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Dec 15 2013

It’s not disrespect, it’s a reminder of the trash atheists have to fight

Christopher Hitchens died two years ago today, so either obliviously (most likely) or with malice (not impossible), Salon has to run one of their New Atheist bashing pieces. It’s gotten ridiculously predictable. Their rule seems to be to find someone who simultaneously hates atheism, and doesn’t know a goddamn thing about it except for some fragmentary bits of third hand quotes they heard somewhere, and then let them babble.

This time, it’s Richard Rodriguez, illustrated with a photo of Richard Dawkins so that we might bother to read it. Come on, Salon, at least try: if the guy’s words are interesting enough to be worth an article, why are you splashing a photo of someone he dislikes front and center?

I could tell it was going to be awful from the first question.

So let’s start talking about “Darling” and we’ll get into some other things from there. You open and close this book with trips to the Middle Eastern desert taken after September 11. The social and physical aspects of the desert seem very important to you, for the origins of the three monotheistic religions. So I wonder if human history would have been different if the God of the Axial age had emerged not from theses parched deserts, but say, from a dark German forest or something.

Well, I think obviously we would have a different experience of nature. And maybe a different notion of what God expects from us; this is said as a believer, I should stress. It seems to me that a God who would reveal himself to Abraham in a place of such desolation is at least reminding us that our place on this Earth is temporary, and this is a place – a landscape – that reminds us of just how empty it is. The word desert comes from the notion of deserted; something was here and now it’s gone. What’s gone, of course, is the ocean; this was the bottom of the ocean. And this is a place of such rigor and difficulty that one stands in nature with an adversarial relationship.

So a softer, more sentimental God would have revealed himself on a lakeshore or in a forest. That would have been a very different experience. One of the things I’m asking of people, believers and unbelievers, is that we come to terms with place. The Semitic god has always been acknowledged to have broken through time. The eternal breakthrough of time at a specific moment. But we don’t talk about places much, partially because it is such a difficult thing to imagine that we are being called, by God, in a place of death.

Why do you assume that there is a god to appear? Maybe instead you should flip that around: this happens to be a myth conjured up by people who weren’t living in a lush tropical paradise. Rather than this nonsense about a desert god, talk about a desert people.

But even there, this guy is talking nonsense. Once upon a time, many millions of years ago, the Middle East was under water — before people existed. This fact has nothing to do with the origins of the term, nor did the people there historically have any awareness of their geological history (even now, there are many Christians and Jews and Muslims who would deny it).

I also have to wonder about this persistent myth of the parched desert, barren, empty, and desolate. The Abrahamic faiths rose out of a pastoral people; they raised sheep and goats. The land of the Tigris and Euphrates was a well-watered flood plain, and the Hebrews invaded Palestine, with its coastal plains where olives and fruit trees grew, with areas forested with cedars, and fertile valleys with lovely streams and cool shady forests. They were well aware of the bordering true deserts, but we’re taking about a place with a Mediterranean climate — where perhaps the desolate desert was a place with mythic resonance to them.

So here you have people talking amongst each other, playing up the frightful horrors of the desert, and bragging about how tough and mighty their ancestors were to have lived through it, and this myth is now perpetuated by every believer in the Abrahamic faiths on the planet. I think it’s like the idea of persecution in the Roman arena — mostly legend, with next to nothing to connect it to reality.

Furthermore, deserts are actually complex, interesting places. They may be inimical to us damp, squishy apes who like our swimming pools, but “empty” is the wrong word to use for them.

You want a desolation, look at the parking lot at a WalMart superstore. There’s hell on earth; I’d hate to meet the god conjured up by the people who dwell there.

But let’s cut to the chase: where’s this nugget of anti-atheism to justify Salon publishing this tripe?

You write about the “New Atheism” emerging from England, catching on here. How is it new and why does it seem like a dead end to you?

It seems to me that the New Atheism — particularly its recent gaudy English manifestations — has a distinctly neo-colonial aspect. (As Cary Grant remarked: Americans are suckers for the accent!) On the one hand, the New Atheist, with his plummy Oxbridge tones, tries to convince Americans that God is dead at a time when London is alive with Hinduism and Islam. (The empiric nightmare: The colonials have turned on their masters and transformed the imperial city with their prayers and their growing families, even while Europe disappears into materialistic sterility.) Christopher Hitchens, most notably, before his death titled his atheist handbook as a deliberate affront to Islam: “God Is Not Great.” At the same time, he traveled the airwaves of America urging us to war in Iraq — and to maintain borders that the Foreign Office had drawn in the sand. With his atheism, he became a darling of the left. With his advocacy of the Iraq misadventure, he became a darling of the right.

That’s it? Pathetic. And Salon, why are you taking the most shallow point in his interview and making the title all about it?

He’s heard of Dawkins and Hitchens…well, good for him. What about the other big proponents of the New Atheism, Dan Dennett and Sam Harris? No plummy accents there. Or Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Or as I try to remind everyone, Susan Jacoby or Annie Laurie Gaylor, who were talking up freethought years before Dawkins’ spectacular book, or David Silverman or David Niose or Hemant Mehta or me, even? You simply cannot define atheism by one live Brit and one dead one, even if your weird premise is that we’re atheists because we like their accents.

I’ve noticed often that anti-atheists look at us and try to define us by our leadership, which doesn’t exist…so they appoint one, containing whichever people are a convenient fit to whatever thesis they’re trying to advance. News to believers everywhere (and to some misguided atheists as well): there is no hierarchy, no atheist pope, no atheist bishops, and if someone tried to declare themselves head of all atheism, 90% of all atheists would immediately announce their rejection and tear them down. We have no holy book — there are atheists who dislike The God Delusion and God is Not Great, and even those of us who like them feel free to criticize bits and pieces, as well as the authors.

You can also knock individuals for their politics — I detest Hitchens’ and Harris’s conservative and militaristic ideas — but there aren’t any politics that define atheism as a whole. Most (but not all!) of us are politically progressive and looking to broaden the appeal of rational unbelief, so it’s very strange to see some outsider trying to pin membership in the New Atheism on Hitchens’ politics. Or his accent.

But then, consistency and reason aren’t things we should expect from someone described as “gay, deeply Catholic”. It seems to be a too frequent combination that leads only to muddled thinking.


nun

OK, Salon, you are now on notice. The latest edition to the front page? An article praising the simple lifestyle of the nunnery, illustrated with that photo on the right. Yeah, because attractive young women with carefully applied makeup personify Catholic austerity so well.

53 comments

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  1. 1
    raven

    I’ve noticed often that anti-atheists look at us and try to define us by our leadership, which doesn’t exist.

    QFT.

    The New Atheism is a true bottom up mass movement.

    What leadership there is, is self selected.

    The main driver in the USA is…fundie death cult xians. When xian became synonymous with liar, hater, ignorant, superstitious, totalitarian, and sometimes killer, a lot of people didn’t want to be one any more.

  2. 2
    raven

    So I wonder if human history would have been different if the God of the Axial age had emerged not from theses parched deserts, but say, from a dark German forest or something.

    Gibberish.

    It’s fractally wrong everywhere.

    Gods and Goddesses did emerge from dark forests, mostly in Scandinavia. We still honor them in the days of the week, Wotan’s day, Thor’s day, Freya’s day. I’m sure Brahma is going to be surprised to learn he played psychout with Abraham.

    In fact, they have emerged anywhere there are people. There are thousands of gods at the least.

  3. 3
    Rey Fox

    The Middle East was indeed a much more fertile landscape early in human history.

  4. 4
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    I detest Hitchens’ and Harris’s conservative and militaristic ideas

    For most of his life, in nearly all of his politics, Hitchens was radical and anti-militaristic. It was only in the last few years that he changed. Even then, it was only in the field of radical Islamism that he changed: he- mistakenly- thought that the choice was between islamist conservative and militaristic ideas and U.S. conservative and militaristic ideas and that the latter were less evil.

