Monday, 6 February 2012
I noted in my previous post the Left's curious habit of projecting their own weaknesses and nasty habits on to their enemies.
Actually, it's not curious at all. It is an interesting but omnipresent psychological quirk, and the time-honoured means by which secret, latent or aspiring oppressors reveal themselves thus, even - or especially - when hiding beneath righteous proclamations of wisdom, tolerance and generosity.
As with the Left, so with the atheists.
And yes, I do simply say 'atheists' rather than 'some atheists', just as I say 'the Left' rather than 'some on the Left', and so on, all down the line of troublemaking or grievance-mongering agitators.
I do this not in the interests of lumping the innocent with the guilty but because it seems to me that all causes must be judged by the worst they can achieve and not the best. Anything else seems to me analogous not even to the 'some good Germans' truism but to the 'at least they made the trains run on time' one.
The great Fascists of the twentieth century did, indeed, make the trains run on time. The point is not disputed, and the suggestion that Hitler was, on the whole, a bad thing is not dependent on any counterclaim that, in actual fact, the 9.33 from Berlin to Stuttgart was frequently seven minutes late, especially on Mondays. It's just not relevant. I'll happily accept the trains ran on time, if you happily accept that the Holocaust happened. Can't say fairer than that. Doesn't mean I don't like the idea of trains running on time - or for that matter a whole bunch of other unequivocally good and useful things Hitler did - merely that they cannot be used as mitigation.
I am an atheist, but the fact that I object to the idiocies of the atheist lobby is not enough: if I wish to continue calling myself an atheist I must make my objections public, otherwise it is entirely reasonable for others to make the assumptions about me that the self-appointed spokesmen of my creed work so hard to create. Same with lefties, same with Muslims, same with every other belief or ideology that is used to promote or excuse tyranny. Declare your difference, or live with the assumptions. Don't whine and act as if the world is supposed to guess you're different from the ones on the telly.
So yes, by 'atheists' in this context I mean the kind of people the public at large has every reason in the world to think of when they hear the word: a bunch of petty-minded, cynical, not very clever division-stokers who hide base motives behind the presumption of moral and intellectual superiority.
That's my team! Go, atheists, go!
I'm not going to call them 'militant atheists' because that's not how they view or promote themselves. They think of themselves as the mainstream, and are entitled to do so.
But like so many who agitate relentlessly for the suppression of freedom, and attack their enemies in terms so intemperate they virtually constitute incitement to violence, they are incredibly thin-skinned when it comes to any slight against themselves. (This is the classic Islamic shuffle: accusations of violence = hurt feelings = justification for violence.)
Of course, as with all unreasoning extremists, there is often unintended comedy to be found in this paradox, as their assertions as to the tone and meaning of their words and the words of others collide incoherently, yet with the blissfully untroubled assumption of coherence, with manifest reality.
There now follows a joyous example found - where else? - on the Richard Dawkins Foundation For Reason and Science website ("a clear-thinking oasis").
Back here, I was delighted to introduce you to the terrible crime, fully endorsed and wailed over by the dingbats that hang around the Dawkins site, of 'Atheophobia', which as the name implies, is the "irrational fear or hatred of atheists that manifests as a strong prejudice against those who do not believe in a God" and worse still as "incorrect statements... made about atheists at large". The rallying cry: "it is absolutely unacceptable for religious persons to denigrate atheists for their lack of religious beliefs."
Sadly, despite the patent rightness of their cause, and the constant gauntlet of prejudice and oppression they must daily endure in Britain and America, the term 'atheophobia' has not yet caught on. Don't ask me why. It's not as if it's not catchy.
One of the worst manifestations of atheophobia, needless to say, is referring to atheists as "shrill". It beggars belief how it can even be possible for slurs so unjustified to be tolerated in a free society.
Of course, it's a plain statement of fact when Dawkins accuses a Rabbi of "shrieking with an intemperate stridency of which Hitler would have been proud". But calling atheists shrill is too much, not least because it is so blatantly unfair.
Let a pompous nitwit called Russell Blackford pick up the story from here:
More Rubbish About "Shrill" Atheists - This Time In The Daily Mail:
It seems that any forthright expression of atheism is going to be called "shrill", though the same will not apply to similarly forthright expressions of theism.
In the case of Richard Dawkins - really, he's a gentleman by the standards of debate on almost any other topic. At times he is passionate or mocking, but aren't we all when faced by manifest injustice, nastiness, or cruelty? In his book, The God Delusion, taken as a whole, he does indeed argue for the unpopular point of view that we should be emphasising the ways in which ordinary religion resembles delusion, rather than whatever ways they are distinguishable, but the general tone is very mild...
In public appearances, Dawkins is usually gentle and tolerant - far more so than most people speaking on most subjects that they are passionate about. I've seen him go out of his way to be courteous to annoying and ignorant interlocutors.
... there has been a largely successful attempt to hold atheists who actually argue publicly for atheism to a special standard. Anyone who does not meet it is thereupon demonised, or simply dismissed as "shrill", "strident", etc... Meanwhile, forthright Christians who want to argue publicly for the truth of their views manage to be at least as "shrill" as Dawkins.
For example, I'm currently reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, which I don't think I've previously read in its entirety and have not opened for decades. As usual with Lewis, his style varies between blunt, emotive, self-righteous, and downright snide (I'll bracket off how naive the actual arguments are). His approach gets a free pass in our culture, but if an atheist wrote in exactly the same way he or she would be roundly condemned.
This is pretty funny already, but the tears really start to flow when you follow his link back to the article that has inspired all this wounded prose, the original statement of theistic intolerance and incitement beside which Dawkins's gentlemanly tact pales.
It's by a terrifying zealot called the Reverend George Pitcher. Get ready for it, because this is not going to be pretty.
From Attenborough to Alain de Botton, the faithless are rejecting the shrill atheism of Dawkins:
There's something divine in the air. Agnostics and atheists are beginning to nod respectfully in the direction of the Almighty, while still, of course, maintaining that He's not there.
Just before he died, Christopher Hitchens expressed some generous sympathy for the Christian worldview, much to the evident frustration of his interlocutor Richard Dawkins. Then philosopher Alain "I'm not pretending to be an atheist" de Botton had his own transfiguration moment the other day when he proposed a "temple to atheism", because (I think) he acknowledges a human capacity for transcendance.
Now the venerable, agnostic natural historian Sir David Attenborough has confessed to Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs that there might, after all, be a God: "I don't think an understanding and an acceptance of the four billion-year-long history of life is any way inconsistent with a belief in a supreme being."
There does seem to be a growing tolerance of faith among the faithless. And that is to be warmly welcomed, without in any sense suggesting they are coming to conversion or that the godly in some way have "won" the argument.
Because the sensible thing surely is to acknowledge that this is an argument that can't be won, like most worldly debates can. Those of us of religious faith need to concede that atheists might be right, however much we believe that they are not. And, by the same token, unbelievers, such as Attenborough and de Botton, need to affirm that we might be right - and they variously and increasingly are, by their words and deeds. Now we can get on with the common cause of trying to make sense of this life.
The narrow and rather meaningless argument to which Dawkins confines himself is the incessant charge that there is no "evidence" for God. And evidence, of course, is defined only within the strictures of his own empirical scientism. The problem is that faith isn't primarily evidential, as he demands it to be, but revelatory - and we would claim no less true for all that in explaining the human condition.
The shrill voice of Dawkins is gradually being marginalised by those of no more faith than him, but who nevertheless perceive mystery in humanity and, while not accepting the presence of God in the world, are prepared to face in the same direction as the rest of us and stand in awe and wonder.
Talk about divisive!
Oh, the bigotry! Oh the intemperance! Oh the - I'm sorry, but there really is no other word - shrillness.
"Those of us of religious faith need to concede that atheists might be right, however much we believe that they are not"?
How dare this man be so closed-minded? Why can't he live and let live? Why can't he try to bring people together in common cause, instead of always trying to drive senseless, unnecessary wedges between them?
Oh, no. My mistake. That's exactly what this gentle-hearted man is doing. And this is what has mortally offended sinister atheist agitators like Russell Blackford.
Thank goodness some of that atheist tolerance he's so proud of was able to step in and hold the Rev accountable, via the sage-like interjection in the comments section of one 'Darrell, Manchester' (hallowed be his name):
Pitcher, you disingenious T*AT. How this drivel can pass for journalism is beyond me. Take everyone out of context and try and find controversy where there is none. You'd think you were religious or something? Oh right... If you REALLY believe Christopher Hitchens (and I quote) ..."expressed some generous sympathy for the Christian worldview..." and that was the end of the story? You think that was in context do you? Would a man who was self titled an ANTI-Theist really express a sympathy for the Christian world view? NO NO NO. Sloppy, disingenious and disgraceful. All you god botherers please stop being so desperate and feeling entitled to 'respect'. You can all group hug and high-five each other as long as you want. it won't change the fact that you are slaves to your faith and far from freeing you, is shackling you to Bronze age myths that most humans outgrow roughly when they realise Santa Claus is made up. Get a grip and stop trying to proselytize.
At last! The voice of sanity, reason and politeness. And let's hope that 'disingenious' catches on where 'atheophobia' seems so tragically to have failed.
I'd also like to see more people writing "and I quote" before using a quotation mark. It takes away some of the ambiguity.
So in conclusion: yes, these berks are riotously funny on one level, and I hope you had as much fun as I did watching them at play.
But, if you could dry your eyes for a moment, do note that this particular tactic - of accusing your enemies of your own crimes - is symptomatic not merely of tyrants but more specifically of confident tyrants.
So do, please, keep a watchful eye on them.