbians etc.” comment was probably off the mark. Hoffman’s point was just badly worded and probably did not mean what it appeared to at first glance. The phrase however that really hit me was the following:

    There was nothing “mistaken” about belief in God, and the fact that there is probably no god does not lessen his significance.

    This violates basic logic. If there probably is no God, then it is a mistake to believe in one. Yes, the concept may have had historical significance, but if the concept is just plain wrong, or most probably wrong, then the philosophically significant point would be the counterclaim: there are no gods, and simply to deny gods (or fairies or whatever) should be a basic philosophical requirement, irrespective of whether it stemmed from a consideration of the God hypothesis or not.

    It’s like Hoffman were saying the idea the world is an oblete spheroid is a small idea, unless one considers all the implications of flat-earth theory.

    In my mind rejecting the God-hypothesis should end up bing a simple and natural philosophical exercise for any developing mind similar to rejecting solipsism or nihilism and it’s good we’re moving in that direction.

  101. ibyea says

    It’s like the dude totally missed the point of atheism. Seriously, if you are an atheist, you already made god as small as you could possibly do, which is non existence.

  102. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Maybe if this guy mattered to anyone else I’d consider lighter my boiler of annoyance, but, really, does ANYONE give a crap about his opinions?

    At least that senile exorcist was someone who’d spent a lifetime harming people…

  103. John Morales says

    Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion

    Apparently, Hoffman hasn’t been able to grasp that religion and theism aren’t synonymous; there is merely a large overlap.

  104. kemist says

    “Mystery” is not a state to be enjoyed or celebrated like a good wine or a raven-haired woman with haunting and troubled eyes: it is a temporary state of befuddlement, an unknown sum, an uncharted particle, a glimpse of a distant galaxy, the possibility that Mars supported microbial life.

    Ah.

    Another pompous, vacuous, arrogant dingleberry who thinks knowledge about something diminishes its value.

    It was so much more mysterious and romantic when humans thought that stars were diamonds stuck to the black velour of the sky, wasn’t it ?

    Now we know they are huge balls made out of gas. Of unimaginable size and power. That may have planets just like ours around them. And some of them are actually huge packets of stars. Boring, aren’t they ? How I miss not knowing.

    Unimaginative idiot. I wish Feynman was here to make this idiot feel like the stupid theatrically romantic clownshoe that he actually is.

  105. reasonisbeauty says

    You have all forgotten the power of imagination, the power to make shit up and then turn it into reality through consensus, forced or otherwise. You belittle us by trying to force us to operate within the constraints of reality. Look at all of the really nice buildings we have been able to make by holding firmly onto our delusions. You watch, Our make believe friend will lead us to victory over you, so sadly rooted in proof and empiricism that you don’t understand the glory of imagination.

  106. Stevarious says

    Atheism until fairly recently has been about a disappointing search for god that ends in failure, disillusionment, despair, and finally a new affirmation of human ingenuity that is entirely compatible with both science and art.

    What a pompous asshole.

    “To be a REAL atheist, you have to really, really want there to be a god! Then, when your hopes and dreams have been crushed and your disbelief has been tempered in the blazing heat of disillusionment and disappointment, can you really, truly deserve to be called an Atheist.”

  107. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    Having read R. Joseph’s whine about atheists, the idea I get is we don’t suffer enough angst when forgoing god(s). We just blithely say “no evidence, null hypothesis, no god(s).” We should be suffering the entire time we’re questioning god(s)’s existence and, even after finally yet regretfully forsaking god(s), there should still be a bit of turmoil in our psyches about being godless.

  108. Brownian says

    Atheism has become a very little idea because it is now promoted by little people with a small focus. These people tend to think that there are two kinds of questions: the questions we have already answered and the questions we will answer tomorrow. When they were even smaller than they are now, their father asked them every six weeks, “Whadja get in math and science?” When they had children of their own, they asked them, “Whadja get in science and math?” Which goes to show, people can change.

    Looking through his credentials, I see no background in theatre, no history of stand-up or sketch comedy, and no affiliation with any organisations that could give credence to the idea that he’s proficient with written humour. I only mention this to be charitable, since he shows no natural affinity for the craft either.

    Is it too much to ask that Dr. Hoffman stick to fields he’s either got training, skills, or talent for?

  109. says

    These people tend to think that there are two kinds of questions: the questions we have already answered and the questions we will answer tomorrow. When they were even smaller than they are now, their father asked them every six weeks, “Whadja get in math and science?” When they had children of their own, they asked them, “Whadja get in science and math?”

    Using anti-intellectualism to attack the plebeians is an odd tactic.

  110. Brownian says

    Having read R. Joseph’s whine about atheists, the idea I get is we don’t suffer enough angst when forgoing god(s).

    Right. True Atheists™ are wristcutters.

    People who think life without the idea of god must be sadder and more depressing than life with it need to meet more Catholics.

  111. Ichthyic says

    I think it would have been good of PZ to actually include the first paragraph of Hoff’s diatribe:

    It seems that everything I write these days is anti-atheist. And who can blame my unbelieving brethren for assuming I am fighting for the other side. Perhaps I should be, since modern atheism is hardly worth defending.

    this clearly shows that atheism is not a belief of his, but rather a philosophical position, like any other, to be debated as if it were just as meaningless as the concept of ether.

    atheism is not a conclusion this man reached from reasoning, it is a catchphrase to be used to stir debate.

    he’s a fucking sophist.

    nothing more.

  112. Ichthyic says

    Having read R. Joseph’s whine about atheists, the idea I get is we don’t suffer enough angst when forgoing god(s).

    no, his point was that we don’t suffer enough discrimination to claim discrimination.

    the same argument we saw triple T (can’t remember his handle now), in the last gelato guy thread.

    Tomh answered that quite nicely, with a list of all the ingrained biases written into our very legal and tax structure that discriminate against non believers.

    this, aside from the many actual acts of direct physical violence directed against atheists.

    in short, both Triple T and Hoff are making nothing short of an argument from ignorance, and then projecting that on to the people they decry.

    quite tired of seeing that from the religious myself, let alone from those claiming to be atheists.

  113. Ichthyic says

    I love that religion is taking refuge in post-modernism. If that’s not the kiss of death, I don’t know what is.

    I think you’re right about the first, but can only hope the result is what would be expected.

  114. Part-Time Insomniac, Zombie Porcupine Nox Arcana Fan says

    What the bloody fuckety-fuck is it with these people? They are so messed up if the only way they think atheism is anything to think about is if atheist suffer horribly for rejecting god(s). Actually, I’m sure that’s just because people like R. Joseph make certain people who don’t believe as they do suffer anyway.

    Christ on a cracker with cheese, it’s like a daisy chain of nuttery that keeps getting longer and longer.

  115. Ichthyic says

    I just thought about this more…

    and, as usual, Python covered it already.

    it’s like the scene from Holy grail with Arthur and the Peasants.

    I can just imagine Hoff screaming:

    “Bloody Peasants!”

  116. Brownian says

    Using anti-intellectualism to attack the plebeians is an odd tactic.

    Larry Moran made a comment that spoke to this:

    anonymous says,

    Of course not, and I saw the lightheartedness in your remark. I think, though, we have to be wary to even look like we’re celebrating ignorance. Reading a book is better than not reading it.

    You don’t understand. Perhaps you should have read C.P. Snow. Then you would know that the humanities pseudointellectuals don’t accept just any book. It has to be from a set of prescribed books that mark you as a man/woman of letters.