  5. 5
    Lynna, OM

    Speaking of the particular flavor of desolation to be found in Walmart parking lots:

    when she finds herself wishing
    to be paired to the bones
    a hard man throws his woman,
    she visits the local Walmart
    and watches in the parking lot
    for the common man to summon
    his wife by walking away, not
    doubting her drumming trot
    will always play behind him

    the music that belongs to him
    alone

  6. 6
    John Horstman

    It seems to me that at one point when Pope Francis said, “You know the church has been too preoccupied with those issues, gay marriage and abortion…” at some level the secular left has been too preoccupied with those issues.

    Yeah, good point, it’s definitely the Left that’s challenging the default position of bodily autonomy for women or equal access to legal contracts for all adults. THEY’RE the ones making abortion and gay marriage big issues. Absolutely. Also, differential treatment under contract law and reproductive slavery have nothing to do with poverty. Those stupid gays and ladypeople should concentrate on REAL problems, the kind that impact straight men, amirite?

    What an asshole.

  7. 7
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    First thing that jumped out at me:


    The word desert comes from the notion of deserted; something was here and now it’s gone.

    Bullshit.

    It comes from deserere which is an antonym of serere.

    Serere means to plant or grow crops. Deserere means leave unplanted (often translated as “leave (as a) waste(land)”).

    It doesn’t mean that something was there and now is gone, though it could mean that. Some thing doesn’t have to first be used as agricultural land for it to be left unplanted today. It might have always been left unplanted.

    Maybe I’m missing some of the connotation of the original Romans’ use, but it sure as hell isn’t entailed in “left unplanted” that something was inhabited by folks who then left.


    What’s gone, of course, is the ocean; this was the bottom of the ocean.

    I can’t improve on PZ’s assessment of the geological assertion, as I’m uncertain which land has simply been moved into the locale of ancient Tethys and which land was raised as Africa collided with Europe & Southwest Asia, but the author uses approximation to say:


    And this is a place of such rigor and difficulty that one stands in nature with an adversarial relationship.

    huh? Then what was the relevance of desert/ed?

    The ocean is gone, woe is us, because we would have had a much easier time surviving on the bottom of the ocean?

    Well, hell, there’s a ton of real estate on the bottom of the ocean, go build if it’s so inviting.


    a softer, more sentimental God would have revealed himself on a lakeshore or in a forest.

    Yes, wasn’t it the Horned God that said, “Turn the other cheek” and embroidered lilies into his parables?


    it is such a difficult thing to imagine that we are being called, by God, in a place of death.

    Far easier to imagine flying horses than to imagine gods talking to human beings in a place where humans live just as long as lives are elsewhere, but do eventually die. In fact, as I recall, all the God-Human interactions tend to take place where humans never die. You know, like Gaul.

    Also, y’know, everything that PZ wrote about the humans actually living in places where sheep and goats had plenty of food, grain grew plentifully, and fruits to eat fresh or press into oil or wine responded well to cultivation.

    Deserere my ass.

    As for the argument, PZ has already shown that there isn’t much argument there except that Hitchens is a bit colonialist, which we’re all supposed to deplore immediately before we are painted the grim picture of


    colonials [turning] on their masters and transformed the imperial city with their prayers and their growing families, even while Europe disappears into materialistic sterility.

    Yes, fuck the King. Long live the King. Is it too much to hope that in engaging in such a rapid and unexpected reversal this man snaps his own neck so thoroughly that the nervous connection to his typing fingers (however many they are, perhaps only one) is severed?

    With his disdain for the intellectual he hopes to become a darling of the masses. With his disdain for the masses, he hopes to become a darling of the intellectuals. It sounds like the man is not so much criticizing Hitchens as jealously begrudging him an accomplishment he wishes for himself, describing it as logically inconsistent to protect his fragile ego.

