The Raving Theist

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Voices of Theism: Mort Coyle

November 29, 2005 | 77 Comments

The Raving Atheist welcomes occasional commenter — and follower of Jesus — Mort Coyle as TRA’s second Voice of Theism.

I ask that my readers exercise tolerance when responding. Before commenting, please read the definition of “tolerance” set forth in Dawn Eden’s New York Daily News column regarding this site. Compliance will be strictly enforced.


Will Atheism Survive Post-Modernity?

WE ARE LIVING IN A TIME of profound transformation. Christian thinkers, in ever increasing numbers, are discussing this impending cultural change and its ramifications for the church. Yet Atheists seem to be largely unaware of the trend. The change I’m referring to is the shift in Western culture from Modernism into Post-Modernism.

Modernism is rooted in the sweeping movements of 18th century Europe: The Age of Enlightenment, the questioning of Absolutism, the populist revolt against the Monarchy and Catholic Church which culminated in the French Revolution and the “Reign of Terror”, the rise of modern science, industrialization, secular education, separation of Church and State, etc. Modernism was marked by a confidence in the ability of Reason to define objective reality, facilitate progress for mankind and give purpose to life.

Post-Modernism, as the name implies, is currently identified more by what it’s moving away from (Modernism) than what it is moving towards. Scholars ascribe varying markers for when the shift out of Modernism began: The horrors of mechanized warfare in WWI Europe, the misery of the industrial factory, the abomination of atomic bombs dropped on civilians in Japan in WWII, the madness of Stalinism and the failure of Marxism/Communism, the betrayals of Vietnam and Watergate, or perhaps the accumulation of all of these and more. Post-Modern thought emerged from the dawning realization that scientific advances and technology created as many problems as they solved. Progress for some came at the exploitation and expense of others. Post-Modernism is marked by an inherent distrust for institutions of any kind, a move away from objective, fixed points of view and “meta-narratives” and an acceptance of eclecticism, mystery and even paradox. See here for more about Post-Modernist thought.

In the church today, there are those who are embracing Post-Modernism and expending much thought and dialog on what it means to Christianity. Many see great opportunities for the church to shuffle off the monolithic, institutional shell that it’s been burdened with for the last 1700 years and move back to the simple organic structure of its early days, before it became intertwined with the Roman Empire.

Of course, there are those within Christianity who view Post-Modernism as a looming evil which must be withstood by digging into tried-and-true traditions and forms, in hopes of standing firm against the tide.

Others in the church are completely oblivious to the sea change, except for the nagging feeling of becoming less and less relevant.

Strangely, atheism seems to have more in common with these last two groups of Christians in this regard: There seems to be a dearth of discourse amongst atheists about how to avoid becoming irrelevant in a Post-Modern world. Whereas Christianity can look backwards past its Modern forms to a pre-Modern existence, Atheism was firmly planted and nurtured in the supposed terra firma of Modernism.

Alister McGrath, a professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, has written a book which explores the dilemma that Atheism finds itself in. “The Twilight of Atheism” (Doubleday) chronicles the rise, reign and decline of what McGrath terms ” . . . one of the most important movements in modern Western culture”. A taste of what McGrath has to say can be read here.

Perhaps the future for atheism lies in doing what it does best; critiquing dogma, power and privilege. To be heard in the Post-Modern world, however, atheists may have to let go of their own dogmatic and intolerant aspects in order to be given a voice among the many.

Comments

77 Responses to “Voices of Theism: Mort Coyle”

  1. Bryce
    November 29th, 2005 @ 4:07 am

    I predict that in the post-Modern world, atheists will continue to not believe in god.

    Look. Atheism is what it is. It can’t change. The only way atheism can become less intolerant is to become more agnostic, at which point it stops being atheism.

    Besides, I fail to see how atheism — as a voice — can be more irrelevant than it already is. In 99 percent of America, you cannot be an atheist and be elected into office. But that was true 50 years ago, too — in the height of Modernism.

    Professor McGrath seems to hang his hat on the fact that atheist governments — i.e. communist governments — have failed. This certainly isn’t evidence of the failure of atheism as an intellectual idea. That’s like saying the inability of the Spanish Inquisition to quell all resistance to Catholicism is a failure of Catholicism itself.

    Unlike McGrath, I think religions like Christianity and Islam have more to fear than atheism. Not in my lifetime, but in the long term — let’s say in the post-post-post-Modern world. People may be seeking out spirituality more and more, but they’re also getting smarter. At some point, the collective intelligence of humanity will reach a critical mass in which it will reject religions that claim to know The One True Way without giving evidence for such a claim other than their own Holy Writings.

    A parallel is racism and homophobia. Those ideas survive mainly because they are passed down from parents to impressionable children, not because people see the inherent truth in such ideas. But the world gets smaller, the collective culture gets smarter and every generation sees fewer bigots.

    So I say bravo, Chistianity for evolving to meet the post-Modern needs of humanity. But unless this evolution can satisfactorily address why a good Christian is more deserving of “eternal life” than a good Buddhist and other One True Way absurdities, then, I’m sorry, people eventually just aren’t going to buy it. And atheism will bide its time.

  2. home alone
    November 29th, 2005 @ 4:10 am

    Seems to me that at its core atheism is completely post-modern – we don’t privilege any one god narrative over another. Thats it. Everything else is just talk about what that means.

  3. DamnRight
    November 29th, 2005 @ 7:53 am

    As long as Christians continue to lump themseleves into one big group, for the purposes of power & control, regardless of how much their individual dogma disagree, atheists will be treated as irrelevant.
    The fact that Christians continually have to reinvent themselves speaks only to their own fear of irrelevance.

  4. a different tim
    November 29th, 2005 @ 7:58 am

    Never been happy with postmodernism. Academically, it’s pretty much history (according to those humanities academics I’m still in touch with) here (but I understand it is still powerful in literature departments in the US, and everywhere in France)…..but culture seems to lag a bit behind academia as far as intellectual trends are concerned. Postmodernism is just idealism by another name, and I refute it in the same way Dr Johnson refuted Bishop Berkeley.

    For the backlash try here http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/ which is thoughtful and precise in its criticism (Sokal doesn’t want to invalidate all social critique, but I’m afraid the Social Text people made such a laughing stock of the whole postmodern stance that it may take some time to recover) and this book which isn’t rigorous (and since when do postmodernists care about rigour anyway) but is lots of fun http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0007140975/026-5837624-2686835.

    I don’t do postmodernism. I do epistemology…….:)

    “No liberal scientist believes in the relativity of truth” (Stephen Jay Gould).

  5. John K. Fitzpatrick
    November 29th, 2005 @ 8:38 am

    > atheists may have to let go of their own dogmatic and intolerant aspects in order to be given a voice among the many.

    “given” a voice? Gee, thanks. To rephrase: atheists should stop speaking before we who believe in myths shut them up.

    The post-modern future is a boot stomping…..

    – John

  6. DamnRight
    November 29th, 2005 @ 9:26 am

    It would be handy to know what “dogmatic and intolerant aspects” are keeping us from being heard.

    Is it that we keep asking for some tiny bit of evidence for the incredible claims made by Christians?

    Is it “dogmatic and intolerant” to suggest that a group claiming to have “all truth”, give us some evidence that it has some basis in reality?

  7. Peter Sattler
    November 29th, 2005 @ 10:00 am

    I must concur with “home alone,” while granting Mort Coyle some of his basic points. As Coyle insists, atheism as an identifiable discourse — as a namable system of thought — emerges during the Enlightenment and the triumph of modernity. The modern world’s insistence on the primacy of human reason, freedom, and critical inquiry certainly coaxed atheism into its current form.

    But as “home alone” notes, atheism as a “narrative” shares much more with postmodernism than any form of theism, no matter how tolerant and anti-authoritarian that theism may be. Like postmodernism, atheism dispenses with our cultures most potent “metanarrative” — the belief in an overarching, universal, and transhistorical creator. If postmodernism is by definition antifoundational, and if “God” represents the ultimate foundation for morality and purpose — as almost every theist insists — then atheism is postmodern in the extreme.

    Let me expand. We atheists insist that there are no purposes beyond human purposes, and that those human purposes are enough. We atheists find meaning — we create meaning — in this world. And those meanings, too, are more than adequate. They need no otherworldly foundation or divine imprimatur.

    True, we atheists — and many postmodernists — often continue to use good-old Enlightenment terms like “truth” and “rights” and “goodness,” but we think of those terms as expressions of human purpose and human language and human solidarity. We assert that there are no metanarratives beyond the sometimes messy interactions of the human world. Luckily, however, we know that no such metanarratives are needed.

    So where does Coyle go wrong on such a central issue? He seems to mistake “postmodernism” with “antimodernism.” One can definitely be the former without being the latter, and vice versa. One can be skeptical of the Enlightenment narratives of progress and perfectibility without wishing for a more pristine “premodern” age. And one can be wholeheartedly against the modern world without giving up on foundational metanarratives (like those of theism). The 17th-century Puritans were anti-modern, but they were not postmodern. Contemporary Christian and Islamic fundamentalists are clearly anti-modern, but they are not postmodern. Indeed, “postmodernity” is one of the very aspects of the modern world that fundamentalism rejects. So Coyle wants to return to a premodern church? Well, I know some Islamists and evangelicals who would be more than happy to join him — in the name of purity and redemption and ultimate foundations.

