Saturday, September 15, 2007

Atheism and stupidity

Two recent articles in the Washington Post point to the intellectual weakness of the growing atheist movement in the United States and in England. To any truly philosophic mind atheism is not an option, ruled out by all reason and evidence. With reason and evidence set aside, a person must draw his arguments from badly construed logic based on a false premise. This is why I have never met an argument for atheism that I could treat with any respect, and I have met the best of them.

The logical weaknesses mentioned in these two articles are glaring and obvious. The first article by Mary Jordan contains one of the best examples of feeble mindedness to date, namely the inability to make clear distinctions of fact. Take this paragraph as an example, since most of the article (which drags on to be needlessly long, and cries out for better editing) revolves around it.

"Many analysts trace the rise of what some are calling the 'nonreligious movement' to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The sight of religious fanatics killing 3,000 people caused many to begin questioning -- and rejecting -- all religion."

In other words, because Muslims are actually carrying on with the same violence we see in the historical Mohammed himself, a man who rejected both Judaism and Christianity, today's atheist uses the terrorism of Islam as an excuse to reject the same religions Mohammed persecuted. An inability to make the distinction between Christianity and the Wahabi sect of Islam indicates an intellectual handicap. Excuse making is a form of intellectual laziness, and anyone who fails to see the logical fallacy of such an argument demonstrates nothing more than either one of two faults: Either such a person is genuinely stupid, or he simply confuses his tastes with evidence. Because he does not like something he concludes that he can ignore it into a state of non-existence (and the fallen nature of man really does not like God, even when it is aware of needing him) .

Another problem is that of intellectual dishonesty. In the second article by Jacqueline L. Salmon, we are reminded of the fact that Christopher Hitchens distorted the writings of Mother Teresa (either intentionally, or because he had no understanding of what he was trying to read), and came to an embarrassingly foolish conclusion:

"Focusing fresh attention on atheism in the United States was the publication last week of a book about Mother Teresa that lays out her secret struggle with her doubts about God. 'Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light' has led some high-profile atheists to say that her spiritual wavering was actually atheism.

" 'She couldn't bring herself to believe in God, but she wished she could,' said Christopher Hitchens, a Washington-based columnist and author of 'God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,' the latest atheist bestseller."

About this I have already written on this blog, along with a link to a better review than Hitchens was capable of producing. How can a man with an atheist agenda understand the darker side of hagiography? It is like a man born blind trying to understand distinctions in color.

The article itself engages in intellectual dishonesty by a false comparison:

"In the past two years, five books touting atheism have hit the bestseller lists, outselling such religious tomes as Pope Benedict XVI's book on Jesus, and popular Christian novelist Tim LaHaye's latest book, 'Kingdom Come,' according to Nielsen BookScan."

Considering the small amounts of affirmative reading available to atheists, it is very easy to pick any specific Christian author and compare the sales of those books to the relatively narrow selection of anti-religious offerings, and boast about the results. It is a form of misinformation. I wonder how these atheist books compare with the world's constant best seller, The Bible.

Intellectual dishonesty is found at its sharpest in this second article by this little bit:

"Javier Sanchez-Yoza, 21, a biology major at George Mason University, is a former born-again Christian who gave up his belief in God two years ago and is starting an atheist club at school. He turned atheist after growing skeptical of Christian friends' arguments for creationism.

" 'If they can be wrong about creationism, what else can they be wrong about?' Sanchez-Yoza said."

So, because this man cannot believe in a literal six twenty-four hour days of creation, and in Adam and Eve as history, he has decided that there is no God. I suppose that this man can share the blame with Fundamentalists who cannot make the necessary distinctions either; but the Fundamentalists are seen as stupid, while this man, who makes the same error in logic, considers himself to be among, as they call themselves, "the brights."

Let's face it: Atheists are really boring, especially when they attempt to sound clever.


Albion Land said...

While we're on atheism, I heard an absolutely hilarious story yesterday. Don't know if it's an urban legend, but who cares.

Richard Dawkins' property suffered damage during this summer's extensive flooding in England.

His insurance company refused to pay up.

Their response was: "Since you don't believe in God, you obviously don't believe in Acts of God."

Warwickensis said...

Lovely if it's true, Albion.

I myself have blogged several times on this subject.

Even among scientist who are atheist, Dawkins is a joke.

Knowledge puffs up....

yours sincerely

Mr Dirigible

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart.

If you will pardon my saying so, the suggestion that articles from today's penny press do not reflect the "truly philosophic mind" is rather shooting fish in a barrel, don't you think?

