What happened to the New Atheism?


I’ve been a bit withdrawn lately, with concerns over personal matters. As I tend to do, I retreated into self-absorbed uselessness. I did get three lectures organized for my new fall class, though, so that’s something…and I also started thinking about a far less productive question. What the heck happened to the New Atheism? I used to be loosely associated with that “movement,” although nowadays I’m more inclined to repudiate it.

Transcript down below

You might be thinking, what do I mean, “loosely” associated? I was a cheerleader for New Atheism, I shared stages with Dawkins and Dennett, I knew Hitchens socially, and I was in way too many circumstances where I had to work actively to avoid Harris. I don’t get to avoid the taint now! I do have one excuse though, and it’s a good one. I’ve been digging into the criticisms of the New Atheism, and one of the common assumptions that it is a movement of just four people. As I found was frequently affirmed by the critics, it was a cult of personality, and it was not particularly interested in broadening its appeal. We had the Four Horseman, and that was it, take it or leave it, and they sucked all the air out of the room. If you weren’t one of the big four, you weren’t actually a New Atheist.

Now, fortunately, their influence has greatly abated. Two of them are dead, one is reduced to making ASMR podcasts for New Age racists, and the fourth is a cranky pants bigot making excuses for “cultural Christianity” because he doesn’t like Muslims. It’s not a pretty end to something that was briefly hot a decade ago, and I think it’s safe to say that the legacy of the New Atheism is non-existent.

And that’s a real shame, because for the last couple of days I’ve been reading and listening to the arguments provoked in response to the New Atheists, and they’re damned bad. Recently, many Christians have been crowing about the failure of the New Atheism, and that’s fair, but mostly they’re doing the equivalent of an ad hominem, announcing that atheism has been defeated because those four horsemen were flawed and sometimes said incredibly stupid things. That’s also sort of fair, because that quartet of poor representatives were the self-appointed “leaders” of atheism…but at the same time, that provides theists an excuse to avoid the valid points atheism does bring up. I guarantee you that from now on every Christian apologist is going to use the “but Dawkins” excuse to rebut any point we mention. They already are.

Let’s look way back to the early days of the New Atheism, when there were all kinds of awful criticisms presented as if they were fresh and new and cogent. Nothing has changed, they’re still using these same arguments. For instance, here’s Keith Ward, a Christian philosopher from Oxford, who makes a series of claims about atheism that ought to embarrass any philosopher.

Keith Ward – the new atheists

What is new about these new atheists? Atheism is not actually very new — I mean, there have always been atheists in the world, but no philosopher of any note has ever been an atheist Until Nietzche, uh, Thomas Hobbes possibly, but he didn’t write about metaphysics, so all the classical philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, Spinoza, Kant, Descartes, Hegel, the whole canon of Western philosophy, has been theistic, has taken the most rational view of the universe to be one in which sees the universe as created by an intelligent creator, by God. Nietzsche wasn’t, I think, a great philosopher, he was a great aphorist,

He’s right about one thing — atheism isn’t new. But should we attach any significance to the missing atheist philosophers? Oxford didn’t allow non-Christians to enroll until 1871, and women weren’t formally admitted until 1920! Is it surprising that the canon he loves is pretty much exclusively theistic and male?

and of course he did say God was dead, but the new atheism has only got going with a particular interpretation of modern science. It’s a peculiar interpretation, and tonight I shall argue that it’s already obsolete as an interpretation of science. It’s interesting that most people who claim that science is atheistic are not physicists or mathematicians, they’re zoologists, as Richard Dawkins is, or biologists. In other words, they deal with dirty stuff in laboratories that make funny smells and they don’t concern themselves with the real tough ultimate matter of the universe as physicists do. I shall elaborate on that further.

Those damn dirty stinky biologists, what do they know? Only physics counts.

But let me quote one person, Richard Lewontin from the United States who says this: We — I don’t know who the we is, it’s probably his friends really — we take the side of science, because we have a prior commitment to materialism. Moreover, that commitment is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door. That statement was made by Lewontin, who is a Nobel prize winning scientist in a book review, but still he presumably meant it. So science has a prior commitment to materialism, does it, that is the question I want to consider.

Minor point: Lewontin did not have a Nobel prize. Do your research, Keith.

The “we” refers to scientists broadly, not just a few of Lewontin’s good buddies at Harvard. Scientists do not answer questions by invoking ghosts, gods, or devils — scientific answers propose natural, testable causes. They don’t preclude the possibility of forces with which we are unfamiliar — maybe ghosts do exist — but you don’t get to address hypotheses by invoking undemonstrable phenomena. The building blocks of any useful explanation have to be shown to exist before you can deploy them.

This is a fundamental point that theists desperately want to ignore. They want to believe that God is a valid component of a scientific explanation while not presenting any evidence that god exists.

Ward is about to dive deeper into this nonsensical interpretation of science, though.

I would argue that modern science, far from having a commitment to materialism, undermines materialism comprehensively. But of course not in biology, which is not really concerned with questions like that, but in physics, where the notion of matter has become extremely obscure. Physicists wouldn’t use the word matter in fact, they prefer to use the word energy. Matter is one possible form of energy, as we know from the one equation everyone knows, E=MC2, so matter is actually interchangeable with other forms of energy, and most physicists these days agree there are lots of immaterial things, let me give you one example. Supposing you ask the question, as Steven Hawking does, for example, how did the universe begin, what accounts for the Big Bang, 13.7 thousand million years ago, that’s when the universe began, very very small, infinite density, infinite mass, that slowly expanded into the universe we now have, over that period of time, but it’s a proper question in science, how can we explain how it began. If you can’t explain it, then science has come to an end.

Physicists are talking about things beyond space and time, and physicists regularly talk about things beyond space and time, that is, the supernatural.

Materialism is now all about studying dirt and smells — biologists haven’t gotten the lesson about energy yet. Physicists have heard of energy, while biologists haven’t, so all those atheist biologists are missing out.

Isn’t it odd that a greater percentage of physicists are atheists than are biologists? Strange. It’s as if knowing what energy is doesn’t immediately turn you into a god-believer. Ward is just going to redefine cosmology into the study of the supernatural. Actually, studying any hypothesis that doesn’t have a final definitive answer must mean that you are a supernaturalist.

Also, never ever lecture on the philosophy of science if you think not knowing an answer means “science has come to an end.”

