Those Fanatical Atheists

For the Ottawa Citizen, Dan Gardner asks just what is supposed to be so radical about Dawkins’ and other popular atheists’ views. Is it what they’re saying, or how they say it?

But just what is the core of Dawkins’ radical message? Well, it goes something like this: If you claim that something is true, I will examine the evidence which supports your claim; if you have no evidence, I will not accept that what you say is true and I will think you a foolish and gullible person for believing it so. That’s it. That’s the whole, crazy, fanatical package.

Why does fighting for sense and sensibility in full public view make someone a radical? Why do some claim that atheists are just as fundamentalist as the fundamentalists?

This is completely contrary to how we live the rest of our lives. We demand proof of even trivial claims (“John was the main creative force behind Sergeant Pepper”) and we dismiss those who make such claims without proof. We are still more demanding when claims are made on matters that are at least temporarily important (“Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction” being a notorious example).

Or is it, as I suspect, the mere fact that they’re saying it all? The strange truth is that questioning religion is still equated with the crossing of a cultural taboo — even (strangely) among agnostics.

We’ve had this discussion here before, but the “fundamental” difference bears repeating: Fundamentalists ask us to accept metaphysical claims without evidence; atheists ask us to question everything — even atheism.

Re-published with public comments on richarddawkins.net.

Music: Deep Rumba :: Si! No!

19 Replies to “Those Fanatical Atheists”

  1. Have you fully succumbed to the allure of atheism yet, Scot,
    or at least have you discovered the pleasures of subscriptions
    to “Skeptical Inquirer”, “Skeptic” or “Free Inquiry”?

  2. Larry, that’s the weird thing. My rational brain has totally “succumbed, as you say, to atheism. In any discussion where it might come up, I’d naturally and easily gravitate toward an atheist position. Everything about it appeals to my brain’s “this makes so much sense” centers. And yet when I hike around the Unitarian church at the top of yon hills behind our house, I have the strangest craving to attend services there and explore their community. Of course I’ve heard some of these atheists say that they don’t have any trouble squaring the social togetherness aspects of religion with the pursuit of reason philosophically. So maybe it’s not so weird.

    But FWIW, no, I haven’t yet “declared” myself an atheist.

  3. Everytime a person declares themself to be an atheist,
    an angel dies and falls from Heaven. And they most likely
    should give up their ambition to run for President of the USA.
    ;-)

  4. Scot, this is a great piece, thanks for linking to it.

    I think the problem is the word “atheism,” which implies that you’ve already made up your mind that there is No God. For someone who is subjecting every faith claim to a demand for proof, this is a curious blind spot.

    That’s why I call myself an antignostic. I don’t personally believe in god, but I can’t give that position any more public credence than someone else’s statement of faith. Faith is ok, we all have things that we trust in without having proof (I have faith that there is no god, for instance). The problem is when we take our faith claims and try to give them public standing. That position — making a claim to having ultimate knowledge that trumps other people’s knowledge — is a gnostic position (gnosis = knowledge). That, more than the idiocy of one particular faith vs another, is the real problem.

    BTW, I’ve been to Unitarian services. Boring. I’d much rather spend a Sunday morning at Glide, which has a progressive stance towards social action, a liberal attitude towards various beliefs, and a rocking choir.

  5. From where I stand, it actually does not seem to be the case that atheists “question everything, even atheism.” That’s the problem. Everyone seems to be operating from some sort of end-of-knowledge position. The religious claim that everything we ever needed to know we already know, since god told us eight hundred, no, two thousand, no five thousand, no, etc. years ago, so that we can definitively affirm the existence of god. The atheists claim that everything we need to know is now known, so that we can definitively rule out the existence of god.
    We are behaving as if we are the last generation on earth, and science has stopped. Perhaps some humility is called for? We can say with some certainty, at least, that we do not know everything. Indeed, such is our ignorance that we do not even know the extent of what we do not know. (okay, now I sound like that “unknown unknowns” guy, but he had a point.) I think atheists have done well in showing that existing religions do not have much of a factual leg to stand on. However, the presumption of “not-god” is not necessarily called for merely because the “goddists” are wrong. To the extent that atheists rely only on existing knowledge for their “proof” yes, I think atheists are as apocalyptic as the religious. The Verdict is In!! There is No God!! Who set the timetable for this decision? One must assume that microbes existed before scientists declared them to exist…

  6. Dylan and Msafiri – This is a common misconception about atheism. Very few atheists believe that there definitively is no god. Most atheists agree that to do so would be neither rational nor scientific.

    Dawkins and others state very clearly that they can’t definitively state there is no god.

    The more common atheist position (so-called “weak” atheism) is that there is no evidence for the existence of god, so it makes no sense to act as though there might be a god. This is the old “Flying Spaghetti Monster” argument. To whit: There are a bazillion things we can imagine but have no evidence for (elves, angels, flying spaghetti monsters…) We can’t prove non-existence of anything imagined, but we can choose not to base our lives, our children’s education, our exploration of the world on things that aren’t examinable or provable.

    To be more technical about it, there is no single encompassing definition or school of thought behind atheism – there are a range of definitions. You guys are pointing to something called “strong atheism,” but the group of strong atheists is actually quite small (because it’s a very difficult position to defend). The majority of atheists are “weak atheists.” And, in fact, many if not most agnostics would actually find that they fell into the category of weak atheism if they looked into it.

  7. ***There are a bazillion things we can imagine but have no evidence for (elves, angels, flying spaghetti monsters…) We can’t prove non-existence of anything imagined, but we can choose not to base our lives, our children’s education, our exploration of the world on things that aren’t examinable or provable.***

    i hate this scientific reductionism. no evidence for elves and angels? what about the collective unconscious? what about archetypes? what about the *experience* of billios of people on this (and maybe other) earth? why must you support the reductionist, blindered scientific hegemony by agreeing that only that which can be measured (dig etymology of “matter”) has any value? this is the materialist fundamentalist view, and make no mistake, it is every bit as fundamentalist as that of the the bible belt wingnuts.

    please realize: reason is a system that has no more intrinsic validity than any other sytem of thought. it is based on a belief system. you *believe* that reason (especially when cloaked as scientific method) gets you closer to truth, but have no more proof of that position than falwell does of his belief that the bible gets him closer to the truth. goedell showed that at some point every mathematical (by extension, linguistic, by extension, logical) will implode, depending on how far you stretch it. we have the fortune that usually reason and math accord with our expereince, and are thus the most pragmatic systems we know. but when you start talking about *T*ruth, you are qualitatively in a different realm, and comparing belief in absolutes with belief in symbol systems is truly apples and oranges.

    when i hear about hte weak athiest argument, i basically think of people who have no imagination, who are entrenched inthis tiny constricted reality tunnel, where they conveniently *know* so many things that are unknowable — MORE THAN THE THEISTS THAT THEY ARGUE AGAINST! it’s a house cards built on a host of infallibles: perception, knowledge, language, reason, language, nature, logic, etc….

    see Wilson’s “The New Inquisition” for more. and korzybski. and jung. and campbell. and sidharttha. and rumi. and joyce. and bohr. and…

  8. If you adopt a moniker like “weak atheists” you’ve already lost the battle. It’s a double negative. You might as well call yourself, as one of my profs did, a “soft non-relativist.” Or a “moldy communist.”

    You can quibble over the definition all you want, the problem is one of perception and also of presentation.

    – For most Americans, “atheist” means “does not believe in god”
    – To most people following along at home, Dawkins (and Sam Harris even moreso) comes across as excessively confident in his own atheism.

    For my money, Daniel Dennett’s got the best presentation of the three big-name atheists. He makes forceful arguments but also manages to come across as a nice guy, and with some humility.

    Any scientists should have humility. Just look at the radical changes in physics over the last 25 years, biology over the past 10, geology over the past 100. All scientific knowledge is provisional and most of what we’re totally certain about today will be obsolete within 50 years.

  9. Baald –

    Billions of people have experienced elves and angels?

    by agreeing that only that which can be measured (dig etymology of “matter”) has any value?>

    I haven’t said that mystical experience is without value! Much the opposite — the experience of awe and imagination is as important to the atheist as to anyone else. The difference is in making Truth claims about those experiences.

    this is the materialist fundamentalist view, and make no mistake, it is every bit as fundamentalist as that of the the bible belt wingnuts.

    I disagree. Fundamentalism implies dogma, where dogma = “thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted” (Wikpedia, fwiw). But science and reason are all about doubt, and invite dispute. I don’t see how reason can be lumped in with fundamentalism. They’re categorically different in every important respect.

    [reason] is based on a belief system.

    No, it’s based on method and inquiry, which are the opposites of uncritical acceptance.

    you *believe* that reason gets you closer to truth, but have no more proof of that position than falwell does of his belief that the bible gets him closer to the truth.

    Where Truth is defined as “consensus reality and the ability to produce results”, then our consensus reality and the results of “progress” (whatever that is) are evidence (if not proof) that reason does indeed do a better job of getting us closer to Truth better than story telling. Not as fun perhaps, but definitely truthier.

    when i hear about hte weak athiest argument, i basically think of people who have no imagination, who are entrenched inthis tiny constricted reality tunnel

    Buddhists often self-describe as atheists. Do you think Buddhists live in a tiny constricted reality tunnel?

    see Wilson’s “The New Inquisition” for more. and korzybski. and jung. and campbell. and sidharttha. and rumi. and joyce. and bohr. and…

    Jung and Campbell describe mystical realms, which are interesting and important and historically important, but ultimately on the same level as religion. Siddhartha and Rumi could have been called atheists. Bohr is a scientist on the outer edge, but still very much a scientist, exploring and questioning.

    Dylan —

    If you adopt a moniker like “weak atheists” you’ve already lost the battle.

    Very true. Weak atheists should take a lesson from the Logical Postivists :)

    To most people following along at home, Dawkins (and Sam Harris even moreso) comes across as excessively confident in his own atheism

    Certainly they are confident – but no more confident than any preacher. There are tens of thousands of preachers thumping out this stuff. Why is it so weird that three atheists should be equally confident in the opposite view (which they can argue so fluently)?

    Any scientists should have humility. Just look at the radical changes in physics over the last 25 years, biology over the past 10, geology over the past 100. All scientific knowledge is provisional and most of what we’re totally certain about today will be obsolete within 50 years.

    Exactly!!!! Reason and scientific method have built-in flexibility – their very structure prevents dogma, and insists on continuous self-re-examination.

  10. Weak atheists should take a lesson from the Logical Postivists :)

    Or perhaps “Awe-full Atheists.” No, wait…

  11. One more distinction to make: Atheists may be as confident as Religionists, but they are not dogmatic or fundamentalist.

  12. ***I disagree. Fundamentalism implies dogma, where dogma = “thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted”***

    hello! are we bypassing each other in parallell languages or somthing? that’s exactly what the Fundamentalist Materialists do. Scientific Method is the dogma. That’s a very limited toolkit, bub!

    ***+++[Reason] is based on a belief system.+++

    No, it’s based on method and inquiry, which are the opposites of uncritical acceptance.***

    this statement leaves me dumbfounded. but explains it all i guess…

    for me, reason is very much a belief system. i can only BELIEVE that it is right, or true, or real, or gets me closer to knowledge. whatever model you wanna use. and there is no test that i know of that can turn that belief into knowledge. no more so than i can explain english with english, prove arithmetic with arithmetic, or know the location and velocity of a particle.

    ***Billions of people have experienced elves and angels?***

    i didn’t exactly say that. but yes, i think the fact that there is a huge mass of historical psychic energy that affirms that which science doesn’t even question changes the nature of the inquiry. NB – there is no such mass devoted to a flying purple spaghetti monster, whichis one reason the analogy is so ridiculous. The very nature of the FPSM analogy is to start with a premise that the inquisitor *doesn’t* believe. there is no body of belief, no schools of philosphy or theology, no-one moved to tears, devotion, or belief by the FPSM. It is a perfect straw man.

    ***Buddhists often self-describe as atheists. Do you think Buddhists live in a tiny constricted reality tunnel?***

    some maybe, if they are embracing the same kindof “athiesm” as dawkins. i somehow don’t think they are.

    **Jung and Campbell describe mystical realms, which are interesting and important and historically important, but ultimately on the same level as religion.***

    begging the question, no?

    ***Certainly they are confident – but no more confident than any preacher. ***

    so we’re closer than you let on.

    ***Reason and scientific method have built-in flexibility – their very structure prevents dogma, and insists on continuous self-re-examination.***

    i don’t see how this is founded. in a very abstracct sense, some interpretations might point to this, but in practice? i. remain. doubtful.

    ***Where Truth is defined as “consensus reality and the ability to produce results”, then our consensus reality and the results of “progress” (whatever that is) are evidence (if not proof) that reason does indeed do a better job of getting us closer to Truth better than story telling. Not as fun perhaps, but definitely truthier.***

    again, i disagree, and again, you are presenting a belief as a fact (IMO). hmmm…Or a fact as a Truth. at any rate, consensus defines fact, not Truth, (but maybe truth).

  13. ***One more distinction to make: Atheists may be as confident as Religionists, but they are not dogmatic or fundamentalist.***

    I just don’t know how you can make that statement…which itself sounds dogmatic and fundamentalist.

  14. As a “religious” person, I wanted to make a point about this idea of the difficulty of “proving God doesn’t exist” being equivalent to the difficulty of proving he does.

    They’re not equivalent. To try and make them so violates the “law of parsimony” (a.k.a. Occam’s Razor). If my co-religionists want to play the game of proving ultimate Truth, then it’s up to them to prove their point, since the existence of a supernatural, theistic deity is an inherently more complicated explanation of the Universe.

    BTW, in case anyone is puzzled why someone like me is making this point, I should point out that:

    1. I think that proving ultimate Truth is a boring question that’s beside the point for me (e.g. “My god is bigger than your god!” never leads anywhere good)

    2. I’m not a theist. But I am willing to take Pascal’s Wager in relation to a view of the divine which looks more like Deism or Panentheism :)

  15. I want to make clear that atheism is just that – a-theism. Atheism does not deny or denigrate personal mystical experiences. It does not turn a blind eye to scientific strangetudes like quantuum reality. It does not deny that many realms of human investigation are mysterious and unfathomable. It does not shut out awe and wonder. It does not deny that people may have had the personal experience of meeting angels.

    What it does say is that it makes no sense to talk as if god is a fact.

    Atheism, like science, makes a clear distinction between personal experience and consensus reality.

    I am thinking now of the end of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. After spending the first 6 sections describing what is the realm of fact, the 7th section talks about how some of the most important aspects of human experience – aesthetics, ethics, spirituality – are beyond the realm of fact. And then he finishes:

    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must consign to silence.

    When I studied Buddhism years ago, that line rang through my head over and over again. It seemed to describe so perfectly the segue between life in the world and the experience of meditation. Silence. Understanding what can be talked about sensibly, and what cannot be. In light of atheism, the Tractatus and its conclusion again describes the limits of language in respect to what can be discussed sensibly in public and what must be personally experienced. With that in mind:

    Scientific Method is the dogma. That’s a very limited toolkit, bub!

    Scientific Method is the toolkit for describing consensus reality. A toolkit and a dogma are not the same thing.

    I don’t understand why my distinction between free inquiry and uncritical acceptance leaves you dumbfounded.

    No, one can’t PROVE that scientific method and reason are the ultimate paths to truth. As you say, no system is self-contained, per Goedel. But if I buy a $20 item and then find I have $20 less in my wallet, then reason and math and experience all square with each other. There is no slippage. On the other hand, if I pray to God to find a $20 bill and then do not, or if I pray for world peace and it doesn’t come, which is pretty much how these things will always work out, then my belief system and the world don’t square with each other. Reason reliably describes the world, Deism does not.

    That doesn’t mean I can’t have a rich inner life or that I can’t have visions. It does mean that treating things I can only experience personally, or things I read about in books but which can’t be shown, as predictable facts, is foolish.

    i don’t see how this [that science constantly re-examines itself] is founded. in a very abstracct sense, some interpretations might point to this, but in practice? i. remain. doubtful.

    As Dylan points out, look how differently science describes the world today than it did 200, or 100, or 50 years ago. Some things have remained constant (gravity), some have turned inside out (heliocentricism), some of have changed in incremental ways as more evidence has been discovered (evolution). Science has changed because its constituation (scientific method) requires it to do so. A scientist not ready to give up his theory for another one when evidence requires, is not intellectually honest. But a Deist who loses his family in a disaster is likely to explain away the unfathomable phenomenon with something like “God works in mysterious ways.”

    ***One more distinction to make: Atheists may be as confident as Religionists, but they are not dogmatic or fundamentalist.***

    I just don’t know how you can make that statement…which itself sounds dogmatic and fundamentalist.

    I don’t understand – why does my statement sound dogmatic or fundamentalist?

    David, that’s a very good point – to posit a god is to posit an unfathomably complex response where a simple one would do, to stretch at the limits of plausibility. I’m with Occam. Not, however, with Pascal.

  16. I want to make clear that atheism is just that – a-theism. Atheism does not deny or denigrate personal mystical experiences. It does not turn a blind eye to scientific strangetudes like quantuum reality. It does not deny that many realms of human investigation are mysterious and unfathomable. It does not shut out awe and wonder. It does not deny that people may have had the personal experience of meeting angels.

    In my experience the two (athiestts and material fundamentalists) are horny bedfellows

    What it does say is that it makes no sense to talk as if god is a fact.

    I have no problem with that. However, not talking as if god is a fact is different that talking about it being a fact that there is no god.

    Atheism, like science, makes a clear distinction between personal experience and consensus reality.

    Well, I’d like to read the atheists that are far removed from the materialist viewpoint. Haven’t come across em yet.

    Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must consign to silence.

    Exactly! Which is why rationalists should not analyze faith in terms of scientific method, materialism, or fact! Shouldn’t it flow both ways, the proscription?


    Scientific Method is the dogma. That’s a very limited toolkit, bub!
    Scientific Method is the toolkit for describing consensus reality. A toolkit and a dogma are not the same thing.

    Well, lets just say that in practice, I find the SM to be problematic. It is pragmatic, when it works. It doesn’t always work. You can’t remove the scientist from humanity. But R.A. Wilson (sheesh, Foucault for that matter) can give better analyses of the myriad problems inherent in science.

    I don’t understand why my distinction between free inquiry and uncritical acceptance leaves you dumbfounded.

    I think the distinction is proabaly a straw man, but I’d need to hear more. I’m certainly not an advocate of uncritical acceptance. In fact, I think it’s my critical analysis that insists on regarding reason as a belief system rather than a knowledge system (of course, if we are talking ultimate epistemology, knowledge is always difficult. But I don’t even think we need to get into that. The short version: to “prove” reason (say it is knowledge not belief) via reason requires begging the question. This is at the heart of my understanding of the implications of goedell. This doesn’t mean that I mightn’t “believe” in reason more than I “believe” in voodoo. I cannot let go of the knowledge that it is still the realm of belief, and does not deserve higher station than other beliefs, beyond its utilitarian or pragmatic value. Though in certain realms of existence (read other cultures other states of consciousness, as you wish, works for both), other belief systems might be of greater utility)

    No, one can’t PROVE that scientific method and reason are the ultimate paths to truth. As you say, no system is self-contained, per Goedel. But if I buy a $20 item and then find I have $20 less in my wallet, then reason and math and experience all square with each other. There is no slippage. On the other hand, if I pray to God to find a $20 bill and then do not, or if I pray for world peace and it doesn’t come, which is pretty much how these things will always work out, then my belief system and the world don’t square with each other. Reason reliably describes the world, Deism does not.

    Well, life is more than personal accounting, thank god. But, there are people who experience praying to god for money (or positive visualization, or NLP) and then *get money*! but scientific method doesn’t allow for anecdotal evidence, even though it itself depends on long chains of personal observation and communication etc..

    That doesn’t mean I can’t have a rich inner life or that I can’t have visions. It does mean that treating things I can only experience personally, or things I read about in books but which can’t be shown, as predictable facts, is foolish.

    I’m not advocating that, and I don’t see how you could think I am.


    i don’t see how this [that science constantly re-examines itself] is founded. in a very abstracct sense, some interpretations might point to this, but in practice? i. remain. doubtful.
    As Dylan points out, look how differently science describes the world today than it did 200, or 100, or 50 years ago. Some things have remained constant (gravity), some have turned inside out (heliocentricism), some of have changed in incremental ways as more evidence has been discovered (evolution). Science has changed because its constituation (scientific method) requires it to do so. A scientist not ready to give up his theory for another one when evidence requires, is not intellectually honest. But a Deist who loses his family in a disaster is likely to explain away the unfathomable phenomenon with something like “God works in mysterious ways.”

    Unfortunately, there are many scientists who hold great power (and this is what I mean by the humanity of scientists) that do not come with mind open. Many are so tightly bound to their preconceived notions of what is possible that they don’t even *entertain* new theories. Add in the fact that much pure science (even applied science now) happens in academia, and consider the politics of academia (or corporations of course in the commercial realm) that you are intimately familiar with. Then there is the fact that even if you are one of the brave (naïve?) souls who is willing to contemplate the novel or unconventional , that you still have to get through the peer review process that is very probably populated with the Fundamentalists, and you might get an idea of what I mean by the hegemony I perceive in the scientific world. I just reada great book that details a researcher’s experience in getting his unorthodox-but-plausible-to-many accepted in hte scientific community. It will do for your respect for “science” (qua the sci. establishment) what Omnivore’s Dilemma did for your respect for factory farming. The Emperor of Scent by Luca Turin.

    But riddle me this: even if you can prove that God doesn’t exist, how can you disprove the statement that “God works in mysterious ways”? (well, here I’m kinda riffing on the Wittgenstein aphorism… but I don’t see a contradiction. Because you can’t talk about faith with reason, and v/v).

    ***One more distinction to make: Atheists may be as confident as Religionists, but they are not dogmatic or fundamentalist.***
    I just don’t know how you can make that statement…which itself sounds dogmatic and fundamentalist.
    I don’t understand – why does my statement sound dogmatic or fundamentalist?

    Because you say with absolute certainty that Atheiests are not dogmatic or fundamentalists. The atheists I have experienced are fundamentalist materialists. Which is to say, they are dogmatic about the nature of reality and it’s ability to be described, only and accurately, by scientific method.

    David, that’s a very good point – to posit a god is to posit an unfathomably complex response where a simple one would do, to stretch at the limits of plausibility. I’m with Occam. Not, however, with Pascal.

    It’s *more* complex to say a single omniscient omnipotent being created everything than to go through the entire history of science and our current understanding of physics (sprinkling in a good amount of philosophy to help obfuscate the fact that its incomplete, and why it’s incomplete, and what are the possiblities that must be posited to account for the incompleteness, ad nauseum) to explain things?

    But as you know, my position is not that of the theist or religionist. More of the hyperagnostic. (or hypergnostic. Only because I think its more compassionate to state that I believe everything than to state I doubt everything. And compassion has real value for me… The neurophysical explanation of compassion, on the other hand, has very little of the same typeof value for me, though as you know medicine (and by extension neurophysics etc) fascinates me enough to the point of contemplating a career change. But I digress…)

    So. The big bone of contention, of course, is our disagreement about the nature and extent of belief (and maybe the …um…/purity/ of science in practice). And I suspect we’ll keep talking about that point. Also, remind me to expound on the continuum of “godstuff” and why i don’t see athiests accepting the metaphysical in any form. And more on constraining factual language to the realm of facts. but now, i must go and think about things totally removed form the current topic.

  17. Seems to me that there is a fundemental problem of perception here (perhaps similar, in the way that it arises from the peculiarities of the human mind, to the one which has elves and angels existing in the public consciousness and hence gaining a level of real existence). I can only speak from my own experience, coming from a more-or-less religious background, “discovering” atheism, and finding my perception of the world quite radically altered as a result.

    This change came as quite a surprise to me, and in some respects it didn’t come easily, but faced with the beauty, simplicity and flexibility of the atheist position, I found it impossible not to “re-brand” myself as an atheist.

    Having undergone such a radical change, and with the view of the world that I now hold, I know that if new evidence demanded it I would be able to “change my mind” again. I cannot speak for Dawkins (although from reading his work and watching interviews, I am sure that he is similarly flexible), but my own teacher, Sue Blackmore, has written extensively on “changing one’s mind”. It is something which is very difficult to do, given the vast number of mental models we all carry around which are predicated on our belief system. But it is something which almost all atheists who I’ve discussed the matter with are open to.

    Msafiri’s statement, that atheists are “operating from some sort of end-of-knowledge position” and Baald’s statement that atheists “conveniently *know* so many things that are unknowable” are, well, quite unknowable to me. Admittedly there are some atheists who seem to adopt the position merely so they can antagonise theists, but I think they’re in a minority and I certainly wouldn’t include Dawkins or Dennett among them (Harris – well, a little more borderline, perhaps, he does seem to take a confrontational “you’re either with us or against us” stance which I see increasting in many fields, particularly in the USA).

  18. Scot wrote, “But a Deist who loses his family in a disaster…”

    Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but I’d think a Theist would have more of an issue here vs. a Deist ;) I’m esp. thinking of the vast majority of Christians who are Theists in the “God as stage magician / vengeful sky genie” mode.

    That view of the Divine as some sort of “person” who selectively meddles in history falls apart real quickly for me. Theodicy being just the first problem that comes to mind…

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