Recently, we learned that Islamic terror state ISIS has decided to ban teaching all kinds of things, including evolution:
The extremist-held Iraqi city of Mosul is set to usher in a new school year. But unlike years past, there will be no art or music. Classes about history, literature and Christianity have been “permanently annulled.”
The Islamic State group has declared patriotic songs blasphemous and ordered that certain pictures be torn out of textbooks.
The new curriculum even went so far as to explicitly ban Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution—although it was not previously taught in Iraqi schools.
Parents are trying to keep their kids from school and some are homeschooling. May as well, once the list of things the kid won’t learn is longer than the list of things he will.
When I (O’Leary for News) said, “Stop all teaching of Darwinism in the schools now,” as it happens, I intended to make a point: There is a “Today-in-nothing-to-do-with-Darwin” pattern by which commentators ignore the motives of shooters who explicitly identify with Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Not just “evolution,” mind you.
Evolution, by itself, won’t persuade a guy that he is the Nietzschean superman, or that he is anything in particular. We needed Darwinian evolution for that, with its focus on “fitness” for survival (cf The Descent of Man).
A friend points out that ISIS differs markedly from ID folk in the Western world, who definitely do want Darwinian evolution to be taught and discussed—warts and all. Just about all leading ID theorists want that, and most Darwin followers want to stop it.
That is why ID types vote for academic freedom bills and Darwin followers vote against them.
It is usually opponents of ID who charge, without evidence, that ID types don’t want evolution taught in schools. Why let facts get in the way of a crowd-pleasing narrative?
See also: Re Chapel Hill shootings: new atheist Sam Harris says no atheism to see there (We wonder what Harris would say if the accused had been a militant Christian fundie, with a Facebook Page to match? Readers?)
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39 Replies to “ISIS: No Darwin to be taught in schools”
So do you want neo-Darwinism taught in schools or not?
Mark Frank asks,
So do you want neo-Darwinism taught in schools or not?
Of course we do.
The quickest way for an incorrect idea to be discredited is for it to be understood. This is the position of all the ID advocates I know of.
It’s the other side that wants to limit the information students receive in schools.
How long have you been following this stuff? I can’t believe you did not know this.
I was just trying to understand Denyse’s position on this. As she points out in an earlier OP she wrote “stop all teaching of Darwinism in schools now”. I am not sure whether she is taking that back or not.
From the post, “A friend points out that ISIS differs markedly from ID folk in the Western world, who definitely do want Darwinian evolution to be taught and discussed—warts and all.”
Yes, teach Darwinian evolution! Just don’t be ISISesk about your ideology.
There isn’t that much for Mark Frank to understand. I wrote: “When I (O’Leary for News) said, “Stop all teaching of Darwinism in the schools now,” as it happens, I intended to make a point: There is a “Today-in-nothing-to-do-with-Darwin” pattern by which commentators ignore the motives of shooters who explicitly identify with Darwin’s theory of evolution.”
If it’s acknowledged that Darwinism affects some people that way, fine. Cf the German generals in WWI, and many in Hitler’s circles. (No, not breaking Godwin’s law here. Read Richard Weikart’s exhaustive scholarship on the subject.)
If none of that can be acknowledged due to political correctness and Darwinian atheists lobbying the school board, then stop all such teaching now.
Maybe it is too simple a position for many to grasp.
Let the Darwin believers teach their theory/philosophy in school but make sure the kids hear the counter arguments as well. Make sure the kids recognise the theory is controversial and allow them to question and provide access to material discrediting the theory.
The current state of forcing this philosophy on our children, without allowing dissent, is disguising and unacceptable.
So, news, you are saying, “Teach Darwin correctly (flaws and all) or not at all”? If suggesting that Darwin is imperfect is prohibited under the “separation of church and state” doctrine, then teaching Darwin must be also? I can totally agree with that. All sides, or no side.
In the mean time, I really think the story here is that the Darwin lobby is no less narrow than ISIS is.
The problem there being that there are no actual issues with evolutionary synthesis. Just things creationists don’t understand.
Barry Arrington states that you have a gift for a, ‘turn of phrase’. “Stop all teaching of Darwinism in schools now”, does not display that gift. It is as subtle as sledgehammer blow.
ISIS are also unsubtle. They do and say what they mean, there is no ambiguity or room for leverage, or grey areas. Indeed subtlety and all attenuated thought are not only frowned upon they are rooted out as being vestiges of western decadence.
I have to ask the obvious question: Why oh why did you bring up ISIS, education and anti-Darwinism and ID? The only thing people will now subliminally do, is equate these as being similar, however tenuous your future turns of phrase.
Let the Darwin believers teach their theory/philosophy in school but make sure the kids hear the counter arguments as well. Make sure the kids recognise the theory is controversial and allow them to question and provide access to material discrediting the theory.
Just like they do with American History and Sex Ed classes.
Surely if you understand this unguided evolution you can provide us with verifiable evidence how amino acids conspired to form a protein who in turn conspired to form molecular machines who in turn formed living things like humans, cattle, birds and bacteria, surely if you understand it you can show it? Please do I have been waiting a very long time for you knobheads to give us evidence of your theory that some think is a fact……
Please show me!!!!!!!! I’m desperate to become a materialist!