These kinds of ignorant clowns are what we had to deal with in the early days of the New Atheism. I hope you don’t think that kind of BS is what crushed the movement, because that just pissed atheists of all flavors off. And, unfortunately, the theistic arguments haven’t gotten any better.

Back in the day, I often got comments about how I need to deal with the sophisticated, philosophical theism that smarter, better theists are proposing. I tried. I was always disappointed. One of the names that constantly came up was David Bentley Hart, a particularly long-winded theist who would ramble on about how all the atheists are making bad arguments, but instead of actually addressing those arguments, he’d throw more words that explained nothing at them.

David Bentley Hart – Atheism’s Best Arguments?

In recent years we’ve seen a little cottage industry spring up in marketing very bad arguments for atheism, so then my reaction is ill concealed scorn. … the sort of arguments you would find in Richard Dawkins in which he clearly misunderstands claims about ontological contingency and thinks you can conjure them away by having a sufficiently comprehensive cosmology, you know, or that when he says something like, evolution answers the question of existence, that’s actually something he says, you realize you’re dealing with category errors so profound that they verge on the infinite.

He thinks ontological contingency is something an evolutionary biologist does not understand? That’s bonkers. It’s what evolutionary biologists do, studying the relationships between categories of things, and demonstrating the history of change. It’s what physicists do, too.

And yes, evolution answers the question of our existence. I believe that what he’s trying to get at is that evolution doesn’t answer the question of the meaning of our existence to his satisfaction…but that’s because the answer evolution gives is that there is no higher meaning to our existence. Tough. It’s typical though that a theist would have an a priori assumption about what purpose we’re supposed to have, and is unhappy that we don’t satisfy that assumption, and in fact state that his beliefs are not relevant to any discussion of our nature.

Hart has other objections, though. He thinks that the New Atheists had a shallow understanding of what religion is, and I actually agree with him. The atheist objection is to the kind of theism we’ve been taught…by theists. Whose fault is that? Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that there is a sophisticated, intelligent theism, which Hart represents, that plainly silences all the criticisms atheists make.

I am no fan of David Bentley Hart, but this is pure raw noise.

David Bentley Hart – the new atheists and an ugly God

What’s the news here? Dawkins and Hitchens both hold up these stories and Dawkins especially, the Bible is supposed to be taken as a moral guide. When in Christian history, well, before, it may be true in certain fundamentalist circles, we breed every kind of exotic flora here, but all the church fathers treat this allegorically, and they didn’t, and that, that doesn’t mean reading them as if there are messages encoded secretly in the text, just the ancient understanding serves as a spiritual text to the degree that the mind of Christians read it and allegorize it in relation to the truth that is revealed in Christ. But, you know, all the church fathers, all the great medieval theologians, they were quite aware that the god often, of course not the god of the old testament as if there were only one depiction, I mean the god of the prophets, uh, uh, is much more urbane than some of the patriarchal narratives, uh, this is no surprise. And it’s only if you think that the history of Christian exegesis takes the Bible, say, as uh, verbatim, the way a very pious Muslim is expected to understand the Quran, as a verbatim sort of set of oracles from God that that’s a problem. If you do impose the sort of clodhopping modern sense that it must be whatever the intention of the author was is what the text means and that’s how it’s always been…not only Christians but pagans and Jews in antiquity wouldn’t have known what you are talking about, it’s just not how texts were read, that’s not how they were understood.

Great. The Bible is allegorical. We know — we atheists don’t accept it as literal, and when we point out the contradictions and fallacies that emerge if you do take it literally, that’s to illustrate the error of taking it literally. Only fundamentalists and clodhoppers would think it is a moral guide or that it is univocal or that the intent is transparent and plainly stated, I agree 100%. It would totally silence atheist criticisms if christian faiths could all also agree that there is ambiguity and flexibility and a cultural context to their holy book.

But, you know, they don’t. Does Hart never read the news?

Also, does he read history? Those church fathers and medieval theologians worked the business of Bible interpretation to the hilt — to go way back, the Arian and Athanasian conflicts were all about interpreting the “allegories” of the Bible in such a way as to grant certain factions power, and wars were fought and people killed over it. Don’t try to even imply that medieval theologians were open-minded and aware of how literal words could be manipulated and used as a pretext to outright kill people. They knew it and did exactly that.

But OK, let’s concede that Bible is not a literal code of moral behavior. It’s an allegory. That doesn’t dispense with the atheist objection, because even within that, sophisticated theologians can invent all kinds of unwarranted fantasies. Here David Bentley Hart wants to argue that god is actually a real person, whatever that means.

David Bentley Hart – Is God a “person”?

God is in fact infinitely personal, more personal than we are. If anything, we’re fragmented and isolated instances of personal relation which are never complete, at least in this life. My objection is to those who think of god as a large psychological subjectivity, who think that god has to be thought of as somebody who goes through changes of temperament or who makes choices or experiences pathos in order to be a person. But none of the theistic traditions deny the personal nature of god in the most vital sense, which is that god really knows and loves and is related to us.

So there you have it, sophisticated theology. Unfortunately, this crude unsophisticated atheist is just going to ask…how do you know that god loves us? Where is the evidence that this gaseous vertebrate is related to us? How do you know? Are you even aware that the real killer argument that atheists have is epistemological?

I suspect he’d answer those simple questions with word salad, or an appeal to the traditions of the church fathers. These are OLD atheist questions that have never received a satisfactory answer.

Their objections are old and tired. How about if we look at more recent theistic claims? Surely they’ve evolved to a higher plane by now. One problem: theists like Stephen Meyer don’t believe in evolution.

Just listen to this litany of assertions:

Who’s afraid of Intelligent Design? with Stephen C. Meyer

I think Professor Dawkins has slightly overplayed his hand with his rabid scientific atheism, and I don’t think the so-called New Atheists are in any way winning the argument. They had a lot of momentum around 2007, 8, 9, 10, 11, but I think they massively overplayed their hand and I think actually on merits the proponents of intelligent design and the broader theistic interpretation of scientific evidence is beginning to win the day. Scientific atheism has become very weird. We often judge the merits of a hypothesis…one among many criteria for judging the merits of a hypothesis is the degree to which it is parsimonious, that does not multiply endlessly unnecessary theoretical postulates or entities, the Occam’s Razor principle. But scientific atheism, in order to save the appearances, to explain the data, has had to invent increasingly exotic postulations, so when you have the, we were just talking about one, the evidence of the digital code in the DNA, and this has not been well explained by chance or necessity, physical chemical necessity, or prebiotic natural selection, the RNA world, many many many different attempts have been made to explain this naturalistically, and they failed, and so scientific atheists have been forced to posit space alien designers. And then when it seems exotic to their listeners as it is, well then they backtrack.

