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Godless chic: Brought to you by spineless wonders

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A friend pointed me to an article in the Los Angeles Times, extolling the current “godless chic,” which has attracted the attention of other bloggers here. There is the “your God is a fraud” thing (Jesus never existed; men stupider than him made him up) or Blasphemy Challenge thing (deny the Holy Spirit on YouTube and see if Anyone cares).

This isn’t surprising, of course. Given who is behind blasphemy chic, etc., the atheism in question is materialist atheism*, of which Darwinism is the creation story.

And Darwinism is itself a failing god. The intelligentsia believe with all their hearts but  the sullen proles largely will not budge. If anything, some who once tramped along with the sodden mass may be plodding back home even now.

But you cannot have a revolution without foot soldiers and tank fodder. So a recruitment drive is in order, all the more so because atheists tend not to produce many children. (Whether this is because atheists are better or worse than the common run of humanity, I waive; at the end of the day it means that the church of atheism won’t need fundraising barbecues for a Sunday school wing.)

As Douglas Futuyma wrote in one edition of his textbook promoting Darwinism:

Darwin showed that material causes are a sufficient explanation not only for physical phenomena, as Descartes and Newton had shown, but also for biological phenomena with all their seeming evidence of design and purpose. By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx’s materialistic theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism… (3rd edition, 1998, p. 5)

Well, as we all know, it’s hard to find anyone who will say a good word for Marx today (absent a gun pointed at his head) and every year ushers in another mainstream trade book trashing Freud. So far, Darwin survives mainly because he is the “loveliest vision far” of materialism’s faded hierarchy**.

You see, according to the committed, his theory accounts for everything from cosmic black holes to why people go to church.

I’m going to pass on the black holes but, as for the Darwinist religion’s accounts of traditional religions, not only are they are becoming increasingly ludicrous, but increasing numbers of thoughtful people seem aware of that fact. For example, Darwinist philosopher Daniel Dennett’s recent tome, Breaking the Spell , did not spark the sort of “Right ON, buddy!” response from the American secular intelligentsia that I might have expected; acute, penetrating criticisms abounded, as Mario Beauregard and I will discuss this in our forthcoming book The Spiritual Brain (Harper 2007) .

My sense is that it all isn’t working any more, but the upcoming Darwin bicentennial is good excuse for the entertainment of the saints of Darwinism, and they can probably get most of it publicly funded too. Meanwhile, there is blasphemy chic, trashing Christianity.

A few items of interest in this scene:

Why Christianity? Why not Islam? Well, for one thing, Muslims tend to actually respond to this kind of thing. Christians don’t. There is an organization of Christians in science in the United States called American Scientific Affiliation, with about 2000 members, but they seem dedicated to ignoring these obvious affronts, and claiming to an increasingly restless public that there is no conflict between Darwinism and the traditional religions. Indeed, they have so far managed to ignore the fact that increasingly strident Darwinists claim that there is indeed such a conflict.

I suspect that the key boffins at ASA would be inclined to blame those who openly question Darwinism for “causing” the atheist outbursts. In much the same way, under Marxist regimes, the churches that went along with Marxism used to blame traditional Christians who refused to do so, for bringing upon themselves the persecution they suffered at the hands of Marxists.

Right now, the ASA is making much of genome mapper Francis Collins, whom I regard as an intellectual lightweight. I tried to say that in as nice a way as possible in my recent review of his book because he sounds like a really nice guy. If nice is all you need, he’s your man.

Why I think Collins is an intellectual lightweight: Well, how about this: He composed a folk song about his worthy goal of making cystic fibrosis history, but what his research has most significantly led to is prenatal detection, which is a way of making CF children history.

I know, I know, other good may come of it and some people will be mad at me for even bringing this up.

But we live in a world where, when mommy whispers in your ear “I specially loved and wanted you!”, what she means is, you passed a battery of quality control tests, and if you hadn’t, you had a first class ticket to the Medical Waste bucket. Today’s glitzy mommies don’t love loser kids. To the extent that Collins’ research has contributed, I would have more respect for him if he openly acknowledged and dealt with that in his book.

Most Darwinists are in fact pro-abortion, as far as I can see, and most of the ID guys go the other way. That is not an accident. All these people can at least follow through an argument to a logical conclusion about the value of human life and the meaning of suffering.

Anyway, back to the larger question: Why does the Church of Darwin focus its efforts on attacking the Christian churches and not, say, Islam? A useful suggestion is provided  by an article by Mary Eberstadt in Real Clear Politics, “The Scapegoats Among Us.” She asks the same question about the larger horizon of world politics: Why do so many American and European pundits write obsessive books attacking American Christians when the real threat – as news reports make very plain – is non-traditional, highly politicized Islamic groups?

Her thesis, which I find persuasive, is that when people are aware of a threat that they have no idea how to deal with, they look for a scapegoat. Someone they can blame who has limited resources for fighting back. They project onto that party all their anxieties and hostilities.

Case in point: Christian countries does not have a penalty for blasphemy nor are any significant Christian groups seeking one. Heck, you can blaspheme on youtube, if you don’t mind feeling a fool in ten years, in front of the Thames Valley Presbyterian Elders.***

But some countries DO have a penalty for blasphemy – the death penalty – and it is carried out often enough to be a cause for concern. Guess which religion is the only one permitted in such countries? Got it in one, did you? Good for you.

So, suppose you are an atheist living in a Western country with entrenched freedom of religion. It’s Sunday morning. No one bothers you on your godless Sunday at home. Your neighbour doesn’t go to church either, but only because she is lazy, so you rightly don’t trust her. The family across the street, all six of them, is loading up the minivan’s carseats and heading off to Beulah Community Church.

You know that most of the world thinks that the human being has a spiritual nature and that bugs you. You want to tell them they are wrong, that their experience of life is wrong. But you daren’t address real issues in religion today because then you would find yourself smack up against the type of people that the Canadian Army is fighting in Afghanistan. Those people do not believe in your right to a godless Sunday at home. Heck, a wall could fall down on you, and it might not be an accident …

So, if Eberstadt is right – and I think she is – you will suddenly decide that Mr. And Mrs. Minivan and the tangle of tiny sneakers littering their front hall represent a serious threat. Hence all the books on the threat they represent. And now, sure enough, we see some Darwinist atheists promoting blasphemy “against the Holy Spirit” as a form of self-expression – but not against the Taliban’s God, where it would matter.

Some call it picking your fights. Others call it hiding out. I call it another stop on the long road of decline for materialist philosophies. And I say so for a good reason: A philosophy that cannot confront actual threats with a viable program is doomed.

*Historically, atheists have not always been materialists; indeed, one can easily be an atheist without being a materialist, though one’s godless universe itself must then be endowed with some sort of cosmic mind or karmic law.

**(apologies owed to Keats. )

*** But whatever you do, please don’t go on one of those American Christian TV shows and emote. Just learn your lesson and shuddup. Every teenager goes through a stage when traditional beliefs seem wrong, and the best explanation is that the teen is learning how to appropriate an independent intellectual perspective. The beliefs may be wrong, of course, but that is not the reason for the angst. The teen is disturbed by the need to develop an independent perspective, which requires a variety of new cognitive skills. The smarter the kid, the longer and harder the road.

