Tag Archives: Atheism

Those Spiteful Atheists

Some stupidity like this is doing the rounds:

1) Being an atheist is okay. Being an atheist and shaming religions and spirituality as silly and not real is not okay

2) Being a Christian is okay. Being homophobic, misogynistic, racist or otherwise hateful person in the name of Christianity is not okay

3) Being a reindeer is okay. Bullying and excluding another reindeer because it has a shiny red nose is not okay

But Hold On

Atheists don’t generally shame spirituality and say it’s not real. Spirituality is a human emotional feeling that some humans have more than others; and some atheists are spiritual, though they don’t need a deity for that.

Atheists do say religion’s gods are not real, and that’s just as okay as believers saying their gods ARE real.

And, of course, when YOU the believer say YOUR god is real, and the only true god, then YOU are saying the gods of other religions are not real. And that’s okay?

These very different gods cannot be all real. So believers inherently deny the reality of all gods but theirs. So, this admonition aimed at atheists is hypocritical BS.

But let’s look a little closer at those words above and what they imply.

Is it okay to criticise those Christians that are homophobic, misogynistic,
racist? Of course it is. YOU just did it above. And do YOU think racism is shameful, or not?

Let’s look at another angle.

Point 2 seems reasonable, because it is criticising the persecution of people for what they are and cannot help being: homosexual, female, of a different ethnic origin. Point 3 is similarly aimed at people for what they are – the animal equivalent of fat-shaming, or bullying kids that need to wear glasses, or bulling people for being a bit further from the norm than most others.

But when you look at point 1, what is this ‘shaming’ really targeting? It’s targeting the ideas and beliefs that people hold. It’s targeting the religious based justification for homophobic, misogynistic, racist agendas.

Is that not okay?

If you think not, then you need to think twice when you post jokes that make fun of or shame Conservatives, or even Fascists. If ideas are not up for scrutiny then you’ve just shut down the whole debate of political ideas, including your own. YOU have taken on one of the most reprehensible
aspects of extremists ideologies – shutting up criticism.

What do you think those three points are meant to do, if not shame people into thinking cuddly nice religion deserves a free pass on criticism and ridicule for stupid ideas.

The bollocks above is based entirely on the religious demand for special privilege. If you think YOUR belief is that special it cannot be made fun of, then you are demanding a privilege that in all likelihood YOUR religious
belief does not live up to. Have you read the religious scriptures of most religions and how it doesn’t merely shame non-believers, but in many places predicts their eternal suffering in hell, or even demands their punishment, even their death, here on earth. And based on what? Some ancient texts written in totally ignorant times?

If you think some politicians are not making sense because they are not paying attention to reality, then most religions DESERVE shaming and ridicule, because they are based directly on myth and not on reality.

At least David Cameron isn’t going to Europe and arguing for changes in fishing quotas because Poseidon demands it.

And yet, those nice warn friendly Anglicans don’t deserve ridicule for their beliefs? Think again: Floods are judgment on society, say bishops.

Get over yourselves. Religion is stupid, and often shamefully homophobic, misogynistic, racist. The method of using faith to sustain your religious belief is exactly the same faith mechanism that religiously inspired terrorists use to sustain their belief in the most abhorrent scriptures of their religion.

Is Myers Morally and Intellectually Bankrupt?

So, in response to the Oregon shootings, this was Myers: Is atheism bankrupt?

He references Ashley Millers post, which I cover here: Ashley Miller Invites Our Atheist Self Flagellation.

We had another mass murder in America this week, and there’s no way around it: it was by a “none”, someone who hated organized religion, and who described himself as Not Religious, Not Religious, but Spiritual. If he were participating in a survey, we’d embrace him as one of us, part of our growing majority.

Well, that’s right, we might, with regard to his rejection of organised religion. He would be a contribution to the statistics of the increase in irreligion (as all we atheists are). But I’m guessing that doesn’t make him ‘one of us’ in the way Myers intends. Because that would be the dreaded ‘dictionary atheism’.

I agree completely with Ashley Miller’s point that the myth of atheist superiority is dangerous, and leads to terrible consequences.

I disagree, particularly with respect to this killing, and the Hicks case.

But let’s not fool ourselves that this is really about atheism. I could give Myers some wiggle room, considering the recent trauma of the self-inflicted implosion in that corner of FtB over the Benson affair, I suppose he’s a little disillusioned by it all, and said as much in a recent post. But never mind, he’s not about to miss an opportunity to take up Miller’s thinly disguised attack on New Atheists. Myers is far more explicit. None of the ‘best selling atheist authors’ bollocks. right out with it. It’s the fault of Sam Harris.

But of course, some of our self-appointed ‘leaders’ want nothing to do with that. It never fails that if you want to see the insufferable smugness of delusional atheists, all you have to do is turn to Sam Harris.

I’ll repeat here the quote of Harris that Myers uses, because it’s worth reading in its own right:

No rational atheist (or “New Atheist”) holds religion accountable for every idiotic or unethical thing religious people do. We blame a religion only for what its adherents do as a direct result of its doctrines, such as opposing gay marriage or killing apostates.
Atheism has no doctrines. It does not demand that a person do anything, or refrain from doing anything, on the basis of his unbelief. Consequently, to know that someone is an atheist is to know almost nothing about him—apart from the fact that he does not accept the unwarranted claims of any religion.
Atheism is simply the condition of not believing in Poseidon, Thor, or any of the thousands of dead gods that lie in the graveyard we call mythology. To that extent, everyone knows exactly what it is to be an atheist—he has simply added the god of Abraham to the list of the dead.
If a belief in astrology were causing people to go berserk—to deny medical care to their children or to murder unbelievers—many of us would speak and write about the dangerous stupidity of astrology. This would not be bigotry or intolerance on our part. It would be a plea for basic human sanity. And that is all that an atheist’s criticism of religious tribalism and superstition ever is.
If you understand this, you will recognize any attempt to blame atheism for specific crimes, great or small, for what it is: A fresh act of religious demagoguery.

And what does Myers have to say to this?


Myers gives a quick statement on his position on religion, which doesn’t exactly contradict any of the above from Harris. He even says:

I am all in favour of tearing it down and replacing it with…what?

New Atheism? Yes, .. err, … no, Myers accepted then rejected that. Atheism+? Well, sorta, but now denies his interest in that. Social Justice? Well, who wouldn’t be for social justice? Hey, Harris is a humanist, and goes for social justice too? I know, we can replace religion with Humanism! Has Myers not considered that?

According to Myers:

… and replacing it with…what? According to Harris, nothing.

Well, that’s a damned lie, right there, isn’t it. We know it is. But Myers and his comment crew will keep pushing this theme. So, Harris writes a book on morality, espousing humanist principles, chats to Maher on his show about humanist liberal principles, states it clearly all over his books, articles and appearances. So, why does Myers think Harris offers nothing?

Atheism has nothing constructive or productive to replace the bad system most people are limping along under — rip it all out and apparently, brute reason can then be trusted to evolve something better.

Yes, Myers is actually right here in his rhetorical mockery of the quote from Harris. Myers denounces ‘dictionary atheism’ because Myers has his head stuck up his ass trying to find his own identity in the ‘atheist community’. That’s the problem Myers has been suffering from. He’s searching for something more, within atheism, and he’s looking in the wrong place.

There’s reason organising atheists is like ‘herding cats’. There is very little to it. Myers and others have tried to build a Social Justice Atheism, and you can’t. Some have tried to build a Social Justice Skepticism, and failed.

I follow a few football sites on Facebook (proper football, played with your feet) and on one of them some thoughtful type posted, “Let’s show the world that XXX supporters welcome refugees!” he was told in no uncertain terms to fuck off. Some said, “This is a football page, not a political one.” Others were clearly racist bigots that hated all foreigners, and their words were, well, you can imagine. There are ideas, like atheism, and football, that attract a variety of people. So, big news: not all atheists are nice people, and nor does atheism require that they should be. Dictionary atheism is spot-on. If you want to blame some heinous act on some atheist, you really do have to find some cause other than their atheism. It generally isn’t their atheism.

Atheism, as anything like a movement, can include anti-theist racist bigots. That isn’t a problem for atheism as a movement, it’s a problem for humans. All we can do is denounce them when they appear. They are still fully paid up atheists if they don’t believe in gods, even if they want to kill all theists.

So, reflect again:

… and replacing it with…what? According to Harris, nothing.

With humanism, liberalism. As Harris does.

Never mind that the same atheists who adore the irresponsibility of the idea that their beliefs impose no demands on them are also the same atheists who so detest equality that they spit on feminism;

Remember, Myers is conflating some online anti-feminists with Harris here. Remember here that for Myers, Harris is the target of all this, along with anyone that agrees with him.

… they are so authoritarian that they rush to the defense of their Leaders with a capital “L” no matter how egregiously offensive their bigotry might be, and any who dare to criticize them are “harming the cause”.

No. We tend to leap to their defence because you are so fucking wrong. And what the fuck has ‘authoritarian’ got to do with any of this?

We need purpose and value and meaning as well, and if a prominent Leader of atheism is saying that atheism doesn’t do that, that’s a declaration that atheism is bankrupt, and has failed totally. It has become a Great Nothing.

The people Myers is declaring to be atheist Leaders, ‘L’, don’t take on that leadership willingly. They are merely popular for their writing and appearances, with regard to religion. Myers has been too – though he’s sullied his reputation more than most, without needing to be misrepresented.

When New Atheists talk about theism and atheism, that really is what it’s about. When they debate with theists on the morality that theists claim for their god, the atheists offer humanism, born out of our human biological and cultural history – just as Myers does. So, “It has become a Great Nothing” is just illustrating the fucked up perspective Myers has; his desire to define atheism for others, and to pick up on the straw man that is of his own creating.

That’s not my atheism, though.

We know that. We’ve seen all his twists and turns as he’s tried to fit the square peg in the round hole and wondered why it doesn’t fill it all round. There’s a gap. Because atheism isn’t a social moral systems. Humanism is.

As at least one commenter pointed out, they use the term ‘secular humanist’. Personally, to be a little clearer, I often use ‘atheist secular humanist’. I might even let New Atheist stand for that, because that’s what fits, and that’s how I see the popular New Atheists like Harris and Dawkins – which has to be explained over and over because idiots like Myers, and Greenwald, Aslan, Uygur and others insist on fucking it up with their bullshit.

So, what does Myers think?

I argue that the absence of gods gives greater prominence to the interdependence of the human community, and adds greater weight and urgency to the importance of empathy and equality and all those human values — but if atheism is now a label that allows us to nonchalantly disavow responsibility for the actions of those within our own group, perhaps it’s time to disband the whole idea of an atheist community.

This is so dumb. None of the people Myers is targeting here disavow any responsibility for their own actions. Humanists that are also atheists live by their humanist values, and just happen to be atheists. Racist bigots that happen to be atheists don’t hld themselves to the humanist principles.

Think of it as a Venn diagram, with a tiny fraction of the human characteristics as expressed by binary membership (in or out) of groups. There’s atheism. There’s humanism. There’s theism. There’s hate filled bigotry. They intersect. We all work in that universe.


1 – The humanistic values of religion that Myers would like to replace (with what? he asks).

2 – Of course religion has its bigots.

3 – What Myers is really looking for is atheist humanism. He sees it as his social justice atheism, as a thing; but really it’s the intersection of things: atheism and humanism.

4 – Myers seems to think that dictionary atheists, in saying that these killers are not doing it because of their atheism, are claiming that atheism is all this region: 4 is what’s left, when you remove 3.

5 – And some even imply that if you remove the social justice stuff then atheists are nothing but 5.

But what Myers is failing to see is that dictionary atheists, New Atheists, Harris, are pointing out that atheism really is a separate class, distinct but intersecting with humanism and bigotry. That atheists can be humanists, but need not be.

Myers wants atheism to be just 3. But he can’t make it just 3 by simply whining that it should be.

So, what do you get when you move from theism to atheism? If you’re a humanist you go from 1 to 3. If you’re a bigot you go from 2 to 5.

So, what was Hicks? I recon he was 3, but had issues.

How about C J Werleman? I recon he sure has been a 5, but now tries to pass himself of as 3, but fails. Aslan? A 2. Harris? A 3. Myers? A 3, but dips his toes into 2 far too often.

All this is pointed out to Myers. And his response, in the comments (35):

OK. So atheism is totally useless, and means nothing at all. We might as well go back to believing in Odin.

Now you know he’s lost the plot.

Myers wants his own little Atheism-M empire that he can lead and expand. And he’s been pushing it so ideologically that many people have turned away, or have been kicked out, blocked, for non-conformism.

Of course, Myers got it wrong anyway, in the Mercer case. See more on my post on Ashley Miller, but basically, this:

Oregon Killer’s Mother Wrote of Troubled Son and Gun Rights

So, is this about atheism? Is it abut Sam Harris? Well, had Myers waited he could have still blamed it on Harris because Harris owns a gun, and all gun owners are mass killers.

But this is very inconvenient for those that want to blame it on a sane white atheist. He was mixed race, not entirely rational, suffering the torment of a life with Asperger’s syndrome in the family, and not so much an atheist that it matters – not a raving militant as Myers would have you think of Harris.

So, the two incidents where Myers and others have tried to place the blame on atheists (at least New Atheists) when shooters, Hicks and Mercer killed people, it looks like atheism had little to do with it, if anything at all.

Justin Welby Likes To Torture Sick People?

And here we go with another religious justification for torturing people, from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Of course he doesn’t like to torture sick people, or to use his religious belief to justify such torture. I thought, well, if he’s prepared to use ridiculous rhetoric to make his case, I might too. But then thought again, decided that’s basically dishonest, and added this retraction. I’ll leave the dishonest BS to Justin.

With other faith leaders, I have joined in writing to members of parliament, urging them to oppose Rob Marris’s assisted dying bill. We have written, not in an attempt to push “the religious” viewpoint on others …

I’m sorry, Justin, but that’s precisely what you are doing, with other faith leaders. You are indeed trying to push your religious views on us.

but because we are concerned that a change in the current law on assisted suicide would have detrimental effects both on individuals and on our society.

