Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reviewing Randal Rauser's "The Swedish Atheist.." Chapter 7



Chapter 7: Faith
We come to the chapter on faith. Instead of covering three chapters all at once as I have been, I’m going to focus on dissecting the Faith chapter a little bit more in depth, as whenever a Christian, or for that matter theologian, begins to talk about faith you can be sure it’s not going to be a short walk in the park.

After waxing on about how doctrines like idealism and solipsism have been well defended in the past, Randal uses this analogy to try to get Sheridan to see that such paradigms are generally accepted as sound paradigms without having to be explicitly based on evidence, mentioning “we  all take a step beyond the evidence.”

Sheridan refuses to accept such a proposition and balks, “I believe based on evidence, not faith.”

I would correct Sheridan and say most atheists tend to believe in things based on the reliability of the evidence, and that we also hold beliefs that aren’t based on evidence, but consider such beliefs provisional. That is, we hold a certain amount of trust in them as either true or false, and this sort of confidence in certain beliefs is a type of faith, but it's not religious faith. That's an altogether different type of faith (but more on this later).

Suddenly we shift topics and we’re not talking about evidence based faith, but are now talking about religious indoctrination as a form of child abuse. The shift was so sudden that I was a little disoriented by it, because in a realistic conversation, even one that meanders a bit, the subject wouldn’t change completely mid-sentence, out of the blue.

At any rate, Randal pulls out a copy of Richard Dawkins’ book A Devil’s Chaplain, and quotes from the book, but then largely ignores the quote, when Sheridan challenges him on the front that teaching children to fear hell is child abuse.

Randal responds it could be, and goes on to say, “It depends, among other things, on whether the doctrine is true and how it is taught.”

Wait. I’m going to stop here just to say that, as an educator of children (Elementary and Junior High) I can honestly say that teaching them fear based doctrine (often guilting them into agreeing with you--because you don't want to make Jehovah sad) is ALWAYS abuse when you neglect to teach them to think for themselves. 

Christians don’t say that Hell might be real, so make up your own mind. No! They say that Hell is real, so you better believe this way and act in this fashion, or else!

A couple of things: 1) This isn't teaching the child how to critically evaluate the concept of Hell for themselves, and actually has the opposite effect by teaching them to fear the very notion of Hell so they don't question it; and 2) Hell is a fictional place, and until an ounce of evidence for Hell’s actual physical address can be brought to light, then I’m afraid that’s the only consideration anyone needs to give it. 

If Hell is meant as more of a metaphor for the absence of God, then it’s not in tune with the Biblical description of Hell being a real place of physical suffering and torment, with fire and chains, wailing, and the gnashing of teeth and what not. Much like Heaven, everything we know about Hell comes from Christian conjecture, and that’s simply not good enough to hang a belief on. Let alone force children to believe it along with you.

“I don’t think it’s abusive for a Christian parent to teach his child the Apostles’ Creed or various Bible stories,” Randal informs.

Well, yes. We can assume as much, since Randal is a Christian, after all. But that doesn’t mean simply because he’s a Christian that it is right to teach Children certain Bible stories. I mean, do we want our children reading about God murdering, well, lots of innocent children? Do we want children to read all those bits about incest? What about all those bloody wars?

See, the problem I have here is that the Bible isn’t taught as a book of stories. If it was taught like The Brothers Grimm, as a collection of morality based fables and myths, I would have less of a problem with a Child wanting to read the Bible. Little Red Riding Hood is a very gruesome story with an excellent moral, and we teach it to children, but we do not teach it as a veritable account of history. 

Christians, on the other hand, do teach  the Bible as actual history, even though much of the Bible’s historical reliability has been disputed, and with good reason.

But a small child is extremely impressionable, and my greatest regret is the time I spent as a Christian Bible camp counselor brainwashing young children into believing in the truth of the Bible and blackmailing them (emotionally) to believe in places like Hell—where’d they go if they didn’t accept Jesus into their hearts.

So yeah, I have to strongly disagree with Randal. If you’re going to teach the Bible, then you have to make the child aware they’re reading only stories, not history. If you don’t do that, then minus the evidence to support your claims, you are in danger of using fear and authority as an incentive for your child to believe in the Bible as true, and that would be child abuse.

By now Sheridan has devolved into a silly puppet, with Randal’s hand up his ass, as he hops around saying absurdly rude things. The caricature has grown silly, and now it seems that Randal is just mocking atheists, unless he actually thinks, for whatever reason, that atheists really are like this? But I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here, and I think he’s just mocking atheists in general by making Sheridan more and more thick skulled and idiotic. Haha—look at the silly puppet dance and say stupid things! Silly atheist!

But at least we have made it back to the basing belief on evidence conversation. So Randal cites W.K. Clifford’s essay “Ethics of Belief” in which Clifford states it is always wrong to believe things on insufficient evidence.

Sheridan agrees and falls right into Randal’s trap. Randal then proceeds to inform his na├»ve atheist friend that there are some serious problems with Clifford’s maxim.

“Clifford offers no evidence for it: he just assumes that it’s true. But if we accept Clifford’s maxim, then we need evidence for it since according to the maxim, we need evidence for all claims.”

What Randal is doing is trying to engage in a semantic argument over the literal meaning of Clifford’s maxim. But without the context of the essay, we cannot say whether or not Clifford intended it as a literal, absolute, claim. We only have Randal’s word for it.

Still, the question remains is it wrong to believe in things on insufficient evidence? It may not be wrong in all cases, but certainly there are many cases where it would be an extremely bad idea. We could probably say it is always wrong to believe things on bad evidence. Insufficient is a rather vague term, and that’s why the conversation changes into one about the semantics involved.

So if you take the statement literally, as Randal does, then you can say the statement fails to support its own claim.

But I don’t believe most statements about philosophical principles are intended to be taken literally. Like I said, it depends on the context, but I’ve never known that many philosophers to be overly literal. A mathematician, as Clifford was, certainly could be forgiven for leaning toward the literal, but perhaps not when writing on ethics and belief—which are not black and white, true or false, subjects like mathmatics but are more or less subjectice.

Semantic discussions become important here, since the ‘meaning’ of a maxim might extend beyond what the original author intended, and so although the grammar leads the maxim to be self-defeating, that would only disprove that one particular interpretation, in this case Randal’s interpretation. 

The maxim might, however, still be sound, generally speaking. But Randal isn’t interested in different interpretations, and holds to a legalistic reading of the text. This often lends to limited interpretation of a text as well as poor textual analysis, but instead of boring you with all the dirty details of what constitutes good critical theory, we'll push on.

Coming back to the book, Randal rejects the Clifford's maxim altogether, feeling that it contradicts its own conditions—which it does when you’re unwilling to allow for other interpretations apart from the literal one framed by the grammar of the maxim. Randal states:

“If we require evidence for everything then we face an infinite regress since every evidence provided for a belief would itself require supporting evidence, and that evidence would in turn require evidence, and so on forever.”

It seems that Randal is trying to raise the same criticism that William James did in his lecture “Will to Believe” which was a direct response to Clifford’s “The Ethics of Belief”. This is not at all a light topic, mind you, and it deserves its own grande conversation for another time.

Before continuing on however, I think Randal could have benefited from some footnotes. If I hadn’t read my William James, and I'm sure there are those who haven't, there simply is no way to make the connection that Randal wants the reader to make with respect to his bringing up Clifford. At least, footnotes would have helped in the areas Randal just breezes by.

Skipping ahead, Randal moves on to defining reason. (Again, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the subject changes, which always seem to come quite suddenly.) Subsequently, Randal quotes the philosopher Anthony Kenny, who informs us that reason is the regulatory device that allows us to find an optimal balance between doubt and belief. I'm inclined to agree with this definition.

After talking on Descartes and reasonable doubt, Randal states, “Obviously it’s reasonable to doubt at times, but other times it’s reasonable to believe, even though you could be wrong.”

This statement I agree with. The one that follows it I do not.

“Sometimes stepping out in faith is the most reasonable thing to do.”

Do you see the problem here? Randal first says it is reasonable to doubt at times, which is true. He then says it is reasonable to have faith at times, which is also true. Then he says having faith is sometimes the most reasonable thing to do.

Wait. What? Why?

Why would having faith, knowing very well that we might be wrong, be more reasonable than doubt, if it did indeed turn out we were wrong? And if we were right, then all that means is we were lucky. We guessed right. But that simply makes us imprudent, not reasonable.

I often find myself in agreement with the late Christopher Hitchens who lamented that faith is the most overrated of the virtues. Additionally, we must note that there are different types of faith.

Most atheists, for example, are critical of religious faith, but faith in general is akin more to having trust or confidence in the reliability of certain claims, full well knowing we could be wrong. 

But this leaves us wondering, how is having confidence over not having confidence more reasonable, let alone, the most reasonable thing to do?

Personally, I would have said that sometimes having faith is necessary, because we don’t know. We have faith in the Big Bang Theory, because we don’t know of any other paradigms that can replace it, even though we know that we could be wrong. In fact, its incompatibility with Quantum mechanics suggests that something is severely wrong with one, if not both, theories. But there cannot be a revolution in thinking until a better paradigm comes along (this was, coincidentally enough, Thomas Kuhn’s main thesis in the aforementioned The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).

Notice that Randal seems to be conflating two separate definitions of faith. Typically speaking, atheists mean to criticize religious faith—which is belief in the doctrines of religion based on spiritual conviction instead of reason (Oxford Dictionary of English, 2005)—and nottrust or confidence in the reliability of a belief or claim (ODE, 2005). Alas, it seems Randal has been working under the assumption that the two forms of faith are one and the same, otherwise he’d agree with Sheridan’s initial criticism about blind faith, which he clearly doesn’t.

Again, I can’t help but see this as the semantics ploy of the apologist to rhetorically strong hand the reader into agreeing with them. Conflate religious faith and common faith, ignoring the distinction between the variant usages of the term, and then say atheists are guilty of dismissing faith too easily (when in fact they are only dismissing one type of faith, religious faith). It seems a little dishonest, doesn't it? But if you’re familiar with Christian apologetics, you’ll find such semantic gymnastics all too familiar.

Randal is obviously using an apologetic tactic designed to sew semantic confusion in order to persuade the reader. It works because people who are in confusion typically want to come to a definitive conclusion, so the trick is to get their head spinning long enough to give them a nudge so they come down on your side of things.

But let’s not be fooled, we’re clearly talking about very different kinds of faith.

Right after a brief description of how scientists rely on faith (i.e., trust) Randal exclaims that belief, faith, and reason are all tangled up. 

This is more or less true, as far as common experience goes, but Randal has in mind religious experience as well, and there is a reason that religious faith is defined as being predicated on conviction and not reason, because it is. 

So although Randal isn’t wrong here with regard to general, every day, faith—he is still mixing up two very different kinds of faith. He even quotes Mark Twain’s definition of faith, which is: believing what you know ain’t true, and cites it as foolhardyBut Mark Twain was remarking on religious faith, the kind familiar to him in the pious South. So clearly Twain’s definition of faith has nothing to do with common trust and confidence in our everyday experiences but rather deals with the credulity of the religious believer.

Randal concludes chapter seven by affirming that “the starting point of knowledge is faith.”

This very well may be true. But knowledge is more complicated than just having faith in a belief proposition or not. Many different factors contribute to the formation of knowledge, and that also deserves its own grande conversation, for another time.

This concludes chapter seven. Chapter eight is entitled: So Which Beliefs Are “Properly Basic”? As you can guess by the title, Randal will be getting into some epistemology. 

Now I enjoy epistemology as much as the next person, but if it’s anything like this chapter, then I think we’re in for a real roller-coaster ride and a flurry of dizzying information, randomly selected out of thin air, all of it twisting and winding every which direction, tying us in knots, seemingly all at once. Are you up for it?



Reviewing Randal Rauser’s “The Swedish Atheist…” Chapters 4-6



Chapter 4: “Reasonable” Scientists. “Deluded” Believers and the Quest for Objectivity.
I begin reading this chapter with the strange feeling of anticipation, like I’m idling at the traffic light waiting for it to turn green, but suddenly having the feeling that I’ve been waiting at the light for too long—even though it’s been the standard amount of time. Ever have that feeling?

Anyway, Sheridan seems to be a young atheist, and uses a polemical language calling Randal’s beliefs “weird” to his face and then informs him that the reason he prescribes to these so-called weird beliefs is because he isn’t being entirely objective.

It seems that either Sheridan hasn’t had much experience talking to believers in person, or else, Randal has had too much experience talking with online atheists. Either way, Sheridan comes off as a rather unrefined atheist. Which is fine, there are such types, but in my experience well educated atheists, especially those who have their Masters or PhD, tend to be much more sympathetic—at least insofar as tone is concerned—when dealing with believers.

