Monday, August 20, 2012

GnuAtheism rebrands with same old triumphalism

In what is the latest wink, wink, nudge, nudge kicking of non-atheists by inference since Dan Dennett invented the word "brights" then lied about what he was implying, the Freethought bloggers "bullies" are at it again, with "atheism plus," unveiled by Greta Christina, whom I've never cared for.

Now, it's rebranding GnuAtheism as "Atheism +." (Will Google + sue over trademark infringement?)

Two of the FtB folks most promoting this? Greta Christina, whose on ninth-wave feminism like Rebecca Watson, Stephanie Zvan and others of her ilk, and Ashley F. Miller.

And, Miller spills the beans right away, and why this is nothing other than good old, bad old Gnu Atheism: 
The desire to hold on to “atheism” rather than use the term “humanism” isn’t from a fundamental difference of goals and beliefs, but from a difference of self-definition. I personally like “atheism+” because it’s more confrontational, embraces a minority position that is loathed by many, and it is more transparent about the belief that religion is one of the root causes of many social injustices.  My humanism is more than just secular, it is anti-religion.
And, this is exactly why people like me and online (would-be that it were in person) friends like Leo Lincourt don't use the word "atheism."

Beyond that, this is a misuse of the word. There's hundreds of millions of atheist Buddhists; they don't believe in a deity, but they're definitely religious.

Beyond that, as for Miller tying this into gay rights, etc.? While she's not talking about violence, the confrontationalism, to some degree, goes back to the 1960s and violent vs. nonviolent approaches to black civil rights. Well, to the degree that black (and other) civil rights were advanced, it was the nonviolent approach that won.

But, Gnus like her seem fixated on confrontation as part of the message.
Greta Christina implies the rebranding is all needed due to things that are the fault of plain old vanilla atheists:
If you’ve been getting worn down and discouraged by the seemingly-endless barrage of misogyny and trolling and hateful stupid in atheism and skepticism lately.
Actually, yes, I noticed the tidal wave of all of that. Actually, because I don't read that much of "ninth wave atheism," and never go to FtB blogs unless a friend points out inanity like this, I had no idea. (Of course, what I've posted at her blog's and Miller's is certainly already being labeled trollery.)

Jen McCreight, whose "freethinking" T-shirt this summer about wanting to "destroy religion" showed more of what this game is about, has this list of secular humanist ideals with which, under the guise of sterner, stronger atheism, all others must be confronted:
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

First, there's other atheists who do the same, without being confrontational. Second, you don't do the last point on your checklist, no matter your claim.

Besides, an earlier "wave" of feminism, rather than turning to atheism, turned to putative pre-patriarchy mother goddesses. They saw atheism as being patriarchal also. (It's not today, but looked more that way "back then," tis true.)

Then, in another blog post, she makes this WAYYYYY over the top claim:
I don't feel safe as a woman in this community — and I feel less safe than I do as a woman in science, or a woman in gaming, or hell, as a woman walking down the fucking sidewalk.

Ignoring the rhetoric,  since she of course doesn't hold truck with the existence of hell, it's still generally laughable. Let's track this empirically — what are the rates of sexual harassment claims at conferences of atheism (skepticism isn't the same thing, and you ladies aren't claiming to be skeptics +) versus all conferences of nonprofit informational groups?

Anyway, I've had enough fun with this one. It's just the latest salvo in the skepatheistchick nonsense and I'll stop feeding the flames.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A failed attempt at theodicy

Rev. Timothy Keller makes a nice try, when he says that if one uses the existence of suffering or natural evil, and its seeming unfairness, as part of rejecting the existence of god, it doesn't work, because the suffering remains senseless without a deity.

Not true; that's a framing mistake. It's really similar to Gilbert Ryle's idea of category mistakes.

"Sense" and "senseless" are both related, in general, to the issue of agency. And obviously, nature (unless one is a New Ager) isn't a personal being with powers of agency. A good existentialist could do more to straighten out Keller.

That's just the first of four straw men that Keller sets up to knock down.

The second is that this means that any god who exists is less than omnipotent.
But that kind of God doesn’t really fit our definition of “God.” So that thinking hardly helps us with reconciling God and suffering.
Well, maybe your definition is wrong. Isn't it arrogant to assume it isn't? And, that's a problem I have with theologically liberal Christians. It's for similar reasons I unfriended on Facebook, and eventually blocked there, a Harvard Divinity student who claimed Plato's famous Euthyphro dilemma (is "good" what it is because god orders it? then god can be capricious; is "good" what it is by its own nature? then "good" has moral standing independent of god) didn't apply to the god of Christianity.

(Honest grasping of the dilemma, perhaps through distinguishing between contingent and necessary moral truths, while ultimately a failure, would still be an effort, at least, not a craven dismissal. The "false dilemma" claims of some Christian Fathers, as listed on Wikipedia, aren't very good, either; they're halfway on the road to the ontological argument for god's existence, and it's no wonder Anselm is among those making this claim.)

The third one is that some people suffer because they're more evil. Well, about no nontheist claims that. Many of us do claim that, within a monotheistic theodicy, it sure looks that way, though, even if we're not Gnu Atheist knife-twisters.

Fourth is what he says is a half-answer; it's the will of god, we have to but accept.

He spins on this to go to us needing to be like children before god.

Not true. In fact, a god who creates sentient, curious, thinking beings, but then says "hey, wait a minute" and hides behind inscrutability is ultimately guilty of inflicting psychological evil on those creatures, thereby making the "problem of evil" worse, if anything.

Now Keller is just a parish pastor, not a theologian. Nonetheless, he's a pastor in New York City for a mainline, vaguely liberal Protestant denomination. And, he can't do better than this?