Atheism: nothing new under the sun

Atheism

[About the motivational poster:  It’s a double-entendre.]

I think about atheism more than probably most people, perhaps because I have friends who are atheists.  I am interested in their motivations and thought processes. I also find some of the philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God somewhat intriguing, although I’m not one to hang my hat on any particular philosophical argument.  For that matter, I don’t think many people do – including many who say they do.  I suspect that on either side of the question, philosophical arguments are often merely comforting myths and bedtime stories, meant to put our minds to rest.  (Real faith, on the other hand, is something much deeper.)   For both of the above reasons, over the past few years I’ve read some of the top-selling atheist books (which I’ve reviewed here occasionally), and I’ve been subscribing to some of the better atheist blogs.

Overall, I’m quite disappointed in the state of modern atheism.

I had expected to find new and fresh thinking – after all, these are the self-proclaimed free-thinkers and intellectuals – but instead have found that there’s very little free-thinking or deep-thinking going on.  An exception would be someone like Bradley Monton, who is perhaps more of a free-thinker than most atheists prefer.  What I typically find are ad-hominems, straw-men (or straw-gods), false appeals to authority, question-begging, hand-waving, red herrings and a lot of bluster.  Much of the time it seems atheists are merely trying to prove to themselves that they haven’t missed something; at least that’s how it often comes across.

Frankly, I’m bored with it.  Real philosophy and theology are so much more interesting.  Unless atheism starts going outside the “why evangelical Christianity and modernism don’t mix” box, it’s pretty much a waste of time (I would tend to agree that they don’t mix, anyway).  Most “de-conversion” stories I’ve read seem to result from failed attempts to rationalize Christianity with modernism, which is in my opinion an exercise in futility.

I have a theory that if many of these deconverts had looked to a pre-modern faith – say, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism or even Anglicanism – they would not have deconverted.  From reading various deconversion “testimonies,” it seems that most issues – when they weren’t simply moral issues – had to do with disillusionment with a Christianity that wanted badly to fit within a rather small modernist box.  Exposure to a Christianity which disregards that box, or at least downplays its importance, may have actually opened their minds rather than closing them to anything spiritual. But, I could be wrong.  If people were highly committed modernists, which many atheists seem to be, perhaps that is barrier enough to any sort of religious influence.

But I digress.

Atheistic arguments that target modern, redacted versions of Christianity are typically uninspiring and unproductive.   Besides being bored with the repetitive atheistic responses, I have no desire to argue for a modernist version of Christianity.  So, you see, I find most of the discussions rather inane.  While some atheist blogs will do what they can to keep the dream alive, I probably won’t even bother to read or comment about them any longer (unless I run across anything out of the ordinary).  If someone says something remarkable, feel free to let me know.

In the meantime, I’ll continue studying and writing on more substantial issues, such as continuing my series examining the differences between Western and Eastern Christianity, as well as tossing in the occasional post on atheism, because sometimes I just can’t help myself.

28 thoughts on “Atheism: nothing new under the sun”

  1. Heyyy Wow! I’m “published “! I can see why a lot of people like to Blog and make comments.. it does give us a small sense of power that maybe we can be heard.. and We can be Jimmy Olsen without becoming a real reporter !

    Well.. I’m just going to say, I thought about this scripture a lot today and I’m thinking most atheists will probably say ” I don’t worship frogs or alligators or cows etc .. So this obviously doesn’t apply to me – ridiculous Christians ! ” ( I’m just assuming… worst case scenario..) Best case scenario might be ” wow. This DOES sound a little like me.. Hmmm.. Maybe I better get right with God. I think the biggest aspect of this rant by Paul, and I think I can cal it a rant. I think it’s obvious he was a little upset… Jesus got upset a few times too! ) I think with all of the pictures of Jesus holding little kids in his lap or feeding a lamb etc… most atheists must thing this guy was a real wus! But.. if you read some of the scriptures of how he spoke DIRECTLY to the Pharisees and Sadducees, you’d see…. he got right in their Faces ” You brood of vipers !” etc. Anyway I digress. The point being that the man or woman, who doesn’t serve God, serves himself / herself ( I hate having to NOT sound sexist !) -The creature.. rather than the Creator. and I think that’s where most of us go astray in that we want self determination to run our lives, and not have to bow to the will of a greater, the ultimate being God. I think that’s where we get ” the meek will inherit the earth” because as it seems those who really, REALLY rebel, end up on Americas’ Most Wanted or die of a heart attack trying to make that second million. Most people, I think.. are “closet Atheists” they live as if there was no God to be accountable to. Which could apply to me a lot of the time too! – but in the back of my mind I’m usually thinking or praying.. ok God.. please give me an assist on this..” or “I hope this is ok with you..” rather than ” Is this your will ? Is THIS what you want me doing.?” therefore.. most of us are wandering around.. oblivious of God and what he would be doing in our lives. Unless we opened up our ears and listened. – Like Jesus Said ” He who has ears to hear, let him hear. ” OK.. Thanks For the soapbox Alden! ( I think!) TTYL

  2. Jay, The Steve Martin who comments here is the real Steve Martin, he’s just not the comedian/banjo player Steve Martin…

    I think Paul had it correct; I’ve quoted from this passage many times.

    On many blogs and discussion boards, arguments with atheists are nothing more than stupid people (on both sides) arguing about things none of them really understand. That’s unfortunate. If the discussion is not thoughtful and respectful, it shouldn’t happen.

  3. Ruh roh.. at first I thought this was just a mesage to Alden.. but.. it’s good to be ” Transparent !”

    anyway I want to know if many of you have ever read this: it may speak against Athiesm. and it may speak against the rebellious ( the part about : even though they ‘Knew” God.. as I think a lot of Athiests could have come from religious backgrounds. i wil admit not everything in the Bible seems to make sense. Somebody once said. “It’s not the parts that i DON’T understand that bother me.. so much as the parts i DO understand…”
    (please forgive any mispellings.. it’s 4am! ) GB – Jay

    Also ( another proviso!) I don’t think you have to be the son of Hitler to be an Athiest.. Somewhere it says ” if you commit one sin.. you’re as guilty as if you committed all sins…” (Paraphrased) Athiests should believe in sin… what are “correct” morals anyway? What do you base them on ? It would have to be on your own subjective judgements on what is right and wrong…
    BTW : this was written by a “Real Man” who risked ( and lost) his life for a cause he once fought against… he went through stonings whippings inprisonment.. and is probably more influential on history than anyone other than Christ. And…than anyone who sat behind a keyboard and a screen….

    Romans 1:21- For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

    28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

  4. Heyy there. Funny how i found this! I’m a Christian my brother says he;s an athiest ( small “A” 😛 I found u after watching steve martin’s you tube of Athiests aint got no song… So What do you believe in ? I think for the most part.. it’s a waste of time trying to argue w athiests on-line.. but you never know. They seem to LIKE to argue ! ( nothing better to do! ) 😛 But.. everyone’s where they are at !

    SO I’M REALLY WONDERING HERE.. ARE THESE THE COMEDIAN STEVE MARTIN’S REPLIES ? OR ANOTHER STEVE MARTIN.. OR AN IMPOSTER ? thanks if you can tel me !

  5. Hey, you’ve shown that true narcissists don’t let the numbers get in the way of egocentric beliefs. There is an inverse correlation between religiosity and IQ. Apparently, the other smart fellers out there disagree with you on the intellectual merits of atheism.

  6. Jason, You should read everything else I’ve written on atheism, which should answer many of your questions. But, briefly,

    1) I didn’t say “transcend reality,” but “transcend humanity.” It seems illogical that anything transcends reality, unless you define a specific aspect of reality.

    2) Atheism has never been the default position.

    3) You’ll get no sympathy from me.

    4) The focus of this post – hence the title – is that there is nothing “new” about the so-called “new atheism.” I am not claiming there is anything “new” about Christianity (which, by the way, is only about 2,000 years old, unless you also consider Judaism).

