Dennett, Dawkins and other Atheist Crackpots

Right after Penn Jillette went bonkers and took up atheism as his cause, he was on Red Eye making the case for his new religion. Like all converts, he was proselytizing because he was full of doubt. Logically, the reason people try to recruit is for confirmation. If scads of other sensible people are signing up for the cause, the cause must be a good thing. So, he was trying to get the others on the panel with him to go along with his new cause.

He also employed a little trick I suppose has become popular with the atheist movement. It works like this. If you cannot or will not fully embrace the belief in a living god, then you are an atheist. This is an attempt to widen the pool and normalize atheism by declaring it the default position.

In other words, left to their own devices, humans will not believe in the supernatural and instead will embrace the pure reason of atheism. I guess that means wearing dildos on their head and fighting otters. Or maybe it means dating transexuals. Regardless, the implication is that religion is a made up thing with out any basis in the natural world. The fact that this is provably false does not factor into the equation.

Penn Jillette is a fine entertainer and a lot smarter than most people in the entertainment rackets, but he is full of baloney. Indifference to religion and the supernatural is exactly that, indifference. I don’t believe in God, but I don’t disbelieve either. Logically, I can never know if there is or there is not a God or gods or some other supernatural force at the heart of existence. I know I can’t know and have no strong beliefs about the matter.

Atheists are certain or at least they claim to be certain. I doubt that, but even taking them at face value, they claim to know that which cannot be known, which means they believe. Atheism is just another mass movement with its own set of beliefs. One of those beliefs is that the pious atheist must make war on the Christians. Like those annoying people giving away copies of The Watchtower, atheists make being a public nuisance the highest calling.

Anyway, this showed up in my twitter feed the other day.

The link goes to this Salon interview the atheist crackpot Daniel Dennet and the alleged end of religion. Dennett is a great example of how someone can be brilliant in one area and a total loon in most others. Noam Chomsky is (was?) a great linguist, but he is otherwise nutty as a fruitcake, indulging in all sorts of deranged theories.

That Dennett interview reads like the sort of stuff you find from survivalist websites. The final reckoning is coming and you better be prepared!!! He so desperately wants to be right that any scrap of data that can be interpreted as proof is waved around like the missing link. In the end, he just comes off like a madman struggling to keep it together.

For the most part, eccentric old coots like Dennett are harmless and often entertaining. His lectures are probably great fun, even when he slips into his crazy talk. In my student years, the best teachers were those mad old guys who no longer cared about convention and simply said what was on their minds. They made the material interesting.

The trouble is these crackpots are not always harmless. Dawkins and Dennett have argued for banning religion by force. Dennett argued in his book Breaking the Spell for removing children from parents who are religious, which is most parents. Specifically he advocates the end of privacy laws and religious liberty so the state can raise children free from religion.

Dawkins, of course, thinks it is OK for the state to gather up the unfit and exterminate them so none of this should be surprising. Celebrity atheists seem to care as much for being offensive as they do about atheism. There’s reason to believe that the attraction of atheism is it lets these guys be an ass in public.

Over 50 years ago Whittaker Chambers exposed the reality of Utopians like Dawkins and Dennett in his great take down of Ayn Rand. In the end, all of these theories end up in a bloodbath.That’s because the Utopians hate humanity. Humans are irrational and messy, which means human society will be irrational and messy. Utopians hate that so they inevitably conclude that the way to paradise is to kill the humans.


13 thoughts on “Dennett, Dawkins and other Atheist Crackpots

  1. While some of the neo-atheist spokesmen, like the late Christopher Hitchens and Dennett and Dawkins to a lesser extent, attempt to revive the sort of revolutionary atheism in the tradition of a Marx or Feuerbach; a great majority of us today are more comfortable with Comte’s atheism. We prefer an atheism as conservative as Hegel’s theism and blissfully unaware of any serious opposition. The sort of atheism that wishes to be as inclusive and universal as possible but will tolerate the religious as long as they do not show too much verve or oppose any beliefs these atheists find to be beyond criticism. When the later happens, this sort of atheist takes it very personally because the centrality of their beliefs don’t concern God or humanity but the subject himself- so opposition is a direct assault on the person’s identity and must be eliminated for the sake of their own tranquility. I have always imagined Penn to be more like this sort of atheist than the revolutionary type.