And your view that the effects will be detrimental is biased by your religious views. Now that’s not to say you can’t provide a reasonable argument independent of your religious views, I’m just saying I don’t think you have. But let’s get down to addressing your concerns.

First, a change in the law to permit assisted suicide would cross a fundamental legal and ethical Rubicon.

Yes it will, for the better. For too long the principles of the sacredness of life have been, yes, sacred – i.e. religious. Life is a process. We, that is our mental selves, are along for the ride. Only your religious convictions associate this life with additional notions of souls and minds that are distinct from our physical reality. I don’t share your views. I value this life and the lives of others while they are being lived. I’m all for improving health and medicine to extend enjoyable life as much as possible. I’m even keen on using more advanced artificial means of extending life where it is wanted, perhaps in ways that you might not – if being a cyborg could bring a greater more enjoyable life I’d be for it. Only a presumption of the specialness of human life in some weird mythical sense sees current humans as the pinnacle of earthly creation. See us properly on an extending evolutionary scale and we are just somewhere in there and are not the chosen ones the religious presume we are.

This respect for the lives of others goes to the heart of both our criminal and human rights laws and ought not to be abandoned.

But, look, it is precisely out of respect for the wishes of those of a free and sound mind to maintain self-determination at the end of their lives that I think they should be able to do as they wish. Do we need religious busy-bodies dictating to the slowly dying that their lives are worth more to the living religious than they are to the ones carrying the burden. You’re not helping in the way you think you are – because you are thinking like a religious know-it-all that knows what your god wants when it comes to suffering people. If someone of sound mind, facing long term suffering and incapacity really wants to end it, I respect that wish, and if they can’t do it themselves it seems only humane to assist and not hang around with useless false comfort and a bit of cheering on while watching them suffer.

While it is not a crime in the UK for someone to take his or her own life we recognise that it is a tragedy and we, rightly, do all that we can to prevent suicide. The assisted dying bill requires us to turn this stance on its head, not merely legitimising suicide, but actively supporting it.

This is truly moronic, or dishonest – maybe both. Of course, this bill isn’t about ‘legitimising suicide’ or actively supporting it, because this isn’t really suicide in the usual sense that we’re talking about. This is quite different to, for example, the many cases where people with psychological troubles are looking for an out because they are suffering mental torment.

This is about people who know they are going to suffer the remainder of their lives in some soul destroying diminished capacity, if not abject pain, and they’ve had enough. This is suicide only in a technical sense, and it is only in this technical sense in which your concern here applies – which makes me think it all the more dishonest, that someone supposedly as spiritual as you is missing the spirit of the bill, which is to relieve suffering, to show some respect for self-determination, to have some compassion for a person that understands their own mind. It’s not about ‘actively supporting suicide’ at all – far from it. The bill very specifically guards against suicide, in the spirit of the term.

We are asked to sanction doctors participating in individuals taking steps to end their lives. This is a change of monumental proportions both in the law and in the role of doctors; it is little wonder that it is opposed by the medical profession.

You misrepresent the bill, Justin, because its intent is to make it as fair and as safe as possible. Doctors have never been opposed to this en masse, and those that appreciate the relief from suffering and recognise the brutality of enforced continued suffering, have always had to play stupid games to get around the law. It’s a terrible moral mess that puts doctors through this, as well as the suffering patients.

Currently, those who act wholly out of compassion in assisting someone they know to end their lives will not face prosecution. I feel profoundly the grief and struggle of anyone finding themselves in such a situation, desiring to respond with love in the face of suffering.

So, here you are tacitly legitimising and supporting assisted suicide? And I can only think it’s your religious convictions, that you want to impress on us, that makes you put that aside for the sake of some ridiculous principle. Dishonest. Actually legitimise assisted dying, if you really want to be compassionate. Put your sky-god in his compartment, as you have to do so often as a religious believer dealing with real life.

I know what it is to sit at the bedside of someone you love enormously and yet be torn by fears and worries about their future.

It is your religious belief that presumes there is a future that should be had, in this world or the imaginary next one. Now, if the patient believes the same, and does not want to end their life, then by all means do your religious thing and give them the support they ask for. Nobody is forcing you or dying fellow believers to give up religious principles for yourselves and actively seek or assist in death.

But, Justin, we don’t all think like you or believe in fantasies the way you do. We are capable of self-determination and prefer it to Welby’s-god-determiniation. I don’t want you having a say in my death, or preventing it when I’m ready to go. So, thanks, but butt out.

I agree that the law should take a considered and compassionate approach to caring relatives who are asked by those closest to them to help bring their lives to an end. To change the law, however, to give individuals access to medically prescribed lethal drugs risks replacing the type of personal compassion that is forged in a lifetime relationship for a “process” marked by clinical and judicial detachment.

In other words, despite your religious convictions, you are here justifying lying, pure dishonesty, hypocrisy. What your position amounts to is, “It is wrong to assist you. But hold on, I’ll just look the other way. … Oh, did you die while I wasn’t looking? How sad but noble of you to fight to the end.”

You’re a fraud – even if you don’t realise it yourself. But I don’t find it strange that the religious are able to fool themselves so easily, as it’s a requirement for religious belief in the first place.

As the European Court has noted, the legal understanding of the “right to life” would have to be fundamentally rewritten and for no good effect.

This is plain stupid. The “right to life” is just that, a right, to life; the capacity for me to maintain my life in the face of others that might want to take it. It is my right, not yours or the European Court’s, or the law’s, or my government’s. While our government has a duty to assist in my right to life, to help protect my life against those wishing to take it, it has no rights with regard to my life.

What a “right to life” is not, is a requirement to live. The government should not have the “right to my life” such that they must protect my life against me when I am able to judge it has run its course and is no longer useful to me.

Again, this is not the same issue as stepping in to help someone who is ill and does not have the psychological competence to maintain their own life. If we find someone unconscious after a road accident it is prudent to think they did not want to be in this predicament, and so we actively aid them in their “right to life”. If someone is seriously depressed then it is right to help them recover so that they might re-appraise the worth of their life, to them, not to your religious convictions.

But …

  • My right to my life is not your right to enforce my continued life upon me.
  • your duty to help me maintain my life, when I want it maintained, or when it is safe to presume I would want it maintained is not your right to presume I want my life maintained, when I have, in a state of full competence, specified conditions when I don’t want it to be maintained.

Get your god damned religion out of my life!

On to Justin’s second concern …

Second, a change in the law would place very many thousands of vulnerable people at risk. … It is impossible to ensure that they and other vulnerable people would not be placed under pressure to end their lives prematurely in ways that proposed safeguards cannot hope to detect.

Nonsense. There’s one simple requirement: assisted dying can only be used when the patient has, during a time of mental competence, made a living statement about their right to die wishes, or when, with reasonable precaution, it is thought they would wish it, or, where they protracted suffering is unavoidable. Yes, this is new ground, but it’s not too difficult to come up with clear states of being under which the right to die is complied with.

Make no mistake, MPs are being asked to take a huge gamble that a changed law would protect the vulnerable. There is no need to take such a risk since the current law continues to protect the vulnerable while harbouring no threat for those who act wholly out of compassion.

This is utter rubbish. Of course the law can and would be adapted as circumstances arise. You worry about MP’s, but not my right to self-determination? Religious authority shows too much concern for authority in general – let the MPs do their job and the right thing and give the freedom of self-determination we are asking for.

But more than that. Those that act out of compassion are precisely not the people whose right to die is the subject of this statement. Without a pre-determined statement of conditions in which one might want to die, leaving the burden on those loving family and friends, and the doctors, while there is still the potential weight of a murder charge hovering over their heads, ignores the well-being of all those directly concerned, and totally ignores the wishes of the person that wants to die.

We know from the US states of Oregon and Washington that between 40% and 60% of those who used legally prescribed lethal drugs to end their lives cited concern that they would be a burden on their families as a factor in their decision to bring their lives to a premature end.

The problem here is not with the principle of burden. I, now, in good health and hopefully some time off any miserable death, anticipate the horrendous suffering I’d impose on my family with a drawn out painful end. I value my life greatly, but I know that there could come a time when I submit my family to a dreadful struggle. And it’s no good telling me how much they would want me to struggle on, how much they would not want to lose me – I take those as given, knowing my family. But we’re talking about MY choice here, not theirs. The decision about how much of a burden I want to be is MINE, not theirs; or yours, Justin Welby!

The situation is this, if my dying is such that I would want an assisted death: 1a) I will die at the end of a long, painful illness, in which my family watches me slowly die, and 1b) then I will be dead and they will miss me; 2a) they will see me die quickly, under my own terms, without further suffering, and 2b) then I will be dead and they will miss me. They suffer (b) in either case. Why would I want to put them or me through (1a) rather than (2a)? Only a warped religiously inspired perspective would see any virtue in (1a) and immorality in (2b).

So, since the principle of burden is not the problem, the case of the figures you quoted exposes an actual problem of establishing the subjects’ thinking on the principle of burden prior to their actually becoming incapable of rational decision making.

There is a genuine problem that has to be addressed.

When my second child was born my wife insisted that no matter what she says during childbirth, I must not let the doctors give her an epidural (one of those treatments that still carries actual risk – as a friend having a knee replacement recently found out to her cost). Needless to say, with a breach birth and a long struggle, the air was blue with my wife’s insistence that the doctors should in fact kill the pain – and I of course could not object, seeing her suffering.

So, when it comes to painful end game of life, how do you deal with a loved one who had previously declared their will to live on but who changes their mind and decides, in their pain, they want death? This bill doesn’t solve that problem, but neither does the current state of affairs. It is possible that in such a case the weight of opinion at the time, of the patient and the doctors, would assist dying and be protected under the bill; but not under current law, where there is no process that justifies their action, and where a case could be made that they were killing the patient against the patient’s prior wishes.

The reverse isn’t a problem. With a stated wish to die when suffering a protracted end of life, if a person declares that they have changed their mind, perhaps had some religious epiphany and decided they must suffer on, then by default that wish should be upheld. If the subject swaps and changes over a period of time, by all means default to holding off the deadly injections.

But when the stated wish is continuously and consistently stated and documented until such time that the patient loses all capacity to reason, then uphold the wish and put an end to the suffering.

Once a law permitting assisted suicide is in place there can be no effective safeguard against this worry …

The worry is an unjustified one, Justin. If I don’t want to be a burden on my family when in a state of suffering, then why would you add to my suffering all the more by making me watch them watching me in an indeterminate painful end? Your logic seems clouded by something. I wonder what. A religious presupposition that all cases of choosing death is morally wrong? You are imposing your religious convictions on this conversation in a way you declared you were not.

never mind the much more insidious pressure that could come from a very small minority of unsupportive relatives who wish not to be burdened.

This doesn’t hold much water either. First, if the family is genuinely unfeeling they can just walk away and leave it to the state to look after the subject. If they have some motive for wanting a quick death for their relative, then with or without a declaration from the subject it should not be their decision. Why do we give so much weight to family to make these decisions? Partly because under the current system the burden cannot legally or fairly be put on the doctors, and also because without the right to die and a pre-declared wish to die the family has become the natural go-to people.

Of course there are situations when family may wish the subject dead sooner rather than later despite the subject’s own wishes, and that’s another reason why a clear right to die declaration should be required, and the assisted dying agreed by independent doctors and a court. And as with current (UK) conditions for power of attorney, there should be legal and medical backup to establish the state of mind of someone making such a declaration ahead of time, and the doctors and the court should protect against potential conflicting family interests.

So, that leaves us with a case where the subject has declared their wish to die under some conditions, and those conditions have been met by the subject’s state of health. The fear that the family might now wish that the subject were dead is irrelevant. Their wish is merely coincidental with the subject’s, albeit with different motives. If someone dies in an accident and a family member declares, “Good riddance”, we might censure them, but we would not be tempted to accuse them of murder.

The exhaustion of caring, sometimes combined with relationships that have been difficult for years before someone fell ill, can lead people to want and feel things that they should not.

Religious morality comes to the fore again. Who gets to decide whether one’s feelings are justified or not? Wishing someone was dead, for whatever reason, is presumed to be awful and immoral, ‘sinful’. Does that always apply? Was it wrong to wish Hitler dead? Come on, Justin, do a little philosophy here. When do the religious thought police become justified in deciding what we should and should not think? Do I get to enact laws that prevent you thinking your spiritual thoughts?

Even so, even if you are firmly convinced that wishing someone dead is immoral, having a legal framework in which a subject can state their own conditions for death removes this burden from worriers like you, Justin. No doubt your religious ire will continue to be inflamed, but I reject your stance on this. If I’ve declared conditions under which I want to be put down, then I want my wish upheld no matter how much a family member may wish it for nefarious reasons. Whose death are we talking about here? The subject’s. Whose wishes are we talking about here? The subject’s.

Just as my estate has to be dealt with through the inconvenient process of probate, if I don’t leave instructions, then by not declaring the terms of my own death I’m leaving family and friends in a burdensome position that I know as a sane person I would not wish upon them.

Many people hope they leave this life with a quick and painless end. They hopefully anticipate death in sleep after a good life. I don’t know anyone that thinks it’s a good idea that they live a slow and painful death, have their bodies survive in some diminished totally dependent state. Why you would wish this on others instead of a determined assisted resolution when self-determination has gone, is one of those perverse mysteries of religion.

All of us who have been involved in pastoral care and bereavement care have heard the confusion people feel about how they behaved to a demanding relative.

Yes, and that’s why family members should be removed from the decision making. If the subject has made a wish then that’s what determines that a chosen end of life is on the table. If the subject has not had the opportunity to state their wish, then the suffering should be assessed by doctors, family, and, as the bill requires, independent views. A demanding relative will not dictate the outcome for a subject that has made their wishes clear, because it will be backed up by independent doctors and by the court.

Note here that when it comes to people that are already in a state whereby they wish to end it soonish, and have mental competence, but not the capacity to do it themselves painlessly, they can be pretty far into the incapacitated state and still be competent enough to declare their wishes.

I would suspect there will be more problems where family members object to the death wish of the subject than there are from those colluding to end a life against the subject’s wishes. Even atheists sometimes have interfering religious do-gooders making moral decisions for them. I’m sure many people are forced to suffer a long game when they might wish a shorter one for themselves. Even when they have clearly stated that, they are forced to live on and suffer.

If, Justin, you want to call the right to die ‘suicide’, then I choose to label your version of your right to enforce unwanted life as ‘torture’.

The tests in the bill do not make space, and never could, for the infinite complexity of motives and desires that human beings feel.

The current system does not make space for even finite complexity of the motives and desires of the subjects wishing to be done with their own lives. So, complaining that the fact that some position does not account for infinite possibilities is a bit lame, Justin.

Also, the safeguards are actually stronger than I’d wish for myself. So, “A terminal illness (with a prognosis of six months or less to live)” does not allow me to die under some conditions that I would want to apply. If I was entering a near vegetative state with sever dementia (having got past the stages where I come in and out of self-awareness, suffering confusion and fear) it is reasonable to say that I would no longer be suffering, in my mental oblivion. In such a case I now, while still in a competent state, would wish that in such a future my life be ended for no other reason than that I would be a burden on my family, and the state (i.e. the greater population). My choice.

How come if I run into a building to save a life, but die as a result, I’m a hero, but if I want to relieve my family and the state from caring for an empty fleshy carcass, I’m somehow not quite right in the head when making that decision before that dismal state occurs? Religious presupposition to objective moral correctness, that’s how. To hell with your opinions on what’s right for me!

The law at present does make that space, …

It does not. It dances around it dishonestly.

and yet calls us to be the best we can.

Who the hell gives you the right, Justin, to demand I be the best I can when near death; and who gives you the right to decide what being the best I can amounts to? If I feel my life has run its course and I want to remove myself from being a burden on my family, who are you to moralise that I should not? As it happens, I think I would be being the best I can be in the circumstances. But why expect someone to be at their best in painful death? Your whole perspective is fluffed up with pious ideology.

My third concern is that we need to reflect on what sort of society we might become if we were to permit assisted suicide.

I’m ahead of you here Justin. I’m already reflecting on what sort of society we are for putting up with religious presuppositions to moral authority. Get over yourself. Your fancy hat doesn’t buy you moral authority in my book. Your undue privileged position in the House of Lords is getting you far more say in this than is warranted for believers of fairy tales and myths.

At present, we can show love, care and compassion to those who at all ages and stages of life are contemplating suicide. We can try to intervene, to support them to embrace life once more.

Quite right. But I would put it to you that the right to die is incorrectly conflated with suicidal tendencies brought on by mental distress. It is possible that mental distress could bring on depressive suicidal thoughts in the very subjects of this debate, whereas if they were of sound psychological mind it would not choose assisted death. That’s what the safeguards are for.

We can do all in our power to surround those who are terminally ill with the best possible palliative care, including physical, emotional and spiritual support. We can redouble our efforts to alleviate suffering. We can show that we love even when people have given up on caring for themselves. We can support our doctors and nurses as they act consistently in the best interests of their patients, affirming life and caring for the vulnerable.

Palliative care is an honourable thing is some cases: on the battle field or in an accident, with no hope of assistance; in cases where the subject has decided they have some moral duty or see some virtue to carry on. By all means do what you can to relieve suffering.

And all that means not a jot if the subject has already decided their own fate. What happens to self-determination? You have removed it at a time when they need it as much as any other. Typical of the religious, presuming they know best what others want or need – or what is ‘right’. And if the subject declares they want death, the religious answer is that they couldn’t possibly be right, because God wouldn’t want them to think that way.

Religious presuppositions are crawling all over your opinion on this, Justin. I and many others don’t share them. Even many religious people don’t share them in the same way. You are so far removed from our reality you can’t see it, or choose not to let us have it for ourselves, even though we have no objection to you doing your religious thing when dying.

We risk all this for what? Becoming a society where each life is no longer seen as worth protecting, worth honouring, worth fighting for?

This is about as dishonest as you can get. When you ask, “We risk all this?”, the risks you have outlined are not risky at all, or far less risky than the current state of affairs. And it is your religiously biased opinion about what society should be that is clouding your opinion on what will happen to society. The right to die is actually improving society, acknowledging the wishes of the individual without burdening them with the religiously determined weight of the sanctity of life. Odd that a death cult that sees a better life after death as something waiting in the wings should be so clingy even when the subject knows what they want.

The current law and the guidelines for practice work

They do not! Many people suffer when they should have an opportunity to end the suffering. But they can’t, because a history of religious presuppositions about human life have been battered into us by religion – often literally and fatally, ironically. The current law and guidelines are working for you, so that’s what’s important, eh?

In spite of individual celebrity opinions and the “findings” of snap opinion polls (that cannot hope to do justice to the intricacies of the issue)

Oops, your religious authority slip is showing. Of course, why didn’t I realise that. We need the training of men in clown suits that believe in imaginary beings to get to the real rational fundamentals of a problem like this.

And yes, you can consider that an ad hominem, if you wish, but it is no worse a one than that demeaning statement of yours. Who the hell are you to presume that the people polled do not know their own mind? Who are you to decide that many of them have not got well thought out opinions about their own life and death? And it wouldn’t matter if a minority wanted this change.

The bill helps those that know they are in for a rough ride determine their own end-game, and it helps those that are suffering when otherwise they would be forced to endure, by family, doctors or the law. It’s an attempt to provide more dignity and to relieve more suffering that the current state of affairs does.

You are opposing a bill that would give us self-determination at a time when we wouldn’t have the physical capacity to act on it, and when loving, caring assistance would be appreciated.

Stop the torture, Justin. Support the bill.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis Have A Cunning Plan

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis reveal their cunning plan to bring those dreaded Muslims on side and blame everything on the atheists: In the secular age, it is crucial for people of faith to stick together. Good luck with that.

This is such a brazen plea for anti-secularism, and a worry about Islam disguised as the reaching out of the hand of friendship. Many Muslims will see right through it, as atheists see right through the machinations of all religions.

It really is laughably abysmal to see these men trying to make a temporary truce, like competing Mafia families : Cosa Nostra begets Nostra Aetate: Our Thing In Our Time: the unbelievable things we have to do to survive.

we find ourselves challenged by a new but no less troubling set of global issues which make a reaffirmation of the principles of the document [Nostra Aetate] immensely significant

The global issues that are troubling them are the rise of an Islam that reminds them of their own barbaric history, and a failure of their religions to persist and grow without such barbaric means of repressing dissent.

Today, as we travel together to the Vatican for a historic audience with the Pope, at which we will discuss some of these challenges ..

I’d love to be a fly on that wall at that meeting, because you can bet that what’s said won’t be published, especially when it comes to dealing with Islam.

Jewish and Catholic shared history has been so deeply stained with the blood of innocent men, women and children, whose only crime was a sincerely held personal religious conviction ..

No. The crimes have been many, including the spilling of the blood of innocents and the persecution of each others’ faiths, as well as the persecution of those that don’t share the faith. Judaism is a small sect and inherently insular by the nature of its propagation – they like to keep it in the family – so it hasn’t seen the degree of in-fighting that has plagued Christianity, but it does make a lot of noise for its size. Christians have spilled and burned the blood of many fellow Christians on the grounds of ‘sincerely held personal religious conviction’. And Islam does the same – and as is often pointed out, the greatest number of victims of Islam are Muslims.

Religious conviction is full-square responsible for so much divisive hate and death. And where it isn’t directly responsible, it can be so easily co-opted to any cause, and even turned into the primary motivator that pulls other believers along with it. The Quran and Hadith make excellent ISIS recruitment manuals. Do you live in Pakistan and have a business grievance with a neighbour? Claim he destroyed a copy of the Quran, or that he blasphemed against the prophet. Problem solved.

In many places to be a person of faith can be, in and of itself, an act of courage

The greatest courage required is in the face of fellow religionists. And this has been evidently so for millennia. In fact, except for a few specifically and genuinely peaceful sects, there’s a bloody history to religion, and the Abrahamic religions are the greatest culprits and their own victims. Violent secular threats to religion have been predominantly a 20th century mechanised political phenomenon – but, hey, that’s good enough to blame all atheists for those crimes against humanity.

The worse you get from a humanist atheist is a lack of privileged presumed respect, and occasional derision. Now that seems pretty tame, when you consider how the religious, especially Cardinals, Bishops and Imams have been blaming every natural disaster on the evilness of atheists (and when necessary on other believers that don’t agree with them). How does an atheist pointing out your irrationality compare with your claim to the atheist’s irrationality and condemnation to a fiery eternity? The only reason you get away with it is because atheists don’t believe in your crazy hell – water of a ducks back. Death for blasphemy (or apostasy) has been and still is a repressive force used by religion.

To confess your belief in God no longer commands universal respect for a deep commitment to a lofty ideal, self-discipline and moral conviction.

Damned right it doesn’t. The metaphysical claims of your religions are no more than myths, and yet you build a life and a career out of conning other people into the same belief, taking every opportunity to catch them at birth and indoctrinate them, and you think you deserve respect?


In many societies you are more likely to be dismissed as naïve, unsophisticated and narrow-minded.

Damned right you are. What’s most laughable is the way in which you take some fundamentally flawed premises and heap sophisticated complexity onto it, and you think that results in some sophisticated substantiated truth. It’s built on such erroneous foundations that it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the obfuscating edifice you build on top, the foundations are rotten. And you deserve to be called out on it.

As such, when a view is expressed which is informed by one’s faith on issues such as assisted dying, the value of family life or social responsibility, that view is often treated with scepticism, as though it is somehow less rational or ill-founded.

You have as much right to offer up your reasoning about human suffering and come up with ways to deal with it. But as soon as you tell us your faith informs you of what to think, that makes no difference.

If you think
(a) “assisted dying is a good thing because it releases suffering”,
(b) “I want to relive suffering in a person’s inevitable death”,
(c) “God tells me so”,

then I’m listening to (a) and (b), but (c) tells me nothing, adds no useful information about the problem. However, it does make me suspicious of the reliability of your argument, because there is nothing in (c) that prevents you turning your argument to

(a) “assisted dying is a bad thing because the suffering is necessary”,
(b) “I don’t want to relieve the suffering”,
(c) “God tells me so”.

And all of this amid the alarming increase in the brazen persecution of Christian, Muslim and Jewish minorities which has become one of the most pressing and shameful issues of our time.

Ah, now we come to the duplicity of this statement. You don’t want to inflame your Muslim co-religionists, because they are dangerous – as the link in that sentence shows.

That link, incidentally, is misleading. The article is a little better: “A grim irony of the Charlie Hebdo murders and recent violence in Copenhagen is that Arab Christians endure far more vehement insults at the hands of Wahhabists than do Muslims from secular satirists in the West.” As is generally the case. When ‘secular’ regimes in the Middle East give believers a hard time they do it to everyone, not least the atheist activists, and they co-opt Islam to do it when convenient. But, it does no harm muddy the waters and pretend that the satirical and sceptical rhetoric from ‘militant’ atheists is comparable to the actual death threatened and often carried out by fellow religionists.

That is why it is more important than ever for faith communities like ours to cultivate close working relationships.

You bet. Because the real threat is fellow religionists. There’s no need to suck up to atheists because they only rhetorically abuse your intelligence rather than your earthly body – all of a sudden earthly matters are important.

We share so much in common – a great respect for the tradition that stretches back thousands of years behind us, and a determination to ensure that that same tradition will stretch out long into the future.

Yes you do. But your fundamental differences are a casmaclyptic. The inter-faith stuff is a sham, a band aid over a gushing wound. Christian and Muslim faiths are pretty quick on the draw when it comes to accusations of blasphemy – but there is inherent blasphemy at the very core of the beliefs of your fellow religionists. The core beliefs of Christianity and Islam are far greater blasphemies than any atheists can come up with.

An atheist simply matches the Christian belief with a single non-belief.
An atheist simply matches the Islamic belief with simple non-belief.
A Muslim not only rejects the Christian belief, but adds a blasphemy in turn – a double whammy, a two-pointer.

We are committed to our stewardship of the planet, …

And who gave you that authority? Each of your fictional gods?

… teaching peace and pursuing it, …

If only that was all you did.

… bringing Godliness into the world, …

Whether we want it or not – and if you get us young enough not to know whether we want to not: bonus!

… promoting social responsibility

A good start: stop persecuting people that don’t believe what you believe would be a good start. That would be socially responsible.

… and encouraging society to look after its most vulnerable.”

Having made them most vulnerable in the first place, by subduing them to authority. Get a man to submit to god, then get god to give you the reins. That’s how it works.

These shared objectives became ever more possible after Nostra Aetate. They will be the antidote for negative views of faith that have crept into the world, …

I’m afraid not. You think you’re showing your common ground? That only exposes your incompatible differences that make a mockery of your metaphysical claims to authority.

… and they will make clear its limitless potential for achieving greatness.

Yes, we know power and control of peoples lives is your goal. But thanks for spelling it out.

We pray that the normalisation of Catholic-Jewish relations in recent decades will offer valuable lessons for others around the world consumed by religious and cultural hostilities.

Coded message to Muslims again.

Let this jubilee year in the Catholic Church be a catalyst for all faith communities who are “on God’s side” to work positively and collaboratively and harder than ever before for the sake of all humanity.

Well, yes, for the sake of all humanity let’s hope the co-operation between the faiths gets them to tone down their divisive agendas. Of course as that happens it will be the *secular that you hope to suppress.

* And on we go with this misrepresentation of secularism and the conflating of it with atheism. Secularism is actually a benefit to the inter-faith stuff. It prevents some state religion monopolising the faith arena and persecuting minority faiths. Unfortunately the secular vision of free expression is a tad inconvenient to the religious, particularly if it comes with the rational idea of not indoctrinating children in faith schools. Free thinking is the most dangerous long term threat to any religion, while other religions the internecine conflicts among believers of different sects are temporary struggles for supremacy.

My Atheism

In a comment on the matter of atheists needing faith, Edward Silha gives one of the better responses with the following points:

There is no need to use the terms “faith” or “belief” when discussing the existence or nonexistence of a god or gods. As a scientist, I draw conclusions based on evidence and logic. That leads me to the following conclusions.

1. I cannot prove there are no gods; therefore I am not an atheist.
2. I cannot prove there is a god; therefore I am not a theist.
3. Therefore, I am an agnostic.

The trouble is that the three points are really logical, not evidential points. And this is part of the problem when discussing atheism and agnosticism: while Edward starts talking about both evidence and logic, the three points are entirely logic based, reason, argument, and contain no mention of evidence. So, let me provide a variation on this theme:

1. I cannot prove there is a god; therefore I am not a theist.
2. I cannot find any evidence for gods.
3. Therefore, I am an atheist.

When there is such a lack of positive evidence for something like theism then to be an atheist really is that denial of positive evidence. It’s acting ‘as if’ there is no God, and so coming to believe there is no God.

With regard to the terms ‘faith’ and ‘belief’, there is a distinction that makes ‘belief’ a term we do use and should use. I take it Edward ‘believes’ that power flight using aeroplanes is possible, and further, believes it’s an actuality. It’s worth noting that when using ‘belief’ in the context of religion, believers believe in the actuality of their god, and so it seems reasonable to not believe in that actuality and call oneself an atheist in that context.

But ‘faith’ is quite different, especially in this context of religion and theism. It’s that route to cognitive satisfaction when faced with the lack of evidence and the strong arguments against one’s religion. It’s the ‘faith’ that many intellectual believers resort to even while admitting the empty claims of their own religions.

The original post on which Edward was commenting was headed: It Takes More Faith to Be an Atheist Than to Believe in God? A similar remark is often used by theists to point out our ‘faith’ in science. It’s a false equivalence. One requires ‘faith’ in religion to overcome lack of evidence, but I suggest most supporters of science learn to have ‘trust’ in it from the evidence of its utility, and as such ‘believe’ that science is useful. Though one could have faith in science or anything if one was so minded. Similarly one could have ‘faith’ in one’s atheistic position, but I would suggest that those of us that call ourselves atheists trust the lack of positive evidence in the wake of millennia of religious claims to be good enough have learned to ‘trust’ our disbelief in gods.

Atheism doesn’t require 100% certainty – and indeed, taking up Edward’s point, probabilities aren’t appropriate when one has zero data.

In such cases it’s difficult to distinguish between the degrees of disbelief. Philosophically, epistemically, we have no knowledge and ought to say “don’t know”, but psychologically and sociologically that translates into “no evidence” and “it might as well not exist”. And atheism better describes that than does agnosticism.

The psychological disposition is clearer with regard to fairies and a-fairyism, a-unicornism and so on, and for the specific claims of the major religions.

I don’t believe that astrology works, so I would be an a-astrologist (non-believer as opposed to non-practitioner, though both). But the moon does affect life on earth, and so too to some degree do planets, even if imperceptibly to humans because earthly, lunar and solar dynamics swamp such effects. My a-astrologism is to do with the specific claims of astrology with regard to birth signs and other crazy stuff. Being agnostic about astrology on such grounds would seem to a pointless position to hold.

Being agnostic about theism seems vacuous in a similar way. Translating the “don’t know” about extra-universal matters, origins of the universe, extra-universal ‘physics’, the requirements for intellect and agency on such scales, into agnosticism with regard to religion, seems to be an empty agnosticism.

It seems far more reasonable to be agnostic about the existence of intelligent biological aliens, for example, since we have at least one example of a planet that has produce intelligent life. So the mechanics, the chemistry and physics is at least doable. And what makes us agnostic in this case is both the lack of evidence that such results of evolution are inevitable, and the lack of any sign of alien life so far, let alone intelligent life. The latter isn’t positive evidence against, given the potential for missed coincidental evolutions, and given the vastness of the universe. So agnosticism seems appropriate in this case, for an expression of “don’t know”.

But theistic agnosticism has too many associations with particular religions. And many of the agnostics of history seem to be agnostic about the religion of their birth/culture more than general theism.

It seems to me that claiming to be agnostic has greater religious social connotations than the pedantic meaning of the term Edward ascribes to it with his three points.

I’m an atheist because I can’t see any positive data supporting theism. I don’t believe there is a God as I don’t believe in many things one might dream up. And gods seem to have been dreamt up since some time after humans were able to communicate ideas. Agnosticism gives too much weight to a fanciful idea for my liking.

My atheism is:

1 – An a-theism: not a theist for lack of positive evidence for theism – strictly a “don’t know” position.

2 – Psychological atheism for the futility of thinking of the endless possibilities with regard to gods (monotheistic supernatural god, good and evil gods competing, committee of gods, hypernatural gods creating supernatural gods, …)

3 – Sociological atheism that opposes religion – an anti-theism, anti-religion – for the shear stupidity of taking a fancy and imagining it to be real enough to allow the divisive prescriptions and proscriptions that believers get into.

I’m an atheist. I am not an intellectually piss poor agnostic.

There is yet another distinction to be made, regarding belief, and that’s the matter of believing IN something.

Here are some posts on Atheism.

#PseudoLiberals Go After New Atheists

I’d describe #PseudoLiberals as liberals that have something of the Post Modern Relativism about them. They are individuals that form a loose collective that think they are being particularly good lefty liberals by giving unbounded respect to those playing the offence game in the face of criticism – common with regard to the offended religious.

Their genuine concern for the oppressed and persecuted fogs their view of the very oppressive and persecutory practices of some the people they seek to support or the belief systems that they hold to, and will even blame valid criticisms of the minorities’ beliefs and label the critics as persecutors.

Nothing should prevent reasonable people objecting to any immoral practices that any group engage in, and there should not be a problem with criticising their ideas – especially when those ideas are going to govern their actions towards others.

From honour killings and FGM, to illegal attempts to implement Sharia law, and even to many of the tenets of Islam that are essentially terror tactics: apostasy, blasphemy, heresy, takfir, stoning adulterers, there is much that a western democratic liberal has reason to object to in Islamic belief and practice – no matter what the race, skin colour, origins or religion of both parties to the dispute, believer in the dogma or critic of it, might be.

For the record, because one just has to spell it out, repeatedly …


and, even though I will argue with them on philosophy, science and religion, THIS IS MY TYPE OF MUSLIM!

But take this, from the Quran, 24:2

The [unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion of Allah, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.

If this is acceptable to you, as a Muslim, or even if you want to come up with some stupid theological scholarly (LOL!) reason for why it might be acceptable in some context (there’s always that slippery context), then you are an anti-humanist I have strong issues with. If your holy book is so inerrant that this cannot be seen as an error, then we have issues. If you are a Muslim that manages to disown this and all the other hateful crap, then I marvel at your cognitive contortions, but we’re OK, at least from my perspective. Still think your religion is daft.

While #PseudoLiberals generally agree with the criticisms levelled against the practices mentioned above, and the many atrocities carried out in the name of Islam, they are often reluctant to express that publicly, and they make a lot of noise when someone does – shooting the messenger, albeit metaphorically, which isn’t always the case with disgruntled Islamists, sadly, and that’s sort of the point, isn’t it.

A lot of the hand waving seems to be linked to the western guilt of the #PseudoLiberals – quite valid in itself often enough, but there’s an all too easy move they make from one unconnected thing to another. So, no, New Atheists are not promoting or excusing western state sponsored terrorism, as one #PseudoLiberal implied, just because that’s not the area of expertise or main interest of New Atheists. The clue is in the name, New Atheism focuses on theism and a-theism, and politics in that context. As I said above, many of the New Atheists are humanists, and in other contexts will also criticise or agree with the #PseudoLiberal criticism of our western governments’ state policies and practices. But that this isn’t central to their work doesn’t mean they are denying such criticism.

#PseudoLiberals aren’t immune to their own pride contributing to the false representations of New Atheists. The way this often goes is that the #PseudoLiberal will jump on some bandwagon of criticism of New Atheists, and when shown to be mistaken they are more likely to keep digging that hole rather than weigh up the arguments fairly. It’s unbelievable how often they’ll misrepresent, be corrected, and then go on to misrepresent with the same factually incorrect material. Contrast this with both Dawkins and Harris, who often correct or explain, and are quite humble in saying, well, yes, I could have said that better, or I retract that. Rare from #PseudoLiberals.

In the case of New Atheist criticism of Islam, the #PseudoLiberals have heard the duplicitous cries of Muslims being offended and they work themselves up into such a frenzy that they would rather propagate lies about New Atheist critics of religion than actually take the trouble to face the many dilemmas that arise from good people believing truly awful things. They are able, often in a single statement, to condemn the violence of the religious, claim it’s nothing to do with religion, and blame New Atheist for that violence by the explicit use of misrepresentation.

Being offended is the heads up public victimhood side of the manipulative coin, with the terror tactics of apostasy, blasphemy, heresy and Takfir emblazoned on the tails side. The #PseudoLiberals are cheats playing with a double headed coin.

#PseudoLiberals engage in the limp logic that manages to accuse New Atheists of beliefs they don’t actually hold, while denouncing the violent actions of Muslims, and yet excusing the horrendous beliefs inherent in religion, particularly in Islam, under the banner of tolerance and respect.

Some Examples of the Problem

These are the arguments made against New Atheists following events like #CharleiHebdo and #ChapelHillShooting.

New Atheists Criticise Islam

#PseudoLiberals assert that New Atheists hate all Muslims. And despite the explicit explanation of why this is not so the #PseudoLiberals continue to spread this lie.

Lone Atheist Hicks Kills Muslims

Hicks had been in some dispute with the victims, over what seems a trivial (compared to death) matter of parking, and it has also been reported by a resident of his condominium that he has expressed “equal opportunity” anger, but the full story hasn’t come out yet. Although there’s a macho element to his Facebook page, and a single (as far as I know) picture of a gun, his page is mostly full of the humanist arguments against religion generally – and it’s hardly what could be called hatred, and in fact is full of quotes expressing very liberal and humanist views. The only intolerance that’s obvious is the intolerance of intolerant religions.

The reason for the shooting remains a mystery for now as the police investigation continues. And desipite his wife saying that in her opinion it really wasn’t a hate crime of religion or race, that hasn’t stopped the #PseudoLiberals making their own uniformed minds up.

#PseudoLiberals have decided that the very humanistic aspects of New Atheism, and Harris and Dawkins in particular, are not sufficient reason to believe they are anything but pedallers of hatred and the direct or indirect cause of this act by Hicks. New Atheists incited this violence.

The New Atheists very clearly criticise Islam, but are explicitly not racist or persecuting of Muslims, and not even claiming all Muslims follow all tenets of the Islam as criticised. But none of that matters to #PseudoLiberals .

Some Muslims Kill Lots of People, Citing Islam

Some Muslims kill people for criticising Islam in terms that upset them. Some critics of Islam draw cartoons, and some Muslims kill them for it, or attempt to kill them for it, or claim they should be killed for it. Some Muslims kill other Muslims for not being the right type of Muslim.

#PseudoLiberals are sure to condemn the killing. But here’s where the logic gets scarily bizarre, because according to #PseudoLiberals:

  1. The culprits are not true Muslims and were not doing it in the name of Islam.
  2. Much of this killing is the fault of New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris. Why? Because they excessively criticise a beloved prophet which offends the Muslims; and worse, these New Atheists blame all Muslims for the killing, and in fact the New Atheists claim all Muslims are terrorists.

Lies, but no matter, the #PseudoLiberals have made up their minds.

Now, get this; think very clearly here: it seems to me that (1) and (2) just don’t sit right. If the killers are not true Muslims and didn’t do it in the name of Islam, then in what way are critics of Islam responsible for those killings? How have they even contributed to it?

Imagine these scenarios, thought experiments to show the total logic fail in the above #PseudoLiberal nonsense:

1 – Glenn Greenwald makes a career living off the revelations of Snowden on the spying activities of the NSA. Fair enough; it’s to our benefit that he does that, right?

2 – But then some guy reads Greenwald, and agrees with him on how bad the NSA is. He’s a #Greenwaldian. But this guy then learns some spying techniques and uses them against innocent citizens. And then people that don’t like Greenwald claim it’s Greenwald’s fault for inciting the spying of the #Greenwaldian. Would that wash?

3 – And then some NSA agents kill some liberals that have also published some of the Snowden material, by presenting it in cartoon form. And people that don’t like Greenwald claim 1) The killing was nothing to do with the NSA, and 2) It was Greenwald’s fault for revealing the NSA antics in the first place. Would that wash?

The Culprits

Who would make such dumb fucking arguments? Here’s a list of some of the #Greenwaldian characters.

Seems this list is growing. I need an index into it:


Glenn Greenwald

The man himself. Just follow him and he’ll cough up phlegm soon enough. Here’s an example where he’s more interested in having a dig at Harris than looking at what Harris and Maajid Nawaz are trying to do. Nawaz is an inconvenience in the #Greenwaldian narrative.

Greenwald has so convinced that himself that Harris is a racist that Greenwald thinks Harris can be friends with ‘brown people’, like Maajid Nawaz and Ayaan Hirsi Ali only for self serving purposes. Opportunist Greenwald judges others by his own standards, or at least by his own biased expectations.

Reza Aslan

Simply denies anyone actually believes any of the literal religious stuff anyway, and blames New Atheists, and Harris in particular, for stirring up nonsense about religiously motivated violence. In denying religion does much motivating it makes you wonder what Aslan thinks it’s good for. Does it not motivate people to do good? Not sure how you can have one without the other if the religious texts contain both incitement to do good and to do violence. But that’s the logic of #PseudoLiberals for you.

Never slow to hop on TV and smugly and authoritatively denounce Sam Harris with a bunch of repeated misrepresentations. Comes across as a nice guy, but he’s pretty sly.

In the case of #CharlieHebdo, he did condemn the killings, and made a wider point about the problems within Islamist groups, informed by Wahhabism. And that’s exactly the kind of criticism New Atheists make, but then he says this:

“What really I think puts an obstacle in the way is opinions like Ayaan [Hirsi Ali]‘s and so many others in the political and the media mainstream who continue to say that 1.7 billion people are responsible for the actions of these extremists.”

Which is the fucking problem. Who the fuck in the New Atheists has said 1.7 billion Muslims are responsible for these actions? Where he continues to fail is not accepting that it’s these extremists that are following the texts, having accused Harris elsewhere of reading the Quran literally.

Well, yes, Harris is listens to extremists say they are following the texts, looks at the texts and says, yes, I can see how they get that, so the text is the source of their understanding of Islam – the text is Islam because that’s how the texts define Islam.

It’s all well and good Aslan saying most Muslims don’t follow the text, when even many ‘moderates’ agree with it in principle, because it’s inerrant. There’s a double speak that goes on in Islam and its interface with the western world, and Aslan contributes to it.

Too few Muslims are facing up to this duplicity, but thankfully some are, and for the record, here’s a couple of groups that are:

On the whole I’d say Aslan’s self serving mixed messages are part of the problem.

Some have called out Reza Aslan’s duplicity.

Rebecca Watson

Didn’t expect to have this critic of religion on the list? But on Chapel Hill:

“But on the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine what would drive someone to murder three people over something so stupid, unless the murderer for some reason did not see his victims as full humans deserving of the right to life.”

Well, people do kill each other over really silly things. You live in the USA, Rebecca. Do you not watch the news? Is his general attitude to his neighbours not a clue that it could well have been over a stupid parking lot? Personal space boundaries have been known to be a point of dispute that incites violence.

“And if you have paid any attention to the current state of capital-A-Atheism, you would have to see the growing problem with the continued dehumanization of Muslims, women, and other marginalized groups by community leaders like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Lawrence Krauss, the organizations that support them with awards and speaking engagements, and the mass of young and angry atheists on sites like Reddit.”

This is just fucking bullshit. The real story here is #ElevatorGate payback, with some #GamerGate thrown in.

Basically FtB and Skepchick and others don’t like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, and anyone who might complain about the excessive abuse they get – so now Michael Nugent is a target at FtB (when they aren’t pretending to ignore him – count the ‘Not Listening’ posts). Lawrence Krauss has upset them in the past, and being a buddy of Dawkins that puts him in the same pile. Jerry Coyne is sometimes a target, but the Coyne/Myers non-exchanges often have a biology/evolution twist. It’s a long story.

“That’s how the “men’s rights movement” led to …”

Oh, yeah, there’s that too.

And this:

“Knowing what we know about the end result of dehumanization combined with violent rhetoric, maybe it’s time that atheists as a group decide to retire this cartoon, which may have been true once but hasn’t been relevant at least since Dawkins started Tweeting about why women who don’t abort fetuses with Downs Syndrome are immoral:”


This is disgraceful opportunism from Rebecca Watson.

The cartoon is still true, because of course what Dawkins was saying was nothing to do with New Atheist criticism of Islam, and much less to do with Chapel Hill.

Dawkins was not saying women who don’t abort foetuses with Downs Syndrome are immoral. His point on Downs Syndrome was that the decision to abort is a difficult one, and that we shouldn’t be judgemental about anyone choosing to abort a Downs Syndrome foetus, and that one can even argue there’s some moral argument for not putting the mother or the child through the inevitable tough life ahead. Pointing out a morally positive reason one might want to abort is not declaring that people that don’t abort are immoral, but rather pointing out the moral dilemma that has no easy solution because there are arguments either way.

The crazy thing, and the reason you can tell it’s an old vendetta at work here, is that Watson is pro-choice too. If you’re pro-choice the woman doesn’t even need an additional justification for aborting a foetus. Dawkins was simply making a case that would help those struggling with the choice of aborting in some cases. It’s a bit like when Krauss questioned the moral objection to incest – Yuk! Some topics are beyond the pale for #PseudoLiberals.

The hypocrisy here is unbelievable. So quick to denounce Dawkins for tweets that can be maliciously interpreted, when it is they that have done the malicious interpretation. And then Watson has a whole post in which the only clear reading of that post is that it has nothing to do with Chapel Hill or atheism.

Chapel Hill? An opportunity not to be missed.

Mehdi Hasan

An old time Muslim #Greenwaldian. A democratic liberal secular Muslim that raises many good social issues, but in his defence of his Islam isn’t above coming out with the same old incorrect stuff about New Atheist.

Here’s a post based on his Facebook page, where he wrote along side a link to a piece on the Chapel Hill shooting:

“Will we now see lots of pieces calling for ‘reform’ of New Atheism and a search for ‘moderate’ New Atheists? ‪#‎justasking‬”.

As if there is any doctrine to reform – unlike Islam. Hicks has never, to my knowledge, made any racist or personal attacks on Muslims for being Muslims. His attack on those people certainly has no relationships to anything New Atheists say or do, and he didn’t declare he was doing it in the name of New Atheism. Did Hicks have some screwed-up notion that his parking lot problem was related to what her perceived as Islamic influenced right to parking lots? Who the fuck knows what was going through his head. But so many #PseudoLiberals link this to New Atheism (oh, but not Greenwald atheism, no) while denying #CharlieHebdo killers were Muslims or that it had anything to do with Islam, while those killers vocalised their Islamic reasons. Fucking incredible.

Cenk Uygur

I didn’t expect this. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention to Cenk because I’ve focused on the TYT general political issues.

I saw Cenk engaged in a studio shake down of Sam Harris, with some of the usual crew and some other guy I couldn’t recall, but who it turns out was CJ Werleman (more below). Then I saw him let Reza Aslan have an easy time telling his lies. And, in a return interview with Harris, Cenk really grilled Harris.

My complaint isn’t about the grilling of Harris. Cenk sorta did his job that day, though by then it was obvious the interview was loaded with Cenk’s preconceptions about Harris, confirmed for him, I’m sure, in the Aslan interview. But he let Aslan take him on a stroll through the anti-Harris park with barely a quizzical glance.

Cenk made the point somewhere, about his uncle being a Muslim and how he’s just an ordinary nice guy, and I thought, yeah, emotion is in control there. Of course you love your Muslim family, and yeah, they are living a ‘normal’ life of not engaging in the crazy shit that’s in the Quran and the Hadith – but that doesn’t get Islam, which is the Quran and Hadith, off the hook; and it’s the Quran and Hadith that Harris is criticising, not your deal old uncle and all the other ordinary people that happen to have been indoctrinated into Islam. Cenk, you numbskull, you criticise conservatism politics, but you know damned well not all conservatives are total dicks. Don’t you think Harris understands this distinction between Islam and most Muslims?

Apparently you don’t:

Another point Cenk made was he hadn’t read much of Harris; and yet he could tell us what he thought Harris thought and said, based then on what some other people (Greenwald, Werleman, Aslan, …) had to say about Harris – hearsay passes for research then on TYT?

Harris is not the Muslim hating bigot Aslan (and Greenwald) make out – far from it, it’s his humanism that sparks his criticism of Islam because Islam contains the dogma so easily turned to hate and violence. But Cenk bought into the Aslan message.

[Update: Later, Cenk has a partial meltdown: Cenk Uygur Is Losing His Grip On Reality?

C.J. Werleman [Added July 2015]

Boy, has this guy made a scene. He first came to my attention on the Cenk Uygur show mentioned above, though I just passed him off as some bizarre dick that had totally misunderstood New Atheism. I was actually puzzled why Cenk was giving him so much space without pulling him up on his errors. Turns out CJ was speaking Cenks already made up mind for him.

Anyway, CJ has had plenty of incorrect things to say about New Atheists, particularly Harris, and has lots of retweets by the others: Aslan and Greenwald especially.

But it didn’t take long to find out first that CJ had been engaged in plagiarism. That lost him some retweeters. But when it came to shooting down Harris, his wing men could be relied upon to watch out for him.

But then it turns out CJ has history. And, the fucking hypocrite, a history of racist abuse of Muslims and Arabs. Now, why this wasn’t enough to cause Aslan and Greenwald to bale out on him is a mystery of the #PseudoLiberal mind-set: ideology.

Just in case you’re not sure how sick CJ is, try this:

Now I know Piers Morgan is subject to near universal ridicule, but relishing someone’s suffering is precisely the sort of thing that the reddit crowd regularly get called out on from #PseudoLiberals.

To give a flavour of CJ’s rhetoric on New Atheism, try this recent tweet (July 2015):

New Atheists have rape rescue fantasies now? Opportunistic sickness.

How about this:

Well, this one is CJ continuing with the lie that Harris wants to bomb Muslims. He does not. CJ simply reads what he wants to when Harris is explaining how fucked up the world will be if Iran gets the bomb. The world seems to agree in that most of the world is backing the recent agreement with Iran to not build the bomb. Nuance doesn’t count if it’s not #PseudoLiberal #PseudoNuance.

You don’t believe me? Try this one that CJ retweeted from another goof:

The US killing of Muslims and the criticism of Islam are not mutually exclusive. Of course that criticism of Islam is supposed to be equivalent to thinking all Muslims are mad. #PseudoLiberal #PseudoNuance. And, to be clear, on top of the false equivalence, ‘mad’ isn’t a particularly nuanced word either. There is a sense of madness, as in mentally deranged, in much of what ISIS do, and in many of the mixed up ideas that Muslims have to juggle with in their heads if they are to hold true to Islam. Flying horses and shit is pretty fucked up. To be fair, so is zombie Jesus. Religions are generally irrational in many respects, while the believers are usually rational in all other respects – that’s the capacity of human minds to hold onto contradictory beliefs.

Robert Wright

Not in the same league as Greenwald and Aslan, but takes the opportunity to have a pop at Harris when he can.

Here he uses an interview with Michael Shermer, on Shermer’s book, to demonise Harris and New Atheists for offending people. And in the same interview says there are times when straight talking is needed. What you find with these #PseudoLiberals is that they are good on criticism of New Atheists while still holding to much of the atheist criticism of religion, but they don’t offer any solution that goes beyond shutting up so as not to offend.

Cal Colgan

Cal Colgan is a #Greenwaldian that thinks along the same lines.

He tweeted:

““New Atheist” idiots are turning nonbelief into the very violent fanaticism they oppose. We atheists shd condemn this [link]”.

Colgan is a researcher for Media Matters, according to his Twitter bio. And Media Matters is about …

“to systematically monitor a cross section of print, broadcast, cable, radio, and Internet media outlets for conservative misinformation – news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable, or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda.”

Guess it must have been Cal’s day off doing research challenging misinformation, unreliability, inaccuracy. Great job Cal.

You can see more of that conversation here.

Rabah Kherbane

Not someone I’d class as a liberal, though he’s into human rights. Deserves an honorary mention for the headline:

Chapel Hill Shooting: How Many More Until We Realise This Is A Trend?

I don’t know. Hicks is one, so will two do it for you Rabah? No doubt you’ll wait in hope for the next martyrs. If not two, then how about as many as this: Islamic Terrorist Attacks. Let me know when we evil New Atheists are close.

Johnny Spooner [Added July 2015]

UPDATE: A few days later and the pinned tweet mentioned below has gone. Still tweets that Bill Maher is an atheist bigot, including CJ and Reza. So, still on the list.

Now, to be fair, I’m adding Johnny because he has been a typical CJ acolyte. His twitter account really does deserve a mention. However, I had a recent twitter exchange with him, in which I laid out where his misunderstanding of New Atheism (I’m guessing acquired from tits like CJ rather than from actually reading New Atheists – an all too common problem), and he left it with saying he had something to think about.

Now, seeing his twitter account today, it would be a fucking miracle of outstanding proportions if he changed his view, of New Atheists or CJ Weirdman, but if he did it would be hats off to him for having the balls to do it. We’ll see. I’ll come back here and edit this if he does.

For now, here’s his pinned top tweet:


So, yet again, Hicks, committing an act totally antithetical to what New Atheist believe, is compared with the fucking atrociously tragic craziness in Israel and Palestine, where a militarily powerful democratic government infected with lunatic fanatical Jewish fantasies over promised land is surrounded by states that deny the holocaust and want all Jews dead, and is in an unbalanced conflict with a militarily under-powered but not powerless bunch of terrorists, among a hopelessly vulnerable population, many carrying the baggage of fanatical Palestinian fantasies over promised land. Israel is threatened with extinction, and in defending itself it is allowing (not seriously preventing, and possibly encouraging) the commitment of atrocities by its forces. Totally fucked up situation, on both sides.

Trying to make that equivalence, just to have a dig at New Atheists? That is so fucking sick in it’s #PseudoLiberal fanaticism it beggars belief. But it’s right there on twitter.

And the fucking irony? I offered this:


And he had the nerve to reply, “Cop-out”.

I got started with Johnny after this:

It turns out that he thinks UKIP’s Anne Marie Waters is a New Atheist. News to me. He bases it on her criticism of Islam? Seems to ignore that she also claims to hold to democracy, freedom, blah, blah, blah, and many other principle that New Atheists, I, Johhny and even wacko CJ hold to. By this train of logic it seems we are all neo-con fascists for sharing some ideas. Wow. #PseudoLiberal #PseudoNuance.

Never mind, any opportunity to roll out one’s ideological biases. Fuck the facts. Fuck nuance. Unless they are #PseudoLiberal #PseudoFacts (half truths) and #PseudoNuance.

I hope Johnny makes it back from the dark side. Of course, currently, listening to CJ, Glenn, Reza, Cenk, we are the dark side. We just have to keep slogging away clearing up the shite that CJ, Glenn, Reza, Cenk are throwing at the fan, and hoping people like Johnny are open to being cleansed of it.

Cal Colgan Blames New Atheists for Chapel Hill Shooting

Here’s an idiotic tweet from @calcolgan, ironically calling out his imagined idiocy of others:

4:25 PM – 12 Feb 2015
“New Atheist” idiots are turning nonbelief into the very violent fanaticism they oppose. We atheists shd condemn this http://nyti.ms/1FyYOqN

From a twitter exchange this is what he thinks about the #ChapelHillShooting:

  • Colgan says New Atheists idiots have turned non-belief into violent fanatcism.
  • Colgan claims there’ve been numerous violent atheists – and is asked which ones.
  • Colgan responds with: What about state sponsored terrorism.
  • Colgan complains that New Atheists focus on Islam.
  • Colgan accuses Hitchens of supporting the war in Iraq because he and other New Atheists want to kill off Islam.
  • Colgan implies that Harris and Dawkins think all religious people are terrorists, “Doesn’t mean all religious ppl are potential terrorists.”

Nowehere does he actually back up his claims that:

  • New Atheists are turning non-belief into violent fanaticism
  • That Dawkins and Harris are somehow at fault for focusing on religion and Islam specifically
  • That Hitchens backed the war in Iraq because he wanted to kill off Islam
  • That any New Atheist has remotely suggested that all religious people are terrorists.

The New Atheists I’ve come across have been humanists, and some are subscribing Humanists through various national and international organisations.

I don’t know of any atheists, new or otherwise, that have committed violence in the name of atheism or New Atheism; and in fact violence is antithetical to their humanist beliefs. I can understand why Colgan would be dismayed at such people turning non-belief into violent fanaticism, if only they had. But of course they haven’t. It’s all in Colgan’s head. And remember, this Colgan calamity came out of the #ChapelHillShooting, and the investigation has yet to reveal the actual motivation of Hicks the shooter – unlike the many terrorist attacks by Muslims (NOT ALL MUSLIMS!) where we know the motivation, done explicitly in the name of Islam, often with quotes from Islamic texts to justify the attacks.

He’s right on state sponsored terrorism of course, in that the US and allies have done some atrocious things. And New Atheist humanists object to them as much as anyone, even if much of their public writing has other targets. So why is Colgan providing state sponsored terrorism as an example of the numerous atheists (or New Atheists) performing terror acts in response to the works of Dawkins and Harris – I don’t recall any reports from Wikileaks of clandestine activities quoting Dawkins or Harris.

And though Dawkins and Harris do focus on Islam rather than state sponsored terrorism, why does that mean that they should not criticise religion, or Islam specifically, when the religious doctrines advocate anti-humanist, anti-liberal, anti-democratic presscriptions, and in the case of Islam, actual violence, oppression and terror. If Dawkins and Harris have their specific concerns about religion, and feel that great journalists like Glenn Greenwald, and of course Cal Colgan, have state sponsored terrorism covered, what exactly is Colgan’s beef?

I mean, it’s not as if Islam is not a source of terror. If Colgan thinks state actions constitute terror, then why not religious rules that prescribe (and in some Islamic states result in) death for apostasy – how is that not a tool of terror. How are blasphemy laws not a tool of terror when laced with the threat of death? Why does Colgan think Islam gets a pass on these and many other tenets that are explicitly part of the religion? Why do Hadith that prescribe tossing homosexuals off buildings not count as terror threats?

Why single out Islam? Islam isn’t singled out. All religions are criticised. But, in Colgan’s words, let’s be real: the following were done directly in the name of Islam or its prophet in order to inflict terror, suppress criticism, avenge Allah or Mohammed for the insults inflicted upon them:

You wonder why Dawkins and Harris make it all about Islam? because so many Muslims are making terror all about Islam. Of course there are other factors that should be addressed. There are many people around the world with real and legitimate grievances against someone or other, but few do it in such a monolithic manner using the texts of a religion to justify attacking and killing innocent people. I don’t see many Christians rushing to fight for the latest Crusade in defence of Christians persecuted by Muslims.

And here’s Harris, having to spell out how he has spelt it out already,

“Although I clearly stated that I wasn’t claiming that all Muslims adhere to the dogmas I was criticizing; distinguished between jihadists, Islamists, conservatives, and the rest of the Muslim community; and explicitly exempted hundreds of millions of Muslims who don’t take the doctrines about blasphemy, apostasy, jihad, and martyrdom seriously, Affleck and Kristof both insisted that I was disparaging all Muslims as a group.”

It is totally dishonest of Colgan to even imply it as he did.

Another significant point that Colgan misses is that state sponsored terrorism has always been done against the spirit, and usually (though becoming less so) against the law, of the constitutions and principles of all western democracies – and of course Colgan is targeting the US and allies here, but neglects to mention Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and of course Saudi Arabia, and other Islamic states where the doctrine and politics of Islam dictates such terror sponsorship. He also seems to miss the fact that much of the state sponsored terror carried out by the US is in the capable hands of right thinking Christians – ‘In God We Trust’ and all that. Atheists are a minority in the US, and New Atheists an even smaller minority, and none of them, as far as I know, are engaged in or support state sponsored terrorism. Why the fuck does the stupid Colgan associate his claim that New Atheists are inciting violence, with state sponsored terror? He’s deluded himself. Good job. To be honest, I don’t suppose he does think they are associated. It’s more likely he was busy backtracking after a gratuitous opportunistic dig at New Atheists – welcome on board the Greenwaldian bandwagon Cal.

The only belief system providing an explanation for British born, Pakistani heritage, youth travelling into Syria and Iraq is because they have been called to do so by fellow Muslims, to defend and/or spread the Muslim faith, to join the long anticipated Caliphate. It doesn’t matter one holy fuck that the majority of Muslims choose not to follow suit. It matters not a jot that so many Muslims ignore the terror incitement contained in their holy texts, or make pathetic excuses for it in the name of ‘context’, because the incitement remains for the crazy and the gullible to follow, and that’s the nature of the specific problem with Islam, right now, today. The problem with Islam isn’t most Muslims, it’s Islam.

Colgan, your original tweet and follow up is a complete fucking joke. You are making a damned fool of yourself buying into this crazy Greenwaldian double speak. The New Atheists are not inciting violence in any way whatsoever, while the inerrant Quran itself does, along with the Hadith. It is fucking dishonest to try and make the false equivalences you do, between New Atheists and Islamic terrorists, or between New Atheists and state sponsored terror.

As a final appeal to common sense, let me spell out a few of the points again:

  • New Atheist coverage of Islam at the omission of coverage of state sponsored terror is no more an endorsement of state sponsored terror than Glenn Greenwald’s focus on state sponsored terror at the expense of his possible focus on Islamic terror is an implication of his endorsement of Islamic terror.
  • The humanism of the New Atheists’ and their criticism of the anti-humanism of Islam has fuck all to do with some atheist going off on one and killing three Muslims, for whatever reason. Even if it turns out Hicks thinks it was inspired by New Atheism.
  • Blaming New Atheism for Hicks is as as dumb as claiming that someone reading Glenn Greenwald criticism of NSA spying on its citizens was incited to spy on US citizens, and it’s Greenwald’s fault, for criticising spying on US citizens.
  • Is in no way equivalent to the Islamic terrorism that has actual Muslims (SOME MUSLIMS, NOT ALL MUSLIMS! FUCK, HAVE YOU GOT THAT?) declaring they are performing the acts of terror in the name of Islam, using the actual texts of Islam to justify their actions. Because the former has zero incitement to violence but actually opposes it, and while the latter actually incites violence, , as many engage in violence, and while many of its adherents are duplicitous in their denial of it.

Earlier I asked, “Why does Colgan think Islam gets a pass…” I’m sure he doesn’t give Islam a pass really. My guess is he opposes many aspects of Islamic doctrine, just as New Atheists do. So, what’s his problem with New Atheists? Because that’s what his tweet is all about, and precious little to do with Chapel Hill, which is only a convenient outlet for his opinions. I’m not suggesting his sorrow at the event is any less than that of Dawkins or Harris.

The thing is, what you find with many like Colgan, is that they are great on criticism but short on solution. Colgan may think Islam has problems (I doubt he thinks it totally benign in all regards) but he opposes attempts to do anything about it, or interprets the words of the New Atheists in calling for reform in Islam (and note the work of Maajid Nawaz here and his collaboration with Harris) as New Atheist terrorism, racism, bigotry. He’d rather hope the problem goes away than risk offending Muslims. He has no problem offending fellow atheists though. Not that I object to him offending fellow atheists, but I do object to his double standards

Below is a collection of tweets that were used as a source for this post. If any significant ones are missing, or if I’ve misrepresented Colgan’s views as portrayed in his tweets, then I’d be glad to make corrections. If Cal Colgan wants to comment I’d be glad to hear from him.

Hide tweets

4:25 PM – 12 Feb 2015
“New Atheist” idiots are turning nonbelief into the very violent fanaticism they oppose. We atheists shd condemn this http://nyti.ms/1FyYOqN

12:14 AM – 13 Feb 2015
One violent atheist and “idiots are turning non belief into the very violent …” Get some proportion.

7:18 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Let’s be real: There’ve been numerous “violent atheists.” Atheists are only united in our nonbelief.

7:25 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Really? Numerous? Violent against the religious because of their atheism? Which ones? Compared to theists violent FOR religion?

7:39 PM – 13 Feb 2015
I’m not going to get into a tired debate abt how Islam is the chief perveyor of terrorism in the world.

7:40 PM – 13 Feb 2015
If you define terrorism as killing of innocents for political gain, state terrorism by Western govts has higher death toll.

7:40 PM – 13 Feb 2015
But Dawkins, Maher, Harris, et al only seem concerned about Islam, b/c it’s easier to criticize outspoken fanatics than govts.

7:46 PM – 13 Feb 2015
So what? They do do other things of course, but so what? Dawkins is anti-religion because of evo education.

7:47 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Terrorism is intentional killing of innocents, for terror – clue in name. With gvt. it’s usually a fuck up and not primary intent

8:11 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Sigh. I’m not saying theists haven’t committed more violence. But state atheism has lead to millions of deaths as well.

8:12 PM – 13 Feb 2015
The problem isn’t necessarily religion. The problem is the authoritarian manipulation of religion.

8:12 PM – 13 Feb 2015
For every MLK & Malcolm X, there’s a Jon Tiller or Osama bin Laden. Doesn’t mean all religious ppl are potential terrorists.

8:13 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Also, way to downplay the killing of innocent people by govts. Christopher Hitchens would be proud.

8:50 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Actually, he’s right. You made a moral-equivalency argument between ISIS and the US. And what about Hitchens, exactly?

9:18 PM – 13 Feb 2015
I don’t downplay gvt., of US, UK, oh and Islamic Saudi, Islamic Iran. Compare US Constitution with Sharia

9:19 PM – 13 Feb 2015
But go on, give examples of 9/11, 7/7, Madrid, embassies, …, by US/UK

9:21 PM – 13 Feb 2015
1.) US has been around longer than ISIS. Not saying savagery is the same. Proportionality of violence different.

9:22 PM – 13 Feb 2015
2.) Hitchens famously defended the Iraq War, and other New Atheists defended it b/c “Islam needs to die.”

9:23 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Sure. 9/11/73: CIA-funded military coup of Chile resulted in fascist dictatorship. Thousands died ovr next 10 yrs.

9:23 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Proportional to capability. You think ISIS wouldn’t do more if it could?

9:24 PM – 13 Feb 2015
30,000 ppl slaughtered in Argentina’s Dirty War. CIA trained right wing gov’t.

9:25 PM – 13 Feb 2015
So nothing to do with Chilean get. And Mid East nothing to do with Iraq,Iran,Saudi,… All down to US?

9:25 PM – 13 Feb 2015
1982 — priests were killed & nuns were raped & killed by CIA-funded AUC death squad in Colombia.

9:26 PM – 13 Feb 2015
You’re mincing words. Didn’t say Mid-East has nothing to do with it, but US, Britain, France played big part in chaos

9:26 PM – 13 Feb 2015
All states meddle where they can. Just that some have more power. Not excusing it, but not all down to US

9:27 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Never said it’s all down to US. Funny how you make blanket criticisms of Islam & then defend US state terrorism

9:27 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Supporting Taliban, then opposing them? Yeah, got’ fuck up.

9:28 PM – 13 Feb 2015
But still, where in Constitution is that justified. Quran/Hadith EXPLCITLY incite violence and oppression.

9:29 PM – 13 Feb 2015
All states play part in chaos. So, your point then is what?

9:30 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Again, where in US constitution, UK law, is justification for control of belief (apostasy) criticism (blasphemy)

9:31 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Quran is claimed to be inerrant. So ISIS has good claim to be following it. More so than moderates.

9:33 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Nowhere, but Founders also went through with 1798 Alien & Sedition Acts — 7 yrs after Bill of Rights passed.

9:36 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Where have I defended it?

9:38 PM – 13 Feb 2015
And the blanket criticism of Islam is because this is in all versions of Quran: http://quran.com/24/2 So, yes.

9:39 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Like I said, US ‘terror’ is failure to comply with own constitution. ISIS is complying with Islam.

9:42 PM – 13 Feb 2015
U twist my blanket crit of Islam for “all relig ppl terrorists” Where’ve I seen that misrep. before. Reza Aslan, Glenn Greenwald?

9:47 PM – 13 Feb 2015
Sigh. I’m not saying state action doesn’t. So we agree then. Islam bad. Not all Muslims bad. Some state acts bad.

9:49 PM – 13 Feb 2015
“The problem isn’t necessarily religion.” Yes it is. Read violence in Quran.

9:50 PM – 13 Feb 2015
“Authoritarian manipulation”? LOL. Religon IS authoritarian. Apostasy. Blasphemy. Lashes. Stoning. What are they?

9:51 PM – 13 Feb 2015
“School of Americas, and the Contras didn’t intentionally kill innocents?” Where did I say that?

10:35 PM – 13 Feb 2015
And Hitchens spent his life trying to get the parties responsible to face accountability–he made a movie about it!

10:40 PM – 13 Feb 2015
The Founders? Hm, I guess Jefferson and Madison (who greatly opposed the A&S Acts) weren’t “Founders”.

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New Atheism

New Atheism is being subjected to attacks, and it’s clear from those attacks, from what the critics say, that many really don’t understand New Atheism, and in many cases haven’t read what New Atheists actually say, but rather rely on what other opponents say New Atheists say. There are descriptions of New Atheism around the internet, but many of them don’t really explain what is being missed. So, here’s my take.

I’m focusing on New Atheism here, rather than atheism generally, or humanism, or Atheism Plus (A+), because it is so often attacked by some members of these other atheist groups, by #LimpLogicLiberals, #PseudoLiberals, as well as by theists.

New Atheism is the label assigned to atheists that are more vocal in their criticism of religion. It’s not a self-appointed label, but one that those labelled with it accept as being in common use. Some don’t particularly like the label, but accept they are stuck with it. In most respects they are not saying anything new that all atheists say, when it comes to belief in God; and they aren’t all that more critical of religion than many earlier atheists. What seems to get peoples backs up about them is their ‘stridency’, and the fact that they have it in for Islam. Now all this has arisen since 9/11 in 2001, which was a turning point.

The current two New Atheists that get most stick are Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Hitchens is dead, and Dennett is rather mild mannered by comparison. Jerry Coyne has taken up the mantle to some extent. He, like Dawkins, leans towards the educational aspect as well as the wider social implications of religion – he, like Dawkins, opposes the prevalence of Creationism and the rejection of Evolution in schools. Both criticise the Christian Creationism in the US; and Dawkins also covers Islamic Creationism in the UK, particularly in relation to the move towards religiously controlled schools that sneak creationism in, or blatantly push it while rejecting Evolution.

Then there are many less prominent but public figures who could be called New Atheists – so Stephen Pinker is one that finds himself grouped with the New Atheists, whether he likes it or not, because he writes stuff that often includes a science based criticism of irrational belief; and Michael Shermer is another, more in the Skeptical community, though he has critics in the self-styled A+, Feminist, Skeptical community; and Michael Nugent, who focuses on religion in Ireland, but expresses many of the same views as the New Atheists, and also might be lumped in with them for also being attacked by the A+ crowed.

And then there are the many nobodies such as myself, that haunt the internet putting theist straight in their foolish ways.

One problem for anyone trying to get a handle on New Atheism is that, despite the common claim by opponents, it is not a religion or a singular political belief system, or an ideology – there is no New Atheist doctrine or text. It is the amalgamation of a number of beliefs, or more realistically, a number of adaptive processes for coming to beliefs, and as such it is comfortable with allowing for difference of belief and changes to belief. And, just to emphasise the ‘adaptive’ aspect, since the views of New Atheists are based on reason and evidence, those views are subject to change – they are contingent on evidence in particular. Show with good evidence that some ‘intellect’, some extra-universal agency actually creates universes and they will take that evidence seriously, if cautiously at first. Some may be pretty confident in their atheism that they express more concrete rejection of theism, but like I said, New Atheism isn’t a cut and dried label.

One way of describing New Atheism is to observe its relationship to other strands of thought:

Humanism – While many New Atheists are Humanists, in that they subscribed to Humanist organisations, national or international (Dawkins is a member of the BHA), all of them that I have come across are at least humanists, small ‘h’, in that they support humanist beliefs.

Humanist organisations tend to spell out their beliefs, in something like a Humanist Manifesto: proposals or agreed tenets of behaviour worked out using some of the principles above, but they are not tenets of absolute belief, the way tenets of a religion might be. That’s not to say that some humanists don’t hold to them as if they are absolute. You will find some humanists declaring Human Rights to be absolute, but I’d argue with that. Our rights are contingent upon our feelings as evolved and culturally developed humans, and as such can vary with culture, and could have varied further had we humans arrived here with different evolved feelings.

If you look at this list, on Humanist Manifesto III, you’ll see that it pretty much covers the rest of the items below. Humanist organisations tend to be more politically active, while the prominent New Atheists may be included in that activism, they are better known for their own unaffiliated works.

Science – Typically there is an agreement that science can reveal much more about the world, and about humans, than mere navel gazing or inventing magical entities that reveal knowledge ready made. There is much confusion here, caused by humanists, and some Humanists, that while not anti-science intentionally, do a great disservice to humanism by crying about ‘scientism’. No current New Atheist I know claims that science actually has the answer to all our problems. They simply don’t – ask them. The claim that New Atheists think ‘science knows everything’ or that ‘science can answer all problems’ is one of those false attributions, straw men, that others accuse New Atheists of.

What New Atheists will tend to say is that science, now, or in the future, is a set of methodologies that offers the best way to come to understand the world and humans. None of them I know of deny totally the value of the arts of various kinds – and in fact many, maybe most, value the arts greatly. And on balance I’d say that scientifically educated and professional scientist New Atheists appreciate the arts far more than many of their non-science critics appreciate science. In fact many of their critics are quite ignorant of many aspects of science, especially its general nature. This is a bone of contention with theists and philosophers typically, but also with some non-sciency liberal journalists: they ignorantly think scientists don’t appreciate art, while often being spectacularly ignorant of science themselves.

Science is the result of humans using their natural evolved faculties of the senses and reason, and applying those more rigorously, often with the aid of instruments and mathematics, in order to enhance the range data gathered and analysis of data that comes from being more rigorous. Science is not some extra-human realm of magic. All humans are in principle capable of learning and challenging any claim made in science. New Atheists tend to expand the use of the term ‘science’, certainly to include many of the social sciences, but also to include straight forward observation and common sense – with the caveat that the raw unrigorous natural human faculties can be so fallible that where possible the methods of science should be used to test our hypotheses.

It’s such a broad and inclusive description that one wonders why anyone would object to it. But some do, for the expedient purpose of objecting to New Atheist criticism of their religion or their philosophy.

This broad science approach is in contrast to religion, where all its significant claims about knowledge are based on the imagination of some magical entity revealing knowledge to humans, often particular humans.

This also contrasts with pure reason of philosophy, where the mind is the only tool of significance. Of course even the most Rationalist or Idealist philosopher bases all he knows on empirical observation. And the most supernaturalist Christian or Muslim theist relies on the empirical observation of the content of a book (for all they take too much from it). But that’s not always appreciated. The most extreme critics of the sciency approach, those that cry ‘scientism’, use the same approach too, but badly, and in such a way they think they are engaging in ‘other ways of knowing’. This seems somewhat delusional, for there is zero evidence of other ways of knowing beyond the use of our senses and reasoning about what we observe.

But back to science and its influence on New Atheism. So, what science does, even in its most basic form of observing the world and reasoning about it, is it reveals something very significant: science is hard work, and the results are not always easy to interpret, and ideas may change over time as new data comes in.

And this is a foundational appreciation of the nature of reality and the human condition. We are learning as we go.

On that basis, and based on where science is now, we can say no human has any knowledge about how the universe came into being, despite a few centuries of trying to figure that out, and a few millennia of the religious claiming they already found out. There is zero data to support any notion of some supernatural being; and while there is no evidence to exclude one there is also no evidence to exclude multiple supernatural beings, a hierarchy, of hypernatural, superhypernatural, or any other source of beings. There is zero evidence that the intelligence ascribed to such imaginary beings exists in any form, other than the form we experience in ourselves.

But, despite this overwhelming lack of any data about gods of any kind, the contingent nature of knowledge on future developments is such a compelling idea that New Atheists informed by science are pretty much compelled to hold that no human has all the answers to all the questions we ask, and therefore it is reasonable to accept, even encourage, a variety of thought, even if that leads to mistaken beliefs sometimes.

Freedom of Belief – The above idea alone, of the contingency and fluidity of accurate knowledge, is sufficient for New Atheists to support the freedom of belief. But add to that the general humanist principle that all humans are valuable, then all together New Atheists have nothing that would lead them to persecute people for any of the varieties of form that humans come in – skin colour, place of and parentage of origin on earth (race), sexual orientation.

Religion is set of belief systems that New Atheists do not hold with, and based on the above, New Atheists find religions to be loaded with bad ideas. But from a humanist and observational perspective it is clear that most believers are indoctrinated into their religious beliefs from being children. Additionally there are many charismatic con men out there that can easily turn the unwary to pretty much any religious belief, so even adulthood is not protection from erroneous belief. And even New Atheists acknowledge many natural cultural human biases that can deflect their own thinking from the best reasoned path. So, it would seem at least cruel, to blame all theists for their beliefs, or to blame anyone entirely for whatever they come to believe.

So all-in-all New Atheists have every reason to support the freedom of belief.

The humanism, contingency of knowledge and the freedom of belief lead New Atheists to another principle:

Secularism – Secularism isn’t atheism, though it is often passed off as such. Secularism is the disassociation of power from belief, particularly political power. In specifically that leads to the separation of church and state, the most common expression of secularism and that which is included in some Humanist ‘manifestos’

Secularism allows people of varying beliefs to engage in any requirements their belief systems have, without favour or privilege and without persecution. Keeping belief systems as far away from state power as possible prevents the persecution of non-state-validated belief systems.

This is difficult of course, because states use powers, and some of those powers will inevitably align with some belief system and not with others, while at the same time some other powers might align with different belief systems. It’s difficult not to restrict state power to the lowest common denominator, which means no power, without enabling chaos and violence in the name of belief systems to proceed unchecked. Some degree of state power and policing is necessary in order to then allow as much individual freedom as possible. While the Golden Rule is the most commonly acknowledge lowest common denominator it isn’t universal agreed upon, particularly by religions that profess that their God insists they should interfere in the lives of non-believers. But this latter case is a very good reason for endorsing secularism, unless you follow the religion in power.

There are many believers that appreciate this dilemma, of balancing freedom of belief with the freedom to impose your beliefs on others, and so there are many religious believers that subscribe to secularism as the separation of church and state – though of course confusion ensues because some of those same theists use the term secularism to refer to atheism and the loss of religious privilege that exists for their religion.

All this isn’t to say that New Atheists are the sole torch bearers for atheism, humanism, secularism, science and scepticism. There are members of the liberal elite that support all those but are also engaged in a diatribe of abuse and misrepresentation of New Atheists. But more on those another time. For now, that’s my summary of New Atheism – or how I see New Atheism, in myself and in the expressed views of people like Dawkins and Harris.

This is presented as a separate thing, and is discussed and engaged in in terms of the ‘Sceptical Community’ (Skeptical in the US). It too is a bit of an amalgamation of approaches, but emphasises scepticism and often targets religion, but is also critical of the paranormal – so JREF and CFI are typical of this wider focus. But of course, scepticism is a natural feature of a good science based approach to knowledge, and a feature of New Atheist thinking.

Clarifying Some Points

The prominent New Atheists are even somewhat reluctant to call themselves New Atheists, though some accept the label for want of a better one.

Opponents of New Atheism make various claims about New Atheism or New Atheists that are simply untrue. In an attempt to clarify some specific points I present the following.

Is New Atheism a belief system? Not as such, in that it has no beliefs set in stone. But it does look for evidence to inform and support beliefs. But then those beliefs are contingent and subject to improvement. They are contingent conclusions of a method of thinking and observing the world, and are not something that we start out with. Having said that it’s quite possible that the same beliefs were arrived at by other means, along with many mistaken beliefs, and that New Atheism methods have trimmed our beliefs down to some set that we think most reliable, for now.

Is New Atheism a political movement? Not explicitly, and the most prominent New Atheists are generally scientists and philosophers rather than politicians. But in other capacities they engage in social and political change – for example, by being members of organisations like the British Humanist Association, which does lobby politicians for social change – or they object to the neglect and abuse of science in education.

It is fair to say New Atheists are anti-religion. Though they generally acknowledge that many people can use religion for entirely good purposes, the method of belief, using faith and relying on presuppositions declared in ancient texts, is such an unreliable guide to knowledge that it can be so easily turned to hate, oppression and terror – and much of the effort of New Atheists is engaged in pointing out these faults. This is the extent to which they are anti-religion.

It is fair to say that New Atheists are anti-theists. This is somewhat less of a social and political position than is being anti-religion – more of a science and philosophy take on the absence of any evidence to support the beliefs of the dominant religions, or any religions for that matter. The New Atheist approach also includes explanations on what is clearly the poor reasoning of many of the religious. Some philosophers object because they think they see some presuppositions at work – but generally those presuppositions are both reasonable, and can be backed up with yet more argument from observations about the world.

Are New Atheists racists? No. While not wishing to make any absolute statement, this is about as close as we might get to one. There is the positive belief, as a conclusion of contemplating humanism, evolution, biology, that race is a rather poor distinguishing factor. Race is often interpreted through the visual appearances of skin colour and cultural identity, but given that those alone make no significant distinction between humans, New Atheists are thorough anti-racists. Of course any human can have racist tendencies that they hide or suppress, so it’s not beyond doubt that all New Atheists are not racists – but then this applies to all humans, including the critics of New Atheists.

All the charges of racism I’ve seen aimed at new Atheists have been just actual lies, or lies by conflating religion with race. The latter is actually a racist move in itself, for it is explicitly these opponents that are identifying people of a religion with race, while the New Atheists make the distinction. And of course New Atheists have many anti-religious atheist allies that would be from the same genetic background as the supposed targets of New Atheist racism, but let’s not mention that in the presence of the hypocrites.

There have been and continue to be some despicable claims made that the criticism of Islam by New Atheists is racist. This is at best understandable coming from people of different cultures that have been subject to racism because of their culture, religion or skin colour – it’s easy to be consumed by the anti-western rhetoric and a complete misunderstanding of New Atheism. It’s understandable that Muslims will object to their faith being criticised, though there are many examples of Muslims lying boldly about what atheists say, and about New Atheists like Dawkins and Harris. But the most heinous lies come from fellow atheists, and those of the A+ agenda, or the #LimpLogicLiberals, the #PseudoLiberals, that have a factional axe to grind. Most commonly this lie is perpetuated by the likes of Glenn Greenwald, and is even bought into by otherwise rational people like Cenk Uygur, at the behest of the lying Reza Aslan. It may seem extreme to call out such people as purveyors of lies, but there’s plenty of evidence for such a claim.

