Pharyngula

Dinesh D’Souza has a truly awful opinion piece up in which he basically accuses atheists of being hateful robots. Why? Because Richard Dawkins wasn’t invited to any of the memorials at Virginia Tech, and because he couldn’t spot any atheists in the crowds (I’m wondering what he thinks we look like, that he can say there weren’t any there.)

Is this really one of the prominent thinkers of the American Right?

Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found. Every time there is a public gathering there is talk of God and divine mercy and spiritual healing. Even secular people like the poet Nikki Giovanni use language that is heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.

Has Mr D’Souza tried asking around? I suspect that even when tragedies don’t occur, he has problems finding atheists. Does he think we vanish in a puff of smoke when evil occurs? We’re here. We’re mourning the death of those students and faculty, too — that we are left out of any public acknowledgment of our existence does not mean we do not feel the pain, too.

The atheist writer Richard Dawkins has observed that according to the findings of modern science, the universe has all the properties of a system that is utterly devoid of meaning. The main characteristic of the universe is pitiless indifference. Dawkins further argues that we human beings are simply agglomerations of molecules, assembled into functional units over millennia of natural selection, and as for the soul–well, that’s an illusion!

That is not quite correct. The universe is lacking any overarching cosmic meaning — it’s almost all empty and hostile to life, for one thing, which ought to give D’Souza a clue — but that does not mean that we individual human beings, atheist or not, don’t find meaning in our relationships with other people, in the interactions with our communities, in family and work. We have spouses and children. We love other people. We worry about those loved ones. When we see bloody horrors like the killings in Virginia, we feel empathy and regret and anger.

The only pitiless indifference here is D’Souza’s, who dehumanizes those people who don’t share his foolish faith and bestows on us a caricature of our beliefs — he is an unfeeling monster himself, who wants to deny basic humanity to us.

To no one’s surprise, Dawkins has not been invited to speak to the grieving Virginia Tech community. What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil. The reason is that in a purely materialist universe, immaterial things like good and evil and souls simply do not exist. For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.

Dawkins has not been invited to speak, true enough; it’s understandable, since he is living in a far-off country and doesn’t have any direct ties to Virginia Tech, as far as I know. Has the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, David Miscavage of the Church of Scientology, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, or David Hasselhoff been invited to speak? Shall we take that as a rebuke of everything they stand for?

I suspect that if Dawkins were asked, and if he felt it were appropriate, he certainly would have been willing to speak before the grieving families, and I’m sure he would have spoken words of consolation. They would not have been those false promises of religion, but they would have expressed the regret and concern that we all feel, theist and atheist. There were people in that crowd who were atheists. They lost people they cared about, and they were not babbling unfeelingly about “molecules acting upon molecules” … unlike this insensitive clod, D’Souza.

If this is the best that modern science has to offer us, I think we need something more than modern science.

Since D’Souza’s cranky remarks are based on distortions and lies about atheism and science built by bigoted proponents of a mindless religion, they reflect more on that religion than anything of science. We definitely need something more than the delusions D’Souza thrives upon.

Comments

  1. #1 jan andrea
    April 18, 2007

    Wow, what a dick. No, I’m sorry, that’s an insult to penii everywhere. What a jackhole.

  2. #2 Gene
    April 18, 2007

    I’d try to read the whole thing, but I’m just afraid that if I did I’d never be able to stop throwing up.

  3. #3 Stanton
    April 18, 2007

    D’Souza’s hate-filled stupidity is making my brain hurt.

  4. #4 Hal
    April 18, 2007

    Thinker? Well……
    Reactionary kneejerk? Yep.
    Pompous and incompetent liar? Now we’re getting somewhere.

  5. #5 stogoe
    April 18, 2007

    Well, yes, Dinesh is a prominent right-wing, err, something. You found what they believe. Congratulations.

  6. #6 Nathan Parker
    April 18, 2007

    Memorials seem overtly religious in nature and it wouldn’t surprise me that atheists avoid them. I certainly would.

  7. #7 Philboid Studge
    April 18, 2007

    Dinesh has the inside track for Shitlord of the Week.

  8. #8 John Danley
    April 18, 2007

    I agree. Empathy and love are emotions not mutually exclusive to Christianity. What a low-ball statement. This represents a typical superficial understanding of what it means to be human without deference to mythology. BTW, “those molecules” are more dependable for interpersonal solace than any non-existent fantasy. Depression and isolation contributed to the tragedy, not satan.

  9. #9 Zeno
    April 18, 2007

    Yes, Dinesh is the cream of the crop when it comes to right-wing intellectuals. (Perhaps I should have put quotes around that last word.) How clever it was of PZ to find a non-believer at Virgina Tech (the blogger at gnosos) when D’Souza could not. Of course, D’Souza wasn’t really looking, was he?

  10. #10 John Danley
    April 18, 2007

    Using this incident as an attempt to jab at atheists is testimony to the man’s “Christian” character. It was very sweet of him, wasn’t it?

  11. #11 daenku32
    April 18, 2007

    I did notice Deepak Chopra on CNN selling his latest book, while they interviewed him and kept showing clips from memorial services (presumably from V/T). Besides being uncomfortable with their timing to ‘review’ his new woo (and having Deepak peddle it), doing it while referring to the shooting was a new low level for CNN. Looks like they are really trying to be like Fox News. Our ‘lefty’ side is not much better as long as Deepak is associated with the left.

  12. #12 quork
    April 18, 2007

    Notice something interesting about the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings? Atheists are nowhere to be found.

    Hey, maybe he just didn’t look in the right places. Oh look, I found them! It took me about 30 seconds with a search engine.

  13. #13 No One of Consequence
    April 18, 2007

    “I’m wondering what he thinks we look like”

    Well most atheists have tails hidden beneath their trousers, but only Russian Atheists have visible horns.

  14. #14 DaveX
    April 18, 2007

    This bozo just can’t imagine that some folks grieve in different ways. We don’t all automatically reach out for our fellow human being, and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    To be blunt, I find most of those ceremonies and tributes to be utterly ridiculous, over-dramatic symptoms of how little real emotion people can naturally express these days.

  15. #15 Richard Harris, FCD
    April 18, 2007

    Half-witted religionists such as D’Souza in the States have their counterparts over here in the UK. Dr Sentamu,the Archbishop of York, on Saturday April 07, on BBC Radio 4, referred to ‘self-fulfillment, a cynical culture, blaming others to put others down’, and then, he said, without ‘god-reference we become masters of ourselves & in the long run people become not friends, but enemies & think, “so I’d better turn on him”.’

    This is ‘hate speech’! He is saying that atheists are both immoral and potentially violent – that we have no reason to not be violent to pursue our ends.

    It seems to me, most violence is carried out in the name of religion.

    By the way, I’m really sorry to hear about the Virginia Tech shootings, and my sympathy goes out to all who have been injured or lost a loved one or friend(s).

  16. #16 kmarissa
    April 18, 2007

    The worst part is that it is in exactly these situations that atheists are most pressed to keep quiet. After all, who wants to tell a mother who has just lost her child that no, he or she is NOT in a better place right now? We’re told to sit down and shut up (or else we’re not being tolerant), and then surprise surprise, there aren’t any atheists speaking up!

    I wonder if VTech has an atheist student group, and how they are supporting each other in such a time. I find it kind of unlikely that they are “no where to be found.”

  17. #17 J Daley
    April 18, 2007

    Why do you even bother linking to these jerks? They’re only spouting this drivel to bring attention to themselves (aren’t they?). I mean, his, um, “argument” was so illogical that even he can’t really think it’s true…

    Is the point simply to highlight how stupid and reactionary anti-atheist bigotry is? Or is there more to it?

    (Sigh.) I’m sorry, it just bothers me that anybody pays attention to this kind of stuff at all.

