Another attempt to rationalize religion by equating it with philosophy


Salon has published another of those articles — you know, the ones where some clueless ignoramus presents his biased interpretation of what atheism means and then proceeds to flog the New Atheists for their imagined sins. This time, it’s Sean McElwee bashing away at What Hitchens got wrong: Abolishing religion won’t fix anything. And here’s his premise:

The fundamental error in the “New Atheist” dogma is one of logic. The basic premise is something like this:

1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

2. Religion is irrational

3. Religion is the cause of all human suffering

The “New Atheist” argument gives religion far, far too much credit for its ability to mold institutions and shape politics, committing the classic logical error of post hoc ergo propter hoc  — mistaking a cause for its effect.

Tellingly, he can’t quote any prominent New Atheist say any such thing — or for that matter, any atheist at all — but he does quote a reporter from the Independent, Bernard Lewis, and Terry Eagleton on the wickedness of Hitchens, and of course Hitchens himself was rather bellicose and I concede that he might have promoted some hyperbole…but I don’t know of any specific quotes, and certainly no one I know follows that illogical chain of reasoning above.

I’d also agree that abolishing religion (wait, does any reasonable atheist propose abolishing religion?) would not fix everything, but educating people away from irrationality would certainly fix some things. We have a more moderate vision of the affliction that is religion than McElwee credits us with, but at least we can still recognize some legitimate distinctions, unlike him.

The impulse to destroy religion will ultimately fail. Religion is little different from Continental philosophy or literature (which may explain the hatred of Lacan and Derrida among Analytic philosophers). It is an attempt to explain the deprivations of being human and what it means to live a good life. Banish Christ and Muhammad and you may end up with religions surrounding the works of Zizek and Sloterdijk (there is already a Journal of Zizek Studies, maybe soon a seminary?). Humans will always try to find meaning and purpose in their lives, and science will never be able to tell them what it is. This, ultimately is the meaning of religion, and “secular religions” like philosophy and literature are little different in this sense than theology. Certainly German philosophy was distorted by madmen just as Christianity has been in the past, but atheists fool themselves if they try to differentiate the two.

So religion is just like philosophy and literature, and philosophy and literature are just instances of this peculiarly vague monstrous amalgam McElwee wants to call “religion”? Do science, philosophy, and literature have at their heart an unevidenced concept that defies everything we know of reality, an elaborate and ultimately nonsensical premise around which theologians build intricate fantasies that contradict one another and all human experience?

The man libels philosophy and literature, and puffs up myths and lies with a credibility they do not deserve. For shame.

Comments

  1. kosk11348 says

    Look at the way he defines religion: “Religion is both a personal search for truth as well as a communal attempt to discern where we fit in the order of things.”

    Religion is a search for truth? In what sense?

  2. A. Noyd says

    I see in his comparison to philosophy and literature that he conveniently left out how religions usually feature an ultimate, magical authority with moral demands no mortal can appeal and an extreme carrot and stick system for enforcing them. We atheists are just fooling ourselves to find that distinction meaningful.

  3. sqlrob says

    @kosk11348, #1

    Religion is a search for truth? In what sense?

    Where’s the truth? There it is! RUN AWAY!

  4. doublereed says

    1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

    2. Religion is irrational

    3. Religion is the cause of all human suffering

    Dafuq? Seriously, who believes the first one? I can’t imagine anyone ever saying #1.

    #2 is obvious. I’m confused, because it actually sounds like the author basically agrees with that premise.

    #3 Yea… I don’t even think Hitchens went to that degree of hyperbole. Even “Religion Poisons Everything” is a smaller statement than that.

    I really don’t understand it. If religion is irrational, it doesn’t need to be some sort of horrible satan for it to be bad. Really, just saying that religion is irrational is good enough reason to be against it. The fact that it does serious harm to people just piles on.

  5. doublereed says

    In fact, #1 has that kind of an ironic thing going on. It is irrational to think that all human suffering is caused by irrationality.

  6. says

    That cold I struggled with the last couple of weeks? Yeah, it was produced by irrationality. If only I lived a life of logic, I wouldn’t have to deal with so much mucus!

