Jerry Coyne is one of those atheists that atheists like me like to base themselves around.With a Ph. D. in Evolutionary Biology and having written a book (that I haven’t read) called Why Evolution is True, he’s the type of person that I think about when believers, mainly Christians, tell me that I’m going through a phase or that I’ll see the light soon. His work is what I think about when believers spout how atheists are really only going by faith in evolution because evolution can’t be completely proved just like no religion can. While I enjoy ignoring religion for logical reasons, people like Dr. Coyne go for the science.
I believe I’ve been banned from this site for my comments don’t show up. Oh, well. But I have so many thoughts on many of his articles that I’ll just happily expound on them here. I missed precious days of blogging because of gaming and much more precious time with my sister and I’m in an expounding mood.
This is part one of a series of posts called “What We Really Believe”, which would be me tackling logical contradictions, mainly of controversial topics like abortion and gun rights, and of course, would encounter religion/atheism and various other things. They are like Moments of Inspirations designed around properties of our psyche that aren’t readily seen, are probably unproven, and that I’m willing to discuss to deeper levels.
In this article by Dr. Coyne, a guy named Clay Naff accuses New Atheism (and Dr. Coyne) of not being able to fill the “God-shaped hole”, basically ‘Where would we be without religion?’ And many Christians in America believe it causes disasters and kills people, and so on and so forth. The reason why kids are so terrible today is because there’s no prayer in school- that sort of thing.
Here’s the first bit (emphasis mine, Dr. Coyne starts):
“It’s so tiresome to read repeatedly that New Atheism is a failure because we aren’t replacing religion with anything else. This claim has been made once again in a HuffPo piece by Clay Naff called ”Humanism’s moment of opportunity, going to waste.” Naff spends a lot of time going after me, and I’ll try to respond politely.
He first touts the success of American megachurches(1), and claims that, by comparison, non-theists (not just New Atheists) are a miserable failure:
Their non-theistic rivals? Not so much. The evidence is in, and it is clear: New Atheists have been a media success and a societal failure. They know how to sell books, how to debate, how to sneer, skewer, and satirize — in short, how to use all the squabbling skills of the modern academic(2) (cf. the letters section of the New York Review of Books) — but the New Atheists seemingly have no idea how to build a positive social movement.
First of all, it’s not true that atheists aren’t trying to fill the gap left by God. Anthony Grayling, by all accounts a New Atheist, has just written a book suggesting the replacement of religion by enlightened humanism. And there are plenty of “nontheists”—granted, most not New Atheists—suggesting other replacements for religion, including Alain de Botton and Philip Kitcher.”
Dr. Coyne has valuable time, so I’mma point out two things that are just juicy little gems that I love to chew on that he had left alone. Underline 1 really set me off. The success of the megachurches? Like those are good things? Isn’t there a popular thought that the televangelists of megachurches are what give Christianity and religion a bad name? Should atheism really find something to replace celebrity-like pastors and their biggest fans?
And nothing annoys me more than U2. Do you have any idea how dumb you look when you mock academia? The commonness of such expressions just confuses me and reminds me a of a child, “Oh, you think you’re soooo smart!” And from just this quote from Mr. Naff, he also knows how to sneer and skewer, as does everyone these days. It’s our brand of comedy and relief these days, and to accuse a group that is really good at it that they do it because they think they’re sooooo smart, is idiotic.
“Finally, is New Atheism really a failure? Naff’s only “evidence” is that the rise of the “nones” in America (those who profess no formal religion) has “passed the New Atheists by.” But I’m not convinced that vociferous atheism hasn’t contributed to this trend (3), nor do I think that all of us are required, when criticizing the follies of faith, to suggest replacements. Isn’t it enough to instill doubt in the young and fence-sitters that belief without evidence is not necessarily a good thing? How are we supposed to give hidebound Muslims, for instance, an alternative to the marginalization of women? Nevertheless, Naff takes us to task for our lack of positivity:
What gives? Surely, this is a moment of opportunity for us secular humanists. What are we doing wrong? The trouble, as I see it, is that leading public figures in New Atheism are known only for what they seem to be against: God, free will, purpose, hope … everything but apple pie(4). That’s great for the media, which feasts on conflict. But for building a mass movement? Clearly insufficient.
Worse yet, far from having the common touch many seem to revel in their elitism. A decade after Richard Dawkins endorsed “The Brights,” 50,000 people worldwide have signed on — a smaller crowd than you’d find at a college football game.
Well, I was never too keen on “The Brights,” but really, that’s a red herring. Nobody but atheist-butters like Naff still talk about the “brights”. That idea is moribund. And “reveling in elitism” is just a pejorative term for “criticizing religion.” “
I’ll like to take U3 further and assert that vociferous atheism has contributed to this trend. Mr. Naff’s article talks about how the new ‘nones’ are plenty of young people. You know another thing about these young people (like me!)? They were probably weaned off of religion bit by bit, and are reluctant, like many believers who use gods as a crutch, to completely let go. Their lips probably dried out at the acidity that is the hypocrisy of believers, especially when many follow the trends of the fanatical (and I don’t include many conservatives of America as fanatical). Jokes made by atheists are funnier, and are backed by fact. Yes, they can be mean and condescending, but if you’re not the brunt of that action and you see it from the outside, you’re like, “Well, that asshole has a point.”
