I recently entered into a Twitter spat with @EveKeneinan over a tract of text she posted which I’ll reproduce below. I took umbrage at the sweeping generalisations it contained about the honesty, integrity and intelligence of atheist debaters.
She later stated that it was part of a larger blog post written by Edward Feser entitled ‘Walter Mitty Atheism‘ and that although it could be seen as a blanket statement, in the greater context of the full post, it actually wasn’t.
So I decided to read the full post and decide for myself.
The offending highlighted excerpts are these:
“They exhibit exactly the sort of stubborn, bigoted closed-mindedness and ignorance that they smugly condemn when they perceive it in others.”
The New Atheist talks, constantly and loudly, about reason, science, evidence, facts, being “reality-based,” etc. Equally constantly and loudly, he decries dogmatism, ignorance, wishful thinking, whatever is merely “faith-based,” etc. And he relentlessly denounces “religious” people, whom, he imagines, are central casting exemplars of the latter vices. But it is not reason, science, etc. that really move him. What really moves him is the pleasure that the thought of being paradigmatically rational, scientific, etc. gives him.
Rather, what moves him is the self-righteous delight he takes in his belief in his intellectual and moral superiority over “religious” people. His “rationalism” consists, not in actually being rational, but in constantly chatting up rationality and constantly badmouthing those who, at least in his imagination, are not as rational as he enjoys believing that he is.
As you can see for yourself, there is nothing there of any real intellectual value. Instead it is merely a collect of snide attacks against an entire demographic, and also misrepresents what constitutes atheism, critical thinking and skepticism, as well as the individual thought processes behind them.
I was eager to see how such sweeping and clearly unambiguous statements such as those could be taken ‘out of context’, even though those three words are constantly overused by theist commentators and debaters.
So I read it.
And I was less than impressed.
It was nothing more than a diatribe against atheists, all atheists citing reasons that, I freely admit can be applied to a small minority, but by no means all of us. Not only that, but the baseless accusations and personal attacks beggar belief, as they stand in place of any actual valid arguments.
“… Coyne, Krauss, Dawkins, and many of their fans are indeed impervious to rational argumentation, there are onlookers who are not impervious to it. And those people are reachable and worth trying to reach. After all, Coyne, Krauss, Dawkins, and some of the other better known New Atheists are, though irrational and dishonest, not stupid. In their own fields, some of them even do interesting work. For that reason, some people who know as little about philosophy and theology as they do but who are rational and honest might falsely suppose that these New Atheists must have something important to say about those particular subjects. Hence it is useful now and again to expose Coyne et al. for the frauds that they are, so that well-meaning third parties will see that they are not to be taken seriously on philosophical and theological questions. The more they make fools of themselves, the more they should be discussed rather than ignored, at least so long as there is any intellectually honest person who still somehow thinks the New Atheism is anything but a bad joke.”
Is it me or is this borderline libel? Instead of addressing reservations we have, Mr Feser blithely throws out accusations of dishonesty and even directly names certain individuals as frauds… But at no time presenting any evidence to back up his claim.
I suppose that’s to be expected though, after all it is standard practice for theists to adopt this tactic.
Coyne, Krauss, Dawkins, and company are simply genuine curiosities. Again, they are not stupid, and indeed have serious intellectual accomplishments to their credit. And yet on the subjects of religion and philosophy they are incapable of seeing that their self-confidence is laughably, cringe-makingly out of proportion to their actual competence. They exhibit exactly the sort of stubborn, bigoted closed-mindedness and ignorance that they smugly condemn when they perceive it in others. What exactly is going on here? What makes these weird people tick? That is a question of real intellectual interest.
Let me get this straight… Men of science, who’s entire raison d’etre is to find the truth and ask questions, rather than blindly follow a religious dogma is an example of close-mindedness? Really?
Also, if Mr Feser could provide examples of their bigotry it would be appreciated, although I suspect that it is just a laying of the foundations for claims of persecution by those baby-eating monsters!
Not only that, but you can also see how he attempts to move the goalposts and change the entire issue into an examination of their motives rather than challenge any of the points they raise.
Here too, we have a kind of moralistic onanism which requires a rich fantasy life to support it.
Did he just call us all wankers? Well with valid arguments like that, we’ll surely be writhing in the crushing grasp of his reasoning powers.
Finding out what thinkers like Aquinas, Leibniz, et al. actually said would completely destroy the fantasy, because they simply don’t fit the New Atheist’s caricature of religion.
Yada yada yada. Appeal to authority along with the assumption that serious atheist debaters don’t familiarise themselves with the opposition. In my experience, serious atheists have read the Bible, Qu’Ran, Torah, et al. more closely than the believers who slavishly follow the words they contain.
Know thy enemy.
And trust me, we have no need to make a caricature of religion, it’s doing a very good job of that all by itself.
“We have other Coyne readers simply refusing to get over their fixation on the stupid ‘Everything has a cause’ argument that no philosopher or theologian has ever defended, even in the face of other, more sober atheist readers’ begging them to stop attacking this straw man.”
Really? No philosopher or theologian ever?
Not even the legions of them who ask, “What caused the Big Bang?” and then answer their own question with, “The only possible explanation is God.”
It is as if these people are so lost in their delusions that they literally cannot see what is really there on the page or the computer screen in front of them. All they can see is the New Atheist Fantasyland they’ve constructed, where every ticket is a scarlet-A-for-atheist ticket, and Coyne and Co. keep going on the same rides over and over and over again.
I initially found myself speechless at this particular section.
Stagger me, Mr Feser, with the explanation of how you arrived at the conclusion that atheists – who ask for evidence of your claims, whilst making none of their own – are the ones who have created a fantasy land. Perhaps, you could also tell us how your ideas about an eternal afterlife in a celestial city is a scientifically rational position to take.
I’ll agree that atheist arguers do seem to be on a merry-go-round of the same old points, but that is only because they are perhaps simply offering the same responses to your claims, your completely unsupported claims. The same ones that you continue to cling to without even listening to what we have to say.
In conclusion, yet again we have a theist ‘debater’ who offers nothing at all of any substance to defend his religious position, but instead relies on personal attacks, worthless appeals to authority and wordplay… But no actual evidence to support the existence of his god.
Nothing ever changes, does it?