But at the same time, Sheridan’s criticism isn’t entirely wrong. Most religious people do hold a plethora of weird and strange beliefs because they didn’t come to these beliefs in any objective fashion. Sheridan then starts up again and basically resigns Christians to being unstable suckers, which Randal rightly contends. But the more I read it seems Sheridan’s rather ascerbic tone is merely a tool for which Randal can bounce sarcastic quips off of. Although some might find the banter entertaining, it borders on the mundane, and I can’t help but feel the same was when I hear a group of chatty Nancies gossiping about someone I know better than they do. I always get the same feeling in such situations; the feeling that I need to let out a big sigh to relieve the stress, let loose an eye roll, and the sudden urge to leave the room.

And again I feel like I’m stuck in traffic, as the dialog hasn’t progressed very much in chapter four. It’s just more of Sheridan’s ranting and, although the points raised so far do represent some common criticisms of religious belief on average, Randal is taking his sweet time getting to them.

Sheridan informs, “Some beliefs are reasonable because they’re open to evidence and confirmation. But others are not. Those are the ones you need to worry about.”

After a bit of biographical background (as it turns out Sheridan is an ex-Christian) Randal finally begins to address some of Sheridan’s criticisms.

Before I get into Randal’s rebuttals to Sheridan, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the discussion about the meaning of life. Such discussions typically begin with talk about meaning and purpose. So far we’ve only heard Sheridan rant some more. But Randal launches into talking about subjectivism and plausibility frame works and says “there’s no neutral way to judge whose beliefs are ‘weird’” in such a situation.

Although I personally feel that if we could eliminate our pesky biases, as best as possible, we could then objectively say certain beliefs are more or less weird because they would more or less be founded on our innate biases. A belief that rests on an unfounded bias would undoubtedly be more in danger of being genuinely strange or weird than a belief that is not. And biases are something we can account for, since there are certain biases everyone shares in certain categories, so it wouldn’t be difficult to find a baseline to test our beliefs against the biases we hold. Much of experimental and behavior psychology already does this, and modern neuroscience has joined the band wagon in seeing how certain beliefs affect the brain on the physical level. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we may one day be able to state that this or that belief is or less objectively weird than this other one.

But this is a book on philosophy by a theologian, so we can forgive Randal for not being concerned with the psychological effects of belief.

Our friendly, not so friendly, seemingly bi-polar atheist, Sheridan, closes with a challenge for Randal to, essentially, take the Outside Test of Faith (see John W. Loftus’ book by the same title, which is a strong compelling argument for our acquired beliefs being largely the accident of our birth—and the only way to realize this is to put ourselves in the mindset of the outsider).


Chapter 5: What Must You Do to See a Buffalo or Cast a Vote?
Speak of the Devil and he shall appear, the old Christian superstition goes. I anticipated Loftus and low and behold Sheridan produces the book The Christian Delusion, edited by none other than, you guessed it, John W. Loftus.

Randal proceeds to “apply some critical thinking” to the outsider test of faith (his words not mine) and raises the objection to the second premise of the challenge, asking, “What makes the level of a religion’s causal dependence on culture ‘overwhelming’?”

Randal then asserts that the second premise cannot simply be assumed, that one must defend it, before he is willing to accept such a claim.

I’ll pause here to mention that I find this a bit disingenuous. The second premise isn’t so much that religion is exclusively dependent on culture, but that culture influences religion to an overwhelming degree. This assumption seems to be a common sense one based off of observation of how religion incorporates culture and vise versa. The area of study known as the philosophy of religion is dedicated to investigating the relationship between culture and religion within human society, and to a more nuanced degree, the psychology of religion investigates the casual relationships of these relationships even further. But I see what Randal is getting at. He wants us to purse out which influences are strictly cultural and which are strictly religious, but in most cases I do not think we need to delineate the two, because religion is simply another form of manmade culture. The fact that cultures are organic, and can influence each other to, often times, overwhelming degrees is well documented throughout human history and experience.

So I do not see why Randal objects, or why he thinks we need to draw a line down the middle between religious influence and cultural influence, especially since we can reverse the claim to say that religion influences culture as much as culture influences religion. Unless that's his point? But then he's simply mistaken how most atheists view it.

I feel it helps us to think about being born into an Islamic society that practices Sharia law. This is a prime example of religion directing and influencing the course of culture to a domineering degree. But the assumption that if you were born into a predominantly Muslim society then you’d have the overwhelming chance of being born Muslim is not a radical proposition. In fact, studies have shown time and again that the majority of people acquire their beliefs through their parents and local cultures (see Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain, where he touches on this fact in detail).

Randal’s reaction is to open a psychology book to prove that our perceptions are shaped by culture and environment. Although this is quite true, it seems beside the point. Why bring it up now? Well, Randal wants us to understand that “our perceptual judgments are not free of context.”

Here I had to do a double take. Because that is exactly what the second claim of the outsider test of faith is getting at! Our perception of the world is not free of context, such as the context of being born inside a predominantly Muslim society. Being born and raised in the context of an Islamic country means you’d have the overwhelming chance of being raised Muslim. That’s the whole point of asking someone to step out of the context for a bit to try and gain a new perspective, and perhaps see the bigger picture, if you will.

Continuing on, Randal informs, “But even though we know that perception is shaped by our culture and experience, we don’t thereby cast doubt on all our perception.”

Well, this is true. But it seems to only reinforce Sheridan’s point that Loftus’s challenge is worth considering. Randal doesn’t seem to be aware that he’s arguing against himself here, and asks, “Couldn’t they [religious beliefs] be generally trustworthy even though they too are shaped by culture and environment?”

No. Not really. You see, the problem arises when we are born into cultures and religious belief systems where certain ubiquitous beliefs are deemed generally trustworthy, but totally aren’t. Slavery is a prime example of a belief, namely the ownership of other human beings, was morally okay and even justifiable—even though it totally isn’t. Eugenics as practiced in Nazi Germany and the United States is another example of this. At the time everyone taken by the novelty of breeding genetically superior human beings thought it might be a good idea to attempt to weed out what they perceived to be the genetically inferior human beings, because their perspective was thus limited to the general trustworthiness of the belief given the cultural context.

In order to realize that slavery and eugenics were not good ideas, humans had to step back and take a look at the larger whole. In other words, we had to account for other contexts.

Randal switches gears and begins discussing Thomas Kuhn, in this case to demonstrate to Sheridan how even the scientific consensus is contextual, i.e. that “the scientist’s perception of data is conditioned by the paradigm or model by which she interprets the data.” I’m not going to argue against Randal’s usage of Kuhn other than to say it is a needless tangent, but going along with Randal’s tangent for now I recommend you watch the series of YouTube lectures put out by SisyphusRedeemed in which he covers Thomas Kuhn, extensively (you know, if you don't have the time to actually sit down and read Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).

Randal then states “…if you’re going to apply a skeptical outsider test to a person’s religion, you should apply it to their other beliefs, too.”

Well, I for the most part agree. Accept to say most people do not have the luxury or time, and asking them to examine their religious beliefs is much easier because most religious beliefs are easily distinguishable from regular everyday beliefs. For this reason its easier to consider the context within which to think about and examine religious beliefs, whereas considering all our beliefs becomes many magnitudes more difficult due to the fact that our everyday beliefs tend to overlap, blend together, piggy back one another, and so on and so forth—without the convenience of being able to easily categorize them or necessarily identify any perceived context.

It still seems like Randal is arguing for the outsider test of faith on a more general level, so I do not see why he contends it when asked to apply it to his religion.

Randal has Sheridan dogmatically affirm that anyone who “submitted their religion to the outsider test would become an atheist,” to which Randal responds, “That sounds reasonable… just like the assumption that anybody who truly submitted their favorite type of music to the outsider test would eventually be converted to polka, because obviously music just doesn’t get better than America’s polka king Frankie Yankovic.”

Here we stumble on Randal’s first really horrible analogy and, dare I say it, poor reasoning. The reason the analogy is incorrect is that music is strictly a subjective matter of taste. A person fancies this kind of music or that. But to equate all beliefs to a matter of taste is simplifying things too much. I do not mean to dismiss the possibility that many of our beliefs may be dependent on nothing more complicated than preference, but where truth matters are concerned, it stems to reason that certain beliefs will prove true, others false, and some indeterminate.

The problem I have with Randal’s reasoning in this instance is twofold. First off, Randal’s Sheridan is prone to making overly emphatic doxastic statements, but I do not think most atheists are as dogmatic as Randal is pretending them to be. Some certainly are, I’m not denying that, but I think many atheists, especially those who have come out of religion and are quite familiar with it, would realize that the outsider test of faith isn’t meant to deconvert anyone, per se. Rather, it is simply designed to broaden their worldview, and have them contend with competing beliefs and belief systems which they may have previously dismissed or taken completely for granted. Whether or not they gradually lose faith is beside the point, but it exists as one possible outcome of their investigation of such questions. I don’t see why that would necessarily pose a problem. I mean, assuming the analogy was sound (which it’s not) so what if everyone happened to come to the rational conclusion that Polka music is the best kind of music?

The second reason I feel Randal’s reasoning isn’t up to par here is that he meandered too much, raising numerous points, but he never tied them back to anything. He never formulated an argument. He only raised more questions, then didn’t answer any of those either. Granted, he may be doing this intentionally, as he might be more concerned with getting us (the reader) to think about these issues than supplying any definitive answers either way. But regardless, the problem is that by raising so many various points—he is deliberately confusing his reader. Instead of staying on point, the reader is now juggling all of these heavy handed philosophical concepts, and it makes it rather difficult to guess at what Randal, or his alter ego Sheridan, might be getting at. With so many balls up in the air, the conversation could land anywhere. Here, there, maybe over there. It could continue on in a straight fashion or unexpectedly take a u-turn. It might go off on other tangents. Hell, for all we know it might get stuck and, like rush-hour traffic on the bloody 405, come to a screeching halt.

But this needn’t be. If Randal had a point worth making he could simply make it, without all the unnecessary sophistry. Because at this point it is clear that Randal still needs to make a point.


Chapter 6: God, Matter and Other Astonishing Hypotheses
What ever happened to Randal answer Sheridan’s question relating to Bill Maher? When are we going to start talking about the meaning of life? Will Randal eventually explain why he thinks the outsider test of faith isn’t adequate for testing religious belief but then turn right around and explain why he thinks we should apply it to all our beliefs?

Probably not. It seems that much of the dialog thus far has fallen into the predictable pattern of simply raising points of inquiry, for the sake of argument, but then abandon them at the first chance and shift to other topics.

Those familiar with the way Randal thinks will recognize this disorganized, meandering, mess of ideas and questions as one of his trademark features. I do not mean it to be taken disparagingly, but only wish to point out this personality quirk as a way to explain to those less familiar with Randal why his book is suddenly starting to feel like it’s falling apart. I’m sure that in Randal’s mind he is making the connections and keeping everything straight, but the way it comes out on paper it’s rather cluttered and, sorry to say, confusing. The points aren’t confusing, in and of themselves, but Randal’s intended meaning, or his choice to raise this issue over that one, or ignore this tangent he started in favor of going down this different one, can become a little bit distracting to the reader.

If I were Randal’s editor I would have asked him to go back and make sure each chapter had a short premise, a thesis, and a conclusion of that thesis, or conversely, that each subject discussed would support the next subject discussed, so that the conversation would daisy-chain together in a way that reaffirms Randal’s key points. From a publishing perspective this would have made the book much more reader friendly and certainly more accessible to the layman. When I write and edit books my goal is always to make them as accessible as possible to the reader, and the feeling I have at this moment is that this book is growing more and more cluttered and convoluted, as conversations often tend to do, isn’t going anywhere in particular. Instead of a grande conversation we are merely getting a decadent one, and there is a subtle difference.

That’s the danger of writing this type of imagined dialog. Unless you have something very specific to say, such as C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters or David Hume’s The Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, it often becomes bogged down by unstructured freestyle verse of unspecified conversation. Who knows, maybe I’m being too hard on Randal? Maybe there are people that feel satisfied reading pages after pages of dialog that goes nowhere, but if I put down the book now, six chapters in, I can honestly say I still wouldn’t have gained anything here. Hopefully Randal will find something worth talking about in the next few pages. So, moving along…

Suddenly our discussion shifts to the Big Bang Theory and the atheist physicist and author Victor J. Stenger. Randal contends Victor Stenger’s claim that God is an astonishing hypothesis, saying it is “doubly flawed.”

“Stenger gets the nature of Christian belief about God all wrong,” Randal informs. “for Christians, God isn’t a hypothesis; he’s a living, experienced reality.”

Of course, I can’t help but point out one small thing—as far as Christians are concerned, yes, that’s what Christians tend to believe, but it doesn’t mean it is true. How would they know that God really was how they experienced him if they never contrasted such beliefs and experiences with that of other equally viable religious beliefs and experiences? See, I do not think Stenger is wrong in assuming the Christian God is an astonishing hypothesis, because any hypothesis which is taken on a matter of faith and not thoroughly vetted could certainly be described as astonishing.

Randal complains, “Stenger’s labeling of belief in God as ‘astonishing’ is just self-serving.”