Some Sources

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
I disagree with a few things here, but overall it’s a fair description. I disagree particularly with the section 5, on Secular Morality. I disagree with its take on morality, and to some extent disagree with its take on what New Atheists think about morality. But I can go into that again some time. Section 8, on criticisms, gives the impression that most of it is epistemological and philosophical generally, but it fails to engage with the criticism from other liberal atheists that might have much the same philosophical perspective that the New Atheists have, where criticism is directed firmly, if unjustifiably in my view, at the approach New Atheists take to the criticism of religion, and of Islam in particular.

Good old Wikipedia
A common complaint is that New Atheists present too literal a view of religion – a point made by, who else, but the more sophisticated theologian that doesn’t buy the literalist take on the Bible and Quran. But the real issue here is that it is they, the sophisticates, that are in the minority in religious belief, in that sufficient Christians and Muslims hold to enough of the bad ideas in their holy texts to make the New Atheist criticism currently salient to the social effects of religion. And then there’s that totally fucked up opinion from Noam Chomsky. In what sense is writing a few books and appearing at speaking events or on TV ‘bludgeoning’ anyone? Its exactly the sort of freedom of expression that Chomsky engages in when he publishes his views. It is precisely not the ‘bludgeoning’ act of imposing apostasy, blasphemy, heresy rulings and punishments on people that religions engage in. The New Atheist rhetoric may be blunt, to the point, and direct, unlike the slimy slippery language of the religious, but that is one of its great features – the clarity of thought and reasoning from New Atheists outshines the fluff and magic of religion, and much of the philosophical hang wringing of people like Chomsky. And of course we can rely on the usual unsubstantiated claims of New Atheist bigotry, often from supporters of religious bigotry – it’s always a good move to convince your fellow theists that the atheist opposition is exactly what has been aimed at your religion, so much so that in Islam there’s a term for this common method: Takfir. Look it up.

Rational Wiki
This is a mixed site, with some good stuff, but also with an agenda in the mind of its creator. And it can get a little dated. For example, as well as listing the four horsemen, it also adds PC Myers as a ‘partner in crime’. Well, that ship has sailed. PZ Myers is one of the A+ members most critical of Dawkins and Harris, and the followers of Myers are about as anti-Dawkins and anti-Harris as you can get. But these guys are a whole other story.

Yes Mehdi Hasan, I Condem Those Atheists Texts Calling for Lashes, Stoning, Death

Mehdi Hasan is up to his usual rhetorical tricks.

On his Facebook page he links to the Richard Dawkins comments in the Huffington Post piece: Atheist Richard Dawkins Condemns Chapel Hill Shootings Of Three Muslim Students.

His comment accompanying the post:

Will we now see lots of pieces calling for ‘reform’ of New Atheism and a search for ‘moderate’ New Atheists? ‪#‎justasking‬

So, Mehdi, if you think New Atheism is in need of reform, can you point to the New Atheist scriptures that Craig Hicks might have followed in order to justify the killing?

Can you point to New Atheist scripture that demands lashes for sex outside marriage, or stoning of adulterers? Can you point to any New Atheist scriptures that denounce atheists for apostasy, for those converting to Islam or Christianity?

Islam needs reforming so that the barbaric tenets contained in the Quran and Hadith cannot be used as an excuse to commit violence in the name of Islam.

What exactly do you think there is in New Atheism that needs reforming? You want ‘moderate’ New Atheists? New Atheism is already moderate: free speech, freedom of belief, no special privilege for any belief systems, secular government (not Christian, not Islamic, not atheist, …). There are no ‘apostasy’ rules trying to prevent atheists becoming believers. There are no ‘blasphemy’ rules denouncing anti-atheist rhetoric. There’s no lashing for sex outside marriage; no stoning of adulterers.

Exactly what reforms would you like, Mehdi?

I think I get it, you’re just whining because your precious prophet is lampooned? You don’t like to see outsiders criticise your faith?


Mehdi Hasan, like many Muslims commenting on criticisms of Islam, or on the association of self-declared Muslims doing violence in the name of their prophet, isn’t happy that Islam gets the blame when so many self-declared Muslims join ISIS and other organisations. He’s not convinced that Islam is the problem, even when they quote the passages that inspire their violence.

Look, Mehdi isn’t a violent Jihadist, so how can anyone blame Islam?

Well, it’s quite easy to explain. Mehdi and all moderate Muslims that still believe that the Quran is the inerrant word of God are stuck in denial. They have to start making up bullshit excuses about ‘context’ to explain when it’s reasonable to stone a woman to death.

And, as Coel Hellier pointed out in a recent post Mainstream Islam is not moderate.

Can we blame Richard Dawkins for this act by Craig Hicks?

This is one of the most ridiculous posts I’ve seen today:


Adeel Ahmed, you’re misguided.

There are currently many people pointing out that Craig Hicks did this in the name of atheism, that he’s an Atheist terrorist.

I think it quite legitimate to call Hicks a terrorist. It’s quite legitimate to call him an Atheist terrorist, if the reports are confirmed that Craig Hicks did this in the name of Atheism.

But that doesn’t suddenly present some parallel with the case made that Islam is a significant component of the terror committed in the name of Islam. Islam has texts that can be used to justify terrorist acts. Atheism does not. Atheism has very little in the way of doctrine. It is merely the lack of belief in gods. The ‘strident’ New Atheists are merely more outspoken about this and more willing to point out the faults of religions. That doesn’t make atheism amenable to the justification of terrorism. What Hicks has done is not only not justifiable by Atheism, New Atheism, Humanist, Scepticism, it is totally antithetical to everything that Atheists, New Atheists, Humanists and Sceptics tend to believe in.

Does that then mean Muslims have a case too, in denouncing violence in the name of Islam as antithetical to Islam, the religion of peace? No, because the claim that Islam is the religion of peace only applies when Muslims ignore the violent and warlike aspects of Islam.

If you’re an atheist bent on violence you have to depart from the values usually subscribed to by Atheists, New Atheists, Humanists and Sceptics.

If you’re a Muslim bent on violence you can find justification for it in your holy texts.

Do you see the difference? #‎justasking‬.

Here’s a more rational assessment, from Maajid Nawaz. A lesson for Mehdi Hasan.


Ophelia Benson’s Medicine

There’s some serious hypocrisy flying around some quarters of the Free Thought Blogs. Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers and others are fighters for social justice, the feminist cause and the battle against sexual abuse and rape, which can only be applauded, and would be, were it not for their methods.

Michael Nugent has posted another clarification of his position on these matters. He has become the target for their rhetoric and misrepresentation, because he has objected to their rhetoric and misrepresentation when it has been directed at others, such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Michael Shermer. It seems ‘any critic of mine is a friend of my enemies and therefore an enemy of mine’.

[UPDATE – while writing this I see that Nugent has another post up covering the fact that Myers has not responded to Nugent’s call for an apology, after Myers said Nugent defends rapists.]

I’ve covered some of this before, specifically about how Dawkins is being misrepresented, and on the hypocrisy of Myers complaining about the ill-considered rhetoric of Dawkins and yet engaging in similar ill-consideration himself that resulted in misrepresentations of Dawkins. There I also pointed to Michael Nugent’s response to it all as one of the only sane assessments on the matter. And it’s as a result of Nugent’s criticisms there that Ophelia Benson continued her attack on Nugent, and had Adam Lee jumping in with both feet – firmly in his mouth. And Nugent responds again, with restraint and calm reason.

And it goes around some more, and Nugent finds he has to make yet another clarification of the misrepresentations of him.

You’ll notice that Nugent’s posts are very specific in addressing his attackers, very calm and considered, and necessarily spell out, repeatedly, in great detail, where they are going wrong. Some comments on his posts have suggested he give up and ignore the attacks, rather than give them air time. There’s always the danger that he’ll suffer the TL;DR short attention span response. But others, I think rightly, are supportive of Nugent’s efforts as being worth the trouble. The smears and misrepresentations should be documented in this manner, for the record.

The hypocrisy of Benson, Myers and others of the #FTBullies extends to their unwillingness to criticise the many viscous followers they have on their blogs. There are some clearly false accusations flying around about Dawkins and Harris, and latterly Nugent, such as calling them misogynists, or even supporters of rapists. In Nugent’s case Myers seems to have been pretty clear that he considers Nuget a defender of rapists that comment on Nugent’s blog, and holds Nugent responsible for that in some way; were it true in any case – and Myers offers no evidence of this claim.

Maybe I’ve missed it, but I haven’t seen Myers or Benson comment on their own blogs with something like, “OK guys, I’m criticising Dawkins and Harris for careless or even harmful rhetoric. Let’s not get into that ourselves.” Instead, they continue with the misrepresentations, and allow the more extreme of their followers to jump to the nastier conclusions on their behalf [UPDATE: except in the latest Twitter outburst Myers is responsible for all his own work].

I thought it might be helpful to Myers, Benson and Lee and others engaged in these campaigns against Dawkins, Harris and Nugent, if I quoted from a book a read some time ago. It was aimed at the sloppy thinking and failure to search for the truth, in favour of one’s emotive commitments, and directed generally against the religious, New Agers and post-modern relativists and other pedallers of flim-flam [h/t Pinker]. I’ve inserted and emphasised where I think Benson and co. might not get the message from the original.

Confusion and obfuscation are arguably the best way to go. Obfuscation is legal, it’s easy, there’s always an abundant supply and it often does the trick. The more unclear it is exactly what one is arguing, the more trouble one’s opponents will have in refuting one’s claims.

And this is why Nugent’s posts are increasingly detailed in refuting the charges from Myers et al.

Asking unanswerable questions is an inconclusive but useful tactic. … The fact that no one can answer such questions is taken by the pure of heart and limpid of mind to entail divine [self-appointed] explanation. The fact that such explanation allows the questions to be asked all over again seems not to trouble the divinely [self-appointedly] inclined.

In fact, the contortions are a giveaway not only that the explanation is not the right one, but that something is badly wrong with the method of generating the explanation, that things are back to front [mirroring the Vatican?], that the enquirer has started, not with a desire to produce an explanation, but with the desire to produce a particular explanation, or a particular kind of explanation.

What should trump what? Should rational enquiry, sound evidence, norms of accuracy, logical inference trump human needs, desires, fears, hopes? Or should our wishes and beliefs, politics and morality, dreams and visions be allowed to shape our decisions about what constitutes good evidence, what criteria determine whether an explanation is supported by evidence or not, what is admissible and what isn’t?

The truth is important to us, but so are our needs and desires and hopes and fears. Without them we wouldn’t even recognise ourselves. Without them, we think, we would merely be something like an adding machine. An adding machine can get at the truth, given the right input, but it doesn’t care. We want the truth but we also want to care – wanting the truth is indeed inseparable from caring. We want it, we care about it, it matters, and so do various other things we want and care about, some of which are threatened by the truth. … But we have to choose. … If we’ve never bothered to decide that truth matters, and that it shouldn’t be subject to our wishes – that, in short, wishful thinking [that everyone should agree with our gross characterisations] is bad thinking – then we are likely to be far less aware of the tension. We simply allow ourselves, without much worry or reflection, to assume that the way humans want the world to be is the way the world is [populated by privileged old white male misogynists, as we see it], more or less by definition – and endemic confusion and muddle [and the need for endless clarification] is the result.

Religion and related modes of thinking such as New Age, Wicca, paganism, the vaguely named ‘spirituality’, [and the social justice wars?] are where this outcome is most obvious. Public discourse features talk of [god stuff, or charges of rape] … without apparently stopping to notice that there may be reasons to prefer true beliefs rather than false ones.

What reasons? There are many. One is truth is something of an all-or-nothing proposition. It is intimately related to concepts such as consistency, thoroughness, universal applicability, and the like. If one decides that truth doesn’t matter in one area what is to prevent one deciding it doesn’t matter in any, in all?

Our internal private thoughts might not matter at all. … But how we influence each other, how we teach – by writing, by journalism, by talking on the radio, on platforms, in churches, in mosques, in classrooms, [how we use blogs to espouse rape claims rather than official channels] – it does matter. If we are going to influence people, it’s important we get it right.

If we minimize true facts that we dislike too often, we may lose sight of the fact that it is our reaction and degree of attention that is subject to our wills, and start to think that the facts themselves are subject to our wills. But on the whole they’re not.

But then this …

There are fields where indifference to truth is no handicap – advertising, PR, …, lobbying, marketing, In fact there are whole large, well paid, high status areas of the economy where truth-scepticism, wishful thinking, fantasy, suspension of disbelief, deletion of the boundary between dreams and reality, are not only not a handicap, but essential to the enterprise. … We need our dreams and stories, our imaginaries. They are good for us. We need the cognitive rest from confronting reality all day, we need to be able to imagine alternatives, we need the pleasure of fantasy. But we also need to hang on to our awareness of the difference between dreams and reality.

No! Some of these, advertising, PR, lobbying, marketing – and blogging unsubstantiated rape claims and naming as perpetrators people who have had no recourse to justice – are precisely the areas where we are seeing no handicap to the perpetrators of lies, but where the wider social handicap is far greater.

There is a profound irony in the situation [super fucking irony in this case] – in postmodernist epistemic relativism. It is thought to be, and often touted as, emancipatory. It is supposed to set us all free: free from all those coercive repressive restrictive hegemonic totalizing old ideas. From white male western reason and science, from the requirement to heed the boundary between science and pseudo science, from the need to offer genuine evidence for our versions of history, from scholars who point out we have our facts wrong. … Take away reasoned argument and the requirement for reference to evidence – by discrediting them via deconstruction and rhetoric, via scare quotes and mocking capital letters, and what can be left other than force of one kind or another? … This is emancipatory? Not in our view. It is not emancipatory because it helps emotive rhetoric to prevail over reason and evidence, which means it helps falsehood prevail over truth.

The book? “Why Truth Matters” – Ophelia Benson, Jeremy Stangroom.

Super fucking irony.