Response to Vox

kellym78's picture

Alright - I had posted this as a comment under my previous blog post, but it's too damn long to not make it separate. So, without further ado...my response to his response to my response to The Irrational Atheist.

 

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Actually, we're only supposed to make sure you have heard the Gospel, if you're not inclined to listen, we're permitted to shake the dust from our sandals and move on in good conscience. Moreoever, I never claimed to be a particularly good Christian, the reason I'm less annoying than the door-knocking fundamentalist who wants to talk to you about Jesus is because I care less about your fate. My libertarianism pretty much goes to the bone.

I prefer your more subdued form of proselytization, but I think that the bible clearly indicates that as one of the “elect,” you should in fact feel sorrow for the fate of our heathen souls. People like Paul even wept for the lost. At any rate, this is a trivial point that is not written out plainly as a command, so I won’t press it further.

 

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As for the idea of an "intrusion" of religion into public policy, this is hardly any such thing given the concept of democratic rule. Either Kelly must reject the idea of rule by will of the people or she must accept that religion has a place in public life. I suspect she is subject to a parochial American view, but even in America, the unalienable rights are endowed by a Creator God and contorted Supreme Court reasoning notwithstanding, it is only Congress that is not permitted to make a law about establishing religion, the sovereign States and various other governmental agencies know no such limitation.

First of all, the US is not a pure democracy, and the majority does not necessarily get their way. The government was founded upon secular principles and the absolute separation of church and state was the foundation upon which they were constructed. I also find your addition of the word “God” following “Creator” to border on dishonesty, as I’m sure you are aware that the god of the founding fathers was not the god of christianity and the creator to which they refer could very well be the universe or the deistic god in whom most of them believed. The states also cannot have laws that violate any constitutional principles and are given the power to rule only within those boundaries.

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Finally, I note that the tagline on Kelly's site: "Believe in God? We can fix that." tends to undermine her assertion of indifference towards the beliefs of others.

I see that some people have a hard time appreciating facetious sarcasm.

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Kelly hasn't shown how MY beliefs affect her in any way. I don't even live in the same country as she does and I haven't voted in more than two decades. No one can condemn Kelly to Hell except Kelly; if she's walking down the road towards a house on fire and I point out that she's going to end up getting burned if she continues along her present path, it's not my accurate observation that dooms her, but her own actions. If you believe in the primacy of human freedom, there is simply nothing to be done, Kelly's seemingly innocent question is the seed from which so many authoritarian horrors, some theist, some atheist, have blossomed. Either people have the right to believe in ridiculous things and behave in ridiculous manners, or the Pope has the right to burn you at the stake because you refuse to submit to his infallible dictates. Everything in between is merely a different answer to the question of who is to play Pope and who is to play torch.

I disagree here for multiple reasons, some of which may boil down to theological differences. First of all, your belief affects me because it compels you to a) write books on the subject, b) consider yourself vastly superior to those who don’t find your god’s existence axiomatic, and c) engage in the same psychological terrorism which I previously mentioned. Secondly, the bible is quite clear that my salvation is not dependent upon my actions, but rather is a gift from god to those whom he has chosen. If you believe that the bible is at least remotely accurate, then you must accept that I am walking down the path that was made for me by your god who created me specifically for the purpose of going to hell. After all, it was all planned from before the foundations of the universe. Is that not what is written?

As far as personal beliefs and behaviors are concerned, I have already stated that I do not care what an individual person believes as long as it stays personal. Attempts to proselytize, subversion of scientific research, the desire to control uteri worldwide, do I really need to go on? Legislating morality based on your god belief immediately removes it from the personal level and places it firmly within the public sphere.


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As with the five atheists analyzed in TIA, history is not Kelly's strong point. Feudalism and caste systems were not ended by the Enlightenment, indeed, the former is largely a fictional concept of medieval governmental structure popularized by Montesquieu in the 18th century and is as historically dubious as the long-discredited concept of "the Dark Ages".

I believe that is an issue of some dispute within academia. The structure in the French government was very much feudalistic and also had similarities to caste systems as advancement through the three “levels” was difficult, if not impossible. If anything was the impetus for the revolution, it would have been the fact that the established hierarchy was oppressive and not the fault of the philosophers who pointed it out.

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The caste system never existed in Christendom and it still exists today in a number of Asian countries.

I don’t recall ever making a statement about any particular ethnic group. Regardless of that point, the pre-revolutionary France was very much like a caste system. I feel that the analogy is appropriate.

