Pharyngula

Has The God Delusion mainstreamed atheism?

That’s the topic of this interview with an unruly mob of internet atheists, yours truly among them.

Comments

  1. #1 Hank Fox
    November 14, 2007

    “As an atheist living in rural Mississippi, concerns about my personal safety and the impact on my career prevent me from using my real name on my blog or during interviews,” he said. “I teach at the university level, and I would not want my personal beliefs about religion to become an obstacle to the education of the largely Southern Baptist students with whom I work.”

    Imagine such words coming from someone who is religious. I’d be hard pressed to think of any Christian in the US who would feel it necessary to use a pseudonym when writing about his or her beliefs. Such precautions are indicative of the large strides that must still be made before atheists are wholly embraced.

    Damn straight.

    But atheists like Myers seem to be optimistic: “Give us a few years,” he said. “Atheism isn’t about proselytization, but the more recent aggressively godless writers are about setting a bold example and raising awareness of the flaws of religion, and I also think it helps that the Religious Right has so thoroughly discredited themselves with their policies in government, so I think we’re going to see steady erosion of religious adherence in America, and I also think that those who leave the fold will also tend to be more outspoken.”

    Double-damn straight.

  2. #2 Jeremy O'Wheel
    November 14, 2007

    Interesting essay.

    I think a lot of people take Dawkins’ comments in the God Delusion too seriously; the most “insulting” parts are clearly tongue in cheek or facetious. I guess religious people and their apologists are not that “bright” though :P

    It’s hard to be certain of attributing it to Dawkins, but since the God Delusion there can be no doubt that the profile of atheism has grown dramatically. I think that’s a pretty solid achievement for all the advocates of reason.

  3. #3 Christianjb
    November 14, 2007

    Good grief! I’m off to find a new fad. Even that hairy guy from ABBA’s an atheist now:

    http://www.iheu.org/node/2298

    The Jehova’s Witnesses haven’t gone all mainstream and sold out yet have they?

  4. #4 Steve in MI
    November 14, 2007

    Hank Fox (#1): any chance we could choose a more inclusive phrase for expressing our agreement? Some of us are neither. :-)

  5. #5 Branedy
    November 14, 2007

    I think for the most part, atheists are a quiet lot as they have nothing to ‘preach’ about. They are not pushing a religion on anyone and are not seeking to gain from (religious) righteousness.

  6. #6 Brian
    November 14, 2007

    Indeed. Were it not for the recent political aspirations of the religious right, there probably wouldn’t be any New Atheist movement. In a sense, the movement owes its existence less to Richard Dawkins than it does to Jerry Fallwell.

  7. #7 kim
    November 14, 2007

    I’ve yet to find an atheist who could disprove the existence of God. It is faith alone which drives their atheism.
    =================================

  8. #8 Waterdog
    November 14, 2007

    I agree with what he says in the article — what PZ and others have been saying — it’s not about converting non-believers, it’s about making our voices heard, collectively, so that we can eventually feel comfortable “coming out” with our non-beliefs.

    When I first heard about the God Delusion, a friend of mine was quite into it and became very interested in studying religion and also critically examining it. I wasn’t interested in getting on the bandwagon. I love Dawkins’ writing, but I told my friend that I’d rather pick up the Selfish Gene (which I still haven’t read yet), so I can learn something, rather than have someone point out what’s wrong with religion and society (which would be nothing new to me). But I see that was never the point.

    I really don’t have freedom of my own beliefs. I never thought about it before, but that’s just because I’m so used to it. I’d like to be able to feel more free to express my spiritual views, not just within intellectual circles.

  9. #9 laserboy
    November 14, 2007

    #7: along the same intellectual elevation contour we find:

    I’ve yet to find an atheist who could disprove the existence of the tooth fairly. It is our desire to make our children happy that drives money to appear under pillows

  10. #10 Ian
    November 14, 2007

    “I’ve yet to find an atheist who could disprove the existence of God. It is faith alone which drives their atheism.”

    Another theist gets it wrong! It’s the utter, total, complete, comprehensive, overwhelming, absolute, entire, universal lack of even the flimsiest shred of objective evidence that there is, was or ever will be any god anywhere.

  11. #11 truth machine
    November 14, 2007

    I’ve yet to find an atheist who could disprove the existence of God.

    So?

    It is faith alone which drives their atheism.

    Uh, no, atheists simply lack faith, and a lack of faith isn’t something that needs driving.

  12. #12 Ashley Moore
    November 14, 2007

    I always find it amusing when someone accuses atheism of being a faith/religion, like it’s some sort of insult.

    Word of advice, if you are trying to promote faith/religion don’t use the words as an insult while you are doing it!

