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New atheists or new anti-dogmatists? - Comments

FreeThink25's Avatar Comment 1 by FreeThink25

Well.....yeah! Is someone really just realizing that this is what we've been talking about?

I've thought about that last paragraph before. I cannot think of a religion that is not based on dogma or faith. Sure, people can stretch the meaning of the word, and lump in the things like "the religion of mathematics", or the "religion of physics"...but that does not convince me that "religion" is a valid term.

Anyone else?

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:12:00 UTC | #111483

writerdd's Avatar Comment 2 by writerdd

What a fantastic article!

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:23:00 UTC | #111488

c4chaos's Avatar Comment 3 by c4chaos

bingo! this is one of the best reviews of the New Atheists i've read. i'm going to blog this forward ;)


Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:25:00 UTC | #111489

Tycho the Dog's Avatar Comment 4 by Tycho the Dog

I can see where he's coming from, but I'm not sure what the point of his conclusions are. Yes, organised religions fulfil important social functions for their adherents, but none that could not be provided by secular organisations (certainly in the UK). The one, and huge, difference is that with religion the social functions are always framed by belief in the supernatural.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:25:00 UTC | #111490

JemyM's Avatar Comment 5 by JemyM

Great article, and I expanded my criticism against all dogma awhile ago. Bertrand Russel's article (also in the Portable Atheist) is a great read on this subject:

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:26:00 UTC | #111491

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 6 by bamafreethinker

"Belief" is something we hold to be the truth or the way things are, and there are essentially two ways we arrive at a particular belief. Plan A; by personal, first hand experience and investigation (which can still be flawed) or Plan B; through another person (authority). We can certainly obtain good beliefs through authority, but there's no guaranty of it. Obviously we have to depend on authorities for many things (doctors, mechanics, historians, etc.), but these authorities arrived at their conclusions through Plan A, so we can have a higher level "faith" or trust in those authorities. Religion is basically putting faith or trust in authorities who used plan B and have depended on plan B for generations and the final authority turns out to be someone who claims to have received his authority through some supernatural revelation - an entire system of belief based on a vision, if you will. Just think of all the destruction that has been a direct result of millions of people submitting their brains (beliefs) to the whims and hunches of madmen.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:44:00 UTC | #111495

ChrisMcL's Avatar Comment 7 by ChrisMcL

This is the article that I wish that I had written.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:45:00 UTC | #111496

Szymanowski's Avatar Comment 8 by Szymanowski

Harris can slide between the terms "faith" and "religion", but his sophisticated treatment of spirituality makes it clear that his real target is the dogma of faith.

Dawkins and Hitchens are the two who most often conflate religion and faith in their use of language

Well, I thought it was absolutely 100% clear that their real target was the dogma of faith, as they have stated repeatedly, but perhaps some people can be slow on the uptake...!

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:48:00 UTC | #111497

Chris Bell's Avatar Comment 9 by Chris Bell

If Harris is still looking for a different label, "anti-dogmatist" sounds appropriate to me.


Too bad "objectivist" is already taken by the Ayn Rand fans - although she detested religion herself.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:48:00 UTC | #111499

movingshadow's Avatar Comment 10 by movingshadow

to slightly paraphrase or possibly quote dawkter dawkins in another context: or? why not and?

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:51:00 UTC | #111500

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 11 by Styrer-

Talk about damning with faint praise.

There is nothing much to disagree with in the article, apart from the criticism of Dawkins and Hitchens at the end - much of the good sense of the article does not come from O'Donnell but from his readings of Dawkins and Hitchens themselves, after all.

Bit of a weasly one, this O'Donnell. Far more than the 'community social club' he seeks to reduce them to, religions are the pernicious incubators of faith and dogma, calling them to action, and 'conflating' the two in no way amounts to 'sloppy language'.

Refusing to conflate them, by contrast, has certainly led this cretin to 'sloppy' thinking in the end.


Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:58:00 UTC | #111501

terradea's Avatar Comment 13 by terradea

Brilliant and elegantly presented. Thank you!

In response to FreeThink25: Well, my religion is built on my lengthy experiences with others; that sex is the door to enlightenment and a feeling of oneness with the universe. There is no dogma involved in my religion, nor is there any real faith, but a sense of awakening and realization that, the more I act in accordance with my physical and mental desires, the more I seem to be in touch with myself, aware of the human experience and open to new ideas. Strangely, I've also noticed that, through sex, I've discovered a way of looking at life that is absolutely counter to any religion I've practiced in my past.

Does this count?

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:59:00 UTC | #111506

issue99's Avatar Comment 12 by issue99

Anti-dogmatism has always occured to me to be a more effective label for this 'new wave' of reason. Not least because it pre-empts, negates and to some degree reverses the tedious 'hasn't atheism been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in history' argument.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 06:59:00 UTC | #111503

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 14 by bamafreethinker

What about anti-irrationalists?