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Kelly's statement about free will reveals a shocking ignorance of the concept, as it is not an Enlightenment idea in any way, shape, or form, it is a Christian one. In fact, its very existence is denied today by New Enlightenment thinkers such as Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.

I never stated that the concept itself was new, only that the right to express it, even in opposition to the government, was. And just for the record, I don’t believe in absolute free will, either. I believe that people will make certain decisions, seemingly of their own volition, based on genetic and environmental variances. The nature versus nurture debate will likely never end, but a critical examination of the studies will show that things as trivial as your vehicle preference are correlated to genetic similarity. If free will exists as you claim it does, then how is it that I have control over my own destiny which according to the bible was determined before I was even conceived?

 

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Were she even slightly familiar with Christian philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, (http://www.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/aquinasFreeWo.htm) or Augustine, (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm), or Enlightenment philosophers such as Voltaire (http://history.hanover.edu/texts/voltaire/volfrewi.html), she'd realize that she is, in a very Harrisian manner, demonstrating the precise opposite of what she wishes to prover. The Enlightenment free will of Hume and Rousseau is holdover from the Christian traditions of their Christian societies, it was far from a new concept. Democracy predated the Enlightenment by literal millenia, and the statement that "senseless killing is certainly not rational" is a meaningless tautology that says nothing about the fact that most of the mass killing committed by atheist revolutionaries is perfectly rational given their stated goals of remaking human society according to the precepts of their new and shinier morality.

There was a form of democracy in Greece, true. I think that there are some benefits to an Athenian style democracy, personally, but the system itself was still not as sophisticated as what we have currently.

Your assumption that I am unfamiliar with Aquinas, Augustine, or enlightenment philosophers in general is patently absurd. Not to drag “formal” education into the debate, but I did study theology and philosophy at a Jesuit university for 2 years, and have read many of the works of all of the aforementioned. “Free will” as a concept was present in christianity, but my remark was related to governments and the legal right to exercise our autonomy. I could, perhaps, chalk this up to a semantic or contextual misunderstanding, but it is also likely that you just purposely interpreted what I said in such a way that you could accuse me of ignorance of those subjects.

The idea that we are arguing over atrocities committed by “atheists” during that time period is ludicrous. I asserted that the philosophers did not advocate violence, which is true, and furthermore, there is no evidence that all or even most participants in the actual fighting were atheists. This is an assumption made by you, presumably to further your own agenda of vilifying atheists.

Finally, killing for a specific purpose (ie in a revolution—were there no deaths in the American Revolution? That’s news to me.) would not be inherently irrational, but killing for the sake of killing would be.

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Kelly misses the interesting point. If atheism is nothing more than simple lack of belief in god, a concept that I acknowledge, but dispute for various reasons, then there should be no significant similarity between the views of one atheist and the next.

Check the Oxford English Dictionary—an atheist is one who disbelieves in or denies the existence of god. Period. I disbelieve in god based on my lack of, and in my opinion, inability to acquire, knowledge of such a being. End of story. Therefore, the only necessary commonality between myself and other atheists is that we lack belief in god.

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And yet, when one examines the views of one of the first, self-conscious atheists, Jean Meslier, we see that his views across a wide spectrum of philosophical, political and epistemological concepts are virtually identical to those put forth by the leading atheists nearly 300 years later. This is why it is so easy to identify the High Church Atheist, because his atheist dogma is covers far more intellectual ground than Kelly's limited atheist doctrine could possibly permit.

Reading the personal opinions of atheists past or present doesn’t change the fact that atheism only entails lack of belief in god. Those who conflate atheism with some larger philosophy are simply incorrect. Christopher Hitchens is politically conservative; I’m not, but we’re both atheists. I disagree with atheists who believe that one can prove that ANY supernatural being doesn’t exist (which sounds extraordinarily silly to a logical positivist), but we’re both still atheists. Get it?

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The fact that atheists still don't believe in God isn't remarkable, the fact that 279 years later so many of them are still - despite ample evidence of failure - calling for new moralities, new societies, global dictatorship and rule by a scientific quasi-priesthood is astounding. As for the godless jihad, it's called metaphor, and it's worth noting that neither St. Bernard nor Osama bin Laden are known to have done any more than write and speak out in public.

You have to be joking about Osama bin Laden, but we won’t delve into conspiracy theorist accusations.

I desire no “new” morality, society, dictatorship, or global domination. I have no desire to make god-belief illegal or in any way restrict your right to practice your religion, but I do feel that it is hazardous to humanity and would hope to have others abandon religion of their own volition. As previously stated, as long as religion stays out of schools and governments, I’m fine with whatever you choose to believe. (There’s more to this line of thinking, but I will address it in more detail when I get to the appropriate part of the book.)

