It's Only Un-American to Criticize My Faith

Or so Karl Giberson seems to think. Early in his essay he writes:

This might suggest that Ken Ham and his Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., are becoming less relevant, as they speak for -- and to -- an increasingly smaller band of hyperconservative biblical literalists. Ham's followers, ironically, are exactly what Waltke warned us about -- a cult, with their own separate science.

And later:

There is something profoundly un-American about demanding that people give up cherished, or even uncherished, beliefs just because they don't comport with science.

Faith Giberson doesn't like? Dismissed as a hyperconservative cult. Faith he does like? It is un-American to critcize it. Charming.

Giberson has been spamming the internet lately with a series of indignant essays. For a cataloging of some of the many ways in which these essays are not very good, I will refer you to Jerry Coyne here and here.


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"Demanding that people give up beliefs" is not the same as "criticizing" those beliefs. To criticize someone's believes as unfounded and superstitious and trying to convince said person with arguments is not the same as DEMANDING that they stop having those believes. Nor is it the same as (as in the case of some of the dogmatics criticized in the essay) labeling the person holding them as a complete fool and an ignorant in all aspects of life.

You quoted Gilberson correctly in your quote. He wrote that it is "un-American to demand". Yet somehow in your argument you quote him for saying that it is "un-American to criticize". I'm sorry but that is not really honest.

That said, labeling something as "un-American" is a non-argument if anything is. First of all, it's a lie. Various Americans have demanded all sorts of things ('American' must be what Americans do). Second, it's a non-argument. What does it prove that something is not American? What does that have to do with anything unless being American somehow grants truth-value to things.

Richard Dawkins is indeed "un-American". He's British. So freaking what? That has no bearing on the truth or the moral value of his opinions and actions. If having some irrational belief in a super-being is "intellectual suicide" then so is the belief that moral or truth value emanates from nationality or statehood.

The three Abrahamic religions are themselves un-American, and the myths behind them are un-American, yet Americans are expected to see criticism of faith in those ancient myths as un-American? Have truth and honesty become un-American?

By Bob Carlson (not verified) on 27 May 2010 #permalink

Bob Carlson @ # 2: Have truth and honesty become un-American?

Are you in America? Look around and tally up just how much of those attributes you see, particularly on the institutional level.

Then go back to the family-and-friends level, and give everybody who deserves it a good hug. Either that or buy yourself a bottle of booze.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 27 May 2010 #permalink

Ole, the trouble is that if you look at the behaviour Giberson is characterizing as "demanding that people give up beliefs" it turns out that all it actually is is criticism of just the same kind as he is dealing out to the "hyperconservatives". The dishonesty, if there is any, is Giberson's.

(FWIW I don't think there was any actual dishonesty, only a bit of hyperbole on Giberson's part.)

And yes, "un-American" is a stupid stupid term and everyone would be better off without it. It always surprises me a little that the McCarthy witchhunts didn't tarnish it enough to stop people using it.

Giberson has been spamming the internet lately with a series of indignant essays...

And when is the deadline for Templeton prize nominations?

By Bayesian Bouff… (not verified) on 28 May 2010 #permalink

How on earth can anybody consider atheist conclusions to be demands to give up religion? Demands typically have an "or else"-aspect, and I have seen no such aspects in atheist comments.

It seems that Giberson truöy thinks that presenting reasons for disbelief are demands of disbelief.

From the article: "And the demand seems even more peculiar when it is applied so indiscriminately as to include religious believers with Nobel Prizes."


Yeah, how dare those atheists apply the same standards to everyone? They're so indiscriminate.

Is Gilberson really saying that it would make some degree of sense for atheists to expect everyone except for Nobel Prize winners to not believe in God? What exactly is his argument â that winning the Nobel Prize gives people an extra-good "excuse" to believe, like being born into a Mormon community can be? Maybe he's making the argument from authority â if someone as smart as an NPer believes, well, there must be something to it.

In any case, these people need to understand that the argument isn't "you can't be religious and believe in science/evolution", or "you can't be religious and intelligent", which are both demonstrably false unless we want to modify our definitions of religion, science, evolution, or intelligence. It's simply that the two ways of thinking, rationality and revelation, are philosophically at odds, and holding to both of them requires compartmentalizing. That's all!

I think a lot of religions like to think of themselves as more warm-fuzzy than, creed-wise, they really are. For example, any Sophisticated Religious person who believes that some special kind of suffering (even just the "absence of God") awaits dead non-believers is, simply by holding to such a belief, expressing a sentiment infinitely more "belligerent" and "shrill" than any New Atheist.

Hi, I'm an atheist â that means I think you don't deserve to go to Hell! Surely I get some friendliness points for that?

I gave up on Karl Giberson after he replied to a series of posts I had made over at his BioLogos blog, in which he asserted that it might be possible to work with some at the Dishonesty Institute since they are fellow "brothers in Christ". Am not surprised that Giberson is doing his utmost to show why a strong case against accomodationism can be made.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 06 Jun 2010 #permalink

Think Giberson needs to chat with Ken Miller some time. Why? Heard Ken Miller declare at a private talk he delivered back in May 2009 that those who belong to faiths hostile to science should discard their memberships. Have no doubt Giberson would reject such advice.

By John Kwok (not verified) on 20 Jun 2010 #permalink

Ok Ham's a deluded fool - but what is wrong with being Unamerican? I'm fed up with hearning this used as an insult. I am proud to be unamerican and i have no time for patriotism.

By WiseGeorge (not verified) on 22 Apr 2011 #permalink