Monday, January 7, 2008

Atheists can dish it out, but can they take it?

Atheism as a Stealth Religion II: Let's Get Real

An article by David Sloan, warning his brethren that some of the shrill dialog generated by "The New" atheists sounds dangerously close to religious pontification. Not only that, it's cult-like:

...can there be any doubt that authors such as Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, and Sam Harris are trying to start a movement? They even have their own label -- "The Brights", which thankfully seems to be going nowhere...

I guess being a "Bright" implies being in the outs means you are a "Dullard"! Kudos for coming up with a nick that makes you sound cute and smart, yet implies everyone else is dumb. I suppose it's easy to get intoxicated when you delude yourself into thinking truth is on your side, yet Sloan seems more concerned with atheism becoming a'stealth religion':

...I clearly define a stealth religion as any belief system that distorts the facts of the real world (yes, there is a real world out there, and it does not include people sitting on clouds) for the purpose of motivating a given suite of behaviors. Beliefs in supernatural agents are a particular distortion of factual reality and I want to broaden the discussion to include all distortions of factual reality...

In other words, the ends don't justify the means? Those are words you don't hear coming from a Neo-con too often. Further on:

...Sinclair Lewis (recently quoted by presidential candidate Ron Paul) said "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross." To that we can add "and claiming to be supported by science and reason." No, I am not accusing the New Atheists of having a hidden fascist agenda, but I am making the reasonable point that all forms of authority are vulnerable to abuse, as the sorry history of Social Darwinism attests. We need to be suspicious about arguments cloaked in all forms of authority...

Many in the recent crop of atheists make fantastical claims, for which there is scant evidence. My favorite is the "religion is a virus" clap-trap spouted by Dawkins and others and that ultimately, civilization would be better off if religion went the way of the dinosaur. But they offer no proof of this. Even worse, when challenged, they make claims of special powers! Only they have the ability to perceive reality. Their ideas and opinions are not--heaven forbid--BELIEFS. They are based some acid test of for objective reality which only they can perform. Anyone who offers a contrary opinion is contaminated by 'magical thinking' and is a danger to the human race.

As pointed out by some of the commenters to the piece, history is littered with failed social experiments of those who claimed the mantle of reason and science. One comment about the article was to the point (by 'Bateman'):

"...there is a long history of creeds claiming to be wholly "scientific" and rational that lend themselves to Utopian, authoritarian and/or cultic tendencies: the Cult of Reason, dialectical materialism, Haeckel's Monism, Rand's Objectivism, Fabianism, the Technocracy movement, transhumanism. While they are far fewer in number (and in number of adherents) the ideological variety of atheistic/scientific faiths rivals that of the theistic/supernatural faiths...

I'm glad criticisms such as these are coming from Atheists within the movement. It's healthy.

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