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Apr 26 2012

Doesn’t Andrew Sullivan understand what we’d say in reply?

It’s appreciated that Sullivan expresses his outrage at the stupid claims of creationists.

What do you do when people use religion to perpetrate empirical untruth? In a free country not much. But on this kind of issue, it seems to me that Hitchens was right. These people need to be mocked mercilessly for ignorance and stupidity. This isn’t faith. It’s bullshit. And yet in this advanced country, it’s everywhere – and one political party panders to it.

But didn’t he stop to think that many of us will look at him, a Catholic, and say exactly the same thing about sacred crackers, the magical power of baby dunking, the doctrines of heaven and hell (and for that matter, an afterlife), and his atrocious nightmare of a sky-daddy?

Hitchens was also right about religion. He didn’t restrict his criticisms to just the creationist subsect.

46 comments

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  1. 1
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    A Christian bagging another kind of Christian? This calls for a KOOK FIGHT!

  2. 2
    cervantes

    When it comes to religion Sullivan, who is otherwise a smart guy, is a total mess. He somehow finds a way to respect the authority of the church while opposing it on essential substantive issues, not the least of which is that he is married to a man. Bizarre, to say the least.

  3. 3
    snarksnarkus

    While I was raised in the Catholic faith & educated in Catholic schools I thank my parents for not pushing the faith on us beyond Sunday mass, holidays and lessons of right/wrong because it allowed me the intellectual leeway to realize that it’s all hogwash once I was old enough decide for myself what to believe and not to believe. I too am constantly amazed at the contortions ‘believers’ will put themselves through to allow them to overlook the riduculous irrationality and contradictory nature of various aspects of their faith. Imagine what must go on inside the mind of a gay conservative Republican Catholic!

  4. 4
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    A Gay Catholic saying how ridiculous other religious people are.

    um humm

  5. 5
    Lars

    Shush! Have the decency to give the man enough rope, ffs!

  6. 6
    blindrobin

    Sullivan is a disingenuous, pandering, drivel spouting git, too pusillanimous to stand his ground on anything for longer than a few months or to challenge his brethren, Tom Friedman or David Fucking Brooks for example, on their worthless sophistry . Feh…

  7. 7
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    This isn’t faith. It’s bullshit.

    Those are synonyms, Sullivan.

  8. 8
    Gregory in Seattle

    “This isn’t faith.”

    According to the Bible, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) That is the same definition of “gullibility,” if I am not mistaken.

  9. 9
    Glen Davidson

    Well, does Sullivan think that Catholic Behe is any better?

    And should Catholicism tolerate his empirical untruths, or condemn them for the intellectual dishonesty, at least, required to maintain them?

    Glen Davidson

  10. 10
    Eskeptrical Engineer

    I suspect he’s dividing faith into “things which have been proven untrue” and “things which cannot be proven either way,” and rails against the first while being fine with the second. While it takes a fair amount of voluntary ignorance to maintain a belief in something that has been proven false, theists find no problem with believing in something that simply can’t be proven. To an atheist, all faith is instead categorized as “things which have not been proven to be true.” It’s problematic to believe in anything that you can’t put to the test and find to be accurate.

  11. 11
    Pierce R. Butler

    And does the other party demonstrate proud intellectual independence, Mr. Sullivan?

  12. 12
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Cervantes:

    When it comes to religion Sullivan, who is otherwise a smart guy, is a total mess.

    Uh, he also fails on women’s rights, especially reproductive rights. He’s racist as well. And he thinks Americans should just “suck it up” and get used to being poor.

    Blindrobin at #6 describes Sullivan perfectly.

  13. 13
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    These people need to be mocked mercilessly for ignorance and stupidity.

    Okay, Andy.

    *ahem!*

    Your mother was a hamster…

    Seriously, he’s so blinded by the Popes bright, white ass that he can’t see how delusional his own goddamn faith is– sure, the church accepts evolution, but they also think that a virgin gave birth to a god. One isn’t wackier than the other, in my opinion.

  14. 14
    nakedape

    Just a minor quibble:

    Catholics are not really into “the magical power of baby dunking”, while they are into infant baptism and all the other nonsensical boojum mentioned above, they would be more accurately described as believing in “the magical power of baby sprinkling”.

