Pharyngula

Why, what a vile little man

I speak of Dinesh D’Souza, who seems to have noticed that his creepy and dishonest tirade against atheists won him some attention, so now he has upped the ante, and gotten even creepier and more dishonest.

Start with the title: “Dawkins’ Message to Mourners–Get Over It!”. That sounds as if he is reporting that Dawkins has said something horribly callous directly to the grieving families, doesn’t it? Well, no … all we actually have in this article from Richard Dawkins is a quote from his book, River Out of Eden(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), published in the mid-90s.

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.

Which is all quite true; I don’t see the universe rising up to offer consolation to the families who have lost people they loved, or even better, magically blocking the bullets that have caused so much pain. I also don’t see Dawkins offering this unpleasant fact of reality as funeral oratory, much less telling the families to “get over it.”

So D’Souza has concocted an article entirely out of a lie. Is anyone surprised?

This also won’t be a surprise. D’Souza thinks atheists believe tragedies are occasions to say “c’est la vie“, and that he has the answer.

Only God seems to have the power to heal hearts in such circumstances.

God will do nothing. He did nothing during the killings, he will not be at the funeral, he won’t come to parents weeping home alone. People will come together and cope, but those are wounds that will never really heal. There are no magic words that will make the loss of someone we cared about go away, and if there were, if there were something that would make us forget or become indifferent to such grief, would we want it?

After bumbling his way through more hateful stereotypes, D’Souza closes with a question.

I really want to hear what the atheist would tell the grieving mothers.

Hmmm. Something like, “I’m sorry. I wish I could help you bear your loss. Is there anything I can do to help?”

You know, some expression of regret and commisseration, and an offer of a shoulder to lean on. Like any other decent human being would.

Something D’Souza would find unfamiliar.

Or perhaps, if someone like Dawkins were asked to speak at the funeral of a friend, we could actually look at what he said in those circumstances. It doesn’t seem to have been “c’est la vie” or “get over it!” or anything quite so brusque and unfeeling.


Andy finds another example of D’Souza’s idiocy. Why would a loving god allow such horrors?

But perhaps God’s purpose in the world (I am only thinking aloud here) is to draw his creatures to him. And you have to admit that tragedies like this one at Virginia Tech help to do that!

Brilliant! I’m going to draw my family together in unity and shared awe by taking a ball-peen hammer to the cats. A bloody tragedy is just the thing to get us all joining hands in love.

Comments

  1. #1 MartinC
    April 20, 2007

    In contrast to the reality of the conventional religious view of such deaths, which is….
    “Congratulations, your child is now in heaven, you must be so happy!”
    Apart from those of the wrong religion, naturally.
    “Your child is now burning in hell and will be there for all eternity in agonising torment”
    If only atheist could show such compassion…

  2. #2 Christian Burnham
    April 20, 2007

    This is a rubbish way to start a Friday. It’s been a long week for anyone who goes about campus. In some ways, this has affected staff, students and professors more than 9-11. We don’t know what to do and it looks grim.

    I think we all find D’Souza to be repellant. I doubt there will be one poster who can find anything good to say about him. He’s a rotten carcass that emits a putrescent stench, and that’s putting it nicely.

    These be seven curses on a judge so cruel:
    That one doctor will not save him,
    That two healers will not heal him,
    That three eyes will not see him.

    That four ears will not hear him,
    That five walls will not hide him,
    That six diggers will not bury him
    And that seven deaths shall never kill him.

    (Seven curses, Dylan)

    http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/curses.html

  3. #3 David Godfrey
    April 20, 2007

    And instead of writing an obituary for Douglas he wrote “a keening lament”. But I don’t expect right-wing pundits to do proper research, only make it up as they go along. Especially when it comes to things they disagree with. Melanie Phillips is an equally unpleasant columnist in the UK.

  4. #4 Callandor
    April 20, 2007

    How more pathetic, opportunistic, and at the same time irrelevant can a man get?

  5. #5 Jesurgislac
    April 20, 2007

    When people I have loved have died, I have not noticed any particular difference between atheists and theists in their ability to think of comforting things to say.

    Sometimes people say the wrong thing. (Atheists as well as theists.) Sometimes people magically say the right thing.

    In fact – weirdly, so weirdly – it was after a beloved cat who had owned me for 15 years died, that I realized I really wished I could believe in heaven, because it was so painful to think that never again would I feel my cat scramble up from my arms to my shoulders, and rub the side of her head against my face, as she’d done so often. But with this wish came the certainty that I don’t believe, it’s just one of those nice ideas that people cling to because it is so painful to know that someone who is dead is gone forever.

    And when I’ve mourned, mostly people have honored what they know of me, and not assured me that the person I love (or the cat!) is now in heaven – knowing I don’t believe.

  6. #6 Peter Kemp.
    April 20, 2007

    From WH Auden via “4 Weddings and a Funeral” I particularly liked this funeral oration, an expression of love for a departed one which does not exactly require an invisible man in the sky as a context:

    “Stop all the clocks,
    cut off the telephone,
    Prevent the dog from barking
    with a juicy bone,

    Silence the pianos
    and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin,
    let the mourners come.

    Let the aeroplanes circle
    moaning overhead
    Scribbling on the sky the message
    He ls Dead.

    Put crepe bows round the white necks
    of the public doves,
    Let traffic policemen
    wear black cotton gloves.

    He [she] was my North, my South,
    my East and West.
    My working week and my Sunday rest,
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

    I thought that love would last for ever:
    I was wrong.
    The stars are not wanted now:
    Put out every one;

    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
    Pour away the ocean
    and sweep up the wood;
    For nothing now
    can ever come to any good.”

    “I really want to hear what the atheist would tell the grieving mothers.”

    Well, certainly not pious platitudes and empty promises of eternal life.

    The insidious underlying message of D’Sewer is that atheists have no humanity–we are untermenschen in this depraved individual’s eyes and it makes me want to vomit.

  7. #7 Enigman
    April 20, 2007

    At bottom indifference? Kinda depends upon where your bottom is… I’m hardly indifferent when mine’s on the line; or when yours is, really… The most primitive fact is that we know that we exist because we know that we know we do, and knowledge hardly equates with indifference. Not wanting to know does. (You’re so right about D’Souza though, and that’s the main things, when it comes down to it.)