    There are no science books on their lists at Oxford or Harvard. You can be a snob if you’ve read Yeats or Owen but not if you’ve read Darwin or Gould or Sagan.

  117. anbheal says

    The two most obvious bits of (ineffective) polemical legerdemain:

    1) Scientists in the past were smart, AND were theists.

    True. So what? We all respect Aristotle and Lucretius and Galileo and Leibniz and Newton and Lavoisier. They advanced human knowledge. A lot of their pensees still describe reality quite well. Some others don’t. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

    This suggests we SHOULD see farther.

    Sure, we can debate long into the night over whether and how Jefferson’s slaveholding or Lincoln’s straight-out racist pronouncements should temper our retrospective judgment of them, as humans of their time. But what he’s claiming is that a revulsion toward human bondage or bigotry insults the great things Jefferson and Lincoln stood for. Patently not so. That Darwin believed in God and many of his fans don’t is neither an insult to Darwin nor his God.

    2) Atheims has brought nothing to scientific inquiry.

    WTF? Since the advent of the Scientific Method and The Enlightenment, it may not have been atheism, per se, that has driven practically every single practical and theoretical breakthrough, but it was a mixture of skepticism, rational inquiry, and at the very least a firm inner conviction that the simple answers offered by monsignors and imams and hereditary royalty did not explain the world particularly well. As exemplified in the (sexist, if perhaps unwittingly) bunnies with the puzzle pieces. Newton and Darwin and Einstein may not have been atheists, but the spirit of atheism — videlicet, preference for evidence over smug authoriatrian say-so — infused all of their efforts.

    More specifically, much of the progress in evolutionary biology, organic chemistry, archaeology, astronomy, Big Bang cosmology, plate tectonics, anthropology — really most sciences — over the past century or two could not possibly have transpired in a society where dogmatic theism hadn’t been an icon that iconoclasts had become willing to clast. While never common until fairly recently among cutting edge scientists, atheism, in its broadest philosophical context, is at the root of all clear-eyed inquiry.

  118. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Atheism ought to be a tiny idea. In a more rational world, “Why I am an Atheist” essays would be as relevant as “Why I am not a Macaroni from the 18th Century” essays.

  119. Ichthyic says

    I notice “steph” over there in the comments…

    her writing seems familiar…

    something rings a little bell in my head about a “steph” that basically was little more than a cheerleader on either Laden’s blog, or Mooney’s?

    she seems to have a very poor understanding of what atheism actually IS, in any case, as she radically attacks “teh 4 horsemen” and defends Hoff.

    again, I think I’ve seen her somewhere before.

  120. Aquaria says

    Demanding that something non-existent be fucking huge reminds me of that old Ellen DeGeneres line that points out the ridiculousness: “In the beginning there was nothing. God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better.”

    That’s the problem with religion, hof: When you shine light on religitardism, it’s still nothing–and a lot of it. You just see that a whole lot better.

  121. Aquaria says

    Looking through his credentials, I see no background in theatre, no history of stand-up or sketch comedy, and no affiliation with any organisations that could give credence to the idea that he’s proficient with written humour. I only mention this to be charitable, since he shows no natural affinity for the craft either.

    Is it too much to ask that Dr. Hoffman stick to fields he’s either got training, skills, or talent for?

    He seems to have succeeded in being a moronic douchebag. Of course, there wasn’t much chance he would succeed at much else given how qualified he was for what he’s become.

  122. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Ing:

    Chaplain: Let us praise God. O Lord…
    Congregation: O Lord…
    Chaplain: …Ooh, You are so big…
    Congregation: …ooh, You are so big…
    Chaplain: …So absolutely huge.
    Congregation: …So absolutely huge.

    There really ought to be a Gay Sex with Ing meme. Or a Straight Sex with Ing meme. Or, I don’t know, a Squishy Tentacle Robot Sex with Ing meme.

  123. says

    Maybe me and R. Joe can have a compromise.

    I’m going to continue to not believe in a god that is a green elf with a stick, but I’m also going to not believe that she’s a really BIG ELF, and she’s got THREE sticks, one with a heavy rock tied to the end. And then I’m going to not believe that she is the leader of a pantheon of huge green elves that carry three large sticks each, and they pull the solar system along through space in an enormous snowglobe while riding on the backs of seven sea otters which have suns for eyes.

    See, a middle ground. I’m not believing in something much bigger than a single small elf, right?

  124. carlie says

    There really ought to be a Gay Sex with Ing meme. Or a Straight Sex with Ing meme. Or, I don’t know, a Squishy Tentacle Robot Sex with Ing meme.

    I’ll be right there in line. That recitation made me giggle for a minute or two straight.

  125. Ichthyic says

    ah, i see:

    This atheism was respectful of the fact that God is a very big idea, a sublime idea, and that abandoning such an idea could not take place as a mere reckoning at one moment in time; it had to happen as a process that included hatred, alienation and what Whitehead saw as “reconciliation” with the idea of God. That is what Leo Strauss meant in 1955 when he wrote in Natural Right and History that the classical virtues would save the modern world from the negative trinity of pragmatism, scientism and relativism, what Irving Babbitt (Lippmann’s teacher at Harvard) meant in declaring war on modernity and science in favour of the “inner check” of classical humanism.

    Hoff is a Straussian.

    what more needs be said?

    He believes in the noble lie.

    fuck him.

  126. David Marjanović says

    Funny thing. I did not become an atheist because the concept of evolution dislodged god from my thought process. In fact, it took a few years for me to become comfortable that life’s only goal is to make more life.

    That’s not even a goal. It just happens.

    FYI – nathanteegarden=truthspeaker. I guess I’ll have to create a Google account or something.

    No. Create a FreethoughtBlogs account and then change the “nickname” if necessary. Takes a minute or three.

    wenn du lange in einen Bauchnabel blickst, blickt der Bauchnabel auch in dich hinein

    I’m out of words. :-)

    This guy would want us all to go through a Greek tragedy before we finally light up our cigars and contemplate God a bit more.

    …while running around with a lantern in broad daylight and shouting questions about what we’ve done, how we managed to drink up the sea & wipe away the horizon, and what sacred games of atonement we shall need to invent.

    PZ’s book can’t come out soon enough. (September 2012, bah.)

    They eschew mystery, unless it’s connected to a telescopic lens or an electron microscope or a neutrinometer at the Hadron Collider at CERN. “Mystery” is not a state to be enjoyed or celebrated like a good wine or a raven-haired woman with haunting and troubled eyes:

    For crying out loud.

    Someone with troubled eyes isn’t to be fucking celebrated. Someone with troubled eyes is to be fucking helped! That’s what “troubled” means.

    Asshole!

    That’s the way Sartre thought of it. –A conclusion forced upon us by the dawning recognition that we are both the source and solution to our despair. That is what Walter Lippmann thought in 1929, when he described the erosion of belief by the acids of modernity. This atheism was respectful of the fact that God is a very big idea, a sublime idea, and that abandoning such an idea could not take place as a mere reckoning at one moment in time; it had to happen as a process that included hatred, alienation and what Whitehead saw as “reconciliation” with the idea of God.

    1) I burp in Sartre’s general direction.
    2) What despair?
    3) What hatred?

    his latest whinge cites Leo Strauss approvingly

    Fits perfectly with my diagnosis of asshole.

    what ships?

    I haven’t laughed that h coughingly in days.

