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← Rod Dreher: Against atheist fundamentalism

Rod Dreher: Against atheist fundamentalism - Comments

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 1 by MAJORPAIN

I am so embarassed to live in this town. That's really all I can say. I'm speechless...

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 14:28:00 UTC | #388844

Opisthokont's Avatar Comment 2 by Opisthokont

Hmm... "You don't have to be religious to be a fundamentalist." This author has not demonstrated that. Rather, he has demonstrated that you don't have to read somebody's arguments in order to get a "rebuttal" published.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 14:32:00 UTC | #388845

John Desclin's Avatar Comment 3 by John Desclin

What an obnoxious character of a "journalist"!
who does enjoy reading such awful crap?
This is akin to hate drivel

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 14:38:00 UTC | #388848

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 4 by Follow Peter Egan

The link was taking an age to load so I didn't bother waiting. It's only going to be a complete pile of shitty canards written by some Texan faith head.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 14:52:00 UTC | #388855

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 5 by MAJORPAIN

I just read the comments and I feel a bit better. Overwhelmingly they are againt this nut case.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 14:55:00 UTC | #388857

Michigatheist2's Avatar Comment 6 by Michigatheist2

Well, the comments seem to be almost entirely negative. Even given the total lack of research into what the camps he was attacking involved, the failure to apply the same reasoning to actual religious camps, the straw men he set up and the attempt to smear atheists with the mention of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, is a little surprising