  8. #8 reason
    April 20, 2007

    I followed the link to D’Souza’s Blog. The man may be an idiot, but he sure is a masochist as well. On the first page ALL the comments were against him, agrily so! He must love to be hated. What a strange man.

  9. #9 GeneMachine
    April 20, 2007

    There seems to be a 100% correlation between D’Souza opening his mouth and vile hateful garbage being expelled into the atmosphere.

    I’m not familiar with this D’Souza person. Is he just having a bad couple of days or is he always so repugnant?

    Maybe this is what happens when all those molecules get assembled the wrong way. Perhaps it is in his genes? His father certainly should have kept it in his jeans.

  10. #10 jv
    April 20, 2007

    Empathy.

    I don’t need to believe in a god to make me like my friends and family. If they suddenly disappeared, I would be very sad too. If I suddenly disappeared, they would be sad. There is no god backing that — I just enjoy being around my friends and family and they enjoy being around me, too.

    I don’t know any of the Virginia Tech people, but I can certainly imagine how bad they feel — I can just imagine being them, and how bad that would feel.

    god might have given them their morals, but not being a psychotic ass gave me mine.

  11. #11 toomanytribbles
    April 20, 2007

    i suppose d’souza thinks that the attention he’s getting puts him on par with thinking humans. it’s pitiful.

  12. #12 hyperdeath
    April 20, 2007

    Note the deceitful change of tack between the first and second paragraphs: He starts off by mentioning the problem of evil (i.e. why do bad things happen in the presence of a benevolent god?), but instead of addressing this directly, he distorts the discussion into a comparison of how religious and non-religious people behave.

  13. #13 raiko
    April 20, 2007

    Vile is too nice a word to describe D’Souza.

    I’m quite willing to let the the attack on atheists slide. Being an atheist myself, I find his quote-mining of Richard Dawkins childish, and quite frankly, not worth the effort to get angry over. A straight rebuttal such as Prof. Myers’ is the proper response, I think.

    The fact that pisses me off is that D’Souza is exploiting this tragedy, and as an extension, exploiting the families involved, to push his agenda. The man is beyond having no class.

  14. #14 Lee Harrison
    April 20, 2007

    This bastard is simply VILE!! Is it human?

    And as for his pathetic dare to atheists to try to ‘make some meaning’ out of this – WTF??!!

    What bloody meaning does Gawd give it?

    Perhaps it’s “I love everyone but wanted these 30+ people to die in pain and terror – Why? Because My ways are mysterious ways – don’t argue.”

    Or maybe, “From the pain and terror of this tragedy, others can demonstrate how to be wankers on public forums in My name.”

    Or here’s one that’s right up the almighty sky fairy’s alley – “The pain and senselessness of this event, carried out by a Christian nut, gave My people an incredible opportunity to do My bidding by 1) shouting down any suggestion of Christian delusions Cho might have suffered; 2)trying to dump the whole sorry mess in the lap of the atheists in order to drive people away from them and towards Me.”

    I have heard, in the past, theists argue that tragedies are God’s teaching tools. If messy, object lessons are the only type Gawd can manage (look at what supposedly happened to Jeebus, after all) then he’s a fucking terrible teacher.

    Omnipotent/Omniscient/Omnibenevolent my hairy arse.

    And D’Souza? Get a life that doesn’t rely on leeching off the tragedies of others and prove that you are a Homo sapiens, not a Yersinia pestis.

  15. #15 Lee Harrison
    April 20, 2007

    On another note – Peter Kemp, comment #5 – beautiful, and thank you for posting it. That poem always makes me misty.

  16. #16 Michael Poole
    April 20, 2007

    I have never read D’Souza’s work directly, only what has been quoted by others; it seems to me that there are better things to do with one’s time than to pay attention to him. I found it mind-boggling that PZ’s first paragraph mentioned how D’Souza’s writings got attention — but then rewarded D’Souza by paying more attention to him. Are there no more interesting or worthwhile right-wingers with whom to debate, where the back-and-forth might be remotely productive?

  17. #17 hatfulofhollow
    April 20, 2007

    Tell the Hoover Institute what you think at http://www.hoover.org/contact. Make it clear and concise. As a “scholar,” he–and Stanford–should know better. If he’s going to use this as a springboard for his personal vendetta, by distorting the position of another scholar in the process, then the Hoover Institute should look elsewhere for its talent. They probably won’t get rid of D’Souza until he dies, but at least he can be embarrassed.

  18. #18 Alison
    April 20, 2007

    The last time I went to a funeral, it was a Catholic Mass. It went on for well over an hour, and there was less than 15 minutes of that devoted to remembrance of the deceased. Most of that 15 minutes was taken up by the priest, who did not know her and couldn’t even pronounce her name properly. Why anyone would insist that this religious send-off, filled with a laundry list of bible quotes and meaningless rituals involving wine and crackers and incense is somehow more of a tribute and more supportive to the survivors than the eloquent praise and personal memories of Richard Dawkins for Douglas Adams, is beyond the scope of my imagination. Could D’Souza or any of his compatriots honestly say they’d rather hear a bunch of religious strangers repeating meaningless phrases about God’s plan or their loved ones being in heaven than the heartfelt sympathy of an single atheist telling him “I loved him, too, and I will miss him as well”?

  19. #19 PZ Myers
    April 20, 2007

    I found it mind-boggling that PZ’s first paragraph mentioned how D’Souza’s writings got attention — but then rewarded D’Souza by paying more attention to him.

    That’s the blogger’s dilemma. This is a medium where the metric of success is the number of eyeballs looking at you, and criticizing fools directs the readers’ eyes to the target of your wrath. There’s just no way around it.

    The counter-conflict, though, is that slime like D’Souza also thrives on darkness and neglect. There’s also a point to be made in shining a hard bright light on them.

  20. #20 Faithful Reader
    April 20, 2007

    Slightly OT, but see this article by Gary LaVergne, director of admissions research at the University of Texas at Austin and author of A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders, for a clear establishment of who is to blame for the crime at Virginia Tech.

  21. #21 jv
    April 20, 2007

    I just sent the fellow a partially sucking up job application, paraphrased: I’m so a conservative like you *swoon* but Bush confuses me *stumble* can you guide me kind sir? *daintly faint*

    If I get a response (or, you know virtually raped), I’ll post it here.

  22. #22 John Bode
    April 20, 2007

    Wow. Dude sounds like Jabriol; it’s like he’s trying to get people to hate him so he can claim he’s being unfairly victimized.

    It’s an interesting pathology.

  23. #23 Molly, NYC
    April 20, 2007

    D’Souza’s position at the Hoover Institution is the epitome of wingnut welfare–his true career. He has no apparent academic duties: he needn’t teach or publish. He also needn’t jockey for tenure, since they don’t give it to anyone with just a BA, which is all D’Souza has.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this is a guy who makes a point of talking up his time at Princeton (edited a mag for alum reactionaries and mongered gossip about students’ sex lives–which he doubtless thought of as “investigative journalism”) and now, Stanford. He could have got an advanced degree at either place with the most modest effort (no messy labwork, just a few class credits and recycle a couple of articles for his thesis past some wink-and-a-nod-IOKIYAR advisor).

    But y’know, when your calling is convincing high-pocketed neocons to pay you a big salary for fighting against the sort of things only rich, sheltered, gullible, spoiled people worry about, narrow-mindedness is an asset to be guarded and treasured. You don’t want to risk messing it up with the possibility of learning anything.

  24. #24 Faithful Reader
    April 20, 2007
  25. #25 Lee Harrison
    April 20, 2007

    My apologies for comment #12 – it is a bit much of a rant, esp. for a noob. This a-hole just got me boiling.

  26. #26 Peter McGrath
    April 20, 2007

    Lee: I suspect Mr D’Souza’s parents were married. We bastards are known for our empathy in these circumstances, our Christian legitimati clearly aren’t. Knock it off with the ‘bastard’ as an insult, eh?

  27. #27 Roy
    April 20, 2007

    Here’s a clue about D’Souza: He makes stuff up.

  28. #28 Lee Harrison
    April 20, 2007

    I suspect Mr D’Souza’s parents were married. We bastards are known for our empathy in these circumstances, our Christian legitimati clearly aren’t. Knock it off with the ‘bastard’ as an insult, eh?

    I really should know better – I’m an ILlegitmati myself.

  29. #29 andy
    April 20, 2007

    D’Souza has it completely backwards.

    As I say in this somewhat lengthy rant in response to his idiocy, it is the typical theist who must just shrug his shoulders and say “c’est la vie.”

    Also, check out this lovely, insane sentiment, in which D’Souza essentially asserts that mass murder can glorify God. Hooray!

    What a maroon.

    On the bright side, he at least got me to write two entries in one day, which is better than my recent performance.

  30. #30 John Danley
    April 20, 2007

    The only real difference between a non-theist and a theist is the suspension of belief in all supernatural explanations. Any other “character traits” are up to the individual. You’ll find asshole Christians and asshole non-theists. Nice ones too. D’Souza has made the illogical assumption of most 12 year olds.

  31. #31 xebecs
    April 20, 2007

    “Your child is now burning in hell and will be there for all eternity in agonising torment”

    You forgot part of it. “…but you should be happy anyway, because it’s all part of God’s plan.”

    Such nice people.

  32. #32 Ted H,
    April 20, 2007

    Tragedies like this is one of the reasons people cling to religion in the first place. “They’re in a better place. The suffering is over,” and all that other Bull Plop. If that’s what it takes for others to heal, fine. I think D’Souza and others of his ilk expect atheists to jump up and say “Nope. Worm Food, nothing else.” Human empathy does not require religion.

    My mother has end-stage cancer with very little time left. She has never been much on religion, but she is spiritual. She keeps going on about “death is not the end, only a doorway to another world.” Am I going to say “Sorry, probably not?” Of course not. I may not say “That’s right,” but I don’t tell her I disagree either. It is all part of being there to help someone grieve, cope, etc.

  33. #33 Mooser
    April 20, 2007

    I’ve noticed another physical effect of mass gun killings. They somehow alter space and time so that the ballistic properties and reach of a knife and a chainsaw somehow become equivalent with a bullet. (You know: ‘he could have killed people with a knife or a chainsaw.’)

  34. #34 Nerull
    April 20, 2007

    if there were something that would make us forget or become indifferent to such grief, would we want it?

    In my experience, yes, they do want it.

    I’ve been told that, when in heaven, one forgets about anything that might not make you happy. This includes any family members that didn’t make it.

    Only son is a eeevvil atheist? Well, don’t worry, you’ll forget he ever existed when you go to heaven.

  35. #35 Molly, NYC
    April 20, 2007

    D’Sousa does read the polls, though. How far do you think he’d get insulting anyone else’s beliefs about religion?

    And boy the Jews are up in arms! They’re mad as hell about my post “Where are the Jews When Bad Things Happen.” Many responders informed me that tragedies are normally considered a problem for Christians, not Jews. Where is Jesus when bad things happen? Yes, people, I know this. My point was that if evil and suffering are a problem for Christians–and they are–they are an even bigger problem for the Jews.

    (D’Sousa’s first ‘graf, with “the Jews,” “Christians,” “Jesus,” etc. substituted for “atheists,” “religion,” “God”–although making the appropriate substitutions with “Muslims” “Allah” etc, or with the atheist and religionist refs reversed, is interesting too)

  36. #36 Stacey C.
    April 20, 2007

    Thank you hatfulofhollow for the suggestion to write to the Hoover Institute. While I’m sure it will not make a significant impact I did write a (very polite) letter to them stating that Mr. D’Souza does not reflect well on them. Sadly, I am neither an Alum nor well heeled enough for my opinion to count I suspect.

  37. #37 DouglasG
    April 20, 2007

    What do you expect from a guy who blames the 9/11 attacks on Jimmy Carter?

  38. #38 Bruce
    April 20, 2007

    Interesting, hatfulofhollow; the Hoover site is down for maintenance. I followed the link to Dinesh’s site and now I have to go wash up.
    Nasty.

  39. #39 Rienk
    April 20, 2007

    If this idiot, who actually dated Coulter and that should say enough, would read some of Dawkins’ books for once he might have come upon the beautiful passage in The Ancestors Tale in which professor Dawkins personally addresses Douglas Adams, though passed away a long time ago. Did Dawkins say “get over it”? Not at all. It was a very moving paragraph in a very moving celebration of evolutionary science.

  40. #40 Hank Fox
    April 20, 2007

    Thank you, Molly, NYC! (#32)

    Anytime someone makes casually negative comments about atheists, I like to substitute words such as Jews, blacks, women, or handicapped every place the word “atheists” appears, to get some perspective on just how offensive the remarks really are.

    To the people who make the comments, atheists are an outgroup it’s okay to malign. The trick is to show the hidden hate by finding a FORMER outgroup, someone it’s NOT okay to make blithe nasty remarks about, and repeat the writer’s/speaker’s words with the new group inserted.

    I sometimes think we atheists are so used to casual hate speech, and possibly (as a result) so thick-skinned, that we often fail to really take note of it when it happens.

    Even if you never do this search-and-replace for others, do it for yourself. It reminds you of how pervasive – and accepted! – the hate speech directed against us is.

    Don Imus finally lost his job over a racial slur. But D’Souza can tell deliberate lies about this group I belong to, and … nothing.

    Shows you how far we have to go.

  41. #41 TWood
    April 20, 2007

    “I don’t see the universe rising up to offer consolation to the families who have lost people they loved…”

    Sure it did, when -people- did this:

    “You know, some expression of regret and commisseration, and an offer of a shoulder to lean on. Like any other decent human being would.”

    Only a creationist sees us as being separate from creation. 😉

  42. #42 Chris Gruber, FCD
    April 20, 2007

    “illegitimati”? Oh that’s it, we’re forming a secret society right now!

  43. #43 Greg Laden
    April 20, 2007

    This might be kind of obvious, but …

    I think various yahoos going out of their way to point out how Richard Dawkins somehow has something to do with, or nothing to do with, or whatever, the post-massacre reaction is an excellent example of waving the monkey.

    “Watch the monkey” …

    The evidence strongly suggests that the VT massacre was linked to religion. Maybe not a “good” example of religion but not an entirely uncommon one.

    Religion is not simply a delusion. Religious rhetoric and iconography, allegory and metaphor, provide the raw material for delusion as well. There is cultural and linguistic coevolutoin between delusional (phyco-neural) behavior and delusional symboling.

    Societal and cultural forces favoring religiosity and spirituality SELECT FOR delusional tendencies and capacities. Some of this is cultural evolution but some of it is starting to look like genetic evolution…

    …Our species carries a widespread balanced polymorphism that underlies both psychotic behavior and religiosity. The positive selection comes from the religiosity … from the value religiosity has in our theistic society.

    Theistic society breeds psychotic behavior. The theistic aspect of our society is the reason this man killed these people. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the ultimate social and cultural cause of this event is religion.

    The bullets killed the people, the killer pulled the trigger, but our religious society mad this happen. If this was an atheistic society this would not have happened.

    (Yea, I know, I just said the same exact thing nine times, but that helped to develop the thought)

  44. #44 raindogzilla
    April 20, 2007

    But perhaps God’s purpose in the world (I am only thinking aloud here) is to draw his creatures to him. And you have to admit that tragedies like this one at Virginia Tech help to do that!

    So, god, who is responsible for everything, culls thirty- three from his flock in order that the rest of the flock may unite in their despair? This god fellow sounds like one of those serial killers who join the throng assembled at the crime scene tape at his latest effort and passes out sandwiches.

    Even if it were real, who’d want to reward that sort of behavior with worship?

  45. #45 Blake Stacey
    April 20, 2007

    Greg Laden:

    Oh, I dunno. He could have been a rabid Objectivist who pulled out his guns screaming, “Leeches! Leeches! Sucking the blood from the arteries of capitalism!”

  46. #46 Blake Stacey
    April 20, 2007

    God could easily “draw his creatures to him” in a much kinder way than killing them like extras in Total Recall. For example, he could make his son’s body manifest in chocolate-chip cookies instead of unleavened bread.

  47. #47 Christian Burnham
    April 20, 2007

    These be seven curses on a judge so cruel:
    That one doctor will not save him,
    That two healers will not heal him,
    That three eyes will not see him.

    That four ears will not hear him,
    That five walls will not hide him,
    That six diggers will not bury him
    And that seven deaths shall never kill him.

    (Seven curses, Dylan)

    http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/curses.html

  48. #48 Christian Burnham
    April 20, 2007

    I’m having trouble posting. Trying to work out why.

  49. #49 Christian Burnham
    April 20, 2007

    I think we all find D’Souza to be repellant. I doubt there will be one poster who can find anything good to say about him. He’s a rotten carcass that emits a putrescent stench, and that’s putting it nicely.

    These be seven curses on a judge so cruel:
    That one doctor will not save him,
    That two healers will not heal him,
    That three eyes will not see him.

    That four ears will not hear him,
    That five walls will not hide him,
    That six diggers will not bury him
    And that seven deaths shall never kill him.

    (Seven curses, Dylan)

  50. #50 Greg Laden
    April 20, 2007

    Christian: This is an atheist site. Just change your screen name to “PuppyEater Burnham” and you’ll get past the filter.

  51. #51 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 20, 2007

    I think Dinesh wouldn’t know what to say if he couldn’t spout the cliche…

    ” Your child is in a better place now.”

    Or

    “They’re with god now, you’ll see them again one day.”

    Atheist shouldn’t be sorry that we have an actualy grasp of reality and that there’s nothing worse than losing someone you love forever.

    I hate when I hear people saying things like that to someone grieving.

  52. #52 petardier
    April 20, 2007

    At Dartmouth, he was known to most of us as Distort D’Newsa.

  53. #53 CalGeorge
    April 20, 2007

    Hey, I didn’t realize that Ayatolllah D’Louza is calling for the destruction of America! That’s…. OUTRAGEOUS!

    On the political left, many fault the United States for a history of slavery, and for continuing inequality and racism. […]

    If these critics are right, then America should be destroyed.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/06/29/IN290713.DTL

  54. #54 Christian Burnham
    April 20, 2007

    Christian: This is an atheist site. Just change your screen name to “PuppyEater Burnham” and you’ll get past the filter.

    I will not. I like my name.

    It was a link to the Dylan lyrics page which upset PZ’s oh so sensitive filter this time.

