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The New Atheist Movement is destructive - Comments

King of NH's Avatar Comment 1 by King of NH

I also firmly believe in relativity. I refuse to read any science books or engage in any Einsteinian discussions. This would be absurd. I know I am right, so why read anything that would show why I am right, or may be wrong, or most likely, where I am wrong.

Once I got a general gist of how the speed of light demonstrates the relativity of time, why dig deeper? To do so is absurd, and anybody that has dug deeper, once they accepted the idea, has some explaining to do.

People seem to link 'education' to a bunch of reading, studying, and hashing of details to refine some mental picture of reality. Boddlenockers! I am very educated because I traded blind belief in Newton for my unwavering certainty in Einstein. I ask: what more could possibly be attained by continuing?

*If anyone buys this i'm-an-atheist-but-head's lame excuse to be an intellectual sloth, I would like to point out the above was my attempt at satire and I do not agree with you.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 17:48:00 UTC | #337422

wetbread's Avatar Comment 2 by wetbread

Bosh. The simple truth is that even if you are among those who think Dawkins et al. are too "strident," they've had an unprecedented impact on getting people to come out and speak out. Atheism (or whatever else you might want to call it) is part of the public discourse like never before. The only people this is destructive for are the faith-heads.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 17:50:00 UTC | #337423

kraut's Avatar Comment 3 by kraut

What he does not - as usual with this kind of "kind" atheist - do not realize is the simple fact that the evangelical religion with an almost 25% participation in the US is simply not the kind of christianity you be nice towards.
The followers, and especially their spokes persons, are uncompromising nutters, who can only be confronted in their virulence with an argumentative battle ax instead of rapier.

Also the admission not to have read the books, he simply takes his cues from reactions to those books, without the consideration that those who react might willfully misinterpret those writings.

I therefore consider this article just - a flea of the atheist kind.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:00:00 UTC | #337426

stephenray's Avatar Comment 4 by stephenray

Just because RD is an atheist doesn't mean that TGD is a function of his atheism. TGD (it seems to me) flows instead from RD's long-time battle against ignorance, particularly ignorance in and of science. Also, its subject matter is religion, rather than atheism.

There are plenty of atheists that are not battling against ignorance (my dad is one, for instance; he doesn't believe in any god but he doesn't give a fig about ignorance) and this goes to show that you cannot label atheists as 'Atheists' because the label has no point.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:03:00 UTC | #337427

toothfairyagnostic's Avatar Comment 5 by toothfairyagnostic

He seems to think atheism carries with it a set of philosophies that can be broken and misconstrued, rather than simply implying a lack of belief.

Waste of a read.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:05:00 UTC | #337428

pkruger's Avatar Comment 6 by pkruger

I suspect Bagginni may have wrote this article tohelp his book sales: publicly declare your atheism, admit you haven't read any of the DDHH books, and then publicly disagree with them--maybe to pique some readers' interest?
I've wondered why George H. Smith ( "Atheism: A case Against God" )has been so noticeably silent as of late. Maybe he's planning to do the same thing.
But if he did, I think in the end as far as encouraging the public to question their religious idealogy, they see the atheists "aren't getting along"--and THAT would be a destructive action to this objective

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:06:00 UTC | #337429

bethe123's Avatar Comment 8 by bethe123

Julian Baggini is a fool

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:12:00 UTC | #337432

Friend Giskard's Avatar Comment 7 by Friend Giskard

I enjoyed Baggini's book. But I was disappointed by this. Who is he accusing of obsessively reading about God's non-existence? A quick look down the list of headlines on the front page of this site shows that we are much more concerned with things that do exist, like all the negative effects religion has on e.g. public health, free speech, policy making, and education. These are matters that it is important to make a lot of noise about.

I'm looking forward to Sam tearing Baggini a new one.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:12:00 UTC | #337431

FixReasonFirmly's Avatar Comment 9 by FixReasonFirmly

Sounds to me like he has a bad case of belief in belief and the hour horsemen are being to mean for him. I think he wants religious people to be given a pass on there ideology.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:18:00 UTC | #337434

jackal's Avatar Comment 10 by jackal

I think Julian Baggini is a pompus, air bag, but let me give one caveat: I haven't read the rest of the article.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:20:00 UTC | #337436

PsyPro's Avatar Comment 11 by PsyPro

a-theist: not a theist, whatever else one may be. Baggini also claims some other attributes that he would like to have associated with his atheism, but not, apparently, intelligence, because that would be ``arrogant''. It also seems likely that he is not a serial rapist of elderly women, and doesn't eat roasted suckling human infants in a light cream sauce for dinner, but these, as with all the attributes he cites, having nothing directly to do with whether on not one is an atheist. One attribute I know for a fact is not a consequence of his alleged atheism is that he really is a bit of a twit.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:21:00 UTC | #337437

blueollie's Avatar Comment 12 by blueollie

What exactly are the New Atheists destroying? ;-)

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:22:00 UTC | #337438

BJPentecost's Avatar Comment 13 by BJPentecost

Personally, I think now is the exact time for "strident." Hell, I think we're not being strident enough.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:26:00 UTC | #337439

Happy Hominid's Avatar Comment 14 by Happy Hominid

an atheist without a bishop to bash is like a fish without water

I'm thinking more like, "a fish with a shark in the water".

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:29:00 UTC | #337440

AlexGerau's Avatar Comment 15 by AlexGerau

I suspect Bagginni may have wrote this article tohelp his book sales


I would agree with that. If you read between the lines all he says is: Oh, I haven't read their books, neither should you, read mine instead.

But why???

His argument for not reading the books of Richard, Sam or Christopher is, that atheists do not need to reinforce their own views. But why then should we read his book about atheism?

But as King of NH pointed out in his hilarious satirical post above: it's not to re-enforce our views, we read those books. We read them, because we are eager to learn.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:30:00 UTC | #337441

zeerust2000's Avatar Comment 16 by zeerust2000

I have not read any of their books. That does not, however, disqualify me from having an opinion about them


Well, actually, it kinda does. Why don't you just read the damn books and then get back to us.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:30:00 UTC | #337443

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 17 by prolibertas

Funnily, what the article proved was that you SHOULD read the books before you criticise them. It's not about establishing an 'atheist identity', it's about combating one of the great causes of suffering in the world. I mean obviously, if God-belief disappeared, the word 'atheist' would disappear as well. But does any atheist have a problem with that?

Especially when it comes to Sam Harris. The article couldn't even have been written, or would have to be written very differently, if he had bothered after all to read everything Harris has to say on the word 'atheist'. In fact, this article is a good example in favour Harris' objections to the word 'atheist'.

The article proves what I've suspected all along, which is that we've hamstrung ourselves a bit by framing the debate in terms of 'atheism vs. religion' rather than 'reason vs. faith'. The only book that had this right was 'The End of Faith', the one that, somewhat ironically, started the whole 'new atheist' thing.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:32:00 UTC | #337444

Happy Hominid's Avatar Comment 18 by Happy Hominid

Blueollie - What exactly are the New Atheists destroying?

Dogma.

And it's killing them - figuratively and literally. For that reason, I'm sure an outspoken atheist does seem "militant" from their perspective. By calling us militant, they hope to shut us up. But what happens is, the entire controversy gets more heated, generates more news and gets people thinking about the subject more.

Shit, if we could only get them to call us "Atheist terrorists"!

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:34:00 UTC | #337446

standfair's Avatar Comment 19 by standfair

Without the type of logical zeal and energy flowing from these four hoursemen, there will be no drive powerful enough to outst these ignorant faithheads from the public domain.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:35:00 UTC | #337447

itopal63's Avatar Comment 20 by itopal63

I've read many books, often only with the hope of knowing what the author's opinion is or what the public fuss is about.

I didn't think I would learn anything new by reading "The God Delusion," and for the most part I didn't. I was not a fence sitting theist (who was in need of a good cow tipping) or agnostic either; I detest the concept of agnosticism (in relationship to super-nature and/or transcendence). Uncertainty is an implicit conceptualization in knowing anything; it (knowing) never has or does carry with it (the weight of) perfect knowing or perfect precision. It is an unnecessary declaration.

But, I did learn one small new thing: about "cargo cults." And, the rest of the book was thoughtful, thorough, occasionally funny, well written and hardly an "ad hominen" attack on the psychological character of human beings; but then again he wouldn't know this... now would he.

Also, this author's (blogger's) idea that religion: puts one in touch with the transcendent as opposed to being stuck; focused; upon the immanent--is worthy of ridicule.

However, there is much more to religion to the metaphysics. To give a non-exhaustive list, religion is also about trying to live sub specie aeternitatis; orienting oneself to the transcendent rather than the immanent; living in a moral community of shared practice or as part of a valuable tradition; cultivating certain attitudes, such as gratitude and humility; and so on.

None of this need be tied to a "faith," nor is it the limited domain of "faith." In fact it "faith" is an inhibitor to thinking often; especially a philosophical stance that would view religion as a metaphor for--getting in touch with transcendence (as opposed to glorifying; focusing upon; the immanent--the actual world, and not mythical afterworlds. You'ld think he'd see the folly of his adventure into after-other-world theologies). It seems incoherent to interject mysticism (even as a point of argument) into the discussion, like he seems to do... problem though most religions are vaguely mystical (the maybe common ground he's searching for); and are more dogmatic, mythical and literal.

It is even possible that it (the mystical or metaphysical epiphany) never happens; only the assumption of something happening exists and the belief it did--leading to psychological reinforcement (of the initial assumption). A form of self-deception. So I am not sure where he expects to go with this (IMO pointless) appeal?

And yet in his preceding statement:
I also think the new atheism tends to get religion wrong. The focus is always on the out-dated metaphysics of religion, its belief in personal creator gods, miracles, souls and so forth. I have no doubt that the vast majority of the religious do indeed believe in such things. Indeed, I’m on the record as accusing liberal theologians of hiding behind their less literalist interpretations, and pretending that matters of creed don’t really matter at all.

He nearly nullifies any point he is trying to make about transcendent musings or meditations. What religion is learned, en masse, by a scholarly appeal to philosophy, mysticism and reason. It is most likely taught to children, with dogma/doctrines that cannot be questioned. People don't believe Christ is a metaphorical reference point--for embarking upon an metaphysical meditation about possible transcendence. They believe in the absurd mythical story and the idea that they are in contact with absolute truth. It is specific--and contrary to any point he's--not really making.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:36:00 UTC | #337448

black wolf's Avatar Comment 21 by black wolf

"I also think the new atheism tends to get religion wrong. The focus is always on the out-dated metaphysics of religion, its belief in personal creator gods, miracles, souls and so forth. I have no doubt that the vast majority of the religious do indeed believe in such things. Indeed, I’m on the record as accusing liberal theologians of hiding behind their less literalist interpretations, and pretending that matters of creed don’t really matter at all.

However, there is much more to religion to the metaphysics. To give a non-exhaustive list, religion is also about trying to live sub specie aeternitatis; orienting oneself to the transcendent rather than the immanent; living in a moral community of shared practice or as part of a valuable tradition; cultivating certain attitudes, such as gratitude and humility; and so on"

Which are all topics discussed in the books Baggini thinks he doesn't have to read to know what they're not about. I have Breaking the Spell right in front of me. It contains several whole chapters on how religions develop, how they incorporate and foster the things mentioned above.
By this willful ignorance leading to a false assertion alone, Baggini does in fact concede intellectual disrepute. Pathetic.

"Richard Dawkins, for example, presented a television programme on religion called The Root of all Evil ..."
No he didn't. The title ends with a question mark, and Richard didn't choose the title himself either.

Baggini's article is equivalent to trolling, nothing more.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:37:00 UTC | #337449

dawkinspitbull's Avatar Comment 22 by dawkinspitbull

As people of no faith we have been and are still persecuted and killed by those that worship imaginary friends. It is still possible to lose a job or life if you disagree with the popular superstition of a given backward-ass country.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:40:00 UTC | #337450

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 23 by Caudimordax

Reiterating somewhat:

I have not read any of their books. That does not, however, disqualify me from having an opinion about them. Let me defend both apparently intellectually disreputable confessions.

