Archive for the ‘atheism’ tag
I can, of course, present a full argument against Pascal’s wager — and have in previous posts that I haven’t time to look up right now — but it will suffice to reference Richard Dawkins’ answer to this question:
One of the most thoughtful objections to modern feminism and gender studies that you are likely to find, and intellectually, this towers above any arguments for feminism coming from Richard Carrier and his ilk, and by the way, it comes from a woman who actually understands the true implications of gender equality:
I said recently that I will “probably” take a break from talking about Atheism Plus, but I hope readers will appreciate the hint of uncertainty inherent in the word. I must, at least for a post or two, revisit this redundant “movement” that is really just secular humanism in disguise.
Richard Carrier recently gave a talk at the American Atheists Convention 2013 in Austin, Texas, and in the speech, he rightly credited Jen McCreight with coming up with the term, “Atheism Plus.” In the original post, McCreight, in her long-winded title, “How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism,” outlined the numerous humanitarian causes that she hoped would be attached to the term “atheism,” which as we are all well aware, caused a firestorm of controversy from the atheism “purists” who want atheism associated with nothing other than its dictionary definition.
My goal is not to argue all of that right now. My theory is this, and mind you, it’s just a theory: that many atheist activists and bloggers like Carrier (and others like P.Z. Myers, Adam Lee, etc.) have embraced Atheism Plus as something that is bewilderingly apart from secular humanism — no matter that they are pretty much one in the same — simply because these nonbelievers, most of them feminists, don’t want to come out in opposition to McCreight’s idea. Perish the thought, that prominent male atheists might have the audacity to disagree with a female nonbeliever.
Thus, Carrier, Myers and their ilk credit McCreight for branding the term Atheism Plus, yet when you boil it down to its base component, they are talking about nothing other than secular humanism.
It looks like we can now throw North Carolina in with a growing cluster of states like Arizona, Utah, and to the surprise of no one, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, that don’t mind taking certain liberties with the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause that establishes federal law as taking precedent over state and local legislation. Here is a refresher:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
You see, it’s the second part of this sentence that excites the states rights crowd. And what really stirs them into a tizzy is the word, “nullification,” which is the notion that if states deem that a certain federal law is unconstitutional, like, oh, I don’t know, the simple truth that immigration enforcement is solely the federal government’s responsibility, they have the power to invalidate federal statutes. Except that they don’t. Unfortunately for those folks, the Supreme Court has concretely ruled against nullification in at least two cases (Cooper v. Aaron, 1958, and Ableman v. Booth, 1859).
But don’t let that stop the pioneering state of North Carolina, which is now considering a bill that would make it possible for the state to establish laws respecting religion, if not establish a religious state altogether. According to N.C. House Joint Resolution bill 494,
Whereas, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reads: “… Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” … Whereas, this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools … each state in the union is sovereign and may independently determine how that state may make laws respecting an establishment of religion … The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
Notwithstanding what the First Amendment says that is completely to the contrary and notwithstanding the Founders’ own commitment to protecting the people against religious tyranny, the other hurdle facing zealots in North Carolina — thankfully the law provides many hurdles to tomfoolery of this sort — the Fourteenth Amendment further protects against the states “abridging” the privileges and rights of U.S. citizens. And, while I realize there are those believers who would just as well ignore the fact that freethinkers and skeptics walk in their midst and breathe the same air, last I checked, nonbelievers’ rights are as equally protected in the Constitution as believers’.
on my good name.”
This song seems apt given the recent controversy about a recent post of mine that sparked some controversy:
Maybe someone can help me understand the logic in this: P.Z. Myers disagrees with the message conveyed by a stupid meme on Reddit, and instead of ignoring or down-voting the post — or whatever it is people do on Reddit — he brings attention to it and even publishes the offending picture.
If you are offended by something posted on the Internet, why not just move on? Rather, Myers has effectively ensured that this piece of Internet trash will be further proliferated and cached online for years to come from his own site. That’s what I call a good feminist hard at work.
To save people who may come here from Myers’ site or elsewhere the trouble of wading through the comments below, let me clarify a few points. This particular post was a clusterfuck of unintended inconsistencies. I’ve already admitted that, and hell, if I had a do-over, I would have approached it differently. When you blog five years with no filter but your own mind, you might whiff a time or two, and I think it’s important when people call me out if something I write is beyond the pale in some way.
First, let me say that I appreciated Myers’ tone and the way he handled his response to this. Obviously, I routinely publish content with which I disagree for the expressed purpose of outlining what I feel is wrong with it. The intention of the post was, from my perspective as someone who does not adopt the feminist label, to highlight the fact that here was a feminist, Myers, dredging up an image that is probably best left in the bowels of Reddit. He could have just linked to it as I did or simply described it without the link.
The only thing that I question about what he said in response was the distinction he made between something that he views as merely “wrong” versus an offensive image. This, it seems to me, is splitting hairs. If he didn’t find that viewing the image caused a certain amount of displeasure, which is the definition of “offensive,” presumably he wouldn’t have written about it and used it as an example of how Reddit’s reputation is falling “deeper in the slime.” Folks often like to avoid the word “offensive,” claiming that they have thick skin and that little truly offends them, and while that may sound good on paper, that’s not always the case, even if we don’t like to admit it. I’m willing to concede that perhaps all this was erroneous thinking on my part in hindsight — and many of you have made your case — but this is why I bothered to mention Myers’ post in the first place. The delivery, as I’ve said before, left something to be desired.
As for my views on equal rights and feminism in general, I’ve written about this at length, and it most closely resembles John Stuart Mill (Read “The Subjection of Women“), and more recently, Noel Plum 99, although if Mill was alive today, I have my doubts that he would adopt the modern manifestation of feminism because it seems to embrace women’s rights, which is all well and good, but it often does so at the expense of the other half of the population, whereas Mill called for “perfect equality” with no favoritism one way or the other. Noel Plum described a view that I think is perfectly reasonable, that we should be working toward, not necessarily “equality of outcome,” but “equality of opportunity” between the sexes, wherein everyone has the same chance at success in life and everyone is treated as individuals.
I continue to chafe at some of the so-called intellectuals on Free Thought Blogs continually referring to atheism as a “movement” and associating it with all these other causes that actual nonbelievers have every right to care about or not. I happen to think that supporting equal rights with no preference given to either gender is a positive thing, and this is why I have a reservations about feminism. I happen to think that a progressive view of politics is the best way to move society forward.
I happen to think that whatever legislation is being passed in California, specifically, the Oakland and San Francisco Bay area, will eventually filter out to the rest of the nation, and we will, kicking and screaming, one day more resemble California than the inverse. I happen to think that civil society has no place for semiautomatic weapons, but have trouble supporting the eradication of guns altogether because of legitimate security concerns and the potential for recreation-only uses. I happen to think that Black History Month is an outdated and somewhat insulting relic that should be dispensed with. I happen to think that stem cell research shows near limitless potential to save lives and improve the health and happiness of chronically ill patients. I happen to support anyone’s right to marry so long as they are paying taxes and are an upstanding member of society.
What I do is express my opinions; what I don’t do is dictate whatever I believe onto the entirety of nonbelievers, understanding full well that some skeptics might be conservatives in other parts of their lives. Some might be in favor of traditional marriage. Some might think Black History Month is a perfectly fitting recognition for our black brethren.
In her most recent “all the things that atheism is not” post, Greta Christina whiffs again, referring to the ludicrous “atheist view of sensuality:”
The atheist view of sensuality, of pure physical pleasure and joy in our bodies, is about eleventy billion times better than any traditional religious view. Our view — or rather, our views — of physical pleasure are more coherent, more ethical, way the hell more appealing and fun. We don’t believe in a supernatural soul that’s finer than our bodies, more important than our bodies, superior to our bodies in every way. We don’t think we have a soul separate from our bodies, period. We sure as heck don’t believe in an immaterial god who thinks that our bodies are icky — even though he, you know, created them — and who makes up endless, arbitrary, unfathomably nitpicky rules about what we may and may not do with them. We understand that the physical world is all there is. We understand that our bodies, and the lives we live in them, are all we have. And as a result, we are entirely free — within the constraints of basic ethics, obviously — to enjoy these bodies, and these mortal, physical lives. As atheists, we’re free to celebrate our bodies, and the pleasures they can bring us, as thoroughly and exuberantly as we can.
So why don’t we?
Why isn’t atheist culture more physical? Why isn’t it more focused on sensuality and sensual joy? Why is it so cerebral so much of the time? As atheists, we’ve flatly rejected the idea that there’s a higher, finer world than the physical one. Why does it so often seem as if we’ve bought into it?
She goes on to talk about how atheists — where this logic comes from, I don’t know — tend to be more “cerebral” in their approach to life, and thus, the sexual lives of nonbelievers are not as fulfilling as they could be. First, we can flatly reject the notion that religious people can’t have fulfilling sexual lives. That’s just anecdotal, atheist know-nothing rubbish. Spoiler alert: Christians have written mounds of books about how believers can have titillating sex and stay true to the faith. Or, if you reject the notion that Christians are somehow excluded from fulfilling or even kinky sexual experiences inside the walls of marriage, pick up this page-turner: “Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage.”
While I think it is true that the large majority of nonbelievers try to live in the moment and appreciate that this is the only life they are going to get, it’s also anecdotal to suggest that nonbelievers aren’t living sexually fulfilling lives. If the former is true, that nonbelievers appreciate the brevity of this life and live accordingly, why would they not be making the most of their sexuality? This seems to be a self-defeating argument that she’s making. Does Christina bring any proof to bear that atheists are prudes when it comes to the bedroom, that most of us have this nerdy side that makes us uncomfortable enjoying sex and sensuality? This is apparently the best she could do:
I know for a fact that many atheists, maybe even most of us, don’t live this cerebral way in our private lives. I know that I’m not the only atheist who revels in good food and better hooch; who fucks all afternoon and dances all night; who walks in the sun for miles and pumps iron for the sheer endorphiny pleasure of it; who literally stops and smells roses. But our public life typically doesn’t (sic) reflect this. There are notable exceptions, of course: Skeptics in the Pub and similar events leap to mind. But in large part, our public life as atheists — our events, our writings, our culture — is geared towards political activism, social change, the pursuit of science, and the life of the mind.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a passionate devotee of political activism, social change, the pursuit of science, and the life of the mind. But that’s not all atheist culture has to offer. Not by a long shot. This wacky notion that our selves are not separate from our bodies and therefore this life is all we have… this is one of our greatest strengths. And yet, when it comes to one of the most obvious logical conclusions of this notion — the idea that ethically pursued pleasure not only isn’t sinful, but is an actual positive good — we flinch from it in public. When believers accuse us of being sybaritic hedonists, we hotly deny it… rather than saying, “Hell yes, we’re hedonists — why shouldn’t we be?(“) (italics mine)
For me personally, I think that presenting a public face that tells the world that nonbelievers celebrate the mind, while enjoying life and all the same pleasures as well-adapted, law-abiding human beings is a good message to send. One severe problem with the gay rights discourse in this nation is that Americans by and large only associate gay and lesbian people with sex. They have a preconceived notion that sex is the only thing gay people care about, and essentially, that it defines them. Obviously, this notion is terribly wrong, and I think it would be unfortunate if atheism came to be associated with hypersexuality.
We are simply people who want to experience what life has to offer and as much of it, before the lights go dim. Nothing more, nothing less. To attempt to elevate atheists beyond this, as somehow carrying the ball of humanity going forward, I think, is flirting too closely with arrogance and elitism, and this is the pretentiousness that seems to ooze from every orifice of the so-called Atheism Plus “movement.”
Speaking of pretentiousness, here comes the inevitable Richard Carrier-esque exhortations from Christina:
And sometimes it can be more subtle, an unconscious absorption of less obvious ideas and reflexes. As we see with the acceptance of the preposterous notion that physical experience is less valuable and meaningful than intellectual experience, and that physical pleasure is something to be ashamed of.
So let’s knock it off. Let’s celebrate our bodies as much as we do our minds. In fact, let’s stop seeing our bodies as something totally apart from our minds. Let’s not simply reject Cartesian dualism and the absurd notion that the soul is the real self and the body is just a skanky shell. Let’s reject its mutant offspring, the absurd notion that the intellect is the real self and the senses are just a meaningless indulgence. The atheist view of physical pleasure is more coherent, more ethical, and way the hell more appealing and fun. Let’s put that view front and center.
Nonbelievers, you have your barking orders. Follow them or suffer the wrath of Atheism Plus.
I don’t know why, but I found this to be particularly hilarious, especially the look on the cat’s face: