Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining

Atheists: No God, no reason, just whining - Los Angeles Times

The problem with atheists -- and what makes them such excruciating snoozes -- is that few of them are interested in making serious metaphysical or epistemological arguments against God's existence, or in taking on the serious arguments that theologians have made attempting to reconcile, say, God's omniscience with free will or God's goodness with human suffering. Atheists seem to assume that the whole idea of God is a ridiculous absurdity, the 'flying spaghetti monster' of atheists' typically lame jokes. They think that lobbing a few Gaza-style rockets accusing God of failing to create a world more to their liking ('If there's a God, why aren't I rich?' 'If there's a God, why didn't he give me two heads so I could sleep with one head while I get some work done with the other?') will suffice to knock down the entire edifice of belief.

What primarily seems to motivate atheists isn't rationalism but anger -- anger that the world isn't perfect, that someone forced them to go to church as children, that the Bible contains apparent contradictions, that human beings can be hypocrites and commit crimes in the name of faith. The vitriol is extraordinary. Hitchens thinks that "religion spoils everything." Dawkins contends that raising one's offspring in one's religion constitutes child abuse. Harris argues that it "may be ethical to kill people" on the basis of their beliefs. The perennial atheist litigant Michael Newdow sued (unsuccessfully) to bar President Obama from uttering the words "so help me God" when he took his oath of office.

What atheists don't seem to realize is that even for believers, faith is never easy in this world of injustice, pain and delusion. Even for believers, God exists just beyond the scrim of the senses. So, atheists, how about losing the tired sarcasm and boring self-pity and engaging believers seriously?


UPDATE:

I agree with commentator I about thoughtful people on both sides. For significant periods of time in my life I have been in the position of "wanting to believe" but not actually being able to. Why "want to"? Not because of any family pressure - my family background is a typically English apathy about religion.

But I have always been interested (i mean from at least when I was 12 years old) about the hows and the whys of human existence. That's why I have always been fascinated with science, why I pursued a career as a historian. But I have equally found "scientism" to be dry and unsatisfying; I have found religious writers in many traditions to show what seemed to me to be deep insight.

Above all, I have come to reject the idea that "truth" consists in affirming verbal statements. I see art, poetry, and human love-in-action as affirming real truths in a way that science cannot.

Moreover, as a historian, I see social science as often interesting, but almost always so flawed, that its claims to be "scientific" in a way similar to physics, chemistry etc, to be spurious.

As a result, I acknowledge myself as member of the Catholic religion, which to me most combines an openness to intellectual inquiry and a willingness to embrace the the idea of physically manifested grace.

I like Dawkins writings on evolutionary biology. I think Hitchens is a blowhard. I have not really engaged with Dennett.

I do not think all atheists are twats, but I do thing much of the new Atheism is twattish.

While I entirely agree that Atheists in US are subject to prejudice, Dawkins and Hitchens at least exist in social bubble where they suffer no problems at all.

And, at the most base level, I think Dawkins, who is supposedly a friend of Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, is a traitor to friendship.

4 comments:

Sam C said...

This is precisely the kind of thickwitted armchair psychology and lazy generalisation that make Dawkins and Hitchins so irritating on the other side of the shouting-match (I originally wrote 'debate', but that would have been inaccurate).

There are sincere, knowledgeable, thoughtful people who are atheists (I try to be one of them). There are sincere, knowledgeable, thoughtful people who are theists. How about paying attention to them?

Thank-you, by the way, for all of the interesting blogging...

Paul Halsall said...

I agree with you about thoughtful people on both sides. For significant periods of time in my life I have been in the position of "wanting to believe" but not actually being able to. Why "want to"? Not because of any family pressure - my family background is a typically English apathy about religion.

But I have always been interested (i mean from at least when I was 12 years old) about the hows and the whys of human existence. That's why I have always been fascinated with science, why I pursued a career as a historian. BUt I have equally found "scientism" to be dry and unsatisfying; I have found religious writers in many traditions to show what seemed to me to be deep insight.

Above all, I have come to reject the idea that "truth" consists in affirming verbal statements. I see art, poetry, and human love-in-action as affirming real truths in a way that science cannot.

Moreover, as a historian, I see social science as often interesting, but almost always so flawed, that its claims to be "scientific" in a way similar to physics, chemistry etc, to be spurious.

As a result, I acknowledge myself as member of the Catholic religion, which to me most combines an openness to intellectual inquiry and a willingness to embrace the the idea of physically manifested grace.

I like Dawkins writing's on evolutionary biology. I think Hitchens is a blowhard. I have not really engaged with Dennett.

I do not think all atheists are twats, but I do thing much of the new Atheism is twattish.

While I entirely agree that Atheists in US arr subject to prejudice, Dawkins and Hitchens at least exist in social bubble where they suffer no problems at all.

And, at the most base level, I think Dawkins, who is supposedly a friend of Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, is a traitor to friendship.

Jim Baxter said...

I'm not an atheist. I just don't have any religious beliefs. They add no explanations. Occam's Razor.

I don't care what other people believe unless or until they start trying to interfere with what I believe, or don't believe.

wv: canising. Certainly true in my case.

Nicky said...

Very good and insightful post.