    Yes, I just said he has Fallac-envy. Deal with it.

    But notice the fluffing in which he engages:


    Christopher Hitchens, most notably, before his death titled his atheist handbook as a deliberate affront to Islam: “God Is Not Great.”

    Wait til he gets a load of Richard Carrier’s new book: God is Great…at Gang Bangs

  8. 8
    Zeno

    Rodriguez is a tortured bundle of contradictions. His central travail lies in his continuing attempt to be a practicing Catholic while overcoming the earlier repression (and shame) of his homosexuality. I don’t know how many impossible things he can believe before breakfast, but Richard manages not to recognize that his church and his life are fundamentally incompatible. If you’re going to twist yourself into such knots to affirm your Catholicism, I suppose any other apologetic argument is easy by comparison (even to the point of chortling about the influence in Britain of religions that the Catholic Church brands as false). Rodriguez is in constant denial, but with prettier prose than most.

  9. 9
    SallyStrange

    Contemporary Christians’ denial and erasure of the ecological catastrophes that transformed the Middle East into the arid treeless landscape it is today is a depressing mirror for their denial and erasure of the ecological catastrophe that is climate change.

  10. 10
    Dick the Damned

    The gods from the Bronze Age up to modern times,
    and from the Arctic down to tropical climes,
    have inspired theology that’s unsubstantiated twaddle,
    on what an invisible and silent god’ll
    devise as its inscrutable, eschatological plan,
    but all the gods were made in the image of man.

  11. 11
    raven

    And this is a place of such rigor and difficulty that one stands in nature with an adversarial relationship.

    As opposed to what?

    Minnesota, the Dakotas, Saskatchewan, Montana, all subarctic wastelands. Well to Californians anyway.

    Utah and Arizona? Those are mostly desert.

    Florida. OK if you like humidity, mosquitos, alligators, and giant Burmese pythons.

    As PZ noted, Israel isn’t that bad a place. Most of it is semi-arid at best and it’s far enough south that it doesn’t get too cold in the winter. There are a few rivers, a large freshwater sea of Galilee, forests, and farmland. They grow grains in the highlands and oranges here and there.

    Rodriquez is an idiot playing the favorite xian game. Let’s Make Stuff Up!!!

  12. 12
    mikeyb

    Strikes me as a Karen Armstrong like contentless type of Christianity embraced by many liberals.

  13. 13
    raven

    a softer, more sentimental God would have revealed himself on a lakeshore or in a forest.

    Cthulhu, this guy is stupid.

    1. Who says Thor, Tlaloc, and Wotan are soft and sentimental? At least at Ragnarok they went down fighting. The xians are just going to sit in a catatonic haze and let jesus kill 7 billion people.

    2. What is so good about being a hard, unsentimental god anyway? The god of the bible is a sky monster whose greatest atrocity was the failed Big Boat incident where he tried to fix his mistake by killing 99%+ of the population.

  14. 14
    brianpansky

    a softer, more sentimental God would have revealed himself on a lakeshore or in a forest.

    any reasoning behind that? and isn’t this saying that this god is not nice or something?

    a softer more sentimental god would maybe reveal itself everywhere. and stop hiding. and also try a hand at being an effective parental figure, rather than a neglectful one. leaving it’s very ignorant children to survive in a hostile universe.

  15. 15
    Rey Fox

    Atheists always think they’re right. You know who else did? Hitler.

    (pretty much the substance of these arguments)

  16. 16
    robro

    The Abrahamic faiths rose out of a pastoral people; they raised sheep and goats.

    It’s a minor point, perhaps, but “pastoral people” is also a myth. From what I’ve read the highlands of central Israel north of Jerusalem, the Valley of Jezreel, the plains of Galilee are well watered and have been farmed for plant crops from before the Bronze Age. Crops included olives, grapes, figs, and probably grains. The coastal areas and other large bodies were fished, and of course, the people on the coast engaged in trade. There were pastoralist around, of course, particularly on the fringes. There were times when climate change brought drought and there was less tilling of the soil and more pastoral activity, but farming the land never stopped.