  55. #55 DiscGrace
    April 20, 2007

    Oh, I don’t know, Blake. The Objectivists I know basically worship Ayn Rand, so I’d think that makes it just another extra-wacky religion …

  56. #56 thwaite
    April 20, 2007

    Was Auden an atheist? I don’t know, and this paragraph from the wikipedia entry for him can suggest differing conclusions:
    His theology in his later years evolved from a highly inward and psychologically oriented Protestantism in the early 1940s to a more Roman Catholic-oriented interest in the significance of the body and in collective ritual in the later 1940s and 1950s, and finally to the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer which rejected “childish” conceptions of God for an adult religion that focused on the significance of human suffering.[21]

    I read the poem (in #5) as a vivid articulation of rage at loss, not any consolation. At least it does avoid false consolations.

  57. #57 PZ Myers
    April 20, 2007

    Blame Charlie Wagner.

    He was spamming the site to a ridiculous degree under a large collection of pseudonyms, and one of the things he was consistently doing was linking to various music artists, like Bob Dylan. Obviously, I wouldn’t ban Dylan, but keying on specific links to particular pages were an easy way to lock the little twit out.

  58. #58 Kseniya
    April 20, 2007

    Wow. D’Souza has outdone himself. “Vile” is too kind a word.

    We must expect a lot more of his brand of poisonous rhetoric before this quiets down. He’s determined to use this against atheists in any way he can, just as the commenters on his blog who unequivocally characterize Cho himself as an atheist.

    petardier: My dad is a Dartmouth grad from that era, too, and has pretty much the same opinion of D’Souza. Just fyi. 🙂

  59. #59 Captain C
    April 20, 2007

    “I’m not familiar with this D’Souza person. Is he just having a bad couple of days or is he always so repugnant?”

    The latter. He got his start at the _Dartmouth Review_, where he published some truly abhorrent (and sometimes racist) pieces. He also, recently, said that liberalism and social freedom were to blame for 9/11, since it rightfully annoyed bin Laden. He’s basically a male wingnut welfare-“academic” version of Anne Coulter without the long skinny legs.

  60. #60 Rey Fox
    April 20, 2007

    This could be a good sign. Perhaps it means that the heat brought by the “new atheists” is provoking the fight-or-flight response.

    I notice that his column is still getting the occasional pat-on-the-back from people who think comforting lies are the biggest asset of religion. Including this gem: “In short, Allah gives us the will to choose while at the same time dictating what’s going to happen.” That explains everything!

  61. #61 Kseniya
    April 20, 2007

    FYI- The Dartmouth Review is an independent publication and, contrary to popular belief, is not affiliated with The College. This misperception has helped give Dartmouth an undeserved, or at least exaggerated, reputation for being Conservative.

  62. #62 Peter McGrath
    April 20, 2007

    “illegitimati”? Oh that’s it, we’re forming a secret society right now!

    One already exists: some Christian gob sounded off in The Times (London) and I wrote in putting his straight and – lightheartedly – forming the National Bastards Association. Ten people wrote for membership. Motto: “”We are the bastards who will grind you down”. Membership allows you to add a bend sinister to your coat of arms and when I find out what one of those is, I’ll let you know. But I’m sure it’s jolly impressive. Given that Deuteronomy has a down on us and illegitimati sounds very sinister, there could be some fun to be had: getting one of our number to marry an heir to the throne, buying a President’s underage daughter a pint of gin in a sleazy bar (who hasn’t!)and kissing the Pope’s ring (stop it right now! Upon meeting the Big Bridge you are meant to kneel and kiss his ring. It was St Peter’s you know.) OK, back to writing a sponsorship pack for the Beagle Project.

  63. #63 David Marjanovi?
    April 20, 2007

    If this idiot, who actually dated Coulter

    Am I glad I’m capable of laughing without opening my mouth!

    “Watch the monkey” …

    Do you mean the Chewbacca Defense? “Look at the monkey. Look at the silly monkey!”

  64. #64 David Marjanovi?
    April 20, 2007

    If this idiot, who actually dated Coulter

    Am I glad I’m capable of laughing without opening my mouth!

    “Watch the monkey” …

    Do you mean the Chewbacca Defense? “Look at the monkey. Look at the silly monkey!”

  65. #65 Molly, NYC
    April 20, 2007

    For example, he could make his son’s body manifest in chocolate-chip cookies instead of unleavened bread.

    Blake Stacey – For that matter, why couldn’t He manifest Himself (or God, Jr.) on TV talk shows? And if He’s so freaking concerned about whether people believe in Him or not (and by extension, whether they pray to Him or eschew shellfish or whatever), why doesn’t He go on TV?

    Seriously. If an man’s-image-type God existed, D’Sousa wouldn’t be saying “You should believe in Him because it’s a pretty belief” (which is his basic argument here). He’d be saying “You should believe in God because–Hell, didn’t you see His Meet the Press interview? Here’s a link to the YouTube clip.”

  66. #66 Blake Stacey
    April 20, 2007

    Molly, NYC:

    But that would negate free will and the beauty of faith! A god who would do that might just as well part the waters, feed a multitude on a handful of fish and bread, keep a man alive inside a fish for three days. . . Er, wait a second. . . .

  67. #67 Carlie
    April 20, 2007

    Dang, PZ, you’re still having to beat back Charlie Wagner? That’s one reason I couldn’t have a blog – so much behind the scenes activity has to go on to make it usable for the rest of us. Interesting that so many of those time-sucking trolls are Christians.

  68. #68 Brian Gyss
    April 20, 2007

    Perhaps he’s just creating instant attack fodder for Dawkins’ upcoming appearance on the Billo show at the behest of his puppet masters? This just seems like an incredibly odd card to pull unless it was actually going somewhere.

  69. #69 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 20, 2007

    Dawkins is on such a higher intellectual plane, I can’t even imagine what’s going to go down.

  70. #70 Willo the Wisp
    April 20, 2007

    I hope Dawkins never responds to this hateful, bigoted attention-monger.

  71. #71 DragonScholar
    April 20, 2007

    The monday the VA Tech massacre happened a friend of mine miscarried and another was disinherited by her parents the next day.

    I would probably be called an atheist, I’m not sure I am because I find a lot of religious/non-religious terminology constraining. But I don’t believe in offering comfort that can’t be shown to WORK. No pie-in-the-sky promises.

