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UPDATED: Beyond New Atheism? - Comments

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 1 by Richard Dawkins

What is encouraging about this article is the dusty response it is getting from commenters on the Guardian website. Great numbers of them, it seems, are as bored with "I'm an atheist buttery" as I am. I think we are starting to see a genuine change. A year ago, a piece like Caspar's would have been followed by a baying chorus of but-heads in full cry. I think a tide is turning and significant numbers of people are seeing through the ill-informed "New atheists are shrill meanies" mantra.

Richard

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:18:28 UTC | #523162

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 2 by Steven Mading

This is why I have a hard time getting on board with humanism - it seems to harbor too much "atheist buttery" instead of being about what it claims to be about.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:21:48 UTC | #523163

wtargentina's Avatar Comment 3 by wtargentina

It seems to me that "new atheism" is simply atheists who have decided to speak up a little.

Whats not to like?

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:26:35 UTC | #523165

Austin K's Avatar Comment 4 by Austin K

What the heck is new Atheism? We're not using any new arguments to refute religion; we don't have to because the religious can never think of any new arguments in favour of religion. It's not as if we're attempting drastic new approaches to religious claims that have always been unanswered. It's not like any of the supposed new Atheists are finally answering the ontological argument which up until now had baffled all with its stupefying circular logic. Intelligent people knew religion was fraudulent long before Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, or even Bertrand Russell came along. Atheism is the default state to which humans are set. It only exists as a term so long as theism exists, and theism only exists so long as people are ignorant to the facts, and manipulated by the fraudulent. The so called New Atheists are only around to try and educate the ignorant and vanquish the fraudulent.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:31:10 UTC | #523168

DefenderOfReason!'s Avatar Comment 5 by DefenderOfReason!

Nice!

Comment 4 by Austin K :

What the heck is new Atheism? We're not using any new arguments to refute religion; we don't have to because the religious can never think of any new arguments in favour of religion. It's not as if we're attempting drastic new approaches to religious claims that have always been unanswered. It's not like any of the supposed new Atheists are finally answering the ontological argument which up until now had baffled all with its stupefying circular logic. Intelligent people knew religion was fraudulent long before Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, or even Bertrand Russell came along. Atheism is the default state to which humans are set. It only exists as a term so long as theism exists, and theism only exists so long as people are ignorant to the facts, and manipulated by the fraudulent. The so called New Atheists are only around to try and educate the ignorant and vanquish the fraudulent.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:34:18 UTC | #523170

shaunfletcher's Avatar Comment 6 by shaunfletcher

I couldnt really get past 'the wittily titled Dawkins Delusion'.

If that passes for wit among the chattering classes nowadays then it really is time for the grauniad to pack it in altogether.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:44:23 UTC | #523171

Gunga Lagunga's Avatar Comment 7 by Gunga Lagunga

...a baying chorus of but-heads...

We now hold our collective breaths, knowing that this clever phrase will eventually find its way into one of the Professor's speeches, and pray... er, hope that Richard's excellent enunciation will enable even the ultra-sensitive audiences in Texas or Oklahoma to clearly distinguish the absence of the all-important second "t".

Otherwise, to quell the inevitable brouhaha or kerfuffle, and turn the redneck frowns upside-down, beer may have to be provided in the book-signing line after the show.

Just sayin'.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:47:27 UTC | #523173

biorays's Avatar Comment 8 by biorays

Religion anticipates and expects, from every human, a degree of unearned respect and loyal sincerity, toward various 'characters of divinity' as if they really existed, and in spite of each one playing the (imaginary) role of cosmic, unchallengeable, unquestionable authority.

In this respect the record is being set straight by those bold enough and clear sighted enough to spot a potion of emotional and intellectual bullying when they see it. It is to confront the 'bully' of old, the seducer of reason and withholder of intellectual transparency.

It is due such characters holding so much of humanity to ransom over their hopes and dreams and imaginary reincarnations that it is afforded the power to keep on derailing sincere attempts to build alternative realities based upon - reason and reality!