  18. #18 Jared
    April 18, 2007

    You know, I didn’t really NEED any more reason to loathe and despise Dinesh D’Souza. The man has essentially done nothing but provide me with those over the years. Yet, he’s done the unthinkable here and managed to revolt me even further.

    I almost feel bad for the rational conservatives of the world. I mean, I may think everything D’Souza has ever said is absolute tosh, but at least he’s not OSTENSIBLY speaking for me and being paid to do so. I pity the people who, while generally normal and intelligent about their conservatism, have to distance themselves from this clown’s opinions. Of course, it’s even sadder that he’ll likely always have sponsors and some widely-viewed venue to spout off this rubbish. It’s almost reason to suspect the world’s sanity that so many would pay to hear his opinion on anything.

  19. #19 kmarissa
    April 18, 2007

    quork answered my question 🙂

  20. #20 ctenotrish
    April 18, 2007

    Atheist here. I am sorrowful for the students, families, and townspeople affected by the shootings. I have shared in and will share in moments of silence in respect, honor, and horror. I grieve. I don’t pray, and find religious words of solace smarmy, to say the least. So if you see me at a religious gathering, I’ll be one of those looking around when others have their heads bowed. Try not to confuse me with law enforcement. Same stance, different reasons.

  21. #21 notthedroids
    April 18, 2007

    I see that a few commenters on D’Souza’s blog gave him what for, deservedly so.

    Isn’t that Gnosos kid from Va Tech who blogged on the tragedy an atheist (or agnostic)?
    http://gnosos.blogspot.com/2007/04/reflections-on-mourning-for-virginia.html

  22. #22 John Danley
    April 18, 2007

    No one asked Dinesh to speak at Va Tech either.
    Hmmm…

  23. #23 cleek
    April 18, 2007

    he’s got all the logical prowess of a stoned 8th grader.

    dude, if there’s nothing but molecules, there can’t be any such thing as “evil”. and there can’t be any such thing as “good”, either!

    duuuude…

    nothing but reality exists. if i can’t touch it, or if you can’t make a pile of it, it doesn’t exist! so that must mean there’s no such thing as “dumb”, or “conservative”, or “demagogue” !

    duuuude…

  24. #24 Tom Foss
    April 18, 2007

    This douchenugget is coming to speak on my campus next Monday, a buddy and I are planning to go. I’d like to ask him what the difference is between his “let’s become like the terrorists so they stop hating us” and “appeasement.”

    Needless to say, I’ll be blogging about it. Extensively.

  25. #25 Geral
    April 18, 2007

    Where is God when bad things happen?

    yes this can go both ways…

  26. #26 commissarjs
    April 18, 2007

    What a fucking vulture. Way to stand on the graves of 30+ college students to lob insults at a group you don’t like.

  27. #27 DragonScholar
    April 18, 2007

    I see the “Dawkins is the Pope of all Atheists” Strawman is alive and well – especially int he mind of D’Souza, a moral midget who has frankly said he sympathizes with terrorist rage against the US.

    Secondly, if he thinks by manipulating a terrible event for his own ends is going to make me feel his religious believes hve value, he’s obviously even more ignorant than I’d previously thought.

    I would probably be considered an atheist (note: I find a lot of religious terms too limiting). I somehow am going on with my life, mourning the terror, appreciating what I have in light of this horror, and hoping for the future. I don’t feel a need to exploit a hideous mass murder, but D’Souza apparently does.

  28. #28 Anony-Moshe
    April 18, 2007

    They didn’t ask a British citizen to come to speak at an American tragedy? It’ll all the British guy’s fault, obviously. Now the ‘liberal’ media just needs to repeat this ‘fact’ over and over again so it can become truth!

    And, No One of Consequence, everyone knows that it is the Jews who have horns, not the Russian atheists, my evangelical Christian co-worker was nice enough to inform me of this fact. Now I feel bad because I’m almost 30 years old and my evil looking Jew horns never grew in!? I need something to compensate for my receding hairline…

  29. #29 Glen Davidson
    April 18, 2007

    Did you notice that no Zoroastrians or animists were asked to speak at any of the memorials? What could be the reason, is it because they’re like atheists, unworthy to be asked to make a eulogy?

    Or do you suppose that religious folk might prefer rabbis, imams, priests, and ministers to be speaking to them at the time when religious rites are typically performed?

    Now to be fair to Dinesh, the poetry that most people really seem to like to surround death is not typically an atheist strong point. I expect that the “softly spoken magic spells” (Pink Floyd, Dark side of the Moon) conjured up by pious saints (liars, for the blunt) will never be the stock in trade of atheists, though I’m sure that poetry for the intellectuals at the time of death could come from any number of atheists.

    So bring in the pious falsehoods at this time. I don’t recall any secularists taking the time to whine like D’Souza about the same old useless shit being shoveled out by the religionists (some probably did, but who cares?). We’re not really troubled by fairly tales and pious frauds being given lip service for the sake of emotions and weak minds, we simply don’t want to be told to make way for them every time some idiot insists that their claims of reality be taken seriously.

    I expect that in the officially atheist Soviet Union, it would have been as out of place to invite some pious rusty old fart in to give the eulogy for a secular intellectual, as it would be to call in Dawkins to comfort a bunch of Abrahamic believers (plus a healthy number of secularists, no doubt). It’s simply gauche to try to make something of the fact that following protocol and responding to the sympathies for the bereaved at this time of sorrow leaves out atheistic British scientists.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  30. #30 Glen Davidson
    April 18, 2007

    This has shown up in Pharyngula’s “random quotes” several times of late:

    We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, “Isaac is up in Heaven now.” It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, “Kurt is up in Heaven now.” That’s my favorite joke.

    The issue is context, D’Souza. Do you think you can understand that?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  31. #31 Glen Davidson
    April 18, 2007

    I forgot to credit the quote I included in post #30. It’s by Kurt Vonnegut.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  32. #32 H. Humbert
    April 18, 2007

    For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.

    And for moronic theists like D’Souza, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–a ghost wearing a flesh suit damaging other ghosts’ flesh suits.

  33. #33 Christian Burnham
    April 18, 2007

    D’Souza’s molecules are arranged in a particularly unpleasant configuration.

  34. #34 Glen Davidson
    April 18, 2007

    For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.

    For anybody who understands science, theist or nontheist, that is one of the unavoidable interpretations available.

    But because we actually have a rich and varied capacity for understanding, we recognize the self-ordering of molecules and the emergence of properties which make life into something that is so much more than mere atoms and molecules. Indeed, anybody who looks at a computer as if it were nothing other than atoms, molecules, and crystalline arrangements, would be seriously inadequate as a scientist.

    And humans are so much more than just computers. Indeed, we are so unique that we cannot be designed, for only evolutionary contingency could produce something so complex, so precious, and so irreplaceable (either as a species or as individuals). We are not Frankenstein’s creations, nor replaceable machines of some ethereal designer, we are the wonder and beauty of present complexity unreproducible events which tie us inextricably with our fellows and with the ancestors who produced and cared for us, just because we belonged to them (and not to some God who can snap his fingers to replace us with the equal or better).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

  35. #35 Bronze Dog
    April 18, 2007

    Oh, cleek, you might be interested in my vocabulary word for yesterday.

  36. #36 RedMolly
    April 18, 2007

    God damn it. I am so sick of people like this idiot spewing their venom, telling the world at large that my family and I couldn’t possibly care about other people, that we lack empathy simply because we don’t respond to tragedy with mealy-mouthed platitudes about “a better place” and “God’s infinite mercy [in sparing some while allowing others to die].”