    I talked to both of them, empathized, comforted them, offered advice, and listened. Things that worked.

    Thats how I respond. Because first and foremost I am human, I understand, and I empathize.

    And if there is a God who cares, against my expectations, I’m sure he’d rather I get off my ass and do something than lay everything on his doorstep and walk away.

  72. #72 coz
    April 20, 2007

    I never heard of this tool before this week, I wish I was still in ignorance. Makes my skin crawl.

    Ohh yeah and thanks making me cry all over again by rereading Dawkins Tribute to Douglas Adams….sigh.

  73. #73 CalGeorge
    April 20, 2007

    Posted by: Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD | April 20, 2007 01:11 PM

    FCD. My first guess was: Fuck creationist dildos.

    Then I figured it out: Friends of Charles Darwin.

    How is the Beagle Project going, Peter and Steve_C?

  74. #74 Spaulding
    April 20, 2007

    Okay, there’s no defense of D’Souza’s nonsense. But please don’t turn around and direct the same sort of idiocy towards theists. To an atheist, “they’re in a better place” may sound like unpalatable denial, but it’s not hard to see that such sentiments can come from a person feeling profound loss, searching for words of comfort. Words aren’t ever really enough.

    Christians and muslims and jews and hindus and buddhists and atheists and the rest of the world mourn the loss of loved ones. And we all clumsily struggle to share what comfort and hope we can, and to move on. There’s not a religious distinction there. If we ridicule someone else’s coping mechanism in the face of death, claiming that reference to myths or whatever is a less valid way to mourn, then we’re no less insensitive than D’Souza.

  75. #75 Chuck
    April 20, 2007

    If there is a personal God, I don’t see how such a being could be of any comfort to the families of the dead. In fact, in his callous indifference, I’d be pretty pissed at God right now if I believed.

    To look to God for meaning in the wake of utterly random and senseless carnage is truly pathetic.

    At least the universe has a reason for being callously indifferent . . .

  76. #76 Chuck
    April 20, 2007

    By the way, we owe as much attention to D’souza as we do to Osama bin Laden and his ilk, for D’souza has written a book in which he throws in his towl on the side of religious fundamentalism everyhwhere. D’souza is no longer merely a political and intellectual opponent. He is at best an irrelevant madman, and at worst an enemy of the Enlightenment and those countries whose culture and governments are founded on it, including the United States.

    May I suggest a comfortable cell at Gitmo for D’souza?

  77. #77 dzd
    April 20, 2007

    As for the past 4,000 years, God declined to comment.

  78. #78 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 20, 2007

    Spaulding.

    My point was that Dinesh can’t even comprehend how atheists grieve.

    And that I would be pissed if it was my child and someone tried to console me with one of those reality ignoring clichs.

  79. #79 dave
    April 20, 2007

    This universe sucks. It really does. There’s all this pain and suffering. A pitiless indifferent universe, and a meaningless, pointless existence. And not only that, there’s no space aliens and you can’t even go faster than the speed of light (contrary to what all those scifi books led me to believe).

  80. #80 tinisoli
    April 20, 2007

    Here’s what D’Souza just emailed me in response to my post on his blog:

    How do you know Cho was even religious? He might be an atheist like you and have lost any sense of purpose in life. And do you subscribe to the idea that if Cho was reading Dawkins, that discredits Dawkins? Atheist logic, I suppose.

    best, DD

    Unreal. I suppose we atheists will have to start doing things in public, good deeds and whatnot, while carrying banners and wearing t-shirts that say “I’m an Atheist AND a nice guy, too!” Otherwise D’Souza and others will continue to imagine us slithering around in dark caves, eating embryonic stem cells, and muttering “molecules bouncing off of molecules bouncing off molecules.”

  81. #81 hibob
    April 20, 2007

    A professor at Virginia Tech wrote a diary at DailyKos on how he felt about D’souza’s rant:
    Dinesh D’Souza says I don’t exist: an atheist at Virginia Tech
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/4/19/18451/0971

    It’s some of the best writing I’ve seen in a while; I hope it gets well distributed at the Hoover institute.

  82. #82 Alison
    April 20, 2007

    For a guy who doesn’t believe in evolution, he sure does put a lot of stock in speciation, doesn’t he? Because clearly, atheists just aren’t quite human, if I’m reading him right.

  83. #83 Glen Davidson
    April 20, 2007

    By the way, has it been noted on Pharyngula yet that Cho comes from a Xian family (yes, I know that remarks have been made about his religious rhetoric (common among the psychotic), but I haven’t seen where the fact of formal Xianity has been mentioned)?

    I heard it on the news last night, a neighbor discussing the comings and goings of his family, including them going to church. So there you have it, Christ is why Cho did it, just like he implied in his rambling “manifesto”.

    Nonsense, of course, the guy was out of touch with reality and I don’t have any evidence that Xianity pushes anybody to mass murder, let alone that it did Cho. But if “teaching Darwinism” in schools, or secularism at large, is to be implicated in his murderous outrage, the closer causal factor than those would seem to be his family and his religion (whether or not he still “believed”, naturally).

    So I don’t know if he would be officially “Xian” at the time of the shootings, but his background is Xian, and of course it is the “background” which is supposed to be responsible for “Darwinism”-inspired crime, not the specific thoughts of the killers (except perhaps for Harris and Klebold, who did at times espouse a kind of social Darwinism (no, I don’t think Darwin is responsible for social Darwinism, but they seemed to think that science supported their quest for power over others)).

    Well that’s as it may be, but let’s remember something else about Cho’s murderous outburst: he did it to effect meaning, not because he considered humans to be meaningless collections of molecules. Perhaps the Dostoevsky scenario (Raskolnikov) does occur often enough in murders, however the mass murderers typically seem to be asserting meaning against the meaninglessness that they feel, and they latch onto religion or rationales which purport to provide meaning in order to make this “forceful assertion”. They kill because they think that ripping life away from others is meaningful, not because humans and plastic buckets are equal in their minds.

    The point of psychology is to deal with minds as they exist, not as they are supposed by religion or ideology to exist, that is, as being “formed” by that religion or that ideology (not that ideas don’t have consequences, but the causality of ideas is often tortuous). Cho didn’t feel worthless and persecuted because he was lacking in religion or other claims to meaning, he felt persecuted and little valued because of his relationships with others. He invented a rationale to strike back out of religion and a variety of other sources in order to give himself a kind of transcendent value and power, and it is a rationale that he certainly could not have built up out of science itself.

