“We’re Superior to You,” he whined…

In Christianity & Atheism, Science & Religion on June 22, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged: , , , ,

Take a look at the comment by Eric MacDonald in this thread (#22) to get a good look at fundamatheism at work.  There’s too much nonsense in the comment to deal with it all concisely, but even a quick review of the “highlights” provides ample evidence of how hard it can be to deal with fundamatheists.

1.  “One of the things that bothers me more than anything in the absurd assumption that is being made when people talk about the compatibility of religion and science is the sheer diversity, and, so often, perversity, of religious belief.”

There isn’t more diversity among religious beliefs than among — say — political beliefs, I don’t think.  It’s the nature of the beast when dealing with issues incapable of anything like conclusive demonstration.  Are politics and science incompatible?

2.  “Religions come in so many different shapes and sizes, that the claim that religion is consistent with science is almost certainly false for most religions and for most religious beliefs.”

This is yet another unevidenced claim masquerading as profundity.  Some religious beliefs, such as a 6,000 year-old earth, are inconsistent with science.  But most?  I highly doubt it.  I surely won’t be taking Big Mac’s word for it.

3.  “Nor is there room for dialogue with this sort of thing.”

We’re so dangerous and stupid that we’re unworthy even of dialogue?  And they’re surprised that they are being left off panels seeking dialogue on the issues of science and religion?

4.  “Until people start to recognise that when they speak about religion they are not speaking only about the nice people in the church across the street, who seem so culturally warm and fuzzy, and probably pretty fuzzy minded too about what their beliefs imply, they are also speaking of pretty distressing forms of belief and the injustices and inhumanities that flow from then.”

People of faith only seem nice.  They’re really evil and committed to propping up an evil hegemony.  Sheesh.

5. “For, religion, despite all the warm and fuzzy notions that it seems to connote for so many people, is not warm and fuzzy. It misleads and misdirects. It abuses children, not only by deforming their lives with physical and emotional and sexual abuse, but by much of the religion that is taught, which is of an incredibly destructive sort, very often indelibly so. It ruins lives and imaginations, it binds them to forms of thinking that are the product of ancient cultures, when people banded together on the side of their god against others on the side of theirs, and while it may have given them protection, it also required their submission and all the hatreds that are born of it.”

Ol’ MacDonald has a severe hyperbole problem.  In his deranged hatred, we’re all misleading child abusers set upon sexual abuse and destruction.  We’re not just wrong — we’re evil and inferior.

6. “There is no other way to teach religion. It is a form of authoritarianism, and even those who attempt to convey a more humane, even secular form of religious thought, will be constantly undermined by people who, in faithfulness to tradition, return people to the faith once delivered to the saints, or whatever group happened to be first and therefore the model of faithfulness.”

Oh, and we’re all authoritarian demagogues too.  Don’t forget that.

7.  “And it is really tiresome that someone like Chris Mooney, who obviously knows nothing whatsoever about religion and its claims, continues to blight the world with his assinine [sic] slurs….”

Pot.  Kettle.  Introductions.

8.  “I say we adopt the [New Atheist] name, because it’s a good way of making a distinction between people who think that religious believers have something to contribute to the future of the world other than theocracy and injustice….”

Now we don’t even have anything to contribute to society.

And they wonder why the folks promoting various panels and dialogue opportunities dealing with science and religion don’t treat them seriously and respectfully….

Update (6am PT, 6/22/10):  Jerry Coyne posts praising MacDonald’s bile here.  Russell Blackford joins the sycophantic choir here.  Typically, Coyne is bitter about not being invited in by the evil hoards so that he can tell them off directly.  He also complains that “the claim that ‘we can hardly expect believers to discard their faith based on philosophical considerations, no matter how persuasive these may seem to many secularists or scientists,’ is ridiculous, of course.”  Jerry is attacking a straw man, of course.  The issue is not whether some religious people give up their faith, but rather that faith works at least in some sense for millions of people.  Unless and until the practical value of faith is undercut, it will be hard for Jerry’s message to get heard.  That’s why (or so it seems to me) a mere default position atheism, devoid of any substantive content, doesn’t get more popular traction.  A viewpoint defined by what it doesn’t contain is necessarily weak.  It’s rather pitiful, actually.

Jerry then goes on to complain about parents passing religion on to their children:  “I would guess that if religious brainwashing of children were prohibited, atheism would increase drastically within a generation.”  He doesn’t quite advocate a legal prohibition on religious communication from parents to children — perhaps there is something that is too draconian for Coyne in the fight against religion after all — but it’s clear he thinks it’s a good idea.  Might it be a good idea to preclude parents teaching children “bad” political ideas?  “Bad” social constructs?  It should come as no surprise that parents want to communicate the values that are most important to them to their children because, in the vast majority of cases, they want the best for them. 

I bet even Jerry does it.

Update (6:30am PT, 6/23/10):  Larry Moran weighs in here; I reply here.


4 Responses to ““We’re Superior to You,” he whined…”

  1. It’s not at all plausible to talk about Eric in this way. He’s a former Anglican minister, and has consistently impressed me on an intellectual level for how much he knows about theology and philosophy.

    Also, and as a consequence, I don’t think you’re interpreting his claims about religion correctly. To say that religious claims are not “warm and fuzzy”, and that they produce bad consequences, is not to say that the people doing the speaking are evil. Granted, this is a difficult area in ethics, because there are a lot of issues to be unpacked in order to show how this is the case — we need to answer questions about collective responsibility, speech acts, speaker’s meaning / sentence meaning, collective intentionality, positive and negative responsibility, and all kinds of things. But you shouldn’t assume the worst possible reading.

    It is pretty plausible to talk about Mooney in this way. He’s a nice guy in person (I’ve met him), but he’s also vindictive, intellectually irresponsible, and generally unwilling to respond to criticism reasonably. Mockery is not the first resort when dealing with him, but a last resort — and trust me, we’ve run the gamut.

    • [Y]ou shouldn’t assume the worst possible reading.

      If MacDonald were making a less general point than I have read (as in “some religious people are bad or believe stupid things), it’s a remarkably uninteresting comment. On the other hand, at least some of his statements are quite clearly universal of necessity (unless he didn’t write what he meant), and pretty ugly to boot.

      It is pretty plausible to talk about Mooney in this way.

      You may be right here; I simply don’t know.

      • I don’t know about that. You can condemn a collective as evil without condemning each individual member as evil. I can say: the system of rights and obligations that y’all see in each other, and try to apply to the rest of us, are utterly and completely wrong. At best, that means that the critic find a particular kind of religious activity to be unworthy of recognition; at worst, it means that the critic finds the declarations, and subsequent relations of power and trust, to be beyond the pale. That’s a non-trivial and interesting claim, but it’s not a claim that villifies the innocent.

  2. […] Moran takes his swings at Chris Mooney here (more on this subject here).  It’s more than a little typical of the genre.  And while I have no particular position […]

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