  7. Sastra says

    Defenses of religion which try to remove the supernatural, God, and the specific details of both always seem to me like an own goal. Let’s shut up the gnu atheists by giving them what they want and gutting religion of everything which doesn’work just fine with secular humanism! Let’s render the gnu atheists foolish by taking away God and displaying a now toothless and empty theology around which people do things which secular humanists would do! And let’s insist that True Religion has always been secular humanism in metaphor!

    The gnu atheists won’t expect this form of attack and they will thus be completely disarmed, standing there foolish with nothing left to criticize.

    And the religious will be standing proud and victorious.

    Right. You do that. We’ll never see it coming.

  8. kosk11348 says

    Defenses of religion which try to remove the supernatural, God, and the specific details of both always seem to me like an own goal.

    Exactly. Religion is entirely reasonable so long as we ignore all the things which make it unreasonable.

  9. brianpansky says

    @7

    Defenses of religion which try to remove the supernatural, God, and the specific details of both always seem to me like an own goal. Let’s shut up the gnu atheists by giving them what they want and gutting religion of everything which doesn’work just fine with secular humanism!

    i know! i like playing along too. going like “ya, let’s get everyone educated so that they know it’s the way you say it is”

    responded to one one like that a while ago on tumblr:

    http://idreamofgiygas.tumblr.com/post/64900829732/atheists-who-attempt-to-expose-the-illogic-of

    you see, it’s not possible to point out the illogic of religion without missing the point of religion. and this matters somehow. and the atheists are the ones who need to learn. definitely those atheists.

  10. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    The fundamental error in the “New Atheist” dogma is one of logic. The basic premise is something like this:

    1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

    2. Religion is irrational

    3. Religion is the cause of all human suffering

    Is Mr. McElwee stupid enough to think that that is a logical sequence, or is he stupid enough to think that atheists are stupid enough to think it is a logical sequence, or is he stupid and dishonest enough to think that he can persuade people that atheists are stupid enough to think that is a logical sequence?
    That’s aside from the fact that it manifestly isn’t true: what is “irrational” about bubonic plague or cancer, for example?

    Do science, philosophy, and literature have at their heart an unevidenced concept that defies everything we know of reality, an elaborate and ultimately nonsensical premise around which theologians build intricate fantasies that contradict one another and all human experience?

    The important thing about religion- what makes it religion- is not what people believe, but the way they believe it. No matter how absurd someone’s beliefs, if they can recognise their absurdity and abandon them when given cogent arguments against them, they aren’t religious beliefs. If people believe something is absolute truth- even if it is absolute truth- and try to stop people examining and questioning it, it is a religion.

  11. Rey Fox says

    In my more smug and annoying moments, I respond to this sort of article with “Yeah, well your gods still don’t exist.” They like to distract away from that point.

  12. says

    Do science, philosophy, and literature have at their heart an unevidenced concept that defies everything we know of reality, an elaborate and ultimately nonsensical premise around which theologians build intricate fantasies that contradict one another and all human experience?

    Well, there is Ayn Rand and Libertarianism, and I suppose you could sort of call Trekkies/Trekkers, or people obsessed with Star Wars kind of religious, so…. lol

    I think the real point though would have to be that, unlike literature, which most people know is often fiction, when/if someone takes part of it and turns it into an unevidenced concept, that defies everything we know about reality, its probably become a religion. Otherwise, yeah, dead wrong.

  13. anuran says

    Depends on what exactly you mean by “religion”. Snake-handling King-James-Only Pentecostalism, Old School cut off your fingers and see the Axis Mundi shamanistic practices, ayahuasca-induced trips to the bottom of your brain, School of Rambam hyper-scholastic yeshivish discussions about the nature of evidence, Yogic withdrawal of the senses and heat meditation (measurable, verifiable, quantitative) and explicitly atheistic Ch’an Buddhist doctrine and practice are very different things. For lack of a better word we call them “Religion”. Many of them qualify as Philosophy by any consistent definition of the word.

    Now, I know most of you are allergic to anything that is labelled “religious”. But the simple fact is that for most of human history religious and philosophical discourse has had a huge overlap. To deny this is simply dishonest.

  14. Usernames are smart says

    Sounds like this twerp is trying to twist the “Four Noble Truths” to his view of what an Atheist would believe.

    To review:

    1) Suffering exists
    2) Suffering has a cause (ultimately Greed, Ignorance or Hatred)
    3) Suffering has an end/cure
    4) There is a way to get from 2 to 3 (Buddha’s “Path to Enlightenment”)

    1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality

    Said no one, ever.

