How’s this for revolting?
Ramblings (and music) of a guitar-playing shrink
How’s this for revolting?
As someone who accepts the reality that there is almost certainly not a god, and likewise accepts as basically fact, the exceeding well-supported scientific Theory of evolution by natural selection, largely as described by Darwin, I find it pretty unpleasant to be likened to fascist mass-murderers, as people like Josef Ratzinger are wont to do.
Of course, this contention – that the Nazis were atheists, and that “Darwinism”* had some role in the justification of the Holocaust – is rather widely accepted. Interestingly, it’s completely false.
Coel Hellier has written a very thorough, clear, logical, and fair examination of this, and has demonstrated most clearly that in fact the Nazi ideology was at base religious and creationist. This is a longish read, but so very worthwhile. It shows very clearly just how atheist the Nazis and their ideology were not, and just how based in the Theory of evolution by natural selection they were not.
That of course won’t stop various religious and creationist types from dragging out this deceased ex-horse and flogging it some more.
“This labelling of the Nazis as “atheist” is common among the religious, despite being — as shown above — the opposite of the truth.”
The “opposite of the truth”…
…that would be…
Oh yes: a lie.
Now, before anyone calls Godwin on me here (although someone on Twitter has done so already), let me make the point that Ratty and others like him are the ones who’ve “Godwinned” this argument. This is merely a refutation, and any refutation of the claim that the Nazis were atheist and “Darwinist” necessarily involves demonstration of the opposite: that they were in fact Christians and creationists. There is no way to avoid mentioning the Nazis when refuting a claim involving the Nazis.
Duh. It doesn’t equate to saying that Christians are evil Nazi sympathisers; it’s people like Ratzinger (I honestly forget his popey name) who have actually engaged in slander using the Nazi spectre against those of us who do not believe as he does.
In summary: people who contend that atheism, or acceptance of scientific fact (evolution and natural selection) are a prelude or encouragement to callousness, hatred, and mass murder, are (to appropriate a Tim Minchin phrase) “just fucking silly” – or egregious liars.
I make no comment about the camp into which I think Ratzinger falls….
*By the by, I find it incredible that we use the terms “Darwinist” and “Darwinism” – as though accepting one of the world’s best-supported scientific Theories as being pretty much demonstrable and demonstrated fact, constitutes an “-ism”….
Mr Charlie Sprout, avowed atheist and alfalfa enthusiast announced yesterday that he had determined the precise day on which the entire Universe would almost certainly fail to be destroyed by a vengeful god.
“I was tending my shrubs when it came to me” said Mr Sprout in an interview following his announcement. “Not like a revelation, of course; more like … I suppose you could call it something I made up.”
While many, even other atheists, have predicted previously that the universe will indeed continue to exist at some point, Mr Sprout is the first to have set an actual date for the non-extermination of the cosmos.
Asked how he determined when the Apocalypse would not occur, he replied “basically I thought it looked like kind of a neat date to set for this sort of huge non-event. And when I’m right, and the world doesn’t end on 20/11/2011, it’ll be easy for everyone to remember that was the exact day I said it wouldn’t end.”
I was thinking lately about what exactly shifted me from being an oblivious “dictionary atheist” to a slightly noisy and outspoken one. Ok, maybe a bit more than slightly … I realised it was really down to a few people. A few religious people. A few awful religious people.
First was George Pell. Georgie-boy is one of the most hateful and hate-filled people the vomitous bile of whom I’ve had the displeasure of reading. One of our nurses had a problem, which involves some sort of compulsive need to read Georgie’s column in the newspaper (I forget which one; Aussie newspapers are all tabloid trash anyway ). He comes to work and tells me about it, with indignant Irish fury. I don’t know why he subjects himself to it every week, but he does, as many times as I suggest he could read something relaxing instead. Anyway, the point is he introduced me to Pell’s hateful and idiotic rants. While on one level it doesn’t matter to me what Pell says or writes, it is unpleasant being likened to Nazis, and told how immoral one is, simply by virtue (hah! see what I did there? ) of not believing in some bronze age immoral superstition.
Second up to the plate was Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby – who is fine with schools expelling children for the heinous crime of y’know, being gay and thinks that he is being discriminated against and oppressed by the homosexual lobby and such-like. He offends against common sense, logic, morals and basic human decency, with pretty much everything he says. He is a horrid excuse for a human being.
Then, hitting it out of the pants-damned park came Danny Nalliah. This little twisted rotting turd is the lowest form of filthy excrement I can imagine. First I heard of him was when he blamed the 2009 Victorian bushfires on that state’s “incendiary abortion laws which decimate life in the womb.” Shit. Head. Second thing I heard of him was when he said the recent Queensland floods happened because “Mr Rudd not only called on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but said it should open all its nuclear facilities to UN inspectors.” Heinous piece of filth.
Somewhere in there comes Joseph Ratzinger (no I won’t use his pope name, as he said himself that one must not “give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.” – and public profiles don’t come much more artificial than Pope-ness. Anyway, as I read of the things this man had done as cardinal, and was doing as pope, to protect the “good of the universal church” above that of children raped by priests, I was appalled.
These are the men who … perhaps I should thank, as they spurred me to read and think more about religion, and atheism, and to see the deep and important problems with religious belief, and the detrimental impact it has on the world – and thus led me to start being a bit noisier about religion and atheism.