  13. #13 truth machine
    November 14, 2007

    P.S. Kim, the article is about discrimination against atheists and how they are treated by society, not about whether atheism is valid or driven by faith or any the other sorts of garbage that trolls like you spew.

  14. #14 MartinC
    November 14, 2007

    “I’ve yet to find an atheist who could disprove the existence of God. It is faith alone which drives their atheism.”
    However we can prove the existence of trolls.

  15. #15 Lise (a non-believer)
    November 14, 2007

    The whole conversation is kind of nonsensical until we have clear definitions. Trust me, ‘God’ doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to you as it does to me, and ‘athiests’ don’t necessarily share a belief system beyond not believing in ‘God’. (After all, Buddhists aren’t theistic…)

    The description of atheists attacks on religion as being ‘tongue in cheek’ is pretty disingenuous – it may be true for most, but the venom is out there, and it does sometimes get misplaced.

    I’ve stopped describing myself as an atheist, not because my belief set has changed, but because of the Dawkins phenomonon.

  16. #16 truth machine
    November 14, 2007

    I always find it amusing when someone accuses atheism of being a faith/religion, like it’s some sort of insult.

    Word of advice, if you are trying to promote faith/religion don’t use the words as an insult while you are doing it!

    It’s possible that Kim is an agnostic who is critical of all faith — a particularly stupid agnostic incapable of understanding that lack of belief in something can be a rational inference, not a matter of faith, regardless of whether it can be proven that there is no such thing. (But there are many individual claims about God that are provably false.)

  17. #17 truth machine
    November 14, 2007

    The whole conversation is kind of nonsensical until we have clear definitions.

    Which conversation? Did you even read the article?

    The description of atheists attacks on religion as being ‘tongue in cheek’ is pretty disingenuous

    I don’t think your mispresentation of Jeremy’s claim is disingenuous, but it is stupid.

    I’ve stopped describing myself as an atheist

    No one cares.

  18. #18 Paul Crowley
    November 14, 2007

    Please, try to be a little more troll-resistant, Pharyngula-readers!

    The “can’t disprove God” argument is nothing to do with the article and nothing we haven’t all heard a million times. She is deaf to your arguments and everyone else knows it’s nonsense. All your ripostes serve to do nothing but make this discussion forum less useful – which is the exact purpose of her post.

    Sit on your hands!

  19. #19 truth machine
    November 14, 2007

    Please, try to be a little more troll-resistant, Pharyngula-readers!

    I’m resistant to concern trolls.

    Sit on your hands!

    What an arrogant ass.

  20. #20 The Professor
    November 14, 2007

    Dear Kim,

    Allow me to introduce myself: I’m a non-Christian who can disprove the existence of God.

    Cheers,

    The Professor

  21. #21 Pole Greaser
    November 14, 2007

    Since sodomite atheists have no children of their own, they attempt to indoctrinate the children of Christians in the religion of evolutionism via public schools. The so-called “new atheist” movement is about silencing Christians when they protest against this ridiculous charade.

  22. #22 Christensen
    November 14, 2007

    You don’t think Christians have to worry about stating their beliefs. Try doing so and getting tenure in a university setting.

    By the way, Professor, I looked at your proof.

    Where is it exactly?

  23. #23 csrster
    November 14, 2007

    Rumbled, dammit!

  24. #24 Jeremy O'Wheel
    November 14, 2007

    Lise, I never claimed that “atheists attacks on religion as being ‘tongue in cheek’ ”

    What I claimed is that the comments in the God Delusion which are most inflammatory are largely “tongue in cheek” or facetious. Obviously there are plenty of atheist attacks on religion that are not, but I wasn’t talking about those. I’m sorry it was so hard to understand my comment (this apology is also facetious).

    Re; Kim. As an atheist, I don’t see any need to disprove the existence of God. I’ve simply looked at all the evidence in the world, and decided there is no reason to believe in God, and so I have a lack of belief in God. It’s obviously impossible to prove that any general fictitious creature does not exist. What evidence could we possibly gather to prove such a non existence? Could we go into heaven and take photos of God’s dead body, or his unopened mail?

  25. #25 G. Shelley
    November 14, 2007

    I’ve yet to find an atheist who could disprove the existence of God. It is faith alone which drives their atheism.

    What a surprise. A thread about the effects of the God Delusion, and we get a godbot who has no idea what the book says coming along to comment.

  26. #26 andyo
    November 14, 2007

    Me too!

    I’ve yet to find an atheist who could disprove the existence of God. It is faith alone which drives their atheism.

    I’ve yet to find a theist who could prove that we have something to disprove. And on the other hand, I will happily provide mounting evidence that there is nothing to disprove.

    That is the intellectually-honest argument. The old “prove it doesn’t exist” rhetoric is done away by any high-school level person, theist or not.

