Episode IV: A New Dope

darth_vader

(Scene from Star Wars: A New Hope)

Admiral Motti: “This station is now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it.”

Darth Vader: “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.”

Admiral Motti: “Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerous ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes or given you clairvoyance enough to find the Rebel’s hidden fortress… uurgh.”

(At this time Vader, using the Force, was telekinetically choking Admiral Motti)

Darth Vader: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Grand Moff Tarkin: “This bickering is pointless. Vader, release him!”

Darth Vader: “As you wish.” (Vader then releases Motti)

Dopey atheists can be quite a handful, especially the loud juvenile and rabid types. A lot of them certainly come across as a bunch of condescending “know-it-alls” who project that they are intellectually and morally superior to their god-believing counterpart. Maybe it is just my age that is doing a number on my patience but if I were Darth Vader I probably would telekinetically choke the brats. I just don’t seem to have too much patience anymore with those who have nothing to offer but mere disdain for religion and theism. I used to be an atheist myself but sometimes when I engage these rabid anti-religionists in a discussion, I notice that they love to paint their opponents as irrational superstitious dummies in order to discredit their position; as if being a “God-believer” is necessarily bad or inferior. They erect one straw man after another and knock them down with so much gusto. I wonder if these folks are just hardwired to dwell on cheap sniping at their opponents and religionists.

Now some of these folks prefer to be called “humanists”, although their hatred of religion and religionists emanate from their words. Some of them claim that they find the notion of God to be false and that they are simply sick and tired of biblical inconsistencies and evangelists who engage in indoctrination. Well, what does biblical inconsistencies and evangelism have anything to do with God’s truth? So God must be false because some book that describes what God is supposed to be is inconsistent or even incoherent? That God must be false because of some annoying jerk who just wouldn’t leave us alone without us having to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Personal Savior?

Sure, inconsistencies and incoherence are signs of incorrectness. If a set of ideas contain contradictions, if any idea conflicts with any other, the whole set may be doubted. However, it is one thing to say that incoherence shows incorrectness, it is quite another to say that coherence proves correctness. We cannot say that any coherent set of ideas must be true.

These folks, I think, fail to see the possibility of constructing a set of ideas that agree with one another, yet still be incorrect. Let’s take Nazi Germany, for example. Many Germans at the time convinced themselves that certain ideas were true. For example, many of them convinced themselves that the Jews were inferior to them, that the Jews were some sort of subhuman beings. Once they became convinced of that, an entirely new moral viewpoint that was coherent was allowed to emerge. The rules about how humans ought to be treated no longer applied to the subhuman Jews. Killing them or using them as mere means is justified.

The point is not whether we all agree with this moral viewpoint of the Nazis. It’s not even whether all Germans at the time did it (many of them did not). That is not the point. The point is whether coherence really determines truth or not.

Consider this typical argument from militant atheists:

God = Bible
Bible = Inconsistencies
Inconsistencies = Falsehood
therefore
God = Falsehood

Being convinced that God = Bible (or that the Bible is the literal Word of God), these folks think their argument is coherent. While we can grant them coherence it does not necessarily mean it is correct. Are God and the Bible really the same? Is the Bible really literally God’s Word? Is God even specific to the Judeo-Christian tradition? Are there no any other Gods outside of Judeo-Christianity? Are there no other expressions of God other than those from Judeo-Christianity and even theism? It appears that these anti-theists (Which I think is the more correct term to use) are ignorant on the matter yet they seem quite sure of their position.

It’s quite disturbing, really. Rabid young anti-theists project intellectual superiority when in fact they seem to be quite ignorant of the things they bash. Folks like these, I think, are embarrassment to atheism and well-intentioned atheist and humanist groups. It’s as if we have these padawan learners who are too eager to duke it out with Darth Sidius and Count Dooku just because they know a little something about the Force. It’s really quite pathetic.

So is atheism about bashing theism? I would love to believe that it isn’t. So what is atheism supposed to be like? Well, I will leave this to the self-professing atheists. However, I would like to offer suggestions on what atheism should not be like. It shouldn’t be rude, arrogant, hateful and delusional as many self-professing atheists project. It’s ironic, really. These folks label theists as delusional while at the same time they think they can kill theism simply by exposing theism’s folly. It is as if these folks think that exposing the flaws of belief and the past atrocities committed under religion would banish religion on the face of the Earth. This sounds as absurd as the thinking of one of the greatest humanist-atheist thinkers, JS Mill, when he expressed that sexuality is merely socially constructed and that if men were only able to magic away another part of human experience – sexuality, as the desire for it has also caused too much violence, it would pave the way for a peaceful world. Just like John Lennon’s “Imagine”, a song about dreaming of an alternative world of peace through a brotherhood of man without religion, JS Mill dreams of an alternative way for the world without sexuality. But like sexuality, religion has and will always be a part of humanity.

It’s really unfortunate that atheism often gets tainted by the rabid dopes in its fold. Perhaps if Darth Vader were to encounter these brats he would say: “The Force is with you… but you dopes are not Jedis yet”.

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25 Comments on “Episode IV: A New Dope”

  1. i do not believe humans, with only a limited capacity of the brain being utilized can quantify the existence of a “GOD” concept with the limited senses given to us. having said that i find the hyperliteral interpretation of the bible and juvenile sniping of these militants as annoying and no different from the holier than thou moralism of rabid fundamentalists.

  2. I don’t get it. What does this have to do with the Philippines – one of the most credulous nations on the planet?

    1. Nothing. But if we have to stretch it, the article was based on my experience and observations dealing with Filipino militant atheists. But I’ve dealt with non-Filipino militant atheists and they’re pretty much an identical bunch.

      1. Those figures and numbers don’t mean anything in reality, in fact most countries require parents to register their children to the state church e.g Nordic countries, of which many grow up to be atheists/agnostics. So a significant amount of those religious members are born into religion rather than a product of conversion.

        1. Well, based on the numbers… it seems that the number of atheists and agnostics are still pretty low compared to various religions (including New Religion) from 1910 to 2010. It kinda suggests that atheism and agnosticism aren’t that what they are cracked up to be. But who cares? To each his own, I suppose. Just because religion has more adherents doesn’t necessarily make religion truer than atheism or agnosticism. On a similar note, the fact that non-belief has a higher growth rate doesn’t make it truer either. It will be kinda like saying that McDonalds makes the best burger in the world just because it has sold over 10 billion burgers. 🙂

    1. Of course 😀 or like saying the Bermuda Triangle is REAL cause of the significant amount of unexplained disappearances that occurred in that particular area of the ocean… Oh man 10 billion burgers?, people should really cut the junk food consumption, obesity is becoming a HUGE problem 😀

  3. Maybe you are talking about people like me, being an atheist.
    I can tell you this, that I have friends from all kinds of religions (I think most of them are either moderate or enlightened religious people). But I really cant stand those people who say stupid things like: I have sinned (and then asking for foregiveness0; god made my partner pregnant (yeah, right. Duh.). And people who are at all not critical about their own religion.

    1. Just for your information, Bob, I wasn’t thinking about you specifically when I wrote the article. I was thinking about the rabid, juvenile, militant types. I don’t believe your type of atheism is as bad as those dopey atheists I was inspired to write about. As far as I am aware about your type of atheism (based on your posts here at GRP)… your disdain for religion is not really about religion itself but the “stupidity” of it’s adherents and the connection between their stupidity and overpopulation and poverty. The folks I was criticizing are the ones who dismiss faith or religious belief even though they really have no idea of the things they bash. Thanks for reading! 🙂

    1. Agreed. The problem is… where is the line drawn to separate understanding and ignorance? Surely we can’t just assign ignorance to faith or religious belief just because it is religious in nature. Similarly, we can’t just assign understanding to atheism just because it shuns religious belief or even just because it embraces science over faith. I mean has there been any reputable scientific study that has empirically proven that God does not exist? Can we really even run an experiment in the lab to prove or disprove the existence of God? How can science even test God?

  4. The Men that founded the USA and wrote the ‘Declaration of Independence’ and U.S. Constitution wanted people to be able to believe what they wanted to believe w/out interference from Gov’t. or other persons and organizations.
    Believe what you want to believe,don’t thrust it upon others and respecting others rights to do so seems a consistent way to pursuse happiness,life and liberty.
    For that very reason this article seems disrespectful,if only due to others disrespect of religion,still: Two wrongs do not make a right.

    PEACE, HAPPY EASTER !

    1. Disrespectful? Perhaps. But I wasn’t really intending to right a wrong. It was more of a critique about the dopey atheists I was inspired to write about. Happy Easter to you too! 🙂

  5. Religions are just sets of opinions about , whether a God exist or a God does not exist. If you believe in God. I respect it. If you do not believe in God. I respect it also. It is just a matter of differences of Opinions.
    What is Food to you…may be Poison to me.

    Let us not kill, murder, or harass each other, because of the differences of opinions on our God.
    Or force your opinion (beliefs of God) on other people’s throats…

  6. ..”… I used to be an atheist myself but sometimes when I engage these rabid anti-religionists in a discussion, I notice that they love to paint their opponents as irrational superstitious dummies in order to discredit their position; as if being a “God-believer” is necessarily bad or inferior. …”

    Relax, man. I too dabbled into “born-again”, Buddhism, and atheism at various points in my life before reverting to Catholicism. No need to tell a story how I got back to the religion of my birth, but I remember having a renewed spirit like I discovered something new that I started engaging every atheist- and every “born-again”-friend at every opportunity presented. I was also busy in net forums with religion as the topic. I stopped! First, I don’t think anybody wins an argument re religion in the net — it just firms up the more the beliefs (yes, atheism is a belief and a faith too) of each of the opposing participants. Am not saying you have a useless article here. In fact, it is a well-written article; I can feel your frustration, which is the reason I am reacting. Yes, we have to talk about religion in the net from time to time.

    But, the more essential reason I stopped engaging in net forums is because the more I read about Catholicism now, the more I realize how little I know about it, and I keep telling myself now that little knowledge is very dangerous. Far from being an irrational, superstitious system, it is well founded in the Bible, epistemology, philosophy, theology, history, anthropology, ethics, etc. Many only see the dirty, earthen vessel that contain the treasure inside. Often the attack is on the dirty vessel, not the treasure. Christianity is not about a book, a pope, a priest, a minister, etc, but about a person called Jesus Christ.

    Be that as it may, religion is so big a topic, and yet so nuanced that one has to tread through it quite carefully. Thus, I have found talking to friends about it face to face, or joining small, or even big, group discussions, where you meet real people, as more rewarding than just talking to an impersonal computer or tablet screen. I think we learn more in such a setting. No wonder Jesus did not command his words to be written — no one followed Jesus with a notebook. Faith comes from hearing!!! (No, no one also followed Jesus with a tape recorder. I suppose we are humans; our experience of God will always be mediated — God will always call us from the depth of our experiences.)

    No, I am not discrediting the Bible. It is the most important component of a Tradition (with a capital T) among many traditions. It has to be read within that Tradition from which it evolved. For sure, we can’t read it like our present day, modern books, journals, or technical write-ups, otherwise you will never understand WHY it contains errors and inconsistencies, and yet teaches NO ERROR. (E.g., Gn7: 17 writes the Flood lasted 40 days, Gn7:24 has it lasting 150 days. Joshua10:13, the sun stood still? Hahaha. The moral misunderstanding about Josh11:14-15?) Just think about it. It is a COMPILATION of many books (Catholics say 72; others, 64, 62, 66, etc.). Each book is of a different genre, written and edited in the span of millenias, each author, editor, copier, etc, not knowing and with no intention of being one day a part of what we now call the Bible. Each book in the Bible was written for a specific period, a specific circumstance, a specific culture — a Bible was farthest from the mind of the authors. I will not discuss the “errors” for there are so many expert write-ups explaining these things, but just to point out why so many think to know the Bible when they have not even consulted and referred to bible experts. (If you really want top quality bible exegesis or the hermeneutics of exegesis, then there is the three-volume ‘Jesus Christ’ by Benedict XVI. B-16 is an intellectual giant, and not many know about this.)

    The Bible is very much Jewish, and many forget this. It mirrors Jewish thinking. And, thus many symbolic languages and numerologies that have so much meaning to Jews do not impact present readers – some words and phrases/verses seem so insignificant when in reality they are, and the reverse, emphasis is placed where there should be none. (For examples, many think Adam was far away when Eve was tempted. No, he was not. He was right there, just beside Eve — reader missed one word. Reader also think the tree of good and evil in Eden is actually a tree. No, it is not a tree, much less an apple tree. It is the symbolism the God is the OEM, the original equipment manufacturer, thus is the final arbiter of what is good and evil; humans, the equipment, cannot know better what is good and evil than the manufacturer. …..three wise men visiting the Nativity? Hahaha, Bible never said three. Wise men? It was more of a symbol of science paying respect to Jesus….) The Bible is a book to be read for spiritual purposes (not for science exposition) for it will yield never-ending spiritual fruits if only one could recognize the “literal sense” and the 3 other “more-than-literal-sense” in the entire Bible.

    Bear in mind that not everything in the Bible is Revelation. (For example, Tob6:2 and 11:4 mention a dog, apparently, it was Tobias’ pet. This one serves no revelatory purpose.) At the same time, not all of revelation is contained in the Bible. I think this is obvious. Many say God wrote two books: the Bible, and the other one, Nature.

    Hmm, nature? ….God creating the universe out of nothing is more of a modern thinking — in other words, time and space had a singular beginning. Even by the time the Greeks had all the sophistication in philosophy, the universe was always taken as flowing, or ‘creating’ from eternity. They could not conceive, imagine, a universe with a beginning. It is correct that the Torah propounded this right from opening lines in Genesis, but remember the Jews were so much a minority in the total scheme of things in the ancient world. Greek thinking was the predominant influence of mind then. One reason why Hinduism, Buddhism, and all other religions that pre-date Christianity are fundamentally pantheistic. Even by the time of Augustine in the 6th century, this issue was unclear even when it was there in Genesis Chapter One. It was the University of Paris, specifically Thomas Aquinas, in their effort to merge Greek philosophy with the Bible in the 13th century that finally the full impact of Genesis Ch.One had gotten all its meaning. I don’t know if this the reason why it had to be a priest that passionately pursued the Big Bang Theory — George Leimatre is known as the Father of Big Bang. In the same vein, no, the Bible is not against evolution, e=mc square, etc.

    Think about it. New atheism wants to go back to that initial stage of Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, etc the Greeks found themselves in order to get rid of the refinement done by Christianity to those philosophies. So, who is being irrational? They are lobbying for more funding in the research related to multi-verse. But, that is putting a faith on something that could not be proven empirically. Then, they are walking back now evolution and Darwinism and are claiming that evolution has never been about the origin of life. Why? Because before biology, there was chemistry, they could not understand the big jump that produced the first tiny cell 4 million years ago? Or, are they seeing the light from the Anthropic Principles, which they have been resisting for a long, long time. So, who is being unscientific?

    Nonetheless, I think I’ve just put the cart before the horse. If we are to talk to atheists, we can’t talk of the Bible, even if they are insistent in using the Bible against theists. As you rightly pointed out, they think they are the ones that discovered the errors and inconsistencies, and they will dangle it in your face. Hahaha, but bible experts have known these things from way, way back. But, throwing away religion because of these is like throwing the baby with the bath, or burning the entire house because of termites, or arrogantly trying to re-invent the wheel. There are intellectual giants in each age, and surely, it would be foolish to discount the Ancients. The point is the Bible is part of the big subject in theology called Revelation, which is part of Dogmatic Theology. It is also part of Speculative Theology in a way. So, how can we even talk if God revealed Himself, if we could not even settle the first question: does God exist?

    First believe if God exists. If one cannot, then one is an atheist, period. If one can believe God exists, but cannot believe that He revealed Himself, then one is an agnostics. If one can believe God exists and revealed Himself, then one could believe the Bible or the Koran (but let us leave out the Koran here. Suffice to say that the Koran is a plagiarized Torah and Ketuvin, and thus partly a plagiarized Bible, but then perverted thereafter. We don’t even know if it is really the original from Muhammed for the Ottoman Empire took over it to suit its purposes. Of course, the Muslims also accuses the Bible as being taken over by Constantine who perverted it, which of course cannot be because unlike the Koran which has one author, the Bible has so many authors, editors, copiers. There is just too much paper, or papyrus, or whatever trail — can’t cover up these things just like that. But, this is an entirely different topic, a long, long one.) But see, this is the reason why it is so illogical for an atheist to be reading the Bible for he has not settled within himself fundamentals before arriving at revelation. An atheist will never understand the Bible.

    God can be proven by natural reason (or natural theology) without the Bible. (Of course, when I use the word proven, I am using it loosely for humans will only be able to see God through a “third eye” — always through a tinted glass. God is the supreme paradox. We don’t solve paradoxes. We learn to live with them.) But, I will not do the “proving” here for gosh, we would really be into ontology and metaphysics. We will be talking about Aquinas’ ens and esse, substance and accidents, matter and form, acts and potentialities, transcedental qualities, etc Better I refer you to Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles. The site of New Advent has it. If Thomas Aquinas proves to be heavy, then google Reginald Garrigou Langrange. Peter Kreeft is also good. The two are very good Thomists

    But, we are in an age when science is being separated from religion, and vice-versa — the latter by fundies, whether of Christian, Islamic, or New Age stripes; the former by the militant atheists. But, religion without reason (science) is superstition, and reason without religion (faith) is idolatry and arrogance. No doubt, the aggresiveness of atheism today is influenced by the Four Horsemen: Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet, the late Chistopher Hitchen, and last, but not least, Richard Dawkins, whom most consider is the atheist guru, because of his books like God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker among others. They are, of course, supported by the media by the likes of Bill Maher, etc, and NYT, MSNBC, the Guardian, etc. And, of course, by Hollywood, which of course will not go all the way towards atheism because tthe religious audience is still sizable, so chose to go half-way only by propounding pantheistic, or New Age, gods like the Force in Star Wars, the Nature in Avatar, the god interested in climate change in Noah, etc. But, religion is a very nuanced thing. We better believe in the true God who revealed Himself, or we might as well believe in no god.

    It is interesting to note that Telegraph from time to time reports this or that notable scientist, and there has been quite a few, who finally converted to a religion after reading God Delusion. The stories are almost all the same; religion was a non-issue to these scientists before the book, but the book made them take a serious look at religion and ended up being converted into one. Of course, the next day Dawkins would come back, but not directly attacking the alive scientists, but by repeating his typical rant against Anthony Flew, Dawkin’s predecessor in prominence as a scientist and atheist, who ended converting to theism towards the end of his life. In any event, if one is really serious about these things, one could also google some of the academics who reviewed God Delusion. This should include Alvin Platinaga, Peter Kreeft, etc so you get a feel of what theist academics are saying, i.e. a picture.of the other side, if you want to be an “objective” atheist. I think the archives in the sites of Public Discourse, First Things, Crisis Magazine, America Magazine, Patheos, Commonweal, Catholic Answers, Shameless Poppery. etc also have such reviews. The best of course is to get hold of the book, Answering the New Atheism by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker, that tears apart the arguments of Dawkins point by point. There you will see that Dawkins is all about rhetorics and no philosophy.

    If Thomas Aquinas of the 13th century can tear apart the 19th century Nietsche, who is really the Giant of Atheism with no match among atheists, how can Dawkins stand against Hahn and Wiker who have centuries of a well developed philosophy covering their backs. The point is that the present atheism is not really about speculative or philosophical atheism, but a complain about what has been and is happening in the world. There is natural disaster, war, poverty, injustice, evil, etc. How can this be if there is God? If you have been following Darwin, you will sense that he is not really an atheist, but an agnostic at heart — he is holding back something. Admittedly, though, “proving” God in the face of disaster and evil is the most difficult. It is the most difficult objection an atheist could raise, not things about the bible, doctrine, or philosophy. But, there is a branch of theology that tackles this, and it is called Theodicy. The reason this subject matter is very difficult because you will be like a lawyer using “circumstatial evidences”, and you know that in the court of law, these are the most lenghty and difficult cases to prosecute or defend. But, it can be done. (One Youtube debate that can show you this are the ones between Dinesh d’Souza and Bart Erhman. Ehrman is an academic and very much a bible expert. Something happen to his marriage, or something, I exactly dont remember, but has become a militant agnostic. Watch how Ehrman floundered biblically and philosophically vs Dinesh who simply demolished him..)

    Oh gosh, didn’t realize the lenght of this. I have been ranting and I have to stop. This is the reason why I don’t want to talk about religion. My apologies, but I hope I contributed something — otherwise, just discard it please.

    P.S I am glad the president of CBCP issued a memo this week to priests that they could no longer deliver any kind of homilies, worse, the unprepared ones, in masses. It seems they have been receiving a lot of complaints and that hearers of masses don’t mind listening to heavy subjects like doctrines being expounded, or biblical exegesis. It is about time. Catholics should have done this earlier. Good they have noticed that we could no longer sit there for 15 to 30 mins being inflicted with bull-shit sermons. It appears they will also no longer ordain seminarians who can’t deliver sensible sermons. Gosh, it’s about time.

    1. Correction, 3rd par from last….if you have been following Darwin… shud read …if you have been following Dawkins

      hehehe.. cant follow Darwin. He is already 6ft under the ground.

      Anyway, Happy Easter to you, Hector, and to all. Jesus Christ is risen. Alleluia.

      Thanks again, Benign0, for tolerating this long comment.

    2. The article and this comment made my holiday at work worthwhile pumping up my blood and my neurons. It’s really tedious work during Easter. Thanks, Add and Hector. I must say religion and anti-theism is only interesting because of God at the center.

    3. Relax, man. … First, I don’t think anybody wins an argument re religion in the net — it just firms up the more the beliefs (yes, atheism is a belief and a faith too) of each of the opposing participants. Am not saying you have a useless article here. In fact, it is a well-written article; I can feel your frustration, which is the reason I am reacting. Yes, we have to talk about religion in the net from time to time.

      Thanks, man! But don’t worry… I’m cool… I’ve been around and I’ve involved in crossing swords with different shades of atheists for almost 2 decades. Heck… I was even one of those dopey atheists who loved to bash religion too! I don’t really intend to waste my time in theo-philosophical debates anymore. Been there… done that. Besides, at my age and current health condition… life is just too darn short to dwell on these kinds of pointless debate. So I’m with you. 🙂

      No, I am not discrediting the Bible. …. The moral misunderstanding about Josh11:14-15?) Just think about it. It is a COMPILATION of many books (Catholics say 72; others, 64, 62, 66, etc.). Each book is of a different genre, written and edited in the span of millenias, each author, editor, copier, etc, not knowing and with no intention of being one day a part of what we now call the Bible. Each book in the Bible was written for a specific period, a specific circumstance, a specific culture — a Bible was farthest from the mind of the authors. … The Bible is very much Jewish, and many forget this. It mirrors Jewish thinking. And, thus many symbolic languages and numerologies that have so much meaning to Jews do not impact present readers – some words and phrases/verses seem so insignificant when in reality they are, and the reverse, emphasis is placed where there should be none.

      Yep. Baiscally it all sums up to knowing the history of how the Bible was compiled as well as knowing and understanding “midrash”. 🙂

      But, we are in an age when science is being separated from religion, and vice-versa — the latter by fundies, whether of Christian, Islamic, or New Age stripes; the former by the militant atheists. But, religion without reason (science) is superstition, and reason without religion (faith) is idolatry and arrogance. No doubt, the aggresiveness of atheism today is influenced by the Four Horsemen: Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet, the late Chistopher Hitchen, and last, but not least, Richard Dawkins, whom most consider is the atheist guru, because of his books like God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker among others. They are, of course, supported by the media by the likes of Bill Maher, etc, and NYT, MSNBC, the Guardian, etc. And, of course, by Hollywood, which of course will not go all the way towards atheism because the religious audience is still sizable, so chose to go half-way only by propounding pantheistic, or New Age, gods like the Force in Star Wars, the Nature in Avatar, the god interested in climate change in Noah, etc. But, religion is a very nuanced thing. We better believe in the true God who revealed Himself, or we might as well believe in no god.

      Man, I think you might enjoy one of my oldies (a basic wrap-up of Alister McGrath’s critique on Dawkins). Here… http://filipinofreethinkers.org/2011/01/27/the-gospel-according-to-st-dawkins/

      🙂

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