Thursday, January 28, 2021

The goal of New Atheism was always political.

New Atheism never really cared all that much about theism or even Christianity, but politics. That much was obvious years ago.

One reason it died off was because of its political failures and risks, and the realization that the political goals they desired could be achieved without advocating for atheism explicitly.

New Atheism isn't really necessary against a Catholic Church where James Martin is celebrated. Or, for that matter, Barron.

Of course you still have some dedicated atheists who thought that New Atheism was really all about atheism. But who's surprised that a belief system legendary for members who can't read social cues wouldn't figure that out?

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

You can't teach (most) people how to resist the sham

 SF Griffin writes,

You could probably even get a good book out of all this that would help others to see through the sham quicker. Or going the other way, in terms of length, one post that lists the 4-6 main shams and rebuts each of them in a sentence or short paragraph would be interesting.

Here's why this isn't as easy as you'd think.

"The sham" is simple to describe: people confidently tell you, often from a position of authority, something that is just not true or does not follow. 

Particulars may vary, but that's really it.

ie, "Evolutionary biology shows that the world is not designed."

"Philosophers have discovered that God simply does not exist and is irrational to believe in."

"Cosmology reveals a universe completely without design."

"Evidence demonstrates that Christ never existed."

Maybe there are credentials involved - a scientist, a celebrity, a Nobel prize winner.

Maybe they're explaining this decisively - "Science shows God does not exist. Period."

Maybe they're putting on an act - "I did a lot of research and I dearly wish the evidence showed God existed, it would be so comforting. But it's simply not so."

Maybe they're operating in a group - they make their declaration, and five, ten, a hundred, a thousand other people say "It checks out", "Sounds right to me", "Well I'm convinced". (Or maybe they just click the 'like' button.)

Maybe what they're actually doing is disdaining arguments or evidence for God - "They don't work. Only a child would think otherwise. All of these have been refuted. Decisively."

The key is, each and every time, what's doing the lion's share of the work is the assertion. The confidence.

It's not the evidence, and it's not the argument. Most of the time they don't even give that. At best, they just gesture in the direction of these things. If that.

Put aside those very rare times where an atheist actually tries to give an argument (and often regrets doing so - there's a reason why the vast majority of modern atheists' time is spent arguing why they don't need to give any arguments or evidence at all.) What I'm talking about is the lion's share of the atheist trick. 

And of course, it's not exclusive to atheists.

The sham - this part of it, anyway - is easy to describe. And once you know the trick, it should be easy to resist, right?

Of course it's not. 

And there's no argument that's going to make it easier either, because the key to resisting these things is confidence and conviction. A willingness to second guess authorities, or even whole crowds of people insisting that you're not just wrong, but clearly wrong, and a broken person besides.

It's not how most people operate. I do not think most people can ever operate like this, and historically, they rarely have.

That's one reason why Christians - and everyone else - formed communities. They provided mutual reinforcement to each other, built each other's confidence and conviction in their beliefs, and (crucially) expelled members who weren't cut out for this, weren't conforming, who were disrupting the community.

Confidence and conviction came from the community, for most people. Those who didn't need this tended to be the ones creating the communities, or running off to be hermits. It's as true now as it was then.

The point is that if you want people to resist this sham, save for that smaller subset of individuals, you're going to need to provide them with something other than arguments or knowledge. They need a community.

And making one of THOSE - especially of a kind worth a damn - is tricky nowadays. 

More on that later, maybe.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

tl;dr - Atheism is a sham

I know it's been a while since I've been active on this blog, or any other blog that people know about. I never really explained why I went from a pretty prolific commenter to barely present, so here's a quick rundown of what's changed.

First, and most foremost, was my finally coming to accept that atheism was intellectually empty.

And I mean empty.

To put this in perspective, you have to understand: when I first (many years ago) got into philosophy and scientific and theistic discussions, I originally started from a place of ignorance and anxiety. And I mean ignorance: I had zero idea about philosophical fundamentals or most of the basic tenets of faith (other than the bare basics you get from a Catholic upbringing). Sure, I had some comfort with my beliefs, but that comfort was shaken up with the growing media chatter about how arguments against God were gaining ground, or how science had proven this or that about God's (non-)existence.

