There comes a point when we realise that being charming is not about agreeing with everyone or trying too. The last thing is to be someone that has absorbed the last viewpoint exposed to them in company, like a sponge sucking up any affluent soaked in for long enough, or a parrot regurgitating what your chosen master of thought has espoused without conjugating on it critically first. Be passionate about what you think as well as discerning. A Spartan of the mind looking for someone that can be the better opponent. Contrarian know thyself as well as the enemy.
New atheism is not a political machine where criticising each other is letting our leadership down. Whilst the secular letter suggested we keep our internal disagreements private if it was in danger of becoming uncivil with each other, debate is something to be celebrated and encouraged because nothing else sharpens the sinews of the mind so.
Exposing the Jehovah’s Witnesses with my own experience, for ruining childhoods and risking children’s lives for Bronze Age superstition over blood is important. Free thought was not only discouraged in the Society but had sanctions against it in place: shunning being a particularly unpleasant experience.
Islam needs critical examination, just suit up for the mud slinging of colonialist and islamophobic that follow. The legacy on slavery, how non believers are viewed and apostates threatened with death. Children beaten into memorising the Koran. Bangladesh atheist bloggers arrested. All issues dealt with on this blog. When it comes to twitter follow @CEMB_forum for how to truly take on the Islamists out there.
The idea that atheism leads to bloodshed – not communism – needs challenging because it gives birth to the lie atheism is a religion in all but name willing to murder those opposed as a blood sacrifice to it’s battle cry there is no God. Hence my argument on twitter with Peter Hitchens.
Secularism and pluralism
The one thing I keep coming back to is secularism being more important than atheism. Human rights, and liberty are part of the concept that the state does not enforce religion on citizens. Further, that people are left to their conscience by freedom of religion, thought and speech. Pluralism in action attacks the core of religious extremism, allowing us to be autonomous individuals contributing to civil society.
Yet the word secular has become synonymous with atheist. Atheism is a counter view that theism does not prove the existence of god. I don’t believe there is no god – rather I believe no satisfactory evidence has been brought forward to say theism knows there is a god. Religion knows not who this god is and what they want you to do on earth, nor what happens after death. To say you do know is conceit beyond arrogance.
For me secularism is the public issue compared with my atheism as a personal conviction. Many wear atheism on their sleeve in all public discourse for religion is at the heart of everything that needs countering as it becomes involved in all human decision making.
Yet in public policy debates the religious look out of touch, ill informed and human rights deniers when they play the faith card. I’m suggesting we don’t play their game in kind as atheists. When we stick to facts, research, science, welfare of citizens and human rights we are true to our humanism and more likely to win the public policy debate. Even Bill O’Reilly gets that is the lesson theists have to learn on gay marriage. Bible thumping is as ridiculous as faith bashing when talking about gun control. We have better trump cards when faith heads act as divine appointed spokespeople for their sky fairy – than saying back atheism is only rational logical conclusion.
We have to challenge the idea that religion is benign, that somehow if only properly implemented on us all would make the world a better place. That separate debate from a particular public policy matters because the religious impose their views on the rest of us without our consent. The four horsemen – Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and the late Hitchens were right to see this was important and to take it on. I honour the charge they made. The anti-theist attitude of Hitch was crucial not just because of the learned educated erudite oratory. It was not petty ad hominem, but took what was served to him by a sincere self-righteous speaker; Hitch quickly chewed and spat back at them the poisonous insidious garbage it really was for all to see.
Not rocking the boat by shouting steady as she goes!
I would like to see the OutCampaign website fully functioning and RDFRS funding research as was the original goal of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. I would like Dawkins to go for the belief without personal attacks on the voice of a rabbi sounding like Hitler, a woman wanting to wear a cross having a stupid face, and a Grandma speaking in grief being an idiot.
With Richard Dawkins the three recent critiques I have felt warranted – the Mein Kampf/Koran tweet showed an ignorance of historical context comparing the two works, the winged horse belief ruling out hiring someone as a serious journalist, and most recent calling a grieving Grandma an idiot.
This allows people to paint Dawkins as aloof, insensitive, rude – an angry learned professor lacking the patience to deconstruct an argument because believers are idiots. These are not the impressions I had meeting him multiple times when helping out at conferences, talks, and talking to him at restaurants and receptions, or hearing his public speeches. As I mentioned in comments when asked what he was like:
Very affable more a listener than a talker in conversation. For example when involved in filming an event in Oxford (with Sir Paul Nurse) invited myself and friends to a VIP reception afterwards.
Also, some people misunderstand when I criticise or dare to correct Dawkins (in fairness this is very rare). He welcomes that challenge, and knows how to defend himself if he disagrees. At a conference I was volunteering at, he suggested Americans should not get worked up about money having “In God We Trust” printed on it.
When delegates explained how that was used to reinforce the idea of America founded as a Christian Nation he accepted that, and changed his mind that it was worth pursuing after all.
I admire the writer, that intellect, how Dawkins shows intelligent design to be a fraud, and his advocacy of public understanding of science. I despair of the tweets and sound bites Dawkins has used, which even by his own admission have been ill worded and needed an apology. He is better company, and a better man, than this suggests to a wider audience.
Having grown up in a cult which controlled your every thought and deed, the freethinking community is a much better group to be in. I owe it to all to talk about my experiences, and share them in the hope people realise the impact faith can have on people.
Yet those faculties will also be brought to bear on my own side too, which hopefully may sharpen and refine our arguments, and make us more effective in promoting reason and science.
The debate is too important to stay on the sidelines, let alone be silent on. This contrarian will keep up the discourse. Being critical is not the same as being negative. As freethinkers sailing the sea of faith, we will plot our course. It is not subversive to suggest checking our bearings, and ensure we focus on the right targets.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
5 responses to “The Critical Thinker Gives No One a Free Ride”
I think you and I are on the same page when it comes to Dawkins. Maybe I should also write a piece about his influence on my life which began with the 1991 Christmas Lectures.
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