Will he never arrive?

Via Ericmore of Julian’s interminable Heathen’s Progress. This one is about tone: not just the tone that “new atheists” use but the allegation that they (we) are tone deaf to religion. Religion is comparable to poetry and pop music. Some people don’t “get” poetry, or pop music, or both. They can’t say anything interesting about either one, because they don’t get them. They’re tone deaf to them. It’s the same with religion.

Right, except that it isn’t. Poetry doesn’t tell everyone what to do. Poetry doesn’t have a billion or more “members” or “believers” or other kinds of belongers. Poetry doesn’t have dogma. Poetry doesn’t have a single “sacred” book that many believers take as god-inspired or god-made, and authoritative, and not-to-be-disobeyed. Poetry doesn’t treat rules invented by a few pastoral men 3 thousand years ago as binding on all of humanity still and forever.

I could go on. I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s all very well, all this “yes but you’re missing the music” line of chat, but religion makes claims on us, huge claims, and that makes mollifying talk about its music 1) beside the point and 2) a dangerous side-track.

But anyway it’s bullshit. It’s like saying that religion is like everything good that humans do – art and sport and wonder and imagination – and that therefore atheists should just stop being atheist in public or else art and sport and wonder and imagination will disappear!!1!

…to say that an abrasive tone is not constructive is to say more than something about a person’s manner of speech. It’s not constructive because it is rooted in a one-dimensional understanding of the phenomenon under discussion. Atheistic tone-deafness misses many of the things I’ve talked about in this series, such as placing mystery at the heart of life, and living with the aid of beneficial rituals and practices. The abrasiveness is not some kind of independent, wilful rudeness that could be smoothed over while keeping the message intact. We talk about people who are rude as being ignorant and more often than not, when someone comes over as too hostile to religion, ignorance is at the root of it, not simply an absence of good manners.

What’s at the root of it when someone comes across as too friendly to religion? What’s at the root of Julian’s tortured back-and-forth yes-but friendliness to religion? I don’t know; I leave it to your artful speculation.

What price the golden rule eh?

Another truculent Christian who plans to go to the Reason Rally in order to interfere with other people’s event.

Richard Dawkins will be one of the  main speakers, which tells us about all we need to know. Richard Dawkins of course is the leading horseman of the new atheism with his book “The God Delusion.” This book has practically become a Bible for most online atheists today with a new fundamentalism that says “Richard says it! I believe it! That settles it!” Dawkins has spoken. The case is closed.

Never mind that Dawkins has ran with his tail between his legs from William Lane Craig and most recently has done so from a clergyman who interviewed him. In reality, most of us who are in the field of Christian apologetics would love a chance to debate the horseman.

Yes of course they would! It would be great for them. For Dawkins, not so much; he’s a busy fella with a lot to do, so he chooses how he spends his time. For him it makes a good deal more sense to debate the archbishop of Canterbury than it does to debate Craig. That’s not “running” (much less with tail between legs), it’s allocating time wisely.

Dawkins proclaims himself as a champion of science and reason, as if not believing in God automatically means you are a person of reason. Obviously anyone who is a Christian or a believer in any sort of deity has sold themselves out to delusion and abandoned reason. This assertion is not defended. It is just asserted.

That’s just a falsehood. Of course the assertion is defended; it’s defended in a book and many articles, talks, debates, and the like. Nick Peters could say it’s not well defended, if he chose, but it’s just mendacious to say it’s not defended period.

Let us keep in mind the saying of Chesterton. “There are two kinds of people in the world, the conscious dogmatists and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found myself that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.” Chesterton would see the Reason Rally as an example. While the new atheist crowd wishes to speak against dogma, they simply take one dogma and replace it with another.

Dogma is one of those terms not really understood. In reality, we all have some dogmas. We all hold some beliefs in high honor that we wish others to hold. The difference between myself and the new atheists is that I know I am dogmatic. The new atheists do not know it and in turn end up pushing their dogma the most.

Ah no, that’s not right at all. Dogma is not a belief we hold in high honor and want others to hold. No no no. It’s a truth claim from authority that must not be questioned. Makes a difference, doesn’t it.

Why not try to make a presence at Reason Rally, as I hope to do…I will be doing what I can to be there and I’d love to see you there. Let’s be there to argue not against reasoning, which we should all love, but to argue against bad reasoning. Let us replace the reason of Dawkins with what Ratio Christi is named for, the Reason of Christ.

