Intolerant Secularists

Secularistsby Enza Ferreri   8/18/14
People like Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion (Amazon USA) , (Amazon UK) , and Christopher Hitchens, who wrote God Is Not Great (Amazon USA) , (Amazon UK) , et al, when attacking “religion”, play on various ambiguities. They create ambiguities in their choice of terms and then these ambiguities are convenient for them.

The first instance of ambiguity is the use of the term “religion.” It puts together all sorts of people and doctrines which may have very little in common.

To give an analogy, the flat earth theory is undoubtedly a theory of physics. It says something about the earth and, by extension, is a cosmology theory because the universe in which a flat earth exists would be a different universe from ours. It is scientific because it can be tested and disproved, as indeed it has.

Now, if I wanted to criticize scientific physics, I could bundle together the flat earth theory with Newton’s classical mechanics and Einstein’s relativity theory, and say about the former things which are obviously not true about the two latter.

When Dawkins and company attack “religion”, they bundle together Muslim suicide bombers (who are among the most hated figures of our times) with Catholic and other Christian missionaries who risk disease to help the poor in African and other Third World countries.[pullquote]…as in science, different theories redefine the concepts they use . . . so in religion the same is true: different doctrines have different concepts of God, and they may have very little in common.[/pullquote]

But, from their viewpoint, it’s a good ploy. If you are not interested in truth and intellectual honesty but only in scoring points (political and non), you can use generic terms which are obviously ambiguous and create confusion by mixing “il sacro e il profano” (“chalk and cheese”). Then, by attacking the obviously bad, you have achieved the effect of also attacking the obvioulsy good in the process. And if you’re good at it, it can be as in a magic trick: nobody noticed where the card, or in this case the truth, disappeared or indeed if it did disapper at all.

Men of science like Dawkins should know that, as in science, different theories redefine the concepts they use (Newtonian time and space are not the same as Einsteinian time and space), so in religion the same is true: different doctrines have different concepts of God, and they may have very little in common.

In short, you cannot criticize “religion” meaningfully, especially by extending bad aspects of terrible religions to other religions which are fundamentally good.

Another ambiguity that they employ is when they say “religion is declining in the West” or something to that effect. In that case, what they mean is clearly “Christianity” and not “religion”, given that other religions professed by ethnic minorities who live in the West do not show sign of decline.

Here they got it wrong again. Christianity still permeates Western life and way of thinking profoundly. We are all Christian, as Oriana Fallaci says. I am an atheist Christian as she is, and I’m borrowing her expression because I think it explains well the condition of our “secular” societies too.

These, and we ourselves, have been shaped by two millennia of Christian thinking, luckily. An article by John Gray on secular fundamentalists in The Guardian seems to agree with this when he says that Dawkins & co. are really expressions of the Christian background from which they derive (and he does not even defend Christianity, he just attacks Dawkins and his gang). He believes that the very idea of history as progress is Christian.

I don’t know where we would be without this profound Christian influence. Britain, which is perhaps the least Christian country in Western Europe (perhaps in the West) has also some of the greatest drugs and alcohol problems, highest level of teenager pregnancy, highest rate of illegitimate births, biggest problem of an underclass, highest crime rate, highest level of debt among the population, highest spread of obesity.

This is where abandoning our Christian roots would lead: forgetting self-discipline and only thinking of immediate self-gratification have these effects. Which is also part of the reason why, whereas it may be possible for an individual to be atheist, I don’t think that it is apossible for a society to be atheist.

When Dawkins and people of his ilk say something like “hey, look, we are a secular society now and we are fine” or something similar, they systematically forget, overlook or disregard the many, profound, pervasive ways in which many centuries of Christianity have influenced our society and still do. I can see it in myself, how my Christian upbringing still has a (mostly beneficial) effect on me.