Likewise criticisms of people like Hitchens or even Dawkins. The latter at least has some claim to a scientific training, but their popular writings are no more the products of a "philosophic mind" than are the efforts of Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore.

There is more than one way of being an atheist. I myself have known an Episcopal deacon who held a doctorate from the Kennedy School at Harvard; the man did not "believe in God" in any meaningful way any more than he believed in the tooth fairy, but he would never have called himself an atheist. Not good for the career, you know.

Others are atheist by default, having had no positive training that would lead them to theist (never mind Christian) belief. It seems to me -- and I have very little claim to a "truly philosophic mind" -- that people who have spent all or most of their lives with a serious committment to Christianity can forget just what a leap God (the Christian one, rather than the generic benevolent watchmaker) is for the atheist-by-default.

Is Christianity, or even theistic belief, only open to the "truly philosophic mind" ?

Further, you say that arguments for atheism are unworthy of respect. This may well be so, since the proof of a negative is, you may agree, inherently more than a little difficult. Do atheists have the burden of proof?

You may consider any of the questions above as rhetorical.

I do not challenge you do a debate on this subject; I doubt either of us has the time, and such debates tend to be rather lengthy and usually fruitless, for one reason or another. Let me ask, however: would you be interested in offering a commentary on Col 4:5-6 ? Or would your "Do the work of an evangelist" of the 11th instant cover that? In any case, perhaps you would care to recommend a book or two that review the question of atheism v. Christianity.



Fr. Robert Hart said...

Is Christianity, or even theistic belief, only open to the "truly philosophic mind" ?

No. But atheism is not an option for such a mind, or for a working mind at all.

Do atheists have the burden of proof?

Yes, for the simple reasons that 1) anything exists at all, and 2) the obvious fact of design in everything that can be observed (the word "intelligent" being wholly unnecessary since it is obvious).

Col.4:5,6 fits well with Prov. 26:4,5.

Anonymous said...

But Albion, isn't the whole point of Acts of God that they are an exemption on the basis of which insurance companies don't have to pay? If that is the case, then perhaps Prof. Dawkins turned up at his insurer's office brandishing his policy and shouting: "I don't believe in God, so I don't believe in Acts of God, so that flood wasn't an Act of God, so you've got to pay!" Which party would we rather see with egg on its face: Dawkins, or an insurance company? Hmmmmmmmmmm, difficult choice.

Albion Land said...


Very good point! I would love to see the case go to the courts.

Reminds me of a play I started writing 25 years ago but never got past Act I, Scene I. The story was about a wealthy and eccentric widow who died and left her entire fortune ... to God.

poetreader said...

Faith is the one essential to thinking.

A theist (and more so an authentic Christian) makes a leap of faith to accept both the existence and role of a God who is beyond proof.

An atheist declares his faith in an unprovable negative: that there is no god.

An agnostic survives by faith in the proposition that God's existence or nonexistence really doesn't matter

A scientist has faith that things exist, that observation is possible, and that there is any element of predcatbility in what one observes of things. None of this can be proven.

In fact, there is no one who can prove to me to my own satisfaction that I actually exist. I take that proposition on faith. Philosophic Hindu Monism, on the other hand, would take the contrary position that there is no existence whatever (including my own), and all is maya or illusion.

Every act of thinking, then, is predicated upon some kind of non-rational presupposition.

If Dawkins et al would admit to the ultimately faith-based nature of their atheism, then their supposed 'proofs' would be revealed as what they are: more or less facile expressions of the implications oif their guiding assumptions.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

If Dawkins et al would admit to the ultimately faith-based nature of their atheism, then their supposed 'proofs' would be revealed as what they are: more or less facile expressions of the implications oif their guiding assumptions.

I have an article coming up in Touchstone, per David Mills, about Dawkins- otherwise I would say more about him right now. But, suffice to say, in his debate with Francis Collins in Time magazine, he contradicted his own claim to be an atheist without knowing what he had done, obviously lacking the necessary education to grasp the difference between atheism and agnosticism. And, not even agnosticism about whether there is a God or not, but about revelation that points to a "specific God." He has half the faith right- Apophatic theology; what he needs is the other half, revelation. But, he has confused Apophasis with atheism. Nonetheless, he has been mislabeling himself all along, and does not even know it. Read my Touchstone article on it when it comes out (yes, that is a shameless plug).

In fact, there is no one who can prove to me to my own satisfaction that I actually exist.

But, you think; therefore you are.
Even if we begin with DesCartes, we still move from the existence of our minds to a creator by logical progression. The issue is not if there is a God, but rather the issue is revelation
9:03 PM