Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Democratic Underground Gone Wild!

I have stated elsewhere that atheism is not a rational proposition. Rather than the end product of a series of logical propositions and inferences, it seems rather to be an auto da fé to which the atheist first assents because there is something he finds impalpable about mainstream religion (that bit about going to hell, most likely), which he then props up with whatever excuses he can devise, however implausible or desperate.

Mind you, I am not saying that atheists are stupid. I’m saying that they may as well be stupid, because they have the ability to use their brains but don’t. Of course, I could say the same thing about quite a number of people. Our ability to rationalize far exceeds our ability to be rational.

As you may recall, this past December my local newspaper published a letter I had written in response to the American Atheists Organization regarding their silly “You KNOW It’s a Myth” Yuletide billboard. The gist of my letter was that their admonition “This season, celebrate REASON” was an exercise in pointlessness, since reason neither leads us to atheism or precludes us from accepting the Nativity as real. Since then, I have written two posts explicating my position regarding atheism’s religious nature, laying out my rationale as logically and methodically as possible.

For no reason in particular, I Googled my name the other day (if you don’t do this from time to time, you should--you find all sorts of dandy stuff that way) and came across a discussion board hosted by the Democratic Underground website (www.democraticunderground.com) in which a member calling himself “cleanhippie” took no little umbrage with my letter, which he reproduced in its entirety. His post may be found here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=214x267422#267422.

Democratic Underground, bièn sûr, is a gathering place for left-wing moonbats to reinforce their pre-existing worldviews, carping about right-wing extremism (which, of course, is anything to the right of their left-wing extremism), and which is about as democratic as the German Democratic Republic, where one in three citizens were Stasi informants. I say this not because cleanhippie disagrees with my letter, but because DU’s masthead is rife with moonbatisms, for example:

• Elect Democrats
• Defeat Rick, Scott
• Save Florida
• Texas’d enough already!
• It all traces back to Nov 22, 1963
• DU DU DU what you’ve done done done before.
• In memoriam Martin John Bobby.
• Defeat the criminal Murdoch empire.

I really don’t mind if people want to align themselves with the Democratic Party, but is it really too much to ask that they try to make sense in doing so?

For example: What, in Heaven’s name, traces back to Nov 22, 1963? The date, everyone realizes, is JFK’s assassination. And? Is there some tie-in between JFK’s murder and a clarion call to join the Democrats in defeating the criminal Murdoch empire? If so, what is it? Kennedy, though a Democrat, was a right-wing Democrat, strong on national defense, an avowed anti-communist, and a fiscal conservative who, after declaring “a rising tide lifts all boats”, fought for and won one of the largest tax cuts in American history. Modern Democrats think the military should be shrunk if not disbanded altogether, hate free enterprise, love centralized government, cherish the nanny state, worship Keynes as Gawd-Almighty, and think tax cuts are evil. A modern-day JFK wouldn’t be elected assistant ombudsman if he ran as a Democrat.

Further, Kennedy wasn’t assassinated by a Republican. Lee Harvey Oswald was as left-wing an ideologue as they come, who thought the Soviet Union was just the bee’s knees, and who shot JFK because he was anti-communist. Nov 22, 1963 is a date rife with significance, but absolutely none of it would lead a thinking person to suppose that Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi must therefore have their heads on straight.

If Democratic Underground’s masthead is any indication whatsoever, I’d say DU is a collective of ninnies who think thinking is unthinkable.

And if you read cleanhippie’s objection to my letter, I think you’ll agree. What follows, not including his reproduction of my letter, is his objection: “The stupid..it BURNS! Let’s play a game: How many strawmen and fallacies can you find in this one letter?”

That’s it--not one assertion as to why he thinks my letter is stupid, not one clarification about what aspect of my letter “burns,” not one identification of any straw men, not a single hint as to what he finds fallacious. There is only the assertion, a blunt opinion confused for a brute fact. Ipse dixit. Just so.

Worse yet, though no less than fifty comments follow, no one bothers to participate in his game of find-the-straw-man. Are we then to assume that because no one sees a straw man, the straw man therefore does not exist? After all, that’s often what atheists say about God.

But, no. This is DU, where what’s sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. Please check your brains at the door.

Instead, the comments that follow either simply echo cleanhippie’s assertion that something in my letter (whatever it is) burns (whatever that means) or is just plain stupid, without any elaboration as to what is stupid about it; or else the discussion turns on the precise meaning of “atheist”. The first eight or so comments are of the first type; the majority are of the second.

In other words, there is no rational analysis of my letter whatsoever, merely the contrary assertion that they’re right and I’m wrong.

As I have written elsewhere, atheism is the belief in the lack of a god; the lack of belief in a god is agnosticism. This is not simply my opinion, but what the words actually mean:

a “without” + theos “god” = without a god.
a “without” + gnostos “known” = it is not known

So, an atheist is one without a god, that is, one who believes that there is no god. An agnostic is one who does not know whether there is a god. Big difference. If you ask someone “Does God exist?” the atheist says “No” whereas the agnostic says “I don’t know.” Keep that clear in your head, and it’s easy to tell the one from the other.