Where the intolerant secularists also got it wrong is in putting science and religion against each other. They think that they are incompatible, whereas in fact they occupy different domains, and there is no conflict or contradiction. In fact, you may say that the problems arise when one of them tries to occupy the other’s territory, and attributes to itself a role and capability which it does not possess.

Dawkins is a good case in point. When he writes as a modern evolutionary and genetic theorist and as a zoologist, he is fine and indeed very interesting. When he writes as a self-proclaimed philosopher and a “religion basher”, he writes nonsense.

Something similar happens to science when it usurps a role which is not its own. Dawkins is a good metaphor for this arrogance and its consequences: when he tries to attributes to both himself and science a role which they do not have and a power which they do not possess, they get it all wrong. Basically, biology is his profession, and philosophy of religion is his fun activity, his hobby. I would call him a religion basher by hobby. He definitely should stick to his profession, because he is rubbish at his hobby.

We have to be careful that science does not overstep its domain and role, because many bad things may easily follow from this.

Positivism was a 19th century philosophy which overstressed the power and importance of science. The French positivist sociologist August Comte thought that humanity goes through three stages: “the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive.”

Gray’s article does not mention him but mentions the anthropologist James George Frazer instead, who slightly altered and popularized Comte’s theories His three stages are: primitive magic; religion; and science.

All this leads to scientism, the belief that the scientific method can be applied to everything and that science is the most authoritative and valuable learning activity to the exclusion of other viewpoints.

We can easily give too much power to science, as the case of animal experimentation clearly and tragically shows. Most people in the West probably are morally, instinctively opposed to vivisection, but they just accept it because “scientists say that it’s necessary” without even trying to question whether that statement by scientists is true or not.

Technocracy, government by scientists and technical experts, is just as bad as any other form of control by an elite.


EnzaEnza Ferreri is an Italian-born, London-based Philosophy graduate, author, and journalist. She has been a London correspondent for several Italian magazines and newspapers, including Panorama, L’Espresso, La Repubblica. She is in the Executive Council of the UK’s party Liberty GB. • (1837 views)

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12 Responses to Intolerant Secularists

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    First off, I want to thank Enza for sharing her great thoughts with us. Running a blog takes time, energy, and money, so please do visit Enza’s blog and show her a little of that StubbornThings generosity and click on her PayPal button. We want to keep voices like this front-and-center, especially when such voices are behind enemy lines, so to speak. Even though separated sometimes by continents or oceans, we are all on the snow-covered fields of Valley Forge, freezing our keisters off in the cause of liberty and Western Civilization.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I should start off by pointing out Mr. Kung’s concordant article, Atheistic Fundamentalists, an article that even surprised Mr. Kung in the reaction he got to it.

    I personally have no problem with people who don’t believe in God. In some respects, even the most religious of people can’t believe in God in the sense that we can have even the barest comprehension of such a stupendous Entity — at least enough to say that one can know with radical certainty. That is not to discount faith or people’s innate sense of knowing. It’s just to admit the obvious, that if you stepped back and looked at the difference between the comprehension of God by atheists and by the most devout Christian, compared to The Real Thing (and I don’t mean Coca-Cola), both beliefs would seem to converge into little separation like staring down a pair of railroad tracks. Whatever difference exists would tend to merge into nothingness compared to the wide gap in our knowledge of God.

    Which is not to say that belief or non-belief does not have implications, even if our belief is inexact or uncertain. The greatest critique of secularism or atheism is nothing I can say. I merely point to Nazism, Communism, and all the other atheist regimes of this and the last century. Whatever religious wars we’ve had in man’s history pale in comparison to the ugly slaughter of over 100 million people due to atheist regimes. And our “secularist” societies of today are self-destructing in slow-motion. Abortion. 60% or more children born out of wedlock. Gay marriage. Corrupt politicians and unions. A disintegrating education system. And unsustainable debt piled upon unsustainable debt.