Atheists and ISIS have many things in common history can show I’m correct……
Kill all those who disagree with you…….
Stalin, Mao, ISIS, Boko Haram…….
Birds of a feather…….
Yes Andre ISIS and atheism share many things.
Except the belief in a god, the veneration of revealed texts, the inherent misogyny of all faiths, the use of science to spread their silliness, and then the denial of science when it points out how hairbrained some of those revealed texts actually are, a near pathologic inability to laugh at themselves or their viscious god and prophet, and the forcing of their beliefs for large parts of history on an illiterate mass.
Except for those things they do share many things.
Atheists are dirt worshippers. They believe that dirt can create itself via inexplicable Big Bangs and wave function collapses and that dirt has the power to organize itself into self-replicating living organisms. It is truly pathetic. It is the most superstitious of the big organized religions.
Personally, given a choice, I’d rather worship an extremely advanced being/civilization who was wise and intelligent enough to create the universe than worship dirt.
Mapou, nice bait.
Are you denying that atheists have exterminated at least a 120 000 000 people in the 20th century alone because people disagreed with them? Are you honestly denying this? Come now man-up!
Are you denying that people with body hair have exterminated at least a 200,000,000 people in the 20th century alone because people disagreed with them? Are you honestly denying this? Come now man-up!
We have all heard that ridiculous argument as both Hitler and Stalin had a moustache, here goes….. Your argument falls flat because neither Mao or Pol Pot had facial hair…..
What they all had in common is this;
THEY WERE ALL COMMITED ATHEISTS THAT EXTERMINATED ANYONE THAT DISAGREED WITH THEM!
There I shouted it out for you so that you can know the truth!
Not only did Hitler remain a Roman-Catholic, but the church never even attempted to excommunicate him
Actually when the Soviet system fell the Orthodox faith bounced back very quickly, because religion never really left. When you say atheist regimes you might be right about the leadership but the masses retain their myths rather tenaciously.
Amon Guther (Schindler’s List commandant)was raised Lutheran, and most of the German people were some form of Protestant, and in the countryside Catholic. “Gott Mit Unse” was imprinted on their belt buckles as they fought evil Communism.
Himmler thought that Islam was the best religion for soldiers. Rudolf Hoss (commandant of Auschwitz) murdered the Christ deniars as a practicing Protestant.
I’m shocked at your poor knowledge, Hitler was neither a Roman Catholic or a Christian…… He built his own religion much like scientology! But this much is true……
Mein Kampf (My Struggle) is Social Darwinism at its core!
“It is only on one or two exceptional points that Christ and Hitler stand comparably. For Hitler is far too big a man to be compared with one so petty,” said Julius Streicher, the publisher of the Nazi paper Der Sturmer.
Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels said, “Our Fuhrer is the intermediary between his people and the throne of God. Everything the Fuhrer utters is religion in the highest sense.”
And since every religion needs a house of worship, Hitler developed a 30-point plan for the new “National Reich Church,” which was even published by The New York Times in 1942. Among the rules:
?No pastors, chaplains or priests were allowed to speak in church…. only National Reich orators.
?All Bibles and pictures of saints were removed from the church altars and replaced with copies of Mein Kampf.
?The cross was also removed and replaced with the swastika.
?One of the most controversial Reich Church rules involved the Bible.
Although Hitler quoted scripture in many of his early speeches, he later referred to it as “a fairy story invented by the Jews,” and in 1942, the Bible became a banned book in Germany.
In Hitler’s own bible, all Hebrew words like hallelujah were removed. He also replaced the Ten Commandments with twelve of this own. Among them:
?Keep the blood pure and your honor holy.
?Maintain and multiply the heritage of your forefathers.
?Joyously serve the people with work and sacrifice.
?Honour your Fuhrer and Master.
Hitler also wrote his own version of the Lord’s Prayer, to be recited by the Hitler Youth:
“Adolf Hitler, you are our great Fuhrer. Thy name makes the enemy tremble. Thy Third Reich comes; thy will alone is law upon the earth. Let us hear daily thy voice, and order us by thy leadership, for we will obey to the end, even with our lives We praise thee; hail Hitler Fuhrer my Fuhrer, given me by God. Protect and preserve my life for long. You saved Germany in time of need; I thank you for my daily bread; be with me for a long time, do not leave me, Fuhrer my Fuhrer, my faith, my light – hail, my Fuhrer.”
A humorous spin on it
Hitler because Darwin Stalin, Hitler, Hitler, Stalin Darwin because Mao, Hitler.
Hitler, Hitler, because Mao Stalin, Darwin Hitler.
Well argued as ever.
They all have 1 thing in common…….. Kill those who disagree with you…….. Secondly they were all atheists including your pal Hitler, who used religion to coax the people……
There is no humour for those 120 000 000 people that got killed by your buddies CHartsil…..
The fact that I lost family in those camps and you making fun of it shows the world that you are just an insensitive prick.