That is so weird to hear, and tells you how disconnected from reality these creationists are. No, intelligent design is not winning. It’s been sinking since the Kitzmiller decision and has no credibility beyond a tiny group of cranks. Scientific atheism does not violate Occam’s Razor; our limitation is that we cannot invent causes without evidence, entirely unlike intelligent design, which postulates an ever-shrinking universal intelligence that directs the course of life on Earth, while being unable to demonstrate such an entity.

And no, we are not forced to posit space alien designers. Being able to say that that is a possibility, but that no one has provided evidence for such a thing, is where we’re showing a commitment to the principle of parsimony. OK, you want to suggest aliens? I won’t reject it a priori, but show me why I should think that is reasonable.

I’m sorry, but I saved the worst for last. Yeah, Stephen Meyer is really really bad, but you know what’s worse? Dave Rubin, one of the most insipid YouTube pundits out there, interviewing Frank Turek, a terrible, repetitive, and unoriginal Christian apologist. He’s one of the biggest clodhoppers you’ll find making excuses for Jesus.

Prominent New Atheist Wakes Up to His Main Error | Frank Turek | SPIRITUALITY | Rubin Report

Rubin: There seems to be something interesting happening with with the atheist movement, if we can call it a movement. I mean, in essence, it has basically fallen apart, you know from Sam Harris sort of disappearing off Twitter and having, you know, a lot of political problems. That whole four horseman thing sort of disappeared.

True enough, the four horseman thing has sort of disappeared, but that’s not atheism. That’s one small showy part of atheism.

The “political problems” bit is mildly amusing. Yes, part of the weakness of the New Atheism was political, because they were rapidly drifting off into right-wing territory…you know, anti-immigration, pro-racism, pseudo-historical justifications for bad ideas. The same thing Dave Rubin is guilty of! I guess I’ll have to accept the validity of the criticism that the New Atheists faded away because they became more Dave Rubinesque.

The new atheist movement, I don’t know if you’ve seen that the president of the, I think, Atheists of America, David Silverman, has basically come out and said that the atheist movement was a failure. This is just in the last two or three weeks or so, I’ve seen other, well known atheists like skeptic, my friend Michael Shermer, talk about how there is a purpose and need for religion. People fill that up with something else. And of course Jordan Peterson talking about how people end up believing whether they believe it or not. So there’s something interesting culturally happening right now, which is sort of what I wanted to bring you on. I wonder if you have any thoughts on that, just sort of what’s happening right now?

His sources for the demise of new atheism are:

  1. David Silverman, former president of American Atheists, who was thrown out for sexual assault and for, it is rumored, misappropriation of the organization’s funds.
  2. Michael Shermer, the libertarian head of a skeptic organization, who was credibly accused of committing sexual assault.

  3. Jordan Peterson, right-wing loony. Not accused of sexual assault, fortunately, a but deeply deranged guy who wears the costume of a super-villain from the Batman comics.

Dave Rubin, always right on top of the news.

Turek: I think that the new atheist movement, Dave, was a reaction to 9/11, because at the time, the new atheists at the time were Christopher Hitchens. I had a couple of opportunities to debate him in the late 2000s. Also, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, Dan Dennett.
R: Even Dawkins, in the last couple of weeks, has said…

I hate to admit it, but Frank Turek gets one thing right. Yes, the New Atheism was spawned as a reaction to 9/11. In particular, Sam Harris led the charge with his virulent anti-Islam sentiment, Dawkins happily joined in and has been getting progressively worse as his brain rot grows, and I’ve even heard Dan Dennett propose violent solutions to the Islamic menace, behind the scenes at meetings.

It’s weird to see that view discussed as a strike against the New Atheists by a couple of people who are just as viciously anti-Islam, if not more so. The New Atheists were agreeing with and converging on your position, guys, why are you bothered by that?

T: Well, you had a podcast not long ago where you were talking about how Dawkins basically said that, well, religion does have some benefits to society. And I think he’s realizing too, that in Britain in particular, a tepid secularism is not gonna resist a radical Islam, but Christianity could be just from a pragmatic point of view, from his point of view, can maybe blunt radical Islam. So he’s realizing there’s some pragmatic uses to religion. But I think originally the new atheism came out of 9/11.

See what I mean? Some atheists support christianity as a bulwark against Islam, because Christians are even worse on this point than most atheists! Lovely. You can stop wondering why I’m not welcoming this alliance between New Atheists and Islamophobic Christians.

Also, do I need to point out that supporting Christianity from a pragmatic point of view is not at all making a case that Christianity is true. My version of atheism considers truth, as near as we can get to it, fundamental. I guess some New Atheists and some evangelical Christians consider that secondary, and the value of hating others with differing backgrounds to be primary.

Oh, and we’re going to get the usual tired complaint that atheism has become woke, which is why it is fading away. I’ll listen to that when one of these guys can define “woke”.

R: Yeah, so it’s interesting because what you’re describing as the push, the Christian sort of argument as the pushback against radical Islam, I think what we have here is the push back against wokism, that people, and this is what David Silverman from the American atheist was saying. He did not realise that wokism was gonna become, I think he called it a cult, not a religion. And I think that’s sort of what brings us to this moment in America.
T: Yes, and Silverman was the president, American atheist. In fact I had a debate with him probably seven or eight years ago, but then he left that role. I don’t even know what he’s doing now. I mean, the whole movement maybe has pretty much evaporated really.

Hey! I know, I know what happened to Silverman! He was fired from American Atheists amid “allegations of financial conflicts and sexual assault” I guess opposing those things is something only a “woke” organization would do. Last I heard he was an insurance salesman in Seattle, and he’s still on Twitter, raging against gays, trans people, and Palestinians, and is on the board of Atheists For Liberty, the conservative libertarian organization. He has a lot in common with Rubin and Turek.

And that’s why New Atheism failed. It only looks like it evaporated if you can only see the most regressive elements of the movement.

Well, now you can see how my brain vents when I’m forced to deal with grief and probate lawyers. It makes me cranky. I’ll get better soon, but you better not click on “like” or “subscribe” — it’ll only encourage me.

