Nice piece on new-atheists vs. apologists (e.g. Reza Aslan)

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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26 October 2014 15:25
 

In general I find “Salon” to be hit and miss. But this article seems well put:

Salon: New Atheists are not the issue, Apologists are

 
 
Dennis Campbell
 
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Dennis Campbell
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26 October 2014 15:57
 

I liked these paragraphs most:

The so-called “New Atheists,” including Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, have tried to do the opposite: get people to examine religion and help them understand it as innately backward, obscurantist, irrational and dangerous. Their aggressive secularism has, of course, stirred controversy and resentment. It was bound to do so. For millennia, the faithful have held the high moral ground virtually unopposed. Now (at least occasionally) under fire, some modern-day believers have taken to levying a clever yet false counter-accusation; namely, that the so-called “New Atheism” amounts to a “religion all its own” and that nonbelief can be just as hazardous as nonbelievers say religion is.

Aslan has proven a masterly practitioner of this ruse. He has used it to muddy the rhetorical waters to the extent that both belief and nonbelief come off, in his telling, as comparable, with “fundamentalism” a problem for both.

“Atheism is a belief system like any other belief system,” he told HuffPost Live last week in a lengthy interview about – again – Bill Maher’s stance on Islam. “It’s a set of propositions about the nature of reality. And like any set of propositions, it can neither be proven nor disproven.”

This is patently untrue: nonbelief is not a “belief system.” Atheism simply denotes nonbelief in a god, and the rejection of god-related assertions, advanced without evidence, or with risible semblances of evidence drawn from the holy writings themselves in dispute, that an invisible, almighty Supreme Being superintends the universe, grants our wishes or not as He sees fit, and demands to be both loved and feared. Smart atheists know that God’s inexistence cannot be proven, but find no reason to accept the absurd claims the three Abrahamic faiths make, and every reason to react with anger and contempt when adherents of those religions attempt to impose them on the rest of us. The religious argue that the absurdity of their holy books’ tenets presents them with an opportunity to win bona fides with their god by suspending their critical faculties and believing them anyway, but no rational human being should be obligated to respect their decision – let alone submit to their mandates.

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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27 October 2014 04:16
 

“It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives. . . .  After all, scripture is meaningless without interpretation.  The abiding nature of scripture rests not so much in its truth claims as it does in its malleability, its ability to be molded and shaped into whatever form a worshiper requires. . . If you are a violent misogynist, you will find plenty in your scriptures to justify your beliefs. If you are a peaceful, democratic feminist, you will also find justification in the scriptures for your point of view.”

That is exactly true and exactly what allows anyone to put anything into the front end of the magic book and get the authority of god to justify it out the rear end. That is the magic that is religion.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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27 October 2014 10:33
 
GAD - 27 October 2014 03:16 AM

“It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives. . . .  After all, scripture is meaningless without interpretation.  The abiding nature of scripture rests not so much in its truth claims as it does in its malleability, its ability to be molded and shaped into whatever form a worshiper requires. . . If you are a violent misogynist, you will find plenty in your scriptures to justify your beliefs. If you are a peaceful, democratic feminist, you will also find justification in the scriptures for your point of view.”

That is exactly true and exactly what allows anyone to put anything into the front end of the magic book and get the authority of god to justify it out the rear end. That is the magic that is religion.

Yup. That’s exactly what I thought (well, more or less) when I read that as well.

The doctrines still have a great deal of influence, though, on those who are more inclined to go with what doctrines tell them than they are to work things out within their own existing ethos (and/or who have an ethos such that it needs excuses and validation in order to maintain whatever self-image the owner has).

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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27 October 2014 11:49
 

When manipulating the less educated, it doesn’t hurt that you can find easy-to-spout passages to support your agenda.

So right now on 2014, ~5 million Imams (I don’t know the conversion ratio - is it 100 Muslims / Imam?) from around the world, in many, many cultures, have convinced about 500 million Muslims that Sharia is the way to go.

 
 
Bugs Bunny
 
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29 October 2014 09:55
 

Nice link, I was pleasantly surprised it came from Salon.    Kudos to Jeffrey Tayler. 

Nonbelievers need to approach faith as a subject like any other, one we can talk about and criticize without fear of causing offense – or, in the case of Islam, concern for our physical safety.

This is in fact our constitutional right. The First Amendment forbids Congress from establishing an official religion and protects free speech – including speech that offends the sentiments of believers. If we disbelieve what religion’s canon tells us, we need to say so openly, and in mixed company, pointing out that no rational person could believe it or accept it as true and valid, were it not for indoctrination, immaturity, willful abandonment of reason, fear, or simple feeblemindedness.