Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Wierd 24 Hours

Last night I was on Fox Radio. The first caller -- having heard me talk about why I left the Republican Party -- said "I'll bet he's (that's me) a homosexual and divorced!" I explained that if I were gay I'd not be insulted to be called such, but in fact have been married for 39 years now and am hetro. So much for reason from the religious right.

Well, today I invite you to go to Alternet and read the furious (almost unhinged in some cases) responses from various atheist readers to my 11 page-long blog there on the New Atheists. If you had any doubts that atheism is a religion check out the tone and content of the responses.


Best, Frank


Geds said...

First off, you misspelled weird...

But that's not my beef. For a brief moment you were in danger of becoming my second-favorite Christian (or Christian-ish) blogger, right behind Fred Clark, aka the Slacktivist. That danger is far, far gone.

The reason you get such negative reactions when you claim that the New Atheists are exactly the same as fundamentalist Christians is because they aren't and it's incredibly insulting to everyone involved. Every time you bring up that claim someone tells you you're wrong about it, so you just bring the claim up again, using the last argument against it as proof that you are right without actually bothering to look at the arguments made against it. So I assume you'll simply use this as ever more ammunition in your bunker, even though I myself make no claim towards being in league with the New Atheists.

The main point in which the larger atheist movement (assuming there even is one) differs from fundamentalist Christianity is that there is no atheist dogma. Beyond the fact that atheists don't believe in god there doesn't have to be a single other point of agreement. We all tend to agree that the scientific method and skeptical response to evidence-less claims are a good thing, but beyond, "I don't believe there is a god," there is nothing any atheist has to agree upon with any other atheist.

In fact, most atheists disagree with each other on any number of points. I like PZ Myers but I think he can be juvenile and pedantic at times. But I still like reading his blog and occasionally engaging in discussions and arguments when I have time. I think that Hitchens went way too far with his thesis that religion always poisons everything in god is not Great while still making a strong case that religion isn't the benign force for good that its proponents wish to think it is.

Dawkins, meanwhile, has never struck me as anything other than a gentleman in debate. He has a flair for the dramatic turn of phrase, but in interviews and debates he is witty, polite, and quite skilled at the diplomatic biting of his tongue. And to refer to his fans as "deluded (not terribly bright) followers" as you did in your alternet article is an insult to them and they're quite right to take you to task for it.

Of course you also hit Dawkins for his merchandising savvy. I find that ironic, coming from the person who finds a way to mention his new book within the first two paragraphs of pretty much everything he writes. That, for the record, is why I got tired of your blog. I can handle the endless New Atheist baiting. It's the fact that your incredibly useful observations about the Evangelical movement in America were replaced wholesale by calls of, "Buy my book! Buy my book!" that got old...

John Kennell said...

Thank you, Geds, for your above comment. You nailed it.

Frank, I didn't know you from Adam before a day or two ago when I caught your interview vid with Hughley on YouTube. I was very, very impressed. But buddy, you're not there yet.

'Atheism is a religion?' Bull. I suppose NOT collecting stamps is a hobby?

Of course atheists appear arrogant. How else would we appear to a Christian? Your focus is off. Don't get bogged down in semantics. Fact based certainty remains fact based certainty whether it's shrill or demure. In this area you are still an ad homonym logician.

Honestly, I think if you gave it half a chance you'd make a fine atheist. Take a day, give it a shot.

Ray said...

First off, atheism is not a religion, just like health is not another disease. (And if atheism is a religion, where's my tax exemption?)

Secondly, I know you've spoken out against the real fundamentalists, the crazy loons of the extreme right with their smug know-nothingism spoon-fed to them by Glenn Dreck, and I commend you for it. Richard Dawkins is arguing with his words and intelligence, while the loons and teabaggers are arguing with death threats, church shootings, lynching and terrorism. Why do you strain at the gnat of Richard Dawkins and swallow the camel of the teabaggers?

dixonge said...

As a former Republican and fundamentalist Christian, I'm glad to see that you've at least escaped that part of your upbringing, and I will probably read your book at some point. I might even send it to my Dad, a lifelong Southern Baptist pastor. However, please step back and reconsider the logic of your 'new atheist' screeds. Sometimes when someone seems too sure of their position, it is because they are right...

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing that someone can personally insult you (or try to) by calling you gay and divorced, and you laugh it off, but if someone says "I don't believe your god exists", you think it's the most outrageous insult ever.

s.k.graham said...