    Comte has had a lasting effect on the religious and non-religious alike, and is very influential [the religious impulse or cultic aspect?] in our current situation. Jacques Maritain may have been very instructive here in, “On Moral Philosophy.”

    Auguste Comte — The High Priest of Humanity:

    Auguste Comte and the Age of Relativism:

  2. It is the same theology of Sartre preached by Global Warmmongers. “Hell,” Sartre had Garcin say. “Is other people.”

  3. The ‘false binary’ argument is one of the oldest rhetorical bait and switch approaches going. “If you’re not for A, then you must be for B.”
    Not really, I may think you’re both full of crap. Or I may not really care.
    It reminds me of the movie “In And Out”, that sold the point of view of if you’re not actually in a hetero relationship, then you’re by default gay.
    I think that if these guys are examples of the ‘good thinking’ crowd, I’ll have the hash instead.

  4. Most of the atheists I’ve known personally seem to have a problem with the patriarchal family… daddy problems. They then seem really take it out on the biggest Daddy of all.

    From a philosophical/scientifical standpoint, they often seem to claim that some new physical law disproves the existence of God. I can never quite figure that one out since since an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent God, such as the Christians and Jews claim, could pretty much do whatever He wants. I guess what they are really saying is that they don’t believe that there could be an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent God who’s more clever than a nuclear physicist… which therefore means there is no God?

    I also get tend to get confused by the whole “if God created the universe, who created him” arguments. Maybe there are higher order infinities (nothing in math says there can’t be) above our God, who in turn created Him? Perhaps there is an infinite number of higher order infinities? Maybe there are an infinite number of infinite Gods each doing their own things? Maybe God exists outside of time (time is His construct, but not His reality) and the whole concept of “before” does not apply to Him?

    Anyway, the whole “Scientific Atheism” crowd seems to me to be a lot of innumerate, ascientific, sad bores. Plus, as Z-man points out, like the atheistic monsters of the 20th Century, they all seem to want to put man in some Procrustean Bed and slice or stretch him into their own image. It’s almost like they want to be a god… hmmm.

    • The inclination of some comedians to mock Christians does remind me of the old joke about the Russian and the American traveling salesmen who met in Tokyo. Stop me if you heard this…..
      They were arguing about which nation’s citizens were the freest. The American said, “In Ameica, I can stand in front of the White House and yell, President Reagan is a fink.”

      The Russian said, “In Soviet Union, I can stand in front of Kremlin and shout, President Reagan is a fink.”

  5. Using logic (and relying on empiricism) it is easy to dismiss any sort of deity. After all the follower is required to have faith that all will be well and even for a good purpose despite seeing the most horrendous disasters and human failings. 9/11 can be framed as a call to renewed faith, just as a tsunami can. ‘God works in mysterious ways’ papers over lot of cracks and even gaping holes.

    Being ‘tested’ by events is a convenient way of making sure the adherent can be lambasted for even having the smallest smidgen of doubt about the Divine Purpose.

    But, we have been raised to see God either as a Being that gets every angry (but not angry enough to do anything about it other than reportedly telling people via long outdated books to act on their behalf) or a Being that will stand back at the worst of times as if His (or Her) creation is nothing to do with them. It is easy then to see how many people think God has been dead for a long time.

    Even the fact that the arrival of the messengers was only in distant times and places and their words were delivered to people who lacked the ability to record accurately and could, maybe, be taken in by some act or trick might make you doubt the wisdom of it all. You might think a true Divine Being who knows all might have foreseen that the consequence of this was any holy book was destined to be rewritten several times, argued over, cause millions of death and injury and leave his creations in a state of inner turmoil even if it does help the publishing industry churn out books on why God isn’t that good. As a plan, most people would say it lacks a certain substance.

    But can we take religion away from people? Didn’t work in the depths of communism as people could still pray to what they saw as a loving Being, so probably wouldn’t happen now. Also, not every law works as intended.

    If Atheism is a religion without a figurehead then it will attract a certain kind of faithful believer. I find it cheap that the atheists tend to kick Christianity which numerically is on the slide compared to other religions who are given free pass. I once took to task, via Twitter, a British comedian for only attacking Christians and not Muslims (though I cannot fault his cowardice here: he probably wanted to live without a 24/7 police guard) and it caused a storm among his followers who thought his humour allowed him to target one group of believers but not another. My argument was the comedian is free to not believe for that would make absolutely no difference to God (should He or She exist) but isn’t really in a position to not-believe in specific directions.