Update on my earlier comments: Not a peep from Amazon, but the Professor has replied and confirmed no-one has seen the manuscript to "The Dawkins Delusion" yet. Shenanigans. J tenstrings
The so called "atheist chic" Dan Neil talks about in that L.A. Times article is really not about atheism at all. This is what makes atheism so "exciting" to him these days:
(1) In the space of two short years and one rather drawn-out midterm election, conservative Christian hegemony has been rolled back, (2) Intelligent Design has been slapped down in court (the Dover case), (3) and the evangelical movement itself is wobbling, unseated by its overreach on issues such as stem cell research, vaccines that prevent cervical cancer, abstinence-based education, the War on Christmas, tombstone-like monuments to the Ten Commandments in courthouses . . . oh, right, only 800 words.
1. The Rollback of Christian Hegemony: That's a political cause celebre not an atheist one. He sees the victory of the Democrats in the recent elections as some kind of atheist victory over religion. In fact there was no "Christian Hegemony" under the Republicans anymore so then under the Democrats. Pretty much all Democrats claim to belong to one faith or another as do the Republicans. There are many jewish republicans as well. During the republican control of Congress did we see any type of "Hegemony" which differed in some fundamentally religious way from when the democrats controlled congress? Has anything changed in America enough that you can prove America became controlled by a "Christian Hegemony" since the time Clinton was president? Abortion is still legal. Evolution and atheism is still the only view on origins and religion taught in schools. Has America changed into a Chrisitan Taliban under the republicans as they would like us to believe? They may claim that the war in Iraq was religiously motivated, but then what about Clinton's policy on Iraq? He kept the country under constant bombardment and sanctions. Those who claim that Bush was religiously motivated in Iraq will usually in the next breath talk about the "neo-con" plan to control the oil and dominate the region which they had planned on doing before the republicans took over congress for the benefit of the oil companies. They want it both ways, religious motivation and political pragmatism as motivation. They imply that the republican attitude towards global warming has some kind of religious motivation, then in the next breath they will tell you that the energy companies have those politicians in their pocket. In reality the so called "Christian Hegemony" never existed. It's a false meme (thanks richard) used to create a climate of fear and hate of political opponents by conflating religious belief with non religious political issues e.g. the republicans are religious and they sent us to Iraq, they deny global warming, ipso facto therefore it is religion to blame for their political positions. They propagandize either overtly or by implication that republicans cannot have any other motivation then their religion in all they do. Even though the democrats also claim to be religious they don't get the same type of treatment because they have differing political views. So "Christian Hegemony" and the associated rhetoric of christian dominance in the American political system is nothing more then a delusion used to prop up and inflame hatred of christianity and religion. 2. ID is going stronger then ever gaining more and more converts all of the time, and even the leading darwinoids concede that ID will win the battle for public sympathy over the long haul. In fact it is winning already. The amount of commited evolutionists in the world is far outnumbered by people who reject it. And even then I'd estimate that at least 99% of people who claim to believe in evolution have no real reason for doing so other then the acceptance of argument from authority based on blind faith. They accept that the media annointed "expert unbiased scientists" are acting in the public's best interest and have no motivation to falsify the facts. So whatever they hear in school (which the "experts" control with their materialist agenda), or hear in the media, is accepted on blind faith. They don't really believe in evolution, they believe in "experts", they have faith in authority figures. I would estimate the professional darwinoid is welll aware of the lack of actual education on evolution by the mass of people who claim to believe in it and this is what frightens them about ID i.e. giving people who have blind faith in evolution a closer critical education. The idea that atheists should be excited by the Dover case is a clear case of wishful thinking. ID has only spread farther and gotten a larger following since then. 3. The "evangelical movement" is not going away, nor are their political agendas going away either. If some leading evangelical leaders fall into disrepute there will always be countless more to take their place. The misconception is that if some political issue which evangelicals support is not successful; that then the evangelicals will lose faith or lose their political drive. That is simply another case of wishful thinking. mentok
tenstrings, You noticed that too, I see. A little pre-emptive negativity I guess - anything to spread the faith. nullasalus
[...] Reference: UD. The problem here is that Darwin didn’t show anything of the kind. And such is the botched science education now dominant that even writers of textbooks are confused and incapable of seeing the howlers in their pronouncements. [...] Darwiniana » Darwin, Marx, Freud
Just pointing out that the UK does indeed have a law against blasphemy, solely vs Christianity but all the other religions are lobbying hard to be included. Having said that, it was last tested in court against a homoerotic poem purportedly of Jesus' fantasies & was trumped by freedom of expression... While I'm in a "America is not the world" mood, its not true over here in Western Europe that the "masses" are moving against "Darwinism". Support for NS has risen from around 80 to closer to 90% in the last 20 yrs. Doesn't make it true, of course, but then neither do lots of Americans supporting ID make it false... littlejon
Will do, but it might be a while. I got an out of office message from the mailbox behind the contact form advising that the owner was out of office until the second of January. J tenstrings
tenstrings, interesting. let us know if you hear from the author or anything from amazon. Jack Golightly
At risk of being seen as plugging my blog, I wonder if this is an example of spinelessness: http://tenstrings.wordpress.com/2006/12/21/whats-wrong-with-this-picture/ Please delete/ignore this post if not relevant with my apologies J tenstrings
Denyse, Great post! But, shouldn't your title be: "Godless shtick"? Merry Christmas! Inquisitive Brain
Yep, those teenagers have to go and exert independence, while the hapless parents get the opportunity to continue paying all the bills. But what makes it worse is that the elites have figured out that, much as the kids were duped by the manipulative operator in Pinochio, these kids can be corrupted by their raging hormones, rebel minds, and need to think they are in control. So they are led down that pleasure seeking path by others to their own detriment, all the while raging against their parents whose hearts are breaking. Sadly, it is all too common. Now, in the good old days of hunt and gather, or agriculture, or artisan communities, the leaders of the tribe or village were parents themselves, and all the adults had a stake in developing kids into productive, wholesome citizens. Kids strayed and they were called into the elders' council for some straight talk, and maybe more than talk. But no more. Do you think the top executives for MTV pulling in huge $$ care one iota about the kids' futures? Perhaps a few -- the ones that threw out their TVs and added internet filters. Its ok for other kids, but not their own. So, what is the answer? Well, for some, we will just teach our kids that we are just another species of mammals, and competition for mates and natural selection is what life is all about. Yep, the barnyard ethic. That should go a long ways toward instilling self-control and fidelity in these young hearts and minds. Or maybe, just maybe, we should re-institute the idea of personal accountability coupled with loving confrontation. Perhaps we have gone overboard with the tolerance and permisiveness thing. Go check out any business management website, and you will get a big dose of the principles of accountability, performance management, and rewards and incentives. Now, go to the typical American home, and are these principles applied to behaviour, morals, and character? Ekstasis
I think Phillip Johnson would describe "godless chic" as a kind of scripting--casting yourself and those around you as characters in "Inherit the Wind." In such a script, religion is conflated with ignorance, while science represents reason. Any attempt at questioning Darwinism is thus automatically assumed to be the work of innoramuses striving to "turn back the clock" on scientific progress. Likewise, some teeny-bopper going onto a website to extol his atheism is simply demonstrating to the lesser plebs around him his desire to free himself from the bonds of ignorance, and thus to demonstrate his innate superiority to those who still choose to hamper their intellects with religion. Emerson once wrote, "Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist." So, "godless chic" is but a means of demonstrating one's manhood. But, of course, the problem with scripting is that a script is not reality, but an oversimplified substitute for it. And the manhood demonstrated by pretending to be brave on a website is easily refuted by the fact that no one dares display "godless chic" in the Islamic world. TerryL

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