I wanted to know how right these claims were. And that meant I needed to do work.

So, I started reading to try and get a better handle on these things. Arguments for God's existence, arguments against God's existence. I was at Dangerous Idea, Bill Valicella's blog, all kinds of other places which have since vanished. And I learned a lot! About materialism and idealism and panpsychism and more, about CS Lewis, Aquinas, Augustine, Lucretius, Bacon, Descartes... and science too! On and on, arguing and learning all the while, right on to modern thinkers - Chalmers, Law, Feser (of course), Behe, Dembski, and more. 

And I didn't just read a lot these guys' writings, but interacted with the living ones, more than anyone knows since I actually am the sort of guy who will flat out email questions in the hope of getting answers - and to my shock, answers often came back. From Fodor, from Behe, from Feser, from Chalmers, from Coyne, fromWoese, from more.

Philosophy of mind, metaphysics, atheism, theism, physics (quantum and classical)... I argued a lot. I read a lot. Particularly on anything that touched on questions of theism. If someone said 'Quantum physics has something to say about God!' well, that meant I was going to spend some time at least getting a grasp of Quantum physics, and eventually hanging out on physics forums, emailing physicists questions, considering what they had to say. When I was told some brain simulation project would finally put to rest questions of consciousness, well, off I went to learn what THEY were doing. (Fun fact: I was told, at the time, that this would be proven decisively in five years. I think they told me this over a decade ago. Yet here we are. Many such cases, as they say.)

The point is, I was pretty invested in all this, across a lot of disciplines. Still am, really.

Now, as I did all this, my faith and confidence in theism generally, and Christ specifically, grew. Still does, really. But at some point, something else happened.

I realized that atheism was a sham.

In fact, ATHEISTS were a sham.

As in, so intellectually empty as to barely merit taking seriously as a live option in a worldview, either held or proffered.

One reason that I dove into so many areas was because I often would run into people - RL acquaintances, online commenters - who insisted that this field or that field, this argument or that argument, torpedoed God once and for all. This was often said with confidence (confidence that Christians, conditioned to be forever self-effacing in this modern age, typically lacked). And so, interest stirred, I'd go and read up on whatever they were talking about, and then return with questions or arguments.

Over time, I noticed a pattern. Decisive declarations of the death of theism, of dualism, of idealism, were 99% bluster. Usually, the people saying these things were parroting a single article they had read and didn't even totally understand, and which referenced evidence or arguments they never checked out, and never would. So I'd go, I'd read, I'd come back to talk about what I discovered... and I'd realize they not only had no idea what they were talking about, but they didn't care. The point of the interaction was to confidently declare something and assume some authority by their confidence. They were there to push an idea, or punish others for their ideas. Actually knowing what they were talking about was a distant secondary concern to cowing people into compliance.

The point was: the most frantic zealots for atheism that I ran into personally tended to be ignorant and intellectually empty. Over time, I'd realize that this was the norm, not the exception. It wasn't about intelligence either: the main difference between the stupid, ignorant atheist and the smart, better read atheist was the complexity of the fakery. Pig ignorant 420godisdead1987 would tell me evolution proves God doesn't exist. Professor Whoever would tell me that advances in neuroscience and quantum decoherence were putting to rest the hard problem of consciousness. Both of them were bullshitting and in fact seemed to hope that their declaration would be sufficient to stop me, and anyone else, dead in their tracks.

Eventually I realized that even the atheism wasn't real, or at least, wasn't the point: most atheists were only tangentially concerned with theism/atheism, and were in fact motivated by other concerns. For most, theism was attached to Christianity, which they regarded as either a sociopolitical rival for other schools of thought they had made into their religion, or at least a foundation their enemies relied on. Others were more pathetic: some guy's crazy religious mother stormed into his room mid-masturbation at 13 and whipped his crotch with a rubber hose while calling him a dirty sinner, and being an atheist was his way of lashing out since mom was gone. Whether personal or political, the actual topic of theism/atheism didn't matter all that much.