Once again, thanks to all my supporters on Patreon!

Comments

  1. raven says

    Jordan Peterson, right-wing loony.

    Cthulhu, this is stupid.
    Putting Jordan Peterson in with atheists.

    Jordan Peterson isn’t an atheist!
    Jordan Peterson hates atheists.

    Peterson also blames Nazism and communism on atheism, which is also stupid and wrong. Nazism has its roots deep in xianity.
    The SS, the group that actually carried out the Holocaust prohibited atheists from joining.

  2. raven says

    US xianity isn’t doing so well these days either.

    They are losing 2 million members a year and are on schedule to go below 50% of the population around 2040.

    U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time

    Gallup https://news.gallup.com › poll › church-membership-fal…
    Mar 29, 2021 — WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s …

    Any metric you look at says US xianity is declining rapidly.

    Church membership isn’t the same as claiming to be a xian.
    Some xians aren’t formal members of any church.
    Some atheists are still counted as…members of churches. The RCC just counts baptisms and won’t even take your name off their membership list if you ask them.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    The 20th anniversary of Kitzmiller arrives next year – don’t forget to stock up on pyrotechnics, intoxicants, and well-groomed virgins!

  4. says

    The real problem with not the concept behind New Atheism, but the reaction to it (especially from outside, and most especially from theist critics of all kinds), was the very hero-worship/demon-denigration of establishing “Four Horsemen” as symbolic of, and ultimately equivalent to, a philosophical position that denied horsemen. Anthropomorphism is rhetorically convenient, but almost always philosophically empty when actually examined. So as soon as the critics successfully shifted the ground to being about “horsemen” — who, like almost all heros, were clay in at least their foot and in one instance from the neck down — the result of the “conversation”/”argument” was predictable. It’s a rather cleverly camouflaged variety of ad hominem fallacy, in which the critic’s own character defects are above examination.

    Since I’m not the first in this conversation, I’m not falling prey to Godwin’s Law here… but remember that one of the most-famous midcentury vegetarians was Herr Schickelgrüber. I distinctly recall some nutcases in the 70s yelling at kids to eat their meat first so the wouldn’t end up like him (one of them owned a meatpacker, so “conflict of interest” obviously has no relevance). Obvious character defect in area A leads to discrediting of that individual’s thoughts in area B — the very definition of an ad hominem fallacy.

  5. raven says

    Keith Ward:

    — I mean, there have always been atheists in the world, but no philosopher of any note has ever been an atheist Until Nietzche, uh, Thomas Hobbes possibly,

    Cthulhu, watching xians think is an oxymoron.
    They can’t do it. All they can do is lie.

    Up until recently in Europe, being an atheist was a death penalty offense!
    It still is a death penalty offense in many countries in the world today.
    Needless to say, that is going to limit the number of philosophers who claim to be atheists to around zero. You either shut up about it or you get killed.

    When Ward lists the classical philosophers, he managed to leave out Socrates.
    Socrates may or may not have been an atheist since people argue both ways. But it is undeniable that he was accused of being an atheist by the people who killed him.

  6. says

    I remember when prominent and celebrated atheist Stephen Fry went onstage allied with Jordan Fucking Peterson to denounce “political correctness run amok” or some such nonsense.

    And prominent atheist Ricky Gervais has built a career out of anti-trans slurs and AIDS jokes.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    @6

    Atheism predates classical Greece. See Charvaka (alternate spellings also in use)

    Brihaspati, a philosopher, is traditionally referred to as the founder of Charvaka or Lokāyata philosophy, although some scholars dispute this.[10][11] Charvaka developed during the Hindu reformation period in the first millennium BCE, after Buddhism was established by Gautama Buddha and Jainism was re-organized by Parshvanatha.[12] …

    I have previously seen dates of ~ 600 BCE.

    In Plato’s Republic, Socrates promotes reeducation camps for atheists, with the death penalty for those who couldn’t be reeducated.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    Oh great, teh Bible is allegorical!
    In Genesis 2:16-17, YHWH lies to Adam.
    In Genesis 3:4-5, the Serpent tells the truth to Eve.

    And which is the bad guy? What is the allegorical value in that?

  9. nomdeplume says

    Dawkins has become shorthand for all atheists, in the same way as creationists only ever refer to the “Darwinist” Darwin.

  10. Akira MacKenzie says

    Who gets to speak for atheism now? I sure as hell don’t trust theists to defend us.

  11. robro says

    Reginald Selkirk @ #9 — There may be a problem with making claims with respect to religion based on Plato’s or Aristotle’s writings. As far as I can tell, all the writings we have of theirs are relatively recent copies which were preserved, copied, and who knows what by monks…Christian or otherwise. There are some pre-Christian pieces, but they seem to be mostly scraps of papyrus. The oldest complete work of Plato’s dialogues is “The Clarke Plato” which dates from 895CE. We know the people who copied the biblical works would make changes and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t do that to Plato.

  12. Prax says

    @raven #6,

    Ward’s also lying about Spinoza, Hegel, and arguably Aristotle (whose “unmoved mover” does think, but only about itself.) Those philosophers weren’t atheists, but they didn’t match his definition of theism either. Neither did Epicurus, Sextus Empiricus, Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, John Dewey, etc.

    Also, how do you start with “What is new about these new atheists?” and then immediately claim that none of the Western philosophers of the past were atheists? You’ve obviously answered your own question.

  13. devnll says

    I think what irritates me most about the whining cry of “But it’s allegory!” is that they fail themselves to treat it as such. Ok fine; it’s allegory. A fictional tale set forth to convey a secondary meaning. But then you’re telling me that parts of it are literally true – that bit that says that God exists, for instance. This is fine; unlike most theists, we can encompass the idea of a source that is only partially correct. Darwin doesn’t have to have the mechanism 100% correct to have detected a pattern that is real, and finding one thing he said wrong once doesn’t invalidate everything he ever did. But show me some evidence for that please. You’ve established for us that at least parts of this book are not literally true, so the book can’t be any part of the evidence; it’s unreliable. So you presumably have outside evidence showing you which bits are, and which aren’t. Cough up.

    The tale of the Frog and the Scorpion is allegory. If you tell me that, but then go on to tell me “…but the talking frog was obviously real”, I’m going to need to see some proof.

  14. John Morales says

    Prax, Epicurus didn’t dispute the existence of gods, but these were gods not God.
    Just another category of being, more powerful than mere people, but still part of the natural order.
    Not even the slightest bit monotheistic, of course.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicurean_paradox

    One could consider New Atheism as a movement or an ideology or whatnot, but one could also consider it an attitude towards goddism. Which is me, in a nutshell.

    Before New Atheism was, I was a “New Atheist”.
    During, also.
    And, now that it’s no more, yet I remain a “New Atheist”.

    Basically, it’s an unapologetic attitude to goddism in its various forms, and the antithesis of the apologetic or embarrassed atheist that used to be the stereotype.

    See, back in the day, before the NA “movement” (bad analogy perhaps? ;) there were a lot more of people being, um, ‘agnostic’ (that’s the coward’s way to not be theistic) than ‘atheistic’ because that latter generally had bad social outcomes.

    Much easier to do here in Oz, of course. I’ve been reading another blog here (https://freethoughtblogs.com/ashes/) and that milieu is certainly a more challenging than mine.

  15. rrhain says

    I’ve always said that “New Atheism” is just the same as “old atheism.”

    It just now has a book deal.

    And look what happens when someone with a book deal starts to believe their own hype….

    @raven, 6: Interesting tidbit about what Plato had Socrates say…

    …considering that Socrates was put to death for atheism.*

    *Yes, yes, I know…his “atheism” had more to do with not believing in the Athenian gods, not revering them the right way, and generally being a pain in the neck to the Powers That Be (TM) such that his (literal) iconoclasty was a convenient excuse.

  16. moarscienceplz says

    “I’d rather be talking about spiders than theists, you know.”
    LOL!
    Sorry PZ, but we “Great Apes” (most of us are not that great) are very chauvinistic. We’d much rather you point out the vices of our enemies than the virtues of other species.
    As Alice Roosevelt Longworth allegedly said, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.”

  17. bravus says

    The ‘but Dawkins’ is just the ‘but Darwin’ for theist critics of the gnu atheism.
    As Jaws #4 noted, there’s something about the way theism works that leads to the assumption that the named leader is the thing itself. It means ad hominem is really the main and only argument, and the actual philosophical propositions are seldom tested.
    My go-to illustration, which is very much aging at this point, is ‘Al Gore is not climate change and climate change is not Al Gore’. Al Gore spoke about climate change, but if Al Gore has seventeen massive and well-heated houses, all using fossil fuel energy, that does not change the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and CH4 by one part per billion, nor the global mean temperature neither.
    If Dawkins is an awful human being, so much the worse for Dawkins, but it doesn’t have any impact on (a) whether a god/godess/gods/god-like entities exist and (b) anyone’s judgement of the probability, based on the available evidence, of (a).
    Gotta play the ball, not the man, to use a pretty poor sporting analogy. Gotta argue the argument, not the arguer.

  18. says

    God’s death, Jaws, if you’re talking about Hitler, just use the name he was known by. His name was never Schickelgrüber. Where the fuck do you even get that name from?

    …and physicists regularly talk about things beyond space and time, that is, the supernatural.

    Um, no, physicists regularly talk about things beyond most laymen’s current understanding of space and time.Bit of a difference there.

    …When in Christian history, well, before, it may be true in certain fundamentalist circles, we breed every kind of exotic flora here, but all the church fathers treat this allegorically, and they didn’t…

    Yeah, Christians keep saying this whenever we call out the sillier parts of their doctrine — and in fairness, it is true — but it doesn’t change the fact that many large and influential factions of Christians do indeed cling to very stupid, literalist, fundamentalist interpretations of their Bible, and are actively inflicting such interpretations on innocent people, and doing lots of real harm in the process. So #NotAllChristians isn’t much of a defense here — those more educated and sensible Christians aren’t the ones we have to fight off; and they’re not doing much to help us either.

    Who gets to speak for atheism now?

    Well, there’s lots of people, whom I rather lazily call “New New Atheists,” who, in my estimation at least, fall into two general groups (both rather well represented here on Freethought Blogs as well as elsewhere): a) younger Western atheists (mostly English-speaking) who have managed to avoid the mistakes of the Old New Atheists, including Rebecca Watson and PZ Myers; and b) atheists from non-Christian cultures, mostly from Africa, India and the Muslim world, who are bringing fresh perspectives to a movement that used to be dominated by privileged White men who were able to speak up with less fear of retaliation.

    If you’re asking about POLITICAL leadership, I’m not sure — that would most likely come from people who work with both actual atheists and liberal-secular religious people. So such leadership wouldn’t necessarily come from within atheism.

  19. unclefrogy says

    there’s something about the way theism works that leads to the assumption that the named leader is the thing itself.

    religion does seem to favor authority figures often in the form of priests and support and promote obedience and deference to their leaders priests.
    If you can take recent history as an indication atheism and atheists do not seem to do the same. and may be inherently antagonistic toward that kind of attitude toward authorities in general.

  20. John Morales says

    unclefrogy, um, aren’t you reversing PZ’s own perception?

    PZ: “As I found was frequently affirmed by the critics, it was a cult of personality, and it was not particularly interested in broadening its appeal. We had the Four Horseman, and that was it, take it or leave it, and they sucked all the air out of the room.”

    Isn’t that the very definition of authority figures?

  21. John Morales says

    I mean, I thought PZ was basically saying that even atheists are mostly sheeple.

    (Surely that’s not related to the very name of this blog network, right?)

  22. unclefrogy says

    @23
    the “New Atheists” were authority figures of course and that was the thing that made that “movement” so problematic as far as atheism is concerned, as I said atheism seems to be antithetical to authority, so to set yourself up as “the authorities” to speak for atheism seemed kind of like setting up another “new” church, of which we all ready have too many, in a word nonsensical It could have been a great parody and satire of how religion works but the “great ones” seemed to have taken themselves way to serious as did the media

  23. StevoR says

    @20. Raging Bee : “God’s death, Jaws, if you’re talking about Hitler, just use the name he was known by. His name was never Schickelgrüber. Where the fuck do you even get that name from?”

    I think its an in-joke, er, make that an, in reference to an old commenter here Colnago80 and before that as SLC who used to use that name instead of Hitler for some reason?

    @12. Akira MacKenzie : Who gets to speak for atheism now? I sure as hell don’t trust theists to defend us.