    I wish he could have seen me trying to explain to my seven-year-old how such things could happen. Wish he could have seen my sons at the Iraq War protest several months ago, their godless little eyes spilling over with tears at the sight of the photos of corpses of children and men and women they could never have met, killed in a country they will probably never visit. Wish he could hear my son telling his brother that “we have to be nice to each other, because each other is all we have.” Wish he could hear my other son expressing compassion–compassion! for people who do such horrible things to others, “because they have something wrong with their brains that makes them do that, and it’s really sad.” (Even George Bush. He even feels sorry for George Freakin’ Bush, because “he’s not smart enough to know that what he’s doing is wrong.”)

    I haven’t responded to any posts about the V-Tech shooting anywhere, largely because I believe so strongly that this is not something to turn into a soapbox for one’s pet political cause. But reading this has just busted some kind of floodgate… sorry.

    Fuck you, Dinesh D’Souza, you fucking tool.

  37. #37 Bronze Dog
    April 18, 2007

    Oh, and my flipside on the molecules acting on molecules thing: Here’s one of the common theistic takes:

    “God has a divine plan that’s good. Everything that happens is according to that plan. Therefore, the callous murder of several people was a good thing.”

  38. #38 Ed Darrell
    April 18, 2007

    D’Souza is just doing his Bush blessed best to make it clear that there are not many Christians there, either.

    There are lots of human beings. I suspect a fair number of them are atheists. Though it makes me feel a little like a Baptist, when I see D’Souza’s ravigns, I see there is at least one fewer Christian than we might have expected.

    If D’Souza were accused of being a Christian, is there any evidence to convict him?

  39. #39 Magpie
    April 18, 2007

    In regards to ‘the molecules thing’; I would call it a category error, but it’s such a stupendously, incredibly, look-out-kids-it’s-f*$@-off massive category error that the term doesn’t do D’Souza’s philosophical ineptitude justice. Perhaps ‘Dinesh D’Souza is a D’Ouchebag’ would be a better way of putting it.

  40. #40 John Danley
    April 18, 2007

    The VA Tech tragedy is yet another reason why human accountability should prevail over supernatural explanations. No one is going to learn or resolve anything by attributing the event to the “devil’s work” and the grieving process to “God’s grace.” Maybe we’ll use our cognitive resources in a more productive manner and stop blaming Richard Dawkins when shit hits the fan.

  41. #41 dkew
    April 18, 2007

    The morning reports mentioned that Cho Seung-Hui’s written rants included criticism of the American culture of permissiveness. Books and theses will be written on the tragedy, but in some sense, he seems another right-winger, another gun drooler, with fewer controls than usual on his behavior.

  42. #42 Curt Cameron
    April 18, 2007

    What kind of thought process could lead a fairly prominent writer like D’Souza to use the VT tragedy as an opportunity to spew hatred of those in the minority? I didn’t know that much about him before, but this certainly puts him in the same category of nutjobs as Debbie Schlussel and Fred Phelps.

  43. #43 Skeptyk
    April 18, 2007

    The Strawkins strikes again. Strawkins is my name for the strawman of Richard Dawkins that is so popular among theopologists. Any resemblence to actual persons is slim to none.

    Just kick around the Strawkins and your column practically writes itself. I am so disgusted by the vultures who dance their pinhead angels on the memories of the murdered.

    (BTW, the real Richard Dawkins does a beautiful memorial. Examples here: http://edge.org/documents/adams_index.html)

  44. #44 Sonja
    April 18, 2007

    Huh.

    I just attended a completely god-free funeral service for a great humanitarian, activist, volunteer, husband, father, grandfather and friend Monday afternoon. We mourned, listened to great words (Ingersoll’s) and great music. The only difference between this gathering of loving secularists celebrating a great 89-year life and a non-secular funeral is that we didn’t have to listen to the inanities of church doctrine. The service was ALL meaningful with none of the nonsensical, death-denying drivel usually spewed at funerals.

  45. #45 Nevyn
    April 18, 2007

    You know what I’d like to know? Where are all the mathematicians?

    They’re always so quick with their equations and formulas, but whenever there’s a tragedy, they’re nowhere to be found. If this is all math has to offer us, we need something else. And don’t get me started on the gardeners.

  46. #46 Kseniya
    April 18, 2007

    Posh Spice was also conspicuously absent.

    Distort D’Newsa strikes again.

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    April 18, 2007

    I have heard calls, for example from the VA Governer, for a sort of waiting period on being an asshole following this event … to get your political point.

    But there has been no waiting at all on two things: Gun nuts who advocate that studentsa nd faculty should have been packing, and this dick-head who has the protection of the lord jesus.

  48. #48 MR
    April 18, 2007

    D’Souza’s argument seems to hinge on the notion that either a) life has innate, external meaning or b) life is a collage of meaningless events. Or more specifically, God (be it Jehovah, Zeus or whatever diety of choice) defines life’s meaning or (b). But of course, this entirely disregards our own ability to define worth and meaning. I see no reason to conclude a person or society cannot exert meaning. The sheer variety of cults seems to undercut the God meaning only view, since each religious and cultural group defines meaning differently. If, as exclusionary religions assert, only one cult’s God can be real and many cultures have different godly meanings, then only one meaning is indeed godly and the rest are defined by culture and society.

  49. #49 Tim Altom
    April 18, 2007

    Mr. D’Souza may be a fellow at Stanford, but it appears that he got his position more by virtue of politics than accomplishment. He was a policy wonk for the Republicans and has the grand academic rank of a Bachelor’s in English. If I were him, I would be keeping my head down and not nattering quite so much. He is far too obviously a lucky conservative lapdog.

  50. #50 Sastra
    April 18, 2007

    The argument that “materialism” negates things like love, morals, and meaning is probably the most common, popular argument against atheism. Yes, it’s a category error, where people confuse things like abstractions and ideas with supernatural spirits and souls. “You can’t see ‘love’ under a microscope, therefore a materialist will say it can’t exist.”

    Couple this with a childlike understanding of morality as “obedience to your authority” and “what you get punished for when you don’t follow it” and you’ve got a nasty little conglomeration of Bad Arguments appealing directly to the unthinking intuitions of the primitive human brain. And just as cleek can cleverly reduce the fallacy into the language of the “logical prowess of a stoned 8th grader” (comment #23), it can be paraphrased very skillfully into a much more sophisticated form in order to demonstrate the logical prowess of the respected theologian, bemoaning the metaphysical inability of Naturalism to account for metaphysical Meaning.

    And, there is a possibility it can get worse. According to an recent AP news story, the killer’s final note is

    “a typed, eight-page rant against rich kids and religion… Cho indicated in his letter that the end was near, and that there was a deed to be done, the official said. He also expressed disappointment in his own religion, and made several references to Christianity.”

    So there’s going to be some sort of connection with being “against religion.” Doesn’t sound good. D’Souza and his ilk will practically orgasm if so.

  51. #51 PaulC
    April 18, 2007

    I’m puzzled at D’Souza’s claim that Nikki Giovanni used religious imagery. Maybe she did, but I don’t see it in this transcript.

    http://www.vt.edu/tragedy/giovanni_transcript.php

    We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

    It strikes me that she’s studiously avoided looking for some kind of uplifting meaning and just shares everyone’s shock and grief as eloquently as she can.

    Am I missing something? Did she make any other statements that D’Souza could reasonably claim were “heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning” or is he just blowing smoke?

  52. #52 Taylor
    April 18, 2007

    Sonja (#44), your post is the best rebuke to D’Souza’s tripe.

  53. #53 Sastra
    April 18, 2007

    Ah, Paul C, but of course Giovanni’s use of the word “tragedy” is “heavily drenched with religious symbolism and meaning.” Remember, in a natural, material universe nothing is tragic or comic, nothing is good or bad, it’s all atoms bumping into one another. You just can’t avoid that religious symbolism and meaning.

  54. #54 John Wilkins
    April 18, 2007

    If Hasselhof had been invited, and sung, there might be a few more atheists at that service…

  55. #55 beepbeepitsme
    April 18, 2007

    Can the guy fit anymore strawman arguments in his article? There isn’t an “atheism” as this implies a set of beliefs associated with being an atheist.

    Anyone who is an atheist knows that the word ‘atheist’ only describes what someone does not believe in, not what they do.

  56. #56 Epistaxis
    April 18, 2007

    the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, David Miscavage of the Church of Scientology, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, or David Hasselhoff

    Wow, you esteem Dawkins as much as them?

  57. #57 Mickey
    April 18, 2007

    The real irony is that Bush did speak and he’s directly responsible for 10 times the VA Tech atrocity in dead Americans, not to mention all of the dead Iraqis.

  58. #58 Mickey
    April 18, 2007

    I mean 100 times

  59. #59 hyperdeath
    April 18, 2007

    Why on earth would he make a public statement? It has absolutely nothing to do with him.

    I’m starting to think that Richard Dawkins should explicitly state that he believes the Holocaust occurred. If current trends continue, his critics will take his silence as evidence that he’s a Holocaust denier.

  60. #60 Bryson Brown
    April 18, 2007

    So a terrible event that leaves us all stunned and horrified becomes no more than an occasion for Mr. D/Souza to trumpet his moral superiority over a group he fears and despises. This guy clearly needs help–sadly, he doesn’t seem to know it. From ‘Osama is right about western culture’ to ‘look, look, the atheists don’t care the way real human beings do’– what’ll he say next, I wonder? Something just as ugly and stupid, no doubt.

  61. #61 llewelly
    April 18, 2007

    PZ:

    … he couldn’t spot any atheists in the crowds (I’m wondering what he thinks we look like, that he can say there weren’t any there.)

    Evil Atheist Conspiracy Standing Order #1872 :

    When attending funerals, memorials, or other services for those subject to tragic death, keep horns and forked tail disguised at all times.

    Of course he couldn’t spot any.

  62. #62 Kseniya
    April 18, 2007

    Wow, you esteem Dawkins as much as them?

    Apparently, D’Souza does.

  63. #63 Scott Hatfield
    April 18, 2007

    I can’t speak for PZ, but I hold Dawkins in far higher regard than most political or religious leaders. Why? Because their ilk is largely interested in the exercise of power, while Dr. Dawkins is concerned with the question of what is true. I greatly prefer the latter.

  64. #64 PaulK
    April 18, 2007

    The reason why all this talk about God becomes so prevalent in times of tragedy is that the christianists (and I use that word deliberately) are jumping all over one another to be the first and the loudest in their proclamations of piety. It has nothing whatsoever to do with comforting the bereaved, and everything to do with pure, naked, drooling hubris.

  65. #65 quork
    April 18, 2007

    If D’Souza were accused of being a Christian, is there any evidence to convict him?

    With so much hate in his heart, I’m sure there can be no room left over for Jeee-sus.

  66. #66 CalGeorge
    April 18, 2007

    Dinesh is a turd enjoying his days of being a standout piece of shit on the right-wing scum pond, but eventually his writings will regarded with pitiless indifference and he will be seen as someone who created an intellectual life devoid of “deeper meaning.”

    Richard Dawkins is a giant next to that twerp.

  67. #67 MarcusA
    April 18, 2007

    I sent my response directly to Mr. D’Souza

    dineshjdsouza@aol.com

  68. #68 The Science Pundit
    April 18, 2007

    My cousin is an engineering student at Virginia Tech and a friend of his was one of the wounded. He’s kind of freaked and still trying to come to terms with this whole reality (aren’t we all).

    I’ve been trying to take the high road. Emotions are running very high right now, so I didn’t deem it appropriate to bash the religiose or the gun people. But …

    This is just insane. And speaking of religious references, I’ll give you one guess who said this

    “You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.”

    Off topic, let’s not forget the 183+ people who died in Baghdad today.

  69. #69 Dan S.
    April 18, 2007

    http://www.vt.edu/tragedy/giovanni_transcript.php

    Just reading the excerpt PaulC quoted, Giovanni expresses what I’d been thinking. For a bit of a change of pace, one of her poems:

    Winter Poem

    once a snowflake fell
    on my brow and i loved
    it so much and i kissed
    it and it was happy and called its cousins
    and brothers and a web
    of snow engulfed me then
    i reached to love them all
    and i squeezed them and they became
    a spring rain and i stood perfectly
    still and was a flower

  70. #70 John
    April 18, 2007

    What does David Hasselhoff stand for?

  71. #71 Your Name's Not Bruce?
    April 18, 2007

    Certainly in a religious society people are going to turn to religion for solace. But there’s more to it than that. Theists pretty much have to show up for tragedies like this since they happen on their god’s watch. Theists have to be able to explain away events like this as part of “god’s plan”. God “wins” whether somebody survives (is saved/spared preserved by god), or is killed (taken home/in a better place/with the angels, or, conversly, punished/reaping the reward for sinful ways). Same thing for plane crashes, earthquakes, tsunamis etc. Even though it’s “win win” for god on the surface, theists have to make excuses for their god. They have to be able to show that an all good, all powerful diety is somehow still in control. (But if god is in control,isn’t it god’s fault? See how easily questions can arise?) The theists must put senseless tragedies like this into that context as part of their world view, maybe as nuch for themselves as for the victims they hope to comfort. It’s hard work to get your omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent diety unscathed and unchallenged through events like this. Surely this is a test of people’s faith in such a diety, a point at which some come to the conclusion that there is no such entity guiding events to some sane, loving sensible end. Yes I know that god is alleged to work in mysterious ways, that “his ways are not our ways” but that explanation wears thin after a bit. Atheists, on the other have no need to explain anything; we have no
    “problem of evil” to deal with. Shit happens. We all suffer. We all die. We help each other get through it. It’s the helping each other that brings “meaning” into the picture. No god, no devil, just each other.

  72. #72 kanaadaa
    April 18, 2007

    For scientific atheists like Dawkins, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way–molecules acting upon molecules.”
    And for moronic theists like D’Souza, Cho’s shooting of all those people can be understood in this way… The world is full of sin after the Fall of Adam and the curse of God – Cho was sinful so he shot people up randomly; those he killed were covered by the sin of Adam so they were died; Din’turd would be pleased to know that those kooky theists who protest at funerals blaming death and destruction on our evil ways, evilutionism and other things share his sentiments.

  73. #73 Stew
    April 18, 2007

    I understand that Rev.(god hates fags) Phelps plans to spread some of his good time Christan compassion and understanding at the funerals of the shooting victims. Mr. D’Souza may not be able to spot the atheist in a crowd, but if he was to attend the funerals he certainly would have no problem at identifying the Christians.

  74. #74 hephaistos
    April 18, 2007

    D’Souza didn’t need to write his latest to prove that he is a jerk. He has shown himself to be an unfeeling, mean-spirited, self-righteous prig from his earliest public days. D’Souza and his ilk are the priest and Levite in Luke 10, 25-37 who do not help the man who was robbed and beated on the road to Jericho: big talkers, great selfpromoters, but one step removed from the devil.

  75. #75 hephaistos
    April 18, 2007

    I have no children of my own but I’ve taught many, many college students and loved them all: I feel awful. How much worse it must be for the parents of these victims.

    Now I don’t mean to sound cynical, but am I the only person in America who is disturbed by the practice of turning the death of other people’s family members into an excuse for getting together for some public mourning and, dare I say it, having a good time showing how much we care.