  15. connorwoodruff says

    “the classic logical error of post hoc ergo propter hoc — mistaking a cause for its effect.”
    Don’t need to go further, the guy doesn’t understand basic logical principles.
    The post hoc fallacy not about reversal of causation, just the unjustified proposition of causal relationships where there is only correlation.
    He also seems to live in some weird world where Zizek is not Lacanian, but that could just be me misinterpreting his bizarre analogies.

  16. stevem says

    Re quoted stuff @OP:

    The fundamental error in the “New Atheist” dogma is one of logic. The basic premise is something like this:
    1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality
    2. Religion is irrational
    3. Religion is the cause of all human suffering

    Oh, where to begin… He says we have a problem with logic, yet kettle-meet-pot. His example is clearly illogical. Putting words in our mouth, falsely “quoting” us to show just how illogical our attitude is. statement #2 I’ll admit to having said, but #1 and #3 are much more extreme than I ever heard ANY atheist ever say (even PZ). The key word is ALL, no one has ever said ALL human suffering is caused by irrationality, nor that religion is the cause of ALL human suffering. What is the saying? STRAWMAN, That’s it! Let’s just edit his “list” a little:

    1. The A cause of all human suffering is irrationality
    2. Religion is irrational
    3. Religion is the a cause of all human suffering

    That sounds like what I usually say, and what I hear from other rationalists (whether atheist, agnostic, or apathetic) who deride religion.

    Yes, what is known as Religion has a purpose: a book of fables with a moral. Stories that might comfort people suffering hard times and other disasters. That is as far as I will allow “religion” to go, i.e. a Book of Stories, nothing more. No matter how much the story comforts, or teaches something, to declare it absolute, literal TRUTH, is way too far to go. Even their book of stories (i.e. The Bible) emphasizes this point; Jebus is always telling “parables” to educate the people in the moral way to live. <maybe that’s too meta for people who take the Bible as literal truth>

    sorry, so many errors and misconceptions and answers to those, that I can’t keep ‘em straight and write them down coherently. sorry I can’t present it more coherently, I facepalmed so much at this nonsense that I knocked myself speechless.

  17. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Wasn’t this novelty-store plastic horseshit also left by whoever the prankster at the Guardian is? ‘Cos I pissed on one of the “Comment is free” blogs and it either was or might as well have been the same line of whining, but I don’t recall Hitchens being slandered.

    At this point, I’m sure the Guardian is literally trolling for hits, and has found that empty-headed attacks on “New Atheists” pull more valuable clicks than ones by anyone with a working brain who points out that religion, as generally practiced, has negative social value.

    Whatever, Salon, as usual, can fuck off. I hope they sometimes are doing good work, but I’m unlikely to ever bother going to their site, even when it’s linked to something I agree with.

    Journalism! What a way to make a living!

  18. hexidecima says

    ooh, my favorite kind of falsehood by a theist. They are fantastic when they attempt to depower their gods and religions when they need to invent reasons on why atheists are wrong. Poor pitiful god and religion, they really haven’t done anything per this twit, and of course we can all point to how much influence that theists always claim that religion has had. Again, sigh, we get to see how theists cannot agree on much at all when it comes to their delusions.

  19. consciousness razor says

    Of course, I’m entirely aware of the problems in modern American Christianity. I have written an essay excoriating what I see as the false Christianity. But any critique of religion that can be made from the outside (by atheists) can be made more persuasively from within religion.

    Not any critique, bullshitter. Here’s an example of one which you can’t make from within: there aren’t any gods, so theism is false, so it ought to be abandoned. It’s a fairly obvious one, so I don’t know how someone could’ve honestly overlooked it. Religious shit doesn’t seem to be the kind which flushes itself down the toilet. When a believer comes to that conclusion, they cease to be religious. You find a sympathetic group of non-believers who can make that critique while making vague gestures about how meaningful they think religions are despite being false, and they would nevertheless be a group of non-believers (however nonsensical their defense of religion is). This is not homeopathy. At some point, if you water down a religion enough, it’s not “liberal,” and it doesn’t avoid the “excesses” of organized religions.* It’s just fucking gone.

    *Who the fuck is this guy anyway? Who would write something like this?

    Similarly, within the church there are modernizers and reformers working to quash the Church’s excesses, no Hitchens, Dawkins or Harris needed.

    I’m sure those three probably haven’t been much help in that regard. That doesn’t say much about the millions of other atheists in the world. Of course, I’m sure you would accept all the help you could get, given that you so sincerely do want these things to be quashed. Just after you’re finishing trashing them, obviously. That’s what makes you such a great ally. *eyeroll*

    But “excesses” just isn’t the right word here. The problem wasn’t that, say, the RCC was too excessive about raping children and conspiring to protect the perpetrators, or letting an excessive number of people die of AIDS, or excessively persecuting and ostracizing them for their “sins.” There’s not any sensible, decent, non-excessive amount of criminal behavior, not for Jesus or Buddha or unicorns or anything else.

    anuran, #14:

    Now, I know most of you are allergic to anything that is labelled “religious”. But the simple fact is that for most of human history religious and philosophical discourse has had a huge overlap. To deny this is simply dishonest.

    I don’t think anyone’s denying that, the overlap or probably even the stronger claim that religions are philosophical. Theology is a subset of philosophy. It’s entirely philosophical. (Are most believers theologians, or even remotely familiar with the theological history and literature of their own denomination, much less that of thousands of others? Of course not. But I digress.)

    Why does any of that matter? What kind of point is this supposed to be? Philosophy gets its paws on everything, and it’s had most of recorded history to do so, in “the West” or East or wherever you go. This is by design: philosophers want to philosophize about anything and everything. That’s the whole point. You come up with a scientific theory, you’re doing philosophy. You put together some ideas about history or art or communication or whatever-the-fuck, you’re doing some kind of philosophy. So what? The problem with religions isn’t that they’re philosophical. It’s that they’re bullshit. (And that isn’t synonymous with “I don’t like it” or “I’m not interested in it.” I actually mean bullshit.) I can hardly tell what PZ thinks anymore, but whether he really means it or not, he’s at least right to say that we shouldn’t discredit philosophers and others in the humanities while we’re trashing religion. They’re all humanists, in one sense of the word at least — not all secular humanists of course, but it’s a start.

  20. says

    I tried to illustrate the difference between religion and philosophy here:
    http://mjranum.deviantart.com/journal/The-Dining-Philosophers-a-Problem-330263095
    I so much loved imagining how annoying Socrates would be to a supreme being, I tried to write it down.

    The problem is that religion amounts to nothing more than a bunch of assertions; in that sense it is the antithesis of philosophy – it bypasses the part where it tries to actually take and defend a position and just says “… this is how GOD says it is.” And, as I tried to explore in my little piece, jesus’ followers were not philosophers, either. Can you imagine the fun and fireworks that would ensue if Socrates had found himself in the presence of an actual supreme being? He’d have asked the right questions, at least. Jesus’ followers forgot to ask things like “what’s with the foreskins, lord?” or “why did you make so much evil in the world?” they weren’t even philosophically sophisticated to ask him “why do puppies have to grow up?”

  21. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    It’s not a syllogism, that’s for sure. It takes more than writing down three sentences in a column to produce a logical conclusion.

    Is this what passes for thought amongst religious ‘experts’? Logical fallacies, misrepresentation, and special pleading?

  22. dogfightwithdogma says

    McElwee’s article is an example of someone who thinks they know something about religion, philosophy and atheism sharing his so-called knowledge with the rest of us and in doing so revealing that he knows little about any of the topics of which he discusses.

  23. rthearle says

    1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality
    2. Sqrt(2) is irrational
    3. Therefore sqrt(2) is the cause of all human suffering

    Roy

  24. says

    Religion is not philosophy, it is ideology – the same sort of ideology as fascism, communism, nationalism, nazism, “white suprmacy” and every other extremist view out there.

  25. says

    I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this phrase:

    It is an attempt to explain the deprivations of being human

    What in the heck are the “deprivations of being human” supposed to be?

  26. kickingbird says

    One thing that drives me up the wall is the inability of many religious people (and many conservative-leaning people as well), is their inability to distinguish criticizing an idea, opposing an idea, or advocating the position that a certain behavior or ideology is unhealthy, counterproductive, wrong, useless, or generally ill-advised, and supporting legislation to ban that idea or practice. I have met in person and read the work of many atheists and secularists, famous and not famous, living and dead, and I have yet to hear anyone talk about abolishing religion in the United States. Nobody wants to ban religion or make it illegal. I would be completely against any government restrictions on the right to practice religion. I just think it should have no bearing on my life. I think religion is little more than an easy answer to difficult questions and a poor solution to difficult problems, like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound, but I would never support abolishing it. People have a right to practice any religion they choose. And I have a right to tell them they’re deluded and wasting their time.

