31 January 2012

Journalism gone wild (and not in a good way)

The rag known as the Mail published a piece in favour of Alain de Botton's atheist religion and taking a swipe at Richard Dawkins.  It's cheap and ridiculous.  I've already written about de Botton, but this tripe in the Mail deserves special comment.

Starting with a statement by David Attenborough in which he accepts the possibility of a "supreme being," the witless Rev. George Pitcher (obviously deep in a conflict of interest) builds a house of cards favouring some kind of accommodationism.

Pitcher writes, "There does seem to be a growing tolerance of faith among the faithless."  Really?  Where? In the UK?  Nonsense!  The government there is kowtowing to religious groups, but that doesn't mean atheists are becoming tolerant.  They may be gaining a tolerance of different cultures - not that they have much choice, since cultural tolerance is the only path to a truly unified human race, but that implies a tolerance of neither the abuse of human rights nor religious zealotry.

"Those of us of religious faith need to concede that atheists might be right, however much we believe that they are not," the noodle-headed Pitcher writes. "And, by the same token, unbelievers, such as Attenborough and de Botton, need to affirm that we might be right - and they variously and increasingly are, by their words and deeds."

In other words, the last 2,000 years aren't enough for the religious.  They want to control the next 2,000 years too.  And let's not forget that de Botton's so-called Atheism 2.0 excludes supreme beings.

And then there's the surreal accusations that Dawkins is shrill.

Shrill?  I've rarely heard a man less shrill than Richard Dawkins.

And the photo of Dawkins, sporting a rather dour expression, was clearly selected to emphasize this personal attack, especially when juxtaposed with the gently smiling de Botton right beside it.

This is so typical of the religious.  Unable to produce anything remotely resembling a proper counterargument to those of atheist scholars like Dawkins, they get right down into the gutter and launch pathetic ad hominem assaults.  Yet another example of the laughably inept strategy of fundiots everywhere: atheists must be lying because they're "bad people."

That Pitcher would stoop to this level of misinformation is typical of religions.  That the Mail would print it is a pathetic commentary on the state of journalism.

30 January 2012

Co-opting the rituals of religion... Really?

Alain de Botton has come up with a rather ridiculous notion he calls "Atheism 2.0."  (As if slapping a "2.0" after something immediately makes it better.)  He argues that there are some aspects of religious behaviour that are of benefit to society, and so should form the foundation of a new brand of atheism.  Jerry Coyne rightly calls it an atheist religion.

It seems to me that all de Botton is trying to do is co-opt the trappings of religion for secular purposes.  In this sense, I don't mind this turnabout; rather like turning religion against itself, which I find in some ways quite poetic.

But in the final analysis, I find the notion of "Atheism 2.0" to be quite perverse, because the goals that de Botton seems to think can be achieved through religious rituals can be achieved by a variety of existent and secular means already.

First of all, let's set aside those who require intense religious ritual just to get by in life.  Those people may well be suffering from a mental condition like OCD (try this google search for more on that).

Once we eliminate those, we're left with people who, in essence, find certain routines and habits helpful.  We don't need all the woo of religious ceremony and ritual for that.

Want to build community?  There's lots of community activities in which one can participate.  Why do people go to church events anyways?  Salvation, or showing off.  If you really just want to participate in community, you can do that anywhere - at the coffee shop, at the skating rink, at town council, at cultural celebrations, class reunions, family get-togethers....

If you need the aspects of advice-giving that come from religious behaviours, go to a therapist, or a "life coach."

Need guidance on how to live?  Again, see a counsellor.  Or read some books on the subject.  Talk to friends and family that you trust.  Get an education.

Want to get connected to the rest of humanity and nature?  Go to art galleries and museums and planetariums.  Travel.  More education.

Learning "oratory" (de Botton's term; "public speaking" for the rest of us) is easy to learn if it's done in a friendly environment.  And it can be done in school if we could just stop pandering to idiots when it comes to curriculum design.

De Botton also claims that art should be didactic.  Let's set aside the prescriptive arrogance of this suggestion.  What can be said of art can also be said of science, and of watching grass grow.  We do need to communicate with one another more, and about important things, and fully expressing well-thought-out arguments.  That requires education, not art.  And that requires forums in which can converse freely.  I've already named some such forums.

It's all already there.  What more does de Botton want?

And his latest pile of tripe is the notion of building a monument to atheism at a cost of one million GBP.  This is absolutely surreal.  How much good could any one of us do with a million pounds sterling?  A lot more than erecting a frickin' monument!  Is that where atheists would go to beat their chests about religion-based genital mutilation, rather than invest the money to actually address that crime?  Ditto for educating the poor, birth control, gay rights, and a whole litany of global problems.

Anyways, most atheists already recognize the ultimate "monument" is already in existence and is all around us: the universe with us in it.  Anything else pales by comparison, as does de Botton's silly notions.

26 January 2012

Some thoughts on free speech

Because it didn't have to do directly with atheism, I posted this on my other blog.  It's some observations from a non-American about the problems of unfettered free speech.

08 January 2012

I've joined the Atheist Blogroll!

I'm very pleased to report that replacing god has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.