  27. #27 andyo
    November 14, 2007

    oops, forgot to close the italics tag, but you know what I meant.

  28. #28 MartinC
    November 14, 2007

    I have definitive proof that God doesn’t exist.
    Can you prove that I don’t?

  29. #29 Scrofulum
    November 14, 2007

    It’ll be nice when the word atheist isn’t used in any other context than descriptive. It’s annoying that I must label myself in accordance to something that doesn’t concern me.

    I am an atheistic, non-lumberjack, non-morris dancing, aphilatelistic person with a complete lack of interest in knitting horn-covers for Fresians.

    I think that describes me perfectly.

  30. #30 valhar2000
    November 14, 2007

    Christiensen wrote:

    You don’t think Christians have to worry about stating their beliefs. Try doing so and getting tenure in a university setting.

    Christians get tenure all the time, my boy. Not the Christards will stop complaining, though…

  31. #31 Valhar2000
    November 14, 2007

    Not that Christards will stop complaining…

    That’s what I meant to type.

  32. #32 reason
    November 14, 2007

    Christensen – your poor reading comprehension is not the professors fault.

  33. #33 Rich
    November 14, 2007

    “”It’s about time the theological tree was given more than a cursory shake,” Myers concluded, “but was instead just uprooted.”

    Bravo. Well said.

  34. #34 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    November 14, 2007

    #30

    Christians get tenure all the time, my boy. Not the Christards will stop complaining, though…

    Maybe he thinks that people who assert that the Earth is 6000 years old and deny or distort all evidence to the contrary have a rough time becoming professors of geology. I’d believe that, but it has less to do with religion than with denial and distortion of accepted science.

  35. #35 Rick
    November 14, 2007

    I won’t hypothesize about the impact of the TGD on society and culture, but I will speak about it’s own effects on my life.

    After I read “The End of Faith” I was hungry for more. Harris made many points I’d come with on my own over many years and I was excited that a best-selling book was so in-line with my own worldview because it meant I was decidedly not alone. Until then I’d only spoken about atheism with one close friend. And then TGD hit the bookstores and it brought me new arguments and confidence. I’m promoting atheism on my campus, I attended the AAI conference in September, and in other ways am doing my part to promote reason and science. But the spark for me was “The End of Faith” and perhaps that book also sparked in Dawkins the idea that it was the right time to write his own book.

  36. #36 John Danley
    November 14, 2007

    One must keep in mind, the “neo-atheists” have also contributed to massive educational awareness in various studies aside from the *god* issue. Many like PZ Myers, Stenger and Susskind have been instrumental in explicating the intricacies of biology, cosmology and physics for those who lack exposure. The end result provides an individual with the option to choose critical thinking over the authority of antiquated fables.

  37. #37 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    November 14, 2007

    Oh, and atheism “mainstream”? Unless this has changed dramatically over the past year or so, no.

  38. #38 Jon
    November 14, 2007

    Here is my speach at Alcoholics Anonymous – I got a mixed reaction and a few disturbed responses: Feel free to critique me. (I was being generous to them)

    “How you guys doin? My name is Jon and I don’t know what the hell I am. This is my second time speaking and my fourth time at an AA meeting. I am here because 11 years ago I got a DUI in North Carolina when I was in the military and I cannot renew my license unless I am part of a program, this is part of my program. I have not drunk responsibly, and I know that I cannot do so under many situations due to a lack of judgment while intoxicated. Therefore, I should not drink.

    AA open podium is a trip and I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing the speakers here. I find that AA holds to religious principles. But it is not a defining religion like say Mormonism (although multiple wives does sound a bit appealing). Certain aspects of AA seem to hold to a murky and nebulous form religion. But, Some things are religiously specific, like reference to a God as a Him and the higher power: like some man in the sky with infinite testicles ready to crush me for my blasphemy. Then there is the contradictory reference that says the Higher Power can be thought of as the group or almost anything you like. Which is it? The group or Him or both? I find it trippy that one of the principles of AA is that the “alcoholic” is powerless and that only a Higher Power can help you. It may be true that many alcoholics cannot become sober without some form of faith or reasoning through a higher power, but I don’t agree that all need it or have needed it (Not to dissuade anyone). Hell, maybe I need the it! I believe however that AA has helped a great number of people through its methodology.

    As for some of my metaphysical or spiritual beliefs they are this: I believe that the universe is grand, that existence and consciousness is something special. I believe that the universe is eternal, that the big bang explains the evolution of the part of the universe that we can detect thus far. That the Big Bang and everything came from primordial chaos that seems to be implied by quantum physics through the uncertainty principle. That science explains much but never will be able to explain all, including a fully understood qualitative nature of consciousness (what it is to feel and be) – although, science can explain much about behavior and the quantitative nature of the brain. I intuit that we are part of the universe and not separate from it – that this may be mystical, but I do not believe in God. I do not pray, worship or kneel to any mystical force. I believe that nature is divine, and that we are part of nature. I believe that the power of AA comes from different sources: like group psychology, bonding, ritual, and simplicity, for those reasons I praise AA. I don’t feel it necessary for anyone to agree or disagree either. Thanks.”

  39. #39 Matt Penfold
    November 14, 2007

    Rick,

    Of course in Western Europe atheism is mainstream, to the extent that being an atheist does not seem to carry any kind of stigma.

  40. #40 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    November 14, 2007

    Of course in Western Europe atheism is mainstream, to the extent that being an atheist does not seem to carry any kind of stigma.

    Sorry, had my US-centric goggles on in #37. Tack an “in the US” onto that post, please.

  41. #41 efrique
    November 14, 2007

    Kim: Disprove the existence of Thor first.

    When the crazy guy on the train says he’s getting messages from aliens over his radio and they’ll be here some day soon, I can’t prove him wrong either.

    Thing is, I don’t need to. The onus is on the owner of the wacky belief to prove to everyone else they’re anything but deluded. By using actual evidence. Otherwise they shouldn’t be surprised when the other people on the train figure it’s better to move seats.

  42. #42 Trotsky's Dead
    November 14, 2007

    Atheism was mainstream in the Soviet Union.

    It didn’t help.

  43. #43 Mark Plus
    November 14, 2007

    If Thor doesn’t exist, how can we account for the day (Thor’s Day = Thursday) named after him?

    BTW:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzV9SrqOXpI

  44. #44 Stevie_C
    November 14, 2007

    It’s also mainstream in most of Europe.
    Seems to help there.

  45. #45 John Marley
    November 14, 2007

    TD:

    Right, it was atheism’s fault. No other factors were involved. Idiot.

  46. #46 Louis
    November 14, 2007

    Come on, come onnnnn!

    Atheism = belief in lack of god (as opposed to lack of belief in god) before post 50!

    Atheism = communism before post 50!

    I only need atheism = nazis to complete my “Common misrepresentations of atheism bingo card”.

    Will these people never learn…..wait, forget I said that. Rhetorical.

    Louis

  47. #47 Ryan F Stello
    November 14, 2007

    Re: #42,

    Atheism is mainstream and dominant in Sweden. It’s been a big help, there.

  48. #48 J Myers
    November 14, 2007

    Are the trolls having a “who can be dumbest” contest today?

  49. #49 Mark Plus
    November 14, 2007

    Atheism was mainstream in the Soviet Union.

    It didn’t help.

    I wouldn’t say that. The Soviet Union’s atheism freed up resources that would have otherwise gotten pissed away on building Russian orthodox churches and supporting an unproductive clergy. A wave of atheism throughout the Islamic world would likewise improve the lives of former Muslims, as they stopped wasting resources on mosques, stopped wasting their children’s time in studying the Qu’ran instead of useful subjects, and stopped blowing themselves up in the hopes of getting 72 virgins in the afterlife.

    BTW, I don’t understand why American christians make an issue of the fact that communist governments denied the authority of religions that they don’t belong to and don’t respect any way. Most American christians consider Russian orthodox christianity some weird foreign cult, and they certainly don’t approve of the Buddhism and other Eastern religions suppressed by communist governments in East Asian countries.

  50. #50 Matt Penfold
    November 14, 2007

    “Atheism was mainstream in the Soviet Union.

    It didn’t help.”

    Clearly the concept of political religions is one of which you are ignorant.

  51. #51 MH
    November 14, 2007

    I thought that you PZ, and others here, would be interested in this story about a school atheist club in California that seems to be the victim of discrimination:

    Discrimination At My School Against Atheists!

  52. #52 RickD
    November 14, 2007

    re: #7

    Uh, Kim? What would you call a person without “faith”, as you put it?

    Or are you simply contending that no such beast could exist.

  53. #53 raven
    November 14, 2007

    Christiansen lying:

    You don’t think Christians have to worry about stating their beliefs. Try doing so and getting tenure in a university setting.

    Christiansen has never been near a university. It is not even legal to ask a job candidate or tenure candidate their religion. Not that it would ever happen. No one cares. In the departments I’ve been in, the majority were probably nominal Xians, the Chinese, Indians, and Russians are anyone’s guess.

    The few cases of religious discrimination I’ve heard of were Death Cult fundie Xians who ended up in admin. discrminating against others for their own agendas. Discriminating for Jesus(TM).