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I don't think the problem of self-identification is an inherent problem atheists or Christians, or for anyone except those who would attempt to make arguments based in any way upon those self-identifications, such as, for example, the specific individuals I am criticizing in TIA. This question of self-identification doesn't necessarily reduce the number of Christians, as larger studies of the sort required for global numbers are not based on self-identification, but rather church affiliations and so forth.

What is the definition of christian in your mind? If it is solely church affiliation, then I guess I’m an Episcopalian since I never officially renounced my baptism and am included in the numbers somewhere. If a christian is someone who personally accepts the main tenets of the Nicene Creed, then I think you’ll find that the numbers based on church affiliation are artificially inflated. (I want to note here that I’m not making the No-True Scotsman fallacy as I’m not arguing that those who would self-identify as christian are not christian based upon behavior or some other characteristic. I do, however, feel that many christians are the nominal sort who haven’t examined their beliefs and may not even believe Jesus rose from the dead after his propitiatory sacrifice, thereby providing an example of the type of improper group affiliation that Vox references.) If you don’t find that nugget of info compelling, why include it? Was the point not to imply that there are less atheists than even the polls report due to incorrect self-identification?

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I'm not criticizing those who engage in introspection here, but rather those who think that because they are interested in studying the matter, those who are not given to such introspection should be somehow obliged to identify their beliefs according to the abstract classifications of intellectuals.

I don’t expect people, particularly the complacent and apathetic who seem so prevalent in society, to do or believe anything. If they attempt to argue a position or make a claim, then I will expect them to logically and rationally support that. If you cannot refer to a dictionary to settle a definitional dispute, to what should we refer? I understand the nuance and connotations that can be left out of dictionaries, but there must be some final arbiter within language.

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The problem with the dictionary definitions is the one I have already pointed out: there are common characteristics of atheists which can be readily observed by even the most casual observer which indicate that either a lack of god belief is causing the development of these characteristics, it is the result of those characteristics, there is some underlying factor that causes both the characteristics and the identification, or that the mere lack of god belief is an insufficient description of the totality of atheism as it is actually practiced.

I don’t “practice” atheism and wouldn’t even know how to go about doing so. You may be able to correlate certain characteristics with atheism, but let’s not forget that correlation does not equal causation. Furthermore, many of such observations are biased and stereotypical. Many people will read more into a particular action than is actually there based upon the kinds of memes that have spread about atheists, so their analysis would be tainted by such a predisposition. For example, some people claim that atheists live a life of total debauchery and just want to have sex with everything in sight. Well, so do some christians, muslims, or hindus. Some atheists are celibate by choice. The sexual behavior of atheists and even the mores regarding sex are likely not that different from those of the religious. We just don’t need to feel guilty because Jesus just watched us masturbate.

I also feel that your group of “Low Church Atheists” was over-generalized to include a group of people whose religious affiliation is merely in question or not known. The conclusions that you made based upon their inclusion are invalid, and in my opinion, a dishonest attempt to bolster your argument.

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First, I should clarify that neither Kelly nor I are saying that Harris is a Buddhist per se, he merely practices certain esoteric rituals from the Buddhist tradition.

I do yoga; does that make me Hindu? Harris is an example of an atheist with whom I have some variance of opinion. We’ve spoken on some of these differences with no assertion on either side of correctness. We’re still both atheists.

 

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The primary significance of the contradictory definitions of atheism provided by Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett is to show a) the broad variance of how atheism is defined even by its leading advocates, and b) to lay the groundwork for later demonstrating that some of Sam Harris's arguments about atheist societies directly contradict his earlier definition(s) of atheism quoted in this first chapter. (See TIA p. 121). And Harris's careful distinction between Buddhism the atheistic non-religion and Buddhism practiced as a religion is not irrelevant because it suggests that there may be a need to make same distinction between atheism the atheistic non-religion and atheism practiced as a religion as well.

Atheism is sometimes defined differently, and oftentimes incorrectly. I would have to re-read the referenced sections of their work to analyze their intent with using those particular definitions, but just for the record, I also disagree with the American Atheists’ description of what an atheist “is.” Many of those tenets I agree with in principle, but not as a corollary to atheism that is fundamentally necessary.

