Tuesday, May 15, 2007

atheism is dead.

Joe Hinman at the Metacrock blog has posted an excellent piece on the Last Days of Outmoded Atheism. His point: atheism is not a viable world view because it's sole purpose is to undermine and eliminate theistic world views. It has no viable purpose or goal other than that. The problem with such a negative goal is self evident: nature abhors a vacuum, especially a vacuum of ideas.

Here is a long excerpt from his article:

Atheism can't accept a place in the spectrum alongside other ideas because it has to destroy religion. It has to be base itself upon the outmoded concept that one idea is true and its contrary is false. Now Christianity believe this too. As I say, it's both good and bad for Christianity. But Christianity can survive in a version that liberalizes itself enough to be part of the mix. It has its' special qualities that others don't have and that's its appeal but it can also allow others to have their views. Atheism can't allow any idea but one, hate religion. Atheism depends upon the myth of a golden progress into the shining Godless future where science has prevailed and destroyed religion, leaving it behind as a failed adaptation. That myth is over. That myth is the myth of modernism and has been left behind in the dust.

Of course fundamentalism will have to go. That may be on the rise now the new atheist fundamentalists are an attempt to join the ranks of the postmodern fundies, but it wont succeed because it's major myth is opposed to the paradigm of the world today. Atheism has to destroy religion, it has to dissolve it, it has to undermine it or it can't exist. The existence of atheism as anything other just a lack of belief, which is far from all it is, is predicated upon hatred of religion and the need to demonstrate one's superiority over religious people. This is not an age for that. This is the age of tolerance, diversity, of equality among all ideas. The Irish gave up their passion for a nationalistic Northern Ireland because they realized they would rather go shopping than blow things up. A liberalized Christianity can fit into the diversified mixture of a postmodern social construct, but atheism can't by its nature and its definition.

<>< TM


J.L. Hinman said...

It was a great surprize to see you cover two of my things: my article on atheism can't survive and the brain mind thing on Doxa. Thanks for doing that, I am glad you like them.

I also have an article on theodicy that I think is good. I like your site, you are very deep and thoughtful. I like Merton too.

J.L. Hinman said...

Great site. Thanks for doing two of my articles. The one on atheism and the one on Brain/mind. I like your site a lot. You are very thoughtful and reflective.

TK said...

Well, I just have to weigh in on this one...

Now, I'm the first to admit that there are many places I haven't been and people I haven't spoken to. But I can offer a limited amount of insight into Atheism. And my question is this: Where does the idea that Atheists have any interest in killing off religion come from? I certainly don't, and most of the others that I know, either in the real world or via the internet, have no such interest either.

The belief that there is no God does not mean we feel it necessary to convert others to that belief. In fact, I've always found that to be one of the great rifts between theism and atheism - that is, many religious persons feel that they must do their part to spread the word, and yes, even convert people.

There are no atheist missionaries, there are no atheists standing on street corners pamphleteering. There are no summer camps dedicated to Atheism. I was raised by my father, who is a staunch Atheist, to believe that what you believe is yours and yours alone. When I was young and asked him why we don't go to church, the first thing he did was offer to take me. He vowed that if I was interested, he would drive me there every Sunday and pick me up afterwards, without judgment or reservation.

To say that Atheism wants to destroy religion is, I believe, misguided. Yes, I am certain that just as there are Christians and Muslims and Jews and Shintoists who wish to convert people, there are most likely Atheists who attempt the same. But I would suspect that the percentage is far smaller.

1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

I believe that the idea that Atheism cannot coexist alongside religion is the myth. My experience with Atheism is that, for the most part, we simply wish to be left alone to believe what we do in peace, and that our main concern with people in general is that they believe what they wish to, so long as it causes no harm to others.

Anyway, another unfocused rambling on my part. Sorry I haven't been by in a while... once the weather breaks and the temperature rises, I spend most of my days outside, and avoid my computer as much as I can. But your writing is as scintillating as ever.

Take care,

TK said...

Oh, one last (minor) thing - please don't feel you need to publish this comment, but the spelling of my blog title is incorrect - it's Uncooked MEAT.

Though thanks for linking me... I've thought about proving a link to you, but I figured I should ask, since you might inherit all sorts of miscreants. Let me know if you mind or not, and I surely will.

theodicy said...

Hi TK,

You're not the only one who's been avoiding the computer for the benefits of warm weather and outdoor activities! If I get on my computer at all, I try to do it last thing before going off to dreamland.

Anyway, I'm glad you posted the comment/rebuttle, it was what I was hoping for.

I believe you are correct, that a majority of atheists could probably care less about religion, as long as the religious don't go off on some damn fool jihad to kill the unbelievers. (Not that there's any religons on earth that are like that...)