    I’m sure that the participants gather, cry together, bring teddy bears, and light candles because of what they think they sincerely feel. But it seems a bit too automatic/predictable/stereotyped to me. Seems to have started with Princess Diana’s death, and turned into a phenomenon.

  76. #76 Ric
    April 18, 2007

    D’Souza is apparently mentally challenged, so poor is his logic.

  77. #77 ZacharySmith
    April 18, 2007

    Science Pundit brings up an excellent point…

    While I don’t mean to downplay the tragedy of 33 senseless deaths at VT, a death toll of 33 is a pretty slow day in Iraq.

    If there were this much wailing and gnashing of teeth every time people in Iraq got killed (both US personnel and Iraqis), perhaps the situation there would be very different now.

    Back to the topic, I’m not familiar with this D’Souza person, but all I can say is: What an Asshole! (yes, with a capital A.)

    What the fuck does Dawkins’ not being invited to speak at VT have to do with anything? Have Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or Ken Ham been invited to speak? I guess VT must not be a god-fearing school!

    How about any prominent Muslim clerics? Jewish?

    Where are the god-fearing people?!

  78. #78 MAJeff
    April 18, 2007

    If you think D’Souza appears mentally challenged, do NOT read today’s article by Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe. We really did get stuck with some pretty shitty right-wing columnists here in Boston. Jacoby’s an idiot, and Howie Carr is Imus in a hooded sheet.

  79. #79 Keanus
    April 18, 2007

    In addition to the freethinkers group at VT that Quork found, Blacksburg is also home to the Atheists of the New River Valley. I suspect both groups are more than willing to lend a shoulder to those in need, and, unlike most religious, expecting nothing in return other than the personal satisfaction of being helpful.

  80. #80 Kseniya
    April 18, 2007

    Jeff, we get crappy commentators here because MA is a pretty crappy place to be a conservative (the long reign of Weld and Romney notwithstanding). The real talent takes the plum jobs elsewhere. I guess one day we’ll have D’Souza writing rabble-rousers for the Herald, and it’s hard to believe that would be a step up, but it might just be.

    NotBruce #71, nice post. May I please quote you to my “Everything Happens For A Reason” friends?

  81. #81 tinisoli
    April 18, 2007

    Gnosos, the guy who’s at VT and was linked to by PZ yesterday, just posted a response to Dinesh. She page 6 of the comments.

    I think it’s worth pointing out that the substance and tone of Cho’s manifesto are very similar to Dinesh’s book. It’s all about the evil, debauched, hedonistic students at VT. It’s like a blurb from the back of Dinesh’s book.

    We’ll need to keep an eye on how the media treats the religious language in Cho’s work. So far I keep hearing that he was “anti religion,” yet the actual text and video I’ve seen sure reads like someone who was quite into Christianity but was disillusioned with the piety of others. I mean, how is someone who compares himself to Christ being “anti religion”? WTF?

  82. #82 Keanus
    April 18, 2007

    I don’t use Kwikcode often enough to get it straight, especially when there is more than one version out there. So here’s a second try!

    In addition to the freethinkers group at VT that Quork found, Blacksburg is also home to the Atheists of the New River Valley.

  83. #83 Keanus
    April 18, 2007

    I agree with tinisoli. Right wing zealots often sound just like the ramblings (that we’ve seen/heard so far) of Cho. Both conjure up strawmen who are evil, vile, amoral self-centered demons. Both need evil to justify their own failures and the failures of society. I wouldn’t be surpised if one put one of D’Souza’s screeds alongside part of Cho’s without author attribution, they would be remarkably similar. Even Dubya’s and Rumsfeld’s public ramblings about “evil doers”, “dead-enders”, “bad people”; and D’Souza’s atheists and materialists sound remarkably similar to Cho’s demons. To my mind such demonization of one’s enemies, imaginary or real, marks an unthinking mind at best and a sure path to failure. One needs to know the real enemy, not the imaginary one, to confront them. D’Souza knows neither.

  84. #84 Julie Stahlhut
    April 18, 2007

    Whaaaaaa? It’s not the stars or the planets or the rocks or the trees that shot those people in Blacksburg. It was another member of the human species.

    Do some people really believe that inanimate objects feel pity? How is this supposed to be uplifting?

  85. #85 kristen
    April 18, 2007

    Religious zealots who portray anyone who does not share their beliefs as heartless, condemned, leading a meaningless life, disgust me.

    But so too do atheists who belittle anyone who believes in God or a higher power as unthinking, brainwashed, simplistic.

    The tragedy that occurred is nothing short of revolting, and my way of coping is to immerse myself in other things so as not to dwell on it. There are a myriad of other, equally valid ways of coping as well. I fail to understand what would possesses some people to abuse these students’ grief (and their various means of expressing it)as a vehicle to assert their personal gripes with the God-fearing or the godless.

    In my opinion, that complete lack of decency and sense of what is appropriate is far more telling about a person’s character than the dogma to which they subscribe.

  86. #86 Matt Platte
    April 18, 2007

    Cripes. I slogged through 85 comments in hope of finding out what the Hasselhoff stands for…

  87. #87 Bronze Dog
    April 18, 2007
  88. #88 mgarelick
    April 18, 2007

    Good point, tinisoli. I think many of the proffered examples of “atheists behaving badly” are in fact disgruntled or damaged religious believers. I’d be surprised to find many violent offenders who were raised as humanists.

    Another thing that I’ve been thinking about, and it’s called to mind by D’Souza’s canard that a person without religion sees no meaning, emotion, or feeling in life, is that people who argue this position (here is a good example) really don’t like humanity very much. If they think it’s nonsensical for us to care about life and people, given our belief that we’re here without G-d’s purpose, they must not be having a very good time (or, on the other side of the coin, feeling very much genuine emotion).

  89. #89 Gerry L
    April 19, 2007

    mgarelick wrote:
    “I think many of the proffered examples of “atheists behaving badly” are in fact disgruntled or damaged religious believers.”

    Yes. I’ve often been struck by the photos in the news of the meth addicts, dope dealers and assorted and sundry crooks who are wearing crosses (sometimes tatoos) or standing in their living rooms that are adorned with religious images. I’ve thought of collecting these photos and making a collage of them.

  90. #90 Bob O'H
    April 19, 2007

    Surely the reason there were no atheists is that they are all hiding in foxholes.

    Which is annoying the hell out of me, because my fox is a Jehovah’s Witness.

    Bob

  91. #91 Joseph O'Sullivan
    April 19, 2007

    D’Ssouza’s behavior reminds me of a historical quote that applies now as well as it did back then:
    “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
    http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6444

    Does D’Souza have any sense of decency? I think the answer is obvious.

  92. #92 BlueIndependent
    April 19, 2007

    kristen,

    Apparently you cannot parse the situation. D’Souza used the VT tragedy (as did Limbaugh, Schlussel, Thompson and others) to rail against liberalism, atheism, video games, Muslims, and probably more that is yet to come. No one here or anywhere else begged the question of the usefulness of God as a reflection on what happened.

    The (supposed) Godly, however, chose to make comparative statements about a subgroup of people they don’t know (and hold prejudices against to some degree), and call out by name a member of that subgroup for being devoid of feeling and values, all as part of a published opinion that said subgroup somehow contributes serious deficiencies to society. That atheists should denounce this and fight the empty rhetoric is only appropriate. If the Godly do not want fights, they should not pick them. Treat others as you wish to be treated, no?

    D’Souza’s comment is the kind of arrogant, limelight-seeking falderol that is pervasive in the Right’s approach to everything. He obviously feels he in entitled, as a person of faith, to tear down other people for what he thinks are their deficiencies, and then attribute it to a wider struggle to bring down civilization as we know it. I’m sorry, but conspiracy theories peddled over the tragedy of 32 people being murdered is more than a little bit distasteful intellectually and spiritually (if you are of such a bent).

