Friday, July 09, 2010

New Atheism

A term bantered about. Over at the Parchment and Pen Blog a writer (utilizing Dr. Mohler) gave seven (7) points that differentiate the “New Atheist” from the “run-of-mill atheist” (her words):

1. Celebration of Atheism – no sense of mourning as seen in the “Victorian Loss of Faith”.

2. Changed and clear direction of attention – No longer the philosophical rejection of God but a rejection of the God of Christianity specifically. (*I question this one however, as it would seem there are objections to Islam and Judaism as well as polytheistic systems. But I do concede they are the most vocal against Christian Theism.)

3. Explicitly based in scientific argumentation - *Lack of philosophical discussion surrounding the existence of God. Also I would suggest that while a naturalistic framework (i.e a point of view that excludes the supernatural) is assumed they are not stating their’s as a philosophical position.

4. Attack upon moderate and liberal Protestantism - These theological movements are seen as “enablers” of theistic belief . *Which although not stated in the lecture, I have to think it is due to these movements denying foundational truths of Christianity in respects to not only orthodoxy (right belief) but orthopraxy (right practice). This in turn makes Christianity a less bitter pill to swallow to those searching for truth.

5. Belief in God is not to be tolerated – It is no longer a matter of objecting to the persecution of the skeptic or free-thinker or atheist (vying for a voice in the culture only to be persecuted by the Theist) but it is thought that those who do believe in God should not be tolerated in our society – essentially a move away from religious freedom.

6. Theism is seen as harmful to children – teaching a child theistic beliefs is tantamount to child abuse and on the same level as (if not worse than) physical abuse.

and finally…

7. Theism should be eliminated because of all the harm it has brought to humanity. *Theism simply should not be tolerated in any civilized culture. The Crusades, the Inquisition and even modern day terrorism indicate Theism is bad for humanity. It has done more harm than good as we see from history and we’d be better off ridding it from our society altogether. No longer is a “tenant” of Atheism that of merely objecting to theistic systems but rather there is a pressing need to pro-actively eradicate these systems from our culture in toto.

Now, before I deal with each of these seven points, my first broad thought can be brilliantly summed up in two words. “So what?”

Let’s assume—for the moment—there is this “New Atheism” that is somehow different from previous atheisms. Does “New” necessarily mean “incorrect”? The impression given is that atheism (like Christianity) must adhere to some sort of orthodoxy, and therefore the “older” atheism is somehow more correct. Better.

Why? Imagine I told you I obtained a new cell phone. Wouldn’t we want the “newest” available? Would you be impressed if I extolled orthodoxy and bought a bag phone? (And if you even know what a bag phone is—you just dated yourself!)

Or imagine we are presented with new information. Or a new situation. Should I have continued to live like a bachelor after begin married? Was there something inherently bad about the seven (or more) points differentiating “Old run-of-the-mill single me” to “New Married Me”? Of course not!

We live in a changing world. With new ideas, new concepts, new societal impacts, new words…all of which should collide with our previous thinking and perhaps cause us to modify it.

I want “New Atheism” because we know more than last year’s atheists. And next year I want even “Newer Atheism.” If some day we come across some proof or evidence…who knows?...maybe the Newest and Last Atheism would be theism!

Now looking at the points.

1. Celebration of Atheism. Yeah us! How terrible that we dare not be the miserable, hedonistic wretches the theists think we should be. How dare we be…happy. How DARE we be…moral! How dare we…actually admit to being an atheist without a sigh, a tear, a cry for help…

2. A changing and clear direction toward atheism as to Christianity. While I could argue most of that has to do with perspective and locale (and the author notes it is not limited to Christianity)…again…I am left with “so what?” This comes across as Christians whining about “Why are you picking on us?” Because we are atheistic to your God! Does it really matter if we pick one God as compared to another?

3. Explicitly based on scientific argumentation. Again, I could argue this point. Again, I find myself saying, “So what?” What sacred script, what orthodoxy requires atheists to argue from philosophy? Or science? Or _____? Or all aspects? Or none at all? Please, oh please, will someone tell me what I—the atheist—MUST use to make my point in order to qualify as a “run-of-the-mill” atheist?