Buddhism does in fact have many sects and branches that practice their religion differently. For example, the Japanese form of Buddhism is a Shinto fusion as far as popular belief is concerned. Mahayana, Theraveda, and Zen Buddhists also have differing beliefs and mythologies. That doesn’t change the fundamental aspect of Buddhism as a path by which one can attain peace or enlightenment without a necessary god of worship. It is a religion by definition, though, with a prescribed set of ritualistic behaviors, but practicing meditation does not make one Buddhist.

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Hey, I didn't claim the Aspie thing was a done deal, I merely happened to OBSERVE a few behavioral patterns and then form a HYPOTHESIS. That's what we scientists do, the next step is to test the hypothesis. Perhaps I can apply for a grant somewhere.... Kelly is going through one of the usual atheist dance routines here, including "no religion" or secularism in general as a variant of atheism is routinely done by Sam Harris, by PZ Myers, and it's the very foundation of Richard Dawkins's OUT Campaign and is proclaimed to be the basis for the evangelical aspect of The God Delusion. She may not conflate the two, but the authors addressed in TIA certainly do.

You implied some type of statistical correlation between Asperger’s and atheism; I merely pointed out that you had insufficient data to make such a correlation from a statistical standpoint. I have never personally seen Harris, Myers, or Dawkins defend the notion that all people with no specific religious affiliation or all who consider themselves secularists (which really only applies to religious intrusion into government, not personal beliefs) are de facto atheists. As far as your admitting that I “may not conflate” these differences, how exactly am I doing a “typical atheist dance routine?”

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But there's nothing slippery about pointing out the criminal tendencies of the low church atheist. You can argue that they shouldn't be considered a form of atheist at all, but I haven't seen too many atheists who want to wholly disassociate atheism from secularism or irreligion. If Kelly would prefer to divide the two groups into High Church Godless and Low Church Irreligionists, I have no objection. Finally, I note that the negative correlation between imprisonment and intelligence is very well-established with the support of scads of scientific and testimonial evidence, so that it isn't a valid objection. I'm all for better data here; I was simply making use of what was available to me and I certainly don't consider the matter closed on the basis of a single prison survey in one country.

Regarding your first point, I would not label that group of people as atheists since it is merely unknown. One can have “no religion” and still believe in god or wood nymphs or anything else. As far as the HCAs go, I would dispute your characterization of them, and don’t feel that your dichotomy has an appropriate “church” for people like me. The ivory tower elitist atheists are out there, and they don’t even like me, mostly for the penury of letters behind my name.

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The fact that labels are not always applied accurately hardly makes them meaningless. As for the point, I'm surprised that it is necessary to explain that if one is attempting to demonstrate the irrationality of certain atheist arguments, it just might be helpful to show that the very atheists who make them can't even agree upon a consistent, rational definition of what the atheism they are championing is, and to show the broadest possible spectrum of atheism in all its irrational glory. (emph. mine)

But Kelly is very welcome, and I shall look forward to her next salvo.

This is a perfect example of the bait-and-switch you like to pull—you claim to only be referring to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens every time your arguments are critiqued, but then make the same claims for all of atheism and all atheists. Which is it? It would be much easier to respond if I knew your target. Unless, of course, obscuring it was intentional and the RD, SH, CH attacks are merely a rhetorical ploy meant to distract so you can surreptitiously generalize arguments against specific people and apply them to all atheists.

 

See you next time. Sorry this is taking me so long—I’ve been working a lot lately so I don’t have much free time.

Atheist Books

DJ's picture

I'm curious as to how this

I'm curious as to how this will proceed. What I mean by this is that I am curious as to whether or not the book will continue to be critiqued, or whether we will continue in this cycle of responses to responses.

Also, I am curious as to where Mr. Day heard that Jean Meslier was one of the first self conscious atheists. Sorry Mr. Day, but just because he was one of the first to write a book about it doesn't make him one of the first. Do you think it possible that maybe not all self conscious atheists have written books on the subject? A slightly ridiculous theory, I realize, but it might leave room for a truckload or so more atheists that were self aware before him. And plus, seeing as how the amount of atheists has slightly increased since his time, I find it a bit of a broad generalization that the views of most atheists are indentical to his.

"The fact that labels are not always applied accurately hardly makes them meaningless"

Anyone here seen The Enemies Of Reason program that Dawkins did? In that one he targets general superstition, however he makes a certain statement about labels I feel is applicable. he refers to astronomy, and how the peoples various star signs divide and label us, most of the time innacurately. Therefore, regardless of how harmless they appear to be, these superstitous doctrines undermine society. The same goes for organized religion, only in this case more prominent. Religion labels us, and those labels divide us, and that division continues to harm society as a whole.

