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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Article in Comment is Free

Ta-dah!! Here it is, published under the title "Stand up, stand up, against Jesus!" It begins:

Religious teachings promise us much — eternal life, spiritual salvation, moral direction, and a deeper understanding of reality. It all sounds good, but these teachings are also onerous in their demands. If they can't deliver on what they promise, it would be well to clear that up. Put bluntly, are the teachings of any religion actually true or not? Do they have any rational support? It's hard to see what questions could be more important. Surely the claims of religion — of all religions — merit scrutiny from every angle, whether historical, philosophical, scientific, or any other.

Read on ...


David said...

Speak out, speak out, do it! Mock religion, ridicule religion, c'mon!

It is rather amusing how new atheists like to think you are scary when we (mostly) don't care about you at all--except for a few of us, in an academic sense. Coyne uses the term "crybabies" when in reality it's the new atheists are the biggest bunch of sissies I've ever seen. Oh, we atheists can't get elected to office—whaa. Oh, we atheists are the only minority that it is OK to discriminate against—whaaa. Oh, we atheists are not allowed to criticize religion—whaa. Oh, we atheists can't come out of the closet—whaa. Made worse, of course, by the fact that none of your whining has any merit.

The bottom line is—apart from opinion writers who usually reflect not the majority but the lunatic fringe, we don't care about you, we rarely think about you, you don't scare us (in fact you often amuse us, those who actually interact with you—so thank you), you are of virtually zero consequence. In the past ten years I have not heard the name of Dawkins (let alone Coyne—nobody would know who the hell Coyne is) mentioned in a single sermon. You are not even on our radar. (Again, apart from the tiny minority of us engaged in the internet wars.)

So by all means speak out, so that we'll some fodder for discussion. Stop the strategic and tactical planning an incessant talking about speaking out and just friggin' do it. Please. Loudly. Rudely. Tastelessly. Come on—bring offense! Show us what you got! Be clever—we are waiting…

Russell Blackford said...

Thanks for sharing those interesting observations, David.

David said...

Actually I sincerely enjoyed the article--you write very well. Good show.

Brian said...

Hi David. You say that atheists whine and that none of the putative whines have any merit. This is factually incorrect. Atheists cannot get elected in the U.S. because atheists are considered lowest of the low in many areas as polls show. Both parties fall over themselves in obsequious displays of piety. Why do this if it's not necessary for electability? Another example of discrimination is that media types go to religious people or assume religious people have something to say about morality, when the facts demonstrate they know no more about morality and often act more imorally than non religious. Religion is seen as good and irreligion therefore as bad.

You can say an atheist is immoral and it's up to the atheist to defend themselves. Call a black person immoral because he/she is black and unless you're at a Klan meeting it'll be you who has to defend your statement and you might get your arse kicked. There is a very common occurence of religious people whining and claiming that atheists offend them and are driven by hatred as the one Jerry Coyne points to does. I can't see how you deny this unless your playing the no true christian card and declaring that only those who act akin to you are christians.

Atheists don't protest churchs puncturing the skyes with steeples and models of torture implements (crucifixes) or propaganda about such and such religious belief. Yet we are stopped from doing the same mutatis mutandi. Buses in Australia can't carry 'there is probably no God, so relax' type messages.

You and your cadre are not the whole or even a significant part of "christendom". Your influence on my life if virtually zero. However, there's plenty of catholics and other conservative types in my part of the world who do weild a great, and unmeritted influence over the laws and I'm not gonna shut about about that because you can't see it. You have a point about us being of zero or virtually zero consequence. Hence all the atheist identity politics in the writings of Dawkins et. al. and the conventions etc. If atheists and agnostics unite, and if the polls are correct about the number of non religious there are then politically we'll be significant and can help shape laws that are not based on interpreatations of contradictory scripture and irrational thinking.

Hang around, maybe you'll get your wish expressed in the last paragraph. Attacking people for raising their voices because you don't think they've raised them enough is cute. :)

Steve Zara said...


There is something rather odd about your post, you know.

If the new atheists are not on your radar, why are you bothering to post here?

toomanytribbles said...

oh, don't pick on david... he's got lots to do... very busy not picking us up on his radar, trying hard to rarely think about us.

David said...

Steve and toomanytribbles,,

Did the caveats "mostly" and "except a few of us" and "those who actually interact with you" and "in an academic sense" and especially "Again, apart from the tiny minority of us engaged in the internet wars." go by unnoticed?

I mean, did the argument "you don't notice?--well you sure seem to notice!" really seem to be a substantive one?


you are mistaking being a distrusted minority with discrimination. If atheism sweeps over the land the situation will reverse. Do you think that if a majority of the US becomes new atheist that any outspoken evangelical will get elected? Do you envision Coyne saying--"i'm going to vote for him even though he is an open, devout Christian?" If you do then you're nuts. Will you be calling that discrimination? It's not. Nobody has the right to win an election.

And I don't, and never have, said atheists are immoral--I have said the opposite. In fact, that's a good point. Not only are you guys not on our radar, when atheists are discussed in church it is not "ooh, they are so scary!" but rather a lamentation along the lines of noting that our behavior, in the bulk, is indistinguishable from your behavior. So your point about the Klan is meaningless--and it is sort of a corollary of Godwin's--and it certainly doesn't rise to the level of "clever" that I'm hoping for. But I'll hang around, as you suggested; maybe things will get better.

Brian said...