Well, unless it’s not. Victor Stenger may simply be pointing out what I have above, mainly that Christianity is largely a faith-based proposition, and belief in God is so too one taken as a matter of faith, not tested. Randal’s right that it’s not an argument against Christianity, but it’s not intended as one. It is merely raising the point that in order to buy into the Christian claims that one has to accept certain astonishing beliefs. What’s not astonishing about belief in God—something which is thus far empirically unjustified, logically incoherent, and so complicated as to leave most serious thinkers dumbfounded? What’s not astonishing about that?

Meanwhile, Sheridan is turning more and more into a caricature of angry, or militant, atheists. He is now throwing out insults on a regular basis and smirking much more than is typical—unless you’re a cartoon villain.

I must say that in my experiences of atheists, most of them have been much more cordial and sympathetic than Sheridan is depicted here. Of course, this comes back to my point that I think Randal might be formulating a biased impression of atheists based on his online experiences with certain firebrands, which do not accurately reflect all atheists, I’m glad to report. Firebrands of the Internet variety tend to be a lot more dogmatic in their language, a lot more argumentative, and certainly represent the mirrored reflection of the religious Fundamentalist they so love to deride. But there are reasons which explain why firebrands choose to use these familiar “religious” tactics against the religious. Does it make it excusable? Well, I think it depends on the context. But my point is that not all atheists behave like firebrands. So either Randal is under a misconception, and is guilty of some stereotyping (something which is unavoidable when you’re playing Devil’s advocate), or he is deliberately making his Sheridan character more militant to remind us (the reader) as his role as lead antagonist so that Randal may, later on, take the high horse and come out the shining example of an intellectual hero.

Either way, it seems there is an ulterior motive behind increasing Sheridan’s obstinacy, and that also stems from not having anything particular interesting to say. When I read The Screwtape Letters I was captivated from beginning to end. That’s because Lewis had something worth saying, and he used his characters to make his point for him. So far, Randal seems to be stuck in rapid fire mode, where he just rattles off one idea after another, and instead of offering real rebuttals to atheistic criticisms he offers mere deflections.

Bringing up idealism, Randal gives a short lecture on the subject before shifting onto a brief discussion of realism. All this is to raise the point why Randal disagrees with Victor J. Stenger. But really, we don’t learn much else that that, Randal disagrees with Victor Stenger. So what?

After shifting focus, again, Randal describes what properly basic beliefs and defeaters are. At this point it seems he may be trying to formulate a more coherent argument against atheism, as his comparison between atheism and idealism suggested. But then Sheridan says something genuinely important, stating, “atheism is simpler than theism. We can explain everything in the world without positing the existence of a magic sky God.”

To which Randal replies, “And I don’t accept that.”

Randal goes on to give an example how simpler explanations aren’t always preferable, and of course, there are exceptions, I’m sure. But simpler explanations aren’t preferable because they are simple, they are preferable because they assume less but explain the same amount as other more complicated explanations.

Sheridan is not wrong when he states atheism is simpler, as it certainly assumes less. God belief is already more complicated because, unlike atheism, it assumes a God in order to explain the natural universe. But under a rigid naturalism, no such explanatory device is necessary. So what we can say now is not only is atheism simpler, but it appears to be compatible with naturalism ad the material world as we view it. Theism is not. And in order to harmonize theistic belief with the natural world, well, that takes more theology and more apologetics.

I should say the simpler explanation is to be preferred, a few exceptions notwithstanding.


I’m going to end my discussion of chapter six here. Next time I will look at chapter 7 which is simply titled: Faith.


Reviewing Randal Rauser’s “The Swedish Atheist…” Chapters 1-3



Chapter 1: The Sacramental Properties of Caffeine
After several pages of, well, talking about how great coffee shops are, Randal decides to hold his fictional dialog in, well, a coffee shop. I felt this whole introductory bit ran a bit long. It’s well written, and is good world building, but quite unnecessary for a book of this sort, in my opinion.

Randal then likens his readers to Avatars, and invites the reader to actively take part in the imaginative exercise of make-believing along with him that we are in the coffee shop. Again, I felt it was an unnecessary, since any well written dialog would have the natural effect of drawing the reader in. Then suddenly there is a secret hidden chapter, the chapter between chapters 1 and 2, for no explainable reason.

In the literary world this is what is called imaginative non-fiction writing. And I’m fine with imaginative non-fiction, but we’re already a dozen or so pages into the book (forgive me is I do not know the exact page count as I am reading it on my Kindle) and so far nothing has happened. We haven’t even been introduced to anything substantial let alone been given our characters.


The Chapter between Chapters 1 and 2
The hidden chapter was inserted as something of an afterthought, according to Randal, who is addressing a later criticism he received after having sent out the finished manuscript. Apparently one reader felt that “a fictional narrative in which you write yourself in as the main character” felt too much like a vanity project. It’s Randal combating the evil atheist, so to speak, and it sets himself up to be the champion and therefore brings a less objective sounding tone to the narrative. But where imaginative non-fiction is concerned, it really doesn’t bother me so much, whether it is a memoir or a book of this sort, although I do agree with the beta-reader’s suggestion that Randal might have opted to make the protagonist a generic Christian voice—instead of a personal one—but then again it’s not my book, and besides, Randal addresses this concern informing, “I want this book to provide an example of how I might engage in an extended grande conversation.”

Really, although I find the book well written (thus far), this material probably should have been designated as front matter, since that’s technically what it is, and it’s like having a secondary introduction placed halfway into chapter one—for no apparent reason—and that bothers me. As an editor of several volumes, I find sticking to the traditional format of a book aids in making the book accessible to new readers. Trying artistic things like hidden chapters is fine, but at the same time I can’t help but feel the book is dragging on and we still haven’t gotten to any real content.

That’s it for chapters 1 and 1.5. After getting to chapter 2 I couldn’t help but have the slight feeling of being let down. After all, we didn’t even get to talk about our cast—that is, the secret chapter was merely an extend introduction where Randal talked mostly about himself. I was waiting for the antagonist to arrive. But still no sign of him (or her).


Chapter 2: Why a Good Argument Ain’t Such a Bad Thing
In this extremely brief chapter Randal engages in more world building and fleshes out the coffee shop in detailed fashion while inviting us to take a seat next to him as he scans the room for someone to engage in the grande conversation with. It seems Randal’s only real goal here is to establish that argumentation is, technically speaking, a good thing when engaging in the “dogged pursuit of truth.”


Chapter 3: The Grande Conversation Begins
In chapter 3, The Grande Conversation Begins, Randal informs “I think today we should look for an atheist-skeptic type since the secular worldview constitutes the most serious challenge to Christianity in the West.”