There is a definite trend towards an increasingly militaristic, fundamentalist atheism that is making itself known, especially with the publication of recent books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, all of whom make it clearly known that they wish for all religions to be eliminated, thinking them all evil and irrational. This is a rather alarming trend, especially since they ALL, to a MAN, display the EXACT SAME CHARACTERISTICS that they say the despise about religion: voilence, intolerance, and irrational hatred. I would say all three aformentioned authors are absolutely trying to convert believers to atheism, especially Harris. Hence, atheists, at least some, are turning to evangelism to bring in some converts.

Christianity, from DAY ONE, has all been about the business of making converts to it's core beliefs, because Christian beliefs, when taken into consideration away from the antics of the more wacko Christian elements, are very positive and life afirming. There is not one thing in the Christian worldview-- not one--that is the least bit destructive or irrational.

However, when the core practices and beliefs of Christianity become a stick to beat someone over the head with, like in the Spanish Inquisition for instance, then it's no longer Christianity at play, but power politics with veneer of spiritiuality. Even many atheists are guilty of such barbaric behavior, though they often use politics rather than theology as the stick to beat people with. Just today I had lunch with an old friend, who is not the least bit religious himself, remark how idiotic groups like the ACLU and other organiztions have become in their efforts to stiffle religion. The evidence for this is overwhelming, as it's often an atheist and/or the ACLU who seeks to ban all religious icons and symbols from holidays and observances that are blatantly religous, like Christmas for instance. Such actions to not go unoticed by those of us who are believers.

It is absolutely wrong for a Christian to result to force, manipulation, or pressure tactics of any kind in an effort to seek converts. Those who engage in such activities (like the JW's and Mormons especially) are Christians in name only, if even that, and are not people I want to be associated with. The Bible clearly states, more than once, that those who are not interested in the message of salvation should be left alone.

However, there is an very real, very visible and very powerful effort by various atheists to use the legal system to remove religion out of the public sphere, often against the will of the majority. One of the ways I notice this is how the word "Christmas" never appears in any official documents from the local school districts. The only use weasle words and phrases like "winter celebration" and "holidy season" -- though you rarely even see the word "holiday" anymore because it's etymology is from "holy day" -- a blatantly religious term.

No doubt about it: America is becoming increasly secular at an astonishing rate, as Christianity especially becomes increasingly marginalized in the public sphere, especially in context of the mass media. And I guarentee you it's not God-fearing folks who are at the helm of this relentless drive towards an increasingly secular culture.

<>< TM

Mark said...

One of the comments cites a particular idea which is at the root of my dislike of organized religion:
"...are very positive and life afirming. There is not one thing in the Christian worldview-- not one--that is the least bit destructive or irrational."
This is flagrantly untrue, since the two-thousand year old religious edicts against birth control are causing a great deal of strife in the Hispanic community. Here in southern California, it's obvious that most, if not all, Latinos are Catholic, and coincidentally, have an alarming birthrate. The California state budget is in shambles due, mostly, to the disproportionate number of illegal immigrants flooding the state. The Catholic church must come into modern thinking, and help to stem the flood of "destructive and irrational" behavior it now actively endorses. This change cannot happen quickly enough, as it will take years to see any positive change filter through. This is but one obvious example of the pitfalls one may encounter by living by the strict word of obsolete doctrine.
It is true that I would like to live my life free from all religion. We would all be better off focusing our energies on scientific matters which would actually improve our daily lives, in the form of better healthcare and more ecologically sound practices, as an example. How much more time will intelligent people waste on irrational beliefs and superstitions? You can believe what you want, but your inefficiencies directly cost me, the non-believer, in the form of higher taxes.

theodicy said...


First of all, I agree with you on your dislike for organized religion and the prohibition against birth control.

From my point of view, Christianity is one thing, organized religion is quite another...

The Catholic churches prohibitions against almost all forms of birth control is an example of organized religion running amok with an idea that has almost nothing to do with Jesus, the Bible, or Christian dogma in general. That decision to stand against birth control was born out of two motives in the Catholic heirarchy, the first being a desire to stand against the rampant immorality it saw developing in the late 50's and early 60's, and the second was a desire to increase the size of the church through old-fashioned demographics and moralizing.

As to living a life free of religion, it's impossible, once you understand what religion really is: a set of ideas, or a worldview, or a philosphy that guides your perspectives and filters your thoughts regarding life in general. While the term "religion" if often associated with worshipping devine beings, the truth is one can be religious and have a religion with no devinity what-so-ever. Zen Budhism is an excellent example of this. Even by your own admission, you want "science" to be your guiding light, which is nothing more than making a 'religion' of science. Whatever you determine to be your arbiter of truth, that is your religion.

As for me personally, science is one of the last disciplines I would ever choose to base my life on, although I certainly enjoy it's benefits. The problem is that science, without being grounded in a firm and noble morality, is nothing more than a means to an end. While one can examine morality from a scientific perspective, morality itself did not have its origins in science. Hence, science, at best, is a methodology and tool for discovering some truths, but is incapable of telling us exactly what a "truth" is.