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:00:00 UTC | #388858

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 7 by Jos Gibbons

It’s time to debunk more bad arguments.
* The idea, Dawkins said, is "to encourage children to think for themselves." Yes, well, as long as they don't think well of religion, tykes are welcome to join his herd of independent minds.
ALL perspectives are welcome; but, more importantly, Dawkins is of the view children are too young for you to expect them to have finished forming their opinions anyway. He repeatedly tells us he wishes to teach children how, rather than what, to think. That he wants this is attributable to him knowing where reason leads. That some are unhappy with that arrangement is attributable to their irrationality.
* Most people, when they cease to believe in the Easter bunny, don't hold monthly services to celebrate the non-existence of a peripatetic paschal rabbit.
How is Camp Quest monthly, or even repeated? Isn’t church at least weekly? But in any case, some people can take something from discourse with the like-minded. It can help them bounce ideas off of each other to develop strategies for dealing with the predicament of living as a VERY despised minority.
* Most atheists I know don't care for religion, obviously, but aren't angry about it. Not so the True Unbelievers – the Dawkinses and their followers – who prove that you don't have to be religious to be a fundamentalist.
DEFINE fundamentalist, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. “Muslim and murderous or Christian and creationist/homophobic to the point of changing laws or atheist and willing to talk” sounds like a rubbish adjective. You can’t just prove your opponents are hypocrites by using a word inconsistently. You only prove yourself one when the fact that you are doing so is noticed.
* ... contemporary atheists have thrown off Christianity but still hold a religious faith in a secular utopia and the perfectibility of humanity.
Why is every “X, which we don’t have yet, is preferable to Y, which we have now” claim represented by Y proponents as utopianism? The only idea worthy of the title is “X would be perfect”.
* ... believe all would be well with our lot if everybody would get on board with their sternly anti-religious program.
Neither such optimism nor such a program exists. The privatisation of religion interests secularists. The feigned privatisation of it interests many theists who want immunity from criticism. Encouraging the evolution of benign religion interests Dennett.
* their intellectual forebears, the 19th-century Positivists
Positivism held that theism and atheism are each neither true nor false but meaningless and that, insofar as agnosticism claims theism and atheism are true and false in some order, is false. Read Ayer (1936) on the subject.
* Unfortunately, militant atheism in power has repeated all the crimes of religious regimes and, absent ethical restraints, made them vastly worse. Though their ideologies despised Christianity, both the communists and the Nazis justified their own monstrosities as "scientific." While religion's atrocities cannot be denied, today's atheist campaigners blindly refuse to accept that atheism's savage legacy is no accident.
(1) What ethical restraints do you have in mind? Do you have evidence their removal occurred and made things worse? (2) Hitler’s program was “Positive Christianity”. Google it and learn something. YOU are the one who ASSUMES that, if Stalin was evil and had a property you dislike for reasons not concerned with his evil, the two are connected, AND everyone else who was evil had that property (except perhaps if you already know otherwise), so you don’t bother checking.
* ... that flaw is the atheist project of liberating people from their traditions, their history and their humanity.
All we’d like them to give up, at most, is the BELIEFS. Or, if they can mange it, find evidence for them. You can’t pretend we hate other stuff just by also CALLING that other stuff religion. Cheat.
* The religious sense – of awe, of mystery, of a need for meaning – is hard-wired into our species
Wanting to know answers is the SCIENTIFIC sense. Religion means making up answers without proof.
* He's certainly correct to warn that the attempt to repress the religious instinct (as with the sexual instinct) only means it will reappear in some other, degraded form – the operatic pseudo-paganism of the Nazis, say, or the Soviet Stalinist cult, or even, more benignly, the faintly ridiculous idea of an atheist church.
How is that certain? In what way has the aforementioned instinct, however we describe or characterised it, been represented in some degraded form in the Holocaust or the gulags? The one thing those evils had in common was motivation by absurd doctrines. Don’t forget also that Stalin’s Lamarckism led him through Lysenko to agricultural policies that so far reduced output as to starve millions purely through incompetence. How’s that for the consequences of NOT being a Darwinist?
* They are both legitimate ways of knowing within their limited spheres and should both complement and temper each other.
Religion doesn’t know anything, as it provides no evidence, or even consistency. Do Christians know that Jesus is the Son of God, or do Muslims know that he isn’t? I am not religious. Do I know one, both, or neither? Which is TRUE? And what is religion’s sphere? Was the relation between the Earth and the Sun always as irreligious as it is now? If so, how can we be sure anything is in religion’s sphere? If not, what does it mean to say an issue only used to be religious? Either way, it’s God of the gaps lunacy.
* One leading atheist philosopher told our group that scientists had nothing to learn from religious people, who by definition believed absurd things.
Who? Proof please. I know of no-one who would call all religious beliefs “by definition” absurd, as they are only a posterior false, not a priori false. Admittedly some people have conceptions of God which are a priori false, but religious people are not required by definition to be like that. Who was this alleged idiot?
* One does not have to profess Eskimo religion to grasp that these tribal peoples know something important about life and how to live it – something that eludes the purely materialist mind.
So, recognising the sensibility of the policy does NOT require their religion, but presumably DOES require a not “purely materialist mind”. Any religion, as long as it’s one. Great. But which tiny minority of mutually inconsistent religious beliefs are true, and how can you know, or help others to know? Surely all that’s happening here is “you shouldn’t waste food”. Nothing profound, be it theist, atheist, postmodernist or otherwise more complicated than long division, is required here.
* Contrary to the biases of our time, the importance of science does not exceed that of art and religion.
What’s art got to do with this? Valuable paintings, sculptures etc. Do not equate with non-evidentiary belief systems
* As the poet Wendell Berry writes, the sacredness of life "cannot be proved. It can only be told or shown."
How is shown different from proved? Also, life is not necessarily sacred. Killing is often justified, or even mandated, by reasonable ethics. Incidentally, one wonders if Berry meant only human life. Even most vegetarians aren’t careful enough to prevent plants’ deaths, although Jains are.
* Fortunate are those whose minds are free enough to recognize it.
Insofar as life IS sacred – i.e. insofar as murder is wrong – yes, I recognise it.
What a mook.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:04:00 UTC | #388859

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 8 by Richard Dawkins

Cheer yourselves up. Read the comments in the Dallas Morning News. Almost every single one of them is damning to Rod Dreher, and contemptuous of his ignorant bigotry.


Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:07:00 UTC | #388861

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 9 by Colwyn Abernathy

The idea, Dawkins said, is "to encourage children to think for themselves." Yes, well, as long as they don't think well of religion, tykes are welcome to join his herd of independent minds.


Oh, and fuck you, too.


The article is filled with set-ups like this. No wonder the atheist community is despised if this is the best counter-argument they can come up with.

Reason, Let Me Show You It


Aye, saw the comments, Richard. 'Tis inspiring. Now if the rest of Texas linked up with reasonable folks from places like Dallas and Austin, the state would have a chance with catching up with the rest of the country.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:08:00 UTC | #388862

deejay64's Avatar Comment 10 by deejay64

The last bit had me peeing my pants. "Science is no more important than art or religion."

