Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I Loathe Editorials

I'm known to occasionally torture myself by reading letters to the editor. What I see doesn't encourage me.

The religious do vile work: Pascal's wager, "If there is no higher moral authority, then right and wrong do not and cannot exist because no one human is above another", here's a fine example of the Gish Gallop, and here's one playing on imagined atheist hopelessness and despair where the author sardonically quips "Perhaps, after death, we will learn by the silence and extinction predicted by the atheists that they were right in their belief that death is the end of us. Perhaps we will discover by the sounds of angel music that the atheists were wrong." The list goes on and on, a constant background din of ignorance and confusion. It's to be expected, but it's exasperating to see over and over and over again.

But ironically, a lot of the worst misconceptions and misunderstandings I've ever seen tend to come from atheists themselves, like when Scott Adams made a blog post in favor of Intelligent Design (the original post no longer exists, but reactions to it (including PZ's post) still do). It's an excellent reminder of the need to read up on the subject and come to an informed conclusion about it rather than shooting from the hip and coming out with something deeply embarrassing.

In the newspapers, the atheist voice is far too often a tangled mass of atheist buttery and we're left quibbling with each other rather than putting up a united front against the dogmatism that has enveloped our societies.

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. The author comes out and says that he doesn't believe in God then derides the atheist bus campaign because he thinks other atheists are smug and sanctimonious jerks who unfairly criticize religion (what on Earth does that have to do with the bus campaign?!).

Well, how are they wrong? As it turns out, he allows that they probably are right, but it's just not that simple. And that line just gets repeated over and over again. It's like arguing with somebody over the color of the sky. Eventually, he agrees that it's blue. "But wait!", he says, "It's not that simple, the clouds aren't blue!" Arrggh!

Why is it not that simple? Because people don't actually believe in a bearded guy in the sky - they just believe in a bearded guy who died for your sins then ascended up into heaven; God isn't actually anthropomorphic at all, Sistine Chapel not withstanding. Okay, even assuming that is right, people are still talking about a godlike entity somewhere in heaven (whatever that is) and that's just plain superstitious even allowing for the beardlessness. It's an utter non-point pretending to be a serious objection to atheist criticisms, and the article is filled with them. It's painful to read.

The other forms of atheist buttery are often in response to the New Atheist crusade against religion by people who aren't religious themselves, but nonetheless think that religion should stick around because people "need" religion.

Here's an example of that:
Some people only have enough willpower or brain power to accept the answers that others feed them. Others, have a little more willpower and/or brain power, and come up with answers (theories, religions) and provide them to other people. Still others are able to question those answers, and accept or reject them on the basis of reason. Finally, a scant few are even able to question their programming from where these questions arise.

But the vast majority of people fall into the first group; they simply need answers. Without the backdrop of religion, and the peaceful contribution of its answers, I’m not sure the human race would fare very well, or even survive. Granted, the answers are patently false, but they keep a lid on the boiling pot of the human psyche, and keep us from killing each other.

Resolved: morons need lies. I mean, come on, how condescending can we get? Surely people are smarter and more adaptable than that! Can't people make do without having some kind of sacred cow? Thankfully, this isn't a rhetorical question - vast portions of many European countries are non-religious - not just the hypothetical geniuses who alone can handle atheism, but the whole breadth of society, down to the janitors and fast-food cashiers.

It's exactly these kinds of things that keep us from having an effective voice in the community - we keep sending conflicting (and often inaccurate) messages about ourselves or intentions - one head of the hydra is always busily gnawing on its own neck.

1 comment:

meatofthematter said...

Dear Blue Hydra,

I'm the author of the quote from "The Meat of the Matter." I wrote that quite awhile ago, and since then I have read a few books, and changed my stance! I agree with you now, and in fact I've completely repositioned my blog to be more assertively against religion in all forms.

Guilty as charged ... but I learned.