  17. 17
    robro

    raven @#2

    Gods and Goddesses did emerge from dark forests, mostly in Scandinavia.

    Gods and Goddesses emerged in every environment, including every dark forest where humans lived. I can’t think of any human society that didn’t have them both.

  18. 18
    moarscienceplz

    the “New Atheism” emerging from England

    Funny, I never knew Isaac Asimov was English. Asimov’s Guide to the Bible was the thing that allowed me to transition from atheist-leaning to full-throated atheism. And that was twenty years before I ever heard of Dawkins or Hitchens.

  19. 19
    cartomancer

    Actually the Latin participle “desertus (-a, -um)” doesn’t quite mean “not having been planted with crops”. It does come from “de” + “serere”, but “serere” has a much wider meaning than simply to sow or plant – it can also mean to found or establish or propagate or bring forth. Admittedly “sero” is very often used to mean planting crops (though “colo”, from whence “cultivation” is more usual), but it can also mean founding cities and the like.

    And the “de-” prefix does not form antonyms, it imparts a sense of motion “away from” or “out of” or “down from”. So “deserere” means “to establish or put down away from”. You can get “abandon” as a legitimate meaning from this, indeed a Classical Roman would probably understand this as the primary meaning – a soldier deserting his post would spring to mind most readily, and a place where all things have been left behind would be a further conceptual abstraction from this.

    The notion that the idea of the desert in ancient thought has anything to do with the ocean having abandoned it is laughable of course. Indeed, to Roman eyes, what has abandoned the desert is people – human civilization. It’s a place where people have been, had a look, thought “no thanks, not for me”, and moved on to found their cities in more clement locales.

    It is also a myth that the desert had a huge impact on the earliest proponents of Christianity. Before the late third century Christianity was an overwhelmingly urban religion, passing from port to port along the roadways and shipping routes. It was founded in an area that had been a centre of international trade for millennia – fairly close to deserts, yes, but not deserts. The trials of life for your average first-century Palestinian were more about negotiating favourable tax exemptions than conserving drinking water. You may have noticed that the New Testament has plenty of letters to people in Corinth and Thessaly and Galatia (central Turkey) – not so many to Bedouin tribes in the Sahara or the Arabian Desert. It was only in late antiquity, with the development of the monastic movement in Egypt – Simeon Stylites and his crowd – that desert fetishism became a big part of the faith. And that was a reaction to the perceived degenerate morals of the cities where Christianity first grew up.

  20. 20
    imthegenieicandoanything

    “B-b-but if we don’t negatively stereotype you, how can we control you? The first step on the road of acceptance of a minority (well, after “villainy,” anyway) is groundless, generic persecution, after all! You exist for OUR purposes, not your own, you know”

  21. 21
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @moarscienceplz:

    Asimov provided you an atheist foundation?

    @cartomancer:
    I concede the etymological relationship to abandonment (though I still think not that de- automatically indicates an antonym relationship but that an antonym relationship existed in this case). Thanks for bringing more latin than I have to bear.

    It was only in late antiquity, with the development of the monastic movement in Egypt – Simeon Stylites and his crowd – that desert fetishism became a big part of the faith. And that was a reaction to the perceived degenerate morals of the cities where Christianity first grew up.

    Wait, which faith? Because the Padishah Emperor was responsible for the desert fetishism of the Saudakar, and the fremen certainly fetishized certain things about the desert, but I’d hardly call it “desert fetishism” when their faith revolved around active stems to initiate climatic changes renewing a hydrological cycle sufficient to transform the desert to a garden.

    I don’t know what Egypt had to do with any of that, but then I’ve never gotten my hands on a copy of the OC Bible.

  22. 22
    Andrés Diplotti

    The empiric nightmare: The colonials have turned on their masters …

    A minor aside, but… Empiric nightmare? Does he think “empiric” means “pertaining to or relative to empires”?