You confuse Hitler with Alfred Rosenberg. Rosenberg was nuts of course, but the “30-point plan” remained his private pet idea. In practice, he had to comply with the official Nazi party line, promoting “positive Christianity”.
Except for the fact you don’t have a mechanism capable of getting beyond populations of prokaryotes given starting populations of prokaryotes.
I see it is time for this debate again.
* Some atheists were responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.
* With the exception of Nazi Germany these were communists. Atheism is part of communism but by no means the central theme.
* Communist leaders were responsible for the deaths of large numbers of people for a variety of reasons: paranoia, failure to comply to land-use policy etc. A small proportion (although far too many of course) were killed because of their religion.
* Nazi Germany’s religious status is unclear but it appears to have killed people because of their race or disability or sexual preference – not for their religious beliefs.
* King Leopold of Belgium, a Roman Catholic, was responsible for the death of between 2 and 15 million Congalese (a wide range because so little information is available)
* The Imperial Japanese government was religious (although not Christian) and killed about 5 million.
The reason the figures were so horrifyingly large in the 20th century was the tyrants had the opportunity and means. It wasn’t because tyrants from earlier ages (mostly religious) were more moral. They just didn’t have that many victims to massacre. The crusaders didn’t stop killing Muslims when they sacked Jerusalem because they thought it was OK to kill a certain number but not too many. They ran out of people to kill – or just got exhausted.
The relationship between religion or lack of it in 20th century massacres is complicated and over-simple arguments are not helpful – especially if we want to avoid it happening again in the future. Playing the “your guys killed more than our guys” game is crudely using all that suffering to win debates rather than seek solutions.
The solution is easy.
Life has meaning. It has purpose and the individual must always be more important than the nation, race or class.
“The solution is easy.
Life has meaning. It has purpose and the individual must always be more important than the nation, race or class”.
And that right there is an objective morality that we can all agree on, surely.
First of all, is “markf” the same person as “Mark Frank”?
Now, to business.
I agree with you that these matters require more discussion than “your guys killed more people than my guys.” We have to understand not just the body count, but the reasons for that body count in each context.
Now, in your comments you seem to be conflating two questions:
Whether atheist tyrants killed people because they didn’t like the religion of those people (i.e., they hated Jews or Christians or whatever), or because, being atheists, they had no belief in God to restrain them from killing whoever they wanted, for whatever reason.
I am not here concerned about those people who kill people just because they are Christian or Muslim or Jewish etc. That of course is a bad thing, too, but it’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the relationship between atheism and lack of restraint in killing one’s political enemies or other inconvenient people.
Now I am not talking about the sort of quiet atheist who just doesn’t happen to believe in God, but doesn’t really care if anyone else does, as long as they don’t bother him. I am talking about the atheist ideologue who has a practical certainty that God does not exist and that moral standards and political practices are the free creations of human will: we are the makers of history, of societies, of cultures, etc. and we make what we choose; we are not beholden to any God, or to any “natural law” (as conceived in the Middle Ages) in our choices.
So, for Stalin, there was an onward and upward march of history, led by the Communist state, toward a visionary socialism — that was an objective law of history, in Marxist theory. Further, this law is a good thing — the transcending of feudalism and capitalism to realize the universal socialist state will be better for man; it means the end of oppression and reign of freedom and equality. That vision serves in Marxism as the vision of the realized Kingdom of God serves for Christians. (And that is no historical accident, by the way — Marxism is very much one of many forms of secularized Biblical religion.) Now this end, this goal of history, is so important, that it justifies anything that is necessary to achieve it along the way. So if you have to destroy a million *kulaks* to get there, you are justified — their reactionary way of life is holding back the coming of the glorious end times. Mao used similar justifications for horrible deeds: reactionary forces against the people’s revolution can rightly be destroyed, without regard for freedom of speech, human rights, etc. In both cases, the final judge of human morality is not God but “history” — if you are trying to further the historical process, you are moral; if you are trying to resist it, you are immoral, and can be dispossessed, jailed, tortured, or massacred.
For someone who takes belief in God seriously, history is not the final judge. God is the final judge. And God is believed to be just, and loving, and wise, and good; and God is believed to teach that the ends don’t always justify the means. So, for example, in the original teaching of Jesus, and of the early church, you don’t force anyone to believe anything — not even in Christ — on pain of torture or death. There are some things which aren’t justified even in the name of religion — whereas for Stalin and Mao there was no degradation that could not be justified, no means that could not be excused for the end.
Now I know that you can come back to me and talk about the atrocities by Christians or done by Christian states. I agree that these count as a black mark against Christianity. I despise people who try to whitewash Christian history as much as I despise people who try to whitewash atheist history. Nonetheless, I would say this: in the examples you give, and many more, those people were not acting out of genuine Christian principles, either simply ignoring Christian principles for money or power (as in the colonial African case), or twisting Christian principles to make Christianity into the equivalent of an ideology (as in the Inquisition, the witch burnings, the massacre of Jewish and Orthodox communities by Western crusaders, etc.). The Christians who did those things were either purely nominal Christians, cradle Christians with no real belief in a divine standard of love and justice, or religious fanatics who had lost sight of the original teaching. That is not the case in Marxist regimes. Their massacres etc. were justifiable in terms of the long-term goal of the universal and blessed socialist paradise.
