Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Was the Texas shooter motivated by atheism?


Well, why couldn't atheist hatred and fanaticism lead someone to violence? Would anyone have any trouble believing it of Muslim or anti-abortion fanatics? And atheist leaders do spew real hatred.

When ideology develops into hatred, it opens the door to the possibility of violence. It doesn't matter what the ideology is.


Jimmy S. M. said...

>atheist leaders do spew real hatred

Right, Dawkins said "faith head" once, the worst insult ever. And he's like the pope of atheism. A clear call to violence.

Victor Reppert said...

Once? Don't kid yourself. Comparing people who teach their children their religion to sexual abusers is pretty serious. We put sexual abusers of children in jail, so even if he didn't draw that conclusion, it opens the door for others to do that. Saying that when you converse with religious defenders mockery is justified, not because it could possibly persuade those defenders, but because other people might be motivated by fear of ridicule (an irrational, cowardly motive if there ever was one) to reject religion is pretty offensive.


Kevin said...

Dawkins, Harris, Coyne, Myers, Mehta, pick your New Atheist. They all spew garbage making religion out to be the worst thing that has ever happened to humanity, constantly paint Christians as unfeeling bigots who oppose Science and human progress because of their delusions, and then claim Christians are attempting to create a theocracy.

After all, if Sam Harris could wave a wand and get rid of either violent rape of women or Sunday School, guess which he said he would choose?

Unknown said...

The trouble isn't atheism or religion, I think. I think it's people clinging so strongly to an identity that they can't coexist with other forms of thinking or being. Violence, then, becomes an act of self-preservation, because other forms of life become an existential threat.

SteveK said...

The official party line is that atheism is a lack of belief. It motivates you to do nothing, think nothing, believe nothing, say nothing, conclude nothing and feel nothing. The official party line is also complete BS.

John B. Moore said...

Not so much a lack of belief, SteveK, as a lack of certainty. Atheists still believe lots of things, but the difference is that atheists believe tentatively while still looking at the evidence. Religious people, by contrast, believe fervently and steadfastly, vowing never to betray their faith.

This is the answer to Victor's original question about why atheism couldn't lead someone to violence. Violence is a rather extreme act, whereas atheism is the opposite of extremism. Atheism means lack of certainty, whereas extremism is like certainty.

By the way, I don't deny that atheists feel hatred. Hatred can motivate a person to commit violence. On the other hand, when atheists act out their hatred, they're not being good atheists.

Kevin said...

John: "Atheists still believe lots of things, but the difference is that atheists believe tentatively while still looking at the evidence."

There is no evidence that this is true. Skeptics certainly claim it, but I've interacted with atheists far too much to believe that your characterization of atheists is even remotely accurate on the whole. Calling God-believers deluded, irrational, unreasonable, and believers in fairy tales is not the result of tentative belief.

John: "Religious people, by contrast, believe fervently and steadfastly, vowing never to betray their faith."

There are so many counterexamples I can think of to this, including myself, that I had to smile upon reading this caricature. Even biblical characters experienced strong doubts and crises of faith. Apologists have huge markets on the subject of defending Christianity, which wouldn't exist if Christians were defined by thinking as you claim.

John: "Atheism means lack of certainty, whereas extremism is like certainty."

Yet I've met countless New Atheists (including evety single New Atheist leader) who are in fact certain there is no god. Oh they'll put themselves a 6.99999 on the Dawkins scale (though some are honest enough to claim 7) but many (most?) New Atheists are as certain of their atheism as any religious believer could hope to achieve.

Atheism is a lack of belief in God, which can indirectly lead to many extreme philosophies and actions. The anti-theism of New Atheists is in fact a direct motivator for extremism, hatred, and violence, and their rhetoric is easily enough to set off a lunatic.

John: "On the other hand, when atheists act out their hatred, they're not being good atheists."

You surely mean "good people", since there is precisely nothing in atheism that implies proper behavior. Once you add stuff, you have moved from "atheism" to one of many atheistic philosophies which are not always compatible with one another.

Victor Reppert said...

John: "Atheists still believe lots of things, but the difference is that atheists believe tentatively while still looking at the evidence."

