Wednesday, August 09, 2006

One section at a time

To avoid confusion and in the interests of time, I'm going to deconstruct my own work one passage at a time. My deconstructive comments are in bold.

The religious nutballs on the extreme right Interesting that no one took umbrage at my use of the term 'religious nutballs'. have kept us rational lefties so busy that we've neglected an important although onerous duty -- cleaning the secular whackjobs out of our own attic, the extreme left. Whackjob...a play on words of the common pairing of that term with religious. The pun, obviously, was ill-received.(Of course, extremisms of the religious or atheistic nature are only a small part of the sum total of extremism. Each form of thought has its own whackjobs of varying stripes.) Why face off with the secular whackjobs? Because extremism is extremism is extremism. No rational movement dedicated to intellectual courage and honesty should maintain a relationship with those for whom intellectual laziness, dishonesty, and cowardice are a way of life. Doing what must be done to insure the integrity of the left will require identifying our extremists, countering their mythologies, and acknowledging the dangers they pose to a truly liberal society. As I mentioned earlier, extremism of thought builds the foundation for extremist actions. This is my intent behind the phrase "extremism is extremism is extremism." Although extremist action amongst even the most radical/militant of atheists is limited to general rudeness at this time, any future extremist action may build on the ideological framework provided by ideologues like Sam Harris, Steven Weinberg, and Richard Dawkins. There, I named names. Happy?
First, what is a secular whackjob? The term secular for the purposes of this article will refer to those who disbelieve all religious and spiritual claims, not to those who merely support a separation of church and state. Although all secular extremists are atheists, not all atheists are secular extremists. Definitely, a badly written paragraph with editing changes (mine) that muddied the waters. This and the following were once one paragraph. With the sentence beginning "The term secular..." in parentheses, which perhaps would have avoided some of the conclusion. As some have pointed out, the actual definition of secular whackjob is below.Also, as pointed out in my post on the dictionary, I did NOT make up this definition of secular.
The whackjob is a special sort of atheist, one so absolutely certain of the inerrancy of atheism Perhaps I should have used different words here to indicate only those who insist in the absolute that the supernatural does not/cannot exist and they know this for a fact. and so virulently opposed to religion that he will latch on to any and all outrageous claims in defense of the former and against the latter. He will meet any criticism of atheism or postive representation of religion as a horrible attack on his way of life or as support for religious extremism and oppression. Just as the religious extremist holds that his belief in a supreme being alone makes him morally and spiritually superior, the secular extremist holds that his belief that no such being exists and virulent opposition to the reverse make him intellectually and ethically superior. Finally, he will ignore any and all reason or evidence that refutes his claims.

So, what are the secular extremist's claims? They are legion, but I will stick to some of the major claims I've encountered in "respected" secularist media and in debate with atheist friends and readers. I chose to stick to those that I thought were the dividing line between reasonable atheist belief (Let's not get sematic on the belief thing. Belief/disbelief are all parts of the same mental processes.) and extremism. Perhaps I should have gone with the most bizarre and outrageous claims, but I thought that would be a little too "straw man". Forgive me as I am a bit too amused at the irony.

10 Comments:

Blogger Righteous Bubba said...

Whackjob...a play on words of the common pairing of that term with religious. The pun, obviously, was ill-received.

I don't get the pun. Is there one?

7:17 PM  
Blogger Righteous Bubba said...

Why face off with the secular whackjobs? Because extremism is extremism is extremism.

All well and good so far.

Although extremist action amongst even the most radical/militant of atheists is limited to general rudeness at this time,

Whoops, this reads like a line from Monty Python.

any future extremist action may build on the ideological framework provided by ideologues like Sam Harris, Steven Weinberg, and Richard Dawkins. There, I named names. Happy?

Maybe. Quote them and we'll find out what you take issue with in what they're saying. I've read Harris and Dawkins and I haven't encountered anything I would think of as similar in spirit to whatever motivated Soviets to demolish churches (although that's an amusing pastime in Sim City...stupid churches popping up in what could be valuable parkland...).

The whackjob is a special sort of atheist, one so absolutely certain of the inerrancy of atheism Perhaps I should have used different words here to indicate only those who insist in the absolute that the supernatural does not/cannot exist and they know this for a fact.

There's some hair-splitting involved here. I'm pretty much that person (I'd be fascinated to be proven wrong) although I'll nod my head in assent (while rolling my eyes) that you can't prove the non-existence of something. I will tell you, for instance, that your belief in God is simply wrong. I can't actually prove it's wrong, but there's nothing to prove you have a leg to stand on so from my perspective I just don't care. The functional difference between positive assertion of non-existence and admission that there's a vanishingly small probability that God exists as you imagine him is not worth the time I give to regretting uneven jam distribution on my toast. This "you can't prove it doesn't exist" stuff is not a meaningful out, as demonstrated by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

and so virulently opposed to religion that he will latch on to any and all outrageous claims in defense of the former and against the latter.

Virulence is pretty annoying.

He will meet any criticism of atheism or postive representation of religion as a horrible attack on his way of life or as support for religious extremism and oppression.

But as you've seen, this applies to non-extremists, and reasonably so, at least in a sociological sense, as people who feel embattled or abused get snippy about it, regardless of what their minority status is. Another fold of whatever persecution complex might exist is that an atheist who knows what he's talking about, when confronted by religionists who want to take him to task, is baffled by what is clearly nonsense. Look at Richard Dawkins squirm as people talk crazy talk to him.

Just as the religious extremist holds that his belief in a supreme being alone makes him morally and spiritually superior, the secular extremist holds that his belief that no such being exists and virulent opposition to the reverse make him intellectually and ethically superior.

Just as there are knee-jerk religious types who haven't really thought everything through, I'm sure there are knee-jerk atheists. They've chosen X tribe and they're jerks about it.

However, intellectual arguments for or against atheism are hands-down won by atheists whenever they're reasonably handy with a sentence. It's the way it goes. It's doesn't make an intellectually superior individual when you have the Ferrari argument and your opponent's relying on the moped argument, but the argument is superior and that's that. Part of your article seems to be founded on the idea that there are worthwhile arguments for God. There aren't.

Ethical superiority? I've seen it asserted, but is there a measure that could be used to test any of that?

Finally, he will ignore any and all reason or evidence that refutes his claims.

What claims are being referred to? If the claims are that God doesn't exist, the only argument available is the "you can't disprove him" one. On the other hand, if this secular extremist is claiming that religion only causes grief and never helps anything, all fundamentalists are crazy child molesters or something, well, those are arguments that can be battled against.

So, what are the secular extremist's claims? They are legion

This is kind of funny, but I don't think, as a religious individual, it's necessarily wise to suggest that atheists are possessed by demons.

but I will stick to some of the major claims I've encountered in "respected" secularist media and in debate with atheist friends and readers. I chose to stick to those that I thought were the dividing line between reasonable atheist belief (Let's not get sematic on the belief thing. Belief/disbelief are all parts of the same mental processes.) and extremism.

No, let's get semantic. Belief and disbelief are the same mental processes? Who says?

Perhaps I should have gone with the most bizarre and outrageous claims, but I thought that would be a little too "straw man". Forgive me as I am a bit too amused at the irony.

Ah yes. Bizarre and outrageous claims. Gotta go.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Righteous Bubba said...

At the risk of being Minnie Mouse, you should italicize the old article and provide comments in normal text. The bold is barely visible in the articles.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Righteous bubba,

I think most of my comments in the later post will resolve some of this. However, I'd just point out that the word legion doesn't mean demon-possessed. It means great in number. (Think Roman legions.)

11:10 AM  
Blogger Righteous Bubba said...

I think most of my comments in the later post will resolve some of this. However, I'd just point out that the word legion doesn't mean demon-possessed. It means great in number. (Think Roman legions.)

It's contextual. I know what a legion is, having read Roman history written by actual Romans, but one of the more famous acts of Jesus was casting demons from a possessed individual into a pig. The demons, prior to this, collectively say "I am legion".

I have a suspicion that the use of the phrase "x is legion" in common parlance stems mainly from the biblical phrase. I could be wrong, but even so it's the kind of thing that good writers slip into a piece as a joke.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Righteous bubba,

Jesus asked "What is your name?", implying one demon. The demons, plural, said that they were legion because there were many of them. The word legion may reflect that story to some, but I assure you that it's literal definition was the only thing on my mind.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Righteous Bubba said...

Jesus asked "What is your name?", implying one demon. The demons, plural, said that they were legion because there were many of them.

Yes, I wrote that above.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Yes, but that word does NOT mean demon-possessed. It was used (actually, a Greek work similar to it)to state that there were many demons. To pretend that that word is forever off limits b/c it is the loose English translation of a Greek word in the Christian scriptures is ridiculous. To imply that anyone who uses it is implying demon possession (especially someone like myself who doesn't believe in demon possession) is even more so.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Righteous Bubba said...

I know what the word means. Believe me. Just suggesting that you clean up your language to avoid miscommunication, which is, I believe, what you've been attempting to do, am I right?

Anyway a quick google for the phrase reveals that more than a few people who use it are familiar with demons and swine.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Yes, I'm just asking you to believe me that that was the furthest thing from my mind when I used that word. If someone thought that I was actually calling atheists demon-possessed then I've got real problems. (Maybe I'M demon-possessed. That's why I'm "subconsciously" referring to demons. I'll get the holy water. You call Benny Hinn.)

4:40 PM  

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