    If the Christians are who they say they are (and I think I know something about it, growing up Roman Catholic and all), they will tear D’souza a new one posthaste. Judging from about 50% of the comments on his AOL blog, it appears they are not willing to call him out; indeed, they seem to be happy spreading more hate through fear-driven lies about atheists, and a disgustingly poor recollection of world history.

  93. #93 Prat
    April 19, 2007

    Well said!

  94. #94 Ryan
    April 19, 2007

    Wow, how incredibly ignorant…Stamford University should consider having this guy write on their behalf.

    “What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil.”

    Actually, it’s those who believe in God who have a hard time explaining the presence of evil in the world. If God exists and he’s all powerful and good, why would this gunman exist?

  95. #95 Ralph Averill
    April 19, 2007

    A lot of people and organizatons are going to use the Virginia Tech Massacre to sell their own pot of soup. D’Souza is simply using the tragedy to preach to his own choir. Atheists and agnostics are doing likewise. Gun ownership proponents, (aka “gun nuts”), are already blogging that had just a few students been armed, they could have “popped” Cho and prevented the massacre. Gun control advocates, (aka “whimps”), are dragging out their usual dog-and-pony show. Politicians, (aka “damned politicians!”), are trying to straddle both sides of the issue by speaking much without saying much of anything at all. (“Gun nuts” vote early and often and they have a lot of money.) Everyone is trying to make their own sense out of a senseless tagedy. My sense? It’s not the first, it’s not the last, we’ll move on, life is precious. Tomorrow is promised to no one.

  96. #96 sachatur
    April 19, 2007


    Clay Violand
    , one of the survivors at VT, and his father were interviewed on NPR yesterday.

    If I remember right, he and his father never mentioned god or praying in all their statements. I don’t think they even called it a ‘miracle’ (Maybe they did, and NPR just edited those parts out?).

    Charles Steger ,

    the president of VT didn’t say anything about god or prayer either.

  97. #97 Roland
    April 19, 2007

    D’Souza has been spouting hateful nonsense since 1980 at the least. He’s repetitious, unimaginative and unwilling to learn anything new. As such, it’s pointless to read any of his diatribes (and I haven’t since the Clinton Administration). Ignore him and perhaps he will recoil in his insignificance.

  98. #98 Justin
    April 19, 2007

    Why do people need god when something bad happens? What’s he going to do? Can you cry on his shoulder? If god is so important, he can hear you wherever you are, so you don’t need a memorial gathering. Besides, If there was a god, why did he let it happen? Doesn’t god know right from wrong? If he does, and he let something bad happen, then it obviously wasn’t really bad(or wrong), right? So, for some reason, god hated all the people who died at Virginia Tech, and hated all their families too, because he let them all be killed. All of the religous people should stop mourning immediately, because god intended it to happen. Wow, what a logical and wonderful being, why aren’t we all worshipping him?

  99. #99 dd
    April 19, 2007

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  100. #100 MJ Memphis
    April 19, 2007

    Ok, now I have to try and figure out if “dd” above is Mr. Imus or Mr. D’Souza.

  101. #101 Torbjörn Larsson
    April 19, 2007

    What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil.

    First I feel sad for the shootings, now I have to feel sad for the stupid folks as well.

    The worst however is that some activists choose to demean the tragedy by using it as a speaking platform.

  102. #102 Torbjörn Larsson
    April 19, 2007

    What this tells me is that if it’s difficult to know where God is when bad things happen, it is even more difficult for atheism to deal with the problem of evil.

    First I feel sad for the shootings, now I have to feel sad for the stupid folks as well.

    The worst however is that some activists choose to demean the tragedy by using it as a speaking platform.

  103. #103 Torbjörn Larsson
    April 19, 2007

    Btw, why is it that the spam filter stop sociological and biological terms as i_n_c_e_s_t, but not “nigger”?

    Fuck that.

  104. #104 Torbjörn Larsson
    April 19, 2007

    Btw, why is it that the spam filter stop sociological and biological terms as i_n_c_e_s_t, but not “nigger”?

    Fuck that.

  105. #105 Nico
    April 19, 2007

    I wonder if any of the victims were atheists?

  106. #106 E.G. Howe
    April 19, 2007

    I think it totally appropriate that Christians tend to the memorial for such a massacre. After all, they have such a history of massacres. The Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust to name but a few.

    I’m not saying that all Christians are right-wing extremists but in this country most right-wing extremists are (self-professed) Christians. After all you don’t see the Klan recruiting any Atheist or Agnostic members, do you?

    I myself am an agnostic as I don’t have the fervent conviction that ‘there is no God’ that is the core of atheism. I believe that there might be a God, but when he introduces himself to me he’d better have some impressive ID on him.

    Oh… and if you’re wondering how to recognise us agnostics, we look just like atheists except we’re cuter.

  107. #107 Loren Petrich
    April 19, 2007

    Richard Dawkins has wondered in The God Delusion why more believers in a Heaven of everlasting happiness are not more like the Abbot of Ampleforth, who said about Cardinal Basil Hume dying that

    “Congratulations ! That’s brilliant news. I wish I was coming with you.”

    The Catholic way of death

  108. #108 David Marjanovi?
    April 19, 2007

    but that does not mean that we individual human beings, atheist or not, don’t find meaning in […]

    Why does anyone call this “meaning”?

  109. #109 David Marjanovi?
    April 19, 2007

    but that does not mean that we individual human beings, atheist or not, don’t find meaning in […]

    Why does anyone call this “meaning”?

  110. #110 Kseniya
    April 19, 2007

    Oh great. Here’s a comment on the D’Souza blog, in answer to the question, “Where were the atheists?”

    #101. I know where one was: dead after a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Am I saying all Atheists are killers? Certainly not.

    “Certainly not?” Oh, thanks for not extrapolating your lie to generalize across an entire demographic.

    Gentlemen, start your engines. The bald-faced lying and reframing has begun.

  111. #111 T
    April 19, 2007

    My response to D’Souza:

    I am an atheist, but I don’t believe that our lives are meaningless just because at some level, everything is only “molecules acting on molecules.”

    I am suspicious of those who just can’t seem to find anything or anyone of value in the world without assuming that there’s more to it that we just can’t see yet.

    You are smouldering with hostility toward anyone with the nerve to suggest that *this* world is all there is.

    Are you so sure that atheists are the ones who are hopeless and indifferent?

  112. #112 Brandon
    April 19, 2007

    According to D’Souza’s Wikipedia article, he has dated Ann Coulter and was once engaged to Laura Ingraham. If that didn’t shatter any traces of humanity in him, I’m not sure he was human to begin with.

  113. #113 John
    April 19, 2007

    Religion is a lot like the Special Olympics; It’s kinda funny to watch and oh so important to the participants.

  114. #114 Mike
    April 19, 2007

    It’s understandable, dd. I hate naggers and theists too. (Just kidding about the theists.)

  115. #116 Roger
    April 19, 2007

    People see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. If Mr. D’Souza is somehow helped by thinking about fairy tales, myths and things that make the hair stand up on the back of his neck so be it. For myself, I’ll put my trust in the tooth fairy and be done with the whole thing.

  116. #117 MReap
    April 19, 2007

    “Memorials seem overtly religious in nature and it wouldn’t surprise me that atheists avoid them. I certainly would.”

    Hell, I’m a religious person and I still find most public memorials more media spectacle than memorial.

  117. #118 Colugo
    April 19, 2007

    Andrew Stuttaford of the National Review reacts to D’Souza:
    http://tinyurl.com/3bvfa6

    “Nor am I surprised that Professor Dawkins (of whom I’m not a fan) hasn’t been invited. Why would he be? If this is the best that those arguing for religion (and I know that it’s not) have to offer us, then the obvious riposte to Mr. D’Souza’s staggeringly feeble argument is that “we need something more than religion.””

