Sunday, August 26, 2012

Examining Atheist Propagadna

It's always instructive to examine atheist propaganda. Even though they may not being saying anything wrong, it's still interesting to note what they are saying. Almost every time I have said that atheism is a movement atheists have been incredulous. They always say "it's not a movement it's just the absence of a belief so atheists are all different." Yet if you look at what they do, they are always doing things to organize for a movement. Here is an example of a site where a woman is speaking to other groups about how to help atheists even if you are not one. I don't know why they would want to, but it shows them recruiting form beyond their own ranks. No one recruits for a non movement.

This woman is a sex writer and this is her private blog. She's an atheist and she wants to forge political alliances between atheism and other groups that represent her causes. There's still something contradictory about it, even though it's right to do it of course. It's not a movement and yet they have organized enough to speak of collectively and to be "alleys" of "them," or "it."

Greta Christina's Blog

Readers of this blog may have noticed that the comment thread on How To Be An Ally with Atheists has gone both completely off-topic and completely toxic. Regrettably, I've had to shut the comments on that post down -- which is a shame, since I think the topic is an interesting and important one, and I'd like to hear what people have to say about it. (And yes, I am all too aware of the irony of that particular post being the one where the comments went toxic.)

A quick disclaimer first: While I suspect that a lot of atheists will more or less agree with much of this list, I really am speaking only for myself here. Atheists are notoriously independent, and they don't like having other people speak for them. (Any atheists reading this: If you have disagreements with this list or things you'd like to add, please speak up in the comments.)

The-Atheist 1: Familiarize yourself with the common myths and misconceptions about atheists -- and don't perpetuate them.

There's a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance about who atheists are and what we do and don't believe. Needless to say, these myths and misconceptions are wrong. Don't believe them. Don't perpetuate them. Don't let them infect the way you speak and act, and please speak out against them when you hear them. Find out what we actually think and believe and do, instead of what anti- atheist propaganda says about what we think and believe and do.

Sam Harris has written a pretty good list of the most common myths about atheists, with short arguments against them. There's a touch of needless snark in the piece, IMO -- Harris can't quite resist the temptation to get in a few digs against religion when he should probably just be explaining atheism -- but overall, it gives a good, concise view of the most common misconceptions about atheism, and why, exactly, they're mistaken.

If it's an absence of belief and they are all different and it' snot a movement why should there be answers to myths and why recruit? How can form generalizations that are clear enough to deny myths about them when they are supposed to be bound together only by what don't believe?

At this point Harris's propaganda stuck in here. I'll answer it below.

back to the lessons on how to be an ally

2: Familiarize yourself with what it's like to be an atheist, both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world.

Discrimination against atheists, in the United States, and around the world, is very real. It doesn't look exactly like other forms of discrimination -- no form of discrimination looks exactly like any other -- but it is real.

Here are just a few examples.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, asking Americans who they'd be willing to vote for for President, atheists came in at the very bottom of the list: below blacks, below women, below Jews, below gays. Below every other marginalized group on the list. With less than half of Americans saying they'd vote for an atheist. Unless you live in a incredibly progressive district, being an out atheist will effectively kill any chances you have at a political career.

Why should that be considered discrimination? Why isn't it just the recognition that atheism is a threat to civilization? I can think we can argue that it is. I'm not advocating any sort of legal ramification. If Atheists want to band together politically they have as much of a right as anyone, but drop the pretense that it's not a movement. If they can organize to gain adherents among non atheist groups and come close enough to agreement to work politically they probalby are a movement. I would probably agree with a lot of Christina's politics. I don't agree that atheism is a persecuted minority and should be any more protected than who people who think property tax should be replaced by sight value tax or another group in politics. They are clearly a movement and they need to be honest about being one.

(3) find common ground (appeal to religious people)

4: Speak out against anti-atheist bigotry and other forms of religious intolerance.

If you're white, it's important to speak up about racism. If you're male, it's important to speak up about sexism. If you're straight, it's important to speak up about homophobia. Etc.

Anyone who disagrees with atheism or sees a danger in it is automatically going to be cast in the role of "bigot." So atheists get to be seen as persecuted minority who do they persecute? Religious people. So religious people are scum who don't deserve protection to assertion their beliefs means they automatically bigoted against atheists. This is nothing more than a political correctness card. They are just trying to unfairly gain support for a movement that wont own up to being a movement. I certainly do not trust them not to persecute religious people. I've already quoted too many atheists who say "it's fair to mock and ridicule and brow beat people out of their beliefs because we don't like their beliefs."

And if you're a religious believer, it's important to speak up about anti-atheist bigotry and ignorance. Familiarize yourself with the common myths about atheism and the truth about those myths (see above)... and when you hear someone repeat the myths, speak out.

What is anti-atheist bigotry? Belief that atheism is dangerous is obviously bigotry right? Is disagreement with atheism bigotry? Is Belief in God bigotry? Any religious person who allies with atheism and helps it to become a force in society is a sucker and is just throwing his own beliefs.

Harvy Cox, theologian form Harvard tried to develop a sophisticated concept of modern secularization which casted secularization in the role of a necessary liberal democratic movement. His whole approach and attempted has been dismissed and ridiculed collectively as par of the "evil stupid theology" that atheists refuse to think about. The atheist movement is an Orwellian totalitarian movement. Even left wingers such as The Guardian have made that observation.

I am not advocating making any kind of laws against atheism. If atheist want to act as a political force of course they have that right. It then becomes their responsibility to persuade the public that their cause is just and not dangers. I am advocating that if one believes atheism is a danger it doesn't make one a "bigot" to say so. Like most things in democracy it's a narrow tight rope we have to walk between protecting the rights of free speech and allowing irresponsibility to run riot. I would err on the side of free speech.

Here is the peice that Christina linked to:

Harris' take on so called "Myths" about atheism:

By Sam Harris

The Los Angeles Times

SEVERAL POLLS indicate that the term “atheism” has acquired such an extraordinary stigma in the United States that being an atheist is now a perfect impediment to a career in politics (in a way that being black, Muslim or homosexual is not). According to a recent Newsweek poll, only 37% of Americans would vote for an otherwise qualified atheist for president.

Atheists are often imagined to be intolerant, immoral, depressed, blind to the beauty of nature and dogmatically closed to evidence of the supernatural.

Even John Locke, one of the great patriarchs of the Enlightenment, believed that atheism was “not at all to be tolerated” because, he said, “promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist.”

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave. Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived. Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness … well … meaningless.

There's a difference in precious and meaningful. Life can be meaningless and be "precious" in the sense that we don't want to loose it even if is meaningless. So this not an answer to the issue. The kind of meaning that atheists argue for is relative and discordable. It's not the kind of meaning religious people talk about. We talk about meaning in terms of the nature of the universe. Atheists talk about private meaning, the meaning they manufacture out of their own needs and relative tot heir own observations.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.

People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.
This is just self serving propaganda. He assumes that if they were dogmatic and rigid then they are like religion. That's only becuase he uses the dogmatic rigid model of religion to paint an ugly picture of religion. This is like the atheists on carm saying I'm not a Christian every time I make a good point they can't answer. Hey it it's intelligent and open minded it's not Christian. Then that means nothing can ever count against their theory that Christianity is always narrow minded. We could have ten thousand examples of open minded Christians but because they are open minded they are not Christians.

The atheists Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin murdered a hundred million people and that is 100,000,000.

Of course Harris writes off their murders as "O that's like religion would do." It becomes evidence agaisnt religion because it fits his model of religion never mind that the people who did it were atheists and did it partly in the name of atheism. Atheism was a value of communism it was a Principe they fought for. The USSR did torture and imprison priests and nuns and other religious people for having their faith.

Disclaimer time: this is not proof that all atheists would be this way. This is guilt by association. Harris is not free of that fallacy because he places the guilt by association card by trying to paint these qualities as religious qualities (above) instead of just letting the chips fall where they may. I submit there are two aspects which make this danger more than just pot luck; atheism has a bit more to do with it then they would like to believe. The real issue of atheism is not just God or not-God, it's the reduction of all forms of knowledge to one form, empirical quasi scientific reductionist proof that those wielding power can control and manipulate. this is what gives the current new atheist movement it's Orwellian features. The other aspect is having restraint because atheists have no stable grounded ethical axioms that are not relative to culture and teleological value. Outcome oriented ethics an be used to justify anything.