    Seriously, the guy has a screw loose. He deletes old blog [post]s to cover his tracks and sometimes he writes blog [post]s that completely contradict past blog [post]s depending on who he wants to please. We shouldn’t give him the attention.

    We should. We should point and laugh.

    Ah yes, Gallant Sexism.

    Thank you! Finally a term for this sickening concept!

    I say he should be insulted by an invite to speak at the next Skepticon. Let him stew over the dilemma.

    I love it when you’re being cruel.

    Unimaginative idiot. I wish Feynman was here to make this idiot feel like the stupid theatrically romantic clownshoe that he actually is.

    Dawkins is here, and he wrote a whole book about “Unweaving the Rainbow”. It’s awesome.

    There are no science books on their lists at Oxford or Harvard. You can be a snob if you’ve read Yeats or Owen but not if you’ve read Darwin or Gould or Sagan.

    Owen? Sir Richard? :-)

    “In the beginning there was nothing. God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better.”

    Into my quote collection.

  127. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Zeppelin, #116. I’m not sure his sexism is even all that gallant. I’ve seen lots of cluelessly sexist men objectifying women as “things” to be enjoyed, like a good steak or a glass of wine, but usually not women who are apparently troubled. Per Hoffman, it just wouldn’t be done to actually identify with her. Or, as David at #151 says, help her.

    There are words for men who fetishize the suffering of women outside a consensual BDSM context. I wouldn’t want to be alone with someone like Hoffman. But, I must say, his misogyny isn’t surprising when you consider the frankly sociopathic political worldview he’s embraced.

    Also, Kemist, #124: Note how he conflates the possibility of knowing what a woman is thinking with an “unknown sum.” I suppose asking her is out of the question, because the silly vagina-creature obviously needs a big smart man to tell her what she’s thinking.

    Anbheal, #140: Regarding your point 1), Hoffman is making an argument from authority. Fundies claim, “The atheists worship Darwin.” Hoffman is coming close to doing just that there.

  128. iaanonymous says

    “Yes. Apparently, one of the Big Truths™ that only theology can elucidate is that Contemporary New Atheists aren’t Nietzsche”

    And the theologians always conveniently skip over the Nietzsche who wrote The Antichrist, a Nietzsche who is far more “strident” and exultant over God’s death and Christianity’s demise than any New Atheist. “The Antichrist” was Nietzsche’s last word on God, but God-botherers like to pretend it doesn’t exist.

  129. joed says

    This R. Joseph Hoffman seems fairly inteligent…but he’s full of shit…and he’s fuckin’ nuts!
    George Carlin said something like that

  130. says

    Hoffmann’s problem is that he’s been usurped. He was once a leading light in atheism. (Albeit not much of a leading light; few people had heard of him, and he achieved fuck all.) Then one day, all these awfully unsophisticated people like Dawkins came along. They started doing crass, vulgar things like getting noticed, and changing people’s minds. Hoffmann has never forgiven them.

  131. otrame says

    Hmmm….which to choose? The “What ships” or the Ghey Seks with Ing meme (at least that would take some of the pressure off Brownian), or “Damned size queens” ?

    The latter had the advantage that I actually have a paper towel handy and was able to minimize the damage caused by a mouthful of diet coke when I read it.

    Nope, can’t decide. All three get an internet.

  132. musner says

    Mattir

    Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God is a very good tracing of the idea of god from shamanism through universal human rights.

    EXCELLENT book. Love it.

  133. John Morales says

    [OT]

    Ms. Daisy Cutter @153, indeed.

    (He might as well have been saying “these are the kind of women I enjoy”)

  134. kantalope says

    I am glad I kept reading.

    My take on Hoffman: he wants all those gnuAtheists off his lawn.

    Naturalism is dead? Would be interesting to find out what has replaced it. His bit about imagination hints that is may be The Secret?

    I do think that he was trying to say that atheists should not complain about discrimination – so gauche – and gelato sounds so pedestrian anyway.

    Notice his list of theist scientists: “Newton, Mendel, Galileo, Kelvin, Darwin, Faraday, Boyle, Planck, and on and on.” No science after the 1920’s I guess. Everything has already been discovered apparently. Oh, here it is: “Strictly speaking we do not need to know as much as we already do to survive and there is no guarantee that knowing more will guarantee our survival.” (whisper) Don’t tell anyone with cancer.

    But I think the bottom line is that not believing in god has to come from years of anguish, philosophy, sophistry and deep sophisticated Courtierism. Simply saying, “show me the evidence” and then saying, “then duh” Isn’t “True Atheism.”

    You Gnu’s get off my lawn!

  135. irisvander says

    Well I for one am truly sorry that my unsophisticated, non-intellectually pedigreed atheism offends Hoffman so. I mean, who can blame him for not wanting to be tainted by association with the unwashed godless masses?

    Atheism until fairly recently has been about a disappointing search for god that ends in failure, disillusionment, despair, and finally a new affirmation of human ingenuity that is entirely compatible with both science and art.

    How grandiose. Hoffman should speak for himself, and not for what atheism “has been about” until fairly recently or otherwise. My own search for god did not end in failure, disillusionment or despair, but in a profound sense of relief and subsequent rejoicing in the knowledge that the monstrous Yahweh isn’t real.

    Larry Moran has it exactly right:

    Now I get it. Joseph Hoffman’s real angst is that he invested a large part of his life in religion and now he regrets it.

    Hoffman personally wasted many years on theology, therefore it must be a Really Big Deal. Otherwise he’d just be an ordinary fool — and, well, that obviously cannot be true.

  136. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    Atheism Oxygen has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion phlogiston: its god phlogiston is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe combustion who controls it with his omniscient will.

    Maybe I’m just too small to understand, but the relevance of the elf is totally lost on me…

  137. satanaugustine says

    Tried to post a response on the Hoff’s site several hours ago. It’s not showing up so I assume it didn’t past moderation standards. Guess I’ll post it here. Quoting myself:

    Your brand of intellectual snobbery is absolutely disgusting, Hoffman. It takes an incredible amount of hubris and pure ignorance to think that the only legitimate “atheist” is one who has “come to it” in the manner you describe and has read the appropriate books. That this causes your “Angst, to use that hackneyed word correctly,” (I had to include your aside. It’s just such a perfect illustration of what a snob you are.) is telling. It indicates, as does your article as a whole, that your attitude towards populist atheists (or I suppose you might call us “billboard atheists”) is more in line with misanthropy than with humanism.
    Feel free to start your atheist think tank. You and your co-thinkers can all sit around and bemoan the sad state of atheism and smugly reassure each other that you are so much better than the rest of us. On the other hand you could attend a conference like Skepticon and see how important populist atheism is for those of us who do not and, for a variety of different reasons, cannot ever sit in ivory towers. And populist atheism is not merely important, it is the only possible future for atheism, because a movement needs to move, not to sit and look down upon those who do not meet your rigorous standards. I suspect that it is a movement causes your “Angst, to use that hackneyed word correctly,” as well. However, if you do not bother to actually learn about populist atheists by, say, talking to us in person, you will remain distressed…and ignorant about that which distresses you.
    Skepticon is free, by the way.

    Yeah, I know. I invited him to Skepticon. But this fuck is obviously posting out of sheer ignorance. He needs to get out and actually meet some real people, not he would ever deign to do so. He seems to believe he’s important. Silly man. He’s just another atheist.

