The "New" ("Militant") Atheism


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Message 1274132 - Posted: 22 Aug 2012, 22:01:15 UTC

From the far left:

http://chronicle.com/article/Does-Religion-Really-Poison/133457/?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

http://chronicle.com/article/The-New-Atheists-Narrow/126027/?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

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Message 1274887 - Posted: 24 Aug 2012, 15:31:21 UTC - in response to Message 1274132.
Last modified: 24 Aug 2012, 15:33:31 UTC

From the far left:

http://chronicle.com/article/Does-Religion-Really-Poison/133457/?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

http://chronicle.com/article/The-New-Atheists-Narrow/126027/?cid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en

Stephen T. Asma, in "The Atheists Narrow Worldview" suggests that Sam Harris (in The Moral Landscape) anticipates the argument Stephen makes with:

Be­cause there are no easy rem­e­dies for so­cial in­equal­ity, many sci­entists and pub­lic in­tel­lec­tu­als also be­lieve that the great masses of hu­man­ity are best kept se­dat­ed by pi­ous de­lu­sions. Many as­sert that, while they can get along just fine with­out an imag­i­nary friend, most hu­man be­ings will al­ways need to be­lieve in God.

Personally, I don't think Stephen does a very good job of countering Sam's point.

The "dictator game" experiment in "Does Religion Really Poison Everything?" appears flawed, in that it appears to compare two groups, one that has no prompting and another that is given "spiritual" prompting, where's the third group, given emotive (though spiritually neutral) prompting?

Having said that, the central thesis of the article:

Still, a growing body of research suggests that religion or religious ideas, in certain circumstances, in some people, can elicit the kind of behavior that is generally good for society: fairness, generosity, honesty. At the very least, when you read the literature, it becomes difficult to confidently assert that religion, despite the undeniable evil it has sometimes inspired, is entirely toxic.

Appears to be a straw man. I'm not aware that any of the advocates of "The New Atheism" have stated "religion is entirely toxic", that type of absolutism is generally not part of their case.
____________
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that ...

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Message 1274891 - Posted: 24 Aug 2012, 15:48:55 UTC - in response to Message 1274887.
Last modified: 24 Aug 2012, 15:49:22 UTC

The "dictator game" experiment in "Does Religion Really Poison Everything?" appears flawed, in that it appears to compare two groups, one that has no prompting and another that is given "spiritual" prompting, where's the third group, given emotive (though spiritually neutral) prompting?


That does not necessarily make it flawed: that would be a call for further research, as if often found at the end of reports or in critiques.

Still, a growing body of research suggests that religion or religious ideas, in certain circumstances, in some people, can elicit the kind of behavior that is generally good for society: fairness, generosity, honesty. At the very least, when you read the literature, it becomes difficult to confidently assert that religion, despite the undeniable evil it has sometimes inspired, is entirely toxic.

Appears to be a straw man. I'm not aware that any of the advocates of "The New Atheism" have stated "religion is entirely toxic", that type of absolutism is generally not part of their case.


All we need to do to see it is not a straw man is to look at some posts in Qui-Gon's old threads from 5-6 years ago, plus some scattered threads in the past 1-2 years.
It is indeed statements (unfounded by science) such as "nothing about religion is good, it has caused many bad things, so it is entirely bad, we'd be better off without it and we will eventually evolve beyond it" that have led me to not label myself as atheist, and maintain the label agnostic.

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Message 1274902 - Posted: 24 Aug 2012, 16:03:54 UTC

I have to say that neither atheism or religion is bad or evil. All throuh history both have been guilty of nasty acts against humans. But its not atheism or religion that did it. It was men.

Humans are a funny breed. We are capable of giving our lives to save someone else. Or kill an innocent being in a heart beat.

We can be creative beyond belief in the arts and sciences, or delve into the arts of war.

At the moment my faith is shaky.
____________

Old James

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Message 1274913 - Posted: 24 Aug 2012, 16:47:42 UTC - in response to Message 1274891.

The "dictator game" experiment in "Does Religion Really Poison Everything?" appears flawed, in that it appears to compare two groups, one that has no prompting and another that is given "spiritual" prompting, where's the third group, given emotive (though spiritually neutral) prompting?