  118. #119 TTT
    April 19, 2007

    I wonder if D’Souza agrees with the gunman, the way he agrees with Osama bin Laden that America deserved 9/11 because we’re so wicked and liberal.

  119. #120 tinisoli
    April 19, 2007

    I am livid. WHY DOES THE NEWS MEDIA KEEP REFERRING TO CHO’S MANIFESTO AS “ANTI RELIGIOUS” AND “ANTI CHRISTIAN”? Everything I’ve heard or read thus far has sounded not only actively religious but positively oozing with Christian martydrom lunacy. What the hell is going on? And David Brooks today, in his NYTimes column, also refers to Cho’s “dark war” against Christianity.

    And I still can’t get over the irony of D’Souza lecturing atheists and Strawkins when Cho’s rant sounds a lot like his book “The Enemy At Home.” Someone ought to do a “match the quote with the author” game with D’Souza and Cho and see how many people can discern one crackpot for another.

  120. #121 Your Name's Not Bruce?
    April 19, 2007

    Kseniya; go ahead and quote. Glad to be of service.

  121. #122 Ugly American
    April 19, 2007

    The shooter’s rants are clearly religious in nature, referencing Jewish, Christian and Muslim mythology.

    The unending media BS on this is similar to how the Colombine shooters were portrayed as neo-nazis when in fact one of them was of fully documented and practicing Jewish ancestry.

  122. #123 ross
    April 19, 2007

    Why wasn’t D’Souza asked to speak at VT? That is an obvious condemnation of everything he has ever said or will ever say.

    Douchebag.

  123. #124 MikeT
    April 19, 2007

    D’Souza is considered an idiot by most prominent conservatives and libertarians. You only do yourself a disservice by actually suggesting that he gets a lot of respect on the right.

  124. #125 PaulC
    April 19, 2007

    D’Souza is considered an idiot by most prominent conservatives and libertarians. You only do yourself a disservice by actually suggesting that he gets a lot of respect on the right.

    Sorry I don’t follow. Do rightwingers do themselves a disservice by suggesting that Barbra Streisand gets a lot of respect on the left (for her forays into politics; whatever you think of her ability as an entertainer)? On the contrary, they gain tactical advantage by identifying a very marginal member with the entire movement. The right may have pioneered this tactic, but they don’t own it.

    D’Souza has a reputation as one the right’s “deep” thinkers, independent of any factional differences. His views appear in conservative publications, and the conservative Hoover Institution gives him an office and presumably pays him a salary. If this is how the right shows its disrespect, please show me a little.

  125. #126 Stephanie
    April 19, 2007

    sachatur (#96), I think you’re right that neither Clay Violand nor his father spoke of gods or miracles in that incredibly moving interview. I noted that particularly when I listened to it last night. I have to say that it was refreshing to hear just plain humanity and compassion instead of nonsensical platitudes about God protecting him and how those who died were with Jesus now. I found Mr. Violand’s open-heartedness and self-possession admirable. One line struck me especially. Describing those terrifying moments in the classroom when he expected to die at any moment, he said that he and the girl under the next desk kept eye contact the whole time. He said, “I was looking at her in the eyes most of the time when we were under those desks, just, kind of, staying human.” (she also survived). I had to pull the car over at that because I couldn’t see to drive anymore.

  126. #127 MikeT
    April 19, 2007

    I have yet to see a prominent right wing blogger who didn’t bust his chops over the last book he put out that basically said “the left made Osama kill 3,000 people on 9-11.” Whatever his reputation was before that book, it’s taken a big hit outside of “the establishment.”

  127. #128 Uhuh Yeah Right
    April 19, 2007

    I followed the link to your sight from Digg. I read your opening salvo and then the retorts, responses, and the “FCK NGGRS ND THSTS” comment (please someone give HIM a gun).

    Straight to the point, Dawkins uses literary devices to make scientific claims. Meaning is a human construct, our observations about the universe are human. Nothing exists without humans to experience it, because we are incapable of excorporeal sensing without proxy. If you can’t follow me, just reread a few times, I won’t dilute concepts for you the way Dawkins does.

    The existence of deities has oddly been debated for so long it seems as if humans must have no memory at all. That there has been more than one deity claiming to be the only one and these deities never display themselves in an unmbiguous way is cause for one of sufficient capacity to move on to more interesting phenomena. There is nothing to plumb there but emotion.

    Deities are not delusions. By definition a delusion must be a fixed belief that isn’t shared by a large number of people. Can’t be said without overt misdirection there, so one can dismiss Dawkins out of hand simply because he is talking out of his cloaca.

    I don’t know why humans crave deities so. Though ‘why’ is likely related to you readers who crave atheism. Your thing about belonging to a cohesive group who will be sympathetic to your nonsensical ramblings about the impossibility of deity smacks a lot of the glue that holds theists together.

    Regarding the ‘right winger’ you all enjoy eviscerating, well, he is a sociopath. You do not matter to him.

    Regarding the individual with the gun and all those notches on his pistol grip. He was a sociopath, you do not matter to him.

    Where are all the atheists now? Huddled around their homefire on scienceblog where no on can see them.

    You have come half way to reality folks, rejecting deities, the home stretch lies ahead in embracing the large issue of how to continue to perceive forever. After all, deities are in part the moron level solution to the problem of death.

    Here’s to watching your struggle with delight.

    Right

  128. #129 Kseniya
    April 19, 2007

    Deities are not delusions. By definition a delusion must be a fixed belief that isn’t shared by a large number of people. Can’t be said without overt misdirection there, so one can dismiss Dawkins out of hand simply because he is talking out of his cloaca.

    No. I disagree. You’re the one talking out of your shapka. A delusion is a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact. Numbers have nothing to do with it.

    Silly but useful example: If 99% of the population under the age of 6 believe in Santa Claus, that does not make the belief NOT a delusion. Anyone care to disagree?

  129. #130 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 19, 2007

    What the hell is Cho I mean Uhuh Yeah Right talking about?

    Another pompous philosopher perhaps.

  130. #131 tinisoli
    April 19, 2007

    Uhuh Yeah Right,
    Fantastically moronic post. You and Andrew Sullivan should get together and talk about how the definition of God as creator of the universe means that God is the creator of the universe.
    An online discussion of atheism, usually in the context of contending with the likes of the Discovery Institute and other threats to reason and science, hardly constitutes a craving for atheism. Is there comfort in finding other atheists after enduring another nightly news broadcast that ended with a segment pandering to the “faith” of theists? Yes. Is it sometimes nice to chat with people who are not looking forward to heaven or cursing others to hell?
    If our “homefire” is so invisible, how’d you get here?

  131. #133 The Constructivist
    April 20, 2007

    Time out. Check out Dawkins introducing Douglas Adams’s reading from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I’ve got a link at Mostly Harmless. OK, go back to arguing refreshed and cheered up.

  132. #134 Keith Douglas
    April 20, 2007

    ZacharySmith: “I’ve noticed that about your people, doctor; you find it easier to understand the death of one than the death of a million. You speak about the objective hardness of the Vulcan heart… yet how little room there seems to be in yours.”

    Kseniya: Unfortunately there is a slight bit of “social norm” aspect to the discussion of delusion in the DSM, and harm to the posessor, etc. Any psychologists care to comment?

  133. #135 Anton Mates
    April 20, 2007

    If 99% of the population under the age of 6 believe in Santa Claus, that does not make the belief NOT a delusion. Anyone care to disagree?

    It depends whether you’re talking about “delusion” in the psychological sense, where it’s considered a symptom of mental illness. In that case, it is necessarily a rare belief without social sanction; otherwise you could have just picked it up from your peers, so it doesn’t provide any evidence that there’s something wrong with you.