    The sprinkles of course being delivered by a single man (who vowed to give up a sex life in exchange for sitting in a darkened closet and listening to the highlights of everyone else’s) utilizing a magically enchanted yet useless (ie:silent) silver rattle.

    Other than that… bang on!

  15. 15
    Ing

    Andrew’s take on theology everything “I’m fine stop whining”

  16. 16
    Sastra

    “What do you do when people use religion to perpetrate empirical untruth? … This isn’t faith. It’s bullshit.”

    I’ve noticed that a lot of faith apologists seem to place religious truths into a category separate from empirical truths. Whether God exists or Jesus was born of a virgin is, apparently, a completely different type of issue than whether evolution occurred or Washington was president. The last two claims are conclusions derived from evidence, experience, and reason; the first two claims are conclusions derived from evidence, experience, and reason — BUT with a moral, personal component involved which marks them as super special and puts them aside from the ordinary rough and tumble of common debate. And the super dooper specialness filters down from the belief to the believer … and/or vice versa.

    The moral, personal component is “faith.” You choose to believe not just because of reasons (and don’t think they don’t think they have good, solid reasons anyway), but because of the kind of person they are. People who deny that their empirical conclusions are empirical and insist instead that their conclusions are matters of faith are trying to exhibit moral character. Sullivan’s belief that Jesus died for his sins — despite its factual unlikelihood — allows him to picture himself as putting his trust in a relationship. Believers see themselves as being like loyal friends, heroes who strive to fulfill an ethical obligation despite the odds against. Category confusion run amok.

    I think Eskeptrical Engineer at #10 is also right. It’s just that the type of things you “can’t prove either way” is invented and extended when religious special pleading jumps in.

    And SC at #7 — QFFT. Faith is bullshit; it’s bullshitting the self, first. They coddle a bad truth claim with the smug self-righteousness of someone cuddling a hurt child.

  17. 17
    grumpypathdoc

    blindrobin@6

    That’s a flash from the past! I haven’t seen pusillanimous used since Spiro Agnew’s “pusillanimous pussy footers” comment way back in the sixties. Excellent!

  18. 18
    Rip Steakface

    You know, if you go ahead and take this quote out of context, it’s a great quote for an atheist.

    Too bad it’s from Sullivan.

  19. 19
    ewanmacdonald

    Andrew Sullivan is about as self-aware as late 80s Milton Berle.

  20. 20
    Anri

    Is this an example of the sophisiticated theology we atheists are supposed to be arguing against…?

  21. 21
    jonathangarner

    Wow… I’m really disappointed in this… He’s actually taking the skeptical side on an important issue, but we still find reasons to hate and mock. Exactly how fast are we trying to become pompous assholes like the religious right?

  22. 22
    matthewtalarico

    I was watching last Friday’s Real Time w/ Bill Maher (yeah, I know he’s anti-vax; it’s a good show) and he had this guy Ross Douthat on, who was saying something similar. He’s a Christian but “doesn’t believe the crazy parts of the Bible.” And the whole time I was thinking, Um, how about the virgin birth? It’s the religion’s central tenet – a must for one to consider oneself a true Christian – and it’s just as crazy. Creationism is viewed so by these guys because they’re liberals and it’s a political issue. It’s Republican. And yeah, it’s stupid alright. And so is the virgin birth, which is actually just as incompatible with biology, science and reality.

  23. 23
    matthewtalarico

    Or the resurrection of Christ, whatever.

  24. 24
    speedweasel

    @jonathangarner #21

    Your fucking concern is fucking noted.

  25. 25
    matthewtalarico

    Actually, on Maher being anti-vax: I noticed that back in the fall when Michele Bachmann was saying vaccines cause autism, he mocked her for it on the show. Maybe he changed his mind? If he has I don’t believe he’s said it publicly. I’ve only been watching the show for three years or so now and haven’t heard him pull anti-vax stuff since. If he was, I might not be able to watch it. Curious to know what his position is now.

  26. 26
    consciousness razor

    He’s actually taking the skeptical side on an important issue, but we still find reasons to hate and mock.

    The reasons were there whether we found them or not.

    I’m sure he feels dreadful about supporting a party of hate and ignorance and defending a church of the same. It’s pitiful. When I read this, I imagine hearing his lone, plaintive whine, while lost in a desert somewhere wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts.

  27. 27
    Cipher

    Wow… I’m really disappointed in this… He’s actually taking the skeptical side on an important issue, but we still find reasons to hate and mock.

    I’ll give you “mock,” but you’re going to have to provide some evidence for “hate.” Anyway, the fact that someone’s views occasionally coincide with reality doesn’t make their other beliefs immune to criticism. Your whining is tiresome, but, as speedweasel said above, fucking noted.

  28. 28
    Inaji

    jonathangarner:

    Wow… I’m really disappointed in this… He’s actually taking the skeptical side on an important issue, but we still find reasons to hate and mock.

    Again, the same old shit. There’s no hate. People speaking the truth in a blunt manner is not hate.

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Every now and then, Sullivan gets something right. However, while knocking creationism, Sullivan openly supports the catholic church and catholicism. He does not speak out against the evils perpetrated by his beloved religion. He deserves to be mocked and called out, repeatedly, until he at least understands he is most definitely part of the fucking problem.

    Now, your concern is noted. Don’t continue whining.

  29. 29
    tacitus

    It’s worth remembering that Sullivan is still a conservative, and not just any sort of conservative, but an avowed Thatcherite, although he does profess to have softened his stance of national healthcare given the care the NHS has provided to his parents over the years.

    Regarding his religion, though, it’s hard to get any idea that he’s much of a Catholic anymore, except in the sense that he yearns for some ideal he believes that his church has lost sight of–except that it never really existed in the first place.

    All I get from his tortuous rationalizations about his faith is that he’s a squishy spiritualist who is very good at saying what he rejects about traditional Christianity, but who is almost impossible to pin down when it comes to figuring out what he actually believes.

  30. 30
    Inaji

    tacitus:

    Regarding his religion, though, it’s hard to get any idea that he’s much of a Catholic anymore

    The times I saw him on Maher’s show, he stated unequivocally that he believes and he’s deeply attached to his catholic faith. If that’s changed, he hasn’t gone out of his way to say as much.

  31. 31
    Ichthyic

    Catholics are not really into “the magical power of baby dunking”, while they are into infant baptism and all the other nonsensical boojum mentioned above, they would be more accurately described as believing in “the magical power of baby sprinkling”.

    -1 for extreme pedantry.

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    an avowed Thatcherite

    wow, and I thought the man was messed up before.

    we used to discuss A.S. quite a bit on Coyne’s blog.

    conclusion:

    He’s suffering from extreme cognitive dissonance.

  33. 33
    matthewtalarico

    @tacitus Right okay, I guess Sullivan’s more of a unique case. Wasn’t aware he considered himself a conservative. Comes off as a bit of a centrist from what I’ve heard. Anyway, there definitely exist a number of liberal Christians who reject things like Adam and Eve for their silliness yet believe in the resurrection and the virgin birth. And it seems to me that politics plays a role. Creationism can interfere with education. The virgin birth and resurrection aren’t being asked to be taught as alternative biological theories (to my knowledge at least). Yet at their cores I don’t see much difference in stupidity.

  34. 34
    tacitus

    The times I saw him on Maher’s show, he stated unequivocally that he believes and he’s deeply attached to his catholic faith. If that’s changed, he hasn’t gone out of his way to say as much.

    Oh yes, he still says he’s a Catholic, but I find hard to recognize much of that his ramblings about faith. I don’t recall reading anything about his devotion to Mary or the saints for example, or rosaries, or the celibate priesthood, and so on. I’ll take him at his word that he still considers himself a Catholic, but from what I have seen, he would fit right in with the liberal wing of the Church of England.

  35. 35
    tacitus

    @tacitus Right okay, I guess Sullivan’s more of a unique case. Wasn’t aware he considered himself a conservative. Comes off as a bit of a centrist from what I’ve heard.

    Sullivan was a big supporter of the British Conservative Party in the 80s, when Thatcher was Prime Minister, and many of the friends he made back then are now in the British Government as members of David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

    He comes across as a moderate because he is one, at least in terms of American politics. Obama’s social and economic policies aren’t really that different from Cameron’s, it’s just that Cameron sits near to the right of the British political spectrum and Obama sits in the middle, due to how much further to the right the US political spectrum extends.

