Vox Day - "There is no god. Because I'm an asshole."
I think I’ve been postponing this project long enough, and since other people on our forums are starting to talk about this book, I should probably stop playing Rock Band and get my butt in gear. So, welcome to the first in a series of posts discussing Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist.
I am going to be going through this book one chapter at a time in order to keep the posts relatively short and still allow for a detailed analysis. I mentioned that plan to Vox Day, who kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, and his suggestion was to read the entire book first before beginning. After getting about half-way through it, I didn’t see anything that necessitated that, but just as an FYI, if any of my points of contention are dealt with in later chapters, I’ll note that in later posts.
The first thing I noticed about this book is that Day’s writing style is quite humorous, and if I may, even endearing. This is troublesome as many readers will fall into the trap of getting caught up in the seemingly personable style and disregarding critical inquiry of the content. Day comes off as the friendly but mischievous antagonist in what he terms “an intellectual deathmatch” (p. 3) between himself and the “Unholy Trinity” of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. I must also note a point of agreement before I continue into the actual substance of the book: I appreciate Day’s regard for the autodidactic learner and his insistence that one not be swayed by degrees and credentials as they don’t necessarily make one’s arguments more or less valid. (p. 3) This is a point far too often missed by the pseudo-intellectual crowd who seem to desire a type of hegemonious rule over knowledge itself with authority to speak on a subject deemed only by universities. (I won’t go into the bass-ackwards logic at play there…at least not here.)
So, on to the good stuff. Day starts out by letting the reader know that he doesn’t care if we go to hell, which would seem to be against the mandate of his deity who commands his followers not only to care, but to grieve for the lost souls in the world and try their damnedest to convert us. At any rate, all you atheists can put your guard down because this guy doesn’t want to convert you and doesn’t even care if you go to hell. Nice try. He even goes as far as claiming that he is tolerant of, and even likes, the variety of beliefs and one-way entries to heaven, but that it is the atheists (embodied by Dawkins, et al.) who don’t. I can only speak for myself here when I emphatically state that I do not care what anybody believes—just keep it out of my government and out of my face. If it wasn’t for the intrusion of religion into public policy and the stubborn insistence to continually remind us of our future in hell, I wouldn’t even waste my time correcting them.
Day asks a series of questions regarding the tolerance of religious beliefs and I would like to briefly address them. Does your “insanity” affect me? Yes, for the aforementioned reasons among others. Last time I checked, people didn’t condemn others to hell or kill people over the Minnesota Vikings making it to the Super Bowl, so I don’t find that analogy compelling. To put a little spin on your plea for tolerance, all I ask, and all the vast majority of atheists ask, is to be left alone to disbelieve what we choose to disbelieve and to live how we decide to live. It’s very gratuitous of you to want to allow all of the “insane” people freedom to believe whatever they like, although labeling all of humanity as insane is a bit of a stretch, but once one realizes that the patients are running the asylum, what should be done?
Day starts his list of the evils of atheism by blaming the philosophers of the Enlightenment era for paving the way for “the murderous excesses of the French Revolution and dozens of other massacres in the name of human progress,” which I find to be amusing given that were it not for such revolutions, we would still be living in feudal societies and caste systems quite antithetical to his own libertarian ideals. I wonder where he got those ideas regarding man’s free will and right to exercise it. Could it be…the Enlightenment? The irony is almost overwhelming. This is a point he brings up often. The philosophers of the time certainly did affect the populace, but not by advocating war or revolution. Senseless killing is certainly not rational, nor is being swept away in nationalistic fervor. If waking people up to the reality of their circumstance by giving them a vision of hope for a better tomorrow is a crime, it is one that should be committed more often. The people of the Enlightenment era were simply alerted to the fact that, to paraphrase Rousseau, despite being born free, they were “everywhere in chains.” The people reacted to this knowledge with revolution, and violence is an unfortunate byproduct of the overthrow of established regimes. If these things had not taken place, there would be no United States of America, no democracy, and certainly no libertarianism. Vox Day himself could be similarly vilified by the benefactors of his philosophy for espousing such views, assuming we lived in a world where the Enlightenment had never occurred.