    Of course, all this is not to say that religion has not become more “postmodern” over the decades. In fact, I think that religions’s postmodern shift accounts for some of its continued strength in the modern world. Many members of the theistic community are just fine with declaring all religious systems of meaning equally decent and valid. Many are just fine with replacing “God” with “The Divine,” “Religion” with “Spirituality,” and “Doctrine” with simple “Belief.” Everyone’s religion is equal insofar as it “works for them” and brings meaning and comfort into their life. Are their beliefs true? One “postmodern” answer: Who cares? Second postmodern answer: Yes, they all are! Ultimate postmodern answer: Wrong question! That certainly sounds like the world of leftwing spirituality to me.

    Of course, to me, it also sounds like religion is giving up the farm. But if my job were to defend an indefensible belief, I’d probably give it up too.

  8. jahrta
    November 29th, 2005 @ 10:38 am

    I’ll dispense with the academic treatises and pedantic psychobabble to merely state that I continue to derive a curious sense of amusement from the posts made by theists claiming that atheists all eventually face a dilemma over their chosen philosophical stance. T
    hey have said on multiple occasions that our way of life is counter-productive, or that we are somehow lying to ourselves, or otherwise upholding a position in society which cannot withstand the test of time.

    This, of course, if hilarious to me and other atheists, as we have said the exact same of people who prefer to believe in fairy tales rather than face reality. It’s sort of scary how theists think: “you don’t believe in my god so you must live a tortured existence, racking your brain to come to terms with things you cannot comprehend” – bah. I understand all too well, I’m afraid: I live in a country full of people too stupid to draw breath. To paraphrase the bard Darth Vader – there is no conflict within me. But in all seriousness, there is no reason in my mind, or offered up to me in any post, to suggest to me why my atheism is a failing/failed position, or why it is any less valid than any idiotic belief embraced by the theist masses.

    Atheism is the enlightened position of all humans who embrace free thinking and rational discourse, and when we have evolved enough to discard such antiquated notions as god, it will be a truly golden age for the whole damn planet.

    RAmen

  9. ocmpoma
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:04 am

    Oh, goodie – another theist who thinks that atheism is a philosophy.

  10. MBains
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:09 am

    Strangely, atheism seems to have more in common with these last two groups of Christians in this regard:

    Humans of all political philosphies ascribe to it.

    I’m a Social-Capitalist. I just don’t believe in god because the G of Abraham is factually refuted (as it is constituted by the Bible/NT/Quran.) There’s also the bit ’bout multi-limbed gods of the East being probabilistically null. Even the ol’ Dalai Llama is essentially atheist, except for that whole reincarnation thing. He’s got no god-belief though so has to be counted as atheist.

    Mort is still starting from a point of belief and manipulating extant data rather than honestly seeking empirical evidence for his imaginary friend.

    Who knows; maybe Disney will make a movie of his off-topic work someday. Like CS Lewis, he does have an approachable style to his fiction. It just isn’t quite as colorfull to this point (that I’ve seen.)

  11. AK
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:11 am

    McGraths book has been widely ridiculed as completely out of touch with reality, and for good reason. McGraths book comes out at a time when atheism is skyrocketing, and the church is rotting, within European and American culture.

    Modernism hasnt even been embraced yet in America, so post-modernism is a bit of a stretch. America first has to embrace science and reject religion before it can move to post-modernism; a move that has not yet been completed. Remember that America is always a generation or so behind Europe in these regards, and Europe is much more of a “post-modernist” society than America is.

    Are you aware of the Christian community in America referring to this as a “post-Christian” age? I think that term is much more accurate.

  12. Viole
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:12 am

    I rather agree with Tim’s post. Postmodernism is a bit like post-industrialization; it isn’t something new, it’s an extension of something old. Modernism is the basis of postmodernism. A society can’t function without an industrial base–passing money back and forth isn’t an economy.

  13. MBains
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:25 am

    a different tim said: … I understand (Postmodernism) is still powerful in literature departments in the US, and everywhere in France… )

    Yah but Freud is still the Final Word in Psychology in France. That sounds like a cultural matrix that is still dominating Academia by limiting the number of forks in the road academics may feel comfortable acknowledging.

    Postmodernism is just idealism by another name

    Indeed!

  14. Keith
    November 29th, 2005 @ 12:35 pm

    I believe that atheism is neccesary for us to maintain our existence. In the same way that the fact that humans evolved intelligence and this allows us to step outside of Evolution and permit us to manipulate DNA to improve ourselves. Atheism allows us to step outside of religion and perceive true reality. With atheism we are always in pursuit of knowing the truth of reality. We always seek to use reality as a tool to help us improve and expand our existence.

    With religion, humans can be content to be ignorant of true reality because it allows us to believe there are some things we can’t know or understand. With religion the answer to the unknowable questions are “God did it”. With atheism, there are no unknowable questions, just the belief that reality must be in the answer somewhere.

    Intelligence can become extinct if every humen dies. If no other intelligence reemerges then, it is safe to say, that life on Earth will cease to exist eventually. Atheism can become extinct if every atheist dies. If no other atheist reemerges then, it is safe to say, that our understanding of reality could cease to improve, and humans will be stuck where we are in reality to die and claim “God did it”.

  15. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 29th, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

    It’s hard to discern in atheism any “system of thought.” At best, atheism is a constellation of arguments (many of them irreconcilable) regarding a very narrow ontological question. (TRA has made this point before.) So the question of whether “atheism” can still be relevant seems very oddly put.

    On the other hand, if Mort means only to suggest that “atheists” themselves might endeavor to forge a community in order to be more socially relevant, well, fair enough; but then (as Bryce pointed out above) the state of social irrelevance contemporary atheists find themselves in now is hardly a historical peculiarity.

  16. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 29th, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

    It’s hard to discern in atheism any “system of thought.” At best, atheism is a constellation of arguments (many of them irreconcilable) regarding a very narrow ontological question. (TRA has made this point before.) So the question of whether “atheism” can still be relevant seems very oddly put.

    On the other hand, if Mort means only to suggest that “atheists” themselves might endeavor to forge a community in order to be more socially relevant, well, fair enough; but then (as Bryce pointed out above) the state of social irrelevance contemporary atheists find themselves in now is hardly a historical peculiarity.

  17. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 29th, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

    It’s hard to discern in atheism any “system of thought.” At best, atheism is a constellation of arguments (many of them irreconcilable) regarding a very narrow ontological question. (TRA has made this point before.) So the question of whether “atheism” can still be relevant seems very oddly put.

    On the other hand, if Mort means only to suggest that “atheists” themselves might endeavor to forge a community in order to be more socially relevant, well, fair enough; but then (as Bryce pointed out above) the state of social irrelevance contemporary atheists find themselves in now is hardly a historical peculiarity.

  18. "Q" the Enchanter
    November 29th, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

    It’s hard to discern in atheism any “system of thought.” At best, atheism is a constellation of arguments (many of them irreconcilable) regarding a very narrow ontological question. (TRA has made this point before.) So the question of whether “atheism” can still be relevant seems very oddly put.

    On the other hand, if Mort means only to suggest that “atheists” themselves might endeavor to forge a community in order to be more socially relevant, well, fair enough; but then (as Bryce pointed out above) the state of social irrelevance contemporary atheists find themselves in now is hardly a historical peculiarity.

  19. Mookie
    November 29th, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

    Viole,

    “passing money back and forth isn’t an economy.”
    This money, like god, is just a bunch of air anyway.

    MC,

    Modernism and Postmodernism are just labels for a group of individual art/literary works. Pick a time span, preferably between two important historical events, gather pieces of art and literature, and label it something. You can go through and find something in common with the works, notice the paintings all have one thing in common: paint. Do people really make something and think “I am doing this for Postmodernism,” or “This is done with the tenets of Postmodernism in mind”? I doubt it. Take the Bermuda Triangle. Lots of ships sunk in that geometric shape, but you could draw a little shape in any ocean, gather records of ships lost in that area, and then claim it’s a mysterious zone where ships and airplanes are often lost. What I’m trying to say here is that these labels are arbitrary, generalized, and utterly useless for making predictions about the future of “social movements”.

    There is considerable variation amongst xians as to what faith and their relation to god entails. Some xians would not even label some self-proclaimed xians as xian! There is just as much variation amongst atheists and some agnostics. Some people are atheist because they were never indoctrinated with religion, others are because they stop buying the bullshit. Some are ethical, upright citizens, others are selfish, greedy jerks. Atheism is not a single, coherent unit. This is not a stadium, and we are not at a football game. Think definitions, not teams.

    My atheism stems from lack of evidence on the part of theists for the existence of their puppykillers, and the fact that I was not indoctrinated. These are my own conclusions, my own response to the world. I did not attend “atheist” meetings that clearly outlined how I was to be an atheist. Again, there are those who are indoctrinated or otherwise believe, and, for whatever reasons THEY have, stop. To prevent someone like me from ever growing up the way I did, xians would have to hijack the education system and make sure little kids are indoctrinated early and thoroughly (surprise, surprise, this is exactly what some xian groups are doing!). The brave and thoughtful atheists here that have rejected the silly beliefs tell us that the indoctrination is not always permanent. This is why atheism will not die.

    An experiment in objective reality: Let’s imagine something for a moment. There are two hills. One hill has a big oak tree on it, the other does not. Crowds of people gather before the two hills to determine if that tree is REALLY there. They all line up and one-by-one climb the hill with the tree, touch the tree (bump into it violently if they must), march down the hill, then up the hill without the tree, try touching a (nonexistent) tree there, and report their findings. We can guess that the consensus is that there is a tree on one hill and not on the other. They would be pretty sure that if they were to all commit suicide, that tree would still be there, even if they were not there to experience it. They would also be pretty sure that the other hill does not have a tree on it (although, it may at a later time). This would be the opinion of vast numbers of people. Anyone claiming that the other hill had a tree (when it does not), or that the oak tree on the hill was on fire (when it was not), talking to them, or home to magical elves would clearly be a deviation. They would have no proof of their claims, and thus could not persuade the others that what they see is reality. Personally, I want everyone to understand that there is a tree on one hill, and not on the other, and that the tree is not home to magical elves. I want everyone who adheres to reality to demand proof for such claims and not believe them otherwise. I believe this is possible because there is a tree on one hill, and not the other. Objective reality is there, whether we are here or not. This is why atheism will never die and why religions are delusions.

    It is my hope that through communities (virtual and real) like this we will promote atheism, rationality, logic, empathy, and science. What we do here today determines what the future will be like. We seek to unravel delusions and show folks that it’s all in their heads.

  20. anonymous
    November 29th, 2005 @ 5:30 pm

    In a nutshell, po-mo deals with three problems: objective reality is (1) really hard to communicate*, and so (2) might not be very important, (3) if it even exists. Many self-described atheists get that way because we believe that there IS an objective reality, and it’s very important, and we can all agree on what it is, or at least that our approximations to it should all converge on the same thing–and importantly, that god isn’t a part of it (hence the “atheist”). I expect people who think about it mostly agree that po-mo problem (1) is valid, though.

    Seems to me that most po-mo atheists call themselves “agnostic,” not “atheist.”

    And Xians would be eager to embrace the po-mo idea that objective reality doesn’t matter, if it even exists, since objective reality doesn’t seem to have much use for their ideas of god.

    It’s kinda nice though that Mort doens’t seem to conflate (atheistic) secular-humanism with (po-mo) moral relativism like some vocal Xians sometimes do.

    And if i were to address atheism w.r.t. po-mo epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and ontology, my nutshell would overflow, but of course some po-mo might be good ideas while others might be poppycock.

    *might be more precise to say that knowledge of the objectivity of reality is really hard to communicate, not just that objective knowledge about reality is hard to communicate

  21. hermesten
    November 29th, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

    I have to cast my lot with Jahrta and Mookie — and of course, ocmpoma– on this one. Terms like “modernism” and “post-modernism” may have their uses, but they are ultimately nothing more than esoteric dogmas used as interpretive templates, rhetorical filters, and academic litmus tests. And of course, as alluded to by ocmpoma, atheism is not a philosophy.

    “There seems to be a dearth of discourse amongst atheists about how to avoid becoming irrelevant in a Post-Modern world.”

    There shouldn’t be any such discourse, at all, among rational people who are concerned with the truth. To express such a concern is like my mother wringing her hands and asking me: “but what will other people think?” Used in this way, calling someone “irrelevant” is nothing more than saying “you don’t count.” The clear implication is that some conforming group, or some institution, gets to decide what is relevant, and only those people who conform to the established norms of “relevancy” get to make decicsions about their own lives. The irony is, of course, that once someone is concerned with his “relevancy” he has already ceased to count as anything more than validation for what has already been determined as “relevant” by someone else. In exchange, all he gets is the privledge of being allowed to speak within the limits of what someone else has determined to be acceptable, or “relevant.”

    I don’t care if I’m considered to be “relevant.” I have whatever power I have. I will not conform to earn a seat at the banquet table. Yes, those of us who remain unconcerned at our relegation to a status of “irrelevancy” by those who presume to determine relevancy, may be denied a seat at the table; but we may also make the banquent very unpleasant for those who are eating.

  22. Tanooki Joe
    November 29th, 2005 @ 6:10 pm

    Postmodernism is just idealism by another name.

    Hell, it just goes straight to solipsism, if you ask me.

  23. Debbie
    November 29th, 2005 @ 7:50 pm

    Reading this, Sokal and Social Text came to mind but I see ADT has already referenced. Post-modernism is a joke in serious academia.

    And Mort is plain wrong to state that Atheism was planted in Modernism. Many rational thinkers (the Ancient Greeks as one example come to mind, Giordano Bruno is another), long predating Modernism have commented on critical flaws in religion.

  24. Seldonster
    November 29th, 2005 @ 9:44 pm

    Yes, po-mo is a joke. Philosophers got scared that science was explaining everything and decided to write nonsense that only they could understand (or so they claimed) so as to prove to themselves that they were still relevant. Someone already mentioned the Social Text affair, I think there is no need to expound more on that.

    I do want to adress other factual problems with po-mo as defined

    Post-Modern thought emerged from the dawning realization that scientific advances and technology created as many problems as they solved.

    Before the industrial revolution mean lifespan was in the 20s, now it is in the 70s. Most children died at or shortly after childbirth, many along with their mother. The few lucky ones who survived where made to work the fields nearly every single waking hour. There were no weekends. There was no 40-hour work week. There was no retirement. There were no vacations.

    Anyone who thinks that science has created as many problems as it has solved does not know history.

    Progress for some came at the exploitation and expense of others.

    It used to be that the king and the church owned everything, including the people themselves. That is how you do exploitation.

    Coyle’s post rest on the assumption that we are in a po-mo society and we clearly are not. People accept that there is a reality out there. I am especially cognizant of that fact when crossing a busy street.

  25. Mark Plus
    November 29th, 2005 @ 10:11 pm

    We still have death to remind us that a hard, objective reality exists apart from our particular delusions.

  26. Jason Malloy
    November 29th, 2005 @ 10:59 pm

    Wow, i just checked McGrath’s essay.

    “But it’s now clear that the atheist case against God has stalled. Surefire philosophical arguments against God have turned out to be circular and self-referential.”

    First “Arguments against God” don’t *need* to be anymore “surefire” than arguments against the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the existence of He-Man, Skeletor and the Smurfs. There are simply no better arguments *for* this invisible pseudoscientific sky man. No more compelling arguments have been put forth for the existence of this “supernatural” being than any other “supernatural” being, or any familiar cartoon character. Second, the statement is just false, there are plenty of new philosophical examinations of these ideas, that have not been seriously challenged. The author gives no evidence that he is aware of them or much athiest writing apart of from Chairmen Mao’s Little Red Book for that matter.

    ” As America’s leading evolutionary biologist, the late Stephen Jay Gould, insisted . . .”

    Anybody that refers to Stephen Jay Gould as “America’s leading evolutionary biologist” can safely be ignored as a clueless twat.

    “Yet atheism has not simply run out of intellectual steam. Its moral credentials are now severely tarnished . . . Stalin’s death squads were just as murderous as their religious antecedents. Those who dreamed of freedom in the new atheist paradise often found themselves counting trees in Siberia, or confined to the gulags — and they were the fortunate ones.”

    Atheism has no “moral credentials” only that moral and political philosophy must be dictated by reason instead of supernatural authority (an idea that contradicts itself anyway, because it takes moral judgment to evaluate the moral philosophy in the first place). Communism was not in fact that political expression of atheism, as any number of related, opposite, and opposed ideologies also had atheism as just as characteristic an element (for instance Objectivism). Secularism, anyway is by definition an official state atheism, in the same way that, say, medical textbooks are atheist (don’t rely on “supernatural” principles and god voodoo). As an atheist I only think governments should be atheistic in the same sense that medical textbooks are atheistic. This doesn’t guarantee good government anymore than textbooks guarantee a magical cure, but religion has offered no more rational alternative for governments (independent of the secular science) as it has for medicine. Medicine or governments based on science are the best and only, yet still highly fallible, method that we fallible beings have at our disposal to try to work out our tragic condition for ourselves – medicine and government based on religion are just a crapshoot.

    “But where religion anchors itself in the hearts and minds of ordinary people, is sensitive to their needs and concerns, and offers them a better future, the atheist critique is unpersuasive”

    No, what you’re really trying to say is that the atheist critique is *irrelevant*, not unpersuasive. In other words some lonely soul who needs a community and direction won’t really care if Smurfs are real or not if a Smurf community is there to express some friendship – all the incentives are to believe. To say that religion provides things for people that secular alternatives don’t may or may not be true – a legitimate question to worry about – but to imply that atheism isn’t sensitive to _spiritual_ needs is a tautology. The problem for atheism might very well be that it can’t “compete” with many heavily genetically determined human traits (low intelligence, religious “instinct”), that’s why the politics of secularism and secular society (which will allow de facto atheism) are more important than, say, policing the inner thoughts of the masses, which is impossible.

    “The recent surge of evidence-based studies demonstrating the positive impact of religion on human wellbeing has yet to be assimilated by atheist writers.”

    This is total bullshit – there is all kinds of conflicting evidence here, and the picture is in no way this simple even for the evidence in favor. It is also irrelevant to most “atheist writers” who don’t have this bizarre, vacuous communism-loving, “religion leads to street-crime” [??] atheist stereotype that this auhtor picked up from some annoying academic sub-culture he was apparently in in the 1960’s. I get no sense that this author has actually read many “atheist writers”. Does anybody here who has scanned the Secular Web library find anything approaching the world-view this author is shadow-boxing with?

  27. Brian Macker
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:59 pm

    “America is always a generation or so behind Europe in these regards”
    Do you really think the U.S. is following in Europe’s footsteps except a generation or two back?
    Does this mean that we are currently experiencing our Hitler phase, or did we miss that?

  28. Joey
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:27 am

    Doesn’t anyone notice? The ‘a’ in ‘atheist’ is simply Greek for ‘not’ or non’. This is the way we are born. ‘Atheism’ isn’t really a thing, but the absence of something. By contrast, there are oodles of theisms, and countless variations.

  29. Joey
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:28 am

    Doesn’t anyone notice? The ‘a’ in ‘atheist’ is simply Greek for ‘not’ or non’. This is the way we are born. ‘Atheism’ isn’t really a thing, but the absence of something. By contrast, there are oodles of theisms, and countless variations.

  30. Tenspace
    November 30th, 2005 @ 2:41 am

    Mort Coyle wrote: “Post-Modernism, as the name implies, is currently identified more by what it’s moving away from (Modernism) than what it is moving towards.”

    Moving forward will looking backward is the hallmark of traditional religious doctrine. But progress always wins. When, in the brief history of mankind did conservative, regressive bias carry us further forward, closer to those lofty goals of respect, tolerance, patience and understanding?

  31. Frank
    November 30th, 2005 @ 9:40 am

    This post has shown me one of the reasons I so enjoy discussing here at the RA. Post-modern “thought” is so eaten up with relativism that one becomes quite frustrated at trying to get a straight answer from someone who subscribes to this kind of worldview. I get so sick of the “that’s your truth and this is my truth and we’re both right” nonsense.

    I’m a Christian. I think Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and I think anyone who exercises faith in Him will spend eternity in the presence of God. That’s an absolute belief.

    You (meaning you atheists) firmly believe there is no God, period. That’s an absolute belief. When we discuss the reasons for our beliefs we present arguments, we use logic, we attempt to refute one another but I’ve yet to have someone here say, “Hey, Frank, that’s great your belief in God. That’s your truth. My truth is different, but we’re both right.”

    Instead, you’ve made it clear that you think I’m absolutely wrong in my beliefs. You’ve not tried to make me “feel good” about my beliefs nor have you attempted to lend equal value to both beliefs (since yours and mine are contrary to one another). One of us is right and one of us is wrong. On this we agree.

    I enjoy it here so much because when you think I’m full of crap you say so. This is the substance of a logical discussion based in modernity.

    You may call me a “godidiot” but at least you have the nads to take a stand and defend it. I respect that.

  32. Debbie
    November 30th, 2005 @ 10:37 am

    We have seen a rise in fundamentalism of many types in recent years, not relativism. Not just religious fundies, but also political, and regarding environmental issues too. It is hard to tell if this is a long-term trend or a cycle.

    But this rise in fundamentalism of all sorts is not due to post-modern rejection of rationality, but as some people see the complexity (and difficulty issues) of modern society they respond by embracing unreason.

  33. MBains
    November 30th, 2005 @ 10:45 am

    You (meaning you atheists) firmly believe there is no God, period. That’s an absolute belief.

    Some percentage of atheist folk, whether large or small, do believe such a thing. The majority of atheist people with whom I am familiar have no such belief. They just don’t believe in gods. The difference is simple and clear.

    I don’t believe there is/are No god/s, nor do I not believe there are any or One. I have seen it demonstrated that all current and past imaginary constructs (YHWY [Jesus & Allah,] Vishnu, Thor, et al…) do not now and have never existed. You must suspend reason to think or believe otherwise.

    Oh yah, and I’m not agnostic. I am atheist. Human conceptions of gods are factually, though not culturally, irrelevant (see Hermesten’s point #18 on cultural relevance and dinner.) Objective Reality exists whether or not an intelligence (eg. Homo) exists to discern It (see anon’s point #17.)

    There are some truly beautiful and logical comments on this Post TRA. Thanks!

  34. AK
    November 30th, 2005 @ 11:22 am

    Brian Macker,

    Dont take it so literally. What I mean is that culturally, America follows Europes patterns. Europe is the trendsetter. It doesnt mean that we are going to go through a “Hitler” phase. Besides, that was Germany, not Europe.

    But if you must draw parallels, I would say we are going throuhg our Hitler phase right now. Think Bush. And Yes, many Germans compare Bush to Hitler.

  35. hermesten
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

    I don’t know how you can compare George Bush to Hitler. For one thing, Hitler was not a draft-dodger, a drunk, or a pussy-hound, and he didn’t have a powerful Daddy running the country, or rich well-connected buddies to give him money and fake jobs. And anyway, I know people who know people who knew Hitler, and George Bush is no Hitler.

  36. Bill
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:13 pm

    Hi Mort. My PCs working again. I’ll bet you’re skipping around the room with glee.
    Based on your conclusions your ‘essay’ title should have been “How Can Atheism Survive Post-Modernity?” I say this because you don’t seem answer the original question. (Basic academic error and a fail, I believe? Chuckle!)
    There are of some sweeping assumptions and generalisations (we’re good at that, I admit it!) about all those millions of people that simply won’t make things up and see no need to. Unlike theists they are not an organised group driven by a specific philosophy, they really just want to be left alone but so many of the believers that share the planet with them won’t respect their privacy. Some of them call themselves atheists, other don’t. Not having ever rejected religion some of us can’t really describe ourselves as atheist but for the ease of debate we tolerate the definition.
    If you can ever get your head around that last bit (ie. appreciate the perfectly reasonable and rational premise that god simply isn’t and never has been) then it may be possible for you to understand the future of atheism/non-belief. It’s the default position, anything else is unreasonable.
    I think the phenomenon you see is the current retreat we are witnessing of ordinary people back into some form of spirituality or religion. People feel loaded down with the strain of living day to day and are constantly challenged by incomprehensible technology. They are unable and unwilling to contemplate the mysteries of existence and just want a quick fix answer, preferably with optional rituals that they can pick and choose, to give themselves some kind of certainty in an indeterminate world. The religions of the world have traditionally provided these fixed answers, however people are now no longer constrained (very often on pain of death) to follow one specific religion and are free to pick and choose the bits they like and practise to any degree their personal feelings dictate. What a doddle!
    It’s a lot harder to contemplate the universe without any divine intervention. It requires genuine hard work to resolve the human issues we all face. The post-enlightenment society, after the initial rush of intellectual freedom, has turned into your post-modern society. People are no smarter than they ever were and there was a vacuum left that was traditionally filled by religious dogma. That is why religion is dangerous, it prevents us asking the fundamental questions and resolving them in a rational way. It easier to just say God did it. As I said it takes hard work to resolve our human issues and most people aren’t prepared to do the work, that’s why they will fall back on spirituality. Religion has made the human race intellectually lazy.
    My own observation is that this ‘crisis’ of atheism, as you seem to be defining it, is in fact the last death throes of organised religion. Sure, there will be an inevitable resurgence and I do fear, greater violence, as a result, but eventually, in a few generations time, the great religions of the world will be seen as anachronisms of a bygone age of repression and wasted opportunity.

  37. sienna
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:22 pm

    I find it interesting that this site urges “tolerance” in response to a blighted mindset (religious “belief”) that bears enormous responsibility for immeasurable human suffering. Why in the world are we supposed to demonstrate “tolerance” for what is essentially intolerable?

  38. Jason Malloy
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:39 pm

    Sienna’s right, this “balance” is just ridiculous. And while you post religionist propaganda my atheist comment was discarded.

  39. Hashista Prophetic
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:43 pm

    allatheistareincoherentwretchesfoolsliarsfalseteachersdepravedsexfiendsantigodgodhatersgoddespiserswhoshowthefalsehoodofchristintheirwordsworksanddeedsforallmentoscornlaughatintheirfalsewaytheyhaveabandonedthefaithofsaraoflyaraofyhwhofallinalltruthandblessingstheyarecursedtheirwordswithoutmeaningthierlifeavoidtheirworksdespisedtheirtruthsrevealedfalseandtheirdeedsforgottenialoneamgodthouartnot

  40. Jason Malloy
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

    Hmm. . .maybe it wasn’t discarded. It told me it was awaiting “moderator approval” (perhaps because of impolitic language), when I posted it before bed and I just assumed all comments on this “special” thread needed to be “approved”. Seeing the comments build up since then this morning, I just assumed I flunked the approval queue. Whatever, either way requiring any kind of comment approval to punish your atheist readers while rewarding religions crazies in the name of an odious reletivist “tolerance” is just beyond the pale. I can’t believe where this blog is going.

  41. a different tim
    November 30th, 2005 @ 1:35 pm

    I think it’s a site glitch rather than a closet theist conspiracy…..

  42. severalspecies
    November 30th, 2005 @ 2:27 pm

    Note to Frank (Response #27),

    Atheists’ belief is absolute only in so far that no credible evidence for the existance of god has been presented to us. If evidence were to ever show up I’m sure many an atheist would change their mind, but only with evidence. Remember, your position (the christian theist) is based on faith, not evidence. For with evidence, faith is then not needed. You might be better off saying your faith is absolute, not your belief.

  43. hermesten
    November 30th, 2005 @ 4:01 pm

    Jason, the RA is using some kind of filter for comments that blocks some postings for moderator approval. I suspect this is at least partly to prevent some of the SPAM that used to get posted here on occassion.

    Most of the comments I have made that were blocked for moderator approval were eventually posted –all except one if my memory serves. Strangely enough, in a least one case, I was first to comment on a thread; many others then commented; and when my comments were eventually posted, the thread had been renumbered and my comment was #1.

    I have not yet determined exactly what triggers a hold, but “profanity” appears to be one trigger. This is why I think the filter is intended to block SPAM.

  44. hermesten
    November 30th, 2005 @ 4:22 pm

    Bill, I think you nailed religion when you described it as the repository of easy answers. However, since theists go to fantastic lengths to rationalize their belief system, some are obviously very energetic, so I tend to think they are primarily motivated by fear of one kind or another. Most of the devoted theists I know put way more intellectual energy into interpreting the universe for compatibility with their dogma then I am prepared to expend in trying to understand it.

    Certainly, the great mass of people are intellectual slackers seeking easy and comforting answers, but if they didn’t find the answers they were looking for in religion, they’d just find them in some other dogma, like fascism, or communism, or capitalism, or some new dogma would be created. As you said, people haven’t gotten any smarter. And in fact, when we consider the political class, for example, there may evidence that a version of Gresham’s Law is at work, effectively reducing the intelligence of some classes and systems.

  45. Dave
    November 30th, 2005 @ 4:27 pm

    check out the Postmodern Essay Generator:

    everytime you go to the site, it generates a brand-spanking new Postmodern Essay.
    Enjoy:

    http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo

  46. Beolf
    December 1st, 2005 @ 12:04 am

    I don’t hold that god doesn’t exist to stick it to the man. It’s a place I got to while trying to learn what is true. Whether 80%, 15%, 1% or no one else gets to the same place is irrelevant to my original purpose. So there is really no point to me worrying about whether religiosity is on an up swing or not.

    Secondarily to that is my belief that individuals and society are better off free from the tyranny of religion. The justifications for that belief are off topic to this discussion. But from that perspective I do care about religiosity but hopefully you can see that pretending my beliefs are softer than they are is self defeating.

  47. Mort Coyle
    December 1st, 2005 @ 12:11 am

    Dave said: check out the Postmodern Essay Generator

    Now *that* is funny!

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments so far and am glad that some intelligent discourse has occurred; which was my goal. I found many of the responses to be insightful and educational.

    I get the impression though that some may have misunderstood my intentions and assumed that I was making an endorsement of Post-Modernity. I agree with Frank that dialoging with a “po-mo” thinker can be extremely frustrating for a Modern. Primarily my goal was to neither endorse nor renounce Post-Modernism but to share a bit about how the Christian world is looking at PM and how it appears to the Christian world that atheists (as a collective group) are looking at it. Whether one likes or dislikes it, Post-Modernism does seem to be an emerging worldview.

    Regarding the question of irrelevance, I thought Bryce made an interesting point when he wrote, “I fail to see how atheism — as a voice — can be more irrelevant than it already is. In 99 percent of America, you cannot be an atheist and be elected into office.” To “Q” the Enchanter, “…the question of whether “atheism” can still be relevant seems very oddly put”, and yet Mookie seemed to betray the desire for relevance when he wrote, “It is my hope that through communities (virtual and real) like this we will promote atheism, rationality, logic, empathy, and science. What we do here today determines what the future will be like. We seek to unravel delusions and show folks that it’s all in their heads.” An evangelistic sentiment if ever I heard one!

    On the point of tolerance, DamnRight suggested that, “It would be handy to know what “dogmatic and intolerant aspects” are keeping us from being heard.”

    Here are some examples that I picked up from other comments within this post:

    “Look. Atheism is what it is. It can’t change. The only way atheism can become less intolerant is to become more agnostic, at which point it stops being atheism.”

    “Atheism is the enlightened position of all humans who embrace free thinking and rational discourse, and when we have evolved enough to discard such antiquated notions as god, it will be a truly golden age for the whole damn planet.”

    “If you can ever get your head around that last bit (ie. appreciate the perfectly reasonable and rational premise that god simply isn’t and never has been) then it may be possible for you to understand the future of atheism/non-belief. It’s the default position, anything else is unreasonable.”

    “I find it interesting that this site urges “tolerance” in response to a blighted mindset (religious “belief”) that bears enormous responsibility for immeasurable human suffering. Why in the world are we supposed to demonstrate “tolerance” for what is essentially intolerable?”

    “Sienna’s right, this “balance” is just ridiculous.”

    These strike me as tacit admissions to the intolerant tendencies of Modernistic atheism which McGrath addresses. On the other hand, they also strike me as amazingly similar to views expressed by the Christians I referred to who are digging into their trenches. Debbie said, “We have seen a rise in fundamentalism of many types in recent years, not relativism. Not just religious fundies, but also political, and regarding environmental issues too. It is hard to tell if this is a long-term trend or a cycle.” I wonder if some this “rise in fundamentalism” is a reaction against the uncertainties of a Post-Modern culture.

    Peter Sattler said that, “Like postmodernism, atheism dispenses with our cultures most potent “metanarrative” — the belief in an overarching, universal, and transhistorical creator. If postmodernism is by definition antifoundational, and if “God” represents the ultimate foundation for morality and purpose — as almost every theist insists — then atheism is postmodern in the extreme.” home alone echoed this same thought when he wrote, “Seems to me that at its core atheism is completely post-modern – we don’t privilege any one god narrative over another.”

    But in actuality doesn’t atheism attempt to label all god narratives as invalid and replace them with a single (non-god) narrative?

    I mentioned that some Christians are essentially oblivious to Post-Modernism (or perhaps just hoping it will go away). I detected similar sentiments in statements like these:

    “Never been happy with postmodernism. Academically, it’s pretty much history…”

    “Modernism and Postmodernism are just labels for a group of individual art/literary works.”

    “Terms like “modernism” and “post-modernism” may have their uses, but they are ultimately nothing more than esoteric dogmas used as interpretive templates, rhetorical filters, and academic litmus tests.”

    “Post-modernism is a joke in serious academia.”

    Of course, time will tell whether or not Post-Modernism (or whatever it becomes) is a blip, a joke or a real cultural phenomenon. As I stated in my post, many Christian thinkers are taking it seriously enough to ponder what it could mean to the church and how the church should respond. Jesus once told a parable about wineskins and how new wine should not be put into old wineskins (because as the wine expands due to fermentation it will burst an old, stiff bag but a new and supple wineskin will stretch to accommodate). Many Christians understand the gospel (better yet, the subject of the gospel: Jesus) to be the “new wine” and the church to be the wineskin. The point being that Christianity can (and should) be flexible in its form without compromising its content. This also explains why there are a multitude of denominations, styles and cultures within Christianity yet unity on the core tenets of the faith.

    Thanks to TRA for giving a place to theistic views. Oh, and MBains, thank you for the compliment… I think.

  48. a different tim
    December 1st, 2005 @ 4:12 am

    I’m intrigued by the comment (which I’ve heard before) about atheist comments being similar to those of some Christians. Well, maybe…in style. To us, it’s not about style, but about content.

    I adnit that if yu take the po-mo stance it may be hard to tell the difference.

    I’m disturbed, however, at the idea that those of us with genuine objections to post modernism are “hoping it goes away”. Again, this seems very much in line with po-mo thinking – don’t address the objections, but cast doubt on the motives of those makiing them (& maybe this is why we think you’re advocating po-mo). This is pretty much the po-mo attitude to science – Ben Goldacre in the Guardian noticed a week or so ago the disturbing notion amongst science journalists that we should judge scientific theories according to who funds their advocates and not according to how they match to experiment.

    I’m at work and don’t have time to do anything at great length right now, but I again urge yuo to look at the Sokal stuff if you havem’t already. It isn’t the hatchet job it’s portrayed as, or if it is, it’s self inflicted by the Social Text people.

    Postmodernisnm may or may not be intellectually fashionable, or an “emerging worldview” if you like (and I have to say, it lost the science wars big time, and that’s a big part of the intellectual community that simply thinks it’s a joke) but I see no reason why that should affect our attitude to it – you adopt the stance or not depending on whether you think it’s right, not on whether it’s fashionable, surely?

  49. Jason Malloy
    December 1st, 2005 @ 4:39 am

    I think it’s a site glitch rather than a closet theist conspiracy…..

    You have got to be kidding me – Wake. Up. Was it a “site glitch” that decided an athiest blog needed a fucking “voice of theism”, was it a site glitch that warned readers that “intolerant” responses (from atheist readers against religious bullshit) would be deleted. I don’t think RA is a “closet theist”, but I do think this represents a major loss of principles for this site, a major loss of the will to fight and stand ground. It most likely represents RA attempting to make concessions to “pro-life” religionists like Dawn Eden, so he can strengthen his alliances with them at the expense of his atheist audience. In other words his “pro-life” politics are simply growing more important to him than defending rationalism without the sort of relativist pussy-footing that acts as though every opinion is valid enough to deserve equal time – and in every possible forum.

    Jason, the RA is using some kind of filter for comments that blocks some postings for moderator approval. I suspect this is at least partly to prevent some of the SPAM that used to get posted here on occassion.

    Well it may just be a coincidence, but the fact is that he did *warn* his atheist readers that they had to put up with this nonsense politely or get deleted (and notice my comment is nowhere to be seen 24 hours later). The bigger issue is why is there a theist posting here at all, and why in the world should we be happy about that? This is probably RAs tit-for-tat, since Dawn Eden let him write anti-abortion (not atheist!) screeds on her site, so hey, we’re a multi-cultural spiritual forum here at Raving Atheist now. No more talk of Mother Mary getting ass-fucked in the out-house, that was the intolerant Raving Atheist of yester-year.

    “Sienna’s right, this “balance” is just ridiculous.”

    These strike me as tacit admissions to the intolerant tendencies of Modernistic atheism which McGrath addresses.

    Mort, I wasn’t talking to you and I didn’t ask for your opinion. I addressed all of McGrath’s nonsense, but my comment wasn’t posted, possibly because it would be offensive to you and your “persecuted” Christian majority. You are damn straight that I’m intolerant – I do not tolerate you getting a forum here. I do not tolerate your religionist pseudoscience. It is not “up for debate”, like two co-equal opinions.

    I never made a peep about the abortion stuff, because I felt it was, or could be, orthogonal to the atheism issue, but having regular Christian guest posters and making room for religious posts on this blog while simultaneously changing the rules for your atheist audience to accommodate them, *is* beyond what I’m willing to tolerate. It’s not like it’s anybody’s loss if I don’t comment here anymore, but it will be _my_ loss if I have to stand by while every atheist forum on the Internet eventually goes through this exact same change *cough*Infidels.org*cough*, until smooshy”multi-faith” sites like Beliefnet are the only place atheists have any kind of voice. Because there simply no atheists with the fortitude to maintain atheist sites for atheists, without being soft or apologetic about it.

  50. Jason Malloy
    December 1st, 2005 @ 4:44 am

    I think it’s a site glitch rather than a closet theist conspiracy…..

    You have got to be kidding me – Wake. Up. Was it a “site glitch” that decided an athiest blog needed a “voice of theism”, was it a site glitch that warned readers that “intolerant” responses (from atheist readers against religious #$%@) would be deleted. I don’t think RA is a “closet theist”, but I do think this represents a major loss of principles for this site, a major loss of the will to fight and stand ground. It most likely represents RA attempting to make concessions to “pro-life” religionists like Dawn Eden, so he can strengthen his alliances with them at the expense of his atheist audience. In other words his “pro-life” politics are simply growing more important to him than defending rationalism without the sort of abhorent relativistivism that acts as though every opinion is valid enough to deserve equal time – and in every possible forum.

    Jason, the RA is using some kind of filter for comments that blocks some postings for moderator approval. I suspect this is at least partly to prevent some of the SPAM that used to get posted here on occassion.

    Well it may just be a coincidence, but the fact is that he did *warn* his atheist readers that they had to put up with this nonsense politely or get deleted (and notice my comment is nowhere to be seen 24 hours later). The bigger issue is why is there a theist posting here at all, and why in the world should we be happy about that? This is probably RAs tit-for-tat, since Dawn Eden let him write anti-abortion (not atheist!) screeds on her site, so hey, we’re a multi-cultural spiritual forum here at Raving Atheist now. No more talk of Mother Mary getting $#%@ in the out-house, that was the intolerant Raving Atheist of yester-year.

    “Sienna’s right, this “balance” is just ridiculous.”

    These strike me as tacit admissions to the intolerant tendencies of Modernistic atheism which McGrath addresses.

    Mort, I wasn’t talking to you and I didn’t ask for your opinion. I addressed all of McGrath’s nonsense, but my comment wasn’t posted, possibly because it would be offensive to you and your “persecuted” Christian majority. You are damn straight that I’m intolerant – I do not tolerate you getting a forum here. I do not tolerate your religionist pseudoscience. It is not “up for debate”, like two co-equal opinions.

    I never made a peep about the abortion stuff, because I felt it was, or could be, orthogonal to the atheism issue, but having regular Christian guest posters and making room for religious posts on this blog while simultaneously changing the rules for your atheist audience to accommodate them, *is* beyond what I’m willing to tolerate. It’s not like it’s anybody’s loss if I don’t comment here anymore, but it will be _my_ loss if I have to stand by while every atheist forum on the Internet eventually goes through this exact same change *cough*Infidels.org*cough*, until smooshy”multi-faith” sites like Beliefnet are the only place atheists have any kind of voice. Because there simply no atheists with the fortitude to maintain atheist sites for atheists, without being soft or apologetic about it.

  51. Jason Malloy
    December 1st, 2005 @ 4:47 am

    Wow. i had to make a lot of edits to get that one through. It really didn’t like this word.

  52. Bill
    December 1st, 2005 @ 7:02 am

    Hermesten: “Most of the devoted theists I know put way more intellectual energy into interpreting the universe for compatibility with their dogma then I am prepared to expend in trying to understand it.”
    I couldn’t agree more. It has been the difficulty I have found in discussing anything with Mort. He tends to ignore what I think is relevant to the the true debate and then deluge me (or whomever else it happens to be) with theologiocal clap-trap as if it provides proof. It is quite frustrating to have the real issues ignored and then, to add insult, be expected to argue against theological nonsense.
    In fact even when I have tried to ask direct theological questions that might challenge his beliefs he ignores them completely. For example, I asked a simple question on a previous thread on the historical significance of the bable, which I felt was highly relevant. It was simply this “Where’s Barnabus?”. Not a peep out of him, yet he carried on with others debating ad nauseam the relevance of various obscure passages and texts. Maybe he thought I’d read the Da’Vinci code or something and chose to ignore me (I haven’t and have no intention of doing so – therefore I don’t know if Barnabus is mentioned).
    I can understand very well the strong objections voiced by some here that it is ridiculous to show tolerance to theists who visit this site. However I think it wouldn’t be half as much fun without them but they should perhaps follow the agenda of the site and not try to turn it into some sort of quasi-theistic debate.
    I for one will bite back!

  53. hermesten
    December 1st, 2005 @ 9:39 am

    Jason, I wasn’t referring to just this thread. I’ve had many of my comments held on numerous threads. You used p-foot in a comment that was blocked, I used p-hound, referring to the pre-prez chimp, and it was blocked. Obviously, RA is not censoring profanity. This is why I think the filter is more to do with SPAM.

  54. dj357
    December 1st, 2005 @ 10:23 am

    why must people constantly intellectualise these things pointlessly?

    Modernism, Post-Modernism? The only reason i am an atheist is because I don’t care if god exists or not, he/she/it is irrelevant to my existence on this planet. I didn’t study WWI europe or various other saddening situations throughout the history of mankind to make my mind up on this. I MADE UP MY OWN MIND, regardless of whatever intellectual tripe people like coming up with.

    So, predict whatever future you will for “one of the most important movements in modern Western culture” but frankly I could care less whether it’s important in Western culture or not, it’s important to me so everything else is tertiary and probably un-neccesary.

  55. joli
    December 1st, 2005 @ 10:32 am

    Jason,

    Did you follow the link to find the definition “tolerance” that TRA
    is working with here? Do you not get the joke?

  56. Jason Malloy
    December 1st, 2005 @ 11:12 am

    Good point, Joli. You’re right I skipped the link and completely missed the joke. I assumed he was linking to Dawn Eden’s “rules of tolerance” for her site, by the terms of which all my comments were deleted from her site the last time RA linked to her. While my anger at that comment and the case of the missing post (which were linked in my mind) can now both be written off as a misunderstanding on my part, I still find a Raving Atheist “Voice of Theism” highly objectionable. Let LucyMuff, Clubbeaux, Mort and Vox Day get their own ridicuolous blogs and laugh at them from a distance (and they can respond in the comments if that’s their kick), but don’t make this a “spiritual forum”, keep it a place to ridicule and expose superstition.

  57. DamnRight
    December 1st, 2005 @ 12:37 pm

    Christians demand “tolerance” as a master demands it of his slave while beating him with a stick… it means “don’t resist”… it becomes “intolerrant” to question any lack of logical argument… or to point out weaknesses in the arguments… “tolerance” in America has become “you must listen to my Christian spoutings without comment or even a raised eyebrow”… why would one “tolerate” such nonsense?

  58. a different tim
    December 1st, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

    dj357…..Personally, I intellectualise stuff pointlessly because it’s fun. I realise not everyone finds it so, but hey, we all have to get our kicks somehow.

  59. Mort Coyle
    December 1st, 2005 @ 1:35 pm

    Jason, for what it’s worth, the way I found out about The Raving Atheist was because of atheists posting on Christian discussion sites that I occasionally visited. Some of them mentioned that they were “members” of The Raving Atheist. I came here out of curiosity. What kept me coming back and commenting were the incredible mischaracterizations of Christianity and the Bible that I saw. I think most of these are due more to ignorance than spite (or perhaps spite caused by ignorance). By ignorance I don’t mean stupidity but being misinformed.

    Bill, I’m not sure what the point of your comment is, other than some form of personal attack. Oftentimes on these forums and comments a lone theist finds themselves debating with a dozen atheists and it can be hard to keep up with the sheer volume as well as try to maintain some kind of topical continuity. One tends to focus in on the interesting/challenging debaters and tune out the static. Regarding the thread about the historicity of the Bible, I recall having a very cordial (and lengthy) dialog with the person who started the discussion. It was most enjoyable, I think, for both parties. Your occasional interruptions were generally bursts of ad hominem static which did little to further the discussion at hand. I don’t recall your “Where’s Barnabas?’ question but I’d be happy to take a crack at it if you can provide some context for the question.

  60. boywonder
    December 1st, 2005 @ 7:59 pm

    A couple comments concerning Coyle’s post:

    Atheists have been around as long as people have been around. To say that atheism became an ideal or became relevant in one time period (in this case the Rennaissance) or another is wholly ludicrous. I imagine it was advantageous 200 or more years ago to not give anyone the idea that you were a non-believer if you valued your and your family and friends’ lives. It was no coincidence that atheism found a larger audience during the enlightenment while deaths resulting from atheism dwindled during that time.

    “Many see great opportunities for the church to shuffle off the monolithic, institutional shell that it’s been burdened with for the last 1700 years and move back to the simple organic structure of its early days, before it became intertwined with the Roman Empire.”

    Moving back to simpler times is not a good idea. I don’t want my grandchildren living the second Dark Ages thankyou very much. And I’m sure it is a burdon trying to cast away that 1700 hundred years of pesky dogma that is getting in the way of Christianity actually meaning something anymore in a modern world. And by modern I mean simply that. Christianity and fairytales never have nor never will have a secure place in a progressively modern and technological world.

  61. boywonder
    December 1st, 2005 @ 8:24 pm

    I typed my blog address in wrong on my last comment. it should be:

    http://www.godisforfishandsheep.blogspot.com

    I’ve started the new “church” of the Atheist Messiah.

    I guess you could say I’m a bored-again atheist.

    Everyone is welcome. We have no rituals (cannibilism – the eucharist), animal sacrifices (burnt offerings), or taboos (no sexual position is off limits, but there is a weight consideration)

    I invite everyone to “Think outside the church”

  62. dj357
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 5:09 am

    different tim — hmm…..that’s a strange set of kicks ya got there…..oh well!!

  63. bill
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 8:41 am

    Mort: Thanks. You’ve made my point.

  64. Mort Coyle
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 11:43 am

    Ummm…Ok, glad to be of assistance. (?)

  65. kenyounos
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 5:34 pm

    One thing is for certain: Old Zarathustra spoke too soon when he proclaimed that God was dead.

  66. kenyounos
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 5:36 pm

    One thing is for certain: Old Zarathustra spoke too soon when he proclaimed that God was dead.

  67. Brian Macker
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 1:08 am

    Arron, (aka AK),

    How can an atheist live with himself when he sees another saying something like “Christians demand “tolerance” as a master demands it of his slave while beating him with a stick”. This is a false statment. Now convert it to “Some Christians demand ….” and it becomes true. Not so bad. However I don’t think such a simple transformation is going to help your claim that Europe is the trend setter.

    In short, I’ll stop taking things so literally when people stop making gross over generalizations.

    You tell me not to take you literally then provide even more verbiage supporting that interpretation. Support your thesis, how is Europe the trend setter? Certainly not in such areas as use of techonolgy, democratic institutions, fast food, or just about anything else positive. Certainly they fell into the mistake of socialism faster. They certainly started the trend of getting involved in world wars before us.

    I don’t know what map you own but on my map Germany is in Europe. If you meant to include cultural trends in Europe without including trends any particular European country then your going to have a hard time of it. Please be specific about the trends you believe support your theses, then if you bring up a French cultural trend I can retort that “Besides, that was France, not Europe.” You’ll also find me stating “Besides, that was New York, not America”. This will be fun. If pizza was invented in Italy, I can always claim that New York adopted it before say Norway and say that America was the trend setter. We can be here all day making back and forth counterclaims.

    BTW, the Hitler comment was a trap and you fell right into it. Bush is no Hitler and to compare him in any serious way demeans the memory of those who suffered under Hitler. Including the woman who introduced me to my wife. When exactly did Bush order the extermination of an entire race? As for the Germans thinking Bush is comparable to Hitler 1) Prove it 2) Which Germans 3) Germans aren’t exactly known for picking sides for ethical reasons, in this case they were in Saddams pocket both figuratively and monetarily.

  68. Brian Macker
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 1:23 am

    Just so I don’t look like I am picking on my fellow atheists. This article by Mort Coyle was fantasy from beginning to end.

    The world is not transforming from modernism to post modernism. Atheists are in fact aware of post mondernism. There has been no shift out of modernism.

    That is, the Po-Mo belief that all belief systems are equally true is in fact false. How stupid do you have to be to believe that? Believing that some systems are false is not dogmatism but just plain common sense. After all, how can the belief that there is a God and that there is not a god both be true?

    This sentence is a real gem: “There seems to be a dearth of discourse amongst atheists about how to avoid becoming irrelevant in a Post-Modern world. “. What planet, neigh universe does this guy live in? Despite what Po-Mos believe the world still is governed by the laws of physics despite the fact the some do not believe so. Non-believers in Po-mo could only become more relavant if there was a trend towards Po-Mo. After all someone has to be able to design airplanes that obey the laws of physics. I look forward to this future world where Atheists have god like powers compared to their stone tool welding neighbors. ;)

  69. middlegal
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 8:15 am

    Atheists vs. Fundamental Christians (not all Christians are in it for the sheer fight of it).

    How about Atheists vs. Hindus (for the sheer fight of it)?

    I see it as more of a ‘Adolescent’ vs. ‘Adult’ argument if you need type tags.

    Atheism comes in waves/stages in life. How ‘atheistic’ are you until you feverishly embrace the Christian god(s) as we are brought to know him (them) – Father, Son & Holy Ghost and Mary if you like? How Christian are you until some regulated body of believers says you are truly within bounds of required belief?

    Is atheism your Adult stage, or is a Christian reckoning your Adolescent stage? Personally – where are you at? Young or old. Meek or bold.

    Waves of non-belief, waves of strong belief. Waves of disappointment in lifestages that do not uplift (say the death of a loved one brings dire doubt in a god).

    Waves of elation at approval and acceptance to an actively dogmatic organization (baptism into an active and organized church group/getting that news job – your choice – there must be a god blessing my life actively).

    You can call it a movement, a history or brain chemistry, but if God (god) is the author of it all – then it’s all good.

    So savor your atheism and savor your flashes of religiosity. When you turn either wave into a society-clamping, text-described requirement for citizenship, you will be the victim of the clamp down eventually – cause your membership is really only in your mind when the barriers come down.

    And in a tension-filled moment in American history where there are lines drawn to declare a losers side, you might be surprised to find yourself pushed there by the leadership you condone, based on the stages of your beliefs.

    How about that Gnostic vs. Agnostic argument?

  70. middlegal
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 8:16 am

    Atheists vs. Fundamental Christians (not all Christians are in it for the sheer fight of it).

    How about Atheists vs. Hindus (for the sheer fight of it)?

    I see it as more of a ‘Adolescent’ vs. ‘Adult’ argument if you need type tags.

    Atheism comes in waves/stages in life. How ‘atheistic’ are you until you feverishly embrace the Christian god(s) as we are brought to know him (them) – Father, Son & Holy Ghost and Mary if you like? How Christian are you until some regulated body of believers says you are truly within bounds of required belief?

    Is atheism your Adult stage, or is a Christian reckoning your Adolescent stage? Personally – where are you at? Young or old. Meek or bold.

    Waves of non-belief, waves of strong belief. Waves of disappointment in lifestages that do not uplift (say the death of a loved one brings dire doubt in a god).

    Waves of elation at approval and acceptance to an actively dogmatic organization (baptism into an active and organized church group/getting that news job – your choice – there must be a god blessing my life actively).

    You can call it a movement, a history or brain chemistry, but if God (god) is the author of it all – then it’s all good.

    So savor your atheism and savor your flashes of religiosity. When you turn either wave into a society-clamping, text-described requirement for citizenship, you will be the victim of the clamp down eventually – cause your membership is really only in your mind when the barriers come down.

    And in a tension-filled moment in American history where there are lines drawn to declare a losers side, you might be surprised to find yourself pushed there by the leadership you condone, based on the stages of your beliefs.

    How about that Gnostic vs. Agnostic argument?

  71. kenyounos
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 6:12 pm

    I recommend _The Next Christendom and the Coming of Global Christianity_ by Philip Jenkins. This is the direction in which the world seems to be headed.

  72. Percy
    December 4th, 2005 @ 3:17 am

    Bill,

    “[Mort] tends to ignore what I think is relevant to the the true debate and then deluge me (or whomever else it happens to be) with theologiocal clap-trap as if it provides proof. It is quite frustrating to have the real issues ignored and then, to add insult, be expected to argue against theological nonsense.”

    Would these be examples of comments made by you that were relevant to the true debate in the “Is the Bible historicical” discussion:

    “Whoah! Anti-relligious bias!!! On a site called raving atheist!!! What the f*ck did you expect? *rsehole!
    I expect you’d like uis all to be stoned to death or burned at the stake or someting eh?”

    “Read up on the bible? You must be joking! Life�s too short (and there�s no apre-vie). There�s real knowledge out there to be had and a real life to be lived.”

    “The global psychosis that is religion does interest me because it�s sufferers do seem to want to make all the rest of us ill (I consider the attempts to indoctrinate children particularly reprehensible) but that does not mean that I want to spend my time studying the ravings of prehistoric sheep farmers (Hmm� but yet you think well researched television programmes presenting verifiable evidence aren�t worthy of credence??? Faith truly is blind eh?) . I�ll stick to my wildly inaccurate generalisations until I see evidence of some scientific method being applied to your analysis of the bable(sp) hic!.
    That evidence would likely take the form of your immediately realising you�ve been had and have been throwing your life away all these years believing in a load of superstitious mumbo-jumbo.
    I am saddened by the waste of an academic mind like your own being applied to sucht pointless study. As we say over here, you�re worse than a man short.
    I was ten years old when I figured out what was going on. What�s your excuse?”

    Yes sir, those are very serious attempts at engaging in an meaningful intellectual debate ;)

  73. Bill
    December 5th, 2005 @ 7:06 am

    OK, Percy, you have a point, but I got bored with his preaching and I enjoy rattling cages. Can’t help it, besides he’s (Mort) an awful bore when he goes off on one of his theological discourses. I only got irritated because he’s always re-interpreting what people say so he can take offence an get all pious about it. You see it eveywhere and to me it is the uttmost in intolerance, this mantle of superiority that christians like Mort assume. I have no respect for that kind of attitude and respond accordingly.
    Glad it entertained. If there was any purpose at all, that was it
    ;-)

  74. DC
    December 6th, 2005 @ 12:33 pm

    It seems to me that Mort, while an honest fellow, engages in alot of one true scotsman fallacies.

    ‘This also explains why there are a multitude of denominations, styles and cultures within Christianity yet unity on the core tenets of the faith. ‘

    This is totally false. This is no answer at all and if it is an answer it isn’t a compelling one. What is more accurate and more compelling is that the bible is a hodge podge of ideas that contradict each other and adherents of the religion have diverged based on this fact.

    He also mentions how atheists view the bible and how poorly he has seen it done. Perhaps but I am a Christian and I see far better bible knowledge on atheist websites than Christian websites. I also see more honest, productive, and intellectual discussions among atheists.

    I have my faith, for purely irrational reasons that I myself don’t always fully understand. But to say atheism is a dying thought process is simply ignorant. There are more atheists now than before, they are the fastest growing segment of society.

    Religion has to change to compete with new ideas and new cultures. This should be obvious to any reasonable person.

  75. Mort Coyle
    December 6th, 2005 @ 11:22 pm

    DC,

    Sometimes what appears to be a “no true Scotsman” fallacy is, in fact, not a fallacy. For example, no true vegan would eat steak. Of course, there may be those who *call* themselves vegans and yet eat steak, but that doesn’t make the “no true vegan” statement fallacious because it is consistent with the accepted definition of what a vegan is.

    Likewise, there is an accepted definition of what a Christian is, which has endured for nearly two millennia and is expressed in the “Apostles Creed” (which itself dates from the early 3rd century):

    I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth.

    I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven,
    he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic [universal] church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting.

    I stated that “… there are a multitude of denominations, styles and cultures within Christianity yet unity on the core tenets of the faith.” You say that this claim is “totally false”. Yet every Christian denomination and style agrees with this creed. Likewise Christians across time and cultures have believed in accordance with this creed. Perhaps some groups or individuals have called themselves Christians whilst denying these basic doctrines, but that would put them in the same category as our carnivorous vegan friends.

    Christians may (and do) disagree on topics ranging from capital punishment to speaking in tongues to birth control, but these are all peripheral to the core tenets of the faith.

    If you are a Christian, as you claim, and yet believe “… the bible is a hodge podge of ideas that contradict each other…” and “… see far better bible knowledge on atheist websites than Christian websites”, then all I can say is that I truly feel sorry for you. You sound like a man who is starving to death in the presence of a banquet. I (and billions of others) have found the Bible to be incredibly cohesive and fulfilling. Might I suggest an excellent book entitled “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, as well as the writings of N.T. Wright?

    “But to say atheism is a dying thought process is simply ignorant. ” I don’t recall myself or McGrath making such a statement. McGrath’s point is that in a Post-Modern world the *relevance* of atheism is dying. Do you get the distinction?

    “There are more atheists now than before, they are the fastest growing segment of society.” We’ve been ’round and ’round in circles at this site, ad nauseum, on claims like this. True, there are more atheists now than before, simply because there are more *people* now than before! There is simply no factual basis however for your assertion that atheists are the fastest growing segment of society. If you do have information to back up this claim, please provide it (and I will provide information refuting it).

  76. Higher Logic
    December 11th, 2005 @ 12:26 am

    I would just like to point out an interesting fact I recently learned when I was doing research on the percentage of Christians in America. What got me interested in the statistics was all the hype on Fox News and Comedy Central surrounding the “War on Christmas.”

    I found the following numbers done by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, titled “American Religious Identification Survey.” It was released in 2001, and you can read the entire report here.

    Here is the interesting part that I would like to share:

    “The proportion of the [American] population that can be classified as Christian has declined from 86.2% in 1990 to 76.5% in 2001″

    The reason I found that number interesting was because on both the Daily Show and on Fox News, they kept referring to 80-82% of the country being Christian.

    This change is similar to that found in other countries since World War II, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and other European countries. Large numbers of Americans are disaffiliating themselves from Christianity and from other organized religions.

    Another interesting article was posted in the USA Today (7 March 2002) by Cathy Grossman, called “Charting The Unchurched In America.” She found that 14.1% of Americans do not subscribe to any organized religion, noting the unusually rapid increase in numbers, which has almost doubled from 8% in 1990. In fact, their numbers are higher than those who claim to be Episcopalians, Methodists, and Lutherans combined.

    Lastly, to quote from the National Opinion Research Center‘s General Social Survey (2004):

    “The number of Protestants soon will slip below 50% of the nation’s population.”

    Just some food for thought.

  77. Higher Logic
    December 11th, 2005 @ 12:36 am

    Regarding the following comment:

    “There are more atheists now than before, they are the fastest growing segment of society.”

    Actually, the fastest growing religion, in terms of percentage, is Wicca. The number of adherents went from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001. Their numbers are doubling about every 30 months. These numbers come from the American Religious Identification Survey by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York; as well as from the American Atheists’ article, Survey Indicates More Americans ‘Without Faith’.

    Wiccans in Australia have a similar growth pattern, from fewer than 2,000 in 1996 to 9,000 in 2001.

    In Canada, Wiccans and other Neopagns demonstrate the greatest percentage growth of any faith group. With numbrs totalling 21,080 in 1991 from a 280% increase when compared to 1990. Taken from the Herald Sun (1 July 2002) article by Jason Frenkel, titled Witches Win Converts.

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