One fewer anti-theist to take seriously

Most neo-atheists that I know tend to want to distance themselves from Hitchens – his blood runs a bit too hot.  They usually put forth Dennett and Dawkins as much more responsible spokesman for the ‘movement’.  

But in an article today on new atheism ads on London buses, Dawkins is quoted as saying, ‘This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.’

I know I am being reactionary here, but people that say stupid shit like that just don’t deserve to be taken seriously.  What a tired, clearly false, and frankly adolescent attitude.  Grow up, get over your juvenile soundbites about religion, and read something (Aquinas, Augustine, Kierkegaard, even Pope Benedict).  This attitude that atheists have a monopoly on ‘real thinking’ is just so ridiculous, so inane, and so obviously false that I have a hard time understanding how intelligent people like Dawkins can utter such things.  Guess what, not all Christians are anti-intellectual biblical literalists.  How stupid to think they are!  What I find so incredibly frustrating is the hordes of ‘free thinking’ atheists who lap up this sour milk from their prophets as if it were obvious truth.  

I’ll stop now.  In fact, I should probably sit the next couple plays out.

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About Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.

6 thoughts on “One fewer anti-theist to take seriously

  1. Blood and Ashes (Will)

    I agree here. I noted this article in my post on Harrison’s news clip where he became a pariah and caused the downfall of democracy, and I think its true that the dialog has greatly suffered in the public arena. Most ‘atheists’ I’ve known in my life have been of the variety Kleiner mentions here. They became atheists out of rebellion, or even more interestingly, out of a desire to become MORE like the Last Men (they want to smoke pot and play video games, religion asks more than that, so it must be oppressive and therefore not valid).
    The path for this came about I’d say after the Scientific Revolution, when deterministic Christianity was legitimately and thoughtfully argued against. It has, especially now when modern age thinking is supposed to be automatically superior to ‘primitive’ traditional authority (Kleiner has brought this up from Strauss I think, in our Republic class), created a reactionary mindset amongst many who are just seeking rebellion, that clearly religion must be oh so stupid, and now they have an avenue (Bill Maher I think follows this route). While smart athiests have distanced themselves from the clowns, sadly the religious side also bred reactionary zealouts, leading to those ridiculous chain letters about some student (usually Einstein) who valiantly puts down his ‘atheist’ (usually a science) Professor to the applause of his classmates and the cheering of Bible literalist fundamentalists (my Aunt Nancy is one of them).
    I agree that it is amazing that Dawkins, whom I’ve never read but have heard is of great repute, would say something of that nature. Even Carlin wasn’t that strong, and when he said something similar it was part of a narrative he was weaving. Its basically bathroom graffiti, scribbled up by some kid in a gang, notable perhaps for what it’s presence may imply but as deep as the ink itself. Its sad so many, particularly in my own Metalhead culture, lap it up like holy water.


  2. Anonymous Anti-Theist

    I take offense to what you say about atheists, and anti-theist. You are doing exactly what you are accusing US of. You are saying that all of us behave in such a bigot manner as say Hitchens does. Unfortunately ridding the world of religion does not rid the world of bigots. However, not all anti-theists or atheist call religious people, at least not fanatically religious people, ignorant or “stupid.” Most of us whenever clashing in a debate with a theist try to appeal to your intellect and understand where your need for religious belief comes from.

    On a further note I have read Aquinas, Augustine, and Pope Benedict. Frankly speaking they are all talented writers and Augustine has a particular gift in describing emotion but none of their arguments appeal to a scientific concept of the world. In fact Pope Benedict calls reason without god “perverse.” However saying somethings so doesn’t make it so (I don’t care if the pope says it’s so, who is he to judge), for that’s a fallacy of circular logic.

    Secondly, when Richard Dawkins says things like that keep in mind he is most likely referring to the nut job fundamentalist, and not intelligent people because obviously intelligent people do THINK.


  3. Kleiner Post author

    I never made the claim that all anti-theists or atheists behave in such a manner (in fact, I suggested precisely the opposite when I said that many of the anti-theists that I know personally try to distance themselves from the rhetoric that is too hot-blooded). I did suggest that the ‘hordes’ of anti-theist ‘disciples’ do act that way, and I’m still inclined to think that is true. We seem to disagree there. Fair enough, we are both just appealing to anecdotal evidence. I will confess to being a little unmoved by anyone being too offended here, particularly when anti-theists of even a rather moderate bent frequently use terms like ‘delusion’ to describe their foes. As you say, ridding the world of religion does not rid it of bigotry.

