Saturday, January 24, 2015

You Ask Why I've Come To Be A Critic of Atheism

Writing that response to the guy who went into a swivet over my use of the word "Darwinism" led me to think that the change in my thinking about atheism was, as well, based almost entirely in me reading what atheists said instead of what religious people said about atheism.  I've thought about the books and articles I've read about the topic in the past ten years, when my thinking changed and the only things I can think of by religious people are Christopher Hedges' "I Don't Believe in Atheists,"  Marilynne Robinson's "Absence of Mind" and her "Hysterical Scientism The ecstasy of Richard Dawkins", her Harpers review of "The God Delusion."   And, technically, "Absence of Mind" wasn't exactly about atheism but the modern denial of the existence or significance of minds and their freedom.  That's not specifically about atheists, though since everyone who denies the existence or non-robotic nature of the mind these days seems to be an atheist and the destruction of the idea of consciousness and a mind independent of material causation is essential to their atheism, it may as well have been. I am, by the way, advising you to read them.  The Harpers review is behind a pay wall on their site but I don't have scruples which prevent me from telling you that pirated copies can be read online.

Other than those and a few responses by Christians on blog comment threads, the only things that have led to me thinking critically and in a wider context about the bases on which atheists base their own atheism and the consequences of that have come from atheists, themselves.  You will not be surprised to note how little of that was self-criticism of their shared ideology, Other than a few things by Michael Ruse, I'm at a loss to name an atheist who has written any kind of criticism of any brand of atheism and his is more like an interdenominational critique of a rival sect's thinking than a basic questioning of atheism.    Something which, I'll point out, is done in the education of many Jews and Christians, if there's one thing that those religions contain, it's self-questioning.  If I'm not mistaken it's actually taught in many seminaries.  Doubt and questioning of what a religious person believes is part of most of the non-fundamentalist religious thought I'm aware of,  including some Buddhist sects.

But the accusation that my criticism of atheism is based on what religious people have said about it would be invalid.   I believe I've noted that my first taking up this critical look in the middle of the last decade was due to an atheist asserting that science had "proven" that free thought was bunkum.  Which I had heard from atheists before then but for someone on an allegedly liberal blog to assert that, and noticing that none of the liberals reading that objected to it started me on reading and thinking about the disaster that was for the entire project of liberalism, democracy, and, eventually, the entire moral and intellectual structure of Western liberalism.    Reading the "science" that asserted that led me to realizing, first and most importantly, it was pretty and often laughably inadequate as science, clearly ideologically motivated and entirely invalid.  And that science couldn't accept what those people were saying without it, entirely, destroying the claims of science that they had found knowledge that was objectively true.  In fact, their work as well as the entire ideology of materialism destroyed the category of "truth" in everything, including the ideology of materialism.  The imaginary universal acid of atheism, with which they think they've destroyed God, religion, etc. also turns out to destroy atheism and even the validity of science.

The paradox I discovered that materialism was the only ideology that could only be true if it was false because the material causation of thought destroyed the possibility of ideas having that transcendent quality was a conclusion reached by reading what atheists had to say on the relevant topics.  It coalesced into that aphorism as a result of dealing with an atheist asserting that ideologies were the product of material causation,    If I hadn't read that first comment about science destroying free thought and read things like Richard Seymore's blog post, I'd probably have never turned into this much of a critic of atheism.

When I started writing, all I wanted to do was end the Bush II nightmare in the election of 2006 and to get liberals elected to a majority in the legislatures and the Congress and in executive offices.   If any atheists want to thank someone for what that attempt has turned out to include, they can start with the guys who made me see it included trying to take down atheism.


The results of this decade plus of exposure to and study of the thinking of lots and lots of atheists has led me to conclude that it is, at bottom, based on nothing more than the dislike of religion, primarily a dislike of moral obligations being placed on them.   While there is certainly a lot to dislike about religion, its history, the behavior of its authorities and whatever mobs could be raised to do violence and to discriminate and enslave, that's nothing you can't also say of atheism in history, not to mention every other single aspect of human culture that can be the venue of theft, slavery, murder and oppression.  Monarchies, and every other non-democratic and, all too often, democratic governments do all of those things, they do them better than clerics who have no armies or police forces, in most cases.  Yet few if any atheists seriously call for an end to governments, financial institutions, secular ideologies that promote all of those, it is religion that is their focus of invective and hatred,  The attack on religion is at the bottom of virtually all of their intellectual effort.  including much of what they allow to be considered science, much of it violating every single pretense of scientific method and intellectual practice.

Odd about this, in the case of Christianity, is that those evils done in the name of Christianity, in every single case are a violation of the explicit words of Jesus as found in The Gospels.   An atheist critique of the sins of Christians would be unassailable if they pointed out that they were violating the teachings of a man who was held by Christians to, at the very least, speak with divine authority, and in many cases was held to be an aspect of God, himself.  None of those sins would be done by Christians if they followed The Law and the Prophets as encapsulated in the commandment, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  No one would be enslaved, no one would be robbed or cheated or discriminated against or killed or maimed.   A world in which even a small majority of people managed to follow that commandment would be a world transformed, if a large majority of them did it would be the absolute golden age of humanity and more glorious than any anarchist never-land or the dysgenic utopia of a dictatorship of the proletariat could possibly be.

Yet the atheist response to that entirely valid venue of criticism and refutation of the evils done by Christians has been to debunk everything from the reality of the man who repeated that, its being instituted by divine authority, the only basis on which that could possibly have the power to change anyone's behavior to even that teaching's benevolent character.  If there is one thing that is pernicious about the dogma of natural selection, following on Malthus, it is the assertion that doing that would lead to dysgenesis in the human population and a nightmare of overpopulation by dangerous and inferior people who would take down their betters along with them.  That is absolutely explicit in the literature of Darwinism, the thing which made it attractive to members of the elite who have gained and maintained their position on the basis of not doing unto others as they would have done unto them because what they would have done unto them is based on privilege bought with what is done to those who they don't ever want to be considered their equals in any effective and consequential way.

Their goal is no different from those nominally Christian monarchs, popes, etc. who are guilty of  not doing the will of God, people who Jesus, himself, said were not his followers or his brothers [See Matthew 12:46-50] no matter how much they might claim to be [See Matthew 7: 20-21].   The biggest and most real problem of Christianity encountered by Darwinism is that natural selection, applied to the human population is a total and absolute repudiation of morality.  Spencer's survival of the fittest, which, contrary to post-war myth, Darwin said was the same thing as natural selection,  is a total repudiation of all morality in service to materialistic amorality.   That is entirely confirmed beyond any rational doubt by Darwin's endorsement of Haeckel's enlargement of his theory in The History of Creation (Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte ).*

The reason atheists don't point that out is that what they want is what those guys want.  And it's not what Jesus taught should happen.   The great irony in this is that, on that level, it's a turf war between two groups of people who want power of this world and the unequal distribution of those goods, one which includes ignoring, distorting or denying the validity of commandments that would prevent that happening if people took them seriously and followed them faithfully. Those would lead to egalitarian democracy and the equal distribution of benefits and material sustenance.   When the leaders of The Church in Jerusalem were met with the guy they didn't quite trust, Paul, as he was going out on his missionary trips, their instruction to him was to "remember the poor".  Which he did.

One of the most cluelessly ironic popular aphorisms in atheism is the physicist Steven Weinberg's

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Which, said by a man whose profession had given the world atomic and nuclear weapons,  a host of other armaments, nuclear pollution and the such, is among the richest hypocrisies ever uttered by a human tongue.  As Marilynne Robinson pointed out in her essay, Hysterical Scientism, mentioned above, most of the major figures in that effort were self-identified as atheists, working in a profession that atheists will proudly claim is mostly populated by atheists.

Hear Weinberg's address to Sean Carroll's "Moving Naturalism"  atheist discussion group on the question of morality which shows the universal acid of atheism at work and shows that it works on every atheist attempt to construct a new, scientific morality that is materialism safe.   And, in the end it elucidates the hypocrisy of his most famous aphorism.   At a telling point in his address  Weinberg reveals what his concept of atheist morality consists of, that he didn't care about the welfare of people except in his own family and his university department.   And he tells his fellow atheists that he thinks that's how they really think as well.  [Update:  As a contrast, look at the morals taught by Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5, especially beginning about verse 41,  and its universal character.  Compare it to Weinberg's based on his family relations and his professional interests, a morality that even the most immoral and depraved oligarch, monarch or genocidal dictator will practice.  Which do you think is more compatible with any liberalism that deserves the name?]

Atheism, in its hatred of moral obligation, in its hatred of God, is obviously willing to burn down anything that gets in the way of its program of destruction, including logical coherence and even the basis on which anything like "truth" has a real existence.  Truth as a product of human thought can't transcend being the mere product of material antecedents, chemistry and physics which it shares with non-truth without that quality of transcendence, something which cannot be the product of material causation.  The results of reacting sodium with water or an acid with a base do not result in one being truer than the other. One isn't true and the other false.  Without that transcendence of it being the mere product of material causation, it is no different from anything called "untruth" and no superior status would be more than preferences and other acts of material causation in the human mind. More about which if that first shoe I'm expecting drops.  Something which Weinberg seems to be as blithly unaware of as the irony of his "bad religion" comment, as he asserts that the truth does have a value which he seems to believe can be separated from the morality he's in the process of trashing as he claimed that.

*  For those who haven't read Haeckle, in a book Darwin endorsed, completely, as speaking for him, to the extent to which he said if he'd known Haeckel was writing it before he'd been well into writing his Descent of Man he'd have stopped writing his book because it said pretty much the same thing, here is only one of the passages relevant to my point.

I maintain with regard to the much-talked-of “purpose in nature,” that it really has no existence but for those persons who observe phenomena in animals and plants in the most superficial manner. Without going more deeply into the matter, we can see at once that the rudimentary organs are a formidable obstacle to this theory. And, indeed, everyone who makes a really close study of the organization and mode of life of the various animals and plants, and becomes familiar with the reciprocity or interaction of the phenomena of life, and the so-called “economy of nature,” must necessarily come to the conclusion that this “purposiveness” no more exists than the much-talked-of “beneficence” of the Creator. These optimistic views have, unfortunately, as little real foundation as the favourite phrase, the “moral order of the universe,” which is illustrated in an ironical way by the history of all nations. The dominion of the “moral” popes, and their pious inquisition, in the mediæval times, is not less significant of this than the present prevailing militarism, with its “moral” apparatus of needle-guns and other refined instruments of murder.

If we contemplate the common life and the mutual relations between plants and animals (man included), we shall find everywhere, and at all times, the very opposite of that kindly and peaceful social life which the goodness of the Creator ought to have prepared for his creatures—we shall 20 rather find everywhere a pitiless, most embittered Struggle of All against All. Nowhere in nature, no matter where we turn our eyes, does that idyllic peace, celebrated by the poets, exist; we find everywhere a struggle and a striving to annihilate neighbours and competitors. Passion and selfishness—conscious or unconscious—is everywhere the motive force of life. The well-known words of the German poet—

“Die Welt ist vollkommen überall
Wo der Mensch nicht hinkommt mit seiner Qual.”

[The world is all perfect except where man comes with his burden of woe.]

are beautiful, but, unfortunately, not true. Man in this respect certainly forms no exception to the rest of the animal world. The remarks which we shall have to make on the theory of “Struggle for Existence” will sufficiently justify this assertion. It is, in fact, Darwin who has placed this important point, in its high and general significance, very clearly before our eyes, and the chapter in his theory which he himself calls “Struggle for Existence” is one of the most important parts of it.

"Struggle for Existence" I will note, was the translation of Darwin's protegee and scientific colleague, Ray Lankester, so don't accuse me of the inevitable association of Darwin, through his endorsed follower, Haeckel, through Darwin's friend and scientific colleague, Lankester to Nazism that will inevitably spring to the informed mind.


  1. "Something which, I'll point out, is done in the education of many Jews and Christians, if there's one thing that those religions contain, it's self-questioning. If I'm not mistaken it's actually taught in many seminaries. Doubt and questioning of what a religious person believes is part of most of the non-fundamentalist religious thought I'm aware of, including some Buddhist sects."

    As I've mentioned before, the standing joke in seminaries is the devout student who leaves a committed atheist. Atheists think this is due to the superiority of their position, but they neglect the fact this is happening in a seminary, which ain't Bible college. It's the intellectual rigor of seminary that is the challenge. Seminary also exists to challenge, if not destroy, Sunday school versions of Christianity (no pastor needs to go into the pulpit with that nonsense in his/her head).

    Which, of course, is what atheists (I've run into a few on-line, Sam Harris is their standard bearer) declare is the only "true" religion (the Sunday school version), because "liberal" Christianity is not as easy to caricature as the Bible-thumper preaching hellfire and brimstone. Thus do they preach it round and square, all the while insisting the contradictions of Scripture are fatal to it's authority.

    Log in your eye, splinter in your brother's; it just goes on and on....

  2. And thanks for the Robinson review; I found a pirated copy rather easily.

    1. I should have added to make sure the theft is complete, I ran across one that cuts it off before the end.