    Ourselves? As individuals? Some atheists groups that are reasonable as atheists? Freedom From Religion Foundation? ( https://ffrf.org/ ) that, I think, Ed Brayton used to work for / run? Dunno? Who do you want to have speak for us?

  24. raven says

    Who gets to speak for atheism now?

    I don’t see that this is complicated.

    All of us. Anyone can speak for atheism who wants to.

    I’ve said a few things about atheism here and there.
    The more voices the better.

    A mass movement doesn’t need much in the way of leadership.

  25. ardipithecus says

    The New Atheism spokesmen served a function for a while. Especially in the USA, atheists needed to know they weren’t alone, and that it was ok to be atheist. Once the movement gained momentum, the leadership was no longer of use and was discarded. (Actually, it kind of discarded itself, didn’t it.)

  26. StevoR says

    He’s right about one thing — atheism isn’t new.

    Before the New Atheists there were also people like Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan and Kurt Vonnegut :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut#Religion

    At the same time as them there were – still is a far as I know – people like Phil Plait who I’m sure many of us here remember :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Plait

    to name just a few.

    Going centuries further back Baruch Spinoza is a complex case that kinda sorta at least verged on being an atheist and there were those who sought to suppress his ideas and writings as a result :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baruch_Spinoza#Pantheism

    Back when being openly athiest was extremely hazardous for your health still.

    Oh and weren’t some of the UDS of A’s Founding Fathers Diests* too if memory serves? Not exactly Christianists – although the Christianists natch lie about that & pretend otherwise.

    .* Again, not quite fully atheists in our mdoern sense of the word but pretty atheist – adjacent esp incontext of the times.

  27. M'thew says

    @20 and @28:
    Apparently Alois Hitler, Adolf’s father, was first called Alois Schicklgruber. Schicklgruber was the surname of Alois’ (then unmarried) mother. The whole history of names (Hiedler, Hüttler, Hitler) is a bit complicated – you can find more on it on Alois’ Wike page.
    The Dutch Wike page for Alois also gives a family tree, which shows that Klara Pölzl, Adolf’s mother, officially was Alois’ cousin.
    Pretty fucked up, all of it. No wonder it all went kaboom.

  28. says

    @20:

    Because under the rules of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the late 19th century (the land and time of his birth, and the “citizenship” of his parents which means entirely a different thing in that region and time period than those engaging with 21st-century antiimmigrant rhetoric think), that or a variant spelling of it “should” have been Adolf’s surname. At least up to school age. My point was to make casual readers stop and think about who was being referred to rather than react to a certain six-letter word — which parallels my broader point about ad hominem arguments.

    Rapid family name changes were extremely common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both internally to non-English-speaking nations and especially upon immigration. I have an Ellis Island surname; clerks speaking English, of all possible languages, imposing a quasiregularized naming/spelling convention on “foreign” names is mind-boggling (think for a moment about the surname of the author of Don Quixote). Methinks a recent US President’s grandfather changed his name when he was an undocumented immigrant avoiding the draft of his birth nation… This, again, relates to the “speaker is distinct from the argument” problem, especially when bound up in tribal loyalties at best and outright bigotry at worst.

  29. KG says

    but remember that one of the most-famous midcentury vegetarians was Herr Schickelgrüber. – Jaws@4

    Jesus wept. Adolf Hitler’s name was not Schickelgrüber, was never Schickelgrüber, or even Schickelgruber (the name has no umlaut on the “u”). And so fucking what if it had been? The ignorant pseudo-sophistication of referring to him in this way really sets my teeth on edge. Do you think that you’ll summon his ghost if you refer to him by his actual name?

  30. tacitus says

    PZ, you got namechecked as a “significant person” (!) early on in a recent discussion between Alex O’Connor and Justin Brierley Is There a Rebirth of BELIEF IN GOD? Justin Brierley vs Alex O’Connor though you’ll be pleased to know it was in the context of you opposing the “New Atheists” after the split in the movement.

    Brierley claims that not only has New Atheism floundered, but that it has led to a resurgence in belief in God — he has written an entire book on his thesis, so you know he’s “serious” — singling out Jordan Peterson, historian Tom Holland, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali as examples of people who have swung the tone of the debate toward Christianity.

    Of course, it’s all wishful thinking, and Alex does a good job of dismantling his claims, explaining that this is just a bunch of right-wing atheists finding reasons to ally themselves conservative Christians and their anti-Islam, anti-woke agenda.

    But Brierley has a book to promote, so he continues to waffle and deflect from the fact he has no data to back up his claims.

  31. raven says

    Brierley claims that not only has New Atheism floundered,…

    This kook mistakes cause and effect.

    The New Atheism movement wasn’t the main driver for the decline of US xianity.

    The main driver was….US xianity.

    The fundie perversion of xianity is a broken system run by terrible people and these days is just right wingnut politics with a few crosses stuck on for show. The crosses aren’t important any more.
    When xian became synonymous with hater, liar, hypocrite, and sometimes killer, a lot of people didn’t want to be one anymore. Including for example, myself.

    Fundie xians have produced more atheists in a day than the New Atheists do in a year.

  32. raven says

    What is Going on with the Church in America? The United States Census Bureau Records give some startling statistics, backed up by denominational reports and the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions: Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts!

    Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline – Church Leadership
    ChurchLeadership.org http://www.churchleadership.org › apps › articles

    Yeah, right.
    By any measurement, US xianity is declining.

    This source is a xian source so your YMMV.

  33. says

    but all the church fathers treat this allegorically

    That’s a big fucking lie right there.

    You can make the argument that Mark and Matthew were trying to be allegorical.

    But Luke was clearly trying to establish his account of Jesus and the apostles as actual history, cribbing a whole lot of material from Josephus to make it look authentic; doing this evidently became really important some time in the 2nd century.. And we’ve got plenty of quotes from the early church fathers like Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Origen, who were clearly arguing against people claiming otherwise that NO THIS REALLY ALL HAPPENED.

    Never mind what happened to you if you tried to claim otherwise anytime after the 4th century.

  34. Bekenstein Bound says

    there’s something about the way theism works that leads to the assumption that the named leader is the thing itself.