    I am glad you have read some of the great authors I mentioned. Clearly it is the case that intelligent people can disagree on these matters, this because it is far from patently obvious that God exists. I would quibble you with in that I think Aquinas and Benedict can appeal to a ‘scientific conception of the world’. Well, I suppose that depends on what you mean by that. If you mean materialism, scientism, and a denial of teleology, then they won’t look like allies. But it is far from clear to me that science must needs be materialist and anti-teleological (in fact, I think you can argue precisely the opposite, since it is the organization of matter that matters).

    Regarding Benedict’s claim that reason without God is perverse: He is too precise of a thinker to take things like that out of context, and it does not come immediately to mind what text you are referring to there. I suspect that he was arguing that reason that has no trajectory toward the transcendent is perverse in that it cannot address basic human questions about our origin, destiny, and meaning (and that is a pretty old argument, Plato and Aristotle both make it). It is a way of saying that reason must lose some of its alleged sovereignty if she is to accomplish her aims (that is, modern conceptions of reason need to be left behind, a very Heideggerian argument). It is worth noting that he almost invariably also argues, at the same time, that faith without reason gives rise to dangerous and violent fundamentalisms (hence his call for Islam to ‘Hellenize’). Anyway, I (and the Pope) would quite agree that ‘saying something is so does not make it so’. Benedict usually makes arguments, not mere assertions. If you want an argument for why reason must appeal to the transcendent, see Josef Pieper’s little gem: ‘Divine Madness, Plato’s Case Against Secular Humanism’. Pieper’s book ‘In Defense of Philosophy’ is also worth reading on this score.

    Last thing: I guess we could parse Dawkins words and read it as if he is just referring to ‘nut job’ fundamentalists. If his claim is that ‘fanatics’ need to make appeals to reason, well then he agrees with Pope Benedict! But the most obvious reading of the claim that ‘thinking is anathema to religion’ is that he is referring to religion per se, not just certain manifestations of it.

    Anyway, sorry to have offended. If you are more moderate in your tone with respect to theists and you actually read smart theism, I applaud you.


  4. Anonymous Anti-Theist

    I never understood those anti theists who jump down theists throats with vulgar insults and condescending tones. For that sort of behavior in itself is fanatical crude, and a gross misunderstanding of a civil approach to intellectual questioning of life and existence. Again, I know Dawkins was rather harsh in saying that “thinking is anathema to religion” because there is a whole field of philosophy devoted to questions of “beyond,” metaphysics, but I fear he has attracted the bigot attacks of fanatic religious folk and has become rather cynical about the intelligence of religious minds. I would love to watch him debate an intelligent metaphysical philosopher. I on behalf of civil anti theist around the world apologize for any bigots who spew our words on religious people like lunatics with anger issues. However, do note that some of those bigots might have become bigots as a reaction from other oppressive religious bigots. Unfortunately, it’s all a vicious cycle of clashing values and ideals that hopefully won’t go down the path that many religious clashes have throughout history. The only way to progress as species is to approach these very challenging questions of existence with calm rationality, and a respect towards each other especially when engaging a debate of such magnitude.


  5. Anonymous Anti-Theist

    Even Nietzsche who was always such a great critic (especially of religion) says:

    “We criticize a thinker more acutely when he advances a proposition that is disagreeable to us; and yet it would be more reasonable to do so when his proposition is agreeable to us.”

    We should be the harshest critics of our own ideals, for that is the best way to fortify or augment them. Then with a sharp and cordial mind should we pursue to enlighten another. However, if we so like blinded prisoners, of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, deem another mad and dangers for having a different concept of the world, then we are no better but worse off for it.


  6. Kleiner Post author

    Very gracious approach, Anonymous Anti-Theist. It goes without saying that some religious persons are plenty guilty when it comes to promoting dialogue that is less than civil. (I’m hardly perfect on this score, but I try. The post/rant up above was one of my more heated moments).



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