Before I go on, I should note that I'm well aware that theists engage in similar kind of thinking. Therapeutic moral deism, or embracing belief out of a fear of death, or desperation for meaning in life, without being very aware of much arguments or evidence. A difference is that theists of that stripe tend to be way more comfortable accepting the basis on which they've set their belief. That they're taking a risk, holding out a hope, just plain like a belief, it just seems obvious to them and that's it, etc. The belief, itself, is the point. For atheists, the belief (oh I'm sorry - the lack of belief, another sham I could talk about at length) is a means to an end. It is meant to be used on others to achieve a goal that requires popular assent.

The motivations of most atheists was important to explain what I encountered purely at the impersonal, arguments-and-evidence side of things: emptiness. Meaning, naturalism - atheism's often unspoken core belief - doesn't even have much content as a worldview. It is difficult to even define, and you can check the SEP if you don't believe me. It's even more difficult to argue for. Like with the atheists themselves, a lot of its momentum trades on deception and bluff: it's assumed to be true because everyone says it is, some of them quite forcefully, and isn't that good enough? And if it's not, well, good luck. The bulk of modern atheism, insofar as it even discusses naturalism, tries to pass it off as some kind of default worldview that doesn't need an argument (and it better not need one because if it does, they're sunk before they even try, because even defining it will be an impossible job.) Ironically, this is an area where agnosticism is deadly to an atheist, because agnosticism about metaphysical naturalism means openness to theism as a possibility. It means uncomfortable questions that atheists, forever terrified of ever being on the defensive, do not want to be put on the spot to answer. Not even out of simple curiosity.

This post has gotten too long, and I've barely scratched the surface of my experience.

Someone asked why I haven't been commenting in a while. And part of the reason is what I've just said: atheism is a sham. Atheists are a sham. Naturalism is a sham. It's a proxy for a different set of concerns, and so insofar as I think about controversial things, I tend to focus on what I believe is the heart of the matter, and atheism isn't motivating much of anyone. At least not directly. There are way, way bigger fish to fry than some wannabe atheist in the comments section of Feser's blog, and I've been working on that problem, insofar as a nobody like me can. It's less appealing to argue with people who are just faking everything, especially now that it's become very easy to see the tricks and bluffs.

Also, lest anyone misunderstand: this isn't to say that I don't follow Feser and others, or that I don't believe these topics to be important. I still do, often, and I believe them to be immeasurably important. Atheists and atheism? Not so much. So when I visit Feser (or anywhere else) I tend to go there for the articles, less for the comments, which unfortunately tend to just have the latest version of stupid atheist tricks (or stupid liberal tricks) or people who find them obligatory to respond to, as opposed to meaningful conversation.

That's enough for now.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dear White Atheists and White Liberal "Theologians"/Philosophers

Enjoy trying to get your golem under control.

Sincerely, and with much laughter,


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

If you're passionate about your faith, please don't make it your source of income

It's anecdotal, but the track record for people who do this strikes me as absolutely terrible.

You end up with once-devout Catholics and Christians having to defend or at least stay silent about moral monsters, for fear of losing their inevitably already low-paying jobs, or being cut off permanently from career advancement. It's probably not for nothing that Ed Feser, while brilliant, also is - as far as I know - primarily employed outside of the Church, and indeed has managed to at least manage an independent source of income via book-writing, etc. If he were employed by the Church, he'd likely have been muzzled or fired a while ago.

If you're passionate about your faith, get into another career. Also, ask yourself how much work you could do for the faith while anonymous. We live in an age where anonymous people can make videos, write books, do all kinds of things - even earn an income, at times - while still being somewhat aloof.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

An ode to Mark Shea's career

Just showing up to raise a toast to the effective end of Mark Shea's career.

I arrive at this party late, only because I kept bi-annual tabs just to make sure this corpse didn't get up and start shambling around again. But no, there won't be any reanimating this one: Shea's gone. He's just a crazy man getting angry at everything now and lashing out with some combination of hyperbole and hysteria.

The one lingering contribution he's made is how funny it is for him to be "Catholic - and loving it!" when any random sampling of him for years will hit on him being frantic, angry and miserable. Made doubly educational, since just about every person the maniac has denounced as "hateful" seems on the whole not only happier, but nicer than him.