  23. 23
    sigurd jorsalfar

    The title of the convent article is “Secrets of the convent: Will millennials become nuns?” I’m reminded of the pithy observation that any news article that has a yes or no question in the title can always be answered with a no.

  24. 24
    garnetstar

    What about poor Cain, who brought all the fruits of his labor, the “land’s produce”, as a sacrifice to Jehovah, and who was then so unfairly dissed?

    Hardly a desert, if the third person ever to walk this earth was a farmer.

  25. 25
    Rich Woods

    @Sally Strange #9:

    Contemporary Christians’ denial and erasure of the ecological catastrophes that transformed the Middle East into the arid treeless landscape it is today is a depressing mirror for their denial and erasure of the ecological catastrophe that is climate change.

    And wasn’t much of the desertification of the Ancient Near East also man-made, primarily through the introduction of large numbers of goats?

  26. 26
    David Marjanović

    there is no hierarchy

    BTW, the literal meaning of that word is “priest rule”; hieros means “priest”.

    Gods and Goddesses emerged in every environment, including every dark forest where humans lived. I can’t think of any human society that didn’t have them both.

    Well, there’s one: the Pirahã, the happy people in Green Hell. :-)

    It was only in late antiquity, with the development of the monastic movement in Egypt – Simeon Stylites and his crowd – that desert fetishism became a big part of the faith. And that was a reaction to the perceived degenerate morals of the cities where Christianity first grew up.

    “The desert is where God has removed everything superfluous.”
    – Said to be some kind of Arab wisdom.

  27. 27
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    A phrase in the comments to this Salon article really made me chuckle:

    Modernism would have had zero chance to succeed in more primitive times.

  28. 28
    David Marjanović

    And wasn’t much of the desertification of the Ancient Near East also man-made, primarily through the introduction of large numbers of goats?

    In the Fertile Crescent itself perhaps; but the rest has been desert as long as the Sahara, and for the exact same reason.

  29. 29
    enki23

    “…at a time when London is alive with Hinduism and Islam. (The empiric nightmare: The colonials have turned on their masters and transformed the imperial city with their prayers and their growing families, even while Europe disappears into materialistic sterility.”

    I’m going to presume, from the obvious context, that he means “likes material comfort” by “materialistic.” Though I’m sure the dumbass would equivocate wildly away if you tried to nail him on it. Given this, how is it that a nattering fucking ignoramus like this gets away with pretending that Hinduism isn’t “materialistic?” Is he at all fucking familiar with Ganesha, and what his idol (found in damned near every Hindu home) represents to people who live there?

  30. 30
    enki23

    And why is it that the fucking “spiritual” twits always come down in favor of blinkered unconcern when it comes to the obvious problems with current and (holy fuck) future overpopulation? Is it only us “materialistic” assholes who give a fuck about actual human suffering? Do “spiritual” people all simply assume that it’s a good thing?

    Which side is the fucking dark side of the Force, again?

  31. 31
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    In the comments to the article some people are going on about how it’s contradictory to be gay and a Catholic (which is Rodriguez’s case). This, because the Church officially condemns homosexuality, but it condemns almost every other kind of sexuality too, and it’s full of homosexuals of both genders (Evidence! I hear you all shouting.) But outside of dogma (which of course is important) the Church is very erotic in its rites and often homo-erotic. It should appeal to people of many different sexual persuasions. But I suppose you could say the same thing about the military or sports, lots of homo-eroticism.

    There may be some contradiction in being gay and Catholic, but the problem isn’t really there, it’s in theintellectual honesty of being gay and being Catholic.

  32. 32
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    Lately, I’ve been more aware than usual of people’s tendency to over-rate what men produce and under-rate what women produce. So, I’m always thinking, “What if a woman said/did that?” (Rather than a man, and vice versa). If Rodriguez were a woman, he might have a lot more trouble getting away with so much approximation (that the commenters here on Pharyngula are pointing out) and floaty lyricism.