The next scene was genuinely funny, and I practically laughed out loud, when Randal pulls out a copy of Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” and uses is as atheist bait.

Soon enough Randal manages to snag a grad-student, who introduces himself as Sheridan. Randal comments on it being an interesting name and we learn that Sheridan means ‘seeker’ in Irish.

The conversation quickly heats up as our atheist brings up Bill Maher’s film Religulous and if you have any experience with Randal, well, Randal does what Randal always does and instantly calls into question the credentials of Bill Mayer, citing, “Bill Maher is a—say it with me—a comedian, an entertainer, not a historian. You don’t exactly see him going head to head with leading scholars, do you?”

Well, no, no we don’t Randal. But that wasn’t the intent or purpose of Riligulous now, was it? No, it wasn’t. –Of course, don’t mistake me, I only employ this patronizing tone because Randal invoked it first, and whether or not you’re religious or not, the whole “say it with me” thing sounds rather condescending—as if Randal has to talk to us like halfwit illiterates. The voice in the back of my head instantly screamed, “Don’t tell me what to say!” Then after a two second pause, it screamed again, “Don’t tell Sheridan what to say!”

What we find here is the tone of the rhetorician disguised as a lecturer interested in the dialectic, and I think this is perhaps where Randal’s apologetic training gets the better of him. It’s clear that he wants to impress and persuade us, the reader, with his contention of Maher’s credentials, but really, it does nothing for the conversation. It certainly doesn’t address the atheist’s question.

Randal continues needlessly raging on Maher for a few more paragraphs when Sheridan finally asks him the stereotypical question “Why not believe in Zeus or Thor instead?”

Sheridan likes to talk apparently, and suddenly raises far too many issues than can be adequately answered all at once (although I find this to be the tendency of Christian apologists more than philosophical minded atheists, in my experience).

I don’t know if Randal actually thinks most atheists are this scatter brained or if he’s just projecting, but regardless it seems like Randal is just packing on the stereotypical atheist contra-arguments for the invalidity of Christianity. It’s not that the issues are unimportant, as Sheridan raises some fine atheistic points. The ubiquity of Christianity being based largely on luck (but mostly based on Constantine’s adoption of it into the Roman Empire) and how Christian Trinitarianism reeks of the same old, same old superstitious religious blather (and it mainly does), and then contends the obviously fictitious elements of the Bible.

Yeah, it’s a lot all at once, and I kept feeling like the conversation felt rushed all of a sudden—as if Randal was making up for lost time after having spent two and a half chapters and an introduction wasting our time. Apart from this nitpick, it doesn’t seem that Randal has misrepresented the standard fair atheist arguments any--although Sheridan's candor can be a bit prickly. Still, Randal's portrayal is better than most apologists, as most cannot resist but to horrible distort and straw-man everything atheists say.

Sheridan finally cools down enough to share his real concern. “I just want religious people to be a bit more rational about their beliefs every once in a while.”

I’m with Sheridan here, or rather Randal’s alter-ego, but I would go one further and say that I just want people (in general) to be a bit more rational about their beliefs. But that’s because I am a rationalist at heart, and I always think better rationalism leads to better decision making and life choices, regardless of whether or not you’re religious.


Chapter 3 finishes with Randal inviting Sheridan to have a discussion on the meaning of life, which will be the subject of Chapter 4: “Reasonable” Scientists. “Deluded” Believers and the Quest for Objectivity. Chapter four promises to be interesting, even with the ominous quotation marks looming overhead.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Reviewing Rauser's "The Swedish Atheist..." Part 0 (Introduction)




Against my better judgment, I will be reviewing the Christian apologist and theologian Randal Rauser's book "The Swedish Atheist, Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails" from my Atheist perspective.

Now a days I tend to steer clear of apologetic works as I have had my fill of them from my three long decades as a devout Evangelical Christian--during which I rarely read anything else, unless it was the Bible, naturally. Having come out of a devout religious background I am quite familiar with the majority of the standard fair apologetic arguments and really haven't had any reason to go back and re-consider any of them--until now.

My recent online dealings with Randal Rauser have piqued my curiosity about his work as a Christian writer and apologist, and who seems (at least on the surface) to be more sophisticated than your average Christian apologists. Whether or not this impression is entirely true remains to be seen, but one thing that strikes me as unorthodox with regard to Randal is that he seems to genuinely understand the position of the secular nonbeliever yet still rejects it in favor of a classical Christian metaphysics. I want to know why.

In my experience most apologists only debate atheist straw-men and never seem to truly comprehend what atheism is or why it is, often saying things like, "It takes more faith to be an atheist than to believe in God." While many believers may fall victim to such horrid rationalizing, to his credit, Randal seems to buck the trend of apologists making shockingly bad arguments and, hopefully, will offer us something better than the asinine arguments we have come to expect from the enigmatic tradition of Christian apologetics.

For this reason I am interested in what Randal has to say on the subject of atheism, which is why I have decided to read his book, and subsequently write my own responses to it.

~***~


RANDAL'S INTRODUCTION

Randal's book takes the form of a dialog between a hypothetical atheist and himself, and promises to be an interesting insight into why Randal feels that atheistic arguments do not pass muster.  

The premise of the book is as follows:

Meet Randal Rauser, a Christian, and Sheridan, an atheist. Over the course of one caffeinated afternoon, they explore a range of honest questions and real objections to Christian faith.

As we continue to follow along with this hypothetical dialog between fictional characters, I will add my own reflections as we go and hopefully give you some additional things to reflect upon in addition to the ones raised here in the book.

Although my training is in theory and criticism, I am not going to be approaching this as a formal literary critique but rather a subjective response from my own unique background and perspective as a deconvert. In other words, please consider this more of a commentary than an actual analytically breakdown of the text. 

Before we get into the meat of the book, we must first consider Randal's introduction. In it he sets out to define what Apologetics is. He begins with the dictionary definition, then narrows it down further giving us his take on the Evangelical version of Christian apologetics, which he considers "combative" and off putting--even to many Christians. After considering several various definitions, Randal settles on the idea that Christian apologetics should be about getting at the truth.

Randal states, "...the best apologetic witness is found when we subordinate all other goals to the tireless pursuit of the truth."

I largely agree with Randal's sentiment here. Ideally, we should strive to uncover the truth, and if 'apologetics' is used in the sense of a good defense of one's beliefs, then having the truth would certainly make it easier to properly defend those beliefs.

