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Repeating Myself

Jody writes a sprawling rebuttal to my calling him a "Fundamentalist Atheist" (along with addressing other posts of mine). Frankly, I don't have the motivation right now to address it all, mostly because it would be a futile exercise: he's fully convinced that he's right, and therefore, he ignores what I've actually said and offers disingenuous assertions of his intentions and past behavior.

The problem, endemic among Atheists, is that he fails to comprehend how faith actually manifests in society (what it is), as made clear by his analogy that believing in God is the same as believing that pixies operate his computer. What this enables him to avoid addressing is that very few people of faith would argue over the functioning of his computer, we would only point out that his computer was created — and created for a reason. The computer might be used for any number of purposes, from the horrid to the humane, and computer science, of itself, cannot tell us which are which. The same goes for evolution and all of science — it is a theory of process and cannot go beyond the bounds of describing the mechanics of the universe. The same is true of civil society: process. In fact, many of the underlying foundations of civil society have grown out of and rely upon the precepts of religion. But we've been over this before.

Atheism is a belief. Reasoning and logic may be applied within it, but the same is true of belief in God. Again, logic and reasoning are processes. The claims of Atheists "are presented as certain, but also as far from sacrosanct," and "Anyone can come along, challenge the assumptions, challenge the facts, challenge the interpretation and put forth an alternative view — provided it too accounts for the data in question" because they address the processes — the science. Once any of the discussants appeal to an external justification for why things are as they are (chance v. God) or how they ought to be applied, they are no longer dealing in provable data or processes.

This is where Atheism (and Jody) becomes disingenuous. The statements "So could there be a god?" and "Produce the data, present a convincing argument and we'll see what happens." aren't meant as concessions. If they were, Jody would be agnostic. Jody is an Atheist because he is convinced that there is no God, and no evidence will ever be sufficient. A voice in the sky? A delusion. The parting of a sea? Some inexplicable phenomenon; just give me time to explain it or explain it away. Oh, and by the way, statistics tell us that the odds are pretty good that in a big, complex reality, unexpected — inexplicable even — events will eventually happen. This is called FAITH. Either you believe there was a cause, or you believe that it was chance. Investigating the processes will not necessarily convince you either way. Of course, everybody will have a different degree of miraculousness that they will accept as explicable. This is why, at this moment, he and I believe differently even though we are looking at more or less the same "data."

Jody, individually, is further disingenuous when he writes, "My point in any of my posts isn't about being a bigot, or prejudicial or even hateful." Oh baloney, Jody! The glee that you've taken in injecting yourself into theological discussions on explicitly Catholic Web sites proves malice. Comparing all religious people to mass murderers is bigotry, otherwise the word has no meaning. And that is the intended meaning of "Fundamental Atheists." It's a turn of phrase — a coinage — so it won't necessarily jibe with your dictionary. Fundamentalism, colloquially, is the most extreme and intolerant branch of any belief system.

To discount all of the good that religion does for individuals and societies — outright to deny the extent to which it is entwined with every structure in our culture except as an oppressor — is to be inordinately and incorrectly prejudicial. Tell it to the Christians in India, who, although they make up 2.3% of the population, provide "20% of school education, 10% of all programs for the illiterate and health programs, 25% of all projects for widows and orphans, 30% of all available structures for lepers and AIDS patients." Tell it also to the African Catholic priest who spoke at my parish a few weeks ago and explained that the people in his country have no resources except what their churches (Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim) provide.

Jody claims no dogma, but states: "That we'd be better off with out [religion] is my opinion. That it's caused much, and will continue to cause much, unneeded and unjustifiable suffering is a fact that all of the indignation and spurious claims of hypocrisy can't change." Yeah, it's just his opinion that I and mine are no better than terrorists. And he need never question whether my indignation and claims of hypocrisy have any validity; he can just pass off my reaction to his perfectly balanced comparison of my heartfelt and well-contemplated beliefs to pixie dust to irrationality. That he can accuse me of trying to pass him off based on his apparent anger when I have given his arguments much more credulity, even, than they deserve, suggests that it isn't worth anymore of my time to argue.

How do you argue with a man who derisively mocks even the most nuanced belief in God, calls even heavily scientific studies "backwards," and yet asserts: "I have yet to meet an Atheist that doesn't leave open the possibility that their view and belief could be wrong."? How do you argue with a man who, in the midst of a panegyric to Atheism and condemnation of religion says, "I'm making no claims, nor have I ever made claims, that atheists or secular humanists are any better, inherently, than any of the array of true believers scattered across history."? The answer is that you can't because he takes his beliefs as fundamentally correct and indisputable.

Well, I guess I ended up addressing his essay, after all, though I'm sure not to his satisfaction. But certainly to mine, anyway.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 10:54 PM EST

1 Comment

Great post, Justin!

Sean Roberts @ 08/22/2002 11:13 AM EST