If atheism was still ‘hidden’, as I’m guessing Old Atheism is, those sort of things wouldn’t be put to light and the skeptical will be believers (or at least skeptical believers).
U4 made me think of Naff’s earlier comment about the skills of modern academics. See? We all do it. Then, this asinine extrapolation goes on three new hinges, among others: New Atheists are against “free will, purpose, hope”. First, we aren’t against gods, just the belief in them. To be against God, would be to imply that he actually exists. Second, we aren’t against free will, just believe in its nonexistence especially in the religious sense. Dr. Coyne often calls it ‘dualistic’. To be honest, the absence of free will sets my logic wheels a-burnin’ and I don’t like to think about it, though I believe it’s true. Third, we aren’t against purpose and hope. We are against a godly purpose and hope of living forever in heaven- but Mr. Naff’s sneering likes to keep things simple.
“Naff then takes me on:
One prominent New Atheist, biologist Jerry Coyne, recently addressed claims that the movement is failing in his blog. Much of his commentary follows a common New Atheist pattern: our critics are stupid (he uses the label twice in successive paragraphs), motivated by hatred, and prone to lie. (All of which is true in some instances, but it has become a reflex, a crowdpleaser, a litany. (5))
What is most striking, however, is the semi-reflective passage near the end of his piece:
“Maybe atheism doesn’t answer the fundamental questions, but why should it–it’s simply a refusal to accept deities and those systems of worship that claim (in conflicting ways) to answer the “fundamental questions.” Most of us know that many of those so-called “fundamental questions,” like “Why are we here?” don’t have an answer beyond the laws of physics. Others, like “What is our purpose?” must be answered by each person on their own, for their [sic] is no general answer. Still others, like “How are we to live?”, are answered far better by secular reason than by dogmatic adherence to outdated or even immoral religious strictures.”
What a tangle of confusion (6). There’s the admission that perhaps atheism doesn’t fill the vacuum left when religion is left behind, followed by an angry retort that to do so would go beyond the brief of atheism. “That’s not my job!” you can almost hear him say.”
Aaaand U6 made me realize that perhaps Mr. Naff is not worth my time. Though it might be reflex, such accusations (one of which is probably true if Dr. Coyne is taking them on), are never some crowdpleasing litany. It is always a truth that everyone must be aware of. Really, when Dr. Coyne is being real nice, I can’t tell a horrendous lie from a normal one. A common mistake from a stupid one because I have no Doctorate in say ID theory or biology- I sometimes need a jab: That’s stupid. Research it. And I’ve read the quoted article; it wasn’t confusing at all nor was it angry- you know when the dude is upset. And it’s not outside the brief of atheism to answer such questions- it is outside that of science. As a logical atheist, I have found my own purpose and need nothing fake to reinforce it, but I have no science to back it up either (except maybe psychology).
And this cut-off brings me to…
What We Really Believe
“We” isn’t really all-inclusive. It is my opinion on certain we’s in the world. This ‘we’ are people who say things like atheism doesn’t fill that God-shaped hole. I’ve come to the conclusion that we believe the world would go to shit without religion. Even many atheists (I’m seeing that Naff is one? I don’t really care) feel this may be true. Or at least (and this goes for me as well), the religious would go batshit without religion. Of course, the implications of this is that the one thing that is keeping a lot of people from stealing and murdering is their belief in gods and a horrible afterlife.
If every religious person turned to an atheist person like me, Jerry Coyne and many other atheists, hoo-boy, things would be great. I’m not saying that we’re awesome and perfect (*flutters eyes*), but the world wouldn’t go to shit.
Many would say that some god’s love has infused into my soul to do good within my sinful human body. Poppycock, the good I do comes from me. The reason I’m not going after my sister for abandoning my niece is because I’m good. The reason my niece sleeps next to me nearly every night despite how she pees the bed and wakes up at 3 am on the dot and crawls around on my head, the reason I put up with it, is because I’m nice. The reason why I don’t tell my father about himself is because
he won’t listenI’m freakin’ nice.
And a good reason that I feel religion is imaginary is because those with religion can be evil (like against their religion evil, not being evil for religion- that’s a separate matter), and those without can be wonderful despite the ingrained belief (in even myself) that lack of religion willl turn you terrible. You can blame religion all you want. Something beyond religion or god or the supernatural control our actions, and that is what we should look for.
It’s so tiresome to read repeatedly that New Atheism is a failure because we aren’t replacing religion with anything else. This claim has been made once again in a HuffPo piece by Clay Naff called “Humanism’s moment of opportunity, going to waste.” Naff spends a lot of time going after me, and I’ll try to respond politely.
He first touts the success of American megachurches, and claims that, by comparison, non-theists (not just New Atheists) are a miserable failure:
Their non-theistic rivals? Not so much. The evidence is in, and it is clear: New Atheists have been a media success and a societal failure. They know how to sell books, how to debate, how to sneer, skewer, and satirize — in short, how to use all the squabbling skills of the modern academic (cf. the letters section of the New York Review of Books) — but the New…
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