3) Atheism is dogmatic

Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity’s needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn’t have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the programmer Stephen F. Roberts* once said: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Here we go again with the essentialist. Religious belief is an evil essence. Anything bad that atheist do is being done in a way that is similar to religion. It's "like religion" as he says above. So bad is always religious and good is always atheist, even when we are talking about atheists. So nothing can ever count against their thing. He claims atheists are not dogmatic but it's clear they are dogmatic enough to advocate mocking and ridiculing those who disagree with them. They are dogmatic enough to advocate sticking religious bleief with the labels and and clearing themselves by appealing to "religious-likeness" for all transgressions. They are dogmatic enough to reduce all forms of knowledge to the one they can control.

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.

No one knows why the universe came into being. In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the “beginning” or “creation” of the universe at all, as these ideas invoke the concept of time, and here we are talking about the origin of space-time itself.

The notion that atheists believe that everything was created by chance is also regularly thrown up as a criticism of Darwinian evolution. As Richard Dawkins explains in his marvelous book, “The God Delusion,” this represents an utter misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Although we don’t know precisely how the Earth’s early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance. Evolution is a combination of chance mutation and natural selection. Darwin arrived at the phrase “natural selection” by analogy to the “artificial selection” performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases, selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species.

It's probably true that creationists do a bad job of understanding the role of chance in origin of the universe. It is certainly true they they do a bad job of understanding evolution. We must be careful trying to make arguments we don' understand. Chance is a tool just like necessity. Chance is the aspect of creation that allows for contingent beings. So if we bleieve God created the universe, however he did it, he had to employ chance. Yet he would have employed amid a larger framework of control. It would be better not to make arguments where we use tools of God as values when we don't understand them completely. Yet is is true that in the bottom line atheists do have chance as the ground floor so to speak; if one is an atheist it is all a big accident and thus the notion of ultimate meaning for an atheist is untenable.

5) Atheism has no connection to science.

Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God — as some scientists seem to manage it — there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.

That is total bull that science erodes belief in God. He's trying to have it both ways. He's aware that atheism is not the monopoly on scinece, yet he wants it leave open the possibility of implying that scinece is atheism's enforcement mechanism. It is my opinion that creationism has made a fool of religious belief. It's a huge mistake to play out the knee jerk reaction agaisnt Darwin. That reaction was not the only reaction of religious people. There were any minsters who embraced Darwin and used evolution to advocate belief in God. For a good read on this topic see the book God and Nature by Lindberg and Numbers.

Atheism is quite unscientific. As a movement it has generated the notion of a fortress of facts. It says "we have a big pile of scientific that supports our view and religions doesn't have any." Of cousre that's totally unfair becuase scinece is not about proving ideas. They cast scinece in the role of the enforcer the proof of their view. (see refuting atheist fortress of facts part 2)

6) Atheists are arrogant.

When scientists don’t know something — like why the universe came into being or how the first self-replicating molecules formed — they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn’t know is a profound liability in science. And yet it is the life-blood of faith-based religion. One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows. When considering questions about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, atheists tend to draw their opinions from science. This isn’t arrogance; it is intellectual honesty.

Everyone is arrogant. We have arrogance coming out our ears. I am arrogant. Yet I find atheism is arrogant about things they even refrain form learning about. Noting is more arrogant than the intellectually crippling BS the so called "courtier's reply." Theology si stupid even though I don't know what it says but I know it's stupid, so I don't have to learn about it, don't confuse me with the facts.

As an intellectual option atheism may be valid but as a movmeent it stinks. Any atheists themselves are coming to that conclusion. The Guardian (in America--not hte British version) is a left wing Newspaper and Andrew Brown (whose blog is on the Guardian site) is a left winger and he paints the new atheist movement as the fundamentalism it is.


JBsptfn said...

I like the part about the myth that Atheists are open minded and Christians aren't. From the quotes that you post from CARM Atheists, that fallacy has been shot down with ease.

Metacrock said...

thanks man.