Trouble is, the atheist generally doesn’t keep his head clear. Otherwise, he’d have to admit that he’s generally full of baloney. My experience has been that most of the atheists I’ve talked to about God are mere agnostics who call themselves atheists. There’s nothing particularly bad when someone calls himself an atheist (other than that he’s wrong about God’s non-existence), but I think there’s something altogether inappropriate in calling oneself an atheist when one is merely skeptical about God’s existence. Moreover, it’s worse to claim that atheism is true or that it’s a rational proposition if one doesn’t first have a clear idea as to what atheism really means--if you can’t say what the word means, how can you say that you believe in it? And what, for crying out loud, is rational about that?

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what another DU poster, one “Speck Tater” has to say: “Two kinds of atheism: 1. Belief in the non-existence of God. 2. Non-belief in the existence of God. I’m a type-2. I do NOT believe that God exists, and I do NOT believe that god does not exist.”

There is it--confusion between atheism and agnosticism (erroneously identified as a form of atheism). He says he’s of the second type but then immediately contradicts himself by saying he doesn’t believe God exists, which, by his own assertion, is type 1. After all, “I believe in the non-existence of God” and “I don’t believe that God exists” mean the same thing. It is a tautology, and it is utter delusion to pretend that by saying the same thing twice one has proffered two separate definitions. To repeat, the atheist says he KNOWS that God does not exist; the agnostic says he DOES NOT know. “Belief in non-existence” and “Non-belief in existence” is a false contrast.

And even cleanhippie seems to understand there is something fundamentally incorrect about Speck Tater’s claim, though he of course gets it all wrong as well (demonstrating the common Democrat fallacy of asserting that because the one with whom you disagree is wrong, you are therefore right). “Strongly disagree,” he replies. “The word atheist literally means ‘without belief’. Saying that an atheist is one who BELIEVES there is no god is, by definition, not an atheist.”

This, children, is your brain on drugs. Any questions? Cleanhippie actually thinks “theos” means “belief.” Hmm. Left-wing, and doesn’t know what words mean. He must teach at Harvard.

But what else should we expect? The ponce thinks “atheist” means “without belief.” Small wonder, then, that he should think that the very definition of “atheist” is not the very definition of “atheist.” Then again, he seems to think that hippies can be clean. IMHO, “clean” hippie is a Taoist imponderable, like the sound of one hand clapping. Every hippie I’ve met has been a solipsistic moron who equates bathing with capitalist oppression.

The one--and only--commentary that doesn’t adhere to the two types adumbrated above comes from a poster identified as “KaoriMitsubishi,” who asserts “Dictionary definitions and pedantry aside…As one prominent atheist put it, if atheism is a belief/faith/religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby. Try with the same zeal theists use in their atheism=religion hooey to convince the stamp non-collector that not collecting stamps is still a hobby and she'll think you need to quit talking to your crack pipe.”

This is a weak example of the appeal to authority, the assertion that the claim must be right because “one prominent atheist” has made it. Thus it has the Prominent Atheist® Seal of Approval. In the real world, this is called putting a shine on a turd.

It doesn’t matter who makes the assertion; the assertion is either right or wrong based on its merits (or lack thereof) and on the soundness (or lack thereof) of its reason.

First, there is no “if atheism is a belief/faith/religion.” Atheism is a belief, and there is no sense in denying this. That’s why, after all, the word ends in -ism. The word belief is derived from a Germanic word related to the modern term beloved. It is an idea or proposition to which one has surrendered one’s allegiance. Atheists ally themselves with the notion that there is no god. It’s what they believe, pure and simple.

Second, KaoriMitsubishi misquotes the assertion: it is not “if atheism is a belief/faith/religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby,” but rather “atheism is not a religion in the same way that not collecting stamps is not a hobby.” (Quibble with my formulation all you wish, but the very nature of the if/then construction is not to assert what atheism is but what it isn’t. After all, KaoriMitsubishi isn’t trying to claim that atheism is a religion, else why call it hooey?) In my post “Atheism is a Religion - No, Really!” I demonstrated the fallacy underpinning the Prominent Atheist® assertion, which I’ll repeat here:

The claim fails in this way:
1. Not collecting stamps is not a hobby.
2. To collect coins is also not to collect stamps.
3. By substitution, collecting coins is not a hobby.
4. But collecting coins IS a hobby.

Third, atheism can be shown to be a religion if we can: 1. Identify the fundamental characteristics that all religions share, and 2. Demonstrate how atheism displays these characteristics. I have done exactly so in “Atheism is a Religion - No, Really!” so KaoriMitsubishi’s point stand refuted, without a single reference to crack pipes.

Still, rather than argue the meaning