    This is what drives militant atheism. Christiansen is obviously stupid, obviously lying. What good is a religion that produces people who are not just run of the mill humans but worse, much worse?

    OK Christiansen, you aren’t smart enough to lie for jesus. Time for a career move. Don’t you have a family planning clinic to bomb or something?

  54. #54 reason
    November 14, 2007

    “Atheism was mainstream in the Soviet Union.

    It didn’t help.”

    Didn’t help what exactly?

    Maybe not believing in God helped people not believe in Marxism?

  55. #55 reason
    November 14, 2007

    “Atheism was mainstream in the Soviet Union.

    It didn’t help.”

    This is like saying, teetolism is mainstream in the Muslim countries. It didn’t help.

  56. #56 reason
    November 14, 2007

    “Atheism was mainstream in the Soviet Union.

    It didn’t help.”

    This is like saying, teetotalism is mainstream in the Muslim countries. It didn’t help.

  57. #57 Lise (a non-believer)
    November 14, 2007

    Jeremy,

    Fair enough. I suppose I’ll clarify myself as well, I avoid calling myself an atheist to avoid association with those who use dogma, often attributed to Dawkins, to attack religion as a whole and Christians in particular, in a way as offensive and thoughtless as many of the most narrow minded and agressive Christians attack all other religions (and political/moral viewpoints different from themselves).

    I have avoided reading Dawkins due to excerpts from his books (quoted by those same followers) and snippets from interviews (quoted by my Mother, who is fairly anti-theistic herself) which I found to be pretty offensive.

    From these two sources, Dawkins sounds like a proponent of hate speach. It is certainly possible he was taken out of context, but I do wish that he would stop being considered the spokesman for atheism as a whole.

  58. #58 RickD
    November 14, 2007

    Christensen:

    have you ever been to a Jesuit university? I went to one for a year and there were all sorts of people who had no problem “getting tenure” while “stating their beliefs”.

    And then I went to a more secular university, that had started out run by the Methodists, and I met a philosophy professor who was an ordained minister.

    I have had similar experiences at a state-run university in the States, and generally everywhere.

    Where are these universities that make hiring decisions that disciminate against people based on their beliefs? What you are describing is against the law, of course, so rather than typing about it on a blog I encourage you to seek law enforcement to help. Luckily for you, the current President of the United States has made it clear he will bend over backwards for anything that has any remote claim to be “faith-based”, so I’m sure you and he will have these evil universitites on the ropes in no time.

    Or perhaps you are just making shit up.

    Look, if you apply for a job at a biology department, and you go around talking what is considered nonsense by biologists (“evolution never happened!”), it is likely you will not get a job, any more than if you go to a math department and start talking about non-Euclidean geometry like it’s an evil cult. People will just think you’re weird.

    I’m sorry that modern biology doesn’t jib with your religious preconceptions, but that’s not biology’s fault, it’s yours. (Yes, I’m jumping to conclusions here a bit, but what the hell, it’s only a blog.)

  59. #59 RickD
    November 14, 2007

    Lise:
    read Dawkins.

    He’s not a proponent of “hate speech”.

    I would take you more seriously if you could actually give us a citation. But you are managing to simultaneously claim that you’ve never read him and to be able to characterize his writing.

    That’s quite a trick!

  60. #60 raven
    November 14, 2007

    How much does the rise of Militant Atheism owe to the new books and how much to fundie Xians themselves? Gandhi once said, “He would have become a Xian except that he met too many of them.”

    On the one hand, you have toads like Falwell, Dobson, Robertson, Kennedy for leaders. Murderous liars who seek power and money. Plus their lying, ignorant troll-like followers of the fundie cults. Who have controlled the US government for 6 years up until 2006 and made a hash of things. There is a backlash against the fascist theocrats. How far it will go is anyone’s guess. As you sow, so shall you reap.

    The books undoubtedly helped by showing that smart, successful thinkers could write about religious craziness without getting struck by lightening or eaten by a bear. But they wouldn’t have become best sellers if no one bought them.

    Point to Falwell and fellow fundie cultists, IMO. Falwell and Kennedy are in hell and Robertson might be in Alzheimer land. Send a thank you card to Dobson and Haggard.

  61. #61 Epistaxis
    November 14, 2007

    I’ve yet to find an atheist who could disprove the existence of God.

    I’ve yet to find a Christian who could disprove the existence of Zeus.

  62. #62 other bill
    November 14, 2007

    Louis (#46)

    Always glad to oblige:
    Atheism == Nazism
    and for bonus points
    Atheism == Satanism (I mean really: Brights?)
    Atheism == Marxism
    Atheism == Terrorism
    Atheism == baby-eaters
    Atheism == Illuminati Plot

    Have I left any out?