    And a critique of some of the more “out there” aspects of religion is fair game. But the point about Richard Dawkins and his ilk, they are not honest debaters. They do little more than set up straw men to knock them down. They are, in practice, the worst fundamentalists of all.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    In fact, you may say that the problems arise when one of them tries to occupy the other’s territory, and attributes to itself a role and capability which it does not possess.

    Dawkins is a good case in point. When he writes as a modern evolutionary and genetic theorist and as a zoologist, he is fine and indeed very interesting. When he writes as a self-proclaimed philosopher and a “religion basher”, he writes nonsense.

    One of the things we are advised not to do is to build our houses upon sand. People such as Dawkins see no conflict because they acknowledge only the material. Why I then say that this results in building their houses upon sand is that our minds, at the very least, are an obvious case that the universe is more than the material. Can we measure mind? No. Does it still exit? Clearly so.

    So what we’re actually dealing with is how to think about, and now to know, the immaterial. And then we are talking not only about different domains but different methods. We’re also dealing not with certainties but with degrees of probability. Intelligent Catholics, in particular, that I know are well aware of this. This in no way means that someone’s faith depends on some formula. But when we use reason (as we must, as St. Thomas and others say we should) when investigating faith (and, really, the entire metaphysics of reality), the measuring stick of science is limited and does not apply in full.

    Science, after all, can say nothing about ethics. Those who engage in the fundamentalist belief that science is all we need to know are certainly properly called “radical materialists” but they are also engaged in something called “scientism.”

    But whatever word you want to call it, one is not dealing in logic, facts, or reason when dealing with the Dawkins types. When debating or engaging the radical materialist, one is engaging with a very deeply held and emotional belief system. And they then have the cojones to denigrate Christians for being superstitious and irrational

    Yes, I have from time to time run across fundamentalist Christians. And it’s not “fundamentalism” that is the problem so much as just them being angry or obnoxious Christians. I have no problem with someone actually believing what they do which some firmness which some may dismiss as mere “fundamentalism.” Neither do I raise up as more “reasonable” those wishy-washy good-time-rock-n-roll multiculti Christians who say it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are for “diversity” or “social justice.”

    But such encounters with the Christian fundamentalists for me are extremely rare. What is not at all rare is to run into truly obnoxious, fundamentalist, and angry atheists and “secular” types. Bred into them is not just a dismissal of religion (which is fair enough…it’s a free world, after all) but an often intense (and somewhat unhinged) hatred of religion. And these types of people tend to be the most insufferably self-righteous of all. These are the people who have the smarmy “Coexist” bumper stickers on their cars.

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    Very interesting. I have a number of books by Dawkins on biology/evolution/natural history, and can certainly agree that he’s usually excellent as a science writer. But I never considered getting The God Delusion. Incidentally, Hot Air has a link to an article in The Spectator about the personality cult around Dawkins, which gives modest benefits to people willing to pay sizable sums of money. One thing people get is the chance to receive Dawkin’s social media messages. The author concludes that Dawkins provides, in effect, a religion but without the good parts — and is more expensive than most cult leaders to boot.

    Incidentally, the “chalk and cheese” combination can be used for other purposes. This is how liberals defend affirmative action and accuse opponents of racism. If you oppose the more extreme forms (i.e., racial quotas), then they react as if you opposed the more innocuous forms (i.e., racial outreach).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ve read three-and-a-half of Dawkins’ scientific/philosophical books on genetics. And it should be stated at the start that there is often a dab of science and a heaping teaspoon of interpretation of the science in his books. And that’s fine. There are many ways to interpret things. But what is easy to forget is that Dawkins is providing interpretation — a story as fanciful as Noah’s Ark in some respects — regarding genetics and the evolution of life. And you can call it dishonesty or simply his worldview, but he is offering his interpretations under the authoritative guise of “science.”

      Few would reject the reality of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. But there is no reason to support any one scientist’s interpretation of what this means, any more than there is any reason to support what any one scientist thinks about politics. Being a scientist does not give one a monopoly on the interpretation of the data. There is no reason, for instance, to declare the preeminence of Dawkins’ idea of the “selfish gene.”