It’s just as he admitted (apparently without realizing he’d admitted anything) – “most of us who are in the field of Christian apologetics would love a chance to debate the horseman.” They’re all excited about the treat, and not the least bit concerned about intruding on people who don’t want to be intruded on. Do unto others chiz chiz.

More “confronting with love”

From “the Thinking Christian” (they do love to pretend it’s all perfectly reasonable, don’t they).

In the meantime I’ve joined up with a handful of Christian thinkers and leaders planning to bring Christians to the Reason Rally for the purpose of sharing quiet conversations with Reason Rally attendees, offering bottles of water to the thirsty, and letting them know of a new book that will take an extended look at atheism, Christianity, and reason.

I’ve joined up with some Christians for the purpose of harassing Reason Rally attendees because we think that what we think gets to trump what they think.

It’s fascinating to me how the New Atheists have chosen reason as their main brand image. It’s clear that they have…

Over the next several weeks we’ll have opportunity to look at how well that fits the New Atheist reality, and whether they have chosen wisely in taking that name up as their brand. I have my doubts about it.

Uh huh. Tell them that at the rally. Tell them what Jesus thinks about it.

Please notice that we are not planning this as a counter-demonstration, but rather as a quiet presence. We don’t think there will be any need to raise our voices, and we have no desire to disrupt their program or proceedings. We want to share a few things with those who want to talk, and we won’t press ourselves upon anyone else.

Have it both ways why don’t you. Eat your cake and have it why don’t you. You’re going there to set people straight, but you plan to be a “quiet presence.” Quiet? Talking in a lowered voice is being a quiet presence? Bullshit. You’re going there to intrude and impose, so don’t pretend you’re not.

From “Apologetics Guy”:

I just learned that some of my brothers and sisters from around the world—people who believe that Christianity is a reasonable worldview—also plan to gather in D.C. on March 24 to “demonstrate a humble, loving and thoughtful response to the Reason Rally.” They’re mobilizing people via a Web site called TrueReason.org.

It’s so odd that they just can’t see it – that it can’t be considered humble and loving to intrude on someone else’s rally that way…

Well no come to think of it it’s not odd. That’s the wrong word. What it is is deceitful – of themselves most of all, probably. It’s a sop to cognitive dissonance. They probably half-realize that it’s an aggressive intrusive thing to do – so they squelch that realization by summoning all the adjectives they can think of that re-describe it as the opposite of aggressive and intrusive.

More later.

Prepared to confront them

It’s getting meta. (It always does, doesn’t it. Internet–>everyone can answer–>everyone does–>everything always goes meta.) Fans of Christians who crash non-theist events are indignant that atheists think Christians who crash events are obnoxious belligerent intrusive shits. Like this guy at the Blaze; he reports the plans of the “True Reason” people then adds:

The Christians behind the effort want atheists to know that they’re reasonable individuals who are prepared to confront them with love.

Typical, innit – first, the stupid assumption that atheists are unaware that Christians see themselves that way, and second, the blithe assumption that “confronting” people with a religious ideology they are known to reject is a benevolent thing to do. The atheists at the Reason Rally aren’t going there to be “confronted” by Christians, any more than Christians go to church to be confronted by atheists. (No, I’m not saying the rally is atheist church. None of that now.) [Read more…]

Christians got no manners

More from ill-mannered intrusive uninvited missionary Christians planning to crash the Reason Rally, this time from a site called Ratio Christi: Student Apologetics Alliance. They call their rude intrusive uninvited plan Reason Rally Reachout 2012. “Reachout” is it – crashing other people’s event in order to harass them with dogmatic nonsense that you know they dislike and don’t want – that’s “reachout.” Nice name for it. Yo student apologists: if we all turned up for one of your Apologetics meetings would you consider it Reachout?

Ratio Christi, along with some other groups and campus ministries, are planning on attending the rally to interact one-on-one with skeptics and atheists in attendance, conduct surveys, engage in dialogue, and present the Christian view in a well-reasoned and respectful manner. This trip does not involve street preaching, tract distribution, or blind faith.

That’s just fucking rude. It’s aggressive and obnoxious and rude. They don’t want to interact with you, do they – they’re there to interact, for once in their lives, with thousands of people who are not theists, all in one place. They’re not there to get the Christian view, are they – they’re there to escape from it, and enjoy their freedom from it. Do you creeps think they’ve never had the Christian view presented to them before? Do you really think they need to get it from you, on that one day at that particular time and place? [Read more…]

Baby steps

Well that’s one good thing.