4. Attack on moderate and liberal Protestantism. Bwahahahahaha…seriously? You were being serious there? Read that again without falling down on the floor. I dare you! This comes from a conservative (Dr. Mohler) who regularly (Oh, I listened to your show, sir) attacked and battled and stabbed and assailed in every way shape and form anything remotely “moderate” or “liberal” within Christianity. And he’s unhappy atheists…er…excuse me…”New Atheists”…are doing it?

What, are we stealing your thunder?

5. Theism is not to be tolerated. Well, this one depends on your definition of “tolerance.” I suspect Christians want more than the New Atheists are giving. Look, we think theism is wrong. As wrong as a geocentric solar system. As wrong as a 6000-year-old, flat earth, global-flood, demon-possessing, Mary-in-a-Grilled-Cheese, geocentric solar system.

Which, like people wearing tin-foil hats to protect themselves from government rays, we would normally laugh off and let live their lives in peace. But Christians don’t stop there. They take these beliefs and discriminate against homosexuals, and attempt to push prayers on those who don’t believe as they do, and demand money (oh the money) and privileges to maintain these beliefs.

At that point I say, “No.” And they cry, “Intolerance.”

6. Theism is seen as harmful to children. Er…yes. Again, we think theism is wrong. Teaching children incorrect things, I believe is harmful. Shouldn’t we teach children correct truths? Of course, I am not mentioning the fear of hell, the shame of sex, the stigma of sexual orientation, the scientific falsehoods….

7. Theism should be eliminated because of all the harm it has brought to humanity. Has this sunk in yet? We think theism is wrong. As in “not true.” Basing actions on incorrect truths has an inherent tendency to do harm. Yes, we can live a happy life on a lie. Even do “less harm” by believing that lie. Most atheists I read hope humanity can actually improve itself without the need of believing something incorrect. Call us foolish optimists.

In the end, I think the biggest problem they have with New Atheism is how vocal it has become. The old atheists (like the token house servant) kept their mouth shut and knew their place. These New Atheists have the audacity to write best-sellers and speak their mind and proudly proclaim “I am an atheist!”

And for that, even though I may not qualify as a “New Atheist,” I am thankful and supportive. They make it easier, even (dare I say?) legitimate, for some of us to also say, “I, too, am an atheist.” Maybe a run-of-the-mill; maybe not. But an atheist all the same.

Friday, July 02, 2010

You MUST be just like Me

You can tell quite a bit about a person with how they relate to others. And how they treat perceived enemies.

When encountering others, in order to obtain a baseline, we initially presume they share similar tastes and interest as we do. We do this to move from the unknown to the known. If I was asking you to meet at a restaurant, I would initially propose restaurants I like. “Do you want to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings?” I would not propose Wendy’s (for example) because I don’t particularly care for their food.

Simply by listening to what restaurants I propose—you would learn what restaurants I like. Obviously, our interaction would provide me information about the other person (“No, I don’t like spicy food”) narrowing our choices and giving me more data.

Or if I was attempting to motivate you, I might first offer money (demonstrating I find money to be a powerful motivating factor) or sex (demonstrating I find sex to be a powerful motivating factor), etc. I often find, in divorce matters, those who accuse others, without any evidence, of infidelity are either contemplating it or engaging in it already. What they accuse others is demonstrative of what they are thinking themselves. “If I want to have an affair,” they are thinking, “presumably the only reason my spouse wants out of the marriage is that they want to have an affair.”

You may be aware the US Supreme Court ruled a Law School can withhold official status to a Christian student organization because the organization discriminated against others based upon religious beliefs and/or sexual orientation. The Christian organization required its members to sign a statement of faith and refrain from sexual activity, specifically homosexual activity. The Law School allowed the group to meet (and even provided facilities) but would not grant it official status due to its exclusivity policy. The Student Organization sued. And lost.

Mike Adams wrote an article in Townhall (H/T toCamels with Hammers) with an intriguing response:

I can’t stand atheists. And I plan to do something about them. Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court has given me a powerful tool to use in my war against the godless. Earlier this week, the Court ruled that a public university may require all student organizations to admit any student as a voting member or officer. The decision applies even to a student who is openly hostile to the group's fundamental beliefs.