I am dogmatically opposed to dogmatism!!!

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:02:00 UTC | #111507

issue99's Avatar Comment 15 by issue99

How about rationalists in that case. A positive term for a change.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:05:00 UTC | #111508

bamafreethinker's Avatar Comment 16 by bamafreethinker



Catmatist (opposite of dogmatist)

Seriously though, FREETHINKER is one of my all-time favs. It has no negatives built in and dosne't seem to offend. Of course it stops a little short of atheism, but most people make the connection.

"In praise of the most high Bull-shitlessness!!!"

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:13:00 UTC | #111509

Warikz's Avatar Comment 17 by Warikz

Brilliant article. In fact the reasons gave in the article are why i think i will stop calling myself a "New Atheist" because that term has lead to confusion before, and start calling myself an "Anti-dogmatist" as i notice that when i say i am an atheist i often find it hard to convince people i see the good in the mysticism of Religion, that enlightenment, how it can bring people together in great ways but that i dont see the good in dogma as said here. Probably what the authors last section detailed is my main criticism of Dawkins and Hitchens aswell, sloppy language can lead to terrible misunderstandings, as all who have debated with theists before can no doubt can agree with.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:30:00 UTC | #111513

notsobad's Avatar Comment 18 by notsobad

In response to FreeThink25: Well, my religion is built on my lengthy experiences with others; that sex is the door to enlightenment and a feeling of oneness with the universe. There is no dogma involved in my religion, nor is there any real faith, but a sense of awakening and realization that, the more I act in accordance with my physical and mental desires, the more I seem to be in touch with myself, aware of the human experience and open to new ideas. Strangely, I've also noticed that, through sex, I've discovered a way of looking at life that is absolutely counter to any religion I've practiced in my past.

Does this count?

If you use 'religion' as a synonym with 'lifestyle' then it does count.
But why would you call it religion?

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:35:00 UTC | #111514

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 19 by Quetzalcoatl

This is a good article, especially as it spells out what "the Four Horsemen" actually think, rather than what some would have us believe they think.

Because I'm a shameless self-publicist.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:37:00 UTC | #111515

issue99's Avatar Comment 20 by issue99

If you 'religion' as a synonym with 'lifestyle' then it does count.
But why would you call it religion?

For the tax breaks?

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:38:00 UTC | #111516

ianmkz's Avatar Comment 22 by ianmkz

Is Occam's Razor a scientific dogma?

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:47:00 UTC | #111518

HeyBishop's Avatar Comment 21 by HeyBishop

This would be my first time commenting here on, for which I have been a long time lurker.

I have gotten into a lot of trouble in the past for my vocal dislike for "religion". I guess you could say I used to quietly let things pass by, but I've started openly debating these issues in recent years. I'm new to debating, and I'm not terribly good at yet. My main fault I think is my vocabulary.

I know how I feel about the world, and I've been very ridged about my feelings concerning religion. But recently I've been contemplating if that is really what upsets me, am I being unfair towards religion? I have felt as though I'm targeting my anger in the wrong direction.
It was just a week or so ago that I realized in fact perhaps the more appropriate word is "dogma", or "dogmatism". Today, along comes this article. This article expresses my feelings almost to the letter. It says just what I've been trying to say and far more effectively and eloquently.

You see, as I stated before, my biggest problem thwarting my personal crusade against dogmatism is semantics. Because I've been bitching about religion all this time.

Some of my friends, mostly fellow atheists, often point out my misuse of the word religion "when what you really mean is faith", or vice versa. When they point out my miswording, their correction doesn't quite sit right either. Usually I just let it pass.

The words "religion" and "dogma" are synonymous in day-to-day language despite their different meaning. It isn't chance that these words get tossed around and confused, as O'Donnell points out most dogmas have been nearly irradiated from our lives here in the 21st century (Fascisim, Nazism, etc.). For the most part, religion's all that's left. So that's where I've been directing my anger and outrage, just as Dawkins and company have been too.
I wonder why we've gravitated to the using the word "religion" when we mean "dogma"? Is it simply because we learnt that word first in life? The media's use of the word? Or because it is the opposite of atheist, which we've all been dubbed, or dub ourselves?
Perhaps this question doesn't matter in the long run. Just an interesting thought.

More importantly, I'm going to change my Facebook profile from "atheist" to "antidogmist".

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:47:00 UTC | #111517

jimbob's Avatar Comment 23 by jimbob

The physicist Steven Weinberg has said that, left alone, "you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." If you change the word "religion" to "dogma" or "faith" you have my view - and the view I suspect people like Weinberg, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris are really getting at.