    The comedian’s fans thought otherwise. But that is the nature of devotion, I suppose.

  6. I don’t think the Salon piece makes Dennett look loony. He sounds fairly reasonable and I did not see any hint of what you describe here:

    “Dennett argued in his book Breaking the Spell for removing children from parents who are religious, which is most parents. Specifically he advocates the end of privacy laws and religious liberty so the state can raise children free from religion.”

    What is just silly in that interview is that Dennett diverts the discussion in numerous places toward the idea that scientism and atheism are *opposed to* religion. Both areas fill very different human needs and they are not in competition. The false argument that they are in some death battle I think stems from the fear of unbelievers that science really can’t fulfill all our needs for truth. What is puzzling is how many smart atheists can recognize that science does not, cannot provide answers in the social order (morality, etc.) but at the same time they argue for the dissolution of all religion forever, as if some new and improved moral code will spring from a newfound unbelief.

    Morality that is derived from reasoning and rational thinking will always be the morality of a particular group of elites. I would choose the Gospel over that arrangement any day.

  7. Live and let live is related to the Christian rule of “do unto others…”. Apparently the atheists not only have no “faith”, they have no faith in their fellow men.

  8. Some of these “Neo-Atheists” like Sam Harris seem to want a new religion, something like Buddhism.

  9. Likening Dennett and Dawkins to fruitcakes just as nutty as any preacher is disingenuous. These guys are atheists on the side, or after a career doing something else. Atheism is a byproduct of their work in natural sciences. What else does the corner preacher or the survivalist have to go on? The latter are so immediately and laughably off their rockers – Alex Jones comes to mind – that they make Dennett and Dawkins (ok but not really Jillette) look like case studies in sanity.

    • When you’re making long arguments in favor of treating religion as a crime and treating religious parents as child abusers, you’re a crackpot. Yeah, maybe someone else is crazier, but you’re splitting hairs.

  10. Atheists define themselves by their opposition. I consider this a mistake. I’m a materialist: the only things which require explanations are observations and the only things which count as explanations are observations.

    Give them their due: In __The Selfish Gene__, __The Blind Watchmaker__, and __The Ancestor’s Tale__, Dawkins explicates evolutionary biology with clarity and obvious knowledge of abundant detail. Dennett’s __Darwin’s Dangerous Idea__ makes the abstract case for evolution and draws larger implications. These books will reward attentive, open-minded readers.

    A spate of anti-religious books appeared after the 2001-09-11 event: Ali, Infidel__, Dawkins, __The God Delusion__, Dennett, __Breaking the Spell__, Harris, __The End of Faith__, Hitchens’ __God Is Not Great__. Each has something to offer, some more than others. Dawkins offers a useful explanation for the origin of religion, that children are (must be, if they are to survive), naturally gullible and will believe what their parents tell them. They then pass the stories that their parents tell them on to their own children. I say this is useful because it applies to the contest over rote versus discovery methods of Math and elementary Science instruction. It is an argument against History, Economics, and Civics instruction, pre-college (as Riesman observed in a __Current__ article published long before the 9-11 event).

    Somewhere about half way into __Breaking the Spell__ Dennett__ makes this point: …
    (Zman): …” I don’t believe in God, but I don’t disbelieve either. Logically, I can never know if there is or there is not a God or gods or some other supernatural force at the heart of existence. I know I can’t know and have no strong beliefs about the matter…”
    … better, in different words. If the world of direct experience supplies our primary data, “God” is a term without a visible referent, an undefined term, and the reasonable response to those who inquire of people who do not attend church “Why is there no mention of God in your __Systeme du Monde__?” is, after Laplace (purportedly), “I have no need of that hypothesis”.

    Dennett does not take Dawkins’ evident delight in baiting Christians.

  11. An a-theist should be, strictly speaking, someone who has no personal religious theory of worship. If only that were so.

    If their system could be of some use to man, it would be in giving him a modest opinion of himself. But they do not demonstrate such a truth and when they think they have done enough to prove that they are brutish, they seem as proud as if they had demonstrated that they were gods.

Comments are closed.