The godless seem to be making some people desperate and angry and worried — the stupid arguments have just been flooding in, and I’ve had to exercise some restraint, or every day would be a day for yet another long “religiots are nuts” post. So I’ve saved them up and will throw them out with fairly short commentary here. You’ll see what I mean: bad arguments and pious indignation seem to be the only fuel they’re running on right now.
First up, let’s pick on a University of Chicago student. He’s very upset that scholars (oh, excuse me: “scholars”) dare to point out the follies of religion.
The tradition of atheism is certainly long-standing and stretches back at least as far as Western classical antiquity, but the modern trend of liberal, militantly atheist academics and of “scholars” who declare war on religion–or, more simply, a person’s belief in God–is vicious, disrespectful, and an abuse of the scholarly platform. Dawkins insists that our beliefs should be based on evidence, specifically that which can be tested and definitively proven by the scientific method. He points to the “improbability” of God and issues a rallying cry to atheists everywhere to take up the cross and combat the forces of delusion that lead the masses to God, Yahweh, or Allah.
I am proud to be vicious and disrespectful, then. I think our young critic has confused scholarship with obedience to dogma.
I also think it’s a very good idea to insist that our beliefs be based on evidence. Does he actually deny that?
Moreover, Dawkins incorrectly applies the sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics.
For instance, instead of using evolution and natural selection as examples of a harsh, Godless reality, he should realize that the complexity, intricacy, and beauty of a living organism further reinforce the reality of the supernatural. It also leads someone with an open heart and mind to the unmistakable conclusion that the cell or molecule under observation had to have been designed before it ever evolved to its current state.
Now that is disrespectful arrogance. It’s amusing to see an undergraduate, even one from the University of Chicago, suggest that he is a better judge of biology, chemistry, and physics than an esteemed senior biologist. They must have a real powerhouse of a curriculum at Chicago!
But alright, let’s assume this student is the smartest, best educated polymath on the planet. Why then does he make such a stupid mistake in the next paragraph? Complexity can be a product of entirely natural processes, requiring intervention from neither the supernatural or the intelligent. In fact, once you remove the invalid association of design and complexity, you can look at something as complex as a cell or a watch and realize that you need independent understanding of the mechanisms behind their construction to judge whether they are designed or a product of natural processes. Intelligent Design creationism does not provide any tools for examining those mechanisms and instead assumes its conclusions; I suspect this student has never gone beyond “gosh, wow, it’s complicated!!” to actually examine the entirely biological origins of the cells that so impress him.
OK, enough picking on the little pipsqueaks. Let’s look at sour old Paul Johnson.
It’s hard for most of us to face such a fearful world without some kind of faith to sustain us, without a traditional formula through which to express our longings for peace and safety. I believe that religion is a central part of our civilization. But even more than that, I believe religious faith to be an indispensable element to our peace of mind and such happiness as we are capable of enjoying on this Earth.
I could not find content in a landscape whose horizon held no churches or in a civilization whose literature was purged of any reference to a divine being; whose art had blotted out the nativities, crucifixions, saints and angels; and whose music contained no intimations of immortality. And I believe the vast majority of people share such a view.
The U Chicago undergraduate is suddenly looking much smarter.
Mr Johnson, you’re old enough to know that the argument from consequences has absolutely no relevance to the truth value of a claim. That you or even a majority of the people in the world find an absence of god uncomfortable does not mean that god therefore exists.
It’s also quite obvious that religious faith is not an indispensable element of happiness, since there are many millions of people who lack such faith and are just as happy as their pious neighbors. In my own case, I’m very happy to be free of any superstitious belief in any kind of supernatural entities. I’m particularly happy to be unburdened by belief in that grim murderous sky tyrant of the Christian faith, that irrational mad cretin with the absurd rules and the utterly nonsensical idea that sending his son to be murdered somehow redeems me.