  138. leaford says

    I notice that there are no dissenting comments, so I am doubtful Hoffman will approve it, but here’s the comment I left:

    leaford
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    November 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Prof. Hoffman, with all due respect (which IMO is very little), if you think modern athiesm is not “about a disappointing search for god that ends in failure, disillusionment, despair, and finally a new affirmation of human ingenuity that is entirely compatible with both science and art,” then you only reveal your own ignorance.

    Try speaking to athiests about their athiesm, and how they reached it. For most of us it WAS about a dissapointing struggle to reconcile the religious “truths” we were taught with the truths of logic and reason. And in that struggle, it was religion which was found wanting.

    Your entire essay is about nothing more than belittling our hard-won beliefs, belittling our intellectual journey, belittling the struggle we now must wage to defend our RIGHT to that disbelief.

    Instead of battling your strawman of spiritually empty athiests who have no philosophical foundation, who “fell into it,” why don’t you try actually LISTENING to us as we tell our own stories: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/category/testimonial/

    Frankly Prof. Hoffman, I find this essay contemptable. Who are you to tell us about our views, our spiritual struggles? Who are you to tell us that our athiesm is empty, or small? Who are you to tell us HOW to be athiests? Who the hell do you think you are?

  139. evilDoug says

    Next time I go to the tool store, I’m going to buy another big rubber mallet and label it for use in case of claims of lack of sophistication. And hang it up right next to my mallet labeled for use on anyone who tacks “gate” on the end of the name for something controversial.

    I think hperdeath at 158 has nailed it – Hoffmann is irrelevant and he doesn’t like it, so he huffs and puffs and blows a bunch of smoke. We jus don’t got no couth.

    I am reminded of a Tony Miles song:

    …So there must be something wrong with you, there’s nothing wrong with me

    Ch.
    You’re a bloody rotten audience whilst I am very good
    If brains were made of oak and ash then you’d have balsa wood
    I’m ethnic and authentic and I’m really full of class
    While you’re ignorant, you’re cultureless, you’re philistines en masse.

  140. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Whatever you write and wherever you post it, the most important thing to remember is – to spell atheist correctly.

  141. satanaugustine says

    That should be:

    “…not that he would ever deign to do so.

    in my previous comment #167.

  142. John Morales says

    [meta + trivial (or is it?)]

    leaford, excellent comment, but you should learn to spell ‘atheist’.

    (Think of the negatory a- prefix as applied to theist)

  143. satanaugustine says

    @ Leaford at #168. Well said. He is quite obviously ignorant of the group of people he seems to think he’s writing about (and dismissing).

  144. says

    Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of religion: its god is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient will.

    What great timing! I have just come across an argument by Thomas W. Clark which, if I understand its implications, shows that even God cannot have free will.

    [I]magine that we do indeed have some sort of contra-causal free will, and see if it could improve on the deterministic situation we actually find ourselves in. I leave aside here the various sorts of indeterminacy that might be shown, eventually, to play a role in generating behavior, since these do not give us free will, they merely introduce randomness.

    Let us suppose then, that whatever my desires are at a given time, I am not bound to follow those desires. That is, my behavior isn’t completely the result of the competition of various motives and inclinations, but instead is at least partly a function of something independent of such influences. So, for instance, let us suppose I must decide between spending a thousand dollars on charity or on my own amusement. What would the role of this independent factor be in such a decision? Presumably, the story goes, one’s free will makes the decision about which desire should win out, the desire to help others or the desire to amuse oneself. But, on what grounds does this independent arbiter make its choice? Why would it choose one way and not another?

    If indeed the free will is uninfluenced by one’s circumstances, such as desires and motives, then it simply has no reason or capacity to act. Without an inclination pushing in one direction or another there can be no movement.

    The same argument would apply to God’s desires. Thus, God cannot have and act upon free will.

    Like Schopenhauer, God can do what He wills but He cannot will
    what He wills.

  145. says

    Joseph Hoffman’s real angst is that he invested a large part of his life in religion and now he regrets it.

    It’s not a total loss. There’s still time to make some money selling a deconversion story to New Atheists. Hire a ghostwriter, and publish quickly; the market will be saturated in a few more years.

  146. Aquaria says

    This guy must have fits when he reads what Nietzsche had to say about Christianity in The Anti-Christ:

    When everything necessary to ascending life; when all that is strong, courageous, masterful and proud has been eliminated from the concept of a god; when he has sunk step by step to the level of a staff for the weary, a sheet-anchor for the drowning; when he becomes the poor man’s god, the sinner’s god, the invalid’s god par excellence, and the attribute of “saviour” or “redeemer” remains as the one essential attribute of divinity—just what is the significance of such a metamorphosis? what does such a reduction of the godhead imply?—To be sure, the “kingdom of God” has thus grown larger. Formerly he had only his own people, his “chosen” people. But since then he has gone wandering, like his people themselves, into foreign parts; he has given up settling down quietly anywhere; finally he has come to feel at home everywhere, and is the great cosmopolitan—until now he has the “great majority” on his side, and half the earth. But this god of the “great majority,” this democrat among gods, has not become a proud heathen god: on the contrary, he remains a Jew, he remains a god in a corner, a god of all the dark nooks and crevices, of all the noisesome quarters of the world!… His earthly kingdom, now as always, is a kingdom of the underworld, a souterrain kingdom, a ghetto kingdom…. And he himself is so pale, so weak, so décadent…. Even the palest of the pale are able to master him—messieurs the metaphysicians, those albinos of the intellect. They spun their webs around him for so long that finally he was hypnotized, and began to spin himself, and became another metaphysician. Thereafter he resumed once more his old business of spinning the world out of his inmost being sub specie Spinozae; thereafter he became ever thinner and paler—became the “ideal,” became “pure spirit,” became “the absolute,” became “the thing-in-itself.”… The collapse of a god: he became a “thing-in-itself.”

    The Christian concept of a god—the god as the patron of the sick, the god as a spinner of cobwebs, the god as a spirit—is one of the most corrupt concepts that has ever been set up in the world: it probably touches low-water mark in the ebbing evolution of the god-type. God degenerated into the contradiction of life. Instead of being its transfiguration and eternal Yea! In him war is declared on life, on nature, on the will to live! God becomes the formula for every slander upon the “here and now,” and for every lie about the “beyond”! In him nothingness is deified, and the will to nothingness is made holy!

    And he’s only getting started at that point!

  147. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    I have very little time for anyone who tries to invalidate the atheism of someone who has come to that state without years of study in an ‘approved’ discipline; mostly, of course, because I take it personally – I’m an atheist because I never believed in the god the lightweight version of Christianity I was exposed to as a child gently pushed in my direction. And, since it wasn’t until my teenage years that I realised that non-crazy people seriously believed in gods (basically I thought they just paid lip service for social/cultural reasons), I didn’t have much need to understand atheism in any depth.

    Even now it’s only because I like discussing it that I take an interest in such things. People who don’t shouldn’t feel obliged to – or made to feel lesser because of it.

    That it always comes from the direction of ‘serious’ philosophers is telling; I think that, deep down, they resent that people have learned without much effort at all what’s taken them years of study and contemplation.

  148. Azkyroth says

    [I]magine that we do indeed have some sort of contra-causal free will, and see if it could improve on the deterministic situation we actually find ourselves in. I leave aside here the various sorts of indeterminacy that might be shown, eventually, to play a role in generating behavior, since these do not give us free will, they merely introduce randomness.

    What the hell does “free will” even MEAN in this usage?