Yes , it was Manet that cured smallpox. And a magic cookie , handed out by Father Touches boys , took Neil Armstrong to the moon.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:16:00 UTC | #388863

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 11 by Colwyn Abernathy

I was personally fond of this one point.

A last point, neither Camp Quest nor NTCOFT promote the abolisment of religion. If you want to complain about militant atheists, you should make sure you have found one first. What happened to journalists who would take the time to reasearch topics before writing about them?

Indeed. Even opinion writers need to get their facts straight.


Of the article comments, I mean. Being more clarified.


Oh, and this one is priceless. :)

Why should we reject shibboleth? Do you truly wish to invest your tax dollars into research on AIDS based on the premise that the HIV virus has only had 6000 years to develop into its present form?
Shall we spend billions of dollars looking for the Pillars that support the earth using the Hubble.
Just when do you see science conceding to the idea that a Jewish zombie, after rising from its grave took flight and went off to live with his father-self in a magic kingdom in the sky?
I'm not quite sure where in the zoological texts the authors will be able to include the unified idea that at one point in our history snakes and donkeys had conversations with man.
The money that would be expended by museums if your unity of science and religion were to occur would be astronomical. Imagine having to add people to all the dinosaur exhibits, you know romping with the brontosaurus and playing fetch with the t rex. The man hours spent changing the dates on all the items now listed as being over 6000 years old would be daunting.
I just don't think we can afford it, unless you plan to pray to your respective god and have it do all the work...for free.

Spot on, Godfree. Spot on.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:19:00 UTC | #388867

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 12 by God fearing Atheist

This is narrow-minded cant. Native Alaskans believe animals give themselves to humans for nourishment. Eskimo communities use every part of the animals they take, out of a reverence for the gift of creation. One does not have to profess Eskimo religion to grasp that these tribal peoples know something important about life and how to live it – something that eludes the purely materialist mind.

Utter total drivel!

Medieval English society used "every bit of the animal" - where do you think sausages come from - minced offal stuffed in intestines. Where do you think bone glue comes from - bone (or at least cartiledge). Where do you think leather comes from - animal skin.

The modern food industry used "every bit of the animal" - beef burgers come from "a cow in a liquidizer", or rather the bits that can be sold for a higher price per pound as steak are cut off first. It was not until BSE that the brain and spinal cord were not added to "processed meat".

The pragmatics of dead animal processing has nothing to do with deluded beliefs in creation.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:27:00 UTC | #388869

phasmagigas's Avatar Comment 13 by phasmagigas

This is narrow-minded cant. Native Alaskans believe animals give themselves to humans for nourishment. Eskimo communities use every part of the animals they take, out of a reverence for the gift of creation. One does not have to profess Eskimo religion to grasp that these tribal peoples know something important about life and how to live it – something that eludes the purely materialist mind


so the atheist cannot see that eskimos have developed a way to fully utilise a particular resource (an animals body) and that that is obviosuly a plus! the fact the eskimo believes its been put there for them is (youve guessed it) an assertion without evidence, the struggling, bleating animal prior to its death suggests evidence otherwise.

thats funny, ive seen lots of food go to 'waste' (not so for the bacteria and flies of course) and here in america i can assume that 9 out of 10 of those plates that get taken unfinished to the garabage at the back of the restaurant are from believers.

i just dont get what the author is getting at here, does he suggest that somehow the evil atheist would have spent carcasses in a trail behind him with just their fillets removed£

ah god fearing atheist i see that you beat me too it, perhaps i can take the author to the north of england and let him feast on black pudding, pigs trotters, liver, boiled hearts, sweet breads and tripe in vinegar!!

not quite the spectacle in mainstream US stores.

wow, maybe i am enlightened by being an offal eater!

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:37:00 UTC | #388871

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 14 by Steve Zara

"I'm fed up. I really am. There is so much stridency going on. Why can't there be accommodation? Why does there have to be conflict? Why can't different areas of belief be accepted as valid?

It was a simple matter. I first heard of the case after I woke from a dream that was clearly relevant. Everything was so straighforward.