Hitler was nominally Christian — a cradle Christian like virtually everyone in Germany at the time — but only a fool could think that he actually had Christian thoughts and feelings inside his breast. He had nothing but hatred and ressentiment inside him. And his top advisers were the same — perhaps in some cases nominally Lutheran or Catholic, but not at all Christian in any real sense. No Christian who understand what Christianity was would have run a death camp; any true Christian would have submitted to death himself before cooperating in the Holocaust. The commands of God are above the commands of the Fuehrer– for a real Christian.
The question is how to restrain an individual or political party or professional clique that has, in its sphere, total power over other human beings. If those individuals or parties or professional cliques hold to some higher standard of justice or truth that they make binding upon themselves, then they won’t be able to do *anything* to those who oppose them. They will feel that they are being judged by something higher than themselves and that not everything in permissible. It seems that in human history, religious beliefs have been the most effective source for this inner restraint. They have certainly not been a perfect source, as they can be ignored, or twisted, etc. But on the whole they have been beneficial. People motivated by religious belief founded the first hospitals and universities in the West, and they have travelled to disease-ridden tropical countries to help the poor and the sick. The nations of Europe, when at war, often observed truces on Christmas Day, etc. — they were (sometimes) able to count on the Christian restraint of the other side not to take advantage of them. You could not count on Mao or Pol Pot not to take action against you on Christmas Day. And King Henry VIII of England found himself restricted, in his goals for an heir for the state (a secular goal) by religious rulings regarding marriage. In the end he broke away from Rome, but the point is that in that era even kings could not lightly violate the sacraments. In theory, all Christians, even kings and emperors, were under the same religious and moral obligations as the lowliest Christian, and bound to the same standards of decency and humanity. And that was a good theory, even if it was not lived up to all the time. And of course Christian societies abolished slavery before other societies did — and there is no doubt that Christian moral principles were appealed to in that case; and women first achieved modern rights in societies steeped in centuries of Christian (and Jewish) belief and sentiment, not in societies where other religious traditions held sway.
Better to say that all human beings, including rulers, are obligated to live up to the Sermon on the Mount, and have them live up to it only 20% of the time, than to say that rulers are free of moral constraints because their first duty is to bring in the Fascist or socialist paradise, and traditional moral constraints are a much lower priority. I would rather be an atheist in a 19th-century New England village, and face abuse and mockery and some job discrimination (i.e., I wouldn’t be allowed to be a schoolteacher, or the governor of a state), than be a kulak under Stalin or a Jew under Hitler. Christian society has never been fully Christian — never more than halfway there, and often less — but our sentiments and ideals were elevated by the belief in a divine and good God, a god of justice and love, a God in whose image *all* human beings — women as well as men, slaves as well as kings — were created.
I’m not saying we should solve the problems of society by forcing everyone to be Christian, or to believe in God. That would be wrong. What I am saying is that the bashing of religion, as if it is a totally negative thing, is based on a very poor grasp of the role of religion in Western civlization (and in ways I can’t discuss, of other civilizations). Religion can be twisted, and religion can justify the greatest evils when twisted, but that doesn’t make belief in God a bad thing in itself.
I have to agree with a statement of Petrushka, over at TSZ. He said that he parted with many of his fellow atheists in that he was not willing to say that Christian religion had all bad effects and atheism had only good effect. He said that atheists could be bad, too. He identified the problem as neither belief in God nor atheism, but a certain fanatical certainty that one’s religious or ideological constructions are the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He seemed to be advocating a healthy skepticism — but not like the fashionable modern skepticism which is selective, aimed only at traditional religion, but one which is general, and regards secular ideologies with the same suspicious eyes as it regards religious claims. And I agree with that.
When I look at the modern world, I see the same fanatical sense of certainty in, say, radical campus feminism as I do in the Geneva of John Calvin or the chambers of the Inquisition; the feminists will have their way, and their cause is just, because all who oppose them are reactionary, sexist, etc. They will tell all other professors on campus what language they can use, for example; the fundamental American right of freedom of speech is abrogated by campus speech codes which, if violated, could in principle cost a professor tenure, because the people voting on his tenure will often be angry feminists or faculty colleagues intimidated by them. So ideology trumps respect for basic democratic freedoms on the university campus. An angry atheist feminist is just as bad as a religious heretic-hunter in that respect.
What we should be aiming for is a world in which people are free to believe or not believe in God, without being punished, and in which the police, courts, government etc. all regard themselves as restrained in their actions by fundamental moral commitments, to the point where the rulers will tolerate words and actions that they personally dislike rather than stamp those words and actions out by using unjust means. We also need a world in which university hirings are determined entirely by the intellectual merits of the candidates, not on whether the candidates kowtow to current consensus views or match current standards of political correctness. We therefore need a conception of justice which stands above politics. Historically, religion has tried to provide that. In a society where most people were *truly* Christian, there would be much more kindness, much less oppression, and much more genuine diversity of protected speech and scientific and philosophical and political opinion than there is now.