    Dawkins, of course, is using the term in its ordinary sense, not the psychological one. But many of his opponents find it convenient to pretend he’s using the latter sense, so that they can claim, “Dawkins thinks religious people are all insane!.” Even though he’s explicitly said that there’s lots of perfectly sane, moderate believers.

    That’s framing for you, I guess.

  134. #136 Steven
    April 21, 2007

    The Virginia Tech massacre is terrible.That said it should be noted that this type of thing happens in Iraq every single day. Where are the masses of Americans gathering to mourn the Iraqi people who died. The Iraqi children. Not even old enough to go to University.

    Truth be told. I am no better. The Virginia Tech massacre only resonated with me a fraction more than the daily massacres in Iraq.

  135. #137 Kseniya
    April 22, 2007

    Keith, Anton – of course you are right about the strict psychological definition, but I intentionally did not mine the DSM because, as you implied, neither does Dawkins.

    See, “the ordinary sense” is not covered by a single definition – it includes a few different shades of meaning. I figured if commentor #125 was going to rely on a cherry-picked dictionary definition to justify his dismissal of Dawkins, I may as well offer one of the several dictionary definitions which contradicted him – not because it described the diagnostic criteria found in the DSM, but because it so obviously and accurately express what Dawkins meant.

    Point being, if one has to quote-mine Webster, ones argument is probably pretty shaky.

  136. #138 Kseniya
    April 22, 2007

    (not to mention that equating the diagnostic criteria of a disorder with the dictionary definition of a word is just… wrong)

  137. #139 Jack
    January 7, 2008

    By the way Jan Andrea, Jackhole is an insult to all us Jackii.
    Who is the Idiot that wants to FCK NGGRS ND THSTS? What a JRK!

    Wow, what a dick. No, I’m sorry, that’s an insult to penii everywhere. What a jackhole.

  138. #140 robert allen
    May 12, 2008

    D’Souza’s point is well taken: atheists can offer no HOPE in the wake of death- that’s why nobody wants them around. Imagine the members of a religious family mourning the loss of a loved one with an atheist in their midst. If ever there was a time that they needed to rely on their faith, now is it. And they KNOW what their atheist relative or “friend” is thinking- but, of course, doesn’t have the guts to say. He/she can only be compounding their misery.

  139. #141 Ryan F Stello
    May 12, 2008

    You’re absolutely right, robert allen.

    Why, when my father died two weeks ago, I must have been misinterpreting the compassion of our friends and the bond of our family as genuine sympathy and love.

    Or maybe it’s just that the opinions of Xians who probably have never experienced an honest loss in their lives are somehow skewed to the point where they no longer feel empathy or any real emotions.

    What do you say, Robbie? Is the love you feel for others conditional, based on their approach to religion?

  140. #142 Kseniya
    May 12, 2008

    There is such a thing as a compassionate lie, but basing a culture on the concept is probably a bad idea.

  141. #143 robert allen
    May 13, 2008

    Kseniya:

    First off, even if, per impossible, what theists are saying is false, it is not a “lie.” That would require that they not really believe that what they are saying is true. Insinuating that they don’t, al a Prof. Dennett, is not only unjustified and false, but insulting. Secondly, you make it seem as if the theists got together and imposed theism on our culture. The fact is, our culture became theistic quite naturally: people, for the most part, were drawn to the idea of a providential God. Finally, I’d like to know what you have in mind as a replacement for a “meme,” to use Dennett’s term, that has meant so much- nay, everything- to so many people?

  142. #144 robert allen
    May 13, 2008

    Mr. Stello:

    I am sorry for your loss and will pray for the repose of your father’s soul.

    As for substance, I did not say atheists couldn’t exhibit “sympathy.” (Although, like everything else about them, it would be of a shallow sort and, for that reason, disdainful.) I said they couldn’t offer hope, which is what mourners REALLY need. (If you had hope in the Resurrection, you wouldn’t be filled with the bitterness your snideness reveals.) I would add, now that you brought it up, that they can’t love either: for God is love, whom they refuse to know. My point is simply this- you can’t have everything. If you want to be an atheist, then you can’t expect NOT to a pariah within a community of God-fearing people.

    And, no, that doesn’t mean we don’t love you- we do. But we don’t have to like, let alone respect you for denigrating our most cherished belief.

  143. #145 Ryan F Stello
    May 13, 2008

    And, no, that doesn’t mean we don’t love you- we do. But we don’t have to like, let alone respect you for denigrating our most cherished belief.

    And that’s where your disgusting attitudes leads you: arguing that our mere presence is enough to denigrate you.

    As I said, my religious family did not have a problem as we shared the pain, my existence did not hurt their sense of hope, I know this for a fact.

    My snideness comes as a response to your own vile attitudes, not from what you believe. You don’t make an effort to understand what hope means to an atheist, but assumed that you do.

    In other words, your soullessness is why I am not a Christian; you are simply unable to understand what it means to be a decent human being.

  144. #146 robert allen
    May 13, 2008

    I did not say your “mere presence” denigrates my belief in God. No, that would require actual insults. I said your mere presence is something I would find hard to take under certain circumstances.

    Atheists have no hope, that’s the problem.

    Here you are concluding I’m indecent based on a few blog posts. That’s a bit of stretch, doncha think?

  145. #147 Ryan F Stello
    May 13, 2008

    I said your mere presence is something I would find hard to take under certain circumstances.

    Yes, what you would find hard to take. But that’s your problem, you made an assumption that all Christians share your own contempt when you imagined your scenario. You are unable to concieve that others who share similar religious beliefs do not have the irritation that you have.

    Atheists have no hope, that’s the problem.

    You have not endeavored to find what atheists do hope for in these situations, so your opinion is hollow.

    Here you are concluding I’m indecent based on a few blog posts. That’s a bit of stretch, doncha think?

    Yes, but the onus is on you to show to yourself that you are, in fact, a good person. You do not and cannot prove anything to me. However, since your blog posts lack humility and humanity, I feel more than justified in my assessment. Deal.

  146. #148 robert allen
    May 13, 2008

    Let’s just stick to philosophy and put the personal stuff aside. I’m never going to make you respect me and vice-versa. My main contention is, hope is based on the belief in a providential God- no God no hope. Again, you people think you can have everything and you can’t.

  147. #149 Ryan F Stello
    May 13, 2008

    Let’s just stick to philosophy and put the personal stuff aside.

    I’m not really interested in discussing philosophy with you because you’re not a respectable person. You bring nothing of worth in anything that you do. If Kseniya thinks you’re worth having a discussion with, I leave that for him.

    My main contention is, hope is based on the belief in a providential God- no God no hope.

    Well, obviously, when you get to define the terms.

    But you’re wrong from the Lutheran perspective: salvation is only possible as granted from God, but ‘hope’, being an aspect of God, was imbued in all at creation, since it was part of the ‘Image’.

    You can debate that against your own twisted version. As I said, I am not interested in parlay.

    Again, you people think you can have everything and you can’t.

    Who wants everything? Not I.

  148. #150 robert allen
    May 13, 2008

    Ah, but you don’t believe in God, so you don’t believe in any of his aspects, including hope. I can work with the Lutheran’s perspective and still make my point: no Imbuer, nothing imbued. Right? So you can’t believe there’s hope inside you. The most you can say is, yeah, if there were a God, then even atheists like me would be imbued with hope. But YOU can’t say you have hope simply because there is one conception of it according to which even atheists have it. Lutherans could say that, but you can’t. I actually think you and your co-religionists do have hope, though. It’s just that it’s buried so deep inside you, along with the faith you also suppress, that it’s useless to you and others.

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