Fail.

He seems to be saying, "It was my idea first, so I don't care about anybody else's contribution."

Pathetic, IMO.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:43:00 UTC | #337451

Eshto's Avatar Comment 24 by Eshto

I have not read any of their books. That does not, however, disqualify me from having an opinion about them.


LOL true, not knowing what they are talking about has never stopped people from forming opinions.

Likewise I don't need to read the rest of the article to form my own.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:44:00 UTC | #337452

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 25 by NewEnglandBob

I agree with bethe123 @9:

Julian Baggini is a fool.

He didn't read the books, so therefore no one need read his book.

I did not read more than a few paragraphs of his article either, I just skimmed most of it to see he is blowing his own horn (or his own penis).

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:55:00 UTC | #337453

black wolf's Avatar Comment 26 by black wolf

Comment #353567 by NewEnglandBob,
I disagree with you. I'm not reading your post, but given that you use a thoughtful chimp as an avatar reasonably leads me to the safe conclusion that it's not worth it.

Let me be the first to say clearly that Julian Baggini is a fool.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 18:57:00 UTC | #337454

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 27 by Bonzai

NEB

I assure you that blowing on one's penis is not an easy feat.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 19:00:00 UTC | #337455

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 28 by Russell Blackford

Julian is certainly not a fool, a pompous windbag, or anything of the kind. He is a smart, lucid thinker who has done a lot to advance the cause of reason. We should be grateful to have him in our midst.

There's also a sense in which he doesn't need to read popular books defending atheism because he is already immersed in a much more technical body of literature on the subject, some of which he has actually written.

The point by King of NH misses the mark: of course JB will have read huge numbers of books on the subject. His point (or the one he could make legitimately) is that he's not likely to learn much that's new to him from popularisations like Richard's. This might be a bit elitist of him, I dare say, but it's hardly a refusal to read the literature.

Still, I do wish he'd read at least The God Delusion to see what the fuss is about. If he'd done so, he'd realise that RD's book is far more nuanced and careful, and far more light-hearted and funny at appropriate times, than is being credited to it in the media. He's inadvertently reproduced an unfair stereotype of Richard. He'd also simply see how beautifully written TGD is.

I think JB has made a mistake by not checking whether the media portrayal of RD's book matches the reality. That's an important issue in itself, and a reason for him to read it - not because he'll find any new arguments that he's unfamiliar with. I hope he'll read the book and change his mind, but I'm still disappointed with the knee-jerk attacks I see above on someone who is making a very valuable contribution to our culture. It's as if some are so ignorant that they don't know who Julian Baggini is.

Even if he's made a mistake in this instance - and I actually think he has - it doesn't warrant turning so savagely on someone who is doing so much good.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 19:08:00 UTC | #337456

Goldy's Avatar Comment 29 by Goldy

Given that most of the religious I know hove not actually read their mythological tomes, why should a person have to have read the atheist books recently published in order to have an opinion?

Blowing one's own penis? This like chewing one's own elbow?

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 19:14:00 UTC | #337459

njwong's Avatar Comment 30 by njwong

You cannot criticise someone's work without first reading it. The disdain in which Julian Baggini mentions about "spells" and "delusions" makes him another critic worse than the Antony Flew guy. At least Antony read the chapter titles of TGD before making his criticisms. Julian reads only the book titles before making his criticisms!

After reading the "gospels" from Sam, Daniel, Richard, and Christopher, it will be evident that they are excellent texts covering the phenomenon of superstition, dressed as religiousity, that has pervaded our lives. Julian needs to ask himself, what motivated the people who flew planes into buildings killing thousands of innocent victims? If the 4 Horsemen books can "destroy" the kind of "reasoning" used by the 19 Muslims to kill innocent people, I am all in support for the destructive nature of the new atheism.

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 19:16:00 UTC | #337461