  27. knowknot says

    #26
    Gwynnyd… The “deprivations of being human” thing stuck in my craw as well.  I first imagined it as referring to a lack as compared to another entity, likely a deity or some other animal.  I assume plants are a non starter, but who could ever know with writing like this?
    –  So, maybe religion is attempting to explain why humans are littler than some deity (“because we made him/her big” being disallowed), or maybe, given the additional inflection of “what it means to live a good life,” why humans aren’t as good at being humans as, say, dogs are at being dogs, or cuttlefish are at being cuttlefish (“at least partly because the latter aren’t all gummed up with religious ideation” being disallowed).
    –  But I’m afraid he’s rubbing his parts against something like original sin here.  Whee.  And the only sensible responses to that are to run, or break out the scotch.  Which are also the only sensible responses to any text or utterance from a religious mind which includes anything like a syllogism.  (Don’t know for sure, but maybe it’s the fact that that they come in trinities that makes them go so wobbly and effusive…)

  28. brucegorton says

    This argument to me really illustrates why religion is losing amongst educated populations.
    “The fundamental error in the “New Atheist” dogma is one of logic. The basic premise is something like this:
    1. The cause of all human suffering is irrationality
    2. Religion is irrational
    3. Religion is the cause of all human suffering
    The “New Atheist” argument gives religion far, far too much credit for its ability to mold institutions and shape politics, committing the classic logical error of post hoc ergo propter hoc — mistaking a cause for its effect.”
    First of all, this is a case of projection. Most religions tend to propose an anthro-centric view of suffering, essentially putting it across that suffering is caused by sin.
    For an example of this you only need to look to the Book of Genesis, where death only enters the world after Adam and Eve eat the apple. Budhism’s central ascetism is another example of this – where desire is seen as the root of all suffering.
    The nearest you will get to #1 in this list is the argument that irrationality often prolongs suffering and makes it worse than it need be, something that shouldn’t be controversial.
    If I am broke and my answer to it is to go hunting for, say, Leprechauns, I am not going to get rich doing that because there is no evidence that Leprechauns even exist. If on the other hand I go job hunting, I have a much higher shot at getting some cash in.
    But whether I believe in leprechauns or not probably has nothing to do with my house getting knocked down by a tornado.
    As to religion not having much power to shape politics, well, tell that to gay people in Uganda, who due to the rampant Christianity of their government face jail time if they are found out.
    Also, try telling that to Islamists, who specifically want to base the Islamic world’s legal codes on their religion.
    A lot of religious people seem to have this odd focus on the idea of the source of all evil, and considering that what is termed evil can mostly be defined as “that which I find most disagreeable” the concept of a source of all of it is ultimately incoherent.
    That which I find most disagreeable in one context, can be highly agreeable in others, and one cannot even proclaim existence the source of evil, as there are plenty of things which cause suffering by not existing.
    It is why the concept of a perfect God is ultimately incoherent, whether something is perfect or not depends largely on the use you want to put it to. A perfect hot dog would not be a perfect screwdriver.
    Atheism generally does not particularly give a damn about ultimate evil or perfect good, it does not hold the same anthro-centric concept of the universe in which everything is designed either to test or cater to humanity.
    Because of this there is no requirement to judge something the root of all evil, we can deal in a universe where something doesn’t have to be the root of all that is wrong with the world in order to be bad.
    These arguments attempting to play “New Atheists” as being naive in this sense ultimately end up backfiring, because if the best you can say for religion is that it is not the cause of all suffering, then frankly there isn’t much to recommend it is there?

  29. koncorde says

    I don’t understand how religion can be the search for truth any more than American Football can be the search for truth. Philosophy and literature I can buy as some form of self investigation and the pursuit of truthiness (if not actual meaning) as generally speaking they show advancement, progress, and build upon previous generations of ideas and concepts. It wont necessarily reach a conclusion, but at least it doesn’t pretend to be the answer.