  149. patrickelliott says

    The guy sounds like Nietzsche when, in the process of talking about the absurdity of religion, also ranted about the absurdity of science (during a time when science often meant projecting your own stupid, age old, cultural biases on things like Archeology, while burning the evidence that would have told you something else, like mummies). Nietzsche had a point, about ***his*** time. Hoffman would only have a similar point if he was arguing against false naturalism, new age bullshit, and the whole industry that has grown up around refusing to wait to see what the hell is really going on, and instead jumping on the first, provisional, study on X, to sell stuff with a lot of X in it. They are *both* wrong about the idea that God, or the ideas that spring from it, provide any useful source of anything, other than confusion, or the patently idiot idea that examining such inanity under a microscope, as though you might learn something new about it, is in any way like science’s ability to flat out go, “Yep. Got that wrong, so what is really going on here, and how do we figure it out?”

    Does he imagine that an expert examination of, say, crosses, in all forms, is going to garner some sort of great understanding in the realm of particle physics? What exactly is the argument for treating anything remotely related to, “God, the super, magic, awesome, everything!”, as serious going to advance anyone’s understanding of anything, exactly?

  150. syggyx says

    When they elevated naturalism, already an outmoded view of the universe

    What the hell…when did this happen?

  151. Aquaria says

    The guy sounds like Nietzsche when, in the process of talking about the absurdity of religion, also ranted about the absurdity of science (during a time when science often meant projecting your own stupid, age old, cultural biases on things like Archeology, while burning the evidence that would have told you something else, like mummies). Nietzsche had a point, about ***his*** time.

    And yet, Nietzsche also had this to say about science:

    Such a religion as Christianity, which does not touch reality at a single point and which goes to pieces the moment reality asserts its rights at any point, must be inevitably the deadly enemy of the “wisdom of this world,” which is to say, of science—and it will give the name of good to whatever means serve to poison, calumniate and cry down all intellectual discipline, all lucidity and strictness in matters of intellectual conscience, and all noble coolness and freedom of the mind. “Faith,” as an imperative, vetoes science—in praxi, lying at any price.

    And this:

    Woman was the second mistake of God.—“Woman, at bottom, is a serpent, Heva”—every priest knows that; “from woman comes every evil in the world”—every priest knows that, too. Ergo, she is also to blame for science…. It was through woman that man learned to taste of the tree of knowledge.—What happened? The old God was seized by mortal terror. Man himself had been his greatest blunder; he had created a rival to himself; science makes men godlike—it is all up with priests and gods when man becomes scientific!—Moral: science is the forbidden per se; it alone is forbidden. Science is the first of sins, the germ of all sins, the original sin. This is all there is of morality.—“Thou shall not know”:—the rest follows from that.—God’s mortal terror, however, did not hinder him from being shrewd. How is one to protect one’s self against science? For a long while this was the capital problem. Answer: Out of paradise with man! Happiness, leisure, foster thought—and all thoughts are bad thoughts!—Man must not think.—And so the priest invents distress, death, the mortal dangers of childbirth, all sorts of misery, old age, decrepitude, above all, sickness—nothing but devices for making war on science! The troubles of man don’t allow him to think…. Nevertheless—how terrible!—, the edifice of knowledge begins to tower aloft, invading heaven, shadowing the gods—what is to be done?—The old God invents war; he separates the peoples; he makes men destroy one another (—the priests have always had need of war….). War—among other things, a great disturber of science!—Incredible! Knowledge, deliverance from the priests, prospers in spite of war.—So the old God comes to his final resolution: “Man has become scientific—there is no help for it: he must be drowned!”

    —I have been understood. At the opening of the Bible there is the whole psychology of the priest.—The priest knows of only one great danger: that is science—the sound comprehension of cause and effect. But science flourishes, on the whole, only under favourable conditions—a man must have time, he must have an overflowing intellect, in order to “know.”… “Therefore, man must be made unhappy,”—this has been, in all ages, the logic of the priest.—It is easy to see just what, by this logic, was the first thing to come into the world:—“sin.”… The concept of guilt and punishment, the whole “moral order of the world,” was set up against science—against the deliverance of man from priests…. Man must not look outward; he must look inward. He must not look at things shrewdly and cautiously, to learn about them; he must not look at all; he must suffer…. And he must suffer so much that he is always in need of the priest.—Away with physicians! What is needed is a Saviour.—The concept of guilt and punishment, including the doctrines of “grace,” of “salvation,” of “forgiveness”—lies through and through, and absolutely without psychological reality—were devised to destroy man’s sense of causality: they are an attack upon the concept of cause and effect!—And not an attack with the fist, with the knife, with honesty in hate and love! On the contrary, one inspired by the most cowardly, the most crafty, the most ignoble of instincts! An attack of priests! An attack of parasites! The vampirism of pale, subterranean leeches!… When the natural consequences of an act are no longer “natural,” but are regarded as produced by the ghostly creations of superstition—by “God,” by “spirits,” by “souls”—and reckoned as merely “moral” consequences, as rewards, as punishments, as hints, as lessons, then the whole ground-work of knowledge is destroyed—then the greatest of crimes against humanity has been perpetrated.—I repeat that sin, man’s self-desecration par excellence, was invented in order to make science, culture, and every elevation and ennobling of man impossible; the priest rules through the invention of sin.

    All of this is also from The Anti-Christ.

  152. Aquaria says

    Well I made a total botch of the blockquote stuff, but I guess it makes sense who’s saying what.

  153. irritable says

    Why is attention directed to Hoffman, a third rate academic in a tiny field of historical study not noted for its rigour?

    His blog readership is miniscule.

    His argumentative style is puerile (archly condescending, littered with non-sequiturs and self-congratulatory name-droppings) and spiteful – as may be expected from a resentful academic failure with more literary ability than analytical capacity.

    I really don’t understand why the posturings of eunuchs like Hoffman are worthy of comment.

  154. patrickelliott says

    Well, I have found that he wasn’t always entirely clear. He did, in general, seem to state that science was the only way forward he could see, basically, but he also saw it as “missing something”. He mistakenly argued that what it was missing was sort of the same thing being argued by Hoffman, a “big picture”, or, “not quite natural”, thing, and was thus doomed to eventually fail. Mind, I am no where near finishing reading is books, so, its possible he adjusted his thinking later, much as he, at one point, called a composer friend of his, “the salvation of German culture”, and then later admitted it was a mistake, and the man was just as obsessed, in his own right, with delusions, as all the other people around him.

    The one I read the most recently actually started off ranting about the failings of science, *then* progressed into praising it, as vastly superior to the idiocy of religion. It may even have been the same one you are quoting from. I found the shift a bit… weird, since the argument being presented seemed to suggest one thing, only to take a sharp 180, and say the opposite. Reading the man, sometimes, seems to involve whiplash, and a need for a neck brace.

  155. Aquaria says

    I really don’t understand why the posturings of eunuchs like Hoffman are worthy of comment.

    If you think it’s not worth commenting on, then why did you comment on it to say it wasn’t worth commenting on?

    Hypocrisy, much?

  156. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Aquaria, you might’ve beaten me to it, but that does not deter me!

    irritable:

    I really don’t understand why the posturings of eunuchs like Hoffman are worthy of comment.

    Yet you think that the comments about the posturings of “eunuchs”* like Hoffman are worthy of comment. ;)

    * You have any evidence for this contention?

    (If not, your insulting skills are, um, less than sub-par)

  157. John Morales says

    [meta]

    leaford, no worries.

    ‘Twas, as I noted, an excellent comment — insightful, cogent and apposite.