    That’s probably because left and right wing people don’t just have different moral compasses. They have different epistemological compasses. To the left, arguments, facts, and reason are the basis for deciding truth. To the right, “our side/our leader right or wrong” doesn’t just mean they consider their side and their leader to always be morally in the right; they even consider them to be the factually in the right. Evidence be damned. It’s a fundamentally different orientation to reality itself: there’s an objectively neutral real world, which we can learn about by observation, vs. there’s our side and there’s their side, and their side is trying to trick and deceive us and cannot be trusted … objective reality? What the heck is that? Whatever it is, if it disagrees with our great leader it must just be another vehicle for their side’s dirty sneaky lies … (and of course inevitably at some point it disagrees with their great leader, since their great leader, being fallible, will sooner or later make a mistake and get caught in it.)

  35. Prax says

    @John Morales, #16

    Prax, Epicurus didn’t dispute the existence of gods, but these were gods not God.
    Just another category of being, more powerful than mere people, but still part of the natural order.
    Not even the slightest bit monotheistic, of course.

    Yes, and Epicurus’ gods don’t care about people or running the universe. Their only effect on us is to inspire thoughts of their perfection, which we can use as ideals for our own behavior. So I’d call him a “polydeist”, or something like that.

    His Roman follower Lucretius is very explicit that the gods were not even involved in the creation of the universe, and that there is no need to resort to them to explain how the world works or how it came to be. At the time, that was about as close to open atheism as you could get without facing social censure and legal punishments.

  36. John Morales says

    At the time, that was about as close to open atheism as you could get without facing social censure and legal punishments.

    Well, sure. Not as bad as during Christendom, but yeah.
    Not the same thing, but. It was about impiety, not about godlessness.

    Subtle point:
    Theos is the personal kind of god;
    Deos is the impersonal kind;
    and there are more types.

    (https://www.britannica.com/topic/theism)

  37. Prax says

    Oh, yes. The Romans just didn’t want you standing up and shouting about how the gods don’t exist, because angry gods don’t have very good aim with their plagues and famines and such. As long as you behaved yourself and did your sacrifices and paid lip service to the emperor, your private opinions were basically irrelevant.

    No other religion in history has managed to equal Christianity’s obsession over whether someone somewhere might be thinking the wrong thing about God.

  38. John Morales says

    Prax, Islam can’t really say “hold my beer”, but I reckon it’s at least on a par.

    Buddhism was pretty fucking nasty, too.
    Especially in Tibet, back in the day.
    Seriously.

    Poop from the priests as medicine, torture and mutilation as motivation, it was full-on.

  39. KG says

    Prax, Islam can’t really say “hold my beer”, but I reckon it’s at least on a par. – John Morales@46

    No. Traditionally, “people of the book” (Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians) could run their own affairs and believe and worship as they pleased provided they payed their “jizya” tax, didn’t proselytise or blaspheme, etc. Those who got into trouble for “thinking the wrong thing about God” were (and in many places, still are) religious dissidents who claimed to be Muslims, or to have a new revelation (such as Baha’is) which superceded Islam. For example in theocratic Iran there are small numbers of places reserved in parliament for Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians (and I think, for Sunni Muslims), but Baha’is are persecuted. Jews were much more likely to be massacred in Christian polities, and in most, Islam could not be practiced at all.

  40. John Morales says

    Traditionally, “people of the book” (Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians) could run their own affairs and believe and worship as they pleased provided they payed their “jizya” tax, didn’t proselytise or blaspheme, etc.

    Oh yeah.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhimmi

    Those who got into trouble for “thinking the wrong thing about God” were (and in many places, still are) religious dissidents who claimed to be Muslims, or to have a new revelation (such as Baha’is) which superceded Islam.

    The very equivalent of Christianity’s ‘heretics’, yes.

    Jews were much more likely to be massacred in Christian polities, and in most, Islam could not be practiced at all.

    Ah, I get you now.

    Christianity is just the worst, as you see it, because Jews were much more likely to be massacred in Christian polities, and in most, Islam could not be practiced at all.

    Heh.

  41. Prax says

    The Islamic version of “heresy” is Zandaqa, and historically has probably attained its most totalitarian extreme when applied to apostates and Manichaeans. Still, that was “justified” by the fear that they might be covertly disseminating their views and corrupting the faithful, not just holding those views inside their head.

    I’d also say Christianity surpasses Islam in its ability to flip out over incredibly minor theological disagreements like the filioque issue. You’d think that God could just clear that up for people when they arrived in heaven: “BTW, my Holy Spirit part proceedeth from my Father part and my Son part. Now you know!” But no, it’s anathemas all round.

    And you’re right, John, the Tibetan Buddhists had some incredibly brutal civil wars. I suppose I still find them a little less thought-policey because the conflicts were really about political loyalties and which school had which tutelary deities on its side, but Christian theological disagreements were often proxies for such conflicts as well. And the philosophical differences between the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism are almost incomprehensible to me.

  42. John Morales says

    Prax, I hear you, and I’m not gonna dispute you, other than to note that if you consider the ‘badness’ of some specific religion as a probability density function where the Y axis is the degree and the X axis is time, then Islam lags Christianity by, um, around 7 centuries.

    (Obviously, the quantity of harm done depends on the prevalence of that religion and the population it can affect)

  43. says

    Unless he’s become Born Again Jordan Peterson isn’t exactly a Christian. At one point he said he thought God probably didn’t exist, but was afraid that he did. He’s probably the kind of guy who if he ever went to church regularly it was from habit, and not because of any profound engagement with any form of Christianity.

  44. tacitus says

    @timgueguen:55

    Peterson is currying favor with his right-wing audience which is a combination of conservative Christians and “cultural Christians” (people who aren’t believers but spout the cultural Judeo-Christian pablum as if they understand what it means.

    He refuses to be pinned down as to what he believes personally because he doesn’t want to risk upsetting his subscribers.

  45. consciousness razor says

    John Morales, #54:
    Sometimes, no Gnus in the news is good, but it takes nous to realize that it still might not seem like good news at the time.

  46. says

    then Islam lags Christianity by, um, around 7 centuries.

    Rather a lot of the batshittery in Islam is of recent origin. al-Wahhab was an 18th century cleric and I’d say a large fraction of today’s Islamic extremism — or at least Sunni extremism — derives from his teachings being promoted by Saudi Arabia setting up religious schools everywhere.

    To some extent, this is true of Christianity as well (cf. US fundamentalist movements that got their start in the 19th century that are now spearheading Christian Nationalism in the US).