Humans all too often are seduced by virtual reality to replace their perceived boredom of what really exists. It's far lazier and thus easier, even entertaining, to follow another's wild imaginings than to sit with the intellectual responsibility of resisting it. To romance is more fashionable than to not. To confuse romance with reality seems intellectually more exciting than to hold fast reason and objectivity. To pass on myth more amusing than to pass on truth. To deceive darkly satisfying than to hold fast virtue. All the above morph their legacies from generation to generation, and it is these fossils of human emotion and consciousness that are being dug from our inherited souls by those seeing how. The strata of the past and the geology of humanity is being slowly uncovered and put on show!

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 06:52:50 UTC | #523176

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 9 by Richard Dawkins

I couldnt really get past 'the wittily titled Dawkins Delusion'.

Yes. Surely that had to be sarcasm? I mean, seriously, you don't think Caspar really finds it witty?

Richard

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:01:20 UTC | #523177

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 10 by Paula Kirby

Comment 9 by Richard Dawkins

Perhaps Casper was just being tactful. After all, by the standards of the rest of the book the title is the epitome of wit, intelligence and originality.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:03:15 UTC | #523179

SourTomatoSand's Avatar Comment 11 by SourTomatoSand

I read no sarcasm into it, though I dearly wanted to.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:03:41 UTC | #523180

mirandaceleste's Avatar Comment 12 by mirandaceleste

Well, I'm "bored" by Caspar Melville and his tedious, self-serving, simplistic, and utterly misguided paean to impotent, milquetoast accommodationism.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:13:04 UTC | #523184

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 13 by prolibertas

Did he really say new atheists believe that without religion there would be no wars in the world? I know there were plenty of strawmen in his article, but that one was particularly brain-dead.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:27:19 UTC | #523185

ev-love's Avatar Comment 14 by ev-love

I'm sure the "wittily titled" was sarcastic. Thank you for "milquetoast", mirandaceleste....I'm going to use it as soon as I'm sure what it means; it sounds sort of cuddly to me. I'm luckier than you, I think: haven't been bored by Caspar Melville because till today I'd never heard of him. Who is he? Is he as important as he seems to think he is?

ev-love

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:30:52 UTC | #523187

andersemil's Avatar Comment 15 by andersemil

I think a lot of people confuse conciseness with shrillness. If anything, "New Atheism", as some prefer to call it, is more focused on the mistakes and delusion that leads to superstition and irrational belief; Ie in my view, we are more accomodating of the human beings and less of their religion.

People do not like to face the fact that we are physical beings who struggle to live and that we make mistakes abundantly. Superstition and irrational belief is all about being vague and speaking in metaphores rather than being concise, and that, I think, is what gets people wound up.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:32:53 UTC | #523189

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 16 by Dhamma

There is a crisp logic here. I agree with Dawkins. But in another interview, this time with a fierce critic of New Atheism, Terry Eagleton says: "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology." Put this way, Eagleton seems right. I agree with him, too.

They all do, Caspar. Every theologian wants to belittle Dawkins harsh criticism by saying he's merely a biologist, and therefore can't have a comprehensive understanding of theology. I can surely understand it must be hard to be thoroughly demolished by someone who hasn't spent year after year paying for an education to prove nothing. Yet they hardly ever seem to criticize Dawkins arguments, only that he's not an authority on the matter and should therefore shut up.

By belittling Dawkins expertise instead of counter his arguments they are making a huge mistake. Dawkins comes through as easy to understand and logical, that will win the crowd. The reason they don't respond to his arguments instead, is of course - because they can't.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:38:42 UTC | #523191

SourTomatoSand's Avatar Comment 17 by SourTomatoSand

Reading the article carefully, one realizes the author has said exactly nothing about anything.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:41:45 UTC | #523192

ev-love's Avatar Comment 18 by ev-love

"Did he really say new atheists believe that without religion there would be no wars in the world?"

No, I don't think he did, prolibertas - just that it is a silly thing to say - and, since I know of no-one who actually does say it, it doesn't get us much further does it? This caspar person really does seem very self-important. Should we all be sitting at his feet? Or is it just that he thinks we should?

ev-love

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 07:42:49 UTC | #523193

debonnesnouvelles's Avatar Comment 19 by debonnesnouvelles

There is a crisp logic here. I agree with Dawkins. But... Because entertainment value aside it is surely false, as well as politically unwise and, well, pretty impolite, to say that "all theology" is irrelevant (some of it is moral reasoning, isn't it?), still worse to say that "religion poisons everything", or that without religion there would be no war, or that bringing a child up within a faith is tantamount to child abuse...

