Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Atheist Hypocrisy

Once more, PZ Myers has his diapers in a bunch. It's perfectly legitimate: an illiterate columnist, after calling atheists to task for being boring (never a good way to begin a column, as PZ points out), proceeds to babble on about the usual nonsense that passes for "religion" in the media, and that PZ has such fun deconstructing. As usual, of course, he limits himself to shooting fish in a barrel, which is why he can brag about such a great kill ratio.

This line made me sit up and take notice, though:
My usual theme instead is to show what a botch theists have made of the country, and how hypocritical they are, and how absurd their beliefs are.
Holy shit, PZ; are you really that naive?

Of course politicians are hypocrites, and of course many of them use religion as an excuse for their hypocrisy. But if you really think that it is the sincerity of their beliefs in God that are the root cause of the mess they've made, think again. News flash: atheism offers no protection from corruption. Look at communist Russia. Surely those "godless commies" did just as good a job, if not better, at fucking up a country.

Corruption/integrity and theism/atheism are completely separate axes, with all four quadrants very well populated indeed, with hypocrisy liberally sprinkled throughout.

Atheism is no talisman against corruption, nor does it preclude hypocrisy. Exhibit A, of course, is PZ Myers' cry for tolerance of atheist beliefs while mercilessly ridiculing the beliefs of others who dare to find strength and solace in difficult times from a social support system grounded in what they call "religion." This, by the way, is the only proper function of religion, and I agree wholeheartedly that billions of people mis-use it every day. I also share PZ's contempt for them.

As I've said before, though, ridicule is a most pernicious form of intolerance. The hypocrisy of disrespectfully blasting all religion as "superstitious nonsense" while demanding respect for atheist views is mind-bendingly hypocritical, with PZ Myers the Hypocrite-in-Chief.


At Mon May 18, 08:45:00 AM, Blogger Alison Cummins said...

I didn't read PZ's post - perhaps I should have - but nothing of his that you have quoted contradicts your post. He says that the theist-corruption quadrant is heavily populated and dosed with hypocrisy; you agree. You say that the other three quadrants are heavily populated and dosed with hypocrisy too; you do not quote him as disagreeing.

So I don't get this jumping up and down.

You're right: not all religion is superstitious nonsense. Only the ones that invoke deities and afterlives, and even then, only those parts of those religions that are dependent on deities and afterlives.

Religions often incorporate various systems for community living and coping with individual failure. I am on the atheist side of agnostic, but the sermon on the mount and the concept of grace have seen me through some hard times. However, these aspects of religion are not unique to religion, and can also be found in philosophy and poetry.

Atheism and the assertion of the existence of the god of any given theistic religion are not equivalent. Atheism is the null hypothesis. Asserting the existence of a given god in the absence of evidence is superstition, and superstition of all kinds (not specifically religious) is being allowed to cause huge damage in modern american society. PZ is perfectly correct to make the link and to rail against it.

You, of course, are perfectly correct in asserting that PZ is an ass. But atheism is still the null hypothesis. E pur si muove.

At Mon May 18, 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Xensen said...

You know what a more pernicious form of intolerance is?

The fact that six states still prohibit atheists from holding public office.

Or, you know, the constant demands of the religious to push their religious agendas in public schools.

And, finally, why is it that religion should be protected from fair criticism? You criticize the medical system on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean you're intolerant or disrespectful. It's because you see a problem and you hope that you might make a change for the better. Religious criticism is no different, and just because it's your sacred cows on the alter doesn't make the criticism somehow more terrible than, say, a scathing restaurant review.

At Mon May 18, 01:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dino may criticize the healthcare system but doesn't call for its elimination, so the analogy falls apart when zealous atheists aren't criticizing specific practices (such as preaching against evolution or claiming to convert gay people to straight) but calling for the elimination of religion.

I'm atheist, but zealots just annoy me whether they're proselytizing religion or atheism.

At Mon May 18, 02:49:00 PM, Anonymous red rabbit said...