David, first I enjoy your posts. In my experience religious types shit me sideways with their Godwins, illogic and refusal to argue their assertions. You exhibit a lot less of that. That doesn't mean I agree with your arguments of course. Nor should you agree with mine where you see error. Of which there will be lots.

You say: Do you envision Coyne saying--"i'm going to vote for him even though he is an open, devout Christian?" If you do then you're nuts. Will you be calling that discrimination? It's not. Nobody has the right to win an election.

When people are portrayed as bad or evil from the get go, because of what they think or who they are, that's discrimination. You've shown no evidence that claiming to be a christian or believer in god isn't a bonus for your chances of being elected in the U.S. George Bush elder declared that openly godless weren't even citizens of your confusing country. Polls show that people won't vote for someone who is godless. That's discrimination because they're not voting about character, or policies but voting over creed.

I can't speak for Jerry Coyne but I've voted for openly Christian politicians because I agreed with their policies. I only ask for a recognition that their personal beliefs by themselves are not warrant to decide how society as a whole should view morality or policity. I also disliked an openly atheist prime minister. Why? because I thought he was a jerk. So I didn't vote for him.

Your last paragraph shows that you are not cognisant that you are not the exemplar or even an exemplar of what I know as Christianity. No true Scotsman again. Talk all you like about what you and yours do. I'm not going to say your personal experience is wrong. I'm not that arrogant. I will say, as I said before, that you (and yours) have zero or near zero influence on my part of the world. But, there are those who call themselves Christians who do have a disproportinate influence. So how clever you find or don't find my comments has zero importance to me. I wasn't Godwining, I read all the time that atheists are like Hitler in letters to the editor of respectable papers. I stand by the analogy whether it pleases you or no.

I think that's why I enjoy discussions with you. You don't matter in any sense that affects life or liberty for me. I repect your right to live and argue, and would fight for both, but nothing you say, as far as I can tell, matters to me or mine so it's just fun. As you've already stated, the same applies to me. I'm not on your radar. :)

Brian said...

Just realized that I didn't answer one of your objections.

If a person up for election was an out and out Christian (a given in your country, but not necessary but useful in mine), then if a bunch of atheists or Jerry Coynes didn't vote for that person just because he was Christian, ignoring his/her good policies, then I'd have my own atheist schism.

It's about secularism. I'm not interested in killing off religion. I'm interested in a society that looks after the lowest with respect and doesn't doesn't praise a dog eat dog ethich like the U.S. seems to do, but also doesn't condescend or control those who do no harm to themselves or others.

Brian said...

David, final question. What atheists are on your radar when you guys discuss that atheists on the whole act as morally as the chosen? From your comment it suggests that the new atheists and sychophants such as I are not the atheists that vex you or are on your radar. In such case, after pointing out which atheists vex you, which seems odd that quiet atheists would vex you, what have the new atheists and plebs like me done that makes you find us objectionable in some way viz a viz morality or being normal?

tomh said...

David wrote:
"In the past ten years I have not heard the name of Dawkins (let alone Coyne—nobody would know who the hell Coyne is) mentioned in a single sermon."

Now, there's an insult if I ever heard one.

J. J. Ramsey said...

One thing your article makes clear. The meaning of "accommodationist" is horribly muddy. Originally, the term was a substitute for the odious label "Neville Chamberlain atheists" that Larry Moran started to use after Orac mocked Dawkins' use of the Chamberlain gambit into oblivion. Now it seems to be used not only for people who (gasp!) are actually willing to work with the religious on certain issues and acknowledge that (gasp!) the theory of evolution, and even science in general, doesn't entail atheism, but also for those who don't want religion to be mocked at all.

I can see why Mooney would be taken to be an accommodationist in both senses, but it definitely doesn't fit with, for example, the views of John Pieret and John Wilkins, who are quite happy to mock religion, and I'm not so sure that it fits with Eugenie Scott's own views.

David said...


“What atheists are on your radar when you guys discuss that atheists on the whole act as morally as the chosen?”

Garden variety. For example, you’ll hear mention in sermons that the divorce rate among professing evangelicals is essentially the same as among nonbelievers. Similarly for charitable giving, caretaking, etc.

“what have the new atheists and plebs like me done that makes you find us objectionable in some way viz a viz morality or being normal?”

I don’t find you any more or less objectionable than anyone else—new atheist, old atheist, Christian. In fact as I have stated many times if new atheism removes the stigma of being atheist—that’s a win-win and I applaud your efforts. Churches are not the places for atheists to hang out simply because they can’t come out of the closet. Now although I don’t find you objectionable per se, that doesn’t mean that I won’t point out how some new atheist arguments, like “science and religion are incompatible,” are downright stupid. (Especially when coupled with “science is the way we know stuff” argument—when nobody, certainly not Coyne or Blackford or Dawkins or Myers, has presented a scientific demonstration that they are incompatible. Psycho-babble and arm-chair philosophy ain’t science.)

Richard Aberdeen said...

There is nothing in this article that has anything remotely do do with Jesus, who very clearly is not the founder of Christianity. Why is this article entitled "standing up to Jesus"? Could it be that the authors have an obvious bias agains Jesus? Why isn't it entitled standing up to Muhammad, Buddha or the Great Boobie, Richard Dawkins, the supreme high priest of the narrow-minded conservative fundamentalist religion of atheism? What a crock of shit !!!

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

Russell Blackford said...

Oh dear, someone doesn't know that the authors of newspaper articles don't write their own titles. That's not how newspapers work.