  33. 33
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    it’s full of homosexuals of both genders

    Please don’t do that.

    i’m not wild about homosexual used unironically, but right now I’m just asking please don’t do the 2-gender thing.

  34. 34
    robro

    cartomance @#19

    It was only in late antiquity, with the development of the monastic movement in Egypt – Simeon Stylites and his crowd – that desert fetishism became a big part of the faith. And that was a reaction to the perceived degenerate morals of the cities where Christianity first grew up.

    Do you mean that desert monasticism became a big deal for Christians in late antiquity? Desert monasticism predates the 300/400s CE…e.g. Qumran…and it was not restricted to Judeo-Christian cults. Robert Turcan in The Cults of the Roman Empire discusses the fascination with the desert of some of these cults, such as the Isis and Syrian Mother cults. The later is particularly relevant to Simeon Stylites because (IIRC) monks of other cults in the region did the same thing. “Desert” is clearly a theme in the Deuteronomists writings and the gospels send Jesus to the desert to fulfill the prophecies.

  35. 35
    davidgibson

    reminds me of the NK article.

  36. 36
    chrisdevries

    @12 mikeyb

    Yeah that’s what I was thinking as I read Rodriguez’s contortions…hmm, this reminds me of someone…OH yes, he sounds a lot like Karen Armstrong. Maybe not a perfect analogue in tone (she’s a bit more holier-than-thou) but absolutely identical in the fact that the article in question’s content is so…vapid. Both authors have a fondness for making shit up, invoking their own seriously uninformed opinions as argument, and basically avoiding doing any research at all. It’s amazing how some people can write for paragraphs without saying anything meaningful.

  37. 37
    Anathema

    So a softer, more sentimental God would have revealed himself on a lakeshore or in a forest.

    So Chaac, who revealed himself in the waters of the cenotes deep within the forests of the Yucatan, was a soft and sentimental god? Is that why he demanded human sacrifice?

  38. 38
    moarscienceplz

    @Crip Dyke

    @moarscienceplz:

    Asimov provided you an atheist foundation?

    Yes indeed, as well as causing the nightfall of my Protestant belief. ;-)

  39. 39
    Akira MacKenzie

    Why is it that theists and their faitheist sympathizes assume that the only reason that we reject a deity is because of its alleged cruelty? Why should a kind god be more believable than a monstrous one? Indeed, given the problem of evil, I would say that a benevolent deity is actually be less believable than the cosmic tyrant that that the fundies posit.

    First show us your god actually exists, then we can argue about it’s supposed benificence.

  40. 40
    unclefrogy

    From the tone of the quotes here the writer just does not see any similarity between his god and any other god hence his nonsensical idea of god revealing himself in the desert because reasons.
    The religious argument never seems to take on perspective of all people on earth as being the same. It never enters their arguments in any form it is as if there were no people outside the fucking middle east.
    take out those elements that are related to the particular culture the religion arose in and the arguments are all the same but none seem to see the implications of that.
    Had a professor who liked to say ” All gods were created by man except yours of course”
    uncle frogy

  41. 41
    laurentweppe

    What about the other big proponents of the New Atheism, Dan Dennett and Sam Harris? No plummy accents there. Or Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

    There’s in your list one bourgeois white supremacist who tried and failed to use his atheism to hide the fact that he’s pissed that brown skinned people and religious rubes have not yet been reduced to cattle and one neocon mercenary who used to remind people that she was not fooled by the islamophobic far-right pretense of secularism until the American Enterprise Institute started giving her paycheks. If you don’t like the idea that New Atheism has become a den of neo-colonialists, you would do well to avoid mentionning these two.