So, when I get back to the secular university in August, I plan to round up the students I know who are most hostile to atheism. Then I’m going to get them to help me find atheist-haters willing to join atheist student groups across the South. I plan to use my young fundamentalist Christian warriors to undermine the mission of every group that disagrees with me on the existence of God.

I agree with the general reaction that most Secular groups would welcome Christians joining and would dramatically enjoy the interaction. But that wasn’t what struck me about this article.

It was the presumption that this would be hated by secular groups. That secular groups would fall in disarray, or be traumatized or forced to close up shop due to the “infiltration” of Christians. This says a great deal more about Mr. Adams and Christian organizations than it does about secular.

Apparently he believes if non-theists were allowed to join Christian gatherings, it would be so horrifying the Christian group would eventually fail. That non-theists absolutely, positively must be prevented from entering Christian sacred groups, because even a whiff of such theistic abstinence would cause the entire assemblage to crumble like a house of cards.

Therefore—because he is so terrified of allowing an atheist dare attend or [gasp!] join his Christian group—the secular group must equally be terrified.

One of the scariest—and pitiful—quotes from Mr. Adams: “I do not seek robust debate. I seek power over the godless heathen dissident.” How does one communicate with such a person? It amazed me at the time of my deconversion; it continues to amaze me. How many Christians are simply not interested in hearing alternative positions. They don’t want to know about possible contradictions in the New Testament texts. They don’t want to know scientific studies demonstrating evolution. They don’t want to hear any information, data, evidence, argument, point or iota about anything that in any way contradicts their preciously held belief.

They vehemently do not seek robust debate. They desire one thing only—the elimination of the non-theist. Either through conversion to their belief, OR destruction by judgment. There is no ground to allow the non-theist. (Humorously, they presume the non-theist feels the same way about them, and therefore presume there really is an Evil Atheist Conspiracy bringing all of its resources to bear to prevent them from receiving a tax deduction for their weekly $5 tithe.)

Now it is possible (I don’t know Mike Adams) this was written as satire. The point remains the same, he is still claiming this is his perception of secular groups, based upon his own underpinnings of fear.

Here is the point: There is no gain in discussing with the Mike Adams of the world. And there are a lot of them. We can be aware there are lurkers, wondering what our response would be, and reply appropriately, but for the vast majority they have no desire to have their beliefs pushed or prodded in any way.

And the easiest way to do that is bar the pushers and prodders at the door.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

I am sure all are celebrating by bringing out your favorite cassettes and foam headphones. Grabbing a set of new batteries and jogging around the block.


For as we all know, it has been exactly 31 years since Sony introduced the iconic Walkman. Hail, hail to the mobile player that binds them all.

31 years. It amazes how much has changed in such a short period. In this one corner of consumerism, we watched an evolution from cassettes to CD’s to Mp3 players. (With a side-branch of personal DVD players.) The ubiquitous term “Walkman” (as in “Did you bring a Walkman?” meaning any personal cassette player or CD player) has transformed to “iPod.” Cassettes briefly battled CDs, that only reigned a short time before entering their own battle with digital downloads.

31 years. Teaching us change is inevitable, the only question being how we role with that change. We can expect it. No one (that I know) is proclaiming the benefits of ancient technology as being better; no one is claiming we need to “get back” to Sony’s intentions with its original Walkman. Bring back re-usable batteries and gangly headphones.

We progress, and adapt with the progression. Celebrate it—it is the defining reason our evolved species has made it this far.

As you probably know, vandals painted the words ”Under God with an arrow” on a Billboard in North Carolina that said, “One Nation, Indivisible.” A number of comments under the Yahoo news cite whined about non-theists who wanted to “change” the Pledge.

Didn’t they know the Pledge has been modified a number of times since the original writing in 1891? Short history on the Pledge to the American Flag.

Change happens. It was changed in the 1950’s to add “under God”—we desire to change it back. What is so surprising about that?

I find it fascinating many of the same people who extol what they claim America’s Founders did in establishing American, and how it should never, EVER be changed…are the some ones who fully embrace and adulate the change in the Pledge from the original author. Which is it—do they like change or not?