Sunday, August 10, 2014

Who's got the last laugh now?

There is no such thing as a thoughtful conversation on the internet (present company excepted; all generalizations subject to correction by particular examples which largely and unfortunately prove the rule).

Case in point, from a Salon article about "Atheist TV" (which sounds perfectly dreadful from a simple marketing standpoint; similar to M.M. O'Hare's efforts on Austin cable public access when she was alive.  But almost none of the comments dwell on that subject).  The opening comment is by Jegudiel:

What is modern atheism?
Modern atheism is a moderately intelligent person hearing elevator muzak renditions of für Elise and the Mondscheinsonate and then deciding that Beethoven wasn't very good at making music.
And because that person has the intellectual wherewithal to understand that elevator muzak isn't very good, he now knows that he is better at musicology than everybody else, Beethoven included. In fact, because elevator muzak is rubbish, he decides that all of classical music is a colossal waste of time for the tasteless and feeble-minded; a person of taste and intelligence couldn't possibly dedicate himself to such drivel, and therefore, by renouncing elevator muzak, he is eo ipso smarter than anybody who likes, plays or composes classical music.
He is so thunderstruck by this realisation which in an instant has elevated him above all those fools that now he feels the physical need to show up at concert halls, musicology lectures, piano lessons et al and shout at everybody there how amazingly daft they are for liking such rubbish, and how smart he is because knows that elevator muzak is bad. He is now an expert and a scholar on all things musical simply because he was smart enough to be bored in an elevator. And since no one likes being bored by bad muzak, he now joins the righteous cause to have all classical music banned. Because reason.
Mr Dawkins correctly says that priests should not teach biology. As a scholar of philosophy, I would kindly ask biology teachers to extend philosophy and theology the same courtesy.

@Jegudiel What is modern theism?

The same as it always was.

(That's not a compliment.)

@Yahzi @Jegudiel  Yes. Christianity today is EXACTLY the same as it was, say, befor the Hirsau and Cluny reforms.
Thanks for proving my point, and in future, leave wit to those capable of it.

@Jegudiel -- Yes, yes, it was obvious you're big into philosophy with all the Kierkegaard references. And while you are right that there are atheists out there who like to be smug, your analogy of the atheist-as-guy-who-hates-muzak-and-so-hates-all-Classical-music operates under the false premise that one can only be an atheist if one is steeped in the readings of whatever list of cool philosophers-- and that if you haven't read Nietzsche (did I spell that right?), then you're just a fake atheist.

Dawkins' comment about priests and biology was a reference to the evolution "debate" and not specifically about atheism. Moreover, the reverse demand that you make is lacking. Again: one doesn't have to be steeped in the writings of a dozen famous philosophers to arrive at the conclusion that a naturalistic explanation for the universe works just fine.

To be sure, there is something to be said for philosophy when asking questions about morality without god or various mental gymnastics that philosophers do (I dunno, CAN an all-powerful god create a boulder so heavy that he can't lift it?). But your insistence that anyone who isn't a "scholar of philosophy" is a fake atheist is unfounded.

@Lank @Jegudiel  My point is that you can only critique something if you are familiar with it. If atheism is a school of thought, then yeah, you should have read some books by great atheists (no, Dawkins, not you) before proselytising its merits.
Nietzsche bloody HATED Christianity, but damned if he wasn't well versed in it. I mean, I think Ayn Rand is terrible and that people who worship her drivel should lose the right to vote, but that's because I actually read some of her books. How many "I believe in science" Dawkins fanboys have actually read Matthew, Acts, or Corinthians?

@Jegudiel Atheism isn't about spurning Christianity (or Islam or any other religion), it's about understanding that there are no gods, and one doesn't have to understand anything about religion at all to come to that conclusion. 

Nothing in the universe and nothing about human existence, requires supernatural explanations; everything that is can be explained by natural causes.  

Once one understands that nothing supernatural has ever occurred and that, therefore, there are no supernatural beings, it becomes obvious that all religion - indeed, all mysticism - arises from the way human brains try to make sense of things. 

@Jegudiel-- you clearly have issues with Dawkins, and it's unfortunate that you assume that some significant portion of atheists are all your caricature "modern atheists". I don't need to read up on anti-ghosts literature to not believe in ghosts, and I certainly don't have to read the mind-numbing tomes of 19th century Europeans to be a true atheist.

I'm plenty familiar with the Bible-- my PhD is in the ancient Near East and I have spent plenty of time reading the Hebrew Bible in its original language, and I grew up in a regular church-going home and have a great familiarity with the New Testament. But I haven't read Theologian A's critique of Great Philosopher B's treatise on religion and don't think it matters. I HAVE read Dawkins' Blind Watchmaker, though, and I enjoyed it. I've also picked up a few other accessible books by atheists on various topics related to atheism and god, though I doubt they'd appear on your reading list, as exclusive is it seems to be. Nevertheless, I am fairly certain that I don't need to be versed in existentialism or nihilism or metaphysics whatever to maintain that there is no such thing as a god or gods.

@Jegudiel That's a pretty labored metaphor, and I'm not sure I'm able to connect your "muzak-hating-elevator-passenger" to modern atheist. How are those things connected?

@David R. L. @Jegudiel  Simple: your average Dawkins fanboy sees how dumb teabaggers are, and believes - not incorrectly - that religion is responsible for their idiocy. So by simply acknowledging scientific facts, he is, in fact, smarter than they are. However, teabaggerism is religion at its daftest, the muzak equivalent of Christianity's Beethoven, as it were; in fact, I'd much rather have a conversation with a militant atheist than with anybody from the Christian right.
The error, of course, lies in the Dawkins fanboy conflating teabaggerism with religion, and believing that being smarter than Michele Bachmann (something certain invertebrates can claim) makes him smarter than every person of faith ever. Yes, republicans are indeed the enemies of reason; but I think you'll find that there are many religious people out there who can reconcile faith and science.
They're called "Europeans".