I'd like to write more, but I need to sleep. So I'll just finish off with one quick question.

What church do I belong to? I know I've asked this before, but I really am curious. Regardless, I don't think I'll fit in

 

 

"Life Is Far Too Important A Thing Ever To Talk Seriously About" Oscar Wilde

kellym78's picture

My next post will be on

My next post will be on chapter 2. At some point, you have to move forward and stop running in circles.

kellym78's picture

This is Vox's response to

This is Vox's response to this. As previously stated, I won't be addressing it further, but I do feel that he has misunderstood some of my points, but what can I do? Gotta move on.

 

 

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This is a reply to the second round of Kelly's critique of Chapter One. She's moving on to Chapter Two, so I shall attempt to confine myself to answering her questions and highlighting our existing points of disagreement in order to prevent any temptation to enter a vicious circle here.

http://www.rationalresponders.com/vox_response1

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I prefer your more subdued form of proselytization, but I think that the bible clearly indicates that as one of the “elect,” you should in fact feel sorrow for the fate of our heathen souls. People like Paul even wept for the lost. At any rate, this is a trivial point that is not written out plainly as a command, so I won’t press it further.


No doubt I should. And yet I don't. I never claimed to be a good Christian, much less a perfect one.

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First of all, the US is not a pure democracy, and the majority does not necessarily get their way. The government was founded upon secular principles and the absolute separation of church and state was the foundation upon which they were constructed. I also find your addition of the word “God” following “Creator” to border on dishonesty, as I’m sure you are aware that the god of the founding fathers was not the god of christianity and the creator to which they refer could very well be the universe or the deistic god in whom most of them believed. The states also cannot have laws that violate any constitutional principles and are given the power to rule only within those boundaries.


That "secular" principle is actually a Reform tradition established by John Calvin in democratic Switzerland prior to the Enlightenment. The Creator of nearly all of the Founding Fathers was absolutely considered to be the Christian God, only a very few were Deists in any sense. Kelly simply doesn't know what she's talking about here, a read through their bios on Wikipedia would suffice to set her straight. I find the "deist Founding Fathers" argument to be particularly amusing, since in light of my own idiosyncratic views of the Trinity dogma, I would be retroactively defined as a deistic ur-atheist myself. Kelly is also confusing the Constitution with the Bill of Rights here, the latter was never considered to have applied to the states until a new interpretation of the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment was applied in the middle of the 20th century.

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I see that some people have a hard time appreciating facetious sarcasm.


To quote Fred Durst, "if you don't care, then we don't care".

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I disagree here for multiple reasons, some of which may boil down to theological differences. First of all, your belief affects me because it compels you to a) write books on the subject, b) consider yourself vastly superior to those who don’t find your god’s existence axiomatic, and c) engage in the same psychological terrorism which I previously mentioned. Secondly, the bible is quite clear that my salvation is not dependent upon my actions, but rather is a gift from god to those whom he has chosen. If you believe that the bible is at least remotely accurate, then you must accept that I am walking down the path that was made for me by your god who created me specifically for the purpose of going to hell. After all, it was all planned from before the foundations of the universe. Is that not what is written?


Anyone still wondering about why I oppose omniderigence and the concept of God's unalterable and perfect plan? Once Kelly gets to chapter 15, she'll see why these has nothing to do with me or what I believe proper Christian theology to be. Kelly can't save herself, but her salvation does depend upon her action in much the same way that a drowning man has to grab the rope thrown his way.

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As far as personal beliefs and behaviors are concerned, I have already stated that I do not care what an individual person believes as long as it stays personal. Attempts to proselytize, subversion of scientific research, the desire to control uteri worldwide, do I really need to go on? Legislating morality based on your god belief immediately removes it from the personal level and places it firmly within the public sphere.


Kelly reveals a hint of the unexpected authoritarianism that lurks within so many atheists. The religious individual has the same right to voice his public will as any other. Subversion of scientific research? That's nothing more than her imagination, science has no inherent claim on the public purse. The only people attacking science labs are animal rights freaks.

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I believe that is an issue of some dispute within academia. The structure in the French government was very much feudalistic and also had similarities to caste systems as advancement through the three “levels” was difficult, if not impossible. If anything was the impetus for the revolution, it would have been the fact that the established hierarchy was oppressive and not the fault of the philosophers who pointed it out.


I suggest her take on feudalism and caste was simply incorrect, it's the result of taking a metaphor too literally. Let the reader decide.