The other night evening, I realised something that binds them together (I’m making an assumption about Ratty, but he’s somewhat different from the other three anyway, so my thought doesn’t stand or fall with him ): they’re all right-wing whackaloons. They would probably have racked me off just as much were they atheist, as they have being religious. I’d be really interested to see the differences between groups of religious people matched in terms of age, gender, education etc but with one group lefties and one right. You see, the religious people I work with are all, as far as I can tell, left-wing – and we never get into any strife with each other. Maybe the reason for that is that they’re good people with views like mine (except for the godling in the sky. Obviously). If we sat at opposite ends of the political spectrum I wonder how (1) our relationships would be, and (2) what might be the nature or expression of their religious beliefs.
Idle musing, yes, and no real point to it, but I found it interesting that these religious people who peeve me could as easily be labelled right wingers who peeve me.
As an aside, I recently installed the NoFollowr plugin for my blog, but haven’t really had occasion to use it. With this evening’s blog, I’ve found it’s a great thing. It made it easy to make the links to the ACL, and Catch the Fire Ministries (and the Vatican just for good measure) nofollow – so that search engines won’t go from my site to theirs.
Ok, their sites no doubt get more search engine traffic than mine to begin with, but it felt good to thumb my virtual nose at them anyway.
As I mentioned a few days back, I used to be what PZ Meyers terms a dictionary atheist. in that post PZ is quite disparaging of “dictionary atheists” – this people who simply don’t believe in god/s and by definition then describe themselves as atheists.
For PZ this is not enough. He describes it as “taking pride in the unexamined life” (that might or might not be a direct quote, depending on how well memory serves). He thinks there should be more: thinking actively and philosophically about existence, the evidence, the science, and coming to a positive conclusion – as opposed to the negative position of “dunno, but I don’t actually believe in god”.
Well … yeah. Kind of. I share PZ’s regard for an examined life. I do think it is better to think about the universe and one’s place in it. I do think it better to be rational an critical about these incredibly deep and important questions about how we got here, what drives us … the meaning of life, really.
But … that is not atheism, and atheism need not be that. PZ is conflating a lack of belief in god (for whatever reason) with a philosophical position of active enquiry and scepticism. While I value both, they are not the same. I do think the former is an inevitable result of the latter (applied honestly), but the reverse is not necessarily true. Even if it were, that wouldn’t make these two positions the same.
Conflating “I don’t believe in god” with a philosophical and sceptical examination of the world does not help in any way, and in fact confuses the issue. I’ll argue vehemently for the latter, and be clear about my own atheism, but I won’t argue for atheism. Someone who believes something (like god) so deeply is not going to be able to simply stop believing – any more than I could start. However, if led to a rational approach to life, and to apply that scepticism to all areas, a person might find for themselves a reason to accept what is almost certainly* the true nature of the universe.
I might add here that I don’t think they would lose anything. Not only would they have a more rational (and … well … true) view of the world, but one needn’t lose the spiritual and mystical aspect of oneself just because one loses god. I’ve never had god, but at age 18 (I think) I had an experience that was profoundly spiritual/mystical/”religious” in the sense that Joseph Campbell uses that word: “linking back” (or similar), rather than organised worship. it was evening, dark, I was walking home after my crappy supermarket job, and looking up I suddenly experienced the immensity of the universe. I felt at once completely insignificant and completely connected to it all.
I have never lost that feeling. I do not need god or men in archaic costumes to recapture it. I look into the night sky and there it is. I look at clouds, at the Sun (indirectly or through thick clouds). I look at trees, at animals – even human animals. I look at my wife, and at our children.
You know what, I even get that spiritual feeling out of some cool bits of maths and science. That feelin is part of us. That is why we create gods. I do understand that impulse, that urge – but rationality doesn’t mean letting it go. I would argue (in fact I think I have somewhere) that this feeling could be truer and more powerful if freed from the shackles of religion.
Well, that was a hell of a digression. If you’re still with me I’ll continue….
In summary, I (like PZ) think that the most fulfilling approach to life – and the most virtuous in an Aristotelian sense – is an active one, based on philosophy and scepticism. However, while such an approach to life may lead to atheism, the reverse is not necessarily true, and they are two distinct positions.
Certainly “dictionary atheism” (or just “atheism”) is a position with no force or power behind it (kind of the point really ), but that’s ok. Not everyone is going to live the examined life. Many people examine their life by the grease under their nails and the ache in their bones – or their bellies.
PZ also talked about the atheist movement – a term that gives me some disquiet. Sceptical movement: great. Rational movement: choice. Atheist movement … based in what, exactly? United in our not-believing? Perhaps PZ’s conflating of the two positions works here, in defining the “atheist movement”, but I still think it’s philosophically messy.
I think the words we use are important, and we can’t appropriate “atheist” for this specific purpose (not that PZ was seeking to redefine it, I might add). Maybe there isn’t a word that means “a rationalist sceptical humanist who doesn’t believe in god and is actually for all intents and purposes pretty certain there isn’t one”.
Maybe we should invent one … submissions below, or on twitter
*(so close to certain that for all intents and purposes it is; I certainly live my life without worrying over it)