      And for Dawkins, much of the data is not there. It’s just invented. It’s a story as pleasing to the secular mind as the story of Noah’s Ark is to the religious mind as he spins his tale. In “Climbing Mount Improbable” he tells a story of evolution via gradual change — a story for which there is little or no evidence. And, indeed, this could be how it happened. But there is little to no data to support his story of the development of the eye, for example, from small incremental changes and in the way he posits. It’s, at best, a story. And given the objections that have fairly recently arisen regarding the improbability of any kind of gradual change in regards to developing new proteins incrementally, it seems like an improbable story, or at least a very incomplete one.

      Richard Dawkins is a fundamentalist scientist, and not a particularly intellectually honest one at that. The lens he views the world through is actually narrower than your typical Christian if only because a Christian does not deny the material word. But Dawkins, and his type, are bigoted, as is shown constantly when they debate merely the issue of religion, for example. They have already declared that the material is all there is and all there can ever be, and that any interpretation that even tangentially parts from this orthodoxy is mere “superstition.”

      His is a fevered mind — fevered by his own religion of secular-socialist materialism. I posit that we’ve barely scratched the surface on what we can know, and yet there are people such as Dawkins who have declared that the entire paradigm of the universe is forever fixed, and it shall be a radical materialist one, the Lord of Genetic Orthodoxy has declared.

      But life is more complicated than any one fevered and determined mind’s attempt to make is simple. That genetics and change, at least on the micro level, can be modeled to some extent by mathematics is a nice discovery. And Dawkins does delve into this in his books, which he must do in order to wrap the mystique of science over the rest of his purely philosophical speculations and interpretations. Again, it is his right to do so. He might even be right. But his is not the only possible interpretation, even if one does believe in a completely natural cause-and-effect world where no outside (that is, supernatural) influences are posited.

      Even so, all of this science, speculation, and interpretation is occurring in a petri dish and the dish itself (reality) is taken as a given. What a bizarre thing for science, or anyone, to do. It’s like playing pool on a pool table and declaring that because the tableau is composed of green felt, 16 balls, and holes in the corner that therefore everything can be understood in terms of felt, balls, and holes. But what about the table? And what is the table itself sitting on?

      Science is tool for measuring things and finding mathematical models that can be applied to observed phenomenon. What we have learned, to sum it up, is that this world operates in a predictable and coherent way (not taking into account chaos theory or the Uncertainty Principle). We can go on measuring it to the nth degree for a billion years, and all we may well do is go on reaffirming this same reality. But what reality created this reality? Why should things be consistent and predictable? Why “laws” of nature at all?

      Such thoughts are beyond the fevered minds of the Richard Dawkins types because they have declared beforehand that such thoughts are illegitimate, even dangerous. Who then is the theological heir to the Inquisition?

      • Timothy Lane says:

        One interesting thought that has come to me occasionally when reading Dawkins is that he has no idea what his enemies (those who don’t believe in purely mechanistic Darwinistic evolution) actually argue. He has no idea that even creationists are willing to believe in micro-evolution (within species, perhaps even within genera if the species are sufficiently similar). Nor is he capable of seeing that some of his arguments support intelligent design just as much as they do his Darwinian fundamentalism. And it’s impossible to imagine him admitting that Alfred Russel Wallace was, in effect, the first adherent of intelligent design.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Our destiny may be no more than worm food for all I know. But the metaphysical question — the very starting point of that question — is inherently and obviously beyond the bounds of mere materialism. It’s comically obtuse to try to say otherwise.

          That doesn’t mean that Hinduism is correct rather than Christianity, or Christianity rather than Judaism, or Judaism rather than Buddhism. (Islam is not listed in this because it is not a religion but is instead a fascist-totalitarian ideological-political-social-legal-and-religious program.)