    The thing is, “New atheism” has indeed attracted a lot of would-be aristocrats, insufferable arrogant twats who congratulate themselves on their imaginary cerebral superiority to the religious “morons” and who don’t like the fact that they’re not yet lording over the god-fearing plebs as natural selection intended. Some of these twats have become de facto gnu spokepersons. The idea that a person’s lack of religious beliefs or lack thereof supersedes her politics and that therefore people of detestable politics should still be welcomed is, to be blunt, suicidally idiotic tribalistic bullshit: the authoritarian atheists have always had more in common with religious fundies than with progressives atheists, and should they seize power, it’s against people like you that they will wield it.

  42. 42
    anthrosciguy

    You want a desolation, look at the parking lot at a WalMart superstore. There’s hell on earth; I’d hate to meet the god conjured up by the people who dwell there.

    The mythos would center around the multiplication of the batteries and the miraculous reanimation of the Norcold refrigerator.

  43. 43
    randay

    So Salon chooses a resembling picture that makes you think nuns look like the beautiful French actress, Carole Bouquet. If that were the case, I think I would join. Get thee to a nunnery for inanity editors of Salon.

  44. 44
    rq

    I see many people have already pulled apart my favourite phrase: So a softer, more sentimental God would have revealed himself on a lakeshore or in a forest.
    One can only wonder if Rodriguez has ever tried to spend time in a truly wild and dark German forest.

    raven @12
    Ah, but those Scandinavian gods just come from another type of desert – a desert of snow!! That’s why they’re so harsh and unforgiving, and all the other gods are so kind… gentle… what was that about human sacrifice?

  45. 45
    Nathan Hull

    When it comes to Hitchens, a lot of people could see through his Tory-Protestant bigotry masquerading as secular humanism. Harris comes across as sort of a well-meaning liberal hawk, and is certainly less grating than Hitch ever was. But that question posed to the Theist/apologist is actually worth some meditation: Do ”friendlier” climes produce friendlier people? Does extreme heat send people insane? Are some parts of the Earth simply not worth inhabiting?

  46. 46
    alexanderz

    PZ:

    and the Hebrews invaded Palestine

    There is no historic evidence that Hebrews were ever enslaved by Egypt, ever wander the desert or ever invaded Canaan. All evidence point to the contrary – that Hebrews were one of many Canaanite tribes that managed to conquer all the other tribes. The only Old Testimony nation that invaded Canaan were probably the Philistines since their culture more closely resembled the Greek or Minoan one.
    Even the Egyptians weren’t invaders because they ruled by proxy, with both the Hebrew kingdoms and Philistines as their vassals (which led to many amusing diplomatic moments).

  47. 47
    Amy Cocks

    Sorry, what Desert’s he’s talking about for god hunting experiences?

    Didn’t some South Americans use them as nice flat places to gather together and take every mind bending substance known to them at the time in order to widen those spiritual horizons, whilst also not running into trees, falling down cliffs or treading on any number of murder-ants?

    Meanwhile…Dreaming in Australia…

    Coming up with only one desert, that wasn’t even a desert at the time, is not the best way to begin throwing round the accusations of narrow minded authoritarianism.

  48. 48
    gussnarp

    Well, I do love those accents…

  49. 49
    David Marjanović

    Coming up with only one desert, that wasn’t even a desert at the time

    Almost all of it was. The very fringes were a bit moister than now, that’s all.

  50. 50
    chimera (previously Bicarbonate)

    It’s true that deserts are strange if you’re not used to them. The Neguev can give you very ominous feelings. But if you are used to the desert, the opposite is true. Once I took a friend of mine from the Middle East to the Alps in Spring and she said, “There’s water everywhere, just springing up out of the ground. It’s…. it’s… obscene.”

  51. 51
    erik333

    @13 raven

    Don’t forget Tyr’s day! (Tuesday) (hes the one who lost his hand to the Fenris wolf when they tied him)

    @41 laurentweppe

    There’s in your list one bourgeois white supremacist

    Citation needed.

  52. 52
    laurentweppe

    Citation needed.

    He provides the citations himself every times he expresses his fetish for pre-emptive nuking or his love for racial profiling/

  53. 53
    davesmith

    What if Salon is just trolling?

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