    Sullivan is such a huge fan of Obama that it’s easy to forget he’s really a conservative at heart, especially in terms of economic policy. But that’s because Obama has governed as a mainstream conservative, not because Sullivan is that much of a moderate.

  36. 36
    matthewtalarico

    I guess it’s not really entirely driven by politics though, and more the fact that the virgin birth is more central to the religion. There is a political element to what particular Christians believe though. Also an element of picking parts of scripture to believe in that jive with one’s pre-existing convictions. The morality of homosexuality would be an example. But the main point is, many Christians are putting forth reasoning for not believing in say Adam and Eve that has to do with evidence or science. But they don’t apply that same logic to the religion’s other often central tenets. Crazy beliefs that are ostensibly harmful (anti-homosexuality, Creation and its influence in education) aren’t believed in often for the very reason that they’re harmful. These people would be more honest if they more often provided reasoning that didn’t have to do with the inherent believability of the aspects of their faith in question.

  37. 37
    Rip Steakface

    Actually, on Maher being anti-vax: I noticed that back in the fall when Michele Bachmann was saying vaccines cause autism, he mocked her for it on the show. Maybe he changed his mind? If he has I don’t believe he’s said it publicly. I’ve only been watching the show for three years or so now and haven’t heard him pull anti-vax stuff since. If he was, I might not be able to watch it. Curious to know what his position is now.

    I think he’s started to come to science when it comes to vaccines, but I’m not at all certain. I’ll watch tomorrow and see what happens.

    However, Maher is still a huge fan of food woo. It’s really fucking irritating – last week, he had a farmer on the show and I was hoping the entire time he wouldn’t go into food woo bullshit. Thankfully, he managed to just focus on the (real) environmental harm done by large factory farms.

  38. 38
    matthewtalarico

    Yeah you’re right, he is. He doesn’t have a very strong grasp of science at all. He promotes it but doesn’t really understand it. When WHO categorized cell phones as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ he went all “see I told you so.” Talking about how he only text messages because of the cancer risk. He doesn’t have a critical eye for science in the media. I guess you can’t expect everyone to be a perfect skeptic but it would be nice if someone like him, being sort of a figure for atheism and freethinking, was more of a critical thinker.

  39. 39
    Ing

    Sullivan softens on National Health care when it helps his parents. like I said his politics is “I got mine, fuck you”

  40. 40
    barbyau

    Sullivan is full of shit. When George Tiller was murdered by a pro-life Christian (such as Sully is), he ran a series of posts with emails from people who needed 3rd trimester abortions. Dead babies that were risking the mother’s life, and so on.

    It was gut wrenching, went on for days and even weeks. Ultimately, because of his Catholic faith, he cannot abide by 3rd trimester abortions. He most definitely right then asserted his religion’s right to dictate to others.

    Oh, and there’s this too. He is typical conservative, IOKIYAR. Everything leftist horrible, Fifth Column stuff. I really believe he is only gay because of his overdeveloped sense of misogyny.

  41. 41
    barbyau

    And in fact, Sully himself believes his Catholic Church should not have sway over same sex marriage but it should hold sway over abortion.

    Sully, in other words is every other Republican. The Reagans love stem cell research. Cheney loves SSM. And so on and so on. It’s a bore, really, they’re so predictable. They all want to be cafeteria Christians or cafeteria conservatives while being the dictator that gets to pick and chose which parts of each everyone else must obey.

  42. 42
    barbyau

    The one should say that “anything leftists is Fifth Column…”

  43. 43
    Deuteronomy

    I miss Hitch…

  44. 44
    Kel

    Creationism: so crazy that even the Catholics find it batshit insane.

    ;)

  45. 45
    Nick Gotts

    Exactly how fast are we trying to become pompous assholes like the religious right? – jonathangarner

    Well you’re evidently intent on leading the way, but I don’t think many of us will be following you.

  46. 46
    Nick Gotts

    Following jonathangarner’s link, I see that the Gospel of Mark is one of his favourite books. Interesting, in the light of his use of “we”@21.

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