    More generally it is probably a mistake to regard the history of either religion as any kind of long-term progression from barbarism to modern Jesus=peace&love liberal Christianity. The reality is a huge diversity of sects popping up from time to time, some good, some bad or worse. And even the long-time entities like the Catholic Church have had their ups and downs (there’s an argument that Catholicism in the high Middle ages made for way less of a totalitarian society than came later under the counter-Reformation and the Inquisition — nor were the 17th century Protestants (who did the vast majority of the witch-burnings) a whole lot of fun, either: Calvin and Luther were hugely regressive in their own ways)

  47. KG says

    John Morales@48,

    You really don’t like to be corrected by someone refering to actual historical facts, do you? It is simple historical fact that for a long period, Islam was more tolerant of non-Muslims than Christianity was of non-Christians.

  48. John Morales says

    It is simple historical fact that Christianity preceded Islam around by 7 centuries, KG.

    To what degree Islam was kinder than Christendom in its treatment of non-muslims is not that easily quantifiable.

    BTW, Sikhs remember stuff:
    https://www.sikhnet.com/news/islamic-india-biggest-holocaust-world-history

    I know there were more cases of people preferring to be subjugated by Islam than by Christendom (maybe a lot more) back when each was expanding its hegemony, but subjugation is subjugation and bad treatment is bad treatment.

    And, also, remember how ISIS and the Taliban are considered a bit barbaric?
    That’s because, far as they are concerned, they are practicing the proper sort of Islam, as it worked centuries ago. Whether or not that’s historically accurate, it’s what they reckon.

    “Rather a lot of the batshittery in Islam is of recent origin. al-Wahhab was an 18th century cleric”, wrote wrog, and “Sure”, wrote I.

    Thing is, an 18th century cleric of Islam is around 11 centuries into Islam’s progress, but around 11 centuries into Christianity’s progress was the beginning of the crusades.

    (This is simple historical fact)

  49. says

    Religion is a human endeavor. That’s why I expect a variety of sects and interpretations in any religion. Some rise to prominence, and that includes liberal and comparatively secular factions. I’m not a huge history buff on that regard, but Islam did have something of a golden era when the secular and liberal portions were more influential. There’s more to Islamic history than the eye-catching dictators and terrorists we’re bombarded with in the media these days.

    Treating religious groups as monolithic is what strikes me as unnatural, counter-intuitive, and dehumanizing.

  50. John Morales says

    RR, that’s not what’s going on in the last few comments.

    The proposition at hand is that Islam is more tolerant than Christianity, in historical terms.
    I was noting that, when the latter had been around as long as the former, that’s basically when its worst aspects began to manifest.

    Same sort of thing for schisms.
    Tree structures, basically. Each new node can form multiple branches, though it’s typically a simple split.

    Anyway, it’s a basically a form of cruelty Olympics.

    (Islam is worse! Nah, Christianity is worse!)

  51. KG says

    John Morales@62,

    It is simple historical fact that Christianity preceded Islam around by 7 centuries, KG.

    The Hijrah (Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina, usually taken as the start of Islam, although his “revelations” began somewhat earlier) took place in 622 CE. Seven centuries before that takes you to 79 BCE. Even six centuries back, taking you to 22 CE, precedes the start of Christianity by any reckoning.

    Thing is, an 18th century cleric of Islam is around 11 centuries into Islam’s progress, but around 11 centuries into Christianity’s progress was the beginning of the crusades.

    Suggesting that there’s some sort of inevitable or regular path religions follow with regard to how intolerant they are is ridiculous ahistorical nonsense. For one thing, Christianity and Islam interacted continuously from the start of the latter, and fighting between the two often prompted the growth of “fundamentalist” movements (the term is rather anachronistic, but conveys the sense I want) within one or both.

  52. John Morales says

    Right, right. Only 600 years. Nothing like around 7 centuries at all!

    Suggesting that there’s some sort of inevitable or regular path religions follow with regard to how intolerant they are is ridiculous ahistorical nonsense.

    An interesting take.
    I wasn’t referring to religions in general, but to the two religions at hand.
    Both are Abrahamic religion, the first instance of which was Judaism.

    Difference is Judaism was basically “our god for our tribe”, whereas Christianity added this business of evangelism and Islam copied that, and it became “the god for everyone”.

    (Kinda like software forking)

    For one thing, Christianity and Islam interacted continuously from the start of the latter, and fighting between the two often prompted the growth of “fundamentalist” movements (the term is rather anachronistic, but conveys the sense I want) within one or both.

    Suggesting that they co-evolved their attitudes towards each other, are you?

    Look, I get it. In your estimation, Islam is just a nicer religion to non-adherents.

  53. KG says

    John Morales@66,

    Right, right. Only 600 years. Nothing like around 7 centuries at all!

    A century was a long time even then, John. So why didn’t you say around 6 centuries, which would have been correct, rather than around 7 centuries, which was wrong? Because you’re a historical ignoramus and can’t even be bothered to check simple facts, that’s why.

    Suggesting that they co-evolved their attitudes towards each other, are you?

    Yes, and if you knew much about their history, you would know that.

    In your estimation, Islam is just a nicer religion to non-adherents.

    Not always and everywhere, but as I said @61:

    It is simple historical fact that for a long period, Islam was more tolerant of non-Muslims than Christianity was of non-Christians.

  54. says

    John, I’m finding your comments bizarre. The one you addressed to me seems to be designed to shoot down the idea that this religion stuff’s complicated and varied over the course of history: Economic, social, and political factors confound attempts to make blanket, timeless statements about a religion as a whole or such comparisons between two religions across their entire history.

    In your comment to KG, you seem to have trouble understanding the difference between past and present tense.

  55. John Morales says

    So why didn’t you say around 6 centuries, which would have been correct, rather than around 7 centuries, which was wrong? Because you’re a historical ignoramus and can’t even be bothered to check simple facts, that’s why.

    Close; I am not a historian, and I indeed did not look it up. Yes, it was off the top of my head.

    (Such ignorance!)

    Not always and everywhere, but as I said @61:

    It is simple historical fact that for a long period, Islam was more tolerant of non-Muslims than Christianity was of non-Christians.

    In your opinion. Sure.

    Me, I reckon it was much of a muchness.

    RR:

    In your comment to KG, you seem to have trouble understanding the difference between past and present tense.

    You think so? Which comment, and care to quote the relevant bits?

    (Still, tricky. Simple, perfect, continuous, and the perfect continuous!)

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