          But something gave the spark of life to chemistry even before natural selection was a glimmer in Charles Darwin’s eye. Something gave birth to the very structure of the universe and to the way it operates in the macro (with the micro details — while highly interesting — inherently subservient to the macro).

          To say that atheism is just another religion is perhaps to sell religion short, for the idea of God is a justifiable assertion, while the idea of material-only is a blinkered and wantonly ignorant one. This debate is really about people such as Dawkins playing out their grudges and perceived offenses. The way they act, you’d think some vicar, in his youth, backed over Dawkins’ puppy.

          I’m sure Glenn Fairman would say something sophisticated such as “The atheist mindset represents the intransigence of the human spirit rejecting the very basis of its own being, having chosen to instead identify with mere ego rather than anything larger.” But to me they just seem like bed-wetters.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if something really did happen to Dawkins to sour him so strongly on religion. There are atheists who happen to believe there’s no god of any sort, and there are those who can’t abide any mention of God — especially any sort of Christianity (this is why I have taken to comparing them to vampires, since both react to the Cross in terror). The latter actively hate what they claim to believe doesn’t exist, which makes no rational sense (and they pre-eminently consider themselves the height of rationality). So I suspect such militants have had a very negative experience, and naturally it’s usually with Christianity (though this may change over time as Muslims become increasingly common in the Western world).

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              this is why I have taken to comparing them to vampires, since both react to the Cross in terror

              LM(friggin)AO. That’s appropriate. What kind of ninny is so offended by a cross that they have to remove it wherever they see it?

              The cross is a symbol of hope, forgiveness, humility, and sacrifice. Atheism is the repository for grievance, alienation, elitism, and a sour disposition. Therefore the cross is a tangible reminder that one’s own psychology, emotions, and spirit are bound up in a tightly-wound little rubber band that has no where to go and no one to play with. Christians are despised by atheists because they have a more joyful view of life. Misery loves company — and hates optimists.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Misery loves company — and hates optimists.

                I believe that the basis of radical atheism is emotion, which no doubt goes back to some occurrence or occurrences which took place in a person’s early years. Bitter disappointment is a strong motivator. And a black despair resulting from a lack of belief in meaning of any kind can lead to rage of a childish kind.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Richard Dawkins is a fundamentalist scientist, and not a particularly intellectually honest one at that. The lens he views the world through is actually narrower than your typical Christian if only because a Christian does not deny the material word. But Dawkins, and his type, are bigoted, as is shown constantly when they debate merely the issue of religion, for example. They have already declared that the material is all there is and all there can ever be, and that any interpretation that even tangentially parts from this orthodoxy is mere “superstition.”

        His is a fevered mind — fevered by his own religion of secular-socialist materialism. I posit that we’ve barely scratched the surface on what we can know, and yet there are people such as Dawkins who have declared that the entire paradigm of the universe is forever fixed, and it shall be a radical materialist one, the Lord of Genetic Orthodoxy has declared.

        The link gives an idea of what a monster this man is and what the radical materialist philosophy of Leftists and many Libertarians will lead to.

        http://dailycaller.com/2014/08/20/richard-dawkins-says-not-aborting-babies-with-down-syndrome-is-immoral/

        As I suggested in my piece, “Atheistic Fundamentalists” the profound lack of humility of these people is staggering. And it precisely why we don’t want them ruling us, and why they must be fought every step of the way, from amnesty for illegals to Common Core in schools.

        They couldn’t care less for the poor and downtrodden. They want power to shape the world to their “ideal”.

        Once we are in their grips, we will be doomed.

        http://www.stubbornthings.org/atheistic-fundamentalists/

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I noticed that article while going through the Daily Caller site (which I do regularly), but didn’t bother to read it. It’s no surprise that a militantly christophobic atheist like Dawkins would see no value in “inferior” life. I wonder if he would also approve of euthanasia for the severely physically handicapped Stephen Hawking.

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