That does not necessarily make it flawed: that would be a call for further research, as if often found at the end of reports or in critiques.


Fair enough, the experiment wasn't flawed, the conclusion (that religious belief leads to greater fairness) may be.

Still, a growing body of research suggests that religion or religious ideas, in certain circumstances, in some people, can elicit the kind of behavior that is generally good for society: fairness, generosity, honesty. At the very least, when you read the literature, it becomes difficult to confidently assert that religion, despite the undeniable evil it has sometimes inspired, is entirely toxic.

Appears to be a straw man. I'm not aware that any of the advocates of "The New Atheism" have stated "religion is entirely toxic", that type of absolutism is generally not part of their case.


All we need to do to see it is not a straw man is to look at some posts in Qui-Gon's old threads from 5-6 years ago, plus some scattered threads in the past 1-2 years.
It is indeed statements (unfounded by science) such as "nothing about religion is good, it has caused many bad things, so it is entirely bad, we'd be better off without it and we will eventually evolve beyond it" that have led me to not label myself as atheist, and maintain the label agnostic.


I suspects it's a truism to state that whenever one accepts a label one runs the risk of joining others that one does not wholeheartedly agree with. Nevertheless, provided one is reasonably sure that the label is appropriate, it should not matter. It does not matter to me that some other atheist may not be able to see the beauty of the Sistene Chapel, my understanding of the label does not prohibit me from doing so.

Apologies, the reference to "the advocates of the New Atheism" was intended as shorthand for the Four Horsemen (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens), which I suspect are more likely the targets of the article than posters to these fora.
____________
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that ...

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Message 1275047 - Posted: 24 Aug 2012, 21:57:44 UTC - in response to Message 1274913.

Fair enough, the experiment wasn't flawed, the conclusion (that religious belief leads to greater fairness) may be.


Perhaps I need to read it again, or the primary sources, but I don't think it was claimed they have definitively shown that, either. I take the point to be that at least they are studying it, while "The Four Horsemen", when saying such is not the case, are advocating an idea without scientifically studying it. That the fact that they are scientists and also are advocates are conflated in the eyes of others to mean, as scientists, they know better than us on those issues.

Still, a growing body of research suggests that religion or religious ideas, in certain circumstances, in some people, can elicit the kind of behavior that is generally good for society: fairness, generosity, honesty. At the very least, when you read the literature, it becomes difficult to confidently assert that religion, despite the undeniable evil it has sometimes inspired, is entirely toxic.

Appears to be a straw man. I'm not aware that any of the advocates of "The New Atheism" have stated "religion is entirely toxic", that type of absolutism is generally not part of their case.


All we need to do to see it is not a straw man is to look at some posts in Qui-Gon's old threads from 5-6 years ago, plus some scattered threads in the past 1-2 years.
It is indeed statements (unfounded by science) such as "nothing about religion is good, it has caused many bad things, so it is entirely bad, we'd be better off without it and we will eventually evolve beyond it" that have led me to not label myself as atheist, and maintain the label agnostic.


I suspects it's a truism to state that whenever one accepts a label one runs the risk of joining others that one does not wholeheartedly agree with. Nevertheless, provided one is reasonably sure that the label is appropriate, it should not matter. It does not matter to me that some other atheist may not be able to see the beauty of the Sistene Chapel, my understanding of the label does not prohibit me from doing so.

Apologies, the reference to "the advocates of the New Atheism" was intended as shorthand for the Four Horsemen (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens), which I suspect are more likely the targets of the article than posters to these fora.[/quote]

From the Wiki you linked,
New Atheism is the name given to the ideas promoted by a collection of 21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.


Of course, the comment was meant as a response to "The Four Horsemen", but we've seen it echoed here. Where do you suppose such intolerant comments are coming from?

Again, I suggest it is possible that just because science has shown we need not believe some of the religious explanations provided to us (how the universe came to be, etc. ...), we now see "The Four Horsemen" and their comments being echoed by others, when these others may not realize that while they are scientists, when it comes to the extreme case they make for atheism, they may just be advocates. Wilson's overall idea, to investigate scientifically what religion may or may not do for us is precisely what a scientist should be doing.
(I mean, who wants the actor Ted Danson to be the one to tell us about global warming?)