  63. #63 H. Humbert
    November 14, 2007

    Yeah, Lise has let herself fall for the other side’s spin. Anyone who says “I’m one of those sensible atheists, not like that rabid hate-monger Dawkins” reveals that they get all their information about him second-hand. Such ignorance concession to concern trolling theists is far more damaging to the cause of rational thinking than provocative rhetoric. Congratulate yourself on being used.

  64. #64 noncarborundum
    November 14, 2007

    Have I left any out?

    Atheism == Hedonism

  65. #65 Righteous Bubba
    November 14, 2007

    Has The God Delusion mainstreamed atheism?

    If so I’m cheered up at the idea that a new book can mainstream ANYTHING in America.

  66. #66 MartinC
    November 14, 2007

    Lise, I too am glad you don’t call yourself an atheist.

  67. #67 syntyche
    November 14, 2007

    Always glad to oblige:
    Atheism == Nazism
    and for bonus points
    Atheism == Satanism (I mean really: Brights?)
    Atheism == Marxism
    Atheism == Terrorism
    Atheism == baby-eaters
    Atheism == Illuminati Plot

    Don’t forget that we also control all the world’s media and banks.

  68. #68 Lise (a non-believer)
    November 14, 2007

    Perhaps you don’t understand. The reason I haven’t read Dawkins is because of what I’ve heard about him, and about what he’s said, from other atheists (whether they agree with him or not). There are far more books about subjects I’m interested in than I have time to read them. His writings on genetics are probably worth getting around to reading, but the others don’t sound as though they are.

    Certainly, those who claim to be avid followers of Dawkins, who I have met in person (some are friends) and discussed religious beliefs (or lack thereof) haven’t managed to make what he has to say sound worthwhile. It is they that I accuse of hate speach, and they have all claimed Dawkins was a major inspiriation.

    Like all religious (or pseudo religious) leaders, his beliefs will always be tied to the way his followers present them.

  69. #69 tomh
    November 14, 2007

    #68 – Are you one of the voices in kim’s head?

  70. #70 spurge
    November 14, 2007

    Lise

    Why don’t you post an actual quote from Dawkins and explain your problem with it.

    Your vague assertions stink of concern trolling.

  71. #71 jdb
    November 14, 2007

    “Atheism == Hedonism”

    Hey, that’s what the salesman promised me!

    I’m always puzzled by people who complain that The God Delusion doesn’t have any “new” arguments. I don’t think Dawkins has claimed that there’s anything groundbreaking in there, and I don’t think there needs to be. I’m sure there wasn’t any new physics in “A Brief History of Time,” either; all the science content was probably already published in an academic journal.

    I think it’s useful to have books that put together some of the most common and powerful atheist arguments in a readable style. Nobody’s saying it’s the Atheist Bible and you have to read it; if it’s all old hat to you, good for you.

    There are a lot of people who just haven’t thought that deeply about religion. I’ve met reasonably intelligent folks who haven’t even heard the rebuttals to Pascal’s Wager, for example. As NBC used to say, “if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you!”

  72. #72 poke
    November 14, 2007

    My experience of the avid followers of Dawkins has been utterly positive. They are a reasonable, intelligent, kind and shockingly attractive group, prone to spontaneous outbursts of generosity, something that is particularly easy for them since they’re all incredibly successful. They also have magnificent singing voices.

    Obviously you’ll have to take my word for this.

  73. #73 Owlmirror
    November 14, 2007

    Lise, here’s an excerpt of the first chapter of The God Delusion. Do you see anything that specifically looks like “hate speech”?

    I’m curious what you think it is Dawkins has said that you think is so bad. Granted, he isn’t perfect, and I think there are some arguments that he might have made better, but still.

  74. #74 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 14, 2007

    BTW:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzV9SrqOXpI

    LOL! The comments! I’ve read the 159 comments… :-D

  75. #75 David Marjanovi?, OM
    November 14, 2007

    BTW:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzV9SrqOXpI

    LOL! The comments! I’ve read the 159 comments… :-D

  76. #76 Brownian, OM
    November 14, 2007

    Like all religious (or pseudo religious) leaders, his beliefs will always be tied to the way his followers present them.

    Bzzzt! Sorry Lise, but your characterisation of ‘followers’ of Dawkins suggests that you’re either a) so dumb as to be unable to conceive of a group of individuals who have independently come to the same conclusions, or b) you’re a concern troll who is lying about being a non-believer (which is effectively the same thing as a).

    Not all of us need priests to tell us what we think.

  77. #77 josh
    November 14, 2007

    Lise-

    I’m an atheist, I read “The God Delusion”, I agreed with much of it but didn’t find it a particularly good book, so you’re not obligated to read it. But if you’re going to denounce it as “hate speech” you need to know what you’re talking about.