Continuing on Randal informs us that he is interested in the "Grande Conversation." He explains that any conversation which has the goal of working toward the greater truth is part of this Grande Conversation, and this aligns with his redefined* definition of apologetics: The rigorous pursuit of truth in conversation.

[*Note: In this case Randal has more or less combined his new definition of apologetics and what he calls the Grande Conversation. That is, they are one and the same: a rigorous pursuit of truth in conversation. I only raise this point because Christian apologetics as it is in the broader scope of Christianity, both past and present, does not necessarily align with Randal's definition. As such, the diverging definitions for the same term may cause an unintended semantic confusion for those that might conflate Randal's term with Christian apologetics as traditionally understood--thereby holding the misconception that Christian apologetics--the combative kind Randal rejects--is akin to the pursuit of the truth. Although I doubt this confusion is one many would make, it serves us none the less to be aware of the possibility that such a confusion could potentially arise in those who wish to adopt Randal's definition but, at the same time, neglect to relinquish the original definition of Christian apologetics.]

So we come to the end of Randal's brief introduction in which he relays what his ideal apologetics is. 

I love apologetics and think it worth a lifetime of study and reflection. But I don't primarily see apologetics as the winning of arguments or converts. Rather, apologetics is the discovery of truth through a winding, weaving, honest, aimless, pointless and completely purposeful conversation in which two or more people desperately want to understand the way things really are.

Interestingly enough, we could equally apply Randal's description to science and the scientific spirit of investigation. Science isn't the winning of arguments, rather science is the discovery of truth and the understanding of the way things really are.

As we progress along with the book it will be interesting to see whether or not Randal sticks to his convictions and gives us something worth reflecting on in the hopes of growing towards a greater understanding, or whether we devolve back into the classical form of Christian apologetics we have grown so weary of.

Next time we will look at chapter one: The Sacramental Properties of Caffeine, and will discuss, in similar fashion, the content of the chapter.







Monday, October 14, 2013

Why are Atheists always Angry?

Why are atheists apparently always angry?
Why is the internet filled with angry diatribes against religion? Why do atheists write out all of religion's failings longer than their laundry list? Why do atheists feel like criticizing religion instead of praising it for its merits? Why are atheists so obsessed with religion? Why can't atheists just get over it?

I hear these sorts of questions a lot. Sometimes they even come from other atheists.


But I think there is something crucial that those who ask these types of questions miss with regard to atheism in general.

There is undeniably a psychological aspect to atheism they seem to be missing here.

Needless to say, atheism is merely the antecedent to theism. At its core atheism is a belief assumption in the invalidity of the theistic position. It has often been described as a "lack of belief" for this very reason.

But what doth compel one's atheism?


This is where the psychological aspect comes into play.



In my mind there are two common forms of atheism. More accurately, there are two ways one becomes atheist, which consequently leads to the two forms. Within these processes there we find subsets of atheistic thought, such as: nonbelief, disbelief, and unbliefOne's particular atheistic stance can fall just about anywhere on this scale, and it may vary from atheist to atheist. But for the most part, people come into atheism in one of two key ways.


1) They either begin without any prescribed to set of religious beliefs, and as a natural nonbeliever, start with atheism as their default belief.
...or...
2) They begin religious and then later, for whatever reason (or reasons), begin to reject these prior held beliefs.



After this, categorizing the types of atheists becomes tricky, because really it becomes about categorizing the types of beliefs atheists may hold apart from their atheism. 

But the real question we need to address is why would a person who was never religious to start with grow to despise and oppose religion as much as one who is currently rebelling against it? Well, to understand this phenomenon we must not be so naive as to think religion completely innocent in the matter, least of all in sparking the ire of the atheist.



Religion has, in many cases, genuinely caused mental anguish and physical harm. As might be expected, many atheists are simply in a process of healing. As for the particulars of the perceived abuses, I will cite two examples. One for each type of atheist.



Natural atheist/nonbeliever from birth
Consider yourself, for the sake of argument, a nonbeliever from birth. You have always been a nonbeliever. Maybe you were raised by scientific minded parents. Or maybe your parents just never were all that religious. Whatever reason, you simply have never been given any religious beliefs and so have never formulated an opinion on it. At most you reject it off-hand because it sounds outlandish and totally absurd, and in actuality, you have better things to be doing than worrying about which is the right religion of the gazillion which exist or have ever existed.

Okay, now consider that you are also a homosexual by birth. Through no fault of your own, you simply were born with a different set of biological programming.

As with any other minority, you were simply going about minding your own business, and just being you, when suddenly religion comes along and tells you that because you do not conform to its ideal person, that you're opinions simply do not matter. Your love isn't worth considering, because according to their standards you are somehow an abomination, and so you are restricted certain legal rights that everyone else enjoys.

To add insult to injury, you are told that you may not get married.

Why?

Because religion and the religious simply will not allow it. Probably more regrettably however, because they are the majority, they have used their numbers to out vote your minority status, and thereby have superseded your request for marriage equality and have practically guaranteed that you will continue to be restricted the same legal protections that they enjoy.

When you contest such iniquity you are viewed as a threat to their way of life, because you are different, and so they attack you again, this time in the public forum, to demonize you and insist that you are threatening to strip them of their privilaged status when, in actuality, they are the ones stripping you of your rights.

They call you names like faggot and abomination, and their spite seems to know no bounds. Sometimes people on the street jeer at you, make snide little comments just beyond earshot of you in the supermarket, and give you contemptible stares as you ride the bus--as if you were garbage in their eyes.

Why?  


Because you were born differently. Really. There's no other reason than that.


It's like telling the African American to sit at the BACK of the bus for no other reason than they're BLACK--because they just so happened to be born with a different biological make-up. It's the exact same narrow-minded, insular, and horribly intolerant attitude, no two ways about it. 


But to make matters worse, you don't believe in God!

Not only are you considered a genetic freak, an ungodly mutation, but you're immoral for being a God-denying-atheist. They begin to wonder, maybe you're not a homosexual by birth. Maybe that's just the "excuse" you use to continue being a rebellious, ungodly, hedonistic heathen.


Granted, one may point out that certain atheists are also for traditional marriage and have spoken out against marriage equality for same-sex couples, but I would venture to guess such types of atheists are rather ignorant. The fact that they are so few and far between suggests something else might be going on there. But we cannot deny that when it comes to the vast majority of the religious who want to maintain traditional marriage, this is entirely for religious reasons.



Imagine the sting of being denied the right to fully express your love, or to gain the same legal benefits as other married couples, because someone would rather oppress you than allow you basic human rights or learn to tolerate your differences.

I find it rather dense of anyone who'd come along and ask, "So, why are you always angry?"

Well... gee. Let me see?

