Friday, May 13, 2016

Why I have a dog in the fight amongst atheists

I think we DO have to make a serious distinction amongst atheists, and I don't say that because some atheists are nicer to people like me than others. At times when some barriers between people have been coming down, having a society this not only disagrees about religion, but fragments over it, is a serious problem that is not good for a free society.

33 comments:

B. Prokop said...

It is, however, important to acknowledge the differences, often bordering on downright hostility, between various flavors of atheism - if only to counter the charge that differences between religions is somehow an argument against religion.

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If an atheist insists that the fact there are Hindus and Daoists makes Christianity unlikely to be true, then I say that the same holds for atheists. There are Leninist athiests who equate godlessness with the Communist state. There are Ayn Rand atheists who equate atheism with unregulated free market Capitalism. There are the New Atheists who insist on waging war against belief, and there are classical atheists who wish to carry on a dialog. And don't forget the A+ movement, which equates atheism to a struggle for social justice.

By their own reasoning, since all of the above cannot be right, then none of them can be.

Jezu ufam tobie!

oozzielionel said...

If differences within a religion argues against that religion and differences among religions argue against religion in general, then differences in philosophies argue against all world views.

Differences about interpreting reality do not negate the existence of reality. The differences are real. Some interpretations are more wrong than others. This seems to be a version of the logical fallacy, "Inflation of Conflict."

Unity is overrated. Fragmentation due to disagreements is a natural consequence of a free society. If unity of thought is a primary value, then a different type of society may be necessary to realize that value.

Victor Reppert said...

By fragmentation I mean a basis for division amongst people that goes beyond mere disagreement. Let's take Boghossian as an example. He says "Disagree with me about God, and you don't deserve response. You deserve to be relegated to the kid's table."

B. Prokop said...

"By fragmentation I mean a basis for division amongst people that goes beyond mere disagreement."

That unfortunately is the situation our country is in today, and not just about religion.

Disagree with some people about marriage or sexuality and you're not just "wrong" in their eyes - you're evil, a bigot, a Klansman, or worse. No dialog there.

Disagree with some unquestionable Christians about economic policy, and you're labeled a "Leftist", which somehow disqualifies one from being a fellow Christian. No dialog there.

Disagree with a gnu about God, and you're deluded, brainwashed, stupid, closed minded, fodder for ridicule. No dialog there.

Disagree with a supporter of [insert candidate's name here], and you don't love your country, you're a tool of Wall Street, "the establishment", the illegals, or you're a coward. No dialog there.

Prefer any baseball team to the Baltimore Orioles and you're.. no, wait. This must be the exception that proves the rule. There can be no dialog with such a fool.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, they do have a percentage point lead in the AL East over the Red Sox.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "...having a society this not only disagrees about religion, but fragments over it, is a serious problem that is not good for a free society."

In other words, when a brand of critic recognizes that there's no good evidence forthcoming from religions like yours, rather than meaningfully respond to that criticism your solution is to suggest that we should marginalize those critics?

Got it.

Miguel said...

Meh, I mainly see it as a fight between sensible people and stupid, ignorant people. Some atheists -- "new atheists", for the most part -- are just really stupid and naïve, don't understand a bare minimum of philosophy and argumentation, and think people like Aristotle, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Leibniz, Samuel Clarke and so on were just mysteriously incompetent philosophers who gave bad arguments that (supposedly) have already been "decidedly refuted".

I mean, what is there to talk about with these "new atheists"? There's no "disagreement". There's only naïveté. When someone thinks something like philosophy of religion can just come to an "end" -- disregarding the fact that it is a central part of the history of human thought (not to mention philosophy itself, and the Western canon) that wiill persist for as long as people conserve any interest in the study of metaphysics as well as concepts like "causality", "finality", "necessity", "order", "thought", etc. --, that someone is just naïve and ignorant. They're not interacting with anything from "our side", they're merely arguing against the walls, taking down strawmen of bizarre definitions of "faith" and cosmological arguments no one ever defended. All while preaching to the scientistic choir.

That is not to say atheists are all unreasonable or anything like that. Again, I'm talking about the kind of superficial ideology that usually goes by the name of "new atheism".

oozzielionel said...

The popular replacement for reasoned discourse is to marginalize through name calling.

Miguel said...

New atheists want reasoned discourse?

Cal Metzger said...

Oddly, the only marginalizing and name calling that I can see in this post and in these comments is coming from theists.

Stupid, naive, ignorant, don't understand a bare minimum, incapable of reasoned discourse, arguing against the walls, taking down strawman, preaching to the choir, superficial ideology, name callers -- these are all (surprise!) the terms coming from theists here, as they decry (wait for it...) name calling and marginalization from atheists.