    (I’d be damn proud of it)

  158. John Morales says

    [OT + silly]

    madbull, you don’t happen to be a raven-haired woman with haunting and troubled eyes, do ya?

    <ducks>

  159. Stacy says

    No science after the 1920′s I guess

    Judging by his idea of indispensable writers/poets, he does seem to be intellectually stuck somewhere circa the First World War.

  160. kantalope says

    I imagine that PZ has a google alert for those taking his name in vain. Via Hoffman: “We are assured that skepticism is “a humanism” by one of the keynoters, whatever that is supposed to mean; P Z Myers and Greta Christina justified their rancid approaches to belief by saying that religion “hurts human beings” (well, that’s something to suppose, which is better than nothing to suppose), and a writer named James Croft praised the meeting’s “profoundly humanist…no cop-out approach” while David Silverman, the head of the American Atheists warned that calling yourself a humanist is, in fact, a cop out.”

    So, Hoffman started it by dissing scepticon, PZ, Greta and the rest of the skeptical hoi polloi. I don’t think google has an alert for poorly written screeds.

  161. Aquaria says

    Well, I have found that he wasn’t always entirely clear. He did, in general, seem to state that science was the only way forward he could see, basically, but he also saw it as “missing something”.

    Of course it was missing something. He was living in the 19th century, when some of the truly amazing feats of science hadn’t yet come to pass and shove gawd into ever shrinking gaps. He was on some shaky footing with his anti-theism, and he knew it.

    It may even have been the same one you are quoting from. I found the shift a bit… weird, since the argument being presented seemed to suggest one thing, only to take a sharp 180, and say the opposite. Reading the man, sometimes, seems to involve whiplash, and a need for a neck brace.

    He’s consistently supportive of science in The Anti-Christ. Some of his other works, I’d have to see examples, to read them in context. I’ve noticed in some of his other works (Will to Power?) that he had a habit of erecting the arguments he’s arguing against, then tearing them down. This can seem like arguing back and forth. He also seems to have a habit of arguing with anything and everything, and that includes himself.

    He can be a lot of fun to read if you sit back and watch him tie himself into philosophical and logical knots and then find his way out of them.

  162. Azkyroth says

    Obviously it means contra-causal free will, aka libertarian free will.

    I can read, thank you, but I’m unclear as to how one formulates a concept of free will which is coherent, non-questiong-begging, and yet distinct from even the desires of the ostensibly free-willed agent. Hence “what does that even MEAN?”

    What I had time to read of the article provides no insight.

  163. Azkyroth says

    (And no, it is not obvious to me that it “means” anything at all. “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” is grammatically correct, too.)

  164. says

    Azkyroth

    Hence “what does that even MEAN?”

    Ah. Noncognitivism may be sensible, but it’s tough to engage one’s opponents without at least pretending that some subset of their premises are well-formed.

    We’re discussing free will over on TET right now, if you want to join.

  165. doktorzoom says

    Hoffman almost sounds like a grad student in an MFA poetry workshop: Others’ approach to atheism simply “doesn’t feel earned” to him.

  166. Ariaflame says

    Hoffman reminds me a little of those followers of an indie band, or cult movie or show or something that has a small, but intense following, who are really into it and will rave about it for ages. But when the object of the praise finally gets noticed and becomes successful in a more mainstream setting the original followers get grumpy. Probably because they felt that they were part of something special, that they were among the special few that Recognised the Genius. When they suddenly aren’t the special few any more that can cause cognitive dissonance.

  167. matthewhodson says

    He seems to suggest that god is a master of the universe. Does that imply god is He-Man, She-Ra or Skeletor?

  168. AlanMacandCheese says

    There was nothing “mistaken” about belief in God, and the fact that there is probably no god does not lessen his significance.

    Oh, I see…wait, what?

  169. alexandersafir says

    Welp, R. Joseph Hoffman’s personal brand of “jaw-droppingly stupid bollocks” absolutely wins, hands down, over C.S. Lewis’s weird teenaged “occult” atheism and Peter Hitchens similarly immature “formal renunciation and Bible burning” atheism, self-admitted expressions of petulant rebellion against parental authority, later soft-pedaled. But, he certainly couldn’t be any more clueless regarding the plain nature of empiricism and the value of skepticism.

  170. sawells says

    This looks a bit like the Sunk Costs Fallacy in action. Hoffman is having trouble coping with the fact that he and others have spent, collectively, many thousands of person-years contemplating the nature of God, and 99.9% of all that effort was a complete and total waste of time. He wants to make God mean something really really important, so that all the time he spent on it won’t have been wasted.

  171. says

    I don’t think talking about weenies could derail the thread. I think it actually vastly improves and elucidates Hoffmans writing.

    When did atheism cease to be a big idea? When atheists made my weeny a little idea. When its idea of my weeny shriveled to become a postulate of a new intellectual Darwinism. When they began to identify unbelief with being a woman, a gay, a lesbian, or some other victimized cadre. When they decided that my weeny is best described as a malicious and retardant cultural force that connives to prevent us being the Alpha Race of super-intelligences and wholly equal beings that nature has in store for us. When they elevated naturalism, already an outmoded view of the universe, to a cause, at the expense of authentic imagination.

    Atheism has become a little idea because it is based on the hobgoblin theory of weenies: its weeny is a green elf with a stick, not the master of the universe who controls it with his omniscient weeny. –Let alone a weeny so powerful that his will could evolve into Nature’s weeny–the weeny of Jefferson and Paine–and then into the laws of nature, as it did before the end of the eighteenth century in learned discussion and debate.

  172. sawells says

    Well, I tried submitting a comment on Hoffman’s page pointing out that the idea of God would be important if there were gods, but there aren’t, so it isn’t; with a comparison to being an expert on phlogiston and the luminiferous ether.

    Said comment has been moderated down the Memory Hole.

    I love his commitment to openness, free speech and critical commentary.

  173. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    @leaford

    Yes your commentary was great, sorry for the grumpy remark. It’s just that people will take what you say less seriously because of it, and that’s a pity.

  174. Louis says

    From the Hoffman article:

    Strictly speaking we do not need to know as much as we already do to survive and there is no guarantee that knowing more will guarantee our survival.

    Really? How does Hoffman, or anyone who claims this, know this?

    Please show all working. Using “reason” is, of course, cheating, because this statement (and much of the article) is a direct abandonment of “reason”.

    Louis

    P.S. The reason for the “SCARY” around “reason” is because that is a hideously loaded and complex epistemological term. Having read the article I think Hoffman is ignoring the issues involved therein. Deliberately or not I cannot say.

  175. sawells says

    In the long term, nothing guarantees our survival: what’s guaranteed is that we’re all going to die.

    People currently dying from diseases with no known cure would probably tell Hoffman that in the short term they would quite like to know more than we currently do, for the sake of their immediate survival.

    Chalk up two more directions in which Hoffman doesn’t make any damn sense.

  176. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Strictly speaking we do not need to know as much as we already do to survive

    What a dangerously clueless, gigantic idiot. Fortunately, he is irrelevant.

  177. Sir Shplane, Grand Mixmaster, Knight of the Turntable says

    Whoa whoa whoa, hold the fuckin’ phone here. Like, put that phone in a goddamn headlock and slam it against the pavement like a peaceful protester. You’re saying that being an atheist doesn’t qualify me for lesbianism?

    Well fuck it, I’m going to church.