Caspar Melville implies that Richard Dawkins thinks that "without religion there would be no war". Somehow I have not ever had that impression myself.

Quotes anyone?

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:03:40 UTC | #523196

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 20 by Richard Dawkins

I think a lot of people confuse conciseness with shrillness.

Nearly right, but I think they confuse confuse articulate clarity with shrillness. We are all accustomed to listening to something like this: "Er, basically, what I would want to say is, um, at the end of the day, er, basically . . . " Then, when somebody like Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens stands up and speaks, the very fact they go straight to the point, are fluent, articulate and clear, is interpreted as threatening. It is regrettable but true. Speaking in well-formed sentences, so that your meaning is clear, should be welcomed, but it is actually heard as a threat. I suspect that this is part of the reason why some people voted for G W Bush (who can't string an English sentence together) and the same people hate Obama (who can).

The threat I am talking about is felt by good plain folks, reg'lar guys, people who don't like intellectuals. P B Medawar was making a related point about people who purport to admire intellectuals, when he called attention to a tendency to mistake obscurity for profundity, and therefore to find clarity not threatening but shallow (relevant quotations from Medawar are in the Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing). Somebody recently told me she had met a philosopher at a party, and confessed to him that she had found his latest book very difficult to understand. "Oh thank you", he gushed, obviously delighted by the compliment.

Perhaps a third related point, different again, is the understandable tendency to recoil when we hear, at a party, say, somebody with a loud voice, obviously revelling in being articulate and well-read – somewhat as one recoils from those who preen themselves on being good looking. As an old girlfriend of mine said, in a wonderful phrase from her native New Zealand, "He thinks he's Christmas on a stick."

Richard

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:13:28 UTC | #523200

Rodger T's Avatar Comment 21 by Rodger T

Caspar wants to agree with everybody, by the looks of it.

Simplistic perspective?

Does`nt get any more simplistic than "god done it", does it?

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:19:04 UTC | #523204

RDfan's Avatar Comment 22 by RDfan

It's an old, reliable, re-branding trick in advertising; if you want something to sell or grab attention, just add "new" in front of it: new Deal, new Labour, neo Conservatives, new Ford Mondeo. Well, you get the picture.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:24:52 UTC | #523206

Art Vandelay's Avatar Comment 23 by Art Vandelay

Got to disagree with his theology/biology analogy: anyone who reads a book on British birds is reading something with years of scientific research behind it, and is grounded in reality. Theology is nonsense.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:29:21 UTC | #523208

ev-love's Avatar Comment 24 by ev-love

"As an old girlfriend of mine said, in a wonderful phrase from her native New Zealand, 'He thinks he's Christmas on a stick'."

Or as the Aussies would say, "He's got tickets on himself!"

ev-love

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:29:46 UTC | #523209

elenaripoll's Avatar Comment 25 by elenaripoll

I don't really understand what "Atheist buttery" is yet....

But due to severe emotional abuse growing up in a catholic family/community science/written language I always struggled with, that part of my brain seemed not to understand science, but I still accepted science to be accurate e.t.c and did not question the findings of science.

So When I met my partner whom is a "God does not comput" kinda guy, he was angered when he read the God Delusion and could not see why the need to sugar coat the messages that God doesn't exist and why people need to think he does, but for me it was the turning point in my life, and it helped activate the voice of reason in my head (which had NEVER been activated growing up, infact it was shot down many times lol)

It was almost like my mind could suddenly understand everything, even if I still struggled explaining myself or writing it down.

