A straw man can be a very convenient property, after all. I can see why a plenteously contented, drowsily complacent, temperamentally incurious atheist might find it comforting—even a little luxurious—to imagine that belief in God is no more than belief in some magical invisible friend who lives beyond the clouds, or in some ghostly cosmic mechanic invoked to explain gaps in current scientific knowledge. But I also like to think that the truly reflective atheist would prefer not to win all his or her rhetorical victories against childish caricatures. I suppose the success of the books of the ‘new atheists’—which are nothing but lurchingly spasmodic assaults on whole armies of straw men—might go some way toward proving the opposite. Certainly, none of them is an impressive or cogent treatise, and I doubt posterity will be particularly kind to any of them once the initial convulsions of celebrity have subsided. But they have definitely sold well. I doubt that one should make much of that, though. The new atheists’ texts are manifestoes, buoyantly coarse and intentionally simplistic, meant to fortify true unbelievers in their unbelief; their appeal is broad but certainly not deep; they are supposed to induce a mood, not encourage deep reflection; and at the end of the day they are probably only a passing fad in trade publishing, directed at a new niche market.—
David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God. Reading Hart is such a … bracing thing. Sort of like knocking back a tumbler of white lightning. (via ayjay)
Now it is true that an atheist can know certain things by means of this natural law, and he can be right about those things. But he is not right about the source of that knowledge, and he is not right about the context of his moral knowledge. If a natural law theorist wants to flatter this atheist, and act like his moral knowledge is a valid bit of knowing, even within his atheistic context, then that natural law theorist, in my view, has given away the store, not to mention the farm, and to switch metaphors a third time, is five thousand dollars down. In other words, nature does not just show us morality, suspended in midair. Natural law delivers the whole package, and the true Creator of it.— Douglas Wilson
A Conversation at the Atheist’s Car Garage
[This] is our movement. We will not consider you a part of it, we will not work with you, we will not befriend you. We will heretofore denounce you as the irrational or immoral scum you are (if such you are). If you reject these values, then you are no longer one of us. And we will now say so, publicly and repeatedly. You are hereby disowned.—
See, this is what I’ve been trying to explain to you: the unique power of religion to make people hate one another. Without religion to generate this exclusionary hatred, this loathing of everyone who does not agree 100% with the views of Our Crowd, people would finally be able to live at peace with one another!
This is so hilariously golden.
"It took 700 years from Constantine renaming Byzantium in his own honour to papal legates circulating letters of anathema that split the Roman and Orthodox churches. Atheism, in its public, online life, has started exchanging internet anathemas – perhaps we should call them inathemas – in little more than a decade."
This is what always happens to rationalism. You begin with an absolute dedication to reason, and nothing but reason, and then find yourself as the night progresses doing a conga dance in the Festival of Unreason. And there is nothing more unsettling than the spectacle of our leading scientists throwing beads while flashing the laymen on the sidewalk.— Douglas Wilson on the latest Sam Harris book.
Harris is blaming conservatives for doing simply what the space/time continuum is making them do. If you have a right view of the cosmos, Harris has been arguing, you won’t blame individuals for doing things that are completely outside their control, and then he proceeds immediately to the edifying task of blaming those who don’t think this way.— Douglas Wilson, blogging through the latest Sam Harris book.
If atoms in motion are responsible for inner city crime, then atoms in motion are also responsible for the conservatives in red state, fly-over country who object to it. Not only so, for this is a liberating game, atoms in motion are also responsible for Harris objecting to the conservatives objecting to the crime. This would be great fun, but Harris keeps forgetting to apply his dogmas to his dogmas.
One understands why he keeps forgetting to do this, of course. If he remembered, he would realize there is no such thing as remembering. He would realize that sawing off the branch you are sitting on is an activity with consequences, by which I mean consequences that might affect sales.
I don’t fault Harris for arguing that, given his premises, we have no free will. I fault him for taking with his left hand what he has given with the right. I fault him for arguing against free will with an argument that presupposes it.— Douglas Wilson, blogging through the latest Sam Harris book.
"On your [Sam Harris’] account I am one set of complex chemical reactions secreting something that I falsely believe to be arguments to another set of complex chemical reactions who falsely believes that he is reading them … if you apply reason and self-criticism to an atheistic examination of ethics, you should discover within ten minutes that there aren’t any … You are a hodge-podge of neuron-firings looking into an abyss which you only think you understand. You don’t really understand it because you are not thinking at all, but rather doing what chemicals always do under those conditions and at that temperature” (Letter From a Christian Citizen, pp. 98-99). - Douglas Wilson
When Hitchens appeals to things like innate conscience and human decency, doing so as an evolutionary atheist, he is functioning as an illusionist. What he is doing is transparently a trick. Even if a Christian reader doesn’t know how he is doing that trick, it is manifestly a trick. And it is a pretty good one, too. He is not pulling a rabbit out of a hat — he pulled three sea otters out of that thing. The sea otters are now lined up on the stage, and we can make out their embossed names on the collars — human decency, innate conscience, and solidarity. But regardless of what you think you have seen, the battered top hat of atheism does not really produce sea otters. Unless you give it 10 million years. Then it is a possibility I guess” (God Is, p. 101).
The central critique here is not that all atheists are ready to burst forth into unrestrained licentiousness, given the slightest provocation. Many atheists, atheism and all, don’t want to be raving criminals, and that is find with me. I am not saying Hitchens is a serial murderer, or that he ought to be. I am not saying that civilized atheists are just pretending to be ethical. I know that Hitchens expresses genuine moral outrage, and I am glad he does. It shows that he still is carrying the image of God […]—
This critque is not aimed at his unrighteousness, but rather at his unsupported self-righteousness. The issue is not what Hitchens himself wants to do. The issue is whether he can get his god reason to rebuke a completely different atheist who was more of Stalin’s frame of mind. The issue is not that atheism requires an atheist to starve millions in the Soviet province of Georgia. It does not, and so Hitchens doesn’t have to. But it does necessitate that consistent atheists stand by mute, with nothing whatever to say, when others (theists and atheists alike) make choice that they personally would consider abominable and outrageous. This is because Stalin has no god, including Hitchens. The disapproval of Jehovah meant nothing to him, and the disapproval of Hitchens would have meant just as little. And Hitchens has no reason whatever that could possibly make Stalin see it differently. That is the issue. It is not whether Hitchens is Stalin. Of course he is not. The issue is whether Hitchens has anything whatever to say when Stalin is being Stalin. And he does not.
So whenever Hitchens condemns the moral behavior of anyone else, he is not proving that atheists can be moral too. He is proving, instead, that he is incapable of following his own premises out to the end of the road. He is proving that he is blissfully unaware of the blatant contradiction in his system where no one can impose his morality on another. But then Hitchens begins dispensing moral judgments on others, and he does so with a snow shovel. So this critique is directed at an intellectual failure of atheism, not at a moral failure. The subject is morality, but the failure is a failure in reason. This is unfortunate for them because it is a failure of their god.
Douglas Wilson in God Is: How Christianity Explains Everything (74-76) (italics in original, bold is mine)
Nailed it. Especially the last sentence.