@Jegudiel Ok, the connection has been made. However, I may agree with your premises, your conclusion seems to miss the mark. It seems you're saying that, since Tea Party members tend to be Christian, and Atheists tend to believe they are smarter than Tea Partiers, then Atheists believe they are, therefore, smarter than Christians.

I don't think this is the case, at all with Modern Atheists. I think Modern Atheists have already landed at the conclusion that religion, in the public sector, does more harm than good. It just happens to be that Tea Partiers, who typically advocate FOR religion in the public forum, are typically VERY easy to argue, and showcase themselves as having horribly erroneous arguments.

I don't argue that most Atheists think they are smarter than most Tea Partiers.

I don't argue that most Tea Partiers tend to Christian.

I would even agree with the fact that, as a whole, Atheists tend to be smarter than Christians.

I don't think there is any logical conclusion from A and B to C.

If your point is that some atheists use the worst, silliest, most literal-minded fringe as their straw-man target theist, then I agree with you. 
I've seen this far too often, and it's no less biased than the fundamentalist's "godless atheist with no morals at all" stereotype.

@Jegudiel Put that broad brush away.  My hypocrisy gauge is maxing out.

While I agree that the modern atheist movement could benefit from some temperance, your observation (assumption?) that its participants have no in-depth knowledge of the religions they criticize is off-base.  

For instance, several hosts of The Atheist Experience were raised in religious traditions, and at least one of them (Matt Dillahunty) claims to have arrived at his non-belief as a direct result of his own in-depth studies of Christian theology and scripture.  Furthermore, the hosts have repeatedly noted that the label "Christian" (or "Muslim," etc.) is applied to a wide variety of specific beliefs and traditions that are sometimes mutually incompatible.  For that reason, the hosts of this show routinely ask callers what specific beliefs THEY hold, and WHY.

@Jegudiel  That's bullshit, and BS completely.  I'm not an atheist, but I don't come close to claiming 'Christianity' either.  I will tell you this, though, atheists don't even come CLOSE to telling, "shouting", or even being "righteous" in the public square as those that 'claim' to be "Christian".  You're a complete liar and full of your OWN ego and 'self-realization" that you think YOU are correct in your beliefs, that you think putting down others like you did here, with the way you try to sound like 'Kramer', using 'drivel' and 'fur Elise'... lmao. You can not, in ANY way compare your nut-job 'Christian' people to others when putting down someone else's beliefs.  Ive NEVER met an atheist in public accosting me with their beliefs.  Never had one knock on my damn door either.  Never had one leave a damn tract on my restaurant table. Never had one hold up a sign protesting in my way to do what I want to do.  Take that bullshit argument back to your church, because it's just that, BULLSHIT!  If anyone shouldn't teach biology, it's got to be the 'Christians'.... and I would say that is what 'religion' is.... philosophy... you are the reason our schools are dumber down; keep your BS out of them, it's not science.  Keep your 'Muzak' and we'll keep telling our kids the earth is more than 6,000 years old.  It's not "smart enough to be bored", it's smart enough not to believe "feeble-minded" "daft" people that think the "drivel" in the bible is the truth..... hint: want to sound smarter than everyone else when writing shit that sounds like Kramer?  Spell everything correctly....

My favorites there are the ad hominems and the general and absolute ignorance.  The first reply is ignorant.  And then the arguments turn into "elitist!" arguments, before going full "YOU LIE!" by the end, complete with all caps and exclamation points.  And what did the original comment say that was so remarkable?  It as in response to an article that noted this about AtheistTV:

When I first tuned in at 2 p.m. on Thursday, the closing credits for a show were scrolling, set to a parody hymn that rhymed “Don’t be offended by a word to the wise” with “There’s no real estate in the skies.” Then, after several seconds of dead air, came a prerecorded call-in show called ”The Atheist Experience,” whose co-host Matt Dillahunty, wearing a black Hawaiian-style shirt decorated with flames and infinity symbols, needed no prompting to begin his show with the Biblical story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. “This is just absolutely horrible,” said Dillahunty. “And it’s the type of thing we get when we begin with the idea that the Bible is true and good, and you run into absurdities.”

What absurdities these were the viewer would have to fill in for himself; there was no extrapolation from this story in terms of what social ills have happened in the name of God, no sense that Dillahunty was bothered by people following the Bible for any reason other than that he thinks it’s nuts to rely on a book for wisdom and guidance. “I don’t worship any being,” he said, “though I respect a lot of people and a lot of fictional characters.”

“If you know why your God is so stupid,” he said, “feel free and call us.”
By implication, that is what all the responses to the original comment are defending.  And they defend it with the grace of hooting monkeys or drunken frat boys.  And with about as much knowledge and reasoning.

But remember, it's your God that is so stupid; not theirs.

Tell me again atheism isn't a religion.   Tell me again how the internet, like television was supposed to do for my generation, will liberate us from ignorance and make us all equally knowledgeable.*

*yeah, I'm in a bad mood.  Spent the weekend helping my parents move out of my childhood home, which I THOUGHT I'd moved out of almost 40 years ago.  You can't go home again because you never really leave home, until it isn't there anymore.  Got home with a round concrete block a birdbath had sat on (and the birdbath, too), with some soil from the backyard still attached.  Got all weepy about it.  Last vestige of home, and all that.

I'm pathetic.

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