  178. bynteba says

    I don’t agree with PZ’s comment “Atheists believe god is non-existent”. This is not as accurate as “Atheists don’t believe in god”

    Believing god is non-existant has no evidential basis. Saying we don’t believe in him means we’ve made the decision to not believe, or we just never believed. Saying we believe he doesn’t exist is innacurate

  179. sawells says

    @220: if you don’t believe in an existent God, then you believe that there are no existent gods, i.e. you believe all gods are nonexistent. “Does any god exist?” is a yes/no question, not a have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife question, and you’re not in the “yes” camp.

    There is a very strong evidential basis for the nonexistence of gods: it’s the complete absence of any evidence for gods. Consider substituting leprechauns for gods if you’re still worried.

    My personal favourite formulation is “Gods are fictional”. how does that sit with you?

  180. Lycanthrope says

    A woman, a gay, a lesbian, and some other victimized cadre walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Oh good, the New Atheists are here.”

  181. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    @Lycanthrope

    ROFL

    Ok, there are way too few new atheist jokes. I’ll try to come up with a humble proposal .

  182. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    I don’t agree with PZ’s comment “Atheists believe god is non-existent”. This is not as accurate as “Atheists don’t believe in god”

    Believing god is non-existant has no evidential basis. Saying we don’t believe in him means we’ve made the decision to not believe, or we just never believed. Saying we believe he doesn’t exist is innacurate.

    I think your lack of belief rests on the premise that non-existence is the default condition for hypothetical entities. If you haven’t already, consider what evidence could possibly establish that God is non-existent; it can’t be direct evidence, because by definition, things that don’t exist don’t produce effects that can be measured. Evidence for nonexistence is an incoherent concept.

    God is not in evidence, and his existence would be inconsistent with the universe we observe. Phlogiston is not in evidence, and its existence is inconsistent with the understanding of combustion provided by modern chemistry.

    I believe that phlogiston is non-existent even though I cannot measure its absence in the universe.

  183. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    A new atheist walks into a bar. Says the bartender: “Sorry, we don’t serve people who are right and happy”.

  184. julietdefarge says

    I guess we’re boring him by being all stable and normal productive citizens; perhaps he craves a more grandiose cartoon Lucifer as an opponent. I could wear a cape, would that help?

  185. Glen Davidson says

    Believing god is non-existant has no evidential basis. Saying we don’t believe in him means we’ve made the decision to not believe, or we just never believed. Saying we believe he doesn’t exist is innacurate

    Do you believe that Santa Claus doesn’t exist?

    Glen Davidson

  186. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    Do you believe that Santa Claus doesn’t exist?

    Glen, you have to be more specific. Do you mean the left handed or the right handed Santa Claus. The one with a brown bag of presents or a yellowish one? I think they all have to be argued separately.

  187. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If you haven’t already, consider what evidence could possibly establish that God is non-existent; it can’t be direct evidence, because by definition, things that don’t exist don’t produce effects that can be measured. Evidence for nonexistence is an incoherent concept.

    The problem with god is that most folks define in such a vague way that it can’t be properly falsified. Then they take great delight in saying your can’t disprove god. Negatives can only be proven where the object of the “proof” is well enough defined.

    Take the following two statements: 1) This kg of soil contains no mercury. 2) This kg of soild contains less than 100 ppb of mercury. The first can’t be proven. No could mean absolutely no mercury, which would require looking at every atom in the kg of soild and identifying and measuring it. Not feasible. Whereas statement 2 can be shown true or false with proper protocols and testing techniques.

    Most god definitions fall into statement 1, and they can’t be disproven. Skeptics and science use the null hythesis then to claim non-existence, and that puts the onus onto the claiment for god to demonstrate existence (not done to date).

  188. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    Glen, you have to be more specific. Do you mean the left handed or the right handed Santa Claus. The one with a brown bag of presents or a yellowish one? I think they all have to be argued separately.

    I think he means the big Santa Clause of Thomas Jefferson.

  189. irritable says

    @aquaria – I suggested Hoffman, an irritating intellectual eunuch, doesn’t deserve oxygen.

    I didn’t comment on his nonsense. Others did.

    As you are aware.

    “Hypocrite – much?”.

    Wanker – much?

  190. peter says

    Amazing the amount of response this has got.

    Having noticed a couple of people who attempted unsuccessfully to respond on Hoffmann’s blog, it seems to me that this dishonesty on his part should be publicized as much as possible. This refusal to publish any but trivial disagreements also happened to me.

    I had sent a 3-sentence, perfectly polite reply, but disagreeing strongly, and pointing out that if he was actually complaining that some people now come by their atheism too easily compared to the past, that seems perfectly explainable, given how the successful evidence for natural selection has been building for 150 years. Perhaps it is a waste of time to even attempt to challenge him on this, and maybe I am naive about the amount of honesty among bloggers. In any case, I did not even save that reply to him, so cannot reproduce it here, if only to show how unobjectionable it was.

    However I did then send him one which will certainly not be permitted onto his self-congratulatory site. But presumably it will on this one, so here it is:


    “Apparently you erase replies which disagree with you and for which you cannot immediately think up a smart-ass response? Or perhaps there is a different reason for the disappearance of mine from yesterday? (also of another which showed up, then disappeared, not from me—I’m beginning to wonder whether a doctorate in something close to religion raises significantly the probability of intellectual dishonesty—those professors of religion and the like tend to keep to themselves around my place, perhaps wisely.) Failing that different reason , I would wish you goodbye, but prefer not to disturb the intense navel-gazing. After all, ‘big idea(s) … promoted by big men with gargantuan focus’, to misquote you slightly, mustn’t have those big men disturbed from that essential job of promotion to their pathetic blogroupies. (I’m well aware that a few analogues of the latter also respond to Myers, Coyne, etc.; that helps, by association of the groupies to their heroes, a ‘big man’ like you to try to establish a reputation by attacking with mostly ad hominems the entirety of what has become rather famous in recent years.)”

    My mention of “blogroupies” on this site applies to only a very few, so I hope nobody here takes unnecessary offence. I think it is fair to say there are a few; there always will be, but not many, who are simply cheerleaders, on decent sites like this one.

    A minor point, but a few of you should take the trouble to spell his name correctly: two ‘n’s at the end. It would not surprise me if he adopted that as an affectation which might look more Germanic and scholarly. In fact, given the earlier form of dishonesty, it would hardly be surprising if he were sending replies under other names to his own blog.

  191. John Morales says

    [meta]

    irritable:

    I didn’t comment on his nonsense. Others did.

    As you are aware.

    No, you commented on others commenting on his nonsense, making you even more pointless, by your own contention.

    (Sad that I feel I need to explain this to you explicitly, but apparently you missed the point of Aquaria’s #189 and my #191.

    You go beyond hypocrisy, yea, even unto stupidity)

  192. Ichthyic says

    Having noticed a couple of people who attempted unsuccessfully to respond on Hoffmann’s blog,

    it’s more than a couple.

    in fact, if you even look at the rules for posting on his site, his rampant and hypocritical censorship goes far back, even to long-standing readers of his tripe.

  193. Ichthyic says

    I’m beginning to wonder whether a doctorate in something close to religion raises significantly the probability of intellectual dishonesty

    wonder no longer.

    though I would say that those who were educated in a theological tradition, but STILL managed to recognize the vacuousness of it all, are few and far between, but they do exist.

    like, for example, Hector Avalos.

  194. Ichthyic says

    no, I get what Hurin is about.

    I agree with the semantic argument.

    but, that’s just it. Since I can easily recognize it, it isn’t necessary to make the distinction.

