A question of succession

54


Discussion by: MrJB

Maybe succession isn't the right word, and maybe this sounds like a silly question, but I've been wondering where the younger spokesmen are for the subjects that men like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens have been reveling us in for all this time? Maybe I have not come into contact with them because I havn't looked enough, in which case I hope to be enlightenend here about their presence. It's something that has been on my mind ever since the passing of Mr Hitchens, and I can't stop but fear what would happen if there are none to take their active places, especially in this time when truth seems to be being attacked from all directions.

 

Thank you for your replies.

J

54 COMMENTS

  1. Well, atheism is not a priesthood. There is no secret knowledge to transmit to initiates. When our heroes eventually pass on, the a new generation will just evolve to suit the need of said generation.

    • In reply to #1 by adiroth:

      Well, atheism is not a priesthood.

      You can say anything you want about atheism not being a priesthood, but the exact cause the question came up to begin with, it precisely so, atheists look toward popular atheists as priests. You can say it a hundred times over and over that atheism is not a priesthood, but as long as atheists like the initial poster of this thread ask questions like these, they still view it as a priesthood, and this fact cannot be changed. Many atheists see this subconsciously as a priesthood, despite your wishes to define atheism as a non priesthood, it IS a priesthood in practice to many, many atheists.

      • In reply to #26 by RealityVisible:

        In reply to #1 by adiroth:

        Well, atheism is not a priesthood.

        You can say anything you want about atheism not being a priesthood, but the exact cause the question came up to begin with, it precisely so, atheists look toward popular atheists as priests. You can say it a hundred times over and over that atheism is not a priesthood, but as long as atheists like the initial poster of this thread ask questions like these, they still view it as a priesthood, and this fact cannot be changed. Many atheists see this subconsciously as a priesthood, despite your wishes to define atheism as a non priesthood, it IS a priesthood in practice to many, many atheists.

        Dawkins is simply a notable spokesperson who campaigns against religious privilege in the political sphere and writes books criticizing religion. A priesthood holds ultimate moral and spiritual authority for their followers to the point of worship and veneration in big and elaborate rituals that are meant to reinforce faith. The current issue is whether anyone else will continue the public campaign as competently or as effectively as Dawkins et al. will, no ceremony or spiritual/moral authority required, because not many people have had the same impact in the atheist movement as he has had. If they “look towards popular atheists”, it’s because those atheists represent them briefly in debates, rallies, and public discourse which they themselves either can’t get involved in or won’t get involved in. Furthermore, none of them have to agree with anything he says as though he were infallible.

        Unless you have a ridiculously loose definition of “priesthood”, your analogy fails.

        • In reply to #27 by Zeuglodon:

          In reply to #26 by RealityVisible:

          In reply to #1 by adiroth:

          Well, atheism is not a priesthood.

          You can say anything you want about atheism not being a priesthood, but the exact cause the question came up to begin with, it precisely so, atheists look toward popular atheists as priests. You can say it a hundred times over and over that atheism is not a priesthood, but as long as atheists like the initial poster of this thread ask questions like these, they still view it as a priesthood, and this fact cannot be changed. Many atheists see this subconsciously as a priesthood, despite your wishes to define atheism as a non priesthood, it IS a priesthood in practice to many, many atheists.

          Dawkins is simply a notable spokesperson who campaigns against religious privilege in the political sphere and writes books criticizing religion. A priesthood holds ultimate moral and spiritual authority for their followers to the point of worship and veneration in big and elaborate rituals that are meant to reinforce faith. The current issue is whether anyone else will continue the public campaign as competently or as effectively as Dawkins et al. will, no ceremony or spiritual/moral authority required, because not many people have had the same impact in the atheist movement as he has had. If they “look towards popular atheists”, it’s because those atheists represent them briefly in debates, rallies, and public discourse which they themselves either can’t get involved in or won’t get involved in. Furthermore, none of them have to agree with anything he says as though he were infallible.

          Unless you have a ridiculously loose definition of “priesthood”, your analogy fails.

          I’m lucky I don’t have to define priesthood, as I wrote in my previous post, many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

          If we take this even deeper, of course there have to be some of them who do not have a clear view of what atheism is, all groups have these people who are not entirely sure what they are doing. It’s not an exception, it is rather a rule, that any group consisting of millions of people is never perfect, it cannot be completely unified to a hundred percent, I’d personally be surprised if it even came to 10%.

          A completely unified group of people is a people who have all the same experience in life, all the same knowledge in life and all the same wishes and goals in life. This cannot happen and to a large degree, in practice it is not even close to happening, that is why we see a great variety of people in any group.

          You can create a large group of people based on a very simple idea, but as you complicate the idea, the group will split, the split can be invisible and visible.

          • In reply to #29 by RealityVisible:

            I’m lucky I don’t have to define priesthood

            If you use a word, then I want to see you know what you’re talking about, otherwise you just look like you’re waffling in a vague and half-hearted attempt to accuse atheists of being “no better than religionists”. If you’re going to use the word “priesthood” in what appears to be an analogous fashion rather than a literal one, and then refuse to define it so that anyone can judge the strength of the analogy, you’re being both a sloppy thinker and a dishonest mud-slinger. So answer the question or kill any confidence anyone can have in your point: what’s your definition of priesthood in this context?

          • In reply to #30 by Zeuglodon:

            In reply to #29 by RealityVisible:

            If you use a word, then I want to see you know what you’re talking about, otherwise you just look like you’re waffling in a vague and half-hearted attempt to accuse atheists of being “no better than religionists”. If you’re going to use the word “priesthood” in what appears to be an analogous fashion rather than a literal one, and then refuse to define it so that anyone can judge the strength of the analogy, you’re being both a sloppy thinker and a dishonest mud-slinger. So answer the question or kill any confidence anyone can have in your point: what’s your definition of priesthood in this context?

            If you are going to be literal, then let me cancel everything you say right away.

            Number 1: “Waffling” has got nothing to do with logic, cookies belong in a bakery.
            Number 2: “Half hearted” is not a real definition of anything.
            Number 3: “no better” is a relative term and has nothing at all to do with anything, unless described further
            Number 4: There is no such thing as a “sloppy thinker”, there are just thinkers.
            Number 5: “mud-slinger” is not a word at all.
            Number 6: “kill confidence” is not a civil way to explain anything at all, whatever you mean by this.

            Now, you better understand the word priesthood, when you finally came to understand that social interraction, can actually be understood if you have the will to do it.

            My last comment to you, everything that is literal builds on what was not literal, literal is not a measurement of what it was meant to describe, but some people use descriptions to overrule what it actually reflects. Beware and be always on alert that there comes a time when surplus components of a literal definition expands beyond the definition itself.

            :)

          • In reply to #31 by RealityVisible:

            If you are going to be literal, then let me cancel everything you say right away.
            Now, you better understand the word priesthood, when you finally came to understand that social interraction, can actually be understood if you have the will to do it.

            Right. If you’re going to be a smart-alec troll:

            Number 1: “Waffling” has got nothing to do with logic, cookies belong in a bakery.

            Waffling: to speak or write in a vague or wordy manner

            Number 2: “Half hearted” is not a real definition of anything.

            Half-hearted: without enthusiasm or determination

            Number 3: “no better” is a relative term and has nothing at all to do with anything, unless described further

            In the absence of specific qualities, the default definition of describing someone as better than somebody else is to rank them according to moral superiority or rightness. In context, this usually means that someone is claiming to have the right to consider themselves more worthy of attention, protection, impunity, etc. than someone else.

            Number 4: There is no such thing as a “sloppy thinker”, there are just thinkers.

            Sloppy: careless and untidy. In context, a sloppy thinker is someone whose thinking is both inaccurate and uses fallacious logic, showing no sign of being carefully structured.

            Number 5: “mud-slinger” is not a word at all.

            Mud-Slinger: one who casts malicious slurs on an opponent.

            Number 6: “kill confidence” is not a civil way to explain anything at all, whatever you mean by this.

            To kill: to cause the death of, or more generally to put an end to, something.

            There, that took about one minute with a dictionary.

            So, less of the “I’ll pretend to be an idiot in order to distract you” act. I notice you’re still not giving me a definition of priesthood to justify what presumably is your “good” analogy between atheists and religious people, and the ones my dictionary gives don’t seem to fit RD at all, since all of them involve religious authorities of some kind. I’m not doing your intellectual work for you.

          • In reply to #29 by RealityVisible:

            Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

            Do they?

            I’m an atheist. How do you know what goes on in my subconscious? Ah, but you can ‘clearly see the effects’, as you say. Of course. What are these effects?

            I’m interested to read more about the research you have done on this.

          • _In reply to #32 by bob<em>e_s:</em>

            In reply to #29 by RealityVisible:

            Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

            Do they?

            I’m an atheist. How do you know what goes on in my subconscious? Ah, but you can ‘clearly see the effects’, as you say. Of course. What are these effects?

            I’m interested to read more about the research you have done on this.

            Psychoanalysis is not a new topic, you can begin with sigmund freud. The only side of humans that DOESN’T lie, is psychoanalysis. And surprise surprise, the ONLY side of the human that do lie, is the conscious side, because it reflects all of which it does not understand, so lies are not necessarily intentious, they are most of the time unintentional. :)

            I try to understand people not from their words, but from what I can get out of their words, always and people always have to do that. Words are meaningless in psychoanalysis, if you say you’re an atheist, I would most definitely have to rely in psychoanalysis.

            You’re an atheist in a non plural form btw.

          • In reply to #36 by RealityVisible:

            In reply to #32 by bobes:

            In reply to #29 by RealityVisible:

            Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

            Do they?

            I’m an atheist. How do you know what goes on in my subconscious? Ah, but you can ‘clearly see the effects’, as you say. Of course. What are these effects?

            I’m interested to read more about the research you have done on this.

            Psychoanalysis is not a new topic, you can begin with sigmund freud. The only side of humans that DOESN’T lie, is psychoanalysis. And surprise surprise, the ONLY side of the human that do lie, is the conscious side, because it reflects all of which it does not understand, so lies are not necessarily intentious, they are most of the time unintentional. :)

            I’m aware of what psychoanalysis is, and it begs 2 further questions:-

            1. What could detail could your remote psychoanalytic assessment provide about my (or anyone else’s) specific subconscious feelings about ‘popular atheists’?
            2. What hard scientific evidence can you offer on the general effectiveness on the success of psychoanalysis as a principle?

            By the way, you didn’t answer my question about the effects that can be seen. I’ll wait for your reply eagerly.

            Rob

          • _In reply to #38 by bob<em>e_s:</em>

            In reply to #36 by RealityVisible:

            In reply to #32 by bobes:

            In reply to #29 by RealityVisible:

            Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

            Do they?

            I’m an atheist. How do you know what goes on in my subconscious? Ah, but you can ‘clearly see the effects’, as you say. Of course. What are these effects?

            I’m interested to read more about the research you have done on this.

            Psychoanalysis is not a new topic, you can begin with sigmund freud. The only side of humans that DOESN’T lie, is psychoanalysis. And surprise surprise, the ONLY side of the human that do lie, is the conscious side, because it reflects all of which it does not understand, so lies are not necessarily intentious, they are most of the time unintentional. :)

            I’m aware of what psychoanalysis is, and it begs 2 further questions:-

            What could detail could your remote psychoanalytic assessment provide about my (or anyone else’s) specific subconscious feelings about ‘popular atheists’?
            What hard scientific evidence can you offer on the general effectiveness on the success of psychoanalysis as a principle?

            By the way, you didn’t answer my question about the effects that can be seen. I’ll wait for your reply eagerly.

