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March 27, 2012

Comments

Go to about 14:40 for the context (omitted above) of Dawkins saying Mock them.

RonH

I've noticed that in talking to atheist friends of mine on other topics. They tend to focus on a couple of elements of the minutia of a discussion and are completely oblivious of the overall discussion itself.

Needless to say often the group may dismiss them as not understanding the subject, and focussing on a single item deeply to simulate deep understanding, and write them off as simply being a poser tool. Somehow, this goes over their head and they leave the meeting with the odd beleif that they nailed the others and they are now in awe of their knowledge of the subject.

I wonder if there is a common thread here.

It reminds me of a Dilbert Cartoon I once saw where Dogbert claimed knowledge was a waste. All you need is skepticism. As long as you are skeptical, you will be right more often than not, so actually knowing stuff is redundant.

RonH,

I'm sorry, but the context doesn't diminish the mean spirited attitude underlying Mr. Dawkins' comment. He used the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation as an "example" of religious doctrines that should be mocked in public.

Not a well reasoned thought at the reason rally.

Dawkin's full context:

"don't believe people when they say they are religious because they understand a grounding for moral intuition; instead, mis-represent some technical aspect of their denomination that you don't understand and then publicly and mockingly ridicule that caricature while doing an endzone dance. This is a reasonable response to your own inability to explain moral intuition within the context of atheistic materialism."

1) STR, let's not overstate things here. It seems Dawkins did not overtly say, "mock Christians in all contexts". He said "absurdly parrot Christians when they say 'I have an explanation for moral grounding' to show them how foolish they seem to us, the atheists." There is a bit of a difference.

2) Per the current theme, Dawkin's response seems far from reasoned and quite juvenile: "I think you're stupid so I'll act stupid to you." (stick tongue out here.)

RonH - stop defending juvenile behavior, no matter which side of the aisle it emanates from.

Must be a misquote.

He can't possibly want that to be a publicly attributed quote.

The quote is completely wrong. See here http://humanistresources.org/blog/transcript-richard-dawkins-speech-reason-rally-2012

"So when I meet somebody who claims to be religious, my first impulse is: "I don't believe you. I don't believe you until you tell me do you really believe -- for example, if they say they are Catholic -- do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer it turns into the body of Christ? Are you seriously telling me you believe that? Are you seriously saying that wine turns into blood?" Mock them! Ridicule them! In public!" - Richard Dawkins


Son of Adam, do you also have a link to where there was a call to zero tolerance with not accepting atheistic beliefs?

I was getting excited listening to the podcast because I have been writing about the atheists' attempt at confiscating the use of "reason", "lotical" and so on for their own use for quite some time.

One thing I want to point out is what I consider an amazing irony. Referring to themselves as "rational" or whatever by the simple virtue of being atheists is a genetic fallacy. Further, to insult everyone else who is not an atheist as being irrational (as Greg pointed out early in the podcast) is also a genetic fallacy.

I have seen a distinct lack of logic on the part of the so-called "New Atheists" (the only thing new being the levels of hate and anger), and their use of their self-descriptive terms is fallacious.

I agree that, by and large, the use of mockery is not conducive to conversation/dialog. I'd hope that we could all stick to rational conversation when holding conversations with others, listening to what they actually say, rather than creating a strawman version of what the Other has to say and knocking that down, especially in a careless, graceless spirit.

Unfortunately, I've seen that from all sides of the aisle and it's just not a helpful approach, seems to me.

Brian,

Take a closer look at what Dawkins proposes as an object of ridicule.

1411 Only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord.

Really?

1412 The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: "This is my body which will be given up for you.... This is the cup of my blood...."

Really?

1413 By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).

Really?!?!

Do you really believe that when a priest blesses a wafer it turns into the body of Christ?

RonH

So you are saying the horsemen aren't the pinacle of human reason?

As a Christian, I think Ron H makes a decent point. IF we hold to some crazy-sounding opinions about God and the earth and science and observable reality, we should be prepared to defend the notion, or admit that it sounds crazy, but we believe it anyway or address the concern raised, rather than getting defensive.

Having said that, it seems to me that saying, "REALLY?? You REALLY think that happens/happened?? Based on WHAT??" sorts of questions should suffice. I don't see the benefit of mocking the position beyond raising the incredulous question, which should suffice, it seems to me.

Beyond the raising of the hard question, what end would actual mocking serve? It would tend to send the "mockee" into a state of defensiveness and close down dialog.

If the point is conversation/dialog, then raising the question should suffice, it seems to me.

I guess maybe the point the "mockers" might raise is, "We've raised the questions and they go ignored. They already shut down conversation and so, we've abandoned hope for conversation and gone for mocking in an effort to marginalize the irrational ones..."

My hope is that theists would be prepared to address the questions respectfully and non-theists would be prepared to dialog respectfully.

One man's opinion.

Do you really think that one day, 15 Billion years ago ,for no reason, an infinite number of universes that we can never detect just popped into existance?

Here's the thing: everyone knows that Dawkins wasn't really proposing that atheists engage catholics in theological debates about specific doctrinal tenants. What he is proposing is that atheists mock religion "in general" with into-the-worm-hole critiques of doctrinal specifics. He is proposing that foundational beliefs be dismissed by critiques of tertiary sacraments.

It would be equally unfair of the theist to dismiss Dawkins' work on evolutionary biology because he once proposed that extra terrestrial intelligence was, perhaps, responsible for life's seeding on earth.

"Really, Dr. Dawkins, I don't believe you when you say that Darwinian evolution is responsible for all of life's complexity and diversity. Are you to say that you really believe that ET seeded life on earth? Really!? Really?!?!"

Dawkins would be right in dismissing that ojection for what it is -- unserious and unfair.

I had to laugh at the bold faced hypocrisy of this post. You accuse atheists of taking certain bits out of context and use them to discredit Christianity, then you do the very same to promote Christianity. And saying Christianity shaped the entire western world takes a lot of nerve. I would like each Christian to list the ideals of western civilisation we all hold so dear, and research some history and see the role Christianity played. The ideals I hold dear are freedom of speech and conscience, democracy, and equality for all regardless of gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Please research the churches role yourself in the instigation and promotion of these beliefs, because of course they fought against it each one of them. The society we live in today is spite of Christianity, not because of it. And yes Christianity inspired art, architecture, music, and literature, but that can not wipe out centuries of crimes and atrocities. Good deeds can never counter-act bad ones. So for all the art et. al. that was given by Christianity, we also received inquisitions, persecutions, misogyny, crusades, systematic cover-up of child abuse, and sexual and racial discrimination. Without Christianity, the art-forms still would have flourished, see Roman-Greco art-forms for example. But without Christianity, the atrocities would not have.

And finally, the worst argument I have ever heard been propgated: "Men and women have loved and been devoted to God to the point of torture and death. Even if Christianity were false, something in the God of Christianity inspired that love and devotion"

So it is ok for people to believe in something that is false because it inspires love. I will present an analogous situation and lets see if it is ok. Schools in North Korea deify Kim Jong-il. Every child is indoctrinated with the belief that he and his father are gods. And the people believe it, because, here is the kicker, if you infect a child's mind young enough with lies, regardless of how silly and untrue, they will still believe them as adults. Now North Koreans are willing to die for this family because they believe them to be gods and they love them. So by your logic, it is ok. It doesn't matter that this god is false, because he inspires love and devotion!

Incidentally, vis a vis transubstantiation...yes. Really. Sorry, was I supposed to blush and change the subject?

If you think that one's outrageous, wait 'till you find out where babies really come from. (Hint: It's groooosssss)

Peter -- just as a point of order, your rightful revulsion at hypocrisy reflects a Christian ideal; your belief that good deeds never counteract bad ones reflects a Christian ideal, as does, for that matter, your idea that there are "good" deeds. Per your last point, I'd suggest you completely missed the author's point.

Dang, I shoulda kept reading before I responded. Now Peter's eloquent, detailed, and exquisitely researched argument has talked me out of it. How could I possibly hold onto my faith in light of a guy on the internet asserting that I'm mean and stupid? I'm really gonna have to go re-evaluate my whole life. Man, this ridicule is just too much! Christ never warned me that people would be meeeaaaan to meeee.

Peter said...

The ideals I hold dear are freedom of speech and conscience, democracy, and equality for all regardless of gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation.

I'd argue that, as with most things, the answer is often somewhere in the middle. I don't know that this is the place to chase down the answers to this question, but certainly the Baptists and Anabaptists and others in the Christian world had a great deal of influence upon the notions of freedom of speech, of democracy, of equality for all. And not just hundreds of years ago, but as recent as MLK in the 1950s and churches/Christians in the 1980s taking a stand for freedom of speech and freedom from oppression in Latin America and still today.

While it isn't the greatest of sources, you could begin at wikipedia and read, for instance, "The Anabaptists were early promoters of a free church and freedom of religion (sometimes associated with separation of church and state)." Or read up on Roger Williams and other Christian contributions to democracy.

To be sure, some of those contributions were paradoxically borne out of persecution by OTHER Christians - making it abundantly clear to the oppressed why the need for freedom of speech was so vital.

I guess, in a sense, you could say that faith groups historically contributed to freedom of speech/conscience both in a positive and negative way (ie, the ones doing the oppressing/persecution demonstrated the need for freedom so clearly...)

I would not be one to claim that Christians brought about democracy or freedom of speech or civil rights, but we've certainly been in the mix, from a purely historic point of view.

Fair enough?

Just because the bible contains some basic human morals does not mean they are Christian ideals. To prove that they are you would have to point to where (either a place or time-frame) Christianity does not exist and show how these morals are lacking.

As to Bennett, did I say you were mean and stupid. I was attacking Christianity and fallacious post, not individuals.

Peter also said...

But without Christianity, the atrocities would not have.

Surely you're not saying that atrocities began and ended with people of faith? There have been, of course, non-religious atrocities and if there were no people of faith, atrocities would still happen. It is, unfortunately, the human condition.

I'm sure we could agree upon that, right? I'm guessing you're just saying, "Without THOSE Christians who oppressed and terrorized, THOSE incidents of oppression/terrorism would not have occurred..."?

To Dan Trabue, yes I meant the atrocities I had listed. Not atrocities in general.

Peter...

Just because the bible contains some basic human morals does not mean they are Christian ideals.

Well, they are human ideals that Christians ascribe to. That is, they are ideals that all humans ought to hold in common, most of us would agree. And Christians believe in those ideals. In that sense, they are Christian ideals.

I'm not saying "exclusively Christian," but certainly, valuing egalitarianism, equality, hope for the common good, these ARE Christian ideals.

Are we saying the same thing?

Well Peter, you've convinced me. There is no way anyone could go on such a rant and not be able to back it up.

I hereby reject every pro-christan belief that I ever had and fully embrace ....... whatever you are.

I would call them human ideals. If you want to call them Christian ideals that is fine, just so long as you know they are also atheistic ideals, Islamic ideals, Mormon ideals etc. But they are not exclusively Christian.

How could they be atheist ideals, if atheist have nothing in common other than a lack of faith in God?

Arthurk, nice childish response. But if you feel I can't back up any of my assertions please point them out so I can refer you to a bibliography or some reading material. I did say in my post to research yourself and not take my word for it. So please do.

Trent, because they are basic human ideals, and despite all the propaganda against Atheists, we are actually human. Morals are define by the culture we grow up in, not some book written two thousand years ago, morals are ever changing, but to change for the better we need to move away from Iron Age philosophies.

Peter -- Christians are humans. Your statement does nothing to advance the point. I would caution you to tread carefully in ascribing ideals to atheism -- subjective and meaningless preferences, perhaps. There is little room in an atheistic world view for the implications of the ideal.

Peter...

they are not exclusively Christian.

We are agreed. These are ideals that ALL of us can and should cherish and value.

I suppose we can agree, too, that historically speaking, people of faith have contributed to the conversation on implementing and increasing these ideals? Perhaps we could even agree so far that historically speaking, in some cases, people of faith have contributed greatly to the cause/support/growth of these ideals?

Peter,

How precisely do you propose to implicate Christianity as evil, but not to level the same accusation at Christians? Are we in some Platonic dualistic framework here, where "Christianity" as an ideal floats around in perfect form, independent of my fleshy existence?

You're attempting to backpedal from an ad hom, comparing Christians to North Korean dictators. Which makes me wonder--do most of your source come from the Four Horsemen, and websites with 'infidel' in the title? Reading and citing a dozen other people make the same baseless assertions and smear attacks doesn't make it true. At least, not outside the ivory tower of the liberal arts ;)

Mark - just because Atheists do not believe in a higher being does not mean we don't have ideals.

Dan, I would never suggest that people of faith have never attributed to these ideals. But it is generally contrary to their religious teachings.

A perfect modern day example is gay marriage. There are people of faith on both sides but there would be little to no opposition in the first place if there wasn't people of faith using the Bible as their moral compass. And the same scenario can be ascribed to many battles for equality. Gender equality, people of faith on both sides but without the misogynistic bible and centeries of church persecution of woman, gender equality would have occurred sooner, same with racial equality and so on and so forth.

Bennett, please read my posts correctly, I did not compare Christians to Jim Jong-il. Re-read it please. And my information comes from the fact I've study history and Classics for years. And read the bible on more than one occasion, what can I say I love fiction ;)

I never said atheists were not human.

How do you figure they are basic human ideals?

And as for centuries of crime, I don't remember pre-Christian Rome being puritanical.

"without the misogynistic bible and cent[u]ries of church persecution of wom[e]n, gender equality would have occurred sooner, same with racial equality and so on and so forth"

Nice conjecture, but based upon what? Do you see this wonderful state of egalatarianism in Asia, or pre-Christian Africa and/or Latin America? Were the Aborigines getting gay married before the white Aussies came along? Did Native Americans all hold other tribes to be free and equal? Did the Greco-Romans let women have power? The People's Republic of China performs regular infanticide of female infants, since they'd rather have males, is this because of their misogynistic Bible?

Your claims have no basis in reality. You wish the world were a certain way, but it plainly is not. And wishing won't make it so.

So all atheists champion gender and racial equality equality? Again, I thought the only thing that they had in common was a lack of belief.

Are you saying as soon as one lacks belief, they lose all predjudices they had because these things are all religiously based?

Post 2: "please read my posts correctly, I did not compare Christians to Jim Jong-il."

Post 1: "I will present an analogous situation"

"Analogous: Comparable in certain respects, typically in a way that makes clearer the nature of the things compared."

Peter -- if the atheist is honest about her worldview, there is no ideal by definition. Physics are blind, life could have been another way. The atheist may hold a personal, even cultural, preference for how she would like the world to be but she should be clear, this view is only a preference, ungrounded by anything approaching that which establishes an ideal with its implied "oughtness".

The atheist borrows heavily from the Christian worldview, which is cool. But she could simply be honest about it and acknowledge the debt.

How was posting Dawkins own words taking him out of context?

Please provide what the context was.

By the way, attacking Christian beliefs as false because people were indoctrinated to believe them is an example of the "Genetic Fallacy." You may not find it persuasive, since it was elucidated by Aristotle, one of those Iron Age philosophers whom you hold in such contempt. Perhaps as mankind progresses, he'll outgrow the need for petty, ancient superstitions like logic.

Peter, I think I could grant you the gay marriage one. You are probably correct that without Christian (and Muslim) opposition, there would probably be not much in the way of opposition. Today. (I'm not sure that this has always been the case - 100 years ago, Christians and non-Christians alike would probably have willingly persecuted gay folk - don't you think?) But then you go on to say...

without the misogynistic bible and centeries of church persecution of woman, gender equality would have occurred sooner, same with racial equality and so on and so forth.

Sexism and patriarchalism have been a deeply ingrained part of most societies throughout the ages. The same is true for slavery. I'm rather doubtful that you could ascribe their continuance or any delays in their decrease exclusively to faith groups. I'd wager that, IF we could measure such a thing, we'd find a deep-rooted cultural opposition to ending sexism, patriarchy and slavery.

Some christians certainly didn't help, but at the same time, some Christians helped a great deal. I just don't know that we can make the case that historically, without faith groups, things would have been less sexist or that there would have been less slavery.

Fair enough?

Also, keeping in mind that we folk of faith have as motivation a desire to follow in God's ways, I think that has led some faith groups/individuals to make outstanding contributions towards the lessening of sexism or slavery. In addition to the mere human desire to do right, we have a desire to follow in God's ways. Two reasons, if you will, to do the right thing.

Do you argue that non-theists have historically led the way in opposition to things like slavery or sexism? Do you have any evidence to support that?

(Please note, I'm not saying there have been none or that those who are motivated out of pure humanity are any less likely to act, I just am trying to think historically of human rights advocates who were atheist and if there were significant numbers of them... I'm just trying to consider the actual evidence, in other words.)

Dan,

There's plenty of humanists who did good works, no need to look up a list. I'm even willing to stipulate that many could have been or were atheistic, rather than Christian humanists. But they did good works based on humanism, a philosophy which emerged from medieval Catholic thinking.

Similarly there are many atheistic scientists who make wonderful discoveries, as there are Christian scientists (not to be confused with the very confused religious sect). But science, too, emerged from Christian Europe--Faraday, et al.

If an atheist can find a pot to do his business in, he had to loot it from a monastery.

RonH,
I'm not a Catholic, or even Lutheran, but regarding "transubstantiation ... really?" I too answer, yes, really.
Do you know anything of the philosophy or the science that makes impossible the coherence of the atoms with the Son?

Daron,

I don't think he even knows what a sacrament is. So he wouldn't get how or why priests become priests, and thus wouldn't understand how they can bless a host, and thus wouldn't understand what the 'substance' being referred to even means. It's like trying to explain the equations special relativity to someone who hasn't even started on Newtonian physics.

Even better, if he *did* understand it, he could still feign ignorance in order to fish for distortions and ridicule. He's watched Greg enough to realize that just asking "What do you mean?" over and over keeps the other party on the defensive, and the rest is pure sophomoric sophistry.

There's a reason Proverbs has about two reminders per chapter that it's a waste to remonstrate with scoffers. As I recall, Solomon's advice was just to beat a fool with a rod, so that the wise would gain understanding from his example, and the fool would at least learn discretion. I can't say I think that would add much to learned discourse or the advance of logic and understanding, but... I could be wrong. Who am I to question Solomon?

Since Dawkins can't figure out the most basic of Christian doctrines, and states his contempt for philosophy, he is surely a poor lead to follow in these matters. And the worst kind to defend.
But sometimes it's in your self-determined job description to do just that ...

Bennett, this is a post calling atheists on the carpet for their use of mockery in lieu of respectful conversation. Don't you think your comments above (referring to Peter as "Solomon" sarcastically, for instance) comes close to doing that exact thing.

Again, my point would be respect all the way around would be helpful. If Christians don't like being mocked by sarcastic non-theists, then perhaps they ought not mock or engage in sarcasm?

Well as much as I would like to continue this discussion, I unfortunately haven't the time to reply to each post. I have already been rushing my previous posts. But if anyone would like to to discuss, in a serious manner, any of the issues or points I have brought please email, so I can give a more detailed reply and reasoning for my viewpoint.

petertferguson@gmail.com

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