This is where the New Atheists are wrong-headed. If all they wanted was to preserve the option of being non-religious I would support them. But they hate religion and want to see it smashed. They are far too partisan. If only they could all be like Petrushka. On the principle he enunciated, it would be possible for an atheist to concede: “Yes, that atheist political leader did do those horrible things, and yes, the fact that he believed in no God or no absolute natural law, but only in his grand vision of the universal socialist state of the future, facilitated his ability to destroy whole classes of people with a clear conscience.” The atheists expect Christians to admit to all the horrible things that Christians have done inspired by certain Biblical verses or certain theologies of salvation; well, fair enough, and I’ve done that. I’ve admitted that the Christian faith of Tomas de Torquemada was a twisted and bad faith that no human being — and no Christian — should accept. I’ve admitted elsewhere on this site that certain verses in the Bible seem morally problematic alongside the assertion that God is just, good, and loving. But I don’t see many corresponding admissions on the atheist side. I see “religion bad, atheism good, let’s get rid of religion and all will be well.” Well, I don’t think that is a nuanced judgment, either historically or philosophically.
Feminists, Hitler, New atheists, that’s an incredibly large number of words to apologise for religion.
You do actually understand that atheism, as an accepted lifestyle (I choose that word carefully), is realatively new. Certainly there were atheists in the Levant, perhaps even at the time of the supposed Christ (what brave free thinking individuals they must have been, refusing to follow the herd). But they were rare.
Today as an atheist I feel that I now have a voice, that the oppression of a stultifying religion (Ill say Christianity from now on as I’m assuming UD is a Christian site), and its associated political classes, no longer can impose its childish orthodoxy upon me.
Hitchens may be loathed here but he is an undeniably gifted interlocutor, and a gift to those who find belief barren generally, and fear inducing specifically.
Please pray for me, it will produce a chemical reaction in your brain that will give you an evolutionary explained solace, and I simply won’t give a toss.
Oh yes, don’t kill, live and eat right, love your children and all people generally, and gay people are probably people too.
If you find my posts too long, you aren’t obligated to read them. But I believe that markf has a sufficient attention span to read the whole thing, and to appreciate the detailed, articulated answer that I provided to his thoughtful objections.
You obviously read superficially, because you are responding as if the point of my remarks was to justify the repression of atheists in the past, when in fact my remarks concerned atheists who have acquired totalitarian political power, and how they use it, and why they often don’t feel the moral restraints that one would think any decent person would feel. (But in fact, if you are worried about my views on religious freedom for unbelievers, if you read carefully, you will see that I endorsed religious freedom for atheists and also said clearly that Christianity should not be forced upon people.)
But instead of horning in on a conversation I’m having with someone else (markf), why don’t you answer the questions I’ve already asked you on other threads?
For example, you haven’t yet responded to my #14 on the Suzan Mazur thread, and you still haven’t responded to me about the little girl out in the hallway from an earlier thread. Yet you are jumping in here. Are you the kind of person who starts a hundred projects and never finishes any of them?
Markf and Mark Frank are indeed the same. I have two IDs for UD (a legacy from being put in moderation but not knowing it and thinking my ID was not working). I sometime accidentally log on using the old one.
In my comment #28 I drew attention to the fact that the atheist tyrants did not on the whole kill people because of their religion. This was because the discussion had been comparing atheism to ISIS who do kill people because of their religion. Atheism was not the prime motivation behind the atheist tyrants of the 20th century.
However, you are right to raise the different question: Does being a theist somehow restrain you from doing horrendous things in way that can never restrain an atheist? Clearly being a theist doesn’t always restrain people from doing horrendous things but a certain type of Christianity (what you would regard as true Christianity) might well do so (and you point to some good historical examples). On the other hand some theists from other religions and some atheists have also behaved extraordinarily well and found themselves motivated by principles we would condone. Like theism, atheism includes a wide variety of attitudes and beliefs ranging from fanatical communism to easy-going Western liberalism. One of the reasons that some atheists get snarky in debate is that they are fed up with the implication that they are somehow morally deficient.
In any case I agree with a lot of what you write. In particular I am all for:
Like you I see a lot of “fanatical sense of certainty” and it worries me. I see it in left and right, theist and atheist. I see it in radical feminism and I see it right here among some of the theists on this forum. This seems to me to be more of a problem than theism vs atheism.
Like many of the commenters here you seem quite concerned about the new atheist movement. I want to make these points:
* Most Western atheists are not part of this movement. Most of us are like Petrushka – very happy for people to believe or not believe what they wish and we do not believe that “religion bad, atheism good, let’s get rid of religion and all will be well.”
* It is a very small, albeit high profile, movement.
* It is not in any way violent or seeking to impose its views in any way other than through argument and persuasion.
* Many of its leading lights are quite right wing and would not accept hard-line feminism or communism.
* Although it has some British roots it has a much higher profile in the USA than over here. I am pretty sure this is because the USA is far more religious and therefore far more offended by their views. It is not a global movement.
I also agree with AS that actually the new atheist leaders do not want to “smash” religion. Read their text carefully and you will see a different picture. It is more to do with not letting a particular religion impose itself on society. Maybe some of their acolytes do want to smash religion.
I think that the denizens of UD would do well to simply forget about new atheism and not write so much about Dawkins latest tweet. It is not a big deal and it is not a big threat.
I thank you for your irenic and expository response. I’m glad I wrote what I wrote, since it has led to your carefully argued reply.
I now see your point about ISIS. I understand now why you made the remark about killing people because of their religion. Yes, it is true that the dislike of particular religions, and the use of state or societal power to crush them, is not intrinsically tied to secular atheist regimes. Theistic regimes have been known to persecute the religion of differing theists. (And it’s not always even the regime that is responsible for persecuting minority religions; sometimes it is the mob, and the regime is powerless to prevent mobs from burning down churches, tearing down mosques, etc.) In any case, your point is well-taken. It was safer to be a Greek Orthodox believer under Russian communism than a Coptic Orthodox believer in Egypt today.
I accept your point about quiet, peaceful, rational atheism versus programmatic, angry, anti-religious atheism. I would like to believe that you are right that the more aggressive sort of atheist is not representative of atheism is a whole. However, I think you should concede that the existence of the internet, which tends to give extremists of all kinds a platform they never had before, has led to a higher visibility for the more extreme kind of atheist. It is not only that the latest remarks of Dawkins, etc. are put before the world every day; it is that on every blog site, aggressive sorts of atheist show up, bashing Christianity particularly or religion in general. In the old days, those people would have had to stand on a soapbox in a park in a small town, and would have had influence only on the few people in that one town who happened to walk by; now their views can be heard on six continents (or seven, if the scientists at Antarctic stations have internet access). So aggressive atheism is now globally “in your face” in a way that it wasn’t before.
Before, you had to go to a bookstore and pick out “Why I Am Not a Christian” by Bertrand Russell if you wanted to read even moderately aggressive atheist literature (and Russell was moderate compared to much of what is out there today). And because such authors had to find a publisher, who would demand a certain quality of writing, even militant atheist writing tended to be better. Now, with the internet, writers who are incompetent both intellectually and in literary skill can push the angriest anti-religion position. It seems that one cannot go to a discussion site regarding creation, evolution, and design without bellicose atheists of this sort showing up and lowering the tone of the conversation, while also offering caricatures of traditional religion which emphasize only the bad side of religion and ignore religion’s positive contributions.
I agree with you that there is an atheism of the right as well as an atheism of the left. Indeed, though I have no reliable numbers to go on, I would not be surprised if there were almost as many atheists of the right as of the left in the general population in the USA. However, the atheism of the right has only scant representation in American universities, and it is the universities which pump out the future professors, schoolteachers, lawyers, high court judges, journalists etc. of the nation.
This of course relates to university hiring practices. University hiring is basically hiring by one’s (hopefully) future colleagues, so if there is a prevailing ideology among those colleagues, that prevailing ideology will be able to control (by departmental vote) which candidate gets the job. So let us say that an atheist follower of Ayn Rand applies for a job in a typical Philosophy or English or Sociology department; such a person has virtually zero chance of being hired. (I’m not myself defending Ayn Rand, but merely using her as an example of a right-wing view.) The leftist/feminist/atheist domination of the Arts departments thus cashes out in two ways: (1) atheist, agnostic, and very liberal religious believers have a much better chance of being hired than very conservative or even fairly conservative religious believers; (2) left-wing atheists, feminists, etc. have a much better chance of being hired than right-wing atheists, feminists, etc.
I agree that most atheist writers do not call for violence. However, there are forms of suppression and control that do not involve physical violence. It was not that many years ago that a leading atheist anti-ID writer (it might have been P.Z. Myers, but I can’t remember) declared something to the effect that we should take away the jobs and maybe even the Ph.D.s of scientists who supported intelligent design, because no one who supported ID could be a real scientist. Now possibly this was just over-the-top rhetoric coming from an irascible loudmouth, but still, if enacted, such a policy would constitute a form of economic violence against individuals — taking away their jobs and qualifications to get jobs.
Again, when Francis Collins, a man eminently qualified to lead the NIH, was given that position, Jerry Coyne made some pretty loud protests against the appointment, and the protests centered on religious beliefs of Collins such as that a man had risen from the dead. And since the belief that a man rose from the dead is standard, orthodox Christianity (not the preserve of just a few narrow Genesis literalists), the suggestion was in effect that no orthodox Christian should head any public scientific organization. Again, if acted on, that principle would constitute a form of economic violence against Christian individuals seeking high positions, and of course it would also threaten freedom of religious expression by causing Christians who had ambition of high positions to keep silent about their faith.
To be sure, Coyne, after griping, did concede that it might be enough for Collins to dissociate himself from the active promotion of religion during his tenure at the NIH — and Collins in fact did that. He kept his distance from the BioLogos organization he had founded, leaving it to Darrel Falk and Karl Giberson to run and ceasing to write columns for it. But the point is that Coyne’s remarks suggest a prior prejudice against having believing Christians in high places in public positions related to science.
So even if atheist leaders don’t advocate physical violence against Christians, they do sometimes put subtle and not-so-subtle pressures upon Christian believers to suppress their religious self-expression, and I think that such pressures should not be brought to bear on Christians in a free society.
I’m aware of all the facts you cite about Henry VIII. Yes, there were all kinds of political machinations going on. But nothing you have said counts against my general point, i.e., that from the Church’s point of view, not even kings and emperors can set aside the law of Christ regarding marriage and divorce. The fact that Henry had to go through such contortions to get what he wanted is a testimony to the strength with which the teaching about divorce was held. And it was a *good* teaching of the church — especially in an era where women were dependent upon the good graces of men for food, shelter, and position — that a man can’t simply toss aside a wife who has become socially or politically or economically inconvenient, that he takes seriously his wedding vows. In Henry’s case the motives were of course political; in modern times they might be something else. What about the middle-aged executive who divorces his middle-aged and no longer pretty wife for a “trophy wife” in her late twenties? The teaching of the Church on divorce, if followed, prevents such abuses. My point was merely that religious teaching sometimes leads to treating women, minorities, etc. with more dignity; in contrast, under atheist ideological regimes, some groups and classes of people can be treated as if they were deserving of no dignity at all.
It is this larger point upon which I ask you to focus. Why did Stalin etc. feel that they were above all the most basic moral decencies? Was it not because they made a religion out of the historical process, a religion which justify doing anything to anyone in the present, for the sake of the future? If Stalin had believed that God came down to man and spoke the words of the Sermon on the Mount, would he have killed or dispossessed all those people?
If none of the new atheists actually hate religion and want to see it undermined, destroyed, etc., why did Myers boast about getting hold of a consecrated wafer and sacrilegiously misusing it? A person who simply wants religious people to leave him alone doesn’t behave in that mocking and gauntlet-throwing way.
And why have some new atheists declared teaching one’s children religion to be a form of child abuse? In most modern countries, there are laws which allow the state to intervene to prevent child abuse. If teaching a child religion constitutes child abuse, the state would have the moral and legal right to prevent parents from passing on their religion to their children via long-established means. Does that sound to you like a person who has a “live and let live” attitude toward religious groups — someone who implicitly threatens the use of state power to stop transfer of religious belief across the generations?
I haven’t called for a return to a formally Christian state, and I haven’t objected to the pure idea of a religiously neutral state; however, in practice modern Western countries are not religiously neutral re atheism vs. theism; they are subtly slanted in favor of atheism. Sometimes the slant is exhibited in institutional ways, other times through social pressures coming from the intelligentsia who are largely atheist/agnostic (or if nominally religious, so liberal as to be nearly indistinguishable from agnostics).
See my example about Coyne and Collins. Coyne suggests that a Christian might not be capable of objectivity in science policy decisions, and therefore probably should not be heading the NIH; yet neither Coyne nor any other new atheist I can think of has suggested that atheist professors of religious studies (of whom there are many) might not be capable of the objectivity needed to teach the various religious traditions with true understanding. I haven’t heard new atheists saying that all teachers of Hinduism should have to be Hindus, all teachers of Judaism believing Jews, etc. Yet Coyne would apparently prefer it if all scientists in positions of science leadership were not religious believers, but atheists or agnostics. The playing field is not level here. “Neutrality” and “objectivity” and “impartiality” are being subtly associated with the atheist/agnostic position, and “bias” and “subjectivity” and “partisanship” with the various religious traditions. But the doctrine that there is no God is just as much a faith position as the doctrine that there is a God, and the doctrine that miracles are impossible is just as much a faith position as the doctrines that miracles are possible. Why should *either* position be favored in the public schools, or as a criterion for holding state office, etc.?
The fact is that perhaps 85% of American university faculty are either atheists, or vastly more religiously liberal, than the general American population. Did this situation come about by the free choice of the American people? Did they want their universities set up that way? No, what happened was that atheists and liberals kept hiring more atheists and liberals, until their numerical superiority was so great that the trend could never be reversed.
I would not want the Church controlling who can hold positions of public trust, or who can be a university professor, etc. But neither would I want those things controlled by a secular humanist elite. And right now in America, while at the popular level religious belief is strong, at the institutional level atheists and agnostics control many of the key levers of power. Cornell and Harvard graduates have far more influence over what happens in the USA than Oral Roberts graduates or the graduates of the various Catholic colleges. And even if every now and then some state or school board passes educational legislation which seems slightly tainted by creationist motives, the courts almost always throw out almost all such legislation; the secular, appointed elite almost always wins out over the popular majority who elected the people who enacted the policies in question. Despite the loud showiness of religious Americans, religion does not rule American life. More and more the courts do; and the prevailing ethos in the education of judges is secular humanism. If conservative Christian religion really ruled in America, same-sex marriage would still be illegal in every state. But on that subject, we have seen that not only legislation but even the result of a popular referendum can be set aside by the decision of a small number of (e.g.) Harvard-educated judges. The dangers of tyrannical religious populism in America are greatly exaggerated.