            Rob

            To be quite honest about the effects, it would be a very technical explanation. One thing I can assure you, is that whatever your subconscious builds upon, it is going to manifest into words and actions. Let there be no mistake here, but finding yourself is something that is manifested somewhat differently, people will not find themselves very easily, and that is exactly why psychoanalysis is such a contributing branch in science.

            If you ask the “exact effects” of why some atheists tend to move toward that way, then you are basically asking me to explain all of my knowledge in the field and it can take a heck of a long time. I could give you parts, but all parts is a piece of the whole and you would still need more understanding.

            Some people believe that science is all about reading a few chapter here and there, but some parts of reality can only be understood best when you have had enough time to digest the information you can get your hands to. You just have to have more time, is my advice for you.

            I say this to you, at a level of understanding, from my impression of your current understanding of reality, is mediocre, I’m being blatantly honest here based on my analysis of your words. No kidding, if you want to me to go into technical details where you are lacking, I can do that, but you would first have to give me permissions

          • In reply to #40 by RealityVisible:

            To be quite honest about the effects, it would be a very technical explanation. One thing I can assure you, is that whatever your subconscious builds upon, it is going to manifest into words and actions. Let there be no mistake here, but finding yourself is something that is manifested somewhat differently, people will not find themselves very easily, and that is exactly why psychoanalysis is such a contributing branch in science.

            If you ask the “exact effects” of why some atheists tend to move toward that way, then you are basically asking me to explain all of my knowledge in the field and it can take a heck of a long time. I could give you parts, but all parts is a piece of the whole and you would still need more understanding.

            Some people believe that science is all about reading a few chapter here and there, but some parts of reality can only be understood best when you have had enough time to digest the information you can get your hands to. You just have to have more time, is my advice for you.

            I say this to you, at a level of understanding, from my impression of your current understanding of reality, is mediocre, I’m being blatantly honest here based on my analysis of your words. No kidding, if you want to me to go into technical details where you are lacking, I can do that, but you would first have to give me permissions

            I don’t know what the relevance is of my understanding of science, or my method of research has on this topic, or the specific question in hand. This was (lest you’ve forgotten) how you could support this statement:-

            “Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.”

            So, leaving your ad hominem and completely irrelevant and unfounded counterarguments aside, I think it would be of great interest for you to try and summarise your ‘very technical’ explanation. I am sure your intellect is towering, but perhaps if you give us a glimpse, we will learn something.

            Also, as you are willing to be ‘blatantly honest’ about my lack of understanding of reality, I’m willing to give you the permission to share some of these technical details. Knock yourself out. I’ll score you out of 10.

          • _In reply to #43 by bob_e_s;

            Also, as you are willing to be ‘blatantly honest’ about my lack of understanding of reality, I’m willing to give you the permission to share some of these technical details. Knock yourself out.

            I’ll score you out of 10.

            How good are you at counting zeros and decimal places Bob?

          • In reply to #52 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #43 by bobe_s;

            Also, as you are willing to be ‘blatantly honest’ about my lack of understanding of reality, I’m willing to give you the permission to share some of these technical details. Knock yourself out.

            I’ll score you out of 10.

            How good are you at counting zeros and decimal places, Bob?

            One big fat zero so far. I wanted to be psychoanalysed!

          • In reply to #36 by RealityVisible:

            Psychoanalysis is not a new topic, you can begin with sigmund freud.

            Freud it now seems, is sufficiently outdated and discredited, to be quoted in the vague, undefined, rambling obscurity, of psycho-woo and pseudo-psychology! – A bit like the failed philosophers and alchemists of old!

            @ RealityVisible: – Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

            Can you cite an academic study supporting this claim, or did you just make it up?

            Leading scientists do not even remotely resemble priests. Their thinking processes are entirely different.

          • In reply to #41 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #36 by RealityVisible:

            Psychoanalysis is not a new topic, you can begin with sigmund freud.

            Freud it now seems, is sufficiently outdated and discredited, to be quoted in the vague, undefined, rambling obscurity, of psycho-woo and pseudo-psychology! – A bit like the failed philosophers and alchemists of old!

            @ RealityVisible: – Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

            Can you cite an academic study supporting this claim, or did you just make it up?

            Leading scientists do not even remotely resemble priests. Their thinking processes are entirely different.

            In reply to #41 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #36 by RealityVisible:

            Psychoanalysis is not a new topic, you can begin with sigmund freud.

            Freud it now seems, is sufficiently outdated and discredited, to be quoted in the vague, undefined, rambling obscurity, of psycho-woo and pseudo-psychology! – A bit like the failed philosophers and alchemists of old!

            @ RealityVisible: – Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

            Can you cite an academic study supporting this claim, or did you just make it up?

            An academic study would not be usable if the results were not perfectly defined yet not entirely unmistakable, you are asking the wrong questions.

            Leading scientists do not even remotely resemble priests. Their thinking processes are entirely different.

            Scientists do not follow thinking processes, they follow scientific methods and the very reason we have scientific methods is so that we don’t have to deal with differently thinking scientists. In theories we have thinking scientists, but theory is not science, only a potential model to be implemented later by using the scientific method, which has nothing to do with thinking, but all to do with testing and following specific elementary rules.

          • In reply to #42 by RealityVisible:

            @ RealityVisible: – Many atheists view popular atheists as priests subconsciously, subconsciously means in this case that it’s not perfectly defined, but it’s not entirely unmistakable either, you can clearly see the effect with many many atheists.

            Can you cite an academic study supporting this claim, or did you just make it up?

            An academic study would not be usable if the results were not perfectly defined yet not entirely unmistakable, you are asking the wrong questions.

            Err no! I am asking the right questions, but getting evasive wrong answers.
            I’ll take it that you are not citing a peer-reviewed academic study, but are just offering a speculative personal opinion, for which you have produced no evidence.

            Leading scientists do not even remotely resemble priests. Their thinking processes are entirely different.

            Scientists do not follow thinking processes, they follow scientific methods

            This, as a false dichotomy, is simply wrong!
            Scientific methods involve disciplined thought processes and logical reasoning.

            and the very reason we have scientific methods is so that we don’t have to deal with differently thinking scientists.

            Err no! We have scientific methods because they give the most consistently reliable answers available.

            In theories we have thinking scientists, but theory is not science, only a potential model to be implemented later by using the scientific method, which has nothing to do with thinking, but all to do with testing and following specific elementary rules.

            This really is confused nonsense!

            Scientific theory is a core element of science, which would have been confirmed (Not fully proven) by testing prior to reaching the status of a scientific theory.. Theorising involves a great deal of disciplined thinking.

            >
            scientific theory – a theory that can be tested and potentially disproved; failure to disprove or refute it increases confidence in it, but it cannot be considered as proven.

            It is only one step below scientific laws.
            It has a great deal to do with evidenced rational thinking, to match testable theory to reality as closely as possible.

            BTW: This is a science site, where some people have studied psychology, and do know the difference between psychology and bullshit!

  2. I think there are many wonderful speakers out there right now – one of my favorites is Hemant Mehta. I also admire speakers like Seth Andrews and listening to Eugenie Scott speak passionately for science education is a wonderful experience as well. Leo Igwe is another one of my heroes, for his work against witchcraft accusations.

    Every person is going to have a different way of presenting their viewpoint and a different way of encouraging others. I believe this is only to our benefit, and will only increase effectiveness and reach a larger audience. I don’t think we should look for carbon copies of others.

  3. There isn’t any problem I can see. There are young adults all over who are fighting against the intrusions of religion. They are all quite able to express themselves succinctly while not allowing themselves to be bullied by fundaMENTALists. I see a bright future as these young people age and educate themselves. They can already hold their own in a debate so it isn’t a very long road to the point where they are destroying the arguments of religidiots with the ease of a spider catching a fly. The people who should be worried are the fundies themselves. There is a shrinking pool of gullibilty in the world and even less patience for absolutism and intentional ignorance.

  4. I think that’s a good question, which might also be a good way to gather a useful list of searchable names that some of us might not have heard before. To start the ball rolling, and in no particular order:

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, P Z Myers, Lawrence Krauss, D J Grothe, Todd Stiefel, Peter Boghossian, Jim Al-Khalili, Zack Kopplin, Michael Shermer

  5. Well this article was in the Spectator recently suggesting that the younger voices, or successors, are far more objective. How serious it is I don’t know, but I do think the older guard have stopped listening and stopped being as rational as they once were because of that.

    It was a religious friend brought this article to my attention and he said the moderate religious are far more worried about this newer more objective stance than they ever were by Dawkins. And looking forward to the debate more as it will actually challenge them and force them to think through their beliefs.

    Anyway here is the bulk of the article.

    Atheism is still with us. But the movement that threatened to form has petered out. Crucially, atheism’s younger advocates are reluctant to compete for the role of Dawkins’s disciple. They are more likely to bemoan the new atheist approach and call for large injections of nuance. A good example is the pop-philosopher Julian Baggini. He is a stalwart atheist who likes a bit of a scrap with believers, but he’s also able to admit that religion has its virtues, that humanism needs to learn from it. For example, he has observed that a sense of gratitude is problematically lacking in secular culture, and suggested that humanists should consider ritual practices such as fasting. This is also the approach of the pop-philosopher king, Alain de Botton. His recent book Religion for Atheists rejects the ‘boring’ question of religion’s truth or falsity, and calls for ‘a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts’. If you can take his faux-earnest prose style, he has some interesting insights into religion’s basis in community, practice, habit.

    And liberal punditry has softened. Polly Toynbee’s younger sisters, so to speak, are wary of seeing all of religion as a misogynist plot. When Zoe Williams attacks religious sexism or homophobia she resists the temptation to widen the attack and imply that all believers are dunces or traitors. Likewise Tanya Gold recently ridiculed the idea of religion as a force for evil. ‘The idea of my late church-going mother-in-law beating homosexuals or instituting a pogrom is obviously ridiculous, although she did help with jumble sales and occasionally church flowers

    All these writers admirably refuse to lapse into a comfortably sweeping ideology that claims the moral high ground for unbelief. Life’s complicated, they admit. Institutional religion might be dubious, but plenty of its servants buck that trend with a flair that puts secular culture to shame. To adapt a Katharine Hepburn line, the time to make up your mind about religion is never.

    In these pages Douglas Murray recently recounted debating alongside Richard Dawkins and being embarrassed by the crudity of his approach. Murray is not one of life’s fence-sitters: it must have occurred to him that atheism has polemical possibilities that would suit him rather well. But he has the sense to turn down the role of the new Christopher Hitchens. A polemical approach to religion has swung out of fashion. In fact, admitting that religion is complicated has become a mark of sophistication. Andrew Brown of the Guardian has played a role in this shift: he’s a theologically literate agnostic who is scornful of crude atheist crusading, and who sometimes ponders his own attraction to religion. On a more academic level, the philosopher John Gray has had an influence: he is sceptical of all relics of Enlightenment optimism, including the atheist’s faith in reason.

    What, if anything, do these newer atheists have to say? In previous generations, the atheist was keen to insist that non-believers can be just as moral as believers. These days, this is more or less taken for granted. What distinguishes the newer atheist is his admission that non-believers can be just as immoral as believers. Rejecting religion is no sure path to virtue; it is more likely to lead to complacent self-regard, or ideological arrogance.

    • In reply to #5 by atheistengineer:

      Well this article was in the Spectator recently suggesting that the younger voices, or successors, are far more objective. How serious it is I don’t know, but I do think the older guard have stopped listening and stopped being as rational as they once were because of that.

      The way I see it, the vanguards of our struggle occupy a necessary and invaluable position. I disliked the article. As to the OP’s question, Prof. Boghossian is a name I’ve been watching. I particularly like his statement that faith is a cognitive illness.

      Mike

    • In reply to #5 by atheistengineer:

      Well this article was in the Spectator recently suggesting that the younger voices, or successors, are far more objective. How serious it is I don’t know, but I do think the older guard have stopped listening and stopped being as rational as they once were because of that.

      The “old guard does not give much credence to fudgists and apoligists!

      It was a religious friend brought this article to my attention and he said the moderate religious are far more worried about this newer more objective stance than they ever were by Dawkins.

      That sounds like a religious argument. – fudge, compromise, and theist style muddled thinking are “more rational”!

      Anyway here is the bulk of the article.

      Atheism is still with us. But the movement that threatened to form has petered out. Crucially, atheism’s younger advocates are reluctant to compete for the role of Dawkins’s disciple. They are more likely to bemoan the new atheist approach and call for large injections of nuance.

      This is pure reverse projection strawman! Nobody suggested becoming “Dawkins desciples.

      A good example is the pop-philosopher Julian Baggini.

      Who ???????

      He is a stalwart atheist who likes a bit of a scrap with believers, but he’s also able to admit that religion has its virtues, that humanism needs to learn from it. For example, he has observed that a sense of gratitude is problematically lacking in secular culture, and suggested that humanists should consider ritual practices such as fasting.

      Yep! That sounds just like a confused apologist or Poe!

      This is also the approach of the pop-philosopher king, Alain de Botton.

      They really are digging out the apologist book sellers!

      His recent book Religion for Atheists rejects the ‘boring’ question of religion’s truth or falsity,

      Those facts really do get in the way of apologist thinking!

      and calls for ‘a selective reverence for religious rituals and concepts’. If you can take his faux-earnest prose style, he has some interesting insights into religion’s basis in community, practice, habit.

      “I’m an athiest but I like my wooooo”! Please theists buy my book!!

      And liberal punditry has softened. Polly Toynbee’s younger sisters, so to speak, are wary of seeing all of religion as a misogynist plot. When Zoe Williams attacks religious sexism or homophobia she resists the temptation to widen the attack and imply that all believers are dunces or traitors.

      More strawmanning!

      Likewise Tanya Gold recently ridiculed the idea of religion as a force for evil. ‘The idea of my late church-going mother-in-law beating homosexuals or instituting a pogrom is obviously ridiculous, although she did help with jumble sales and occasionally church flowers

      Yep! The traditional cherry-picked side track! Never mind the real damage religions do with dogmas in politics, anti-science, anti-reason, paedophilia, and discrimination against non-members – Look at this harmless old lady as a(n un)typical example!

      All these writers admirably refuse to lapse into a comfortably sweeping ideology that claims the moral high ground for unbelief.

      Yep! A really good bunch of apologist theist-stooges who can denigrate strawman secularism and praise theism!

      Life’s complicated, they admit. Institutional religion might be dubious,

      .. they say with head in sand!

      but plenty of its servants buck that trend with a flair that puts secular culture to shame.

      ..And just like good fundamentalists, make up strawman, disparaging assertions, to contrast with the “faulty trends” they have just swept under the carpet and dismissed.

      To adapt a Katharine Hepburn line, the time to make up your mind about religion is never.

      Join the posturing befuddled fudgists!!!!

      In these pages Douglas Murray recently recounted debating alongside Richard Dawkins and being embarrassed by the crudity of his approach.

      Ha! ha! ha!

      Murray is not one of life’s fence-sitters: it must have occurred to him that atheism has polemical possibilities that would suit him rather well. But he has the sense to turn down the role of the new Christopher Hitchens.

      Ha! ha! ha!

      A polemical approach to religion has swung out of fashion. In fact, admitting that religion is complicated has become a mark of sophistication. Andrew Brown of the Guardian has played a role in this shift: he’s a theologically literate agnostic who is scornful of crude atheist crusading, and who sometimes ponders his own attraction to religion.

      There are people (apart from atheists) who are theologically literate???? This sounds like more journalistic fiction!

      On a more academic level, the philosopher John Gray has had an influence: he is sceptical of all relics of Enlightenment optimism, including the atheist’s faith in reason.

      The apologists limited grasp of reason is well known!

      What, if anything, do these newer atheists have to say? In previous generations, the atheist was keen to insist that non-believers can be just as moral as believers. These days, this is more or less taken for granted.

      More crap! Non believers are generally better educated and MORE moral if figures on the prison populations are to be believed! I would hope that modern atheists would not wish to be as immoral as religious dogmatists!

      What distinguishes the newer atheist is his admission that non-believers can be just as immoral as believers. Rejecting religion is no sure path to virtue; it is more likely to lead to complacent self-regard, or ideological arrogance.

      This is just an ignorant bigoted crap-head, who has presented stuff from a bunch of apologists, – with their straw atheist ramblings, complimented by just making strawman stuff up!

    • In reply to #5 by atheistengineer:

      Well this article was in the Spectator recently suggesting that the younger voices, or successors, are far more objective. How serious it is I don’t know, but I do think the older guard have stopped listening and stopped being as rational as they once were because of that.

      It was a religious friend brought this article to my attention and he said the moderate religious are far more worried about this newer more objective stance than they ever were by Dawkins. And looking forward to the debate more as it will actually challenge them and force them to think through their beliefs.

      Anyway here is the bulk of the article.

      Atheism is still with us……..

      Here we see a new twist on an old phenomenon. Concern trolling +, or faux noncommittal concern trolling – an even more insidiously passive aggressive form of concern trolling: “Well this article (no no no no, not me, the article) was in the Spectator recently suggesting (no no no no no, they’re not making any claims they’re merely making a {as noncommittal as mine} suggestion ). How serious it is I don’t know, (no no no, really, I don’t have any idea, I have no opinion either way – that’s why I’m posting this for you guys to help me decide) but I do think the older guard have stopped listening and stopped being as rational as they once were because of that.”

      “It was a religious friend brought this article to my attention” (it would have otherwise never even occurred to me {regardless of the number of comments of similar sentiment that I’ve posted on other threads} that there was an issue, I’m so thankful he did, it gave me a chance to warn you guys, you know , just in case it might be serious).

      As to the article: it is useful as a compendium to show the epidemic proportions being reached by one of the most toxic and destructive phenomena that has been infecting “our” side -which first surfaced in a big way publicly at the Beyond Belief conference in 2006: handwringing about the “stridency” of the “new atheists”. Initially engaged in honestly by e.g. Neil deGrasse Tyson who legitimately brought it up as a tactical matter, it has since mushroomed into a vehicle for bottom feeding C list intellectuals to parasitically boost their ratings by getting themselves named in the same sentence with the A list celebrity “new atheist” public intellectuals by bashing them.

      Let us be clear: it is precisely this stridency, the unflinching stare down of the falsehood of religion and any other manifestation of woo for that matter, that has brought the movement to where it is now. History is studded with the stars of brilliant minds who have made the same observations, but they did so in isolation, not with a deliberate collective intent to drive religion into the corner it belongs: the trash heap of history.

      As to the topic of this thread – “younger spokesmen”, beyond our Anglo-centric orbit, Michael Schmidt-Salomon, in the German language media typically announced as Germany’s “Chief Atheist.”, is the real deal.

      • In reply to #10 by godsbuster:

        In reply to #5 by atheistengineer:

        Silly article, and when you look at the meat of what’s written, almost meaningless. ‘There are some people who say some things’.
        I fail to see how you can be a scientist (particularly in the field of biology) and NOT be motivated to be a strident atheist, in the face of the constant dismissal of your whole field of study by the religious crowd (and its not just fundamentalists who dismiss evolution). Or archaeologists. I’ve been on digs myself where I’ve held 6,000 year old pottery in my hand. Except if you believe the creationists I couldn’t have done because no-one lived there then. I digress.

        I’ve been reading Ricky Gervais’s twitter feed, and I think his use of humour and satire to point out the idiocy of religion is particularly effective. And as he’s not an academic he’s much more free to say exactly what he thinks.

        I wish David Attenborough had been a bit more outspoken about creationism, and I hope Brian Cox might be a representative of reason for the future.

        • In reply to #12 by bob_e_s:

          I wish David Attenborough had been a bit more outspoken about creationism, and I hope Brian Cox might be a representative of reason for the future.

          He has regularly explained evolution in great detail. Brian Cox has no hesitation in ridiculing or dismissing, creationism, astrology etc.

          If you are in the US some of David A’s pro-evolution programmes have been cut from TV broadcasts, or not run at all, simply to placate the religinuts!
          Some are accessible on BBC DVD collections. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vspkd

          • In reply to #13 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #12 by bobes:

            I wish David Attenborough had been a bit more outspoken about creationism, and I hope Brian Cox might be a representative of reason for the future.

            He has regularly explained evolution in great detail. Brian Cox has no hesitation in ridiculing or dismissing, creationism, astrology etc.

            I know, Alan. I just want more! Shrill and strident every day for me.

          • In reply to #14 by bob_e_s:

            In reply to #13 by Alan4discussion:In reply to #12 by bobes:I wish David Attenborough had been a bit more outspoken about creationism, and I hope Brian Cox might be a representative of reason for the future.He has regularly explained evolution in great detail. Brian Cox has no hesitation in ridiculing or dismissing, creationism, astrology etc.I know, Alan. I just want more! Shrill and strident every day for me.

            Brian Cox on religion

            Physicist, former pop star, television presenter and distinguished supporter of Humanism
            I was sent to Sunday school for a few weeks but I didn’t like getting up on Sunday mornings. But some of my friends are religious. I don’t have a strong view on religion, other than illogical religion. Young earth creationism, for example: bollocks.
            (Observer interview, March 2010)

            ie normal.

          • In reply to #15 by atheistengineer:

            In reply to #14 by bobes:

            Brian Cox on religion

            Physicist, former pop star, television presenter and distinguished supporter of Humanism
            I was sent to Sunday school for a few weeks but I didn’t like getting up on Sunday mornings. But some of my friends are religious. I don’t have a strong view on religion, other than illogical religion. Young earth creationism, for example: bollocks.
            (Observer interview, March 2010)

            ie normal

            Brian Cox: “I don’t have a strong view on religion, other than illogical religion..”

            Logical religion appears to be fine with Mr. Cox. What a relief. See how pleasant he is compared to that unseemly hateful, menacingly strident Dawkins who is just sooooo mean and offensive.

          • In reply to #17 by godsbuster:

            Brian Cox targets attacks on science and leaves the “cultural Xtians” alone.

          • In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #17 by godsbuster:Brian Cox targets attacks on science and leaves the “cultural Xtians” alone.

            Which I would agree with and so would huge swathes of the non believing population and most of the believing population as well. Yes there are the vile christians, catholics and muslims and Dawkins is brilliant when it comes to attacking them. But you can’t keep denying the huge numbers that are nothing like that and hold pretty much the same values as most of the people here. Because that, at the end of the day represents the the christians, catholics and muslims that most people work with, socialise with and have no real differences with.

            And you really can’t keep attacking them with the same vigour and expect people not to object can you?

            I can’t understand the general antipathy to everything and everyone that happens to believe in something just because I can’t. Not all religious people are bad and irrational and not all atheists are good and rational. It really isn’t that simple.

          • In reply to #19 by atheistengineer:

            In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #17 by godsbuster:Brian Cox targets attacks on science and leaves the “cultural Xtians” alone.