Amen -- except I'd humbly suggest "dogmatic ideology" in place of "religion" in Weinberg's adage.

If I recollect accurately, I suggested something like this when I first joined this list. My view was (and is) that the ideologies of the likes of Stalin and Pol Pot are quasi-religious dogmas -- and the penalties for heresy and apostasy as the same as within any oppressive religion.

The other thing that had me chuckling was the recollection of my early days in the USA. When asked about my religion, I would reply that I was a devout anti-dogmatist. Invariably, I immediately got the impression that the askers thought this was an actual religion!

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:52:00 UTC | #111519

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 24 by irate_atheist

22. Comment #117070 by ianmkz -

Is Occam's Razor a scientific dogma?
Well, it's a blunt tool, but quite useful nonetheless.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:53:00 UTC | #111520

-TheCodeCrack-'s Avatar Comment 25 by -TheCodeCrack-

"Dennett, as one would expect from a professional philosopher, has been by far the least sloppy in his use of the terms; but he is also the most subtle and least read of four."

Ok, subtle = less read.

"Dawkins and Hitchens are the two who most often conflate religion and faith in their use of language - and they are also the two most well known."

Ok, less subtle = more often read.

But, oh no, he didn't!

"By being sloppy in their language, I fear the new anti-dogmatists are driving away potential allies."

Hate to say it mate, but you can't get allies if you don't deliver them the message!

Also, I do not want to make common usage of the term anti-dogmatists. The reason is that the term Atheist is better known and will stick anyway, and secondly I think it will make for cheap tacky theist comebacks.
I just know that they'll draw the parallel between the 'religion of peace' (hint Islam) and the anti-dogmatists (hint Atheists).

Of course, this is a complete load of crap to say such about Atheists, but it would be just too easy to use such a term against Atheists, especially as theists seem to get confused between passion and dogmatism, solid evidence and no evidence.

Just another note - If religious people said that they too were anti-dogmatists, and we said that that is what we are also, Atheists would have effectively been dissolved?

Stick with Atheist for someone who does not believe in a supernatural being.
New Atheism, yep, fine as well.


Mon, 28 Jan 2008 07:59:00 UTC | #111521

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 26 by robotaholic

I didn't know Harris did a stint as a bodygaurd for the Dalai Lama! How interesting.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 08:01:00 UTC | #111522

c4chaos's Avatar Comment 27 by c4chaos

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 08:05:00 UTC | #111523

Artful_Dodger's Avatar Comment 28 by Artful_Dodger

"we need to be ruthless with obscurantism - whether it comes from orthodox theology, post-modern nonsense, new age silliness or naïve mechanistic psychology."

Just a couple of questions here:

What does "ruthless" mean in practical terms? What constitutes "obscurantism"?

If this means that we have to counter arguments from superstition with better arguments, then I can go along with this. The problem is that this article, like the posts submitted by the vast majority of contributors to this forum, classes as obscurantism any and all belief in a transcendent Creator, and fails to make the necessary distinction between the kind of "faith" that gave rise to the music of Bach (soli Deo gloria) and the "faith" that "inspired" the 9/11 attacks.

I would like to know how the writer would suggest that the "ruthless" suppression of the "obscurantism" that faith is should be effected. This could sound ominous unless carefully qualified. If it is just a question of vigorous debate in the pblic square, with everyone having access to the public square to have their views challenged, then no problem. Many Christian thinkers have shown that they are more than capable of compellingly defending the Christian faith in this kind of scenario. But if it means that access to the public square should denied to people who believe in God, or curtailed in any way, then this sounds like totaletarianism. There are many well-documented cases of people in the Soviet block, up until the late 80s, who were excluded from public education because they were not prepared to declare that they were atheists.

And what about the "dogma" that religion is a virus (evidence please?) and that "religion is the root of all evil"? What about the dogma that Stalin's atrocities had nothing to do with his atheism (you try telling that to people in the Soviet Union who were threatened with the Gulag or who were sent there on account of their theism!)?

On the scientific level, what about the dogma (still unproven belief based on a priori commitment to - in this case - a materialist worldview) that life can arise spontaneously out of inanimate matter?

If it's "dogma" the four horsemen or going to tilt at, let them tilt at ALL dogma.

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 08:06:00 UTC | #111524

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 29 by HourglassMemory

Adogmatist sounds like a good name...

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 08:10:00 UTC | #111525

_J_'s Avatar Comment 30 by _J_


Is Occam's Razor a scientific dogma?

Only in the same way that car wheel designers have a 'dogmatic' predilection for circles. There are other ways of doing the job, but this is the one that has proven to work best.

In other words: no!

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 08:10:00 UTC | #111526