October 30, 2011

Is there such a thing as atheist fundamentalism?

One of the newer bloggers at Freethought Blogs tries to claim there isn't.

In the sense of a "creed," true, there might not be such a thing as atheists fundamentalists. But, in the sense of atheist evangelistic fervor, including willingness to misread/misinterpret polling data and other things, ohhhh, yes there is!

And, from P.Z. Myers on the sexuality of Gnu Atheists on to Penn Jillette, Al Stefanelli (who posted the linked story on Google Plus), Center for Inquiry and MANY others either ignorantly or else deliberately confounding/confusing "irreligious" with "atheist" on sociological polls, Gnus do exactly this An.

The specific column does its share of twisting in other ways.

1. Theistic evolution doesn't "deny" evolution. I personally think a deity is superfluous to the process, but, there's no way of PROVING that. And, if a proposed deity's interventions were generally on the rarer side, on the non-massive amount of change side, and especially if said deity weren't necessary omnipotent or omnibenevolent, wouldn't deny evolution at all.

2. It assumes that "fundamentalist Christianity" = "Christianity." Common, often deliberate, tactic of Gnus. Many liberal Christians (though perhaps still not often enough and forcefully enough) not only separate themselves from fundamentalists, but denounce their tactics and beliefs. And, no, Mr. Atheist Fundy, religious moderates and liberals do NOT accommodate them.

3. It assumes that "Western/Middle Eastern monotheism" = "religion." Given that Hindus plus Buddhists in the U.S. likely now outnumber Muslims and perhaps Jews, and given that, worldwide, Hindus plus Buddhists are approximately equal to Christians, this is a huge error. And, then, you have a Sam Harris multiplying the cheating by trying to claim Buddhism is "just a  psychology."

4. Like other Gnus, this one in particular is a fundamentalist, psychologically, for another reason - he's not open to discussion and argumentation beyond the straw person level.

And, that's why I don't engage Gnus too much myself. It's also why "atheist" is far and away from being my only philosophical self-descriptor, and why I can see "apatheist" has attractions for many.

That said, one commenter on the blog does correctly note Gnu Atheism as an "identity movement." Anyone who knows the sociology of identity movements knows that they often wind up headed to Trotskyist purity drives, a secular fundamentalism indeed. Trotskyist socialism itself as well as Randian economics are two clear examples from the 20th century, and yes, both are "fundamentalist" movements.


Camels With Hammers said...

There are two characters in that dialogue and they say different things. I do not directly say or deny anything. It's up for the reader to judge the arguments for themselves.

Gadfly said...

Perhaps true in a technical sense. But, as with Platonic, Galilean or Humean dialogues, the author can easily play favorites. And, the fact that you didn't reject the fallacious claim about Stalin, and the comment about debates being about "winning," that "justawriter" made, one could argue that you have played favorites, too, especially when one observes that you describe yourself in the sidebar as an atheist activist.

Gadfly said...

That said, I will give you credit for rejecting scientism, but many non-Gnus do that, too.

Camels With Hammers said...

It's amusing to be told what I think by someone else. Being an atheist activist, writing in a form that other writers use differently than I do, and agreeing with one thing one commenter says means that you can read my mind and tell me my views better than I can. Amusing.

I mean, I get that a reader can find things in something that the writer didn't intend to be there. But in this case, you're not saying what is in the dialogue, you're saying what I think. And, you're pretty far off the mark about my intentions and I'm betting pretty unfamiliar with the rest of my writing.

But go and lump me in with other thinkers by association, it makes for a nice hypocrisy considering your complaints.

Gadfly said...

First,I don't have a problem "lumping away." Most the atheism-focused bloggers on FTB, Ed excepted, with whom I am familiar, are Gnu-ish if not full-blown Gnu.

Second, you didn't directly address what I noted about past dialogues and authorial control.

Third, you didn't at all address the point I raised about the commenter, either here or on your blog post, about famous atheists of history.

When Stefanelli wrote a whole blog post about that a couple of months ago, I brought up the John Loftus is therefore also a Christian, if Stalin is, counterexample, and he didn't address it. He also (as no Gnu Atheist will) didn't address the issue of Mao, who never went to a Christian seminary or even a Christian kindergarten. (Or a Buddhist one.)

Point? The bottom line is that atheism is no guarantor of moral superiority. Period.