    If you don’t agree with everything he has to say, fine! He’s not the atheist grand poobah, just the guy with the most publicity currently. Don’t concede the neutral label atheist to him and then jump on the demonization band wagon with every disingenuous apologist and bible-thumper in town.

    Dawkins is a mild, British professor with a pet cause. His name gets dragged through the mud for daring to honestly and openly criticize religion. One of his main points is that this reaction, as though he’s some gun-brandishing, wild-eyed fanatical demagogue, is symptomatic of the ludicrous and unwarranted deference to religion society accepts.

  78. #78 Lise (a non believer)
    November 14, 2007

    I would like to offer a blanket apology. I really should have ‘lurked more’ before posting.

    I had heard many good things about Paryngula as a science blog for a while, especially the squid posts, so I was unprepared for the Dawkins connection when I came upon this particular post.

    I also understand that the experiences I’ve had with Dawkins supporters in the past are not those that other posters share, and I am sorry if any of you felt personally attacked.

    Please accept my apology.

  79. #79 Rey Fox
    November 14, 2007

    Well, the take-home message is that you can’t really judge a person by a sample of his “followers”. I mean, look at the crap some people have spewed in the name of Darwin…

  80. #80 Rieux
    November 14, 2007

    jdb (#71):

    Nobody’s saying it’s the Atheist Bible and you have to read it; if it’s all old hat to you, good for you.

    I’ve read The God Delusion, and I found it to be nearly all old hat. The “Ultimate 747″ argument was somewhat novel, but I didn’t/don’t think it works terribly well as anything other than a rejoinder to lazy folks clinging to the Argument from Design in order to rationalize their religious faith.

    That said, I thought TGD was a valuable contribution to the American discourse on atheism and religion–in large part because the American populace badly needs to be educated about plenty of matters that are old hat to me and to other veterans of (a)theological discussion.

    I was, and I remain, a fan of Dawkins and a proud atheist; and I’m glad TGD has received the level of popular recognition that it has. As far as I can tell, the effects of that book (as well as The End of Faith, Breaking the Spell, god is Not Great, Letter to a Christian Nation, and a few other less-publicized works) have amounted to a substantial net positive for nonbelievers in the United States. That makes a huge difference to me.

  81. #81 Pablo
    November 14, 2007

    Lise, I don’t think it is your attacking Dawkins that is the problem. It is the _groundless_ attacks that are bothering people.

    We’ve all heard a lot of complaints about Dawkins in the past, but the odd thing is, whenever pushed they end up being mostly strawmen complaints.

    Now, there are some who have responded harshly to your criticisms, but I also see a lot of questions of, “What specifically did he say that you think is bad and why?”

    You can read that how you will, but I don’t think it is an unreasonable question to ask. It seems to me that there are at least some who are trying to discuss it with you rationally. Why not focus on them and ignore the others?

    If you come out and can provide a legitimate criticism of Dawkins’s book (and I assume there are some – I wouldn’t know), then people will not attack, even if they don’t agree. However, being a science forum, you won’t get too far with “I heard that it says bad things that I don’t like.”

  82. #82 Blake Stacey
    November 14, 2007

    I didn’t get around to reading The God Delusion until several months after it had become notorious, because I was already an “out” atheist. I figured that I would get around to reading it “someday”, to see if Dawkins packaged the material I already knew in a novel or interesting way, but “someday” was a while in coming. When I finally did pick up a copy at the local Barnes-and-Borders-A-Million, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a better book than I had expected!

    Oh, there were some jarring moments, but honestly, they were far less imposing than the blogosphere chatter had led me to anticipate. Dawkins spends more time eulogizing his friend Douglas Adams than he does calling people “Neville Chamberlain atheists”!

    (There’s a “teachable moment” in that whole “Chamberlain” business. Recall that Dawkins only tossed the phrase into the meme pool in response to Michael Ruse’s remarks about “Winston Churchill” atheists; I think the lesson here is that when your rhetorical sparring partner makes a World War II analogy, you should defuse the comparison instead of running with it, because WWII analogies are almost always pointless and counterproductive.)

    In a few places, I felt that the book would have benefited from consultation with experts in other fields: history, say, when he mentions Jefferson, and physics, during the “anthropic principle” discussion and when he mentions Smolin’s idea of universes reproducing via black holes. Dawkins is only one man, after all, and it would be a rare feat indeed to devote a lifetime to one field (biology) while also remaining au courant with the attitudes of another, such as the positions cosmologists take nowadays with regard to “anthropic” reasoning.

  83. #83 Rey Fox
    November 14, 2007

    “Has The God Delusion mainstreamed atheism?”

    Has verbing weirded language?