Day goes on to criticize atheism, which he oddly traces back to The Apology of Socrates, which only reveals the etymological roots and certainly not the birth of the lack of belief in god, for not having changed over the years. This is an obscure point. How would the lack of belief in something change exactly? Along with that, he tosses in a few jabs with comments as to the “ultimate destination” for atheists being “hot” and a little argumentum ad populum for good measure. Apparently our “godless jihad,” armed by “raging, red-letter infidels,” consists mainly of writing books and speaking out publicly about our lack of faith. We better be careful to keep the death toll from rising exponentially due to an increase in paper cuts.
He makes the argument that atheism leaves a void in people which must be filled with some belief, no matter how silly or contradictory. He supports this by using a Barna poll about beliefs on life after death and a CNN exit poll to show that people improperly self-identify with certain groups. If his conclusion is accurate, how is it more damaging to atheism than it is to religion? Would it not also be the case that the “billions of individuals” who believe in Jesus are also incorrectly identifying themselves, rendering all such labels meaningless and simultaneously destroying his earlier appeal to popularity? Day claims that “the normal individual tends to put significantly more time into living his life instead of thinking about it and cataloging its abstract aspects.” I agree, and I think that is problematic. It’s akin to being criticized for engaging in introspection, which is not only healthy, but necessary. Somehow related to this is the definition of atheism from the three “representatives” of atheism and their nuances, but I haven’t figured out how it is related, seen as how most arguments centered around definitions tend to be promptly settled by a dictionary.
The pinnacle of this segment is the fact that Sam Harris, leader of all atheists everywhere at all times, practices Buddhism. If anybody else is thinking, “Yeah, so?”--you’re not alone. Is this a criticism of atheism or Sam Harris’ personal beliefs? For all of his ranting about these Buddhist beliefs, he fails to take into account that there are many types of Buddhism, some of which involve no deities and focus instead on personal development. The entire point is irrelevant, though, as Sam Harris’ assertion that Buddhism is not a religion per se says nothing at all about atheism. At least he acknowledges that atheism is neither a religion nor a philosophy—right before he divides us into “churches.”
What Day terms “High Church Atheists” (HCA) consist of the upper echelon of intellectual elitists who also have mental disorders and Asperger’s syndrome, along with being socially inept and never getting laid because they’re too busy destroying the beliefs of their prospective partners. Wow—we’re doomed. Except for the fact that all of those things are pure speculation on an arbitrarily assigned group of people. We also have the “Low Church Atheist,” (LCA) the backwater, inbred cousin that the former wants to hide from the public. The HCA is deemed autistic by one online poll which was answered by 59 people indicating that atheists have an average Asperger’s quotient of 27.9, slightly above normal, but not quite a pathology, along with Day’s own informal survey of 159 of his blog readers. This is not even close to a controlled study from which conclusions can be drawn. The LCA is characterized by their refusal to use the word “atheist”, but that shouldn’t matter since Day already proved that self-labeling is irrelevant. There is a method to his madness, though, because he is about to use this group to skew and obfuscate the prison population studies which show that atheists are less likely to be imprisoned. Earlier in the chapter, he admits that people who answer “no religion” on polls are not necessarily atheist, the validity of self-identification not withstanding, but then wants to lump them in with atheists to get his extra 31.6 percent of the British prison system and then declare that our “Low Church counterparts are nearly four times more likely to be convicted and jailed for committing a crime than a Christian.” (p. 20) Watch out—he’s a slippery one!
These LCAs also live seven years less than the average religious person, are more likely to smoke, drink, be depressed, fat, unmarried, and not reproduce. Day then assumes that since so many of them are in jail, they must be less intelligent than average. Well, by using the same flawed data, many conclusions can be drawn about a population of unknown people who happened to check “no religion” when filling out the Inmate Information Survey.
Day finishes off the chapter with the typical agnostic/atheist dichotomy, as if they are mutually exclusive, but Vox, what difference does it make? You already proved that labels are meaningless and that all people with no religion are atheists, so what’s your point? Congratulations, that was the most convoluted, contradictory mess of confabulated casuistry I have ever seen. Honestly, I am impressed. I like ya, though; it’s kind of cute to see you so clearly grasping for straws. Thanks for the book, too—it’s providing me with plenty of material.
I’ll see those of you with shatter-resistant monitors next time for chapter two!