Evangelical Atheism

John Gray gets it. And his take on memes seconds my thoughts on the subject in an earlier post:

“Dawkins’s “memetic theory of religion” is a classic example of the nonsense that is spawned when Darwinian thinking is applied outside its proper sphere.”

“Unfortunately, the theory of memes is science only in the sense that Intelligent Design is science. Strictly speaking, it is not even a theory. Talk of memes is just the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors.”

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3 Responses to Evangelical Atheism

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Interesting- this was a very sincere article. I enjoyed the mention of universal conversion. One might as well say that physics is a project of universal conversion! At some point, people will give up their magic rocks, saintly relics, crosses, myths, etc., and deal with reality through more reliable means. I am reading a bit more about Islam at the moment, and to see them circumambulate the magic rock of the Kaba in Mecca … well, it is not very edifying, though I understand the psychology of it.

    It is, as the man says, “an impulse that is peculiarly human”. But does that mean we have to respect it? I hope not. Humans have many weaknesses, not all of which should be celebrated. Religion is markedly joined with some of our worst vices, though also with some of our best practices and dreams. It can drive someone mad!

    Unfortunately, as the man says, since the impulse is peculiarly human, knowledge and education may not be enough to dispell it, as it is not enough to dispell gambling, or other vices. Something better might be called for. But what?

    Ah- the “need for meaning”. Here we go, right back to the magic rocks and crosses. Must we consign ourselves to superstition to spare ourselves existential discomfort? I understand that we can not all be ruthlessly honest philosophers, looking into the void. But jeez- whatever you have to do, don't do it public, please!

    Oh, and it gets worse.. now the writer likens the need for religion with “illicit sexual impulses”. Heavens, is this pro or con? Oh, but then the Nazis and Stalin are trotted out, as usual….

    cont…

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  2. Burk Braun says:

    “But the belief that history is a directional process is as faith-based as anything in the Christian catechism.”

    Let me stop here for a moment. Firstly, most of what is in the catechism is simply false, so this is a low bar. So is there anything true about history being directional? Well the arrow of time goes only in one direction, so there is a basic physical direction to it. We aren't going physically to end up in the middle ages again, whether we want to or not, so there certainly is some directionality to it. But to get closer to his meaning, does history go in cycles and repetitions, or in a direction of progress? Well, in the west, there has indisputably been a great deal of progress in many dimensions. There are cyclicities as well, but some directionality, despite the common human love of claiming that everything is going downhill and to hell in a handbasket, etc., to which I am not immune!

    At any rate, if there is a faith and meaning worth having in a secular world, surely it is that we can make the world a better place, and will do so over the long reach of time. Why else engage in all the rigors of scholarship, learning, training, entrepreneurial exertion, etc? So a bit of good old American optimism is not a bad thing.

    “People live longer and kill one another in larger numbers.” No, they actually kill each other in smaller numbers, both per capita over all of history, and in absolute numbers since WW2. So the writer is unduly pessimistic.. “Pessimistic for Christ” … there's a new slogan!

    Ah- Onfray's book. Have you read it? I thought it was very clever, but also terribly acerbic and over the top.

    “The attempt to eradicate religion, however, only leads to it reappearing in grotesque and degraded forms. A credulous belief in world revolution, universal democracy or the occult powers of mobile phones is more offensive to reason than the mysteries of religion, and less likely to survive in years to come.”

    Firstly, we new atheists are not employing violent means, as the word “eradicate” would insinuate. We employ argument, ridicule, reason, etc., as befits intellectual debate and contest. Secondly, we would regard all forms of current religion as grotesque and degraded forms, perhaps (presonally) excepting the simpler forms of Buddism. Catholicism is a particularly noxious example- a pope gussied up in spangled robes and red shoes, a celibate man pronouncing infallible rules on sexual intercourse … it is a nightmare, frankly. Superstition will carry on, but it doesn't help to abet it with cultural obeisance and institutions. It is a bug, not a feature.

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  3. Darrell says:

    Burk,

    “At some point, people will give up their magic rocks, saintly relics, crosses, myths…” belief in memes, “progress,” the science v. religion myth, Newtonian physics, etc., and the like, so true, so true.

    “It is, as the man says, “an impulse that is peculiarly human”. But does that mean we have to respect it?”
    Of course not. I don’t respect scientism, even though I know it fulfils that same impulse. No one is asking for your respect. A little thought perhaps.

    “Unfortunately, as the man says, since the impulse is peculiarly human, knowledge and education may not be enough to dispell it…”
    Well, we can certainly see that knowledge and education have had no effect upon believers in scientism, so you may well be right.

    Ah- the “need for meaning”. Here we go…”
    Since your scientism fulfils the same purpose, clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle. Oh, and by the way, your scientism is showing all the time—very much a public faith! Put that thing away!

    “At any rate, if there is a faith and meaning worth having in a secular world, surely it is that we can make the world a better place…”
    Except when we unpack “better” within your worldview of an amoral universe where “better” might as well be “worse” or visa-versa, down is up and up is down, it becomes meaningless, finally. Use “happy” or whatever word you want, the same thing happens. It means nothing in your universe. There may be a reason people, both educated and uneducated, are not making a stampede toward atheism.

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