So, who's to blame for the quality of discourse again?

Cal Metzger said...

Agree or disagree: Should astrologists be given similar weight to astronomers -- should they be included in teaching positions at universities, invited to conferences, etc., in relation to the number of self-identifying astrologists as compared to those who self-identify as astronomers?

B. Prokop said...

Cal,

Your question assumes there is some sort of equivalency between astrology and faith. If you had taken even a second or two to learn about these things before posting "from the hip", you'd know that the Church has roundly and consistently condemned astrology, and forbidden its members from paying any attention to it. So why should you presume that any believer would now defend it? Apples and bicycles, my friend. Apples and bicycles.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Miguel said...

So you disagree with me about New Atheists? It's fine if you do, I'm just complainingg about a certain attitude. I don't see how my on-topic rant is comparable to the stuff I complained about.

Miguel said...

>astrology

See, that's the problem, m8.

B. Prokop said...

I know, Miguel. If Cal doesn't understand the difference, indeed the unbridgeable chasm, between Christianity and astrology, well.. it's like arguing with someone who does not know the difference between chemistry and alchemy!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Your question assumes there is some sort of equivalency..."

Who cares what the church says about astrology? That's not my question. It's telling that you won't answer what should be a straightforward agree or disagree proposition.

Cal Metzger said...

Miguel: "So you disagree with me about New Atheists?"

No. Apparently, I disagree about hypocrisy, inconsistency, and sanctimony. I'm against them.

B. Prokop said...

"a straightforward agree or disagree proposition"

Hah! Every time I hear someone say that, I immediately look for the Hidden Agenda. And guess what? I always find one!

Miguel said...

Good for you then. You'll find plenty of that among new atheists, so you'll have a blast getting into discussions with them.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Hah! Every time I hear someone say [a straightforward agree or disagree proposition], I immediately look for the Hidden Agenda. And guess what? I always find one!"

Every participant in a discussion has an agenda. Socrates had an agenda. The fact that you think you can outwit a discussion by recognizing this obvious fact shows that you aren't actually interested in discussion. Imagine my surprise.

----

Miguel: "Good for you then. You'll find plenty of that among new atheists, so you'll have a blast getting into discussions with them."

So, you'd rather continue to insult and marginalize a group that's not even a party to the discussion, all while claiming that they are the ones who insult and marginalize, rather than actually engage in a discussion?

I see that you and Bob are in agreement about how to interact. I am shocked, shocked, to find this out.

grodrigues said...

"Agree or disagree: Should astrologists be given similar weight to astronomers -- should they be included in teaching positions at universities, invited to conferences, etc., in relation to the number of self-identifying astrologists as compared to those who self-identify as astronomers?"

And in this mythology, the atheists are the astronomers, right?

As Miguel said: Stupid, naive, ignorant, etc.

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: "And in this mythology, the atheists are the astronomers, right?"

It doesn't matter.

The question asks, using a specific example, if there could be a case where one group should be excluded because that group has shown that it doesn't contribute to (or that it distracts from) a field of study. Apparently, this question itself makes some so uncomfortable that they can't even answer it. Which kind of shows which side is holding back the level of discussion here now, doesn't it?

Grod: "As Miguel said: Stupid, naive, ignorant, etc."

I get it; you guys love to insult and marginalize those new atheists, because they're the ones who are really insulting and marginalizing you poor apologists.

Fascinating.

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"I get it; you guys love to insult and marginalize those new atheists, because they're the ones who are really insulting and marginalizing you poor apologists."

Because comparing theists with astrologists, with the obvious implicature that they are not be taken seriously, is not "insulting and marginalizing"?

As Miguel said: Stupid, naive, ignorant, etc.

Legion of Logic said...

"In other words, when a brand of critic recognizes that there's no good evidence forthcoming from religions like yours, rather than meaningfully respond to that criticism your solution is to suggest that we should marginalize those critics?"

There comes a point when having any evidence you present dismissed out of hand over and over, that you have to weigh the situation and decide whether it's a sign that your evidence sucks, or that a particular group of people are beholden to their beliefs and are close minded about them and won't accept the evidence you present.

You and I have made that decision, though our conclusions differed.

Legion of Logic said...

"Agree or disagree: Should astrologists be given similar weight to astronomers -- should they be included in teaching positions at universities, invited to conferences, etc., in relation to the number of self-identifying astrologists as compared to those who self-identify as astronomers?"