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I don’t recall ever making a statement about any particular ethnic group. Regardless of that point, the pre-revolutionary France was very much like a caste system. I feel that the analogy is appropriate.


It's not a question of ethnicity but geography. She was talking about caste on a continent where it has never existed, and I'm pointing out that it still exists where it always existed, 200 years after the Age of Enlightenment. Regardless of how she feels, I assert that both her point that Enlightenment ended caste and her analogy that "feudalism" was caste are incorrect. Again, let the reader decide.

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I never stated that the concept itself was new, only that the right to express it, even in opposition to the government, was. And just for the record, I don’t believe in absolute free will, either. I believe that people will make certain decisions, seemingly of their own volition, based on genetic and environmental variances. The nature versus nurture debate will likely never end, but a critical examination of the studies will show that things as trivial as your vehicle preference are correlated to genetic similarity. If free will exists as you claim it does, then how is it that I have control over my own destiny which according to the bible was determined before I was even conceived?


No, she wrote: "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."

As she now knows, no, it could not be the Enlightenment and there is no irony at all. And despite her backpedaling, the concept of a right to exercise one's free will contra the government was not new either. The pre-Enlightenment English Bill of Rights is only one of many possible examples and contains an explicit right to free speech against the crown. Again, Chapter 15 will answer her question, I don't believe her destiny is pre-determined; I am not a omniderigiste.

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There was a form of democracy in Greece, true. I think that there are some benefits to an Athenian style democracy, personally, but the system itself was still not as sophisticated as what we have currently.


That's beside the point. Democracy and limited government both pre-date the Enlightenment. Even worse for Kelly, that more sophisticated American-style system was specifically designed to limit the will of the people... which is quite in keeping with the Enlightenment and its totalitarian impulses.

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Your assumption that I am unfamiliar with Aquinas, Augustine, or enlightenment philosophers in general is patently absurd. Not to drag “formal” education into the debate, but I did study theology and philosophy at a Jesuit university for 2 years, and have read many of the works of all of the aforementioned. “Free will” as a concept was present in christianity, but my remark was related to governments and the legal right to exercise our autonomy. I could, perhaps, chalk this up to a semantic or contextual misunderstanding, but it is also likely that you just purposely interpreted what I said in such a way that you could accuse me of ignorance of those subjects.


I have no idea what Kelly's education happens to be nor do I care. Her point is what it is, and I suggest that no one who has understood Aquinas or Voltaire would make such a bizarre statement about free will and the Enlightenment. Especially since the Enlightenment 2.0 advocates deny the very existence of free will. Again, let the reader decide.

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The idea that we are arguing over atrocities committed by “atheists” during that time period is ludicrous. I asserted that the philosophers did not advocate violence, which is true, and furthermore, there is no evidence that all or even most participants in the actual fighting were atheists. This is an assumption made by you, presumably to further your own agenda of vilifying atheists.


"Écrasez l'infâme!" Apparently Voltaire had a non-violent destruction in mind... pity the Jacobins misunderstood. But it's true, the French Revolution was only partly atheist. No doubt that's why relatively few people were slaughtered compared with later, more vehemently atheist regimes. I have no need to vilify atheists when simply citing the historical record suffices.

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Finally, killing for a specific purpose (ie in a revolution—were there no deaths in the American Revolution? That’s news to me.) would not be inherently irrational, but killing for the sake of killing would be.


Okay. I have a feeling we'll get back to this later....

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Check the Oxford English Dictionary—an atheist is one who disbelieves in or denies the existence of god. Period. I disbelieve in god based on my lack of, and in my opinion, inability to acquire, knowledge of such a being. End of story. Therefore, the only necessary commonality between myself and other atheists is that we lack belief in god.

Reading the personal opinions of atheists past or present doesn’t change the fact that atheism only entails lack of belief in god. Those who conflate atheism with some larger philosophy are simply incorrect. Christopher Hitchens is politically conservative; I’m not, but we’re both atheists. I disagree with atheists who believe that one can prove that ANY supernatural being doesn’t exist (which sounds extraordinarily silly to a logical positivist), but we’re both still atheists. Get it?


And yet we find a whole host of other commonalities, including beliefs, that can't stem directly from that single, simple disbelief. We observe. Then we hypothesize. Ironically, Kelly is, like a medieval philosopher, hiding behind logic in an attempt to avoid the empirical evidence. Considering that I specifically consider the definition-based point and reject it as both observably insufficient as well as contradicted by the definitions provided by Dawkins and Harris, I find it strange that she'd wish to return to it.