I also find it rather dense of the religious when they cannot seem to understand why others would be angry at religion (and the religious in general) for intentionally degrading homosexuals--as if having compassion and empathy for our fellow brothers and sisters because of the unfair burdens placed upon them by religion somehow wasn't good enough.

Worse than these bewildered believers are the ones who make excuses for them. Not all religious believers are bad, they will remind us. But then again, I like to remind them that in order for the majority to strip the homosexual of their legal rights, that an unprecedented amount of religious believers have to vote in that way.

Instead of telling me that not all religious hate homosexuals and are anti-marriage equality, they should be telling their fellow religious brethren. At the very least this would cause interference, and confusion, among the religious leaders who would then have to contend with the heretical views of the large groups of genuinely compassionate religious believers, or look foolish in the process of turning on their own--for no other reason--then they simply wanted their religious leaders to act more kindly toward other fellow human beings.

But instead of doing this, they complain that we nonbelievers make too much of a big deal out of the negative aspects of religion. Well, duh. Because the negative aspects are impacting not only us, but everyone. Wasting taxpayer money to vote for stupid laws that strip legal rights from others, when nothing illegal is transpiring, impacts me (as a taxpayer) and everyone else.

If gays want to get married, let them! No skin off my back. But when I'm one of the people paying for the public servants time, I find it doubly offensive that I have to pay them to stand there and listen to why some idiot thinks that letting some same sex couples express their love through marriage is somehow a moral crime. Don't expect me to be happy about it.

But you don't have to be gay to receive such abuses from religion and the religious. Religion has historically oppressed the minority at every chance. Whether it be gays, women, children, people of various ethnicity, or even nonbelievers. Much of this religious oppression is not merely perceived, but quite real.

Being angry at oppressive bullying is natural.

Being angry that everyone devalues you and treats you like a second-class citizen is natural.

Being angry that they pretend not to understand why you're angry, even when they actively seek to do these things, cause these harms, is more than warranted.


Atheists Who Openly Reject Religion (And have reasons for doing so)
Then there are the atheists who have been brought up in religion and then, one day, grow a mind of their own.

We also find that these atheists tend to grow indignant anytime religion gets mentioned. But is it so strange? After all, they were indoctrinated early on into their parents' religious belief system, after which they were the lucky recipients of a long process of inculcation, so as to ensure they would never think for themselves.

Imagine being force-fed your food well past childhood into adulthood. Now, imagine maturing enough that you could not only feed yourself but explain to your parents that they needn't bother continuing to pamper you, but ignoring your request to feed yourself they insisted on pampering you anyway!

Now imagine every time you tried to express your discomfort and annoyance at their overbearing treatment they simply ignored you. When you became agitated and upset they threatened to spank you if you didn't obey their every word and follow their every rule.

Well, why wouldn't you grow angry as such dismissal of not only your autonomy but also the right to your own thoughts and actions?

Being controlled like a puppet is no fun at all. But being expected to dance like a marionette even after the strings have been cut, simply because someone bigger than you says "dance," is dehumanizing.



Making a list of grievances is simply part of the healing process for many atheists, and as for why there always seem to be angry atheists, well, we must realize that people are very different from one another. Some are able to heal faster. Some never get over the initial trauma.



So it seems callous, if you’ll excuse my candor, to expect all atheists not to be affected by religion in some way--or conversely--to expect atheists to be affected all in the same way.

Why are atheists angry? Come now, don't insult our intelligence. It's simply a stupid question.



Criticism Where Criticism is Due

But I do see the point about the bandwagon appeal many atheists make with respect to the more polemic driven forms of a robust and burgeoning atheism which seems to be rather "intolerant" of religious faith. 

Yet I do not quite see what the expectation here is supposed to be. 



Religion has bandwagon appeals down pat, it has always been rather robust and burgeoning, and has intolerance in spades. 

Saying the atheist shouldn't criticize religion's wrong doings is like saying we shouldn't criticize child rape because, after all, the person who did it was religious. I find this form of reasoning rather offensive, especially when so many religious leaders, for example, have frequently been caught molesting and raping small children. Don't criticize them? Don't be angry? You obviously have your priorities backwards if you think that there could ever be such a thing as too much criticism of these types of people and institutions which habitually make excuses for them.

But I get the point that we shouldn't lump together all religious into the same boat as child rapist priests and pedophile pastors. But come on! If there's a repeat pattern to these types of abuses, and it certainly seems there is, and if no other factors can link such habitual behavior other than the fact that all such offenders have been religious or used religion in such a way as to gain access to children, then we certainly can criticize the whole of religion, because this is a problem which everyone, especially the religious, need to address. The fact that so many have not, or simply turn a blind eye, is appalling.

So maybe there are occasions where it is better to lump all religious believers together, since it is their enterprise which is attracting such a mentality. If we can call them out, and say to them, hey, we think you have a serious problem here, and you might want to do something about it... well, then I think this is a constructive criticism. It will better address the issue than simply pretending that it's not my religion, it's not my church, it's that other guy's religion and church. 

I'm sorry, but that simply doesn't cut it. It's faulty logic--because it's denying that religion has any role to play whatsoever in these more than regrettable crimes. And maybe there are people who can maintain such a partition in their mind, and maybe they truly do not think their religion factors in at all--but then I would be willing to bet they simply aren't trying to engage their religion honestly or objectively. "It's not me, it's you..." is one of the first signs of denial. Rather, what the religious should be saying is, "It's definitely me, not you, but I want to try and fix this. How do we work together to address these problems?" 


It's sad that far too many religious people do not think this way. Instead their first reaction is to become defensive and ask, "Why are you so angry?"

How could we not be?


In Summation: Atheists are Fed Up
As human beings, what often gets overlooked is the fact that we are still prone to biases and bouts of irrationality. Not just the religious. Not just atheists. Everyone. 

So expecting atheists to be immune from bad reasoning or biases is, basically, to expect atheists to be superior to the religious with regard to rationality, and I for one do not see this as a fair expectation to have.



I get why people band together. Strength in numbers. Security. Support. A sense of familiarity and comradeship.

And maybe the aforementioned atheists who are still hurting from the sting religion dealt them are simply latching onto perceived heroes, or titans, who have been more successful in knocking down religion and fighting back against the very real poisons of religious bread intolerance.



Although incessant caterwauling can get bothersome, as long as religion doles out its abuses, there will always be angry atheists.



It’s that simple.



If you expect the angry atheists to go away or keep quiet, then you might as well expect religion to go away and keep quiet too, and neither is all that realistic of an expectation, if you ask me.



Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist