Monday, September 03, 2007

this really is absolutely tremendous

You know, I think Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has done what I was reasonably confident couldn't be done, and written an even more blitheringly vacuous and incoherent piece on atheism than the Dominic Lawson one I referenced in a previous post. And this article is quite a bit shorter than the Lawson one, so she's really had to get some high-octane claptrap in there. A few highlights:
  • love! you know, and the beauty of the sunset, the smile of a child, the smell of fresh-cut grass on a summer evening, yadda yadda yadda (much rambling deleted here), ergo, God.
  • atheists are fundamentalists too! Apparently.
  • Hitler was an atheist!
  • look at the churches! Aren't they lovely?
All this stuff has been vigorously and thoroughly debated many times over, so clearly Yazz hasn't been keeping up. Points 1 and 4 aren't worth responding to, but, for the record, point 2, despite being patently ludicrous, crops up often enough in the blogosphere to have a law (Blake's Law) named after it. If you followed that last link you'll see point 3 falls into the same category, though Godwin's Law is generally deemed to apply to any online argument, not necessarily one about religion. The Hitler/atheism link, just as a footnote, quite apart from proving nothing if it were true (As I pointed out in a much earlier post, he was a vegetarian too, so....what? Oh yeah, nothing), isn't. Actually the Wikipedia article entitled (amusingly) Reductio ad Hitlerum nails this particular fallacy more specifically.


The Black Rabbit said...

I can only assume your response to "Yazz's" column was written hastily and under a red mist mate, because it wasn't particularly fair, lacked your normal humour and was just the response she would have predicted from a (militant?) atheist.

Yes, she certainly did ramble on at times, and did seem to (as you said) lose a grip on some "facts" which are nonsense, Hitler etc...

That said, she did make the odd point that you've been harping on about for some time (correctly also) such as:

"I agree with Dawkins, the quieter AC Grayling, and with humanists that religion can and does disable human aspiration and will; it can and does lead worshippers of various go(d)s to a violent hatred of "outsiders"; it can and does debase women; it can and does create a religious autocracy; it can and does encourage apalling behaviour." [quote]

"Since 9/11, Islam, Judaism and Christianity have become dangerously politicised. Too many people have developed an intensified religious identity. I also believe strongly that public spaces and institutions should be wholly secular. An established church, state-funded faith schools and increasing encroachment of religion into politics are bad for us all" [quote]

If the piece was as "blitheringly vacuous and incoherent" as you said, I'm surprised you felt the need to post on it at all, a far more poignant riposte would have been to ignore it, I guess. Though, she was attacking your strongly-held views I suppose, and of course you are more than entitled to defend yorself against such an attack***.

That said, there are two letters in the Indy today (4th September) that are excellent (far better) defences against Yazz's piece, which don't rely on quoting "laws" or trivialising some of her slightly weirder arguments.

Well, you know what I think of Dawko - and you must be aware that many, many learned scientists regard his dissection of religion with "science" to be a sure-fire sign that a brilliant mind has permanently gone awol.
I'm afraid I don't know much about "The Hitch".

I'll just give my opinion of John Humphry's quote at this point also (rather than post a comment in your NEXT atheism vs religion post above (The John Humphrys post)).
You can help me out here mate -
As Humphrys is quoted:
"I have fallen into the habit of asking almost everyone I meet if they believe in God. And here is an interesting thing: it was only the atheists who seemed absolutely certain."

Leaving aside the poor grammar (I have no idea whether it was a direct quote from a written piece or not), am I missing something here?
I assume he's being ironic?
Yes he must be.
Please tell me he is.

The futile atheism vs religion argument will rage for as long as man is on the planet with a brain powerful enough to debate. You can call my views "wishy washy" if you so desire, though I have some personal views on such matters which I'm sure I've gone through with you in private, probably over a beer or ten in The Ship or Vaults, (The "Gravity/Gary" explanation for example), and I certainly don't feel the need to definitively state there most certainly is NO god for anybody (or any similar concept which just doesn't happen to sit on a cloud with a long white beard).
I can't get my head around that, but some people may need that type of imagery to feel comfortable with difficult concepts.

I think it is fair to say that there are millions (billions?) of people in this world who do believe in a "God", and who have very different lives or experiences from life to you (and me). A "god" (or faith anyway) which literally gives them hope (where there may be little or none), or possibly a sense of community (ditto), or maybe even a sense of fulfillment or purpose (ditto).
They may need all that. You, (plain to see), don't, and nor do I, presently.

I don't think theres owt wrong with that, and I most certainly would hesitate before condemning them, or dissecting their beliefs with "science" (pointless, preposterous and impossible - always was, always will be I'm afraid).

If that all makes my views on religion "Wishy washy", then thats ok with me!

Now then, I've got more important things to think about, like whether (after my longest "inane comment" EVER, on "Electric Halibut") I can make it to the lavatory in ti......

electrichalibut said...

So to recap: one very short paragraph saying yes, yes, centuries of oppression of women, war, corruption, murder, etc. But, on the other hand, a much longer paragraph saying, basically, hello clouds, hello sky. That would be the vacuous bit I was referring to.

And yes, I'm sure the Mongolian goat-herd in his yurt finds the notion that the giant space camel in the sky is watching over him very comforting, and that's perfectly OK. If he's a clever goat-herder, though, once Yurtsville gets round to having the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, the internet age, etc., he might sheepishly acknowledge that now he knows a bit more about the wider world, universe etc. that the whole thing seems, in hindsight, a bit silly.

The difference between ignorance (acceptable) and stupidity (not) if you like.

The Black Rabbit said...

I'm not talking about Mongolia or any far flung places specifically.
Plenty of people (with different experiences of life to you) in the western world, and (of course) here in modern Britain, possibly your neighbours even, who obtain their sense of hope or community or purpose, or indeed solace, through a peaceful adherence to their chosen religion.

I'd just rather not call them all stupid, or to quote "Yazz", damn them all.

I don't know them.
They're possibly, (quite probably even) far more thoughtful, wise and intelligent than me, and dare I say it... you?!
Well. Ok. Just me then...!

(NB. I know how you destest the "trend" that people pretend to be dumber than they are. I hope you realise, in this case I'm not, I'm trying to show a little humility, which is not a bad thing I think, and often rare for me!)

The Black Rabbit said...

You haven't explained that John Humphrys quote to me.
"The only people who were absolutely certain they didn't believe in a God were atheists".
No shit!
Am I missing some sort of clever hidden message here?
I guess so.

electrichalibut said...

I only didn't mention the Humphrys quote because I didn't understand it either, i.e. that's sort of why they call themselves atheists.

And I'm sure a lot of people in this country and others get a lot of comfort and happiness out of religious belief; this was one of the points Yazz was making. The important thing to realise is that this is completely irrelevant, just as it would be irrelevant for me to say the same about my belief that I am Napoleon. It doesn't make me right.

The Black Rabbit said...

Right Wrong. Wrong Right. You can never prove it, and nor can they.

Just clarify it for everyone mate-
Are people who follow a religion:
Less intelligent than you
More deluded than you
or both?

electrichalibut said...

Briefly. First - proof. The burden of proof is on those who propose the flying invisible teapots, not on those who don't. i.e. not on me.

Secondly - #2, pretty much by definition. #1 - I probably wouldn't go that far. Take a larger sample though and I think you'll see where the statistical correlation is going.

If any of that sounds harsh, substituting the words "god" and "religion" with "Flying Spaghetti Monster" and "I am Napoleon" will correctly recalibrate your sense of how much respect these views deserve.

Must go and release a dangerous build-up of chrism now.

The Black Rabbit said...

Oh dear mate.
This will be annoying and I suspect the source of your (and other atheists) indignation.

Faith does not require proof.
By definition.
That's the whole deal with faith.
Annoying isn't it.

As your most favouritest philosopher evarr, a certain Mr. Jon Bon Jovi (The Jovemeister as you call him) might say:
"You gatta keep the faith".

Now be quiet Doubting Thomas (hur hur) coz I've just got to my desk, and the phones, well they've just started a-ringing.

electrichalibut said...

Faith does not require proof. Fine - if the religionists would come out and say that, i.e. I know it's irrational, but I believe it anyway, that (in that it's a sort of intellectual honesty) would be a start. You may be very very sure that the Discovery Institute, for instance, are not saying that at all.

On the other hand, you can't argue with the Jovemeister. But then again he is quite lidderally livin' on a prayer, so he should know.