Tuesday, July 08, 2014


This is sure to provoke much flinging of poo:

If your idea of God is not one that most theistic traditions would recognize, you’re not talking about God (at most, the New Atheists’ arguments are relevant to the low-hanging god of fundamentalism and deism). But even more damning is that such atheists appear ignorant of atheism as well. 
Not to mention the review uses words like "ontic" and "ontology," which I'm not even sure Richard Dawkins knows how to use correctly (much less Pharyngula, or the "atheists" hanging out at Salon who get in a lather if you call them "neo-Atheists."  Like they'd know what a real atheist, like Bertrand Russell, was.)

And this, I thought, was the "money shot:"

What Spencer recounts is the true history of atheism, which
had only a limited amount to do with reason and even less with science. The creation myth in which a few brave souls forged weapons made of a previously unknown material, to which the religious were relentlessly opposed, is an invention of the later nineteenth century, albeit one with ongoing popular appeal. In reality … modern atheism was primarily a political and social cause, its development in Europe having rather more to do with the (ab)use of theologically legitimized political authority than it does with developments in science or philosophy.
As I've said before (I'm sure), the arguments always (even in theological circles) have more to do with power than with theology, or, more broadly, religion.  And when you don't even know what religion or theology are, how can you be arguing about anything else but power?

Well, and just to enjoy the clarity of thought in this review:

To paraphrase the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, our moral vocabulary has lost the contexts from which its significance derived, and no amount of Dawkins-style hand-waving about altruistic genes will make the problem go away. (Indeed, the ridiculous belief that our genes determine everything about human behavior and culture is a symptom of this very problem.) 
Or this quote from John Gray:

Driven to the margins of a culture in which science claims authority over all of human knowledge, [religious believers] have had to cultivate a capacity for doubt. In contrast, secular believers—held fast by the conventional wisdom of the time—are in the grip of unexamined dogmas.
I don't quite agree with the predicate, but I'll accept it arguendo for the sake of the conclusion.

I will say no more except that it is a refreshingly intelligent discussion, if brief and centered on a book I don't plan to read (life's too short), for the internet.  And I'll stay away from the 1.6K (as I write) comments there, especially if the top comment (excerpted in a side bar) is any indication ("The author commits the same fallacy as Pascal--conflating 'God' and 'religion' with his particular brand of Christianity."  That isn't, by the way, the problem with Pascal's wager.)   It's a comment that perfectly reflects the last words of the review:  “Everyone is talking past each other and no one seems to be elevating the conversation to where it could and should be.”

Pascal's wager?  Seriously?  Feh!

Even the clowns in the comments at Religion Dispatches should take heed.*

*I like RD, but they draw their share of ignorance, too.


  1. Thank you, I needed that. I've considered, when the Salon-Alternet atheists whine about being called "new" or "neo" to call them w-atheists,short for "wet behind the ears" or, if they keep it up , "WWWWWWWatheists". They are about the whiniest group of people outside of Maine lobster men in front of a legislative committee hearing, 'I've got a gawd-given-right-to-the-last-lobster-in-the-ocean". I wish I could do the imitation my former state legislator could do of that whine.

    Anyway, I've come to think the new atheism is a sign of post-literacy due to too much electronic entertainment. Or it could be just that they don't feel they need to bother with accuracy and integrity anymore than they do with the truth.

  2. The problem with Pascal is he went all-in on a bad hand.