Monday, July 14, 2014

Deconversion For the Wrong Reasons

Illustration by Eleanor Davis.
From here

It is my sad duty to keep reporting on the so-called "New Atheists," aka the "evangelical atheists" because it is their meaningless duty to deconvert theists to their faith. I do this because I teach philosophy of religion, and one of the topics is the existence or non-existence of God, so I need to keep up on this stuff. Even though the thrill of the "Four Horsemen" is past, they keep getting (rightfully) bashed. 

I read another bashing tonight, by an atheist. See Michael Robbins's "Know Nothing: The True History of Atheism." It's all about disbelieving for the wrong reasons.

  • "Richard Dawkins claims that religion “is a scientific theory,” “a competing explanation for facts about the universe and life.” This is—if you’ll forgive my theological jargon—b***sh*t."
  • "The notion that religion is intrinsically a crude explanatory strategy that should be dispelled and supplanted by science is based on a highly selective or tendentious reading of the literatures of religion. In some cases it is certainly fair to conclude that it is based on no reading of them at all."
  • "Science and religion ask different questions about different things. Where religion addresses ontology, science is concerned with ontic description."
  • "When, for instance, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne and pop-cosmologist Lawrence Krauss dismiss the (metaphysical) problem of how something could emerge from nothing by pointing to the Big Bang or quantum fluctuation, it is difficult to be kind: Quantum fluctuations, the uncertainty principle, the laws of quantum physics themselves—these are something. Nothing is not quantum anything. It is nothing. Nonbeing." 
  • "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." (Pay close attention to that one. So much for the silly "Flying Spaghetti Monster," the official mascot of evangelistic atheists.)
  • "There is a monster-crammed abyss between finding the notion of a creator implausible and the full-blast anti-Christianity of Nietzsche, who, as Terry Eagleton writes in Culture and the Death of God, “has a strong claim to being the first real atheist.” “The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists,” Hart has written, “is rereading Nietzsche.” This is wise counsel for believers and atheists alike. In Nietzsche we find the full power and terror that atheism is capable of...  (Correct, as e.g. atheist Peter Watson states in The Age of Atheists. Atheists - read Nietzsche to understand your worldview.) 
  • "Nietzsche’s atheism is far from exultant—he is not crowing about the death of God, much as he despises Christianity. He understands how much has been lost, how much there is to lose." (Correct again, and note. Nietzsche says we must note "how much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined because it was built upon this faith, propped up by it, grown into it; for example, the whole of our European morality.") "Nietzsche realized that the Enlightenment project to reconstruct morality from rational principles simply retained the character of Christian ethics without providing the foundational authority of the latter." 
  • Now for something funny (again, an atheist writes this): "What’s most galling about evangelical atheists is their epistemic arrogance—and their triumphalist tone: If religious belief is like belief in the Easter Bunny, as they like to say, shouldn’t they be less proud of themselves for seeing through it?" That... is brilliant.
  • There's more in the essay. Sadly, some of the student-atheists I've met lost their theistic wings under the ideas of the evangelistic atheists. They attacked a straw-man God I've never believed in using a 19th-century fundamentalist anachronistic hermeneutic I've never interpreted by. Pity the "bright" atheist who wakes up to this and realizes "I've been disbelieving for the wrong reasons."