    I know some atheists who became so following an intense period of disillusionment, because their illusion of what they wanted God to be like didn’t pan out. This isn’t true of everyone, obviously. I can feel sympathy for those suffering from despair and depression.

    However, intellectually, atheism has little to offer. I’m neither impressed nor sympathetic.

  7. I’d also like to add a humble request for some clarification of your “Atheism: nothing new under the sun” title, as if there’s “something new” going on with faith that hasn’t been for the past 30,000 years (6000 years if you’re a fan of Fox News).

  8. Would you agree that any other gods, with practically identical degrees of “credibility”, DO transcend reality?

    Atheism is the default position, and is far more practical than living in fantasy land, all things being equal. Atheism provides no answers to anything. None. Not a one. What it does do is facilitate our ability to make decisions based on FACTS and THEORY (scientific) instead of FANTASY. I can’t emphasize this enough.

    I’m also amazed that you extrapolated this broad, nebulous assessment of our motivations, complexion and sentiments based on your experiences with, what I can only assume to be close Atheist friends, judging from the way you approach and carefully dance around their character. Why not just be upfront about it instead of proposing some complicated superposition in which you end up as both sympathetic toward us, and somehow a casualty of our influence?

    You want to paint us as unhappy or unsatisfied? That’s fine, many of us are, but we’re also unwilling to delude ourselves, in spite of your precious philosophy, and overall disappointment in our position. Allow me to personally apologize on behalf of the rational for said disappointment. You tell us what will make our position easier to swallow. Maybe some philosophy?

    I also picked up on the “pitiful atheist” vibe in your rant, as though we’re incapable of being excited, enlightened, or fulfilled by the mysteries of the cosmos. I hate to burst your bubble, but there is plenty in this universe to be excited
    about, even if you’re an Atheist (and Atheism isn’t a qualification either, plenty of religious folk enjoy science). I’ll even wager a guess that you, too, enjoy the mysteries of the unknown, and likely have a vast, accurate knowledge of a lot of disciplines, and have your share of accolades therein (I’m making a wild assumption there). We’ve taken that passion and stripped it of the supernatural. Period.

    None of us want or need your sympathy any more than you want ours. It’s condescending and insulting, and screams of insecurity.

  9. God doesn’t transcend humanity. As such, I choose not to believe. I am so much more empowered by contributing to a charity that will actually do something rather than contributing to a building that will stand empty most of the time and waste resources. I am also that much empowered by believing I can make a difference, instead of passively sitting there hoping some higher power will do something about atrocities done somewhere–often in the name of religion.

  10. Terry, I don’t know who you are, but I’ve known Mike for many, many years. We’ve debated a number of issues, and while we disagree much of the time, his opinions are valid and worthwhile. I know Mike to be a caring, sensitive human being.

    I typically don’t allow ad hominems on my site, and won’t allow any more from you. I allowed this one only so I could support Mike. If you’d like to discuss the issues at hand, fine. If you’re just going to bash my friends, I can suggest a few things for you to do instead.

  11. Don’t believe a word Mike Haubrich says, he’s a pathological liar, a sadistic, twisted human being, and a know it all jerk. His opinions aren’t worth a thing. Believe me, I’m unfortunately to know this first hand. You don’t have to worry about his soul, he doesn’t have one.

  12. No Fred, it stands for don’t condescend to me, and then take offense when I am condescending in return. Atheist accommodationists want us to be nicey-nicey with religious folks but I see no reason to be nice to the likes of idiots like Steve Martin.

  13. Does “FCD” stand for “Ferociously Condescending Dilbert,” “Funny Cognitive Disability,” or “Finally Crapped his Drawers”?

  14. First, Steve, thanks but no thanks on your sympathy. I am much happier as an atheist than somebody who feels like they need to be “perfected.”

    Hope you picked the right religion, btw, out of the thousands that claim to be the only true one. Pascal invented the roulette wheel.

    Alden, you don’t even understand what the Old Atheists write about, so why should anybody care if you like the new ones?