  195. Ichthyic says

    …the point being, there was no point in “disagreeing with PZ” about it to begin with.

  196. says

    I honestly thought the problem was the other way around; that atheism is being turned into a grand claim by the ‘new atheists’ making it a focal point.

  197. Ichthyic says

    Kel, you’re looking at the mountain ahead of you, while Hoff is looking at the mountain behind him.

    this makes perfect sense, given his background in religious studies. He though he already climbed Mt Everest by being one of those who defeated the rhetorical claims of religion, and he keeps pointing to it as the grandest of achievements, but in reality, Everest is still ahead of us, and what Hoff climbed was little more than a foothill.

    He wants us to sit and admire that he stands on the top of a foothill, and has been for decades, while the rest of us still have this huge fucking MOUNTAIN ahead of us yet to climb:

    The monumental hold religion actually still has on the real world.

    We wave bye-bye to the fool on the hill.

  198. patrickelliott says

    He can be a lot of fun to read if you sit back and watch him tie himself into philosophical and logical knots and then find his way out of them.

    Only on the third book so far, they first two where a slog through “German Culture” and the second, something similar, its only in the most recent one that he got into anything more interesting. I hadn’t considered that view of how he handles things.

    That said, it might be more accurate to say that Hoffman meets him half way, then gets bored, and wanders off some place, while Nietzsche goes on to describe why his prior setup is flawed. Making Hoffman not just a hundred years behind the times, but a complete twit as well.

  199. What a Maroon says

    I’ll cop to not having read any of Hoffman beyond what PZ offers here.

    That said, what strikes me is that he seems to be saying that the task is to begin with the assumption of god, and to arrive at atheism only when that task has been overcome. And that is the exact opposite of where we should be. The default assumption, that is to say the null hypothesis, should be that there is no god or gods, nothing “supernatural” (whatever that means), and that it is up to those who assert that there is to struggle with the idea of atheism and try to overcome it if they can. It’s up to the religious (or spiritual, if you prefer) to struggle with the big idea of atheism, and not vice versa.

    Admittedly, most of the world isn’t at that point yet, but it’s the task of atheists to get the world there.

  200. evilDoug says

    Perhaps this has already been raised – I haven’t read all the comments.

    Why is it necessary to be sophisticated to reject the idea of a god when it clearly requires no sophistication whatsoever to accept the same idea? When a notion is patently silly, no matter how popular, why is “learned discussion and debate” required when a short sharp Bronx cheer is quite sufficient?

  201. says

    Kel, you’re looking at the mountain ahead of you, while Hoff is looking at the mountain behind him.

    Indeed.

    It’s odd from my perspective when someone makes a big deal about God. I remember an episode of Point Of Inquiry last year where the guest complained about the “new atheists” not taking the death of God seriously enough. Honestly, I’m not sure what there is to take seriously – which is only serving to validate their point, I guess. But from my perspective, God not existing is about as devastating and meaningful as the non-existence of ghosts. Whether ghosts exist or not is a potentially interesting fact about the universe, but it’s hardly something to get worked up over.

    I really don’t get the big deal. I don’t see a mountain in front of me – I don’t see anything in front of me – I see a lot of people telling me there’s a mountain there, or that there may not be a mountain but the journey in discovering that is important, or that the mountain will reveal itself to the honest mountaineer. Echoing the courtier’s reply here, but how much serious thought needs to be put in before I’m allowed to say that an imaginary mountain is imaginary?

  202. Ichthyic says

    Honestly, I’m not sure what there is to take seriously

    this is what us old folks call:

    hope for the future.

  203. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Yeah, I don’t get it either, Kel. I theorize that maybe it has something to do with being uncomfortable with diversity. They’re having trouble dealing with the fact that their cultural experiences are not universal. They were raised one way and it kind of freaks them out that people actually grow up not caring about god one way or another. I never really thought much about god until I was about 13, and I remember changing after a shower in the bathroom and thinking, “Geez, what if God (by which I meant Yahweh, the Cristian god, the one I was most familiar with at that point) really exists? That means he would be watching me right now and judging me.” And I felt self-conscious (as 13-year-old girls are wont to do) and creeped out. It was about that same time that I got labeled and harassed for being gay (though I’m straight) and it was only then that the god concept took on some importance to me.

  204. says

    One other thing, I’m struck by how many times I hear an argumentum ad consequentiam. Recently, I was reading a book on worldviews by Christian philosopher and apologist James Sire whose assessment on Naturalism complained that it opened the door to nihilism. His assessment of worldviews was that only Christianity offered a world-view that didn’t descend into nihilism. I was left wondering why that was something a worldview needed to do; if nihilism is the only tenable position then so be it.

    A couple of years ago, I came across a youtube video made by Christian apologists titled 6 ultimate reasons not to be an atheist (link is to my blog that contains the video and my counter arguments), and 4 of the 6 arguments there were appeals to consequences that are just irrelevant if they are true or not.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, Ichthyic, creationist arguments are often laden with complaints about the erosion of society. All that really ought to matter is whether the evidence shows that we evolved or not, but we’re left fighting the societal case that everything’s not going to go the way of Nazi Germany if people stop believing we’re a special creation with a purpose. That claim’s bogus too, but it’s interesting how often Creationists make the utterly irrelevant appeal to consequences as if that’s going to overcome the overwhelming evidential case for evolution.

    I really hate dismissing anything on psychological grounds, but it does give me cause for concern that so much of the discussion comes down to desirability / undesirability, rather than whether or not its true. How can I think there’s a mountain when so often the response is a warning of the problems of the mountain’s non-existence?

  205. Ichthyic says

    How can I think there’s a mountain when so often the response is a warning of the problems of the mountain’s non-existence?

    whoosh.

    that was the sound of my point going right over your head.

    trying again:

    Hoff is focused on the fact that rhetorically and logically, God is dead.

    the REALITY is that The Abrahamic religious traditions STILL occupy the minds of the majority of people living on the earth.

    the mountain we have to climb is the reality that the world is still full of delusional thinking; this is where the challenge of modern atheism lies, not with defeating the empty rhetoric of religious apologists.

    Hoff decries that we can’t relive past glory.

    I simply see him as a fool on a foothill in my rearview mirror.

  206. Ichthyic says

    I see Hoff as someone holding up a cat turd and insisting we view it as past glory while lamenting it’s loss.

    a turd so dry it doesn’t even stink any more.

  207. Stevarious says

    A single tear rolls down his cheek as he fondly remembers the smell… Ah, the smell! This turd used to fill the room with it! Those were… pungent days…

    *sniff*

  208. says

    that was the sound of my point going right over your head.

    Sorry about that. I think I’ve gotten it now.

    the mountain we have to climb is the reality that the world is still full of delusional thinking; this is where the challenge of modern atheism lies, not with defeating the empty rhetoric of religious apologists.

    That, and defeating the empty rhetoric of religious apologists has been done before. Why reinvent the wheel? ;)

  209. Ichthyic says

    That, and defeating the empty rhetoric of religious apologists has been done before. Why reinvent the wheel? ;)

    exactly.

    Hoff indeed wants us to keep reinventing the wheel, because he found the first time it was discovered to be so delightful.

    meanwhile, the rest of us are driving cars around.

  210. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    A single tear rolls down his cheek as he fondly remembers the smell… Ah, the smell! This turd used to fill the room with it! Those were… pungent days…

    *sniff*

    Mais où sont les turds d’antan?