Boghossian: What would it take for you to believe in God?

Dawkins: I used to say it would be very simple. It would be the Second Coming of Jesus or a great, big, deep, booming, bass voice saying “I am God.” But I was persuaded, mostly by Steve Zara, who is a regular contributor to my website. He more or less persuaded me that even if there was this booming voice in the Second Coming with clouds of glory, the probable explanation is that it is a hallucination or a conjuring trick by David Copperfield. He made the point that a supernatural explanation for anything is incoherent. It doesn’t add up to an explanation for anything. A non-supernatural Second Coming could be aliens from outer space.

Does that sound tentative to you???

John B. Moore said...

What Dawkins realized is that no sensory data can ever provide evidence of God's existence. Therefore, God's existence isn't the kind of thing you can be tentative about. Being tentative means continuing to look at evidence and evaluate evidence, but if there's never any evidence, you can't be tentative. You can't be certain either, of course. So the question of God's existence is just incoherent.

Kevin said...

"What Dawkins realized is that no sensory data can ever provide evidence of God's existence."

Given that this realization of his is a load of crap, it's safe to say it's just a weak justification for him to mask his certainty and inability to evaluate evidence so he can still hide behind "open to evidence" rhetoric that obviously does not apply to him. Quite sad for someone who claims to base beliefs on reason and evidence, but is nothing but an ideologue.

John B. Moore said...

Wouldn't you agree that sensory data can only provide evidence of other sensory data? How could sensory data ever really point to something like God that transcends the physical senses?

As Dawkins noted, any sensory data that suggests God's presence might very well be a hallucination or a conjuring trick.

I think this is why theists often emphasize pure logic - because they realize you can't get material stuff to point to the immaterial. Your nickname "Legion of Logic" looks like an example of this tendency.

Atno said...

There's nothing to discuss, it's OBVIOUS atheism can lead to fanaticism and terrorism. It is a belief or specific position (and I'm not saying it's a "religious belief"), and depending on the person who's holding it and the extent to which they think atheism is both true and important, it can breed dangerous fanatics like any other belief system. There have been plenty of atheist shooters who have specifically targeted Christians and other religious people, because they believe religion is retarded, religious people are disgusting morons who make the world a worse place or are stunting progress, or condemn them, or what have you. What is left to debate?

To say "but hey, atheism is actually a moderate position of simple unbelief, of tentative unbelief in the face of the lack of evidence!!! These people are by definition against atheism, they are extremists, they act like fundamentalists!" is to miss the point entirely. Many other groups can claim the same. Christianity, as understood not only by most christians but also by its institutions and its tradition, absolutely forbids terrorist attacks against innocent civilians. And we can very well say that the occasional lunatic asshole who commits terror acts in the name of Christianity (even though these are very rare, much more rare than what we see with, cough cough, the religion of peace, cough cough) is a bad Christian, does not understand Christianity, and is actually contrary to the true spirit of Christianity. But it's still what we commonly call a case of religious extremism, christian extremism, whatever. So what if we can say the same about atheist terrorists? Or atheist regimes who specifically persecuted churches, murdered priests and tried to forcefully instill religious non-belief in people? It's still what we'd call extremist atheism. Ironically, if someone says atheism can't cause extremism, it is itself rather ironic, kinda like "atheism is so good, so progressive, so amazing that it can never cause extremism, anything bad coming from it is a deviation from real atheism". Well, uh, okay.

Of course atheism can lead to fanaticism and terrorism. If someone says it can't: don't waste my time.

Kevin said...

John: "Your nickname "Legion of Logic" looks like an example of this tendency."

I chose the moniker as my own idiotic joke sometime in the early 2000s. On a local newspaper forum I'd sometimes find myself getting a little too heated or overconfident (only to get soundly refuted), so I chose it mainly for the LoL abbreviation to remind myself every time I see it to not take myself so seriously in such discussions.

Aragorn said...

This is a huge stretch. The reason atheism could not possibly motivate violence is there are simply no tenet resulting from a lack of belief in a deity that one can purport to result into violence. Religious beliefs, on the other hand...

Victor Reppert said...

There are no tenets entailed by theism that can result in violence.