            Which I would agree with and so would huge swathes of the non believing population and most of the believing population as well. Yes there are the vile christians, catholics and muslims and Dawkins is brilliant when it comes to attacking them. But you can’t keep denying the huge numbers that are nothing like that and hold pretty much the same values as most of the people here. Because that, at the end of the day represents the the christians, catholics and muslims that most people work with, socialise with and have no real differences with.

            And you really can’t keep attacking them with the same vigour and expect people not to object can you?

            I can’t understand the general antipathy to everything and everyone that happens to believe in something just because I can’t. Not all religious people are bad and irrational and not all atheists are good and rational. It really isn’t that simple.

            The problem is that the light/moderate religious who might be the vast majority keep religion afloat by validating it through their participation or even mere affiliation.

            Tired and obvious strawman: “I can’t understand the general antipathy to everything and everyone that happens to believe in something just because I can’t. Not all religious people are bad and irrational and not all atheists are good and rational. It really isn’t that simple.”

          • In reply to #22 by godsbuster:

            In reply to #19 by atheistengineer:In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:In reply to #17 by godsbuster:Brian Cox targets attacks on science and leaves the “cultural Xtians” alone.Which I would agree with and so would huge swathes of the non believing population and most of the believing population as well. Yes there are the vile christians, catholics and muslims and Dawkins is brilliant when it comes to attacking them. But you can’t keep denying the huge numbers that are nothing like that and hold pretty much the same values as most of the people here. Because that, at the end of the day represents the the christians, catholics and muslims that most people work with, socialise with and have no real differences with.And you really can’t keep attacking them with the same vigour and expect people not to object can you?I can’t understand the general antipathy to everything and everyone that happens to believe in something just because I can’t. Not all religious people are bad and irrational and not all atheists are good and rational. It really isn’t that simple.The problem is that the light/moderate religious who might be the vast majority keep religion afloat by validating it through their participation or even mere affiliation.Tired and obvious strawman: “I can’t understand the general antipathy to everything and everyone that happens to believe in something just because I can’t. Not all religious people are bad and irrational and not all atheists are good and rational. It really isn’t that simple.”

            Not really, the best of the younger atheists are accomodationists. Here we’ve heard mention of Eugenie Scott an accomodationist who has achieved a hell of alot in saving science education in the US. Alom Shaha, who I’ve heard in interviews with creationists and whom has clearly stated that he has no problem with sophisticated non creationist religous people and would have no problem with his chidren being exposed to those sophisticated arguments.

            Jim Al Khalili and Brian Cox more interested in science than getting rid of religion. Dara O Briain and Robin Incle likewise – all the above loved by both religious and non religious. Don’t forget all of those will have religious friends and families. Steve Jones, recently appeared alongside a religious colleague both attacking the nonsense that is creationism. A programme in which Dawkins came in for criticism for inflaming it and making conflicts with religion in general where there were none.

            It isn’t a strawman it is a simple fact. Most people know religous people who aren’t fanatics and lunatics and can’t understand. And it isn’t a strawman that those that should be your natural supporters are starting to criticise. It’s not my problem, concern or issue – religion does not go from fanatic to nothing and people don’t change when someone smugly calls them stupid. They cling more tightly to their group and accept more nonsense than they would if they didn’t feel threatened.

            In the UK it is largely just disappearing with no help from anything or anyone other than apathy. Dawkins is nowhere near as famous here as he is in the US. Brian Cox and Jim Al Khalili, Dara O Briain et al are. And they have expressed no real gripe with the moderates just the real idiots.

          • In reply to #23 by atheistengineer:

            Not really, the best of the younger atheists are accomodationists. Here we’ve heard mention of Eugenie Scott an accomodationist who has achieved a hell of alot in saving science education in the US. Alom Shaha, who I’ve heard in interviews with creationists and whom has clearly stated that he has no problem with sophisticated non creationist religous people and would have no problem with his chidren being exposed to those sophisticated arguments.

            Read the preface to Dawkins’ The God Delusion. In the section of “I’m an atheist, but…”, he says as much himself about sophisticated religion. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the younger atheists got there first, though you do generally seem to be buying into the straw man versions of the older ones’ arguments, to whit:

            1. You apparently think Dawkins et al. have condemned religious people as “fanatics and lunatics”. I can’t speak for Hitchens, who wasn’t exactly shy about applying impolite language to describe religion, but you are misrepresenting the views of the others. Condemnation of religious fanatics and of the irrational bases for religion are not equivalent to wholesale condemnation of religious people, and I don’t recall any situation in which they indicated as such.

            2. You seem to think there’s only one issue here when you talk about “those that should be your natural supporters”. Supporters for what, I ask you? Depending on the cause, religious people can be your supporters or the people you’re criticizing. Patting moderates on the back for opposing creationism and defending science is commendable. Patting them on the back for sticking up for what is essentially superstition, faith-based thinking, and woolly thinking about religion is less so, because that’s the root of the problem in the first place.

            3. You seem to think that because “religion does not go from fanatic to nothing”, therefore a different approach is required. Non-religious affiliation has increased in recent decades in the US, and this may well be because of public awareness raised by the likes of the “Four Horsemen”, who make it easier for atheists to come out of the closet. Moreover, the census and the Ipsos MORI poll in the UK suggest a weakening of affiliation that may or may not have been caused by the “New Atheist” campaigns in-between times. This is enough to justify further campaigning.

            4. You seem to think that the New Atheists “smugly call them stupid.” I dare say some atheist bloggers accuse religious people in general in such tones, but you’re going beyond justifiable boundaries by suggesting it’s an official position of the majority of atheists, or something.

            In any case, the prominent targets of people like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are precisely those religious nutters whom virtually everyone is against, with the added caveat that religion was a prime cause of their atrocities, something which people are remarkably shy about mentioning.

            Jim Al Khalili and Brian Cox more interested in science than getting rid of religion. Dara O Briain and Robin Incle likewise – all the above loved by both religious and non religious. Don’t forget all of those will have religious friends and families. Steve Jones, recently appeared alongside a religious colleague both attacking the nonsense that is creationism. A programme in which Dawkins came in for criticism for inflaming it and making conflicts with religion in general where there were none.

            It isn’t a strawman it is a simple fact. Most people know religous people who aren’t fanatics and lunatics and can’t understand. And it isn’t a strawman that those that should be your natural supporters are starting to criticise. It’s not my problem, concern or issue – religion does not go from fanatic to nothing and people don’t change when someone smugly calls them stupid. They cling more tightly to their group and accept more nonsense than they would if they didn’t feel threatened.

            The most you’re doing is arguing for a pragmatic policy. Not one jot of your post has come close to showing that the atheistic case is incorrect. I find that very interesting.

            But the problem is that you assume a reluctance to concede to the atheist camp is because the atheist spokesmen are all shrill harpies who have earned it. This hypersensitivity to religion is precisely the problem in the first place, and if anything, most of the “Four Horsemen” have written non-inflammatory critiques, something which Dawkins and Harris have drawn attention to more than once. If you really think the atheists are to blame here, then how do you explain the fact that it’s the religious apologists who produce both the weakest arguments and the straw men, and who have to resort to criticisms of pragmatic policy when they’ve got no real justification for the religions? Also, do you notice that such examples of “shrillness and stridency” are not only thin on the ground, but unrepresentative of the rest of the atheists’ work?

            In the UK it is largely just disappearing with no help from anything or anyone other than apathy. Dawkins is nowhere near as famous here as he is in the US. Brian Cox and Jim Al Khalili, Dara O Briain et al are. And they have expressed no real gripe with the moderates just the real idiots.

            Are you sure about this? He’s pretty well-known in the UK, and religion is not as marginalized or as low-key as you make it out to be, so “apathy” isn’t an explanation. In any case, those names are known because of their promotion of science, a different kettle of fish on many fronts. And again, it’s a question of which cause you’re discussing.

            The overall problem I see with your post is that you don’t seem to be seeing the woods for the trees. This isn’t solely about promoting science or resisting the nuttier elements of religious hogwash. The main issue is the clash between reason-based thinking and woollier or faith-based thinking among the public, which provides the basis for scientific issues and religious beliefs respectively. Insofar as accommodationists are doing anything, they’re addressing a smaller problem without putting in effort to fix a bigger problem, which is why they end up undermining themselves. The classic two examples are BioLogos and Templeton, who have tried to reconcile the two and have failed miserably at anything other than throwing sops to please the religious crowd. Yes, their help is appreciated for resisting creationism et al., but the instant they try to whitewash religions both intellectually and with reference to the merits of holding the beliefs, they are fair game.

            Lastly, just look at the polls. Here are two for acceptance of evolution in the US:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/new-gallup-poll-america-still-creationist-surprise/

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/latest-gallup-poll-on-u-s-acceptance-of-evolution-flatlined-as-usual/

            Here’s one that shows a correlation between religious belief and acceptance of evolution, both in most western countries and among the US:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/acceptance-of-evolution-vs-religiosity-in-the-u-s/

            Here’s a poll about how many Americans want Christianity to be the state religion:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/heartbreaking-new-poll-a-third-of-americans-want-christianity-as-the-state-religion/

            Here are two articles comparing the politics, religiosity, and well-being of Americans :

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/a-new-poll-on-the-politics-religiosity-and-well-being-of-americans/

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/the-correlation-between-religiosity-and-well-being-among-u-s-states/

            Here’s a particularly interesting article about how non-religiosity can still give rise to religious-like beliefs:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/u-s-residents-retain-strong-belief-in-miracles/

            And here’s one about how “Nones” are on the rise, though it notes that “Nones”, simply being a lack of affiliation with a religious organisation, can still include theists:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise-in-us/

            Here’s one charting an increase in the number of people who think there’s too much religion in politics. Also note the poll below that which indicates that academics (University professors) are perceived as unfriendly to religion more and more over time:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/americans-find-too-much-religion-in-politics-see-professors-as-unfriendly-to-faith/

            Here’s an article on statistics showing little change of acceptance of evolution, and which seems to prove that accommodationism has been ineffective, despite being around longer than “New Atheism”:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/evolution-acceptance-still-flatlined-in-america/

            Here’s an article which includes a reference to statistics showing that religion is the main impediment to acceptance of evolution, based on self-report:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/do-americans-reject-evolution-because-its-a-bad-story/

            And here’s one on international belief:

            http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/new-survey-on-international-belief-and-unbelief/

            I think these polls and so on indicate that accommodationism – reconciling science with religion – is not effective, and wallpapers over the real problem. Acceptance of evolution is low, and this co-occurs with stronger religious affiliations (this admission of affiliation even comes out of the mouths of the opponents themselves!), which also seem to co-occur with lower societal well-being and more conservative politics. Religion effects what should be secular politics, and even when affiliation with formal religious organizations decreases, theism and other superstitious beliefs do not.

            Moreover, most people, especially when they have conservative political and religious beliefs, see academics in general as unfriendly to religion, not just the “New Atheists”, and accommodationism is not as effective as you make it out to be despite being around longer than “New Atheism” has been around. And the link between societal well-being and religiosity suggests that one causes the other – in other words, religion causes bad well-being or comes from bad well-being, neither of which accommodationism tackles – or that a third factor, such as political affiliation, influences both. None of this comes close to justifying even the continued majority existence of religion, never mind attempts to reconcile it with science. And I dare say surfing this site for articles will produce more and more examples of how religious beliefs and superstition in general are worth debunking outright. Acting like atheists are merely mean towards moderates in western countries is myopic.

            It isn’t a straw man. It’s a simple fact: the evidence suggests religion is a big problem, not just when it comes to science acceptance, and trying to reconcile religion with science is like thinking you can push the brake and the accelerator pedals at the same time while driving your car and still clock a good speed in one direction. Yes, it’s better to push the brake gently than to ram it down, but the evidence still suggests it’s a brake, and you’ll still go faster if you get your foot off the brake altogether. Religious people accomplish worthwhile science promotion in spite of their superstitions, and accommodationism cannot work if it refuses to take the logical next step and work towards further reductions of religious influence. And I think it more helpful to produce statistics to back this up rather than use anecdotes and a handful of names as evidence.

          • In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #17 by godsbuster:

            Brian Cox targets attacks on science and leaves the “cultural Xtians” alone.

            What I was trying to satirize and perhaps failed is Cox’s notion of “logical” religion. Versus what, illogical religion i.e. religion with the supernatural wu, misogyny, homophobia etc. intact? Stripped of those features it would hardly be religion then would it.

            Anyway, this discussion, as do so many on these pages, goes to the big rift we have in the movement – between the hardliners: if something is not true, it’s not true and we’re not going to pretend it doesn’t matter just to make nice. And the accommodationist’s who hope to win the lite/moderate religionists over to science by not bugging them about their religious affiliation.

            Those strongly in the former camp have to weigh the tactical advantages of the latter, as distasteful as it may be.

          • Brian Cox: “I don’t have a strong view on religion, other than illogical religion..”

            That’s pure genius. I don’t suppose anyone here has a strong view on “religion other than illogical religion”.

            Assuming they can find one, that is.

          • In reply to #24 by OHooligan:

            Brian Cox: “I don’t have a strong view on religion, other than illogical religion..”

            That’s pure genius. I don’t suppose anyone here has a strong view on “religion other than illogical religion”.

            Assuming they can find one, that is.

            I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he knew exactly what he was saying, but using language carefully. He’s a mainstream draw on tv, after all. No need to alienate anyone.

          • _In reply to #14 by bobe_s:

            In reply to #13 by Alan4discussion:In reply to #12 by bobes:I wish David Attenborough had been a bit more outspoken about creationism, and I hope Brian Cox might be a representative of reason for the future.He has regularly explained evolution in great detail. Brian Cox has no hesitation in ridiculing or dismissing, creationism, astrology etc.I know, Alan. I just want more! Shrill and strident every day for me.

            And more from Brian Cox on religion.

            According to rock star turned celebrity science presenter Brian Cox:-

            Setting yourself up as anti-religion is not helpful. You can set yourself up as anti-maniac, that’s different. So it’s OK to say that if you believe the world was created 6,000 years ago, as the Creationists do, then you are an idiot. There is nothing wrong in saying that because you are an idiot. But setting yourself up as an atheist who is against all religion is not a battle that needs to be fought.

  6. I think that Hitchens and Dawkins have a special combination of intellect, wit, leadership and charisma that is hard to find. There is a somewhat younger tier of secular/atheist/rationalist/scientist proponents who don’t have the same international star power of Richard Dawkins but who are prominent representatives such as A. C. Grayling, Lawrence Krauss, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Sam Harris, P. Z. Myers, Michael Shermer, V.S. Ramachandran, Scott Atran, Steven Pinker, Sean Faircloth, Andy Thompson. There are notable women such as Taslima Nasrin, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Patricia Churchland, Eugenie Scott, Ann Druyan. Most of these people I’ve seen/heard on videos from TSN’s Beyond Belief, ASU Origins, various debate panels, Skepticon. At Skepticon, I’ve seen younger, less prominent or known (to me at least) speakers – and more women – e.g., Richard Carrier, Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina. Don’t be surprised to hear more from young people like Jessica Ahlquist and Zack Kopplin someday.

    I’m sure others will be able to add to the list, especially when it comes to women, non-English language, etc.

    P.S. I don’t think it’s silly; it is something that I thought about when Hitchens died not so long after I found out there was something going on, a rationalist/atheist movement, in opposition to the right wing fundamentalists and (2) when I became aware that Dawkins was retired as the Simonyi Professor, looked up his age and found he was about 10 years older than I would have guessed from videos (many of which were a few years old).

  7. Not to be overlooked:
    Alom Shaha (science teacher and writer, author of The Young Atheists Handbook), Comedians Robin Ince, Dara O Briain and Tim Minchin, Matt Dillahunty (The Atheist Experience), On YT AronRa and Qualia Soup, the Vlogger Cristina Rad (zomgitscriss), Jim Al-Khalili (Physicist now president of the British Humanist Association), Sam Harris etc.

    The benchmark of a movement is not how many hits you get on YT, or whether you have debated William Lane Craig. There are a lot of good blogs, podcasts and social media groups out there with plenty of young active voices. There are also many quiet calm voices who take a slightly more non-confrontational approach, who ask questions about assertions, who ask for evidence and reason who in my mind are just as effective as the ‘figureheads’ of a movement (I feel that sometimes these are ‘chosen’ as the symbol of a movement by those who oppose them or by lazy sections of the media trying to make an issue simple).
    We need all types in a movement, from grassroots ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ to the most public speakers.

  8. Zueglodon:

    Read the preface to Dawkins’ The God Delusion. In the section of “I’m an atheist, but…”, he says as much himself about sophisticated religion. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the younger atheists got there first, though you do generally seem to be buying into the straw man versions of the older ones’ arguments, to whit

    I’ve read it. The Richard Dawkins that wrote the God Delusion, came up with the concepts of the selfish gene and wrote books like The Ancestors Tale was a towering intellect with his finger spot on the pulse. I can see no evidence he exists any more. Can you find anything here to show it does cos I can’t. All I see is a man who no longer listens and no longer knows what is going on.

    Religion has changed and the reasons for people becoming or being religion go far beyond the fundamentalists nonsense. They are nothing to do with irrationality or lack of intellect in many cases. RD needs to read a newspaper and re engage his massive brain.

    • In reply to #33 by atheistengineer:

      Zueglodon:

      Read the preface to Dawkins’ The God Delusion. In the section of “I’m an atheist, but…”, he says as much himself about sophisticated religion. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the younger atheists got there first, though you do generally seem to be buying into the straw man versions of the older ones’ arguments, to whit

      I’ve read it. The Richard Dawkins that wrote the God Delusion, came up with the concepts of the selfish gene and wrote books like The Ancestors Tale was a towering intellect with his finger spot on the pulse. I can see no evidence he exists any more. Can you find anything here to show it does cos I can’t. All I see is a man who no longer listens and no longer knows what is going on.

      Religion has changed and the reasons for people becoming or being religion go far beyond the fundamentalists nonsense. They are nothing to do with irrationality or lack of intellect in many cases. RD needs to read a newspaper and re engage his massive brain.

      When you’ve finished getting upset over RD’s mental deterioration, perhaps you can read the preface again and find the bit about RD conceding that he might have written a different book if the world had been populated by more moderate religious believers, rather than by the other kind. That part is relevant to your accusation that RD has a narrow view of believers, which is more or less why I asked you to look there in the first place.

  9. Zuegloden:

    3.You seem to think that because “religion does not go from fanatic to nothing”, therefore a different approach is required. Non-religious affiliation has increased in recent decades in the US, and this may well be because of public awareness raised by the likes of the “Four Horsemen”, who make it easier for atheists to come out of the closet. Moreover, the census and the Ipsos MORI poll in the UK suggest a weakening of affiliation that may or may not have been caused by the “New Atheist” campaigns in-between times. This is enough to justify further campaigning.

    Approaches have to fit the facts. And religion is far more diverse in its membership than Dawkins accepts anymore. And changing every year as cultures and socieyt changes.

    In the UK religion has been declining for years due to simple growing apathy. Nothing to do with Dawkins or anyone else, just simply people moving with the times and not being bothered to get up on Sunday morning.

    Most atheists in the UK are not atheists that have consciously thought about it and consciously rejected God based on lack of evidence, they just haven’t thought about it full stop because it hasn’t ever been a part of their lives. I didn’t grow up with religion and knew very few people that did, yet many of those believe vaguely some of the rest disbelieve vaguely and in all other respects we don’t differ that much.

    Of those that are more attached to religion in the UK, I’d be tempted to say that for the CofE and indigenous RC members they are perhaps above average in terms of education and income. They share very little in terms of values and attitudes with their religious leaders yet still claim to be catholics or christians. Yet here the assumption is pope franny speaks for catholics when in reality most haven’t a clue what he says and will happily say ‘well he might say that but we don’t have to agree’.

    Nobody here addresses those contradictions other than to say they’re wrong and scream about what they should believe. But those contradictions are what Dawkins would have addressed in the days before he started dealing in crude cartoon stereotypes like claiming catholics are still frightened by visions of hell or still being abused. But not anymore. But the facts remain that it would be very difficult to discern your average CofE or RC believer from anyone here based on their attitudes to a whole host of things from abortion, science thru to gay marriage. The differences wouldn’t emerge till you got to belief. Yet here they are all stereotyped as creationist, homophobic lunatics. That isn’t a rational assessment based on the evidence. Not what you’d expect from a scientist.

    Likewise Islam. We’ve had two incidents reported here of segregation and the comments are ‘ooh look nasty muslims just like the taliban, oppressed women etc’. Except these Muslim women are far from oppressed or stupid and these Muslim men are far from traditional elderly primitive old school oppressors. These are third generation British, educated and politicised probably from families far removed from the traditional Islam as stereotyped here. This is something new and sinister. For a man that came up with the concept of memes and their evolution Dawkins seems to ignore the fact that religion changes too. Why not take on this new concept instead of just pretending we’re still in the 1980s.

    And the more primitive branches of Islam aren’t that simple either. The taliban poison girls going to school – primitive backward arsehole. The girls keep going to school, keep fighting back. Far stronger role models, far better values, real feminists. What does RD praise as representing womens rights to equality? Femen, lame, exhibitionist women putting on a show for men. Not the brave women risking lives to gain freedom.

    So again huge contradictions not being addressed. Primitive men oppressing really strong women yet both reading from the same book. Old Dawkins would at least have been intrigued by that connundrum.

    I want the old towering intellectual Dawkins to come back. The world is more dangerous and the decline in religion isn’t that secure. We have new problems and new issues. And here in the UK we have not just radical, political Islam we have mad weird US style christianity.

    • In reply to #37 by atheistengineer:

      Zuegloden:

      3.You seem to think that because “religion does not go from fanatic to nothing”, therefore a different approach is required. Non-religious affiliation has increased in recent decades in the US, and this may well be because of public awareness raised by the likes of the “Four Horsemen”, who make it easier for atheists to come out of the closet. Moreover, the census and the Ipsos MORI poll in the UK suggest a weakening of affiliation that may or may not have been caused by the “New Atheist” campaigns in-between times. This is enough to justify further campaigning.

      Approaches have to fit the facts. And religion is far more diverse in its membership than Dawkins accepts anymore. And changing every year as cultures and socieyt changes.

      I’ve already provided a series of polls and articles on the subject of belief which shows that increasing religiosity correlates with more unwanted conditions such as low societal well-being, low acceptance of evolution, more conservative politics, and low trust of academics, and you haven’t shown any sign of paying attention to them. This isn’t a minor problem. I dare say people use the word “religious” or “religion” in many different ways to grant themselves an escape clause when defending religion, but this doesn’t disguise the fact that, at some point, it involves believing in superstitious and supernatural claims and basing one’s life and even one’s ethics on those claims. When going to church simply becomes a hobby you do at the weekends, calling it religion is spurious, and essentially is lumping it in the same category as going to church because you think God will hear your prayers for good fortune. In other words, it’s self-serving equivocation. I can’t think off the top of my head of any single statement of Dawkins’ that shows he doesn’t recognize the difference between being a “cultural Christian” and being a full-blooded “Christian”, though he’s certainly aware of the results of the Ipsos MORI poll.

      In the UK religion has been declining for years due to simple growing apathy. Nothing to do with Dawkins or anyone else, just simply people moving with the times and not being bothered to get up on Sunday morning.

      Firstly, how do you know it’s to do with apathy? Just because church attendance has declined, doesn’t mean you can assume apathy is the cause. Secondly, it merely delays the explanation: why is apathy the cause? In other words, why is this “moving with the times”? Why did the times not simply remain the same as it had done for centuries, when church attendance was virtually mandatory? I put it to you that one of the bigger changes could be due to the growing public awareness of atheism in response to the writings of Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, et al., especially since most of the change occurred during the same decade those books were released.

      Most atheists in the UK are not atheists that have consciously thought about it and consciously rejected God based on lack of evidence, they just haven’t thought about it full stop because it hasn’t ever been a part of their lives. I didn’t grow up with religion and knew very few people that did, yet many of those believe vaguely some of the rest disbelieve vaguely and in all other respects we don’t differ that much.

      But you’re using anecdotal evidence here. According to the UK census, about 54% of people at the end of the last decade identified themselves as Christian, and it was about 72% at the beginning of that decade. Christianity is still a majority position. And I find it remarkable that you think Dawkins is not aware of the differences in confidence between different degrees of theism, agnosticism, and atheism, when he discusses it in his book. The whole notion of a scale from 1 to 7 came from his book. In any case, if people have a woolly idea of why they affiliate with the religious, then why is this a criticism of Dawkins?

      Of those that are more attached to religion in the UK, I’d be tempted to say that for the CofE and indigenous RC members they are perhaps above average in terms of education and income. They share very little in terms of values and attitudes with their religious leaders yet still claim to be catholics or christians. Yet here the assumption is pope franny speaks for catholics when in reality most haven’t a clue what he says and will happily say ‘well he might say that but we don’t have to agree’.

      What you seem to be saying is that people thoughtlessly still identify with a religious organization, even though they hypocritically don’t follow its tenets and teachings. If this is the case, then pointing out what their affiliation really means should not warrant a hasty defence of their hypocrisy. It should make them question why they affiliate with it in the first place, given what their own identification with it really entails. If Dawkins goes after a position they don”t claim to hold, but which their affiliation claims to hold, then who is being dishonest – Dawkins, or them? If you don’t believe that a wafer can turn into flesh, then you shouldn’t complain about getting flak when you identify with those who do. That’s precisely the problem. It’s a bizarre form of No True Scotsman fallacy, and ironically lends credence to those very claims they distance themselves from. When religious authorities use the census to justify imposing religiously-inspired laws the populace doesn’t actually want, of course that populace should make its voice heard, but it should also realize its own complicity, however unintentional, in this case. In such a condition, I think we have a right to point out that the moderates are a problem too, and not just condemn the “extremists” (i.e. those who know what a religion actually entails).

      Nobody here addresses those contradictions other than to say they’re wrong and scream about what they should believe. But those contradictions are what Dawkins would have addressed in the days before he started dealing in crude cartoon stereotypes like claiming catholics are still frightened by visions of hell or still being abused.

      Well, some of them are, and it comes from their own mouths. You seem to be assuming that Dawkins talks about an entire group, even though I don’t recall him indicating that he was speaking about all Catholics in totality. And I’ve explained about those “contradictions” above – because if people are going to call themselves Catholic without actually paying attention to what it means, they really should question why they’re doing it. It’s like identifying as a Stalinist and then complaining when people assume you support mass murder and gulags. Sloppy language around religion really is the problem because it acts as a smokescreen to cover the absurdities of their beliefs, which is what Dawkins was getting at the one time he suggested asking directly whether they believed the specific things they seemed to be identifying with. After all, if we’re going to use the term so loosely, then what term is left to describe the real phenomenon?

      But not anymore. But the facts remain that it would be very difficult to discern your average CofE or RC believer from anyone here based on their attitudes to a whole host of things from abortion, science thru to gay marriage. The differences wouldn’t emerge till you got to belief. Yet here they are all stereotyped as creationist, homophobic lunatics. That isn’t a rational assessment based on the evidence. Not what you’d expect from a scientist.

      I think I’d like to see the passages where he indulges in these stereotypes, and not another repeated insistence from you, because you’re not supporting your claims.

      Likewise Islam. We’ve had two incidents reported here of segregation and the comments are ‘ooh look nasty muslims just like the taliban, oppressed women etc’. Except these Muslim women are far from oppressed or stupid and these Muslim men are far from traditional elderly primitive old school oppressors.

      You are spectacularly missing the point. No one’s said the women were stupid, but when females are treated differently from males on no sound basis, then it is sexism, and if it is enforced on them, then it is oppression. Why on earth is the education, location, age, and politics of the individuals concerned even relevant? The immoral behaviour is a product of religious tenets, and that’s the issue.

      These are third generation British, educated and politicised probably from families far removed from the traditional Islam as stereotyped here. This is something new and sinister. For a man that came up with the concept of memes and their evolution Dawkins seems to ignore the fact that religion changes too. Why not take on this new concept instead of just pretending we’re still in the 1980s.

      I don’t think he does ignore the fact that religion changes. What he does point out is that religion, first and foremost, is bunkum whatever form it takes. Why is it remotely relevant that it changes when it is still religion at its core?

      And the more primitive branches of Islam aren’t that simple either. The taliban poison girls going to school – primitive backward arsehole. The girls keep going to school, keep fighting back. Far stronger role models, far better values, real feminists. What does RD praise as representing womens rights to equality? Femen, lame, exhibitionist women putting on a show for men. Not the brave women risking lives to gain freedom.

      Where has he ignored the bravery of muslim women fighting against religious prejudice (and notice you’re missing the point yet again – it’s religious prejudice)? Do you have evidence for this claim about him supporting this group, and if there’s something immoral that this group has done, then is there evidence to suggest he was aware of it?

      So again huge contradictions not being addressed. Primitive men oppressing really strong women yet both reading from the same book. Old Dawkins would at least have been intrigued by that connundrum.

      Are you seriously suggesting Dawkins doesn’t know about those who resist their own religious upbringing? He knows a few apostates himself, for crying out loud. People can still do good in spite of their religion and by resisting their religion’s immoral tenets, but that’s no excuse for thinking religion thereby gets off the hook when it comes to its basis in fact.

      You have not once engaged with this problem. Instead of insisting that religions change, why not pay attention to what religions actually are, and to the fact that they are based, whatever form or shape they come as, on superstition and supernatural claims that have not been justified, and in the meantime they promote bogus ethics. I get the impression your whole complaint is a red herring that distracts people from this fact, and would recommend that you at least substantiate some of your claims first.

      I want the old towering intellectual Dawkins to come back. The world is more dangerous and the decline in religion isn’t that secure. We have new problems and new issues. And here in the UK we have not just radical, political Islam we have mad weird US style christianity.

      We also have people trying to sell homeopathy, people who go to quacks instead of real doctors, people who don’t take vaccines that could save their lives, people who reject climate change because of what the media tells them, people who think evolution and creationism should be taught in schools side-by-side, people who buy too easily into unsubstantiated economic models, people who ally with religious organizations and then behave completely differently from what their alleged beliefs are telling them, people who whitewash Islam-inspired violence as the result of Western imperialism or politics, people who accuse “New Atheists” of Islamophobia, people who refuse to acknowledge religion’s role in creationist movements, people who think churches not paying taxes is a-OK, people who confuse feelings of awe and wonder with religion, people who think faith schools are a good idea, people who rally to the defence of murderers and vandals whenever someone “insults” Islam, people who think “New Atheists” are all shrill harpies, people who let sharia councils get away with discrimination, people who sit quietly while choir boys are raped by the clergy, people who devote their time to following the succession of a pope who’s no less homophobic and out of touch than his predecessor, people who rush to defend religion but prove hypocrites when they condemn what they call “extremists”, people who are told by religion that condoms, gays, women, unbelievers, and materialist westerners are all evil, people who cherry pick or “allegorize” away passages of their fairy tale holy books, people who keep promoting the same old fallacies, people who justify religion based on beliefs religious people don’t actually hold, people who resist abortion, GM crops, and euthanization purely on religious grounds, people who think religion is simply a grand cultural artefact, and people who are hostile to science and reason.

      None of this is going to be solved by acting like the way people misuse the word religion is legitimate, any more than suggesting that civil rights movements would succeed if people acknowledged that sexism, racism, animal cruelty, child abuse, and homophobia came in subtle, nuanced forms held by people who aren’t actually sexist, racist, etc., and not any more than suggesting that superstition can be debunked by acknowledging that there are different versions of homeopathy, pseudoscience, and quackery, some of which are held by people who don’t actually believe in homeopathy, pseudoscience, etc. It’ll get done in the same way most social movements did it; by going straight to the root of the hogwash, exposing it for what it is, presenting rational arguments and justifying one’s case, and then persisting in this position until the mainstream stop opposing or mischaracterizing it, and it becomes codified in law. This is why we need good spokespeople, and presumably why this thread is up, and I maintain Dawkins is generally (though not absolutely) a competent spokesperson, based at the very least on his writings.

  10. Zueglodon:

    The main issue is the clash between reason-based thinking and woollier or faith-based thinking among the public, which provides the basis for scientific issues and religious beliefs respectively. Insofar as accommodationists are doing anything, they’re addressing a smaller problem without putting in effort to fix a bigger problem, which is why they end up undermining themselves. The classic two examples are BioLogos and Templeton, who have tried to reconcile the two and have failed miserably at anything other than throwing sops to please the religious crowd. Yes, their help is appreciated for resisting creationism et al., but the instant they try to whitewash religions both intellectually and with reference to the merits of holding the beliefs, they are fair game.

    Yet for most people religion isn’t a thought out rational thing anymore than falling in love is. For most people their science and rational thinking and their religious beliefs really are two separate things. So far from adopting the worse excesses of the creationist idiots most believers (at least here in the UK the US is very different) are more than happy with all science. They don’t actually need biologos or templeton because they really don’t treat religion in that way.

    The best analogy I can come up with is I love my husband and child. If something were to happen to either I’d be distraught for ages and yet rationally, logically and scientifically that would be a silly waste of effort. For my husband there are hundreds of men that could replace him in terms of income and everything else the selfish gene says I should be looking for. I just need to put on my party frock and smile. Yet none would do, for some emotionally based reason he is special. Likewise my child could be replaced with something similar in nine months. Yet I’d never replace HER.

    Nobody (well some might) would claim that real deviation from cold hearted science is irrational, woolly thinking or accomodationism. For most people their religion is the same as the above. I’m sure religious scientists are more than aware that their religious beliefs aren’t scientific. But I’m sure they categorise them as something beyond that.

    The problem is fundamentalism and fanatics. I’m not sure anything else is really as people tend to make up religion as they go along with a little help from religious books they’ve never really read.

    • In reply to #39 by atheistengineer:

      Zueglodon:

      The main issue is the clash between reason-based thinking and woollier or faith-based thinking among the public, which provides the basis for scientific issues and religious beliefs respectively. Insofar as accommodationists are doing anything, they’re addressing a smaller problem without putting in effort to fix a bigger problem, which is why they end up undermining themselves. The classic two examples are BioLogos and Templeton, who have tried to reconcile the two and have failed miserably at anything other than throwing sops to please the religious crowd. Yes, their help is appreciated for resisting creationism et al., but the instant they try to whitewash religions both intellectually and with reference to the merits of holding the beliefs, they are fair game.

      Yet for most people religion isn’t a thought out rational thing anymore than falling in love is. For most people their science and rational thinking and their religious beliefs really are two separate things. So far from adopting the worse excesses of the creationist idiots most believers (at least here in the UK the US is very different) are more than happy with all science. They don’t actually need biologos or templeton because they really don’t treat religion in that way.

      See my previous post about the misuse of the term religion, but I might add that this is simply a way to avoid engaging with their own positions. Religion is based on true/false statements. What the believer does after that is down to them, but it’s ridiculous to suggest religion is not about real-world claims, and going for a NOMA-like reconciliation is either to not understand what science and religion are, or merely an excuse to compartmentalize beliefs that won’t last a second under scrutiny.

      The best analogy I can come up with is I love my husband and child. If something were to happen to either I’d be distraught for ages and yet rationally, logically and scientifically that would be a silly waste of effort. For my husband there are hundreds of men that could replace him in terms of income and everything else the selfish gene says I should be looking for. I just need to put on my party frock and smile. Yet none would do, for some emotionally based reason he is special. Likewise my child could be replaced with something similar in nine months. Yet I’d never replace HER.

      It’s a weak analogy and a poor argument, and for a lot of reasons. Firstly, if you love something, then that relies on the premise that it exists, even if only in your imagination as an ideal. If you love “god”, that relies on the premise that it exists, which is under dispute. And if god is a figment of your imagination, that doesn’t exactly speak well for your religion.

      Secondly, if one loves going to church, then one loves a hobby, not a religion. See point ten below.

      Thirdly, motherly love is a part of human nature found across all cultures, whereas love of any particular religion is culturally specific. Even the generic love of religion may owe itself more to historical cultural mores than to some universal basis in human nature.

      Fourthly, it doesn’t matter if someone loves religion any more than it matters whether they love superstition, chi, sexism, or racism. It’s still an intellectual set of ideas that can be criticized.

      Fifthly, it’s still avoiding the obvious fact that there’s a difference between a relationship with another sentient organism who shares your feelings and views and plays a large part in your conscious life, and feeling good will towards what is essentially a tool you use, which is why “love” of science or of one’s personal computer or communal holidays, say, is not the same as “love” of family or “love” of friends.

      Sixthly, your love of something means diddly squat when it comes to assessing both its truthfulness and its ethics. A family member might be the most precious person in your life, but if they’re liars or con artists, tough luck.

      Seventhly, and this follows on partly from the sixth point, such people who “love” religion are part of the problem because their feelings are likely to make them opponents when one does point out the lack of truth and ethics in religion.

      Eighthly, familial love is generally harmless, but love of religion is mostly the result of people being allowed to form attachments to what should be true-false claims and modes of living. This can produce little except wishful thinking and appeals to emotion. If someone comes along and criticizes the same ideas a believer feels love for, and is met with a less than welcome reception, then the blame should not go to the critic. It should go to whomever fixed someone’s affections on those claims in the first place. This is why childhood religious indoctrination is such a concern; it is essentially a dishonest tactic used by the religious, who then blame the atheist when upsetting truths come to light as a result of criticizing religion.

      Ninthly, a “logical or scientific” reason for not being distraught when something happens to someone very close to you can only be made if you discount, for no clear reason other than misunderstanding of what logic, rationality, and science are about, the relationship and its validity to the subject and the well-being of both, so that’s a questionable claim to make.

      Tenthly, the whole argument again seems to be misusing the term religion. There’s a difference between a cultural Christian and a full-blooded one, which I made in my previous post. And even if people claim that religion is like a relationship, they might still be hiding the fact that it’s based on truth claims.

      Needless to say, while what you describe may be the sincere position of some people who identify with religion, I see no reason to think their position is being ignored by the “New Atheists” or as anything but a distraction from the real issue, which they are inadvertently hindering. I certainly don’t think they’re innocent in their complicity, however unintentional and unwanted. See below.

      Nobody (well some might) would claim that real deviation from cold hearted science is irrational, woolly thinking or accomodationism. For most people their religion is the same as the above. I’m sure religious scientists are more than aware that their religious beliefs aren’t scientific. But I’m sure they categorise them as something beyond that.

      We call it compartmentalization or misuse of the term religion. Yes, this warrants attention, but I think you’re mistaken in assuming it’s not getting any.

      The problem is fundamentalism and fanatics. I’m not sure anything else is really as people tend to make up religion as they go along with a little help from religious books they’ve never really read.

      The problem is faith-based thinking, which fuels fundamentalism and fanatics as well as those who foolishly, ignorantly, and unhelpfully affiliate with that same basis. Attempts to support faith-based thinking, especially when those attempts are coupled with condemning people who take such thinking seriously, are part of the problem, and that’s why, for instance, we raise eyebrows when we see faith-based services in response to religious terrorism. This was a point Dawkins made long ago, and it seems to be a point you’re not acknowledging very well.

  11. Zueglodon:

    I’ve already provided a series of polls and articles on the subject of belief which shows that increasing religiosity correlates with more unwanted conditions such as low societal well-being, low acceptance of evolution, more conservative politics, and low trust of academics, and you haven’t shown any sign of paying attention to them.

    Of course I’ve paid attention to them! However what are you trying to say with them, cos as far as I can see they are just more evidence for the fact its far more complicated than silly superstitions?

    In the case of Jerry Coyne they are US centric and that is not representative of the world in general. The best one I’ve seen linked atheism not to new atheism or anything written by the new atheists, but to social equality and a welfare state rather than just economic GDP – it was on this site somewhere. Which explains the high incidence of religious belief in poorer countries AND the US compared with Europe. Education may explain the difference between poorer states and Europe but certainly doesn’t between the US and Europe. So why? Europe tends to have a better developed welfare care systems the US is more brutal. Religion has declined in the UK and we have less extremism but we also have a Welfare state and NHS.

    Now why is that? I have opinions but not informed ones. Informing them should be the job of atheist groups like this but hey thats complicated! So when the report appeared here very little discussion compared with hundreds saying hey Islam really nasty.

    But in Europe we’re in a recession, we are enduring austerity and benefit cuts and moving to the right. So what does RD think is going to happen to the decline in religion. Continue, reverse stay the same? Or is that too complicated?

  12. Zueglodon:

    Firstly, how do you know it’s to do with apathy? Just because church attendance has declined, doesn’t mean you can assume apathy is the cause. Secondly, it merely delays the explanation: why is apathy the cause? In other words, why is this “moving with the times”? Why did the times not simply remain the same as it had done for centuries, when church attendance was virtually mandatory? I put it to you that one of the bigger changes could be due to the growing public awareness of atheism in response to the writings of Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, et al., especially since most of the change occurred during the same decade those books were released.

    Did they? Religion has been declining in the UK for years hasn’t it?
    http://bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/043986.stm

    in 2000, religion was on a steady decline. 50% of UK adults had no religion a significant drop since 1983. When was the god delusion published? 2006?

    I don’t know where you’re based but I’d be hard pressed to find anyone that needed to have their awareness of atheism raised. How many people do you know that have considered it and read about it rather than just never bothered or drifted away?

  13. Zueglodon:

    If you don’t believe that a wafer can turn into flesh, then you shouldn’t complain about getting flak when you identify with those who do.

    Yes but my very point is nobody is explaining what is motivating people to believe that. Why do people like Ken Miller believe that. He is an excellent scientist and far cleverer than many here. I would imagine also far more liberal than he should be for someone who believes in that. So explain why?

    This isn’t a minor problem. I dare say people use the word “religious” or “religion” in many different ways to grant themselves an escape clause when defending religion, but this doesn’t disguise the fact that, at some point, it involves believing in superstitious and supernatural claims and basing one’s life and even one’s ethics on those claims. When going to church simply becomes a hobby you do at the weekends, calling it religion is spurious, and essentially is lumping it in the same category as going to church because you think God will hear your prayers for good fortune. In other words, it’s self-serving equivocation. I can’t think off the top of my head of any single statement of Dawkins’ that shows he doesn’t recognize the difference between being a “cultural Christian” and being a full-blooded “Christian”, though he’s certainly aware of the results of the Ipsos MORI poll.

    Yet all have the same label. Where do you draw the distinction? Why the differences in which superstitious beliefs people adopt? Why do some catholics believe in transubstantiation and others are more dubious. Why are somem christians creationsts and others not? Why are some Muslims sexist and others not?

    And at the end of the day why are some people able to hold those superstitions and yet be fully functioning intelligent adults and others not. I tried very, very hard to be a believer but couldn’t. Yet people I know who are cleverer and thicker could. Why? The extremists are easier they buy the whole thing, but explain the others?

    I’ve yet to see a recent statement of Dawkins that is anything other than disparaging of anyone calling themsleves christians. We’re both wishing the Dawkins of the god delusion were still around but I can’t see any evidence.

  14. Zueglodon:

    And I’ve explained about those “contradictions” above – because if people are going to call themselves Catholic without actually paying attention to what it means, they really should question why they’re doing it. It’s like identifying as a Stalinist and then complaining when people assume you support mass murder and gulags. Sloppy language around religion really is the problem because it acts as a smokescreen to cover the absurdities of their beliefs, which is what Dawkins was getting at the one time he suggested asking directly whether they believed the specific things they seemed to be identifying with. After all, if we’re going to use the term so loosely, then what term is left to describe the real phenomenon?

    Well yes in theory you are absolutely right. In practice however sloppy language and ambiguity is the nom. You have just articulated the point I’m trying to make. What is the real phenomenon now? Given that even the extremists here will admit to knowing nice catholics on the pill and nice musims etc. That is the point – it is actually complicated and it isn’t static, even tho it should be easy and unchanging!

    And why should there even be a definition given that religion is based on something that doesn’t exist and therefore people are very free to make it what they want it to be whether Dawkins disagrees or gets upset about that or not.

  15. Zueglodon:

    You are spectacularly missing the point. No one’s said the women were stupid, but when females are treated differently from males on no sound basis, then it is sexism, and if it is enforced on them, then it is oppression. Why on earth is the education, location, age, and politics of the individuals concerned even relevant? The immoral behaviour is a product of religious tenets, and that’s the issue.

    And you are spectacularly missing the point which was that yes those males are oppressors and the epitome of sexism and misogyny BUT their female peers are the very epitome of real feminism. It is oppression but far from taking it they’re risking bullets to gain real equality.

    And I didn’t claim the women were called stupid merely that they were ignored as part of the contradiction which tends to be just oh look nasty muslim men..

    Islam bad and misogyintic yes absolutely, but yet it produces the very real feminists like Malala? Explain please what is going on .Why the immorality arising as a genuine result of religious tenets is also matched by the very best of behaviour from those reading the same religious tenets?

    Where has he ignored the bravery of muslim women fighting against religious prejudice (and notice you’re missing the point yet again – it’s religious prejudice)?

    Where has he acknowledged it? And what do you mean religious prejudice when the males oppressing the resisting females are from exactly the same religions and reading from exactly the same religious texts.

    Are you seriously suggesting Dawkins doesn’t know about those who resist their own religious upbringing? He knows a few apostates himself, for crying out loud. People can still do good in spite of their religion and by resisting their religion’s immoral tenets, but that’s no excuse for thinking religion thereby gets off the hook when it comes to its basis in fact.

    Nobody is suggesting for one moment that they can’t do good nor that religion gets let off the hook. But those women aren’t actually resisting their own religious upbringings or becoming apostates, they’re adapting it to suit. Malala isn’t stating she doesn’t want to be a muslim, shes merely saying her interpretation of Islam is right and the talibans is wrong.

    You have not once engaged with this problem. Instead of insisting that religions change, why not pay attention to what religions actually are,

    Because I don’t actually have any clear notion of what they are! That is the point.

    What exactly are they now? You define it for me and explain away all the contractions and exceptions to the rules. Many detailed here – surveys and articles on catholics in the US being pro contracteption, abortion and gay marriage, including New York nuns, alongside ones detailing the opposite being pulled from their popes anus or their bishops in the third world. So explain all those contradictions then we might have a better defintion of religion..

    • In reply to #51 by atheistengineer:

      I almost get the impression you want religion to remain undefined, though I can’t understand why you consider this a worthwhile point to defend. If you really have no clue, then you shouldn’t even be having this discussion, because you’d be arguing about something and about nothing at the same time, which is contradictory.

      If you pay attention to the history and to the cases in the real world, then you notice religion generally has three components to it:

      1. Belief in supernatural agencies or mechanics of one kind or another, be they a god or pantheon of gods, nature spirits, ancestor spirits, or the karmic system of reincarnation that sorts people based on their moral behaviour (and implies a sort of judgemental universe).

      2. The implications of these beliefs on their subsequent behaviour. For instance, a god who demands sacrifices results in people who conduct ritual sacrifices. The behaviour can be influenced directly or indirectly; for instance, a god may outright dictate how they should behave, or a nature spirit may cause mayhem only because they haven’t done something, and will stop if they do, without actually prescribing anything.

      3. Formalized ceremonies and rituals that had their prior justification in such beliefs and their consequences, and which also serve as a social bonding venue to reinforce in-group loyalty and cohesion.

      It’s possible to have 1., but not 2. or 3. (most forms of deism come under 1. but don’t have any consequences on human behaviour, which would fulfil 2.). It’s also possible to have 3., but not 1. or 2. (most people celebrate Christmas without regard to its original religious function), though this is cultural practice. It’s when people have 1. and 2. that superstition forms, and when combined with 3., you more or less get a fully functioning religion. Moreover, the methods to obtain these rely on all kinds of fallacious thinking, from appeals to authority and tradition and popularity, all the way to formal and probabilistic fallacies.

      Islam bad and misogyintic yes absolutely, but yet it produces the very real feminists like Malala?

      This is where you slip up. The first and most obvious problem is that the contradiction lies either within the qu’ran, in which case it invalidates itself as a reliable source, or with the believers, in which case one of them is mistaken or lying or deceiving themselves. This is why we point out that people can be good in spite of their religious background, not because of it. Even in cases where their religion does command them to do good things, attributing this to religion is fallacious because the method used to come to the conclusion (do what religion says) is unreliable and unsound. This is an example of “right conclusion, wrong method”, so as a rebuttal, it’s a dead end.

      The second is that you seem to think “coming from the same religious background” means getting the exact same result. But people’s acceptance of ideas does not come out purely from being clones propelled only by rational agency, and unless you think I believe it does, your point is both nonsense and an old and tired “counter” to anti-religious criticism because it imposes a false dichotomy; either everyone from a religious background is immoral, or it’s wrong to criticize religion as though it were one thing. I might add that this also constitutes attacking a straw position because my argument that religion is flawed both intellectually and ethically does not rest on the premise that everyone exposed to a religious background exhibit both failings to an equal degree or even at all (as with apostates and skeptics).

      In any case, how do you know they got their feminist ideals from the qu’ran? They could have been influenced by someone else, or they could have come up with it themselves, and in the meantime call “islam”, say, merely praying five times a day to Mecca, or some other such cherry-picking. People come away with different reactions to the same source’s ideas all the time, but your first port of call is to check the source itself to see who’s the closest. And what you’ll find in the religious text is misogynistic passages. Even if you want to cherry-pick, the move is itself a symptom of how wrong-headed it is to go to the book in the first place.

      Where has he acknowledged it?

      I can’t think of any specific mentions, I’m afraid, so I can’t answer that. It certainly would interest me to find out how he reacts to the news. Given his stance in previous cases, I think he’d approve, and what he wouldn’t be is stumped, and for reasons similar to the ones I described above. However, I’ll acknowledge the possibility that he might not.

      Well yes in theory you are absolutely right. In practice however sloppy language and ambiguity is the nom.

      Your reasoning here and in the rest of that post is specious. The phenomenon exists regardless of how sloppy people are with words and how they want to redefine them ad infinitum. The fact that people have believed in gods, spirits, and karma that tell them how to behave and whom to punish and when to do arbitrary things and who deserves to be shunned, and that such people have astonishingly bad reasons for believing such things, will remain no matter if you want to define religion as “culture”, “group identity”, “being a good person”, or even “a kind of tomato stock”, and I still think you’re missing the woods for the trees. Language tricks and similar errors are what make up your “contradictions”, not the phenomena themselves, and indulging these tricks is to be either mistaken or dishonest.

      Yes but my very point is nobody is explaining what is motivating people to believe that. Why do people like Ken Miller believe that. He is an excellent scientist and far cleverer than many here. I would imagine also far more liberal than he should be for someone who believes in that. So explain why?

      It has been explained multiple times by many people, including Dawkins, Pinker, Dennett, and Harris! People don’t treat ideas dispassionately, there are evolutionary explanations (such as Trivers’ suggestion of self-deception) for why this would be the case, and psychology provides a wealth of information about inconsistencies in people’s reasoning and thinking skills. Your ignorance on this point is an example, as you seem to think I’m at fault for not explaining why someone with considerable skill in a specific field is nevertheless a credulous believer. Yet, you can’t make this point without being guilty of ignorance of various fields and facts that cast doubt on such simplistic thinking, and for whatever reason your bad reasoning seems to come from some revulsion at the simplistic denigration of a specific religion, as though it was automatically wrong to do this.

      You’d appreciate this point if you’d looked at the books and document sources from which such religions originated, examined their beliefs and apologetics and arguments, compared that with current scientific knowledge, looked at the psychology of cognitive and self-serving biases, reviewed the history of religious movements and their creeds, and paid attention to the contexts in which they occur now. The conclusion is that people simply aren’t consistent when it comes to religious belief, both in practising it and in acknowledging its shortcomings, and will engage in all kinds of intellectual malpractice to avoid this point, up to and including muddying the waters.

      People attach emotions, ethical weight, and even their daily living to certain claims that would otherwise be treated neutrally, and compartmentalize their beliefs so that they can have their cake and eat it. The result is a lowering of intellectual standards when those beliefs are called into question by others or invoked, and the result is not just bad argumentation, but persistently bad argumentation. If the issue is not called into question, no such evidence appears. For instance, you assume the islamic girls are as faithful as their misogynistic cohorts, but you haven’t provided evidence or reasons to consider this likely, much less a criticism of the actual points being made, and have just assumed that the mere existence of such things constitutes a “contradiction”. Yet, this compartmentalization is rife in religious discussion (NOMA was one of the results), and it has been addressed many times already. To pick one example, Dawkins criticizes NOMA in The God Delusion, and points out that “faith” is an unreliable means of getting right answers.

      Of course I’ve paid attention to them! However what are you trying to say with them, cos as far as I can see they are just more evidence for the fact its far more complicated than silly superstitions?

      I thought I’d made it clear, even explicit: religiosity correlates with many undesirables (and it seems causes many of them), and the conclusion is that religion is not something to be encouraged. They do not constitute evidence for how complicated religions are – they don’t dissect religions for these complications at all, for a start – and, if anything, show some pretty clear relationships between religion and different societal factors. Again, I consider your “rebuttal” little more than a red herring because I was not trying to prove that religions are simple. I’m pointing out in this specific case that religions can’t be defended as though they were good influences on society, as part of a larger point that religions are not things we would reasonably defend anyway. This is turn a rebuttal to your condemnation of people who denigrate religions such as Islam, because it shows that religion is guilty of at least one of the things they accuse it of. Other points, such as the intellectual basis of religions, the unethical prescriptions of their tenets, and the unintended complicity of moderates as a result of justifying “faith” and being soft on “religion”, have not only been discussed here and elsewhere, but have been addressed by the “New Atheists” themselves. Your very act of pointing out “good” people who affiliate with religion, and your criticism of Dawkins not addressing this, are both flawed as a result because a) Dawkins does address this, and I even indicated where, and b) those “good” people do not prove as counters to the notion that religion is a bad thing.

      In the case of Jerry Coyne they are US centric and that is not representative of the world in general.

      In other words, their data is biased and so is the conclusion. But unless you have a criticism of the specifics of each case, this does not invalidate the findings. True, I’d like very much to see how it plays out in the rest of the world, lacking that specific data, but there are signs that the least religious countries suffer fewer problems and enjoy higher societal well-being than the most religious countries. This is quite apart from the criticism of the principles underlying religious claims about reality, and of following religious tenets.

      As for “complicated” religion, given that you elsewhere seem to be more preoccupied with words than with the phenomenon, it’s hard to see this as anything other than evasiveness.

      The best one I’ve seen linked atheism not to new atheism or anything written by the new atheists, but to social equality and a welfare state rather than just economic GDP – it was on this site somewhere. Which explains the high incidence of religious belief in poorer countries AND the US compared with Europe. Education may explain the difference between poorer states and Europe but certainly doesn’t between the US and Europe. So why? Europe tends to have a better developed welfare care systems the US is more brutal. Religion has declined in the UK and we have less extremism but we also have a Welfare state and NHS.

      And that feeds into the findings of one of my quoted articles: that religiosity correlates with low social well-being. This is a rebuttal to the notion that religions are good for society, and therefore damages the general argument from the pragmatics of religion. I’m perfectly content with the notion that atheism is good only in the sense of not being a negative in this context, and it is still consistent with my point that religions are followed on very poor reasoning (if they weren’t, you would expect religiosity to be unaffected by societal well-being).

      Now why is that? I have opinions but not informed ones. Informing them should be the job of atheist groups like this but hey thats complicated! So when the report appeared here very little discussion compared with hundreds saying hey Islam really nasty.

      It’s hard to read this and think well of your critical thinking skills. If you want explanations for why people turn to religion during hardship, or for why religion causes societal hardship, or for why religion and hardship come out of the same basket, then the “New Atheists” are as good a place to start as any. You could also brush up on your psychology, biblical studies, and current affairs, which many users here do, instead of acting like everyone here is a ravening bigot. And it’s not the job of the atheist groups; it’s the job of scientific inquiry, which isn’t exclusive to this group. Atheist groups are venues for atheists to meet each other.

      Yes, religions are complicated – various beliefs, degrees of confidence in belief, various types of ritual from moral to immoral, different ways of reconciling them with other views and other people with other views, etc. – but in the spirit of the Courtier’s Reply, this doesn’t obscure or erase the fact that they are superstitions given far more credence and cultural grounding than they deserve both intellectually and pragmatically, that most of them have dwindled to nothing more than simply cultural practice with no religious significance, and that it still quacks like a duck even if people want to define it as a planet or a number.

      But in Europe we’re in a recession, we are enduring austerity and benefit cuts and moving to the right. So what does RD think is going to happen to the decline in religion. Continue, reverse stay the same? Or is that too complicated?

      That depends on causal factors we can only glean most of the time from probabilistic and statistical analysis. The presence of austerity says nothing if you don’t ask other questions such as:

      How do we compare with other countries?

      What would happen if the incidence of atheism passed a certain proportion?

      How are religion and societal well-being linked, all else being equal?

      When is all else not equal?

      I’m perfectly content with waiting for more scientific information on this point. What I’m less content on is the insistence that people’s complicating “religion” somehow means we can’t point out what’s wrong with it fundamentally, especially when you try to sell me the porker that it might not have a definition or even should not have one. You can’t be that blind.

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