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You have to be joking about Osama bin Laden, but we won’t delve into conspiracy theorist accusations.


Actually, I'm referring to an email exchange with Sam Harris here. Sam admits that Osama isn't known to have personally killed anyone, but he suggests the possibility of ethically justifying his murder anyhow.

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I desire no “new” morality, society, dictatorship, or global domination. I have no desire to make god-belief illegal or in any way restrict your right to practice your religion, but I do feel that it is hazardous to humanity and would hope to have others abandon religion of their own volition. As previously stated, as long as religion stays out of schools and governments, I’m fine with whatever you choose to believe. (There’s more to this line of thinking, but I will address it in more detail when I get to the appropriate part of the book.)


I don't disagree, except obviously for the hazardous to humanity bit.

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What is the definition of christian in your mind? If it is solely church affiliation, then I guess I’m an Episcopalian since I never officially renounced my baptism and am included in the numbers somewhere. If a christian is someone who personally accepts the main tenets of the Nicene Creed, then I think you’ll find that the numbers based on church affiliation are artificially inflated. (I want to note here that I’m not making the No-True Scotsman fallacy as I’m not arguing that those who would self-identify as christian are not christian based upon behavior or some other characteristic. I do, however, feel that many christians are the nominal sort who haven’t examined their beliefs and may not even believe Jesus rose from the dead after his propitiatory sacrifice, thereby providing an example of the type of improper group affiliation that Vox references.) If you don’t find that nugget of info compelling, why include it? Was the point not to imply that there are less atheists than even the polls report due to incorrect self-identification?


A Christian is someone who believes and openly confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord. The point was to admit that while we can make use of the information we have about beliefs and so forth, we must recognize that it is imperfect and incomplete and avoid placing too much trust in our conclusions based upon it.

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I don’t expect people, particularly the complacent and apathetic who seem so prevalent in society, to do or believe anything. If they attempt to argue a position or make a claim, then I will expect them to logically and rationally support that. If you cannot refer to a dictionary to settle a definitional dispute, to what should we refer? I understand the nuance and connotations that can be left out of dictionaries, but there must be some final arbiter within language.


Agreed, but when the definition is contradicted by the observable evidence, we need a new definition. I ultimately went with American Atheists, but I'm open to a better one.

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I don’t “practice” atheism and wouldn’t even know how to go about doing so. You may be able to correlate certain characteristics with atheism, but let’s not forget that correlation does not equal causation. Furthermore, many of such observations are biased and stereotypical. Many people will read more into a particular action than is actually there based upon the kinds of memes that have spread about atheists, so their analysis would be tainted by such a predisposition. For example, some people claim that atheists live a life of total debauchery and just want to have sex with everything in sight. Well, so do some christians, muslims, or hindus. Some atheists are celibate by choice. The sexual behavior of atheists and even the mores regarding sex are likely not that different from those of the religious. We just don’t need to feel guilty because Jesus just watched us masturbate.


We're not even talking about causation here. Sweet Darwin, but I've come to hate that correlation-causation statement, it's so seldom relevant to the point when it's cited. As for the rest, it will come up later so I'll leave it for then.

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I also feel that your group of “Low Church Atheists” was over-generalized to include a group of people whose religious affiliation is merely in question or not known. The conclusions that you made based upon their inclusion are invalid, and in my opinion, a dishonest attempt to bolster your argument.


I am far from the only person to consider the "no religion" group to have some connection to the "atheist" and "agnostic" groups. In fact, all three are usually lumped together in polls. Dawkins's entire OUT campaign is based on this concept.

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I do yoga; does that make me Hindu? Harris is an example of an atheist with whom I have some variance of opinion. We’ve spoken on some of these differences with no assertion on either side of correctness. We’re still both atheists.


I was just clarifying that neither of us were calling Sam Harris a Buddhist, that's all.


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Atheism is sometimes defined differently, and oftentimes incorrectly. I would have to re-read the referenced sections of their work to analyze their intent with using those particular definitions, but just for the record, I also disagree with the American Atheists’ description of what an atheist “is.” Many of those tenets I agree with in principle, but not as a corollary to atheism that is fundamentally necessary.

Buddhism does in fact have many sects and branches that practice their religion differently. For example, the Japanese form of Buddhism is a Shinto fusion as far as popular belief is concerned. Mahayana, Theraveda, and Zen Buddhists also have differing beliefs and mythologies. That doesn’t change the fundamental aspect of Buddhism as a path by which one can attain peace or enlightenment without a necessary god of worship. It is a religion by definition, though, with a prescribed set of ritualistic behaviors, but practicing meditation does not make one Buddhist.