God, as always, has a sense of humor.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Fast thoughts 6/20/19

* The continued secularization of the West (and, if we're being perfectly honest, of the Church as well) hasn't led to any increased popularity of just about any of the New Atheists. Dennett has fled the scene, Dawkins was sidelined by a combination of a stroke and a vague aura of the patriarchy, and the third-stringers either found other things to talk about or faded into obscurity (though usually with some hilarious sex-creep allegations.) The message the world has sent to the atheism-obsessed is clear: "We may not like Christianity, but the sort of people who are obsessed with atheism are typically a pack of creeps and weirdos, so we don't need your services either." If being an atheist meant having to hang out with Richard Carrier, most people would just go to church.

* My faith in God has solidified over the years, having realized that too many arguments for God were too successful, and arguments for atheism are famously hard to come by. That said, there is one privation in this universe of ours that sometimes causes me to question God's goodness: the fact that no journalist has yet asked Pope Francis, face to face and in the midst of a live press conference, if he's ever engaged in sodomy since becoming Pope. Admittedly, if anything is going to get an actual papal assassin to leap out of the shadows and garrote you on the spot, it's a question like that, but given the sheer volume of gay scandals (yes they are GAY scandals, stop telling me plowing a 16 year old boy is pedophilia and has nothing to do with homosexuality, good God) it's a question that someone has to ask. I know the Pope's official line here was "The problem was clericalism" but I'll believe that the moment June is recognized as Clergy Pride Month.

* By the by, the Pope's insistence that he didn't know anything about McCarrick really brings to the fore an old claim of mine: the only defense of Pope Francis is that he's actually retarded. Keep in mind that Vigano claims he told Francis about McCarrick, Pope Benedict certainly did restrict McCarrick for his homosexual abuse behavior, and even the Pope's response is that he just can't *remember* if Vigano told him anything, but he swears if he did then he totally forgot it when he elevated McCarrick to a prominent position in the Church. So B16 never told Francis about this? And if someone did tell him he *forgot*? And no one reminded him "Hey your holiness, about your promotion of this guy, you realize he's sucked like twenty seminarian's dicks *this year*"?

* I know that saying some of this will stir reactions of horror or disgust from any good, faithful Catholic who considers themselves a loyal son or daughter of the Church, but that's okay because I'm actually getting irritated with them too. Partly because, while plenty of people complain about the rotten clergy, too many Catholics insist that - nevertheless - they (every single one of them) are owed our complete submission and respect, for they are divine authorities, etc, etc. The question I always ask when this line is deployed is simple: 'If the cardinal told you to cover up a pedophile crime, would you? Do you think God would condemn you if you handed them over?' It's a line of inquiry that the sorts of people I'm talking about hate, because what they fear - more than anything else - is a loss of public stature as a Good Person in the eyes of those they care about, yet the question means they're going to get marked as a reprobate by at least SOME of the important people. Good. A bit of that is needed.

* I see the USCCB voted to change the wording about the death penalty, and then literally *applauded themselves*, in what theologians decry as "a display of complete assholery". It's just as well their collective standing as moral leaders was squandered years ago, since none but a handful of them ever display anything of value in their Soundbite Christian. But what took the cake was one particular jagoff - was it Dolan? - talking about how an ancient 'loophole' in Catholic moral teaching had now been closed. Someone should really ask this guy if, then, it isn't possible that the Church's moral teaching hasn't been absolutely *riddled* with loopholes for two thousands years, rendering their entire deposit of moral faith open to doubt. And then when he moves to respond, throwing their drink in his face and saying, "Shut up, it was rhetorical, no one cares what you think."

* For any Protestants reading, don't get cocky, even the Southern Baptists are turning into a freakshow at this point, and I bet the Prots collectively had more of those shitty Rainbow Flags decorating their churches this month than even my feminized clergy have managed. I suppose you could always pledge to flee any Church which does that, which is the standard Protestant response, but I have another suggestion: how about you stand, fight, and run some vipers out of the den? Take back what's yours.