So why can't I use my Spirit Guide to present the words of the dead? Why won't they let a reading of the I Ching count? They should know that the Tarot Cards point to the truth!

Damn these legal fundamentalists and their requirement for rational evidence to present to juries. I could have solved their murder for them in minutes."

(from the journal of McGrath Robertson, Amateur Supernatural Sleuth (now retired)).

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:42:00 UTC | #388873

phasmagigas's Avatar Comment 15 by phasmagigas

GFA, i see your post made to the link comments, thats good!!

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:48:00 UTC | #388875

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 16 by Peacebeuponme

I wonder if RD has read the Independent today.

They have him along with Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and his photoshopped lookylikey Emma Watson and one the 50 Smuggest Britons.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:49:00 UTC | #388876

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 17 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #406401 by Steve Zara

If Robertson really wrote that, then Poe's law is unstoppable.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:51:00 UTC | #388877

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 18 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #406405 by Peacebeuponme

I've tracked down the list,

They have apparently yet to put them in order, or explain why those 50 deserve it. It's a vote-produced list that will now be ordered by more voting. Channel 4's top 50s have already shown that this is a bad idea.

Not only are Alister McGrath and Rowan Williams absent from the list, but no-one with their first names is on the list, and that in itself shows whgat's wrong with it. There can't really be 50 people in the UK smugger than every single Alister/Alistair/Rowan. Personally, I'd put Alistair Brown, or McGowan for that matter, on there.

Also, I feel sorry for every non-famous smug person in the UK, who never even had a chance to compete.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 15:58:00 UTC | #388878

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 19 by Steve Zara

Comment #406406 by Jos Gibbons

No parody can ever match reality.

Something I find it hard to understand about articles like this is why the author feels the need to be so repetitive. No one can surely be so ignorant as to not have seen the same old arguments put forward and refuted countless times. So, I am at a loss as to the point of this article. Perhaps it is an attempt to bore opponents into submission.

This reminds me of the flea books. Yet another author has a bright idea: "we need religion for morality!" or "Jesus must have lived, because no-one could have made up such a mad story!". How ORIGINAL. And so they sit down to and start to write...

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 16:11:00 UTC | #388885

Baron Scarpia's Avatar Comment 20 by Baron Scarpia

Unfortunately, militant atheism in power has repeated all the crimes of religious regimes and, absent ethical restraints, made them vastly worse.

And I don't need to bother reading the rest of the article. This single sentence is so patently ridiculous - and old hat - that it's clear the author hasn't a clue.

Eskimo communities use every part of the animals they take, out of a reverence for the gift of creation.

Hunting animals takes time, effort and valuable resources. A community that uses half an animal would not last long compared to a community that uses as much of the animal as possible.

But of course nothing so obscenely materialist could affect the decisions of the spiritualist Eskimos.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 16:26:00 UTC | #388889

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 21 by SaintStephen

21. Comment #406416 by Steve Zara

So, I am at a loss as to the point of this article.

Could the purpose be just to make you mad? I see so many articles that position themselves like this one -- trying to antagonize somebody in the readership (hopefully many people) by intentionally building strawmen. I continually find myself frustrated by stories like this, but then I step back and realize "Hey... maybe these guys are doing this on purpose." They're provoking me into some state of mind.

I know you are aware of these things Steve. I just thought I'd chime in. For instance, the recent Nature article by Jerry Ball on how atheists are making "too big a deal" about science's incompatibility with religion. It's hard to believe someone employed at the world's leading journal of science could pen such tripe, unless he was intentionally doing it to provoke reader response. It's almost like facts and content don't really matter anymore. To make a buck these days, many editors are realizing that all you have to do is get out the divining rod and figure out where the controversy is, and then have your staff write some kind of middle-of-the-road rant about it -- like Joe the Plumber analyzing the Middle East conflict, for instance.

It's rabble-rousing journalism, and doesn't really lend much to the actual discussion. Capitalistic journalism sucks. I don't know a good alternative, however. And I'm off-topic anyway.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 16:32:00 UTC | #388891

Lisa Bauer's Avatar Comment 22 by Lisa Bauer

I just love (I'm being sarcastic) the extended discussion of Dreher's attendance at the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship conference -- the same event that Dawkins describes in The God Delusion. Dreher has discussed this event at some length in his posts at his blog at -- here's one such post, which also takes the opportunity to rag on Dawkins and Dennett. (Why do I know this? Argh...just reading it almost makes me want to give up the will to live at times...though for me nothing compares to hardcore, super-devout Muslim blogs, I must say.)