Should a class on astrology be taught, then yes they should be included. If the class subject has nothing to do with astrology, then yes they should. If the class subject is astronomy, then it depends on if they would attempt to shoehorn astrology into the science class, where it doesn't belong.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Should a class on astrology be taught, then yes they should be included. If the class subject has nothing to do with astrology, then yes they should. If the class subject is astronomy, then it depends on if they would attempt to shoehorn astrology into the science class, where it doesn't belong."

Thanks for answering my question. I know this is surprising to some, but I was genuinely curious what everyone thought.

B. Prokop said...

"Apparently, this question itself makes some so uncomfortable that they can't even answer it."

No, apparently this question is so semantically null, as in "How much does red weigh?" that it can't even be answered.

No discomfort.. just sympathy for someone clueless enough to ask it.

Legion of Logic said...

Counter question: Should an outspoken Christian be hired to teach at a university, speak at conferences and on panels, etc? Particularly if it deals with history, science, or one of the fields that atheists claim disproves Christianity?

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Should an outspoken Christian be hired to teach at a university, speak at conferences and on panels, etc?"

Yes.

Legion: "Particularly if it deals with history, science, or one of the fields that atheists claim disproves Christianity?"

If someone wants to make a case for Christianity they should be allowed to make that case. If someone wants to claim that they could make a scientific case (by which I mean, among other things, using evidence that is objective, reliable, and verifiable) for Christianity, they should either be able to do that, or be a good enough scientist to acknowledge if their case is disproven. But if they can't do either, they probably aren't a good enough scientist to be teaching science to others.

Although I'd also happily allow that there are many excellent scientists who are some kind of Christian, and for whom their Christian beliefs don't interfere with their practice or teaching of science. But I think you can see where the potential overlap / problem would come from in my prior paragraph.

B. Prokop said...

"Agree or disagree... ?" (I.e., Yes or no.)

"The fact that you think you can outwit a discussion by recognizing this obvious fact shows that you aren't actually interested in discussion."

Only once in my life, I was a sworn witness in a jury trial. I had been called as a character witness for the defendant (who, by the way, was guilty as sin). The prosecuting attorney kept badgering me to answer a particular question with only a yes or a no, and when I attempted to go beyond a single word answer, kept cutting me off, insisting I stick to either "yes" or "no". Finally in exasperation I turned to the judge and asked permission to address him. He looked a bit startled, but said go ahead. I patiently explained to him that I had taken an oath to "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth", and that a yes or no answer to the prosecutor's question would be in violation of that oath, considering the nuances of the issues involved. He sat silent for a moment or so, and then turned to the prosecutor and said, "He's right. Move along."

I guess Cal would say that I was obviously not interested in testifying truthfully.

(The result of the trial? They found him guilty but suspended the sentence, largely due to my testimony.)

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

I think we DO have to make a serious distinction amongst atheists, and I don't say that because some atheists are nicer to people like me than others.

I make distinctions between Cultists of Gnu and the merely irreligious for the most part. It's extraordinarily rare to come across a self-identified atheist who isn't a Gnu, however. It does happen, but really, at this point most people have copped to the idea that if you're saying 'I'm an atheist', you're a very... uh, special kind of individual.

I think it was Vox Day who said that agnostics tended to be pleasant people who you could hang out with, have a few drinks, and talk/bullshit/enjoy the company of. Nine out of ten times an atheist is just going to be miserable to be around if you're a guy who's not an atheist. And if you're a girl, ha ha, hope you like being creeped out.

B. Prokop said...

"It's extraordinarily rare to come across a self-identified atheist who isn't a Gnu"

I can think of two atheists I know personally, who are so mainly because of apathy. They just don't care about any of the "Big Questions".

Ilíon said...

"(The result of the trial? They found him guilty but suspended the sentence, largely due to my testimony.)"

I had an analogous experience, though as a juror. Initially, all the other jurors were voting to convict (*), but because I was able to get them to *think* about the holes in the prosecution's case (**), the end result was a hung jury (***) (****).


(*) Myself, I didn't believe the defendant's excuse (i.e. "I didn't know there was a gun under the car seat")

(**) for instance, the prosecutor contradicted the answer his own witness had given to one of his key questions just moments later

(***) The defendant was a young black guy (and he was small, so he had two chips on his shoulder). Officially, the trail was about a gun charge, but that's not really what it was about. What it was really about was using prison as the means to separate him from the white tramp (i.e. the prosecution's witness) who wanted both to be rid of him and to have him at her beck and call, and who he didn't have the sense and will-power to tell to get lost.

(****) another interesting result was the black guy on the jury -- who had initially voted "guilty" without even thinking about the case -- trying to white-guilt me after I voted "guilty" once I had gotten the rest of them to actually think about the evidence and its presentation