Here’s a pair of wacky Christians. Bill Donohue and his friend, Father Jonathan Morris are frothing at the mouth over the new movie, “The Golden Compass.” Perhaps if they work together they can synergize and exhibit greater intelligence than they do when alone.
He [Phillip Pullman] wants to denigrate Christianity. He wants to sell atheism to kids. This is not me talking, it’s what he said. That’s why we put together a booklet on this.
OK so far…it’s true. A lot of people would like to promote rationalism and it’s close relative, atheism, to kids. I also think it’s fine for the irrationalists to write pamphlets and spread their point of view. It’s this next example of blindness that makes them fools.
And ideology is a big thing. It distorts minds of kids. Have you ever met a really happy kid who is an atheist? I mean, give me a break. We have to spend our time helping kids become happy people. I don’t think this is the way.
Hmmm. So Catholicism isn’t an ideology, and it doesn’t distort the minds of kids? I’ve known a few Catholics — it’s a potent ideology that taints the minds of people for their entire lives. If they’re actually concerned about the perils of ideological indoctrination, let’s see them endorse a plan to keep kids out of churches until they’re old enough to make up their own minds; let’s give all churches an “R” rating and take away their tax-exemption if they let under-age children through their doors.
Like Paul Johnson, they also have this weird idea that atheists are unhappy. They clearly need to spend some time with us — we’re a happy bunch, and at the very least, we’re free of the unfounded guilt and oppressive judgments of the religious, who seem fond of telling us that we are miserable, damned sinners all the time.
One more, then I’m done. David Kupelian. “Who?” you say? Just some long-winded guy who writes for WorldNutDaily. It’s a mostly incomprehensible article. First he expresses shock that atheism seems to be flourishing in his imaginary “Christian” America, and then finds his answer for why it’s doing so well: Islam. Of course. If only those wretched Mohammedans weren’t making Christians look bad, atheism wouldn’t be able to get any traction.
Unfortunately for his thesis, it is poorly developed, and his overlong essay rambles all over the usual wingnut talking points, and ends up quoting C.S. Lewis at painful length. I swear, if every Muslim disappeared, and these goofballs continued to quote Lewis at me, I’d still detest Christianity.
Never mind the lumpenkookery of the Christian ideologue, though…I’ll just focus on one small piece. It seems that in addition to blaming Islam, we have to blame evolution.
A single dandelion, considered from a strictly scientific, analytical perspective, contains more unimaginable complexity and spellbinding design brilliance — from its atomic and molecular design to its cellular and plant structure — than all the manmade supercomputers in the entire world combined.
We have come full circle. What did I say in reply to the precious U. Chicago student? Complexity is not the same as design. Unguided forces can generate awesome amounts of complexity, so just declaring that you, O Pitiful Pea-Brained Peon, cannot imagine or comprehend the intricacies of a dandelion does not mean that a magic man in the sky does.
But really, it’s an entirely forgettable pile of gobbledygook, and only one part gave me any glimmer of amusement.
That’s right, evolution is a religion, full of incredible and unproven beliefs about man’s origin, and by logical extension his destiny, and even his very nature. Any theory/philosophy — especially an unprovable one — having to do with explaining the origin, destiny and nature of man is, by definition, religious. If you don’t get that, you’re not thinking.
Heh. So psychology, sociology, anthropology, anatomy, physiology, embryology, neurobiology, and just about any other scientific discipline that examines humanity is a “religion”. Cute. It’s an awfully inclusive definition, but I don’t think Mr Kupelian is doing any thinking himself.
What makes something a religion isn’t necessarily the subject, but the nature of the examination of that subject. If you’re pulling nuggets of divine revelation out of your butt, whether you are studying God, the Bible, or the local ant population, you’re practicing religion. If you’re testing hypotheses and making predictions and collecting observations of the real world, you’re probably doing science, no matter what the subject. Studying what makes us human does not automatically mean you are practicing a religion.