The Vatican, which previously enjoyed an exemption, must now pay taxes on its commercial properties, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, has announced.

Like anyone else. Why did it enjoy an exemption before?

The state has been exempt from paying property taxes since 2005, one of several  fiscal perks enjoyed by the Catholic Church and introduced by the Berlusconi  administration.

Ah! Of course. One autocrat doing a favor for another. Naturally.

The Vatican owns 110,000 properties, including shopping centres and  residences, which are collectively worth about $12 billion, the Business  Insider said.

As Italy tightened its belt to deal with the financial crisis, more than  130,000 people signed an online petition calling for the Church’s tax-exempt  status to be revoked, it said.

”This is a victory for public pressure,” Mario Staderini, the leader of the  Italian Radicals party, told The Independent.

”We’ve managed to break down – a little bit – the wall protecting the  Church.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Defiantly wholesome

Want to splash around in morbidity for a moment?

There’s always the new season of 19 and Counting.

And Counting – geddit? It’s not really “and Counting” now because Michelle Duggar miscarried #20. The new season is kind of morbid that way.

And not just that way. I find it kind of morbid overall. “Morbid” isn’t really the right word, I suppose – the Atlantic’s “creepy” is better – but it is, in a way – what’s dead is the mind. The whole atmosphere is Stepfordish. Yes they’re all very cheery and smiley and friendly and warm – but so would programmed pod people be. [Read more…]

Guest post by Musical Atheist on Richard Dawkins

After the torrent of spiteful dreck we’ve seen directed at Richard Dawkins lately, the comment by Musical Atheist came as a blast of cold fresh air in a stuffy room. Therefore, I’m putting it up on the main page.

Musical Atheist says:

I don’t like my own country very much at present. I think our politicians and our press display the lowest sort of sneering childishness, on a regular basis. Playground bullies who grew up to apply their bullying on a wider scale.

For this reason, when I first discovered Dawkins’ writing, I felt that he was one of the few public figures in Britain I could find genuinely inspiring. He’s honest, his moral integrity is innately bound up with his passion for his work, which is the noble work of the pursuit of truth. You’d think the religious authorities ought to get that, even if they think he’s wrong. He’s flawed and human, he’s made errors in judgement and sometimes takes cheap shots, but he still stands out as one of the few British public intellectuals engaged in doing active good and treating moral ideas seriously.

When I read TGD a few years ago I, as many Christians keep saying,  didn’t recognise the god he described. I thought it witty, acerbic and entertaining, but not applicable to me. But I gradually realised that the example of scepticism and rigorous commitment to evidence that he was describing was applicable to all types of spiritual belief. When I began to apply it to my own (woo, new agey, vaguely pantheist, occasionally animist) spiritual ideas, I was genuinely shocked to find how much baggage of unjustified belief I’d accumulated over the years, and how much, if I was being honest with myself, I had to throw out.

Reading Dawkins got me interested in scepticism; led me to other writers and blogs like B&W and Pharyngula; reminded me of my childhood pleasure in science, long stifled by mediocre teaching; but more than anything, gave me the tools to reclaim my own mind. How do you repay the people who help you do that?

And he did it with one entertaining bestseller that didn’t even address the specific beliefs I actually held, but that I was able to use as a springboard for my own thought process.

Shall I compare thee to a spotty adolescent

Well at least Amol Rajan gets it.

Proof, if proof were needed, that “militant secularism” isn’t having such a great time of it in modern Britain has been in plentiful supply over the past week, during which there has been a sustained and vicious assault in our media on one of our most distinguished academics. Professor Richard Dawkins (FRS, FRSL) presumably personifies militant secularism, and has been made to suffer for it. [Read more…]

However childish

Speaking of the dopy endlessly-recycled vendetta against gnu atheism, John Gray obliges with another iteration of his version, via a perfunctory review of some book or other which he barely notices.

It is only the illiteracy of the current generation of atheists that leads them to think religious practitioners must be stupid or thoughtless. Were Augustine, Maimonides and al-Ghazali – to mention only religious thinkers in monotheist traditions – lacking in intellectual vitality? The question is absurd but the fact it can be asked at all might be thought to pose a difficulty for de Botton. His spirited and refreshingly humane book aims to show that religion serves needs that an entirely secular life cannot satisfy. He will not persuade those for whom atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish. [Read more…]