  84. #84 truth machine
    November 14, 2007

    You don’t think Christians have to worry about stating their beliefs.

    That’s not the subject at hand; before you commented, no one said anything about what they thought about Christians having to worry. You display exactly the same qualities of the people on Zahn’s panel — when discussing discrimination against atheists, somehow you become the victim. Asshole.

  85. #85 truth machine
    November 14, 2007

    I have avoided reading Dawkins due to excerpts from his books (quoted by those same followers) and snippets from interviews (quoted by my Mother, who is fairly anti-theistic herself) which I found to be pretty offensive.

    I don’t believe that you are familiar with either excerpts from his books or from interviews.

    I do wish that he would stop being considered the spokesman for atheism as a whole.

    Your wish is granted, as he has never been considered such.

    Perhaps you don’t understand.

    No, we understand quite well.

    The reason I haven’t read Dawkins is because of what I’ve heard about him, and about what he’s said, from other atheists (whether they agree with him or not).

    You haven’t read him because of your vague impressions of what you’ve heard, mostly from people critical of him (like your mother). Your thought processes are sloppy and dishonest.

    Certainly, those who claim to be avid followers of Dawkins, who I have met in person (some are friends) and discussed religious beliefs (or lack thereof) haven’t managed to make what he has to say sound worthwhile.

    Not worthwhile? Move the goalposts much?

    It is they that I accuse of hate speach, and they have all claimed Dawkins was a major inspiriation.

    I accuse you of being an asshole — and we have you and your words right here to prove it, while all you offer is innuendo. Who exactly has uttered hate speech, and what exactly have they said?

  86. #86 arensb
    November 14, 2007

    RickD @ #58:

    Look, if you apply for a job at a biology department, and you go around talking what is considered nonsense by biologists (“evolution never happened!”), it is likely you will not get a job, any more than if you go to a math department and start talking about non-Euclidean geometry like it’s an evil cult. People will just think you’re weird.

    IME being weird is no impediment to a successful career in academia. Being unable to distinguish fact from obvious fantasy, OTOH, is.

  87. #87 truth machine
    November 14, 2007

    P.S. Lise, you never answered my questions “Which conversation? Did you even read the article?” — this thread is about how atheists are treated by society, not what “God” means. And you immediately followed that off-topic comment with a lie about Jeremy wrote and a false charge of disingenuousness. And then bashed Dawkins and his “phenomonon” and anyone who has been inspired by him. We’ve seen this sort of thing many times before — it’s typical of those who attack Dawkins or other “evangelical” atheists. It’s no loss to us if someone so dishonest chooses not to call themselves an atheist.

  88. #88 Sastra
    November 14, 2007

    From the article:

    Hunter, a Christian, was accompanied by ESPN’s Stephen Smith, another Christian, and Jewish conservative columnist Debbie Schlussel…

    and later on

    In addition to his writing about topics related to his profession, (PZ Myers) is an avowed atheist…

    PZ is an avowed atheist. Oh dear. Avowed, is he?

    Is Karen Hunter an avowed Christian? And Stephen Smith — he actually admits he’s Christian? Admitted Catholic, maybe? What about that self-acknowledged, self-confessed, self-designated Jewish conservative, Debbie?

    I’m pleased that Simon Owens here is not just slinging insults around. PZ Myers told him — and came straight out with it — that he’s an actual atheist. He avows it. So they can go on and talk about whether atheists are now part of mainstream culture or not.

    Here’s a suggestion on mainstreaming atheism — either drop the cutesy “this is their own claim, folks, don’t blame me and believe it if you will” modifiers tagged on to the word atheist (avowed, admitted, acknowledged, self-described, proclaimed, confessed, so-called, self-designated, etc.) the way you’d tag them on to pedophiles and other criminals — or let’s start slapping them on the religious. Sheesh.

  89. #89 noncarborundum
    November 14, 2007

    @#87: Myself, I’m a soi-disant atheist. That way I get to annoy people who hate atheists and people who hate anything French. Not that those categories don’t overlap considerably.

  90. #90 arensb
    November 14, 2007

    noncarborundum @ #88:

    Myself, I’m a soi-disant atheist.

    Could be worse: you could be a militant soi-disant atheist, running around telling people, “I don’t believe in God, et toi non plus!

  91. #91 markbt73
    November 14, 2007

    “Has The God Delusion mainstreamed atheism?”

    Has verbing weirded language?

    Posted by: Rey Fox | November 14, 2007 3:51 PM

    Is that a Calvin and Hobbes reference? Dude, you rock!

  92. #92 Sven DiMilo
    November 14, 2007

    David (# 74): WOW, those comments. I…I had no idea!
    “You jerk, you know nothing! It’s a MAGIC hammer!!”

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