I’ve asked rvb8 to provide even one contemporary example of a poor little girl sitting out in the hall while her class says school prayers. He can’t provide it. Yet he’s convinced that Americans live under a horrible quasi-theocracy in which religious people bully unbelievers. This is complete nonsense. Of course rvb8 lives in New Zealand, and has no firsthand experience of American schools or American life, and he is willing to believe anything negative he hears, any rumor or innuendo, without evidence. I suspect that many of the people bashing American popular religion on this site and elsewhere are Brits, Continental Europeans, New Zealanders, etc. who do not know much about the actual texture of American social and political life.
Thanks for your sensible comment.
The internet means that all minority views have the ability to get more coverage then they used to – new atheism is one such view. ID is another.
You seem to be very concerned with US Academic practices. I don’t know much about them but I imagine they are left of centre and have always been. This doesn’t seem to be much to do with atheism. I think it is just something the US has to live with. It doesn’t seem to have much effect on real power, election results or political policy.
My main concern is to address this idea of some kind of global Darwinist/Atheist plot or movement which will remove the basis of morality and plunge us back into the horrors of the 20th century. Can I confirm that you have accept that this is not true? The supposed leaders are the new atheists – a small, albeit vocal, group of intellectuals who have very little power and never hint of using violence. The examples of suppression and control you pointed to seem to be limited to US academia and are often unsuccessful. To compare them to ISIS or the communist tyrants of the 20th century is wildly unbalanced.
I agree that some people in the ID side, and in the creationist camp (which is not 100% identical with the ID camp, despite what some people say), have overplayed the connections between atheism and brutal totalitarianism, and between Darwin’s biology and some of its social outcomes. I do not say that an atheist will necessarily become a Stalin or a Mao or a Pol Pot, and I have known ethical atheists, including some in my own family. I do not say that all people who accept Darwin’s biology have run Nazi medical experimentation on prisoners or have supported sterilizing certain classes of people, and I am aware that Darwin himself and people like Dawkins have expressed concern that the evolutionary perspective is not adequate as a foundation for human ethics and social life.
At the same time, while there are oversimplifications on the one side, there are unreasonable denials on the other side. It is certainly the case that some Nazi theorists appealed to Darwinian ideas (even if Hitler himself made statements against Darwin) — one can read the works of Weikart and others who have examined the documents. And the attempts by some on the atheist side to balance out Stalin by calling Hitler a Christian are intellectually dishonest; being baptized as an infant or even having some early exposure to the church does not make one a Christian, and it is quite evident that as an adult Hitler by his life and actions repudiated the substance of Christian teaching. It also seems empirically true that totalitarianisms whose intellectual leadership is atheistic recognize very few moral restraints. I don’t think rational discussion is improved when those on the atheist side deny such empirical facts. I don’t mind when they protest exaggerations on the other side, but I don’t think it’s to their credit when they refuse to see *any* historical connection between certain doctrines and certain practices.
Of course the question “whether Darwinian evolution is true” should be separated from the question “whether belief in Darwinian evolution has led to certain bad social and moral results.” It is not sound to argue: “Darwinism led to the US sterilization program, so evolution by random mutation and natural selection cannot be true.” If one wants to criticize the Darwinian mechanism in biology, one can do so, and if one wants to criticize applications of Darwinian thinking to social matters, one can do so; but the two tasks shouldn’t be confused. I myself have argued that neo-Darwinism is pretty poor as a biological explanation of evolution, but I have not said that it must be scientifically wrong because of what Hitler or Planned Parenthood did. Moral indignation is the not the right frame of mind to be in when criticizing a scientific theory — though moral indignation is appropriate when criticizing Social Darwinism etc.
On the other subject, I think US academia has been dominated by the left only since the end of WW II. No doubt there was some leftist sentiment during the Depression, but I would guess that it was concentrated in departments such as economics and political science. In modern times, however, leftist thinking is dominant throughout the academy, except perhaps in engineering, business and some economics departments. Even Classics Departments, formerly bastions of conservatism, have been shifting to the left.
I myself would prefer an academy in which the right and the left had power so equally matched that neither could dominate the university and have its way. This would produce more fairness in hiring, and more balanced, less doctrinaire priorities regarding what research gets funded, etc. It would also allow undergraduate teaching to once again be education rather than propaganda — which it unfortunately so often is in the humanities and social science departments.
I cannot comment in detail on what happens in British or other European universities. From what I have seen of program descriptions on the websites of British universities other than the Oxbridge pair, the curriculum is becoming more and more American in style and content, and it looks as if the average British student of sociology or literature is now absorbing the same ideological rot as his or her American counterparts. I used to think of Britain as a more conservative country than the USA, preserving more ancient rational and Classical traditions and not prone to the modern “touchy-feely” intellectual sensibility of Americans, but I suspect that this has been less and less true every year since the end of WWII. But without being there on the ground, I can’t say more.