Friday, April 20, 2007

United in disbelief, or something

Making fun of Dinesh D'Souza is about as easy as shooting fish that are duct-taped to the barrel of a gun, but I just can't help myself. I once observed how he made a convincing case that debauchery and vice is every American's patriotic duty, and now he sort of makes a case for the inherent kindness and decency of atheists (other good comments here and here). His point seems to be that atheists never show up to make statements/pronouncements/whatever when something tragic happens. As evidence, he notes that Richard Dawkins has not been invited to speak at VA Tech. To my knowledge, Dawkins has never been named the Atheist Pope, so I'm not sure why this matters. D'Souza also offers no particular answers to his own question ("Where Is Atheism When Bad Things Happen?") other than a few paraphrasings of Dawkins' writings that make me wonder if he actuallyt read any of them. All I can get from this (and I acknowledge a possible bias on my part towards rational thought and looking for the good in all people) is the following:

1. Atheists by and large do not congregate in large groups and therefore do not have spokespeople.
2. As a derivative of item 1, they also do not advertise or make public statements on behalf of anyone but themselves.
3. All he does is beg the question of where God was during the shooting, since he's asking about atheists afterwards.

My faith in humanity is restored by the utter beatdown he gets in his own comments section.

I suppose he is expecting Richard Dawkins to show up in Virginia, approach the family of a victim, and tell them in his haughty British accent that the souls of their loved ones do not really exist and that they did not go anywhere after death. D'Souza may be surprised to find that he is dealing with a rather polite and considerate segment of society. Dickishness in the face of tragedy is more the idiom of the religiously-oriented.


Todd Stadler said...

I'm going to ignore D'Souza, like I have for most of my life, and point out that implicit in some of your approved links is this logic:

1) If God were to exist, he would never let anything bad (where "bad" is defined by the speaker) happen.

2) But bad things do happen!

3) God does not exist. QED.

The only people who believe that God would never let "bad" things happen are the people who don't believe in God. I find this strange.

Also you resort to the lowest of strawmen when using Phelps as an icon of the "religiously-oriented". Ah, Phelps! He's the religous corollary to Godwin's Law: all you have to do to counter a theist is point out that Fred Phelps is a jerk.

Let's see, according to my Strawman's Guide to Rhetorical Devices, I'm now supposed to say that you're just like Stalin and/or Mao, who, just like you, were atheists. There, now we've got a good debate going.

cryptic_philosopher said...

(1) Fred Phelps does what he does because of his religious faith, or he feels justified in doing so because of it. BTW, a straw man argument would begin with "Some would say..." This is more like a fallacy of extremes. It's good to see Christians bashing Phelps--they should do that more.

(2) Stalin and Mao did what they did because of religious-like fervor in the tenets of their own ideologies, namely the Stalinist and Maoist offshoots of communism/Marxism, OR they simply used that ideology to justify their actions. Nothing in the historical record suggests that they concluded that their actions were okay because there is no God.

(3) Religious extremism (Phelps) and political extremism (Stalin/Mao) are ultimately cut from the same cloth, based on a denial of reason.

Personally, I think my logic goes more like this:
(1) People keep saying that there is an omnipotent God who loves us.
(2) However, terrible things keep happening, and when I ask why, no one has an answer.
(3) I don't get it.

Finally, I'm an apatheist, not an atheist. I cannot definitively say God does not exist, any more than you can objectively prove He does.