Frank, you undermine your entire thesis in the case of Dawkins by pointing out the 7-point scale on which Dawkins places himself at a 6 or "maybe a 6.9".

Seriously, ask yourself, how many fundamentalist/evangelical leaders would rate themselves as a 2, "maybe a 1.1"? Give a devout fundamentalist that scale from 1-7 with 1 being absolute faith/belief in God, and they will tell you they are a one. Or maybe they will go off scale and say they are a zero! Not only will they claim such certainty about the existence and general nature of a personal God, they will be nearly or equally certain about any number of doctrinal points -- moral rules, miraculous historical events, and so forth.

There is a chasm of difference between Dawkins confident but still hedged certainty verses the absoutism of fundamentalists.

There are other important differences. Dawkins, et al, have some enthusiastic fans. Some of those fans are angry and outspoken, and are contemptuous of theists. But there is a huge difference between fans and followers, particularly followers of the fundamentalist ilk.

By your logic, virtually any popular charismatic person who occupies any kind of leadership role for some segment of the population could be equated with cult leaders.

Here is a suggestion: since you admire Dan Dennett so much, why not write him and ask for a thorough critique of your essay. Do you think it will stand up to scrutiny?

mom23 said...

I agree with the above posts. I've read your new book and wished it had more to offer in the way of explaining how someone can reject the obvious idiocy of fundamentalist christianity, and yet hang on to bits and pieces of the jesus myth with any kind of intellectual integrity. I've yet to have anyone who claims to be an "enlightened christian" (setting themselves apart from the crazy ones) be able to rationally defend their remaining faith.

That said, I was probably most frustrated at your book's fixation on atheism as a religion. I am not someone who's glommed on to another faith. I'm someone who has let go of faith completely. I do not believe in a god. While I've read Dawkins and Hitchens, I don't follow them like a sheep. I bought their books. I bought YOUR book. You are selling something just like they are--your point of view.

One thing that came to my mind while reading your book: you seem to base your remaining faith on the wonders in your life. The wonder of a love for a granddaughter or beauty. Do you also pay attention to the horror around you? Too bad the starving people in Africa don't have the luxury of basking in the love of god as their babies starve to death. Do you think those who are sold into sexual slavery as children find moments of beauty from god very often? I think your argument for god is very weak. Weaker still when you try to link it to the jesus myth.

At least the atheists are basing their arguments on reason and evidence.

Anonymous said...

Well, hell's bell's Frank

What about the Satanists, Hmmm? Certainly they are a religion, much more so than the atheists. I started liking your opinions at the onset a few weeks back Frank, but the more I read, I realize that all you are is another self-indulgent know-nothing egomaniac who wrote a book or two to make some money. You should get in on the Merch game too, Frank, just like all the whack-jobs you write about, and point out out screwed up they are. Hey Frank, you would sure as shit know.

Who will it be next week? And, hey Frank, don't forget to mention your book, and how you and dear old dad started all the bullshit you did. Don't ever let us forget how fuckin' proud you are of that. Because I tell you Frank, once we forget, those book sales drop to the bargin tables at the flea markets.

Yeah, Frank, you are not a part of any solution, or opinion taht matters with any great deal of respect. You have none. Hope you have a nice life, even if it's Pro.

Hughes. said...

Tonally, I don't ally myself with the "throw the baby out with the bathwater" nature of anti-theism from someone like Christopher Hitchens, as much as I enjoy listening to him.

I happen to be an atheist myself, but I recognise how polarising and unhelpful it is to take an all or nothing attitude to religion. Richard Dawkins original intent was actually just to get agnostics off the fence and recognise the danger to education and scientific endeavour posed by biblical literalists. It has succeeded in a way, but also backfired, in that evolution is now a by-word for atheism for many people.

The sort of people Frank Schaeffer is warning us about, and trying to reach out to, will not pay ANY attention to Hitchens, Dawkins, Harriss, Dennett et al.

Religion will not simply evaporate if you argue hard enough, as with political extremes, a moderate and informed voice from within the religious community will have more traction in dragging the "Army of God" types onto saner ground.

Keith Olberman won't persuade a hard-line Republican and Bill O'Reilly won't persuade a Democrat. The same goes for Pat Robertson and Christopher Hitchens on matters of faith.

I don't happen to agree with Frank about the new-athiests behaving like religious fundamentalists, but they are certainly a polarising force rather than an inclusive one, whereas Frank is neither proselytising to atheists nor attacking the faith of those who need to realise how irrational their extreme positions have become.