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Message 1275079 - Posted: 24 Aug 2012, 23:54:32 UTC - in response to Message 1275047.

Fair enough, the experiment wasn't flawed, the conclusion (that religious belief leads to greater fairness) may be.


Perhaps I need to read it again, or the primary sources, but I don't think it was claimed they have definitively shown that, either. I take the point to be that at least they are studying it, while "The Four Horsemen", when saying such is not the case, are advocating an idea without scientifically studying it. That the fact that they are scientists and also are advocates are conflated in the eyes of others to mean, as scientists, they know better than us on those issues.

Perhaps it does not definitively state the conclusion I suggested, though that's certainly the impression I came away with after a casual read. Of the Four Horsemen, Harris and Dawkins are scientists (neuroscience and evolutionary biology), Hitchens was a journalist and Dannett is a philosopher. I'm not certain that any of them would argue that religion belief cannot lead to greater fairness (or whatever positive metric you can to choose) under any circumstance, though they would (and do) argue that it can be shown to have lead to decreased fairness in a number of cases. It also seems to me that Dawkins notes that he is not speaking as a scientist when he moves outside the arena of evolutionary biology.

Still, a growing body of research suggests that religion or religious ideas, in certain circumstances, in some people, can elicit the kind of behavior that is generally good for society: fairness, generosity, honesty. At the very least, when you read the literature, it becomes difficult to confidently assert that religion, despite the undeniable evil it has sometimes inspired, is entirely toxic.

Appears to be a straw man. I'm not aware that any of the advocates of "The New Atheism" have stated "religion is entirely toxic", that type of absolutism is generally not part of their case.


All we need to do to see it is not a straw man is to look at some posts in Qui-Gon's old threads from 5-6 years ago, plus some scattered threads in the past 1-2 years.
It is indeed statements (unfounded by science) such as "nothing about religion is good, it has caused many bad things, so it is entirely bad, we'd be better off without it and we will eventually evolve beyond it" that have led me to not label myself as atheist, and maintain the label agnostic.


I suspects it's a truism to state that whenever one accepts a label one runs the risk of joining others that one does not wholeheartedly agree with. Nevertheless, provided one is reasonably sure that the label is appropriate, it should not matter. It does not matter to me that some other atheist may not be able to see the beauty of the Sistene Chapel, my understanding of the label does not prohibit me from doing so.

Apologies, the reference to "the advocates of the New Atheism" was intended as shorthand for the Four Horsemen (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens), which I suspect are more likely the targets of the article than posters to these fora.


From the Wiki you linked,
New Atheism is the name given to the ideas promoted by a collection of 21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.

Of course, the comment was meant as a response to "The Four Horsemen", but we've seen it echoed here. Where do you suppose such intolerant comments are coming from?

I'd suggest the echoes here have lost a significant amount of fidelity, though I don't believe intolerance is in all cases an inappropriate response. For instance, why should any rational person be tolerant of the notion that women "secrete a certain secretion" that makes it impossible to become pregnant as a result of rape, or the recent echo of the sentiment made by Todd ("the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down") Akin? Such idea have no place in political discourse and I'd say it's fair to be intolerant of them.

Again, I suggest it is possible that just because science has shown we need not believe some of the religious explanations provided to us (how the universe came to be, etc. ...), we now see "The Four Horsemen" and their comments being echoed by others, when these others may not realize that while they are scientists, when it comes to the extreme case they make for atheism, they may just be advocates. Wilson's overall idea, to investigate scientifically what religion may or may not do for us is precisely what a scientist should be doing.
(I mean, who wants the actor Ted Danson to be the one to tell us about global warming?)

I'm not sure where the idea that the "Four Horsemen" are making an extreme case comes from, though I'll concede that Hitchens in particular used polemic as a tool. There are a number of instances where "extreme case" may be a warranted label, perhaps the Westboro Baptists, though even this reprehensible group are tame when compared with the Taliban. In relation to either I'd argue that the Four Horsemen are anything but extreme (though, if any of them suggest "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun", I'll certainly change my view). If "exposed by rational argument" is a measure of an extremist, I'd like to be counted as one.
____________
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that ...

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