Tuesday, December 5

Being Left, being right, and being a jerk.

No, there wouldn't be.

Ooh ma hunnies I think an interesting little flame war has been started at the New York F-in Times.

Nicholas Kristof, who by some approximations nears sainthood (I reckon there would be no Darfur coverage at all without his courage), takes on Darwin's Rottweiler:

If God is omniscient and omnipotent, you can't help wondering why she doesn't pull out a thunderbolt and strike down Richard Dawkins.

Doh! Oh Nick honey, don't sugarcoat it.

Ordinarily, we'd have to snip and clip the Kristof article as we could without a subscription to Times Select, or take the text from everybody's second-favorite rogue blogger. But behold, Dawkins puts up the eddy at his own site, in the spirit of "I'll just let my sycophants fight for me on the comment thread."

I'm really sorry that Kristof has such a halo over at NYFT, that his editorials probably don't get fact-checked, 'cause it's that next to last sentence, "Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let's hope that the Atheist Left doesn't revive them." that is so heinously incorrect as to get the Media Matters panties in a twist. (They love that.)

But look, essentially Kristof is right. Dawkins is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant people on the planet. He is by far the best defender of true science in the face of unscientific Christianist BS. For that alone we are, all of us, in his debt. Dawkins is also an arrogant prick. I think if Nicholas Kristof had even less editorial oversight, he might have said so.

[Slightly off topic, I love bloggers whose entire comment policy is "don't be an a-hole." I'm an a-hole often enough that I hopefully keep it to my own blog and emails. Trust me when I criticize Dawkins or anyone else, that I'm well aware that my own sins and failings keep me busy 24/7/365.]

But back to that brilliant prick Dawkins: In one of his own videos, Richard Dawkins sits through a religious revival meeting as if he has a large stick up his butt, then afterwards is warmly welcomed into the office of the minister in charge of the meeting. Within three minutes Dawkins is comparing the church experience to the Nuremberg rallies. To the minister's face. That's not science. That's bad manners.

A lot of leftie irreligionists would point out that the minister in this video is none other than Ted Haggard. Haggard of the homo/meth scandal, who certainly deserves to be painted with the widest brush full o' hypocrite paint we can find.

But Haggard uses the term arrogance to describe Dawkins, and Haggard is right. Kristof is right, too:

...this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is often just as intolerant — and mean. It's contemptuous and even ... a bit fundamentalist.

Based on your input, I'm submitting to Carnival of the Liberals my post from June, 2006,

"Are we anti- the Religious Right or just co-dependent?".

because it says just what I wish Kristof woulda coulda...


  1. According to Kristoff, only one to two percent of Americans are avowed atheists. To this number he dumps another fifteen percent of Americans who refuse to identify themselves with any particular religion, even though it's not at all clear whether or not this fifteen percent believe in the existence of a supreme being.

    Kristof is worried about this tiny number of Americans imposing their brand of fundamentalism on the rest of society? Puh-leeze...

    Is it any wonder atheists stay closeted? Virtually no one will cast a vote for an atheist. Parents don't want their children to marry an atheist. A new study on the topic that will be published in April finds that "the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism."

    It takes the arrogance of a Dawkins to get any attention at all for arguments that pose atheism as a viable, wholly moral and reasoned approach to modern discourse on any number of topics.

    Kristof's opining in this instance is idiotic. There is no evidence in the November election results to indicate that atheism has advanced a foothold in our culture. "Secular" does not equate with "atheist." One can still be a follower of Jesus, God, Mohammed, or any other deity and cast a vote that weighs the issues of the day based upon what the person feels is best for a tolerant society as a whole, rather than voting to impose one's personal belief system on society.


  2. It takes the arrogance of a Dawkins to get any attention at all for arguments that pose atheism as a viable, wholly moral and reasoned approach to modern discourse on any number of topics.

    I think that's spot on, AL. Dawkins is Darwin's Rotweiler, but perhaps that's because in this day and age, with the fundies screaming from every corner, from the schoolboard to the state house, Darwin and science itself needs someone fierce and with teeth. As I said in the post, Kristof totally loses his grip on reality, thinking those folks are backing down in the culture wars. Thanks.

  3. Anonymous5:29 PM

    Where did Kristof get his data about the percentage of Americans who are atheists? There was a recent Harris poll indicating a current net absence of belief at 11%, which broke down to the following:
    Somewhat certain that there is no God: 6%
    Absolutely certain that there is no God: 6%
    Not sure whether or not there is a God: 16%

    I commented on it about a month ago (pleeeeease tell me you've been reading me, Beeg) and just you wait until I publish my post on why I hate both versions (religious and secular) of Xmas.

  4. As Haggard demonstrates, even an asshat can be right sometimes.

    Other than that, the only thing I have to say is, "Can't we all just get along!"

  5. Blue Gal - On your recommendation alone, I purchased and have started reading "The God Delusion."

    Generally, I am loving it. I was telling friend over coffee this morning about it, and commented that it is good in-spite of the smug condescending tone. I was afraid it was just me feeling very Californian, so thanks for the post.



  6. Oh Tengrain, I'm honored you read Dawkins on my recommendation alone. Just watch it if I start telling you about Patricia Gaffney or modern regency romances. If I read it in the bathtub (um, that would not be Dawkins) be very afraid.

  7. When I was undergoing cancer treatment the hospital chaplain came by to help me with my spiritual battle. Very politely told her that I did not follow any formal religion and had a real problem with dogma. We had a few more moments of small talk then she left never to return to my room.

    I bring this up since there is an impression that us non-believers fold in time of crisis or lack spirituality. Nothing is farther from the truth.

    So when Dawkins steps to the forefront to take on the godbags it's reason we celebrate, not just the confrontation

  8. It sounds, organic, like the hospital chaplain folded. Did she not have anything to offer you other than dogma?

    Kristof in his article talks about church groups actually making a difference in Africa. I didn't see John Bolton doing that.

    When my mother in law was dying of cancer in a hospice and had days to go, members of her church came over and cleaned her entire house and stocked the fridge for all the family members who were coming from out of town to say goodbye. It blew me away.

    Would that the chaplain could have offered you help with the discharge papers, brought you some fruit that might taste good to you despite your treatment, anything. Just because. Instead, she disappeared because you did not want her dogma? Puhleeze.

    Faith without works is dead, folks. Just saying.

  9. Blue Gal, has it occurred to you that non-believers also do good for their neighbors and mankind in general?

    If you have to do good for the sake of religon, then are you doing these deeds just to "get right with God"? Or is the good deed, regardless of intentions, still good for humanity?

    I find most religious leaders tend to fold when you refuse to discuss dogma, with out it they are rudderless.

  10. Of course. I didn't say works without faith is dead, I said the opposite. Just as secularists and religionists alike can be fundamentalist jerks, they can also be humanitarians. Maybe I'm really saying that deep down inside, we're each of us an a-hole. Or at least we're human.

    Not to get all Marianne Williamson on you, but her point that there are two emotions in the world, fear and love, and that's it, really resonates with me. I don't give a rat's behind if your motivation for performing a loving act is out of religious motives or just because you are a "nice person." Most of the time, anything nice I do is motivated by the latter. I try to be a nice person at least as much as I try to be a so-called "good Christian." But I really turn to my faith when I'm tempted to be motivated by fear. That leads to hate, the most intense form of fear, and I don't want to be motivated by that. That's where faith really carries me, rather than mere human "niceness." I really see "fear not" as one of the great commandments (it's all over the Psalms, actually) along with "love more." Not sure I'm making any sense at this point, it's late.

    Good conversation as usual, Organic, thanks. I'm to the hammock.

  11. Anonymous12:22 AM

    Would that Kritof were as vigilant with regard to the offensive and relentless prouncements of our modern Pharisees. We got a guy who calls bullshit on organized religion and he gets some attention. Yet decades of more or less continuous sermons from the legions of the religious right are largely unremarked upon by our pussyfooting pundit class. It appears that the simple word "religion" tends to dignify intolerance, ignorance, and self-righteousness while muffling opposition and obliging critics to tread carefully. Dawkins, obviously, didn't get the memo.

  12. my son -in-law is an atheist as his father is and his father's father was. my son-in-law is one of the kindest, most moral and ethical men i know. he doesn't tell people he is an atheist unless asked because of the attitudes that are out there.
    he is quite often asked, "what prevents you from murdering someone since you don't believe in god?"
    can you believe that?

    he tells them that he believes that murder is wrong! geez!

    truly, if adults need a "god" as a divine policeman to keep from murder and other assorted crimes then shame on them. that tells me that they are only acting in a moral manner due to fear or maybe love of god, but still, it doesn't say much for their ethics or how moral THEY might be if tomorrow they woke up to find that there truly isn't a god!

    my son-in-law doesn't want to convince or force anyone to his beliefs. i wish the same could be said of some people of faith round the world and right here in our country.

  13. Fear or Love only?

    Interesting concept

    I live my life with good intentions, hell I'm an Eagle Scout, but I also know there are a lot of psychopaths, not just those who take life, but those whose actions are void of any humanity so I assume her premise is for those with a conscience.

    Things I fear such as inhumanity and devastation of the earth, I confront every day with the work I chose. Every time we convert one acre of chemical farming to sustainable, we heal the earth and make it safe for those who work in the fields. It's my small part but it makes it easy to get up in the moring.

    Spirituality without religion.

  14. Tengrain - I, personally, think TGD is good because of the "smug condescending tone". It's nice to hear an atheist with some conviction and some freaking balls. "God" knows your average Evangelical doesn't worry about sounding smug when he starts telling everyone that God hates fags and God let us be attacked on 9/11 because we didn't kiss Israel's ass enough, or whatever other crap they come up with.

    Better yet, Dawkins can at least defend most of his rantings with evidence and logical reasoning. I'll admit he sets up one or two strawmen whilst attacking mainstream religion. But overall he's saying a lot of things that really need to be said. And, he's taking a lot of flack for it on behalf of the rest of us. He'd be a saint if atheism were a religion!

  15. Anonymous6:29 PM

    Dawkins and his brother-in-arms, Sam Harris respond to Kristof:

    To the Editor:

    Re “A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion,” by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, Dec. 3):

    Contrary to Mr. Kristof’s opinion, it isn’t “intolerant” or “fundamentalist” to point out that there is no good reason to believe that one of our books was dictated by an omniscient deity.

    Half of the American population believes that the universe is 6,000 years old. They are wrong about this. Declaring them so is not “irreligious intolerance.” It is intellectual honesty.

    Given the astounding number of galaxies and potential worlds arrayed overhead, the complexities of life on earth and the advances in our ethical discourse over the last 2,000 years, the world’s religions offer a view of reality that is now so utterly impoverished as to scarcely constitute a view of reality at all.

    This is a fact that can be argued for from a dozen sides, as Richard Dawkins and I have recently done in our books. Calling our efforts “mean” overlooks our genuine concern for the future of civilization.

    And it’s not much of a counterargument either.

    Sam Harris
    New York, Dec. 3, 2006

    To the Editor:

    Nicholas D. Kristof is one of many commentators to find the tone of the newly resurgent atheism “obnoxious” or “mean.”

    Ubiquitous as they are, such epithets are not borne out by an objective reading of the works he cites: Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation,” my own “God Delusion” and www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com (I had not been aware of this splendid Web site; thank you, Mr. Kristof).

    I have scanned all three atheist sources carefully for polemic, and my honest judgment is that they are gentle by the standards of normal political commentary, say, or the standards of theater and arts critics.

    Mr. Kristof has simply become acclimatized to the convention that you can criticize anything else but you mustn’t criticize religion. Ears calibrated to this norm will hear gentle criticism of religion as intemperate, and robust criticism as obnoxious. Without wishing to offend, I want “The God Delusion” to raise our consciousness of this weird double standard.

    How did religion acquire its extraordinary immunity against normal levels of criticism?

    Richard Dawkins
    Oxford, England, Dec. 4, 2006

    Now for a bit of shameless self promotion. I covered this topic a couple months ago here: http://bigdaddymalcontent.blogspot.com/2006/09/sunday-sermon.html


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