    I deal with idiots like Steve on a regular basis, people who really have no clue. And I know better about atheism than what you can find in a dictionary.

  15. First and foremost, atheism is a reactive statement against the assumption that we must have “faith” in order to be fully actualized people, it is a reaction to the institutionalized ideal that religion provides the framework or guidance for morals and ethics.

    According to the Random House Dictionary, atheism is “the doctrine or belief that there is no God.” You can make it into a cause if you want, but I’m just sticking to the basic belief that there is no God.

    Interesting that you always tie science to atheism.

    But, the point remains that no matter what the audience, most atheists I’ve read simply have nothing to say. I wouldn’t mind if they merely spoke from personal experience (or lack thereof), but when they claim to be experts, I expect at least a well-reasoned position.

    And by the way, I happen to be a big Joel Osteen fan…

  16. First and foremost, atheism is a reactive statement against the assumption that we must have “faith” in order to be fully actualized people, it is a reaction to the institutionalized ideal that religion provides the framework or guidance for morals and ethics. We know that this isn’t so, and we must continually show why it isn’t so because of the harmful effects that moral absolutism has on society and individuals.

    Whatever level of atheism one explores, underlying it all is s recognition that we just don’t believe in an overriding supernatural actor, whatever name that actor is given.

    The popularized books of the New Atheists my disappoint you because you expect them to be written for a different audience than they are intended; and while some atheists such as Ruse and Pigliucci may look at them with disdain I am sure that you also look at disdain with the empty bromidism that makes up the books of such people like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen.

    They have a larger audience than ever before, because of the fact that more and more, unbelievers are finding out they are not alone in their unbelief and if you find that the popular books are not intellectually satisfying keep in mind that the larger majority of Christians that we encounter are also continually re-treading such arguments on why we should be religious are very old and very weak and we need to be able to strengthen our defenses against them.

    Like it or not, most Christians don’t wonder about the differences between Eastern Orthodox religions and the historical nature of the development of the liturgical churches. Most of the ones that I encounter just rest on the idea that since the world has such a strong appearance of “design” (because they really don’t understand how we know that design is not a demonstrated property of the universe and life,) and they don’t care to learn because it challenges their faith. These are the sorts of Christians we largely meet and interact with on a daily basis.

    This is why Ruse is so wrong on resting on his laurels as a leading intellectual atheists who just wants to be buddy-buddy with the bishops and jesuits and all of the intellectual elites of religion, that he and his class should be the voices of atheism. He runs in different circles. He is not the one who on work breaks listens to people give shallow defenses of religion based on ideas that we just know are disproven. We deal with people in our every day lives who insist that DNA is like a computer program and that means that there had to be a programmer.

    The books of the popularizers help on the level for which they are intended.

    Finally, I am not super impressed by your disdain for popular atheism because I have areas of experience and knowledge in which you make pronouncements indicating that you have decided that things are a certain way based on sadly incomplete information and you have not demonstrated a willingness to further your understanding, seeing the issues through the lens of legal argumentation rather than through processing from a scientific or skeptical viewpoint.

    You think that Intelligent Design has merit, but are not willing to find out why it is so vapid; and instead merely decided that while micro-evolution is acceptable macro-evolution is not without bothering to find a demonstration or even a hypothesis on why this is so.

    You think that the conspiracy-theorists who are behind climate change denialism have merit because they found a bunch of e-mails that they were then able to broadcast out of context and think that “hide the decline” is a proof of some sort of grab for power by climatologists when I pointed to you the full explanation of the issue behind the tree ring data discussed in that.

    But to follow that would invite too much intellectual rigor on your part, and you can’t be bothered because it also involves that easily dismissed “modernism.”

    So in the areas in which you wander and have no expertise, you show and wallow in a profound level of happy ignorance. And because of this I welcome you to pursue your interest in the theological histories of the church and you can leave the inane to us intellectual lightweights.

    Just don’t be surprised if I write stuff that attacks the “inane” level of Christianity that you don’t think that I run into. ALL THE TIME.

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