    In contrast Religion “IS” the truth (or so they tell us) and no amount of investigation, advancement or progress is required.

    Discovering a personal meaning from the gospels is wonderful. But that isn’t “truth” any more than drawing inspiration from FIA regulations.

  30. unclefrogy says

    it is funny and sad that the people who try to “defend” religion against atheism try so hard to keep atheism within the narrative of belief fail so miserably to comprehend that atheism is so completely out side of “the story” that their descriptions of what atheism states bare scant resemblance to the reality of what atheism. is.
    they desperately try to shoe horn everything into their particular story’ Everything has to have a nice clean known answer, There is no room for the unexpected or the unknown. Everything is about Us humans or them, the loudest have no sense of proportion. They take themselves to seriously they think that they matter when any walk out into the night sky and realize what is there can remove that illusion in about 5 minutes.
    in some sense it is whistling past the grave yard
    uncle frogy

  31. says

    Religion is little different from Continental philosophy or literature (which may explain the hatred of Lacan and Derrida among Analytic philosophers).

    <sarcasm> And here I thought — as a student in a language/linguistics/analysis-intensive field during the height of Derrida’s academic fashionability — that any hatred of Lacan and Derrida came from some combination of their bigotry, arrogance, misrepresentation of evidence and others’ views, and ad hominem attacks on those who disagreed with them. And that’s without even considering Yale’s philosophy and literature faculty… or, for that matter, Eagleton. </sarcasm>

    On those grounds, Mr McElwee appears to be in good company… although a Derridean analysis of his piece yields some interesting inferences about his cultural premises. And I mean “interesting” as it would have been used in a humanities/social sciences graduate seminar in the 1970s-80s: “I’m not a clinical psychologist, so I can’t diagnose you as insane based upon what you just said. Nonetheless, what you just said is utterly insane.”

  32. says

    For those who may need it, handy html:

    To quote someone, use: <blockquote>Place Text Here</blockquote>, which gives you:

    Place Text Here

    For italics, use <i>Text Here</i> – Text Here

    For bold, use <b>Text Here</b> – Text Here

  33. sc_b606d96be3a9d79b5f47f915b6533b7e says

    Hitchens never called for religion to be banned, nor did he say that religion’s disappearance would bring world peace. Way to slander a dead guy; I guess the author didn’t want to do it while Hitch was still alive lest he might actually have to debate him.

  34. alwayscurious says

    Sam writes:

    Any theologian or scientist who steps out of their realm to speculate upon the other is free to do so, but must do so with an adequate understanding of the other’s realm.”

    Says the guy who has a background in neither.

    And why even bring this up in the first place? His criticism was about Hitchens’ (supposed) viewpoints about religion, but he does a sharp turn from criticizing atheism in general (apparently Hitchens represents all atheists?) to giving scientists suggestions for what they should do. A society without religion may not be more peaceful, but that is a flimsy defense of religion. He correctly states that abolishing religion today will not end geopolitical disputes already in progress (in some part instigated & maintained by religion): but he misses the point completely that future disagreements CAN be avoided. Disentangling claims to absolute truth from petty squabbles (over what images can be drawn or represented, whether wine is literally blood or just symbolizes blood, whether certain books should be interpreted literally or figuratively, who has permission to read & talk about certain books, whether to crack the egg on the small end or the large end) will probably prevent some measure of future suffering. At the very least, it will force us to admit (or lie more creatively) about why it is that we don’t get along with one another in the first place. Additionally, it removes some level of justification to violence about those same disagreements.

  35. mhph says

    Religion is little different from Continental philosophy or literature (which may explain the hatred of Lacan and Derrida among Analytic philosophers).

    Considering that nearly all working philosophers these days are Analytic philosophers (which is why that term is rarely used anymore), this is a fairly revealing statement. The Continental/Analytic divide might have picked out something interesting last century, but nowadays the obsession with it is largely concentrated in a fringe group trying their best to set themselves apart from the mainstream.

    To be fair to him, though, the “hatred” (which is more accurately described as contempt) is due to the fact that those writers are viewed as presenting massively oversimplified, generally debunked, and shallow views in a deliberately obscurantist way in the hopes of seeming profound or revolutionary (instead of boring or oversimplified). So in that sense he’s right.

  36. vaiyt says

    @imthegenieicandoanything

    Journalism! What a way to make a living!