To understand Why people "think" they need religion helped me greatly confidently come out as an atheist and deal with the rejection from my family and friends e.t.c e.t.c

I think the tide is turning, I can't see future generations not being a problem (with secular schooling), but I do feel sorry for all my friends and family still trapped in catholic guilt today, they get soooooooooo easily offended by any of my points of view on religion, yet they are addicted to asking me questions about what I think and why? it's like I'm a dirty little secret for them....their "Atheist" friend lol

They would never pick up on new science studies, but they pick up on everything I say to them, it's just the "God doesn't exist" bit that makes them cry (because they pray to their dead relatives a lot), but everything else they are at least starting to think about whether Priest's are the no longer needed "Sales rep" part of a religious company e.t.c e.t.c

I would LOVE to see some documentaries on the rates of various mental illnesses amongst small religious communities e.t.c e.t.c

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:30:23 UTC | #523210

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 26 by Paula Kirby

Comment 19 by debonnesnouvelles

Of course Richard has never said anything so foolish. If someone can't recognise the difference between what he really wrote, which was

Religious wars really are fought in the name of religion, and they have been horribly frequent in history. I cannot think of any war that has been fought in the name of atheism. Why should it?

and 'without religion there would be no war', they really should stop and consider whether they have a sharp enough grasp of the English language to write articles for publication.

Nor, incidentally, has Richard ever said that bringing up a child within a faith is tantamount to child abuse - what he actually wrote was:

I am persuaded that the phrase ‘child abuse’ is no exaggeration when used to describe what teachers and priests are doing to children whom they encourage to believe in something like the punishment of unshriven mortal sins in an eternal hell.

It is disappointing when someone who is meant to be on the side of reason and humanism simply regurgitates the sillier claims of those who are desperate to oppose them.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:36:26 UTC | #523214

AlexP's Avatar Comment 27 by AlexP

"...the requirement is to be less strident so as to create alliances with moderate religionists on specific topics..."

It always strikes me as hypocritical to judge a religion by how "moderate" or how compatible with a country's rules and customs it is.

"I respect your religion. As long as what your god happens to want is within my laws and you don't take His word over mine!"

That sounds ludicrous. It leaves the impression that the person has already accepted that each and every religion is made up, interpreted and filled with "life" by humans, that, of course, there is no "divine" truth in it, nothing holy or important enough to challenge, question and overturn secular laws and mundane facts. So, why not be consistent enough to say:

"I do not respect your religion. But I respect your right to belief what you wish, as long as you adhere to my laws and customs."

Fear of alienating too many people? An aquired, though unwarranted, respect for religion? A cynical lie because it's easier to deceive people than to try and reason with them?

The religion that claims it's god asks for mercy, compassion and happiness may be easier to coexist with than the relgion that demands blood, war and sacrifice. But to think that makes the claim that the former religion is "true" any more feasible shows either a warped definition of truth, or simple dishonesty.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:38:12 UTC | #523216

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 28 by Dhamma

Also, he contradicts himself.

He quotes Dawkins "somebody who thinks the way I do doesn't think theology is a subject at all.", and agrees with the quote.

Yet he also agrees with this quote "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.", ultimately saying theology is a worthwhile study, which he just agreed isn't.

Pleasing everyone is a troubling situation.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:40:35 UTC | #523217

Ramases's Avatar Comment 29 by Ramases

Casper also implies that nue atheists believe,

that bringing a child up within a faith is tantamount to child abuse, or that moderate religious believers are worse than fundamentalists because they prepare the ground for extremism...

I can't remember anyone saying these things.

I get pretty sick of the "theologically illiterate" argument as a means of discrediting people who don't believe in a particular religion or dismiss the existence of God.

Life is short, and there will always be plenty of things in the world we will not have studied.

I freely admit that I am completely incapable of drawing up an astrology chart, either western or Chinese, even if I had all the charts in front of me.

Does this mean I am unqualified to comment on the wisdom of using astrology for making important life choices?

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:41:10 UTC | #523219

sbooder's Avatar Comment 30 by sbooder

I listened to this live, and got fed up with being told by speaker after speaker that I was, as an "New Atheist" (a term I do not recognise, as I have thought this way for my whole life, that is 45 years now) I lacked the capacity for wonder and had not the imagination to see things on different levels. What a load of old tosh.

The speakers seem to have the ability to know exactly how I would react to new discoveries; apparently this would entail me saying nothing more than “That answers that problem then”.

I would love to invite them round to my place so they could see my reaction every time I look through my scope at such splendours as the Orion Nebula or Saturn, or how I marvel at the distance of the Andromeda Galaxy. Or when I am photographing moths of a morning, I just sit and stare at such beauties as Buff Tip or Elephant Hawk-Moth…Wow!

No , it is obvious to them that because I am outspoken that I lack compassion or an understanding of beauty.

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 08:42:51 UTC | #523221