Anyway, the quote...

I spent part of my summer with other journalists at a science and religion camp, of sorts, a Templeton Foundation program at Cambridge University. We heard from top researchers and academics who are religious believers from various traditions, and others who are not. My favorite presenter was John Gray, an English atheist political philosopher who, in his 2007 book Black Mass, argued that contemporary atheists have thrown off Christianity but still hold a religious faith in a secular utopia and the perfectibility of humanity.

Gray has hardly been a fan of Dawkins or others of the quote-unquote "new atheists", to say the least, and is quite the pessimist, so I suppose it would figure that Dreher would like the things he has to say.

Do I really have to say more about this article? It's almost self-refuting...

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 16:41:00 UTC | #388893

Quine's Avatar Comment 23 by Quine

<!-- -->Truly bad. I would advise saving yourself the aggravation of reading it, but as you are reading this, it would be too late. As others have noted, you can just skip to the comments that are heaping justified scorn upon him.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 17:23:00 UTC | #388903

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 24 by Cartomancer

It constantly amazes me how supposedly intelligent people make the silliest of mistakes. In particular, there seem to be an awful lot detractors out there who cannot tell the difference between faith in the inevitability of progress and the evident historical assertion that progress has actually happened. Of course progress has happened - socially, ethically, politically, culturally and most of all scientifically. One simply cannot look at the history of the last thousand years without noticing how far we have come. Does this mean that society will inevitably continue to progress? No. We hope it will, but we can't say that for sure. But it most certainly won't progress if we give up trying to improve things and descend into a pessimistic mire of melancholy and regret.

Likewise with the assumption that our prescription for the dethronement of religion is necessarily a theory of secular utopia. One does not have to believe that things will be perfect if we get rid of religion to believe that things will be better.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 17:27:00 UTC | #388905

Crazycharlie's Avatar Comment 25 by Crazycharlie

I wonder how much money Dreher got paid to attend that Templeton Foundation program?... Out come all the old canards,-- Dawkins and his ilk are "fundamentalist", "militant", we have "no sense of awe, of mystery, of a need for meaning", religion and science are " legitimate ways of knowing within their limited spheres" (NOMA). All of this has been heard before ad nauseum.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 17:27:00 UTC | #388906

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 26 by Mr DArcy

atheism's savage legacy is no accident.

Mmmm! I'm hungry, where's the nearest baby?

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 17:31:00 UTC | #388909

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 27 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #406423 by SaintStephen

"Could the purpose be just to make you mad?"

Charlotte Allen's piece from a few months ago does strongly suggest that. Or, in her case, it was also because SHE was mad (i.e. angry - I'm not questioning her sanity), as well as allegedly bored at the same time. Actually, maybe many of these authors feel angry also.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 17:33:00 UTC | #388911

Baron Scarpia's Avatar Comment 28 by Baron Scarpia


Alright, now I've heard it all.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 17:33:00 UTC | #388912

jcs's Avatar Comment 29 by jcs

To add to: 23. Comment #406423 by SaintStephen

One way for online megazines to make money is via advertisement. The number of views of the advertisement determines their income. Writing controversial pieces will increase the number of visitors and therefore their income.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 17:43:00 UTC | #388917

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 30 by SaintStephen

29. Comment #406445 by Jos Gibbons

Maybe I'm giving writers and editors of articles like this too much credit. I mean, I've rarely (if ever) sat down to write an article journaling an event, say, and then immediately asked myself "How could I phrase things to really piss people off?" I usually just write "my view" of things, without much thought for how to contort or stretch things to maximize the chagrin of others.

I'm not a writer, however, or familiar with the business of journalism. Particularly in the case of daily newspapers or internet news sites, it would seem a monumental effort to have to review each and every article and then "tweak" it to maximize its chances of increasing the revenue of the business by provoking strong emotions in the readership. But maybe this is exactly what editors do.

It still pisses me off. I get most of what I consider to be the truth -- right here on Honest Injun.

Sun, 16 Aug 2009 17:50:00 UTC | #388919