    My profession really is going to end up down there with the lawyers at this rate, isn’t it ):

    @Jaws

    Religion is little different from Continental philosophy or literature

    Except for the institutions, the sanctimony, the self-proclaimed absolute knowledge, the killing, the political lobbying…

  37. brianpansky says

    @39
    Rutee Katreya

    just looked it up, thanks, i’m so entertained now. one of the randomly generated articles had this:

    “Narrativity is part of the economy of reality,” says Marx; however, according to von Ludwig[20] , it is not so much narrativity that is part of the economy of reality, but rather the dialectic, and some would say the fatal flaw, of narrativity. However, Lacan’s analysis of textual discourse holds that language serves to marginalize the Other. Tilton[21] states that we have to choose between the subcultural paradigm of consensus and neodeconstructivist capitalist theory.

  38. brianpansky says

    also, from the OP article:

    As a poorly-practicing Christian who reads enough science to be functional at dinner parties, I would like to suggest a truce — one originally proposed by the Catholic church and promoted by the eminent Stephen J. Gould. Science, the study of the natural world, and religion, the inquiry into the meaning of life (or metaphysics, more broadly) constitute non-overlapping magisteria. Neither can invalidate the theories of the other, if such theories are properly within their realm. Any theologian or scientist who steps out of their realm to speculate upon the other is free to do so, but must do so with an adequate understanding of the other’s realm.

    Religion (either secular or theological) does not poison all of society and science should not be feared, but rather embraced. Both can bring humanity to new heights of empathy, imagination and progress. To quote the greatest American reformer, “Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.”

    making that work requires a lot of amputation for religion.

    i was going to say “is the idea that a god exists a value, not a fact?” but the quote above includes the weasel word “mainly” which indicates they don’t care to perform the amputations required.

    none of the supernatural elements would be left intact if they were honest about this idea of NOMA.

  39. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    …the classic logical error of post hoc ergo propter hoc — mistaking a cause for its effect.

    Yeah, that’s not what that means.

  40. don1 says

    As far as I can recall the nearest Hitchins ever came to pronouncing a universal panacea it wasn’t ‘Abolish religion’, it was ‘Empower women.’

  41. Ichthyic says

    wait, does any reasonable atheist propose abolishing religion?

    presupposes a definition of reasonable that negates abolishing religion.

    frankly, I disagree. It’s a quite reasonable proposition to espouse the abolition of religion through education and reasoned argument.

    in fact, it is EXACTLY what you do, every day. The very idea of “relegating religion to the position of personal hobby” is in fact, proposing the abolition of religion as it stands.

    I find your position reasonable, but your statement is disingenuous.

  42. Ichthyic says

    Hitchins ever came to pronouncing a universal panacea it wasn’t ‘Abolish religion’, it was ‘Empower women.’

    tell me, you have actually read “God is Not Great”, right?

  43. brianpansky says

    @44
    Ichthyic

    It’s a quite reasonable proposition to espouse the abolition of religion through education and reasoned argument.

    i don’t think the word “abolish” works there. abolish usually means something more like “ban”, make something illegal, etc.

  44. knowknot says

    #32

    …people who try to “defend” religion against atheism try so hard to keep atheism within the narrative of belief…

    This is just beautiful. Really beautiful.

    I had a conversation with my 14 year old daughter recently, in which we fiddled with the question of athiesm as a religion view, during which I posited the following thought experiment:
    1) a group exists, in isolation, an unaware of religious thought and with no conception of the existence of a diety,
    2) the seemingly evident attribution of “non religious” to this group,
    3) and with the sudden introduction of another group with specific religious beliefs regarding the existence of a diety or diesties, and
    4) which is the real question… does the previously considered “non-religious” group suddenly become “religious” in some way, due only to the introduction of a religious view?

    She has a number of very dear religious friends, whose families are precious to me as well, and somehow this level of seperation was just to much. Even in disagreement, that the question at at hand could bot be described in terms appropriately meaningful to both sides was just too much. And that was the end of that, for the time being.

    This really seemed to be troublesome to her, in a way she felt maningfully. She’s a thinking girl, form whom I have great repect. So, in the light of her reaction, my understanding of the roots of the attempt to confine atheism to the “narrative of belief” has, along with the obvious spine rattling frustration, taken a whole new depth. Which I can’t completely explain.