Okay. But whether Kelly accepts Dawkins's, Harris's or American Atheists' definition of atheism or not, they're perfectly legitimate.

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You implied some type of statistical correlation between Asperger’s and atheism; I merely pointed out that you had insufficient data to make such a correlation from a statistical standpoint. I have never personally seen Harris, Myers, or Dawkins defend the notion that all people with no specific religious affiliation or all who consider themselves secularists (which really only applies to religious intrusion into government, not personal beliefs) are de facto atheists. As far as your admitting that I “may not conflate” these differences, how exactly am I doing a “typical atheist dance routine?”


Actually, I outright stated there was a statistical correlation between AS and a certain group of atheists strong enough to suggest causation as well as some observable similarities between AS and the behavior of some notable atheists. If Kelly isn't arguing that atheism is growing or a statistically significant part of the population, I retract the dance routine comment.

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Regarding your first point, I would not label that group of people as atheists since it is merely unknown. One can have “no religion” and still believe in god or wood nymphs or anything else. As far as the HCAs go, I would dispute your characterization of them, and don’t feel that your dichotomy has an appropriate “church” for people like me. The ivory tower elitist atheists are out there, and they don’t even like me, mostly for the penury of letters behind my name.


Actually, a recent Baylor study indicates 10 percent of the "no religion" are believers. Of course, by Kelly's earlier definition, one can be an atheist and believe in wood nymphs or anything else. As for her "church", why should the religious monopolize all the denominations, I'm sure we can find one that would suit her.

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This is a perfect example of the bait-and-switch you like to pull—you claim to only be referring to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens every time your arguments are critiqued, but then make the same claims for all of atheism and all atheists. Which is it? It would be much easier to respond if I knew your target. Unless, of course, obscuring it was intentional and the RD, SH, CH attacks are merely a rhetorical ploy meant to distract so you can surreptitiously generalize arguments against specific people and apply them to all atheists.


In this introductory chapter, I am making some broad rhetorical points most of which are based loosely on statements made in the various New Atheist books about atheists and atheism. There is a fair amount of room for interpretation and disagreement on a number of them. The reason that I'm occasionally forced to make use of my own observations in this first chapter is because the definitions provided by the targeted individuals are manifestly insufficient. As Kelly gets further into the book, she'll see that I'm making very particular cases against specific arguments made by a single individual, and there is less and less room for wiggling. This is why most of the chapter-by-chapter reviewers quit around chapter four, as they simply cannot defend their icons. Perhaps Kelly will do better, I shall certainly await her attempts with interest.

 

A point

"The only people attacking science labs are animal rights freaks. "

True.  However, we are well inside the era of scientific medicine.  Which would mean that doctor's offices are also labs of science, and that abortion clinic bombings are attacks against science labs.

Yes, this potentially opens a lot of room for interpretations, and arguments. If a science lab is only a place where experimentation happens, then some doctors' offices aren't labs; but anywhere that contributed patient data to a study is.  Also, drug trials are experiments, which reinforces the argument of doctor office as science lab.  The real question is, it seems to me, 'What is a science lab?'

I'd say the answer is:

A science lab is where the primary application of resources is for scientific endeavors, in other words application of accepted scientific principles and/or experimentation. 

This definition would preclude most classrooms and include nuclear power plants, as well as doctor's offices.  Hence, invalidating a minor point.  Though, the implications of that minor point are serious.

Sorry to quibble, but religious people have attacked science labs.  Does that mean all religions, and religious people, oppose/attack all science (and it's institutions)? No, and if it seems I may be implying that, I apologize. 

Simply stating the ad hominem of authoritarianism isn't actually addressing anything- no matter its truth or fallacy.

 

 

HeyZeusCreaseToe's picture

My head hurts

Wow! That was a long discussion back and forth. I feel that most of these dialogs where an Atheist logically refutes point by point the assertions of an intelligent and competent theist, almost always devolve into severe mischaracterizations of what the atheist is actually saying, but rather what the theist would like to think they are saying as a means of bolstering their arguments. This reminds me a lot of the debate between Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan, in which it broached many heady subjects, but seemed to always end in Andrew Sullivan not addressing Sam's points and Sam constantly replying back to counter the mischaracterizations and lack of address ad nauseam. sam harris/andrew sullivan debate

That being said, valiant effort and keep up the good work!

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda