NYTimes opinion piece #2: Kristof
Posted: 04 December 2006 11:21 AM   [ Ignore ]
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You can read it HERE. (May require login or become paid).

Nicholas Kristof’s "A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion" was published in yesterday’s Times, and is certainly a better piece of reasoning than the previous "Atheists Agonistes". But that said, it’s tediously of the same tone: the atheists should stop criticizing religion in public.

Dawkins and Harris are cited as the two "obnoxious atheists", also termed "militant", "in-your-face", "contemptuous", "mean" and "intolerant". Certainly they have strong opinions, but they are "militant" only discursively. Unlike their religious brethren, they aren’t actually threatening anyone with anything more than pointed arguments.

Kristof does make the good point that atheists are not politically tolerated in this country, and he does approvingly cite a pro-choice argument of Harris. But his string of epithets is not accompanied by any actual examples of atheistic obnoxiousness apart from the simple forthright argument for their position. Certainly, as claimed by one Pew researcher, Harris and Dawkins have an "aggressive rhetorical style", but this is so normal as to be inconsequential in the political haranguing of our public airways, so what precisely is the problem here? It would appear that Kristof simply wants atheists to stop saying what they believe; that is, he wants us to shut up. And that itself is a form of "intolerance".

Perhaps the weakest claim in the entire article is in Kristof’s final paragraph, where he says, "Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let╠s hope that the Atheist Left doesn╠t revive them." First of all, [i:4197fcc976]pace[/i:4197fcc976] Barry, the atheist movement is not entirely on the left wing. There are many displaced right-wing atheists who are quite happy with Dawkins and Harris. Secondly, and more to the point, where is the evidence that the Christian Right has "largely retreated from the culture wars"? This is at best an example of over-extrapolation from the most recent modest electoral success. One might argue with more reason that the turn in the political tide last November was due to some of the same variables that catapulted Dawkins and Harris to the bestseller list. Political and religious moderates, not to mention the "left", are simply [i:4197fcc976]fed up[/i:4197fcc976] with proto-theocrats getting all the political attention in this country.

But that is not to say that the religious right has decided to "retreat" in any important sense of the word. And any assumption that they will roll up their revivalist tent is about as likely as the Discovery Institute’s closing their doors and donating their funds to Richard Dawkins.

And until they do roll up the tents, we will need people who are rhetorically gifted, knowledgeable and [i:4197fcc976]willing[/i:4197fcc976] to get into the muck and argue forthrightly for the secularist, scientifically credible position. This is not an easy thing to do, and only a handful are willing and able to do it. Dawkins and Harris are two. And whatever their failings, we owe them a debt of gratitude for their efforts.

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Posted: 04 December 2006 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Nicholas Kristof’s “A Modest Proposal for a Truce on Religion” was published in yesterday’s Times, and is certainly a better piece of reasoning than the previous “Atheists Agonistes”. But that said, it’s tediously of the same tone: the atheists should stop criticizing religion in public.

I would agree that atheists should stop criticizing religion but only when religions stop proselytizing, and people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell stop blaming all the world’s ills on everyone who isn’t a conservative Christian.

While I’m not a missionary about atheism, whenever anyone pushes theism, I’m very vocal in my response rejecting it.  When they learn to keep their mouths shut I’ll do the same.

Occam

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Posted: 04 December 2006 02:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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atheists, naturalists, humanists… oh my!

Doug: First of all, pace Barry, the atheist movement is not entirely on the left wing.

1) I agree with Doug in his last post, the Religious Right will never retreat.. but the politicians who court them (most current Republicans, many of which are not Dominionists, etc), may have shown their true colors and alienated the religious Right.  It this true, it might be the only good thing the Neo-Con Republicans have done since 1994!

2) I will have to read the NYT Op-ed when I get back home, but I doubt he his telling atheists to shut up.  Face it, atheists are in the minority, much misunderstood and maligned… we don’t have to start behaving like the religious Right ‘arrogant angry men (and Ann and Laura)’, and right-wing movers/shakers (even via merely offering words and not deeds, because atheist deeds would not effect the establishment clause any more than the deeds of liberal religionists) ... of which the likes of Harris and Dawkins are doing. 

For one, no atheist will change the religious opinion of Americans with any good arguements; these books are really to energize atheist foot-soldiers and piss off lots of other people.  Religion is not about intellectual arguments (which are good in books like Michael Martin’s or Kurtz’s for the person who is looking for such); trust me, these books are making matters worse (or at least harder, for humanists - if perhaps not angry atheists who just don’t care anyway - to show the masses what a naturalistic, compassionate, spiritual philosophy humanism is.  Also, since religion is NOT only about invisible gods and supernaturalism, Harris and Dawkins are being quite parochial.

On the plane flight to LA today, I saw a woman - not any kind of ‘fundie’ from the looks of her - clutching her Roseries.  She, like many of us post 9/11, was afraid to fly.  First I said to myself, ‘who does she think she’s praying to?’  Then I said to myself, ‘will Sam Harris-styled atheist advocacy mean anything to this woman?’ 

No, was my answer to the second question. 

Then I thought of a funny comic strip (I just made up in my head) where, on a plane, a woman is clutching her Rosery beads with eyes closed, praying.  Next to her is a Jew clutching a mezuza(sp) with his eyes closed, praying.  And finally, next to the two of them, is a man (maybe he looks like Tom Flynn :twisted: ), and he has his eyes closed while clutching “End of Faith” by Sam Harris LOL

3) No, not all atheists are Leftists.  Why would they be?  Naturalists would more likely be progressives than atheists, and humanists are Leftists (including left-Libertarianists) by default.

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Posted: 04 December 2006 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Well, I don’t know that End of Faith is really going to help anyone get through a panic attack ... unless you are panicked about arguing with a fundie!

LOL

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Posted: 07 December 2006 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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oy vey

[quote author=“dougsmith”]Well, I don’t know that End of Faith is really going to help anyone get through a panic attack ... unless you are panicked about arguing with a fundie!

LOL

You missed my sarcasm…

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Posted: 07 December 2006 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Re: oy vey

[quote author=“Barry”]You missed my sarcasm…

Actually, I chose to ignore it.

:wink:

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Posted: 07 December 2006 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Re: oy vey

[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“Barry”]You missed my sarcasm…

Actually, I chose to ignore it.

:wink:


Then your response made even less sense.

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