What with Dawkin’s and Hitchen’s writing tired tomes on the virtues of Atheisms (I’m neither a theist nor an atheist) other writers are entering the fray (or having their books translated into the lingua de jour). Michel Onfray’s ‘In Defense of Atheism’ is the latest and reviews are mixed. I was, however, quite taken with the review in ‘The New Humanist’ which went on to ask actual philosophers what they thought of the text. Julian Baggini commented thusly:
However, he still neglects the moderate â€œdogma-liteâ€ versions of religion that most people actually follow, claiming that these are no more than pick-and-mix dilutions of the true faith. That is, I think, a weakness he shares with many atheists. In a way, we have a more fundamentalist view of religion than most believers, because we insist to truly be a believer, you have to swallow a whole lot of doctrine, and that anyone who doesnâ€™t is just following a â€œwishy-washyâ€, not entirely bona fide religion.
I think he hits upon a very important point; I’ve yet to meet an evangelical atheist (including converts) who doesn’t engage in the near mischaracterisation ofÂ religious belief as fundamentalism. It’s a very strange move (such evangelists wouldn’t tolerate anti-scientists micharacterising modern physics as being about the pudding bowl model, for example) and its probably why atheism isn’t gaining friends in high places (which it probably should; a great deal of the wrongs in our society are perpetrated in the name of religious belief; rob politicians of that crutch and you can just attack them for being immoral prats).
The other thing of note in the linked review is the solicited comment by a non-philosopher (and blogger) Doug Ireland. I’m hesitant to make this point (I will, though, because I’m amongst friends) but I suspect Doug treats Onfray as an intellectual in the way that ‘Libertarians,’ such as Cresswell and Perigo, treat Ayn Rand as an intellectual.
You all know what I mean.
1. I’m also hesitant to make the point because Onfray is an actual philosopher. It just seems that he’s also a populist who is fond of overly simplifying his philosophy for easy consumption.
So, emotive language is now apparently something we should not be using when defending Science, Philosophy, proper Theology and so forth. Or, at least, this is what the people at ‘The Briefing Room’ seem to think. In this post, on Atheism, Dawkins is criticised for being emotive and all the atheistic commentators seem to have been told to come back when their emotional laden statements have been tempered with Christian righteousness.Now, I am neither a fan of Dawkin’s take on religion and nor am I entirely sure that atheism doesn’t, in some way, count as a religion. On the latter point I’ll just gesture at a previous post and I’ll also add that even if you don’t think atheism is a religion you have to admit that some atheists treat it as such (I have met as many irrational atheists as I have met irrational Christians, and I spent a very long time in Roman Catholicism, which is saying something). As for Dawkin’s; well, the latest e-Skeptic had a great article that somewhat supports part of why I think Dawkin’s is utterly and incredibly wrong in ‘The God Delusion.’ Basically, Dawkin’s view that group selection is the wrong way to talk about evolution is out-dated; once we allow that natural selection affects both genes and populations (dependent on context) then we can tell evolutionary stories about why religions might well be adaptive strategies (and thus it may well be that there is a god illusion but it isn’t proper to refer to it as a delusion).Still, irregardless of all of that, the people at ‘The Briefing Room’ have entirely the wrong end of the stick. Scientists are allowed to be emotional in their language use; it may well be a bad move in an academic paper to go all poetic or to show a certain degree of anger about a bad view being entrenched, but in a book or article, for lay public consumption, emotional, even flowery language is more than just okay; it is bloody necessary! Scientists, whether natural or social, need to engage the public, and as long as they back up everything they say with reason and evidence a little anger or joy is not misplaced. The commentator on the ‘Atheism’ thread at ‘The Briefing Room’ irrationally dismisses ‘The God Delusion’ for containing emotional language, admitting that he simply skimmed the book. Had he actually read it he would have found that a) Dawkin’s backs up his emotion with reason and b) once those reasons are made clear it is fairly easy to show that Dawkin’s really has no idea what he is talking about. He has taken a form of Christianity, generalised it not just to all Christianity but all religious belief, and then performed a Strawman. No wonder the rest of the academic community (with a few unusual exceptions) has taken little time to critique him; he just isn’t engaging with the literature on religion as it currently stands.The moral to this story is simple. So simple I’m not even going to assert it.–1. i.e. The role of god might well be fictional but useful (thus, illusionary), rather than fictional and disadvantageous (thus, delusional).2. ‘Irregardless’ means the same thing as ‘regardless’ and is now thought to be an unnecessary addition to your everyday lexicon. I disgree; irregardless of ‘irregardless’ being unnecessary I shall continue to use it. Indeed, I plan to resurrect it; use it in your blog post today! 3. I usually avoid exclamation marks like the plague, but I deemed that one necessary. Â Â Â
Seeing that it’s Easter it seems timely to dicuss religion, if only because I feel guilty (Catholic-flavour) for not having posted anything recently (if only I could get my OCR software to work on the new iMac).
So religion. People seem to be bandying the term about a lot, at the moment. Atheism as religion, Science as religion. Consumerism = religion. Naturally, a lot of people are upset by this; no one wants their belief system equated with ye olde oppressive Christianity. Continue reading