PZ is a blogger. He writes in the extreme, and it's the comment threads where the discussion happens that has the real meat of any of these arguments.

He doesn't generally call for the abolition of religion, as far as I have noticed (I may be wrong here, but I don't think so), though he does make fun of a lot of the wackier claims. And he is understandably pissed off about some things that affect him and many others, done or legislated by people with no reasons other than a set of stories passed down from the Stone Age.

As your Twelfth Law (the wikipedia principle, I like to call it) states, this doesn't make them true. But it does make them dangerous, insofar as they prevent cooler heads (not necessarily Prof. Myers') from prevailing in times of stress.

At Mon May 18, 03:09:00 PM, Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

RR: With all due respect, you are wrong. PZ has explicitly stated that he believes the world would be a better place without religion, and that he plans to do everything he can to see that science and rational thought replace it.

At Mon May 18, 04:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PZ was a lot more interesting to read before he became Atheism's version of Fred Phelps.

At Mon May 18, 05:26:00 PM, Blogger Evan said...

If PZ calling people hypocrites is hypocrisy, what is calling PZ a hypocrite for calling people hypocrites?

At Tue May 19, 12:26:00 AM, Blogger Nurse K said...

If you believe that billions of people mis-use religion, then how are you trying to argue that rational thought and science wouldn't be better? If those in Saudi Arabia, etc, were not indoctrinated into a society based on stifling freedom and logic in favor of blind devotion to Allah and at the same time there was no Judaism, what would there be to bitch and moan and kill each other over? Then you just are left with psychopaths and power-hungry crayzees, but it's easier to stifle crayzees with secular logic, reason, and democracy than when the crayzee is saying you'll go to Hell if you don't listen and you really believe this.

While we're not advocating jihad in the US, religion is always used as an easy way to gain support for an idea or oppose an idea while, oftentimes, logic is the fuel behind the opposing viewpoint. If everyone in the world was free and spoke the language of logic and reason, couldn't we all just get along better?

If you want social support, there are many ways not related to religion to get people together for various purposes...

I'm an atheist and don't really care what you do as long as you don't violate the rights of others in the process, but, from someone whose brain is built to analyze problems, freedom and democracy as well as logic and reason would certainly lead to a more peaceful existence for everyone without a decrease in morality.

At Tue May 19, 04:41:00 PM, Anonymous red rabbit said...

What can I say: I am wrong, then. Although, I too think the world would be a better place without religion. This doesn't mean I think it should be abolished, I just think it has no place dictating what people who don't adhere to that particular religion do.

So, blasphemy laws in Ireland? Banning same sex marriage in Pennsylvania? The attacks on abortion (and physicians who perform abortion)?

Could do without that stuff.

At Tue May 19, 07:09:00 PM, Blogger Alison Cummins said...

"PZ has explicitly stated that he believes the world would be a better place without religion, and that he plans to do everything he can to see that science and rational thought replace it."

I don't read that as a manifesto calling for the abolition of religion.

If you can find where PZ has, for instance, drafted a law calling for the imprisonment of religious leaders and worshippers, or where he has used his influence to try to get his geeky hordes to bomb places of worship throughout the world, then I would agree that he is trying to abolish religion.

Advocating for rational thought while asserting that belief in god is not rational is not the same as abolishing religion.

At Sat May 30, 08:00:00 PM, Blogger Empty John said...

Hmm. Is not an unassailable belief in atheism...which can be neither proven, nor disproven...a faith-based belief in and of itself?

Believing that all things can be explained within our current constructs of scientific theory, as useful as they are, is perhaps arrogant and ignorant of the lessons of history. Has not every generation believed adamantly that they have full comprehension of the nature of our universe?

All I know, as a scientist, as a clinician, and as a human how little I know.

Dr J

At Tue Jun 16, 12:00:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"belief in god is not rational"

If humans feel they one day may be able to create life forms or intelligent robots, either in our world or in a virtual reality, and human inventions all tend to follow an evolution from similar simpler designs, is it not also possible that humans are a product of a greater intelligence?


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