    I’m inclined to think that religion channeled his problems, probably not causing (or not most of) them. But for D’Souza and his ilk, religion and lack of religion are supposed to be fundamentally and simply causal, so he doesn’t know that many cling to religion because they haven’t come to grips with the world (or death of their loved ones), while others experienced a slipping away of such artificial crutches primarily because they’re on good terms with the world.

    Off the topic now, but just suppose it were the case that religion made for a better society (in primitive societies one might argue the case). Well, what of that? Would we ever be able to quell doubts and questions about God’s existence, could and should we teach theistic evolution (or ID) in science classes? It would take totalitarian scope and force to keep doubts from being expressed by people, and it would be the death of science (probably) if we were to teach God and not evidence as the path to dealing with the world.

    Either D’Souza wants a completely un-American level of repression, or he just wants to spout ignorantly and to scapegoat the “atheists”. Probably the latter, but don’t rule out the former.

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

  84. #84 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 20, 2007

    hibob,

    That Kos Diary was a perfect response to Dinesh.

    It should be reposted here.

  85. #85 CalGeorge
    April 20, 2007

    He seriously thinks atheists aren’t capable of comforting others in a crisis?

    Why? Because only religion can provide comfort?

    This guy is completely clueless. He’s getting shrill, too, which tells me that he knows, deep dowm, that he’s full of it.

    That, or he’s trying to ascend to the the pinnacle of the wingnut pyramid, where lying and shrill stupidity become a full-time occupation.

  86. #86 tinisoli
    April 20, 2007

    As I told D’Souza, he’s the one who’s brought religion (or lack thereof) into this story. (As did David Brooks in his column yesterday, when he subtly informed us that Cho’s manifesto was part of a “dark war on Christianity” and then provided no evidence to support such a provocative interpretation.) When people lie or make false claims, they shouldn’t be surprised when other olks find evidence that refutes those claims and/or supports their antitheses.
    Not that we ought to make much of Cho’s religious upbringing or go after his mom for praying when she could’ve been seeking real help for her son. But we certainly shouldn’t tolerate these unsupported claims that he was fighting religion or the ludicrous idea that atheists are unsympathetic, inhuman beings.

  87. #87 Dave Carlson
    April 20, 2007

    Sometimes I think that PZ goes too far in his criticism of the religious. . .and then I see something like this and all of my objections just fly out the window. Oy, what a piece of work D’Souza is. A vile little man, indeed.

  88. #88 Liane
    April 20, 2007

    Not that we ought to make much of Cho’s religious upbringing or go after his mom for praying when she could’ve been seeking real help for her son.

    Um, for the record, since I was the one who mentioned this last bit about the mom, I would like to clarify that I’m not proposing that we “go after his mom for praying”. I doubt if she knew any better, and from what I understand she wasn’t very proficient in English, which would presumably have limited her options.

    However, it seems to me that her pastor failed her IF (and I say IF, because we don’t know what exactly his advice was, only that they apparently didn’t seek help) he didn’t advise her to seek medical counsel, and given that one of the new talking points is that the guy was possessed, I don’t think it’s an unfair question to ask. How many people are reluctant and/or prevented from seeking help for their mental problems because they think those are spiritual? (And not necessarily only mental problems; I remember the parents of one of these Texan women who had killed their kids testifying in court that their daughter had thrown out their meds when they were visiting, and at the behest of her pastor.)

    Anyway, just wanted to clarify that I’m not saying “omgz it’s all the moms fault !!111!”; if anything, I feel terribly sorry for her. On the contrary, it seems to me that this is another example of how religious answers fail the world. How many Xtians will take to heart Franklin Graham’s explanation of mental illness and refuse to see a psychiatrist when they start hearing voices or whatever? This isn’t any better than Tom Cruise advising depressed people to go off their meds and take vitamins instead.

  89. #89 tinisoli
    April 20, 2007

    Liane,
    I actually wrote that last comment because I too had posted something (either here or elsewhere) about Cho’s mom seeking help from God rather than from medical professionals. I wasn’t referring to your comment in any way. Just so you know.

  90. #90 Liane
    April 20, 2007

    Oh, and apologies if I rambled above, this mental health/religion thing is just a bit of a sore point with me. My mom and I have both suffered from depression in the past, and we were always told this was because we were idle and didn’t pray enough or volunteer enough in our religious group. That would be on a good day; at other times it was suggested that maybe we had offended the gods (this was not an Xtian grp, hence plural) or demonic beings or had a spell put on us or something. I cannot even begin to count the smug remarks I heard about some poor sod or other who had sought psychiatric help for a relative “because he trusts in science and all these doctors who think they know so much because they went to college but who don’t understand that mental illness is caused by supernatural entities”.

    (This has a happy ending though, at least at the moment. I came over to the US for college, went into therapy, embraced my skepticism (now atheism), and have never felt so at peace with myself as I do now, lol.)

  91. #91 Liane
    April 20, 2007

    Thanks for replying, tinisoli, I didn’t think you were either but I thought it best to explain myself just in case anyone else read it that way. Don’t want to play into the “heartless atheist” meme after all :P.

  92. #92 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 20, 2007

    Sounds like scientologists. You’re not depressed. It’s the Thetans inhabiting your body.

  93. #93 Kseniya
    April 20, 2007

    tinisoli (#79): Whow. Truly a remarkably shallow, nonsensical response. I expected at least a pretense of intellectual rigor from Dino. And he scorns your logic? I’d LOL if it didn’t irritate me so.

    I’m starting to think the D’Souza is a closet fascist, like Michael Ledeen and others who believe that America is too liberal and pluralistic, and needs (in the words of Machiavelli scholar and neoconservative mentor Leo Strauss) a “single public orthodoxy” that governs the public and private lives of its citizens. That’s interesting, isn’t it, coming as it does from the end of the political spectrum that claims to champion personal responsibility, individual liberty, and freedom from government interference.

  94. #94 Robert S.
    April 20, 2007

    I think what folks like D’Souza don’t get is that there *is* hope in not believing there’s a God in the proceedings when such events occur and that random things simply happen.

    1. If there’s no God, you don’t have to worry about why something happened – God wasn’t out to get you. It’s not because you didn’t raise your child right. It’s not because your child wasn’t a Christian. It’s not because you weren’t a good person or your child wasn’t a good person so God is punishing them. It just happened. You weren’t singled out for punishment, so although your grief will be great, you don’t need to add to your grief by blaming yourself.

    2. If there’s no God or afterlife, you don’t have to worry about your child burning in hell forever if he or she didn’t share your belief or value systems. Though, for some fundamentalist believers, I suppose that’s not an incentive. *Some* would *prefer* to believe that those who disagree with them will burn in hell. However, I suspect that if their children strayed from their beliefs (as many do – I bet many posting here, and myself included), they would be profoundly troubled by the idea that their child went to hell. So, what a relief, to come to the realization that hell doesn’t exist.

    3. I find no hope in a belief system that says that certain specific people, who cling to certain specific beliefs will be rewarded with an eternity in heaven, while God will annihilate and/or torture the rest for eternity, regardless of how good they were. That belief system is not one of hope. It is vicious, unjust, and anti-human.

    Therefore, D’Souza and company are anti-human.

  95. #95 Kseniya
    April 20, 2007

    Liane, Tinisoli, you’ve both raised interesting points about some people’s tendency to look to the Church for answers to, or solutions for, all of life’s problems despite repeated demonstrations of the Church’s inability to provide either.

    This reminds me of something a climber friend of mine is fond of pointing out, which is that church-led climbing groups lead the nation in accident and fatality rates. He cites this as an example of what happens when people value authority over expertise.

    Sound familiar? At least in the creation-evolution debate, there are no broken backs or loss of life, but minds can be crippled when delusions are imposed upon them as fact.

  96. #96 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 20, 2007

    Maybe they associate the deaths and injuries with punishment for using a natural Tower of Babel to get closer to god. If you have improper intentions perhaps you are meant to fall.

    Yes. I’m being facetious.

  97. #97 Andrew Cooper
    April 20, 2007

    Someone remind me why we’re paying any attention to this guy. That’s what he wants. I remember listening to a radio on the evening of 9/11. Someone, I don’t recall who, was asked how we should respond. He said, very wisely I thought, ‘Work out what they want us to do and them make sure we don’t do it’, or words to that effect.

    I think some creationists/IDers know full well that their pronouncements are outrageous. They do it for effect – it’s classic attention seeking behaviour. If attention is what they want, I don’t think we should give it to them.

  98. #98 Kseniya
    April 20, 2007

    Andrew,

    Do I agree with you? I don’t know.

    My mom was a therapist, and she used to say that her clients would often respond to her with, “Yabbut…” Do I agree with you? Yabbut…

    Yeah, but…

    Ignoring D’Souza would lower my blood pressure, yeah, but sometimes we need to speak out against ideas that are thrown into the public forum. If those people (and only those people) who object were to keep quiet, would the offending ideas just go away? Or will they sprout, like seeds? Repeat a lie often enough, with enough conviction, and… you know.

  99. #99 Robert S.
    April 20, 2007

    To concur with Kseniya’s point: I think it’s important to remember that although not all of them have an outlet as D’Souza does, there are already *millions* of Americans who would still agree with what he’s saying. Who needs more of them?

  100. #100 AL
    April 20, 2007

    What D’Souza is saying is trivially true in a way — atheists have very little to offer the vast majority of grieving theists in the same way that a German-speaker has very little to offer to a grieving Russian-speaker. We don’t speak the same language. What D’Souza is saying can be boiled down to “theists are the majority, and the majority expect God-talk when they mourn, which atheists don’t offer, making them useless.” Which is a pretty vacuous thing to say.

    Turning it around, a grieving atheist can get very little from the consolations of a theist. Telling me about how your imaginary invisible friends intended for evil to happen as part of a greater master plan is not the least bit comforting. Sorry.

  101. #101 twincats
    April 20, 2007

    I have heard, in the past, theists argue that tragedies are God’s teaching tools. If messy, object lessons are the only type Gawd can manage (look at what supposedly happened to Jeebus, after all) then he’s a fucking terrible teacher.

    And his Plan sucks, too!

  102. #102 BlueIndependent
    April 21, 2007

    He’s on his third diatribe now. And he’s still insisting atheists haven’t answered his “question”, even though there are now a couple hundred responses, many of them from atheists.

    What I find personally disgusting, beyond his horrid reasoning and very poorly chosen timing to air such a vaccuous and scornful opinion of a group of people singled out for no valid reason, is the fact that he thinks he has some sort of sway over this court of public opinion. He conducts himself as if he occupies some special throne upon which it is the atheists’ challenge to remove him. And even when they do, he just acts like they haven’t said anything.

  103. #103 AL
    April 21, 2007

    D’Souza’s comments on the VT tragedy have just made the latest comments page on Fundies Say the Darndest Things. One commenter there referred to him as Distort D’Nouza, which I thought was funny anyway.

  104. #104 Kseniya
    April 22, 2007

    AL: That is what his fellow students called him back when he was writing for the Dartmouth Review as an undergrad ~25 years ago. My dad was one of them, and confirms this — as have several posters on Pharyngula. Wouldn’t you just love to see that snowball, and come back to haunt him in a big way? Google hit counts for “Distort D’Newza” would begin to rival those for “Egnorance”….

  105. #105 Kseniya
    April 22, 2007

    And he’s still insisting atheists haven’t answered his “question”, even though there are now a couple hundred responses

    Speaking of Egnor…!

  106. #106 Jonathan Arnold
    April 23, 2007

    What would an atheist tell the grieving mothers? It’s already been said. As pointed out in “Freethinkers”, Robert Ingersoll had a magnificent touching eulogy for a small child, including:

    Every cradle asks us “Whence?” and every coffin “Whither?” The poor barbarian weeping above his dead can answer the question as intelligently and satisfactorily as the robed priest of the most authentic creed. The tearful ignorance of the one is just as consoling as the learned and unmeaning words of the other. No man standing where the horizon of a life has touched a grave has any right to prophesy a future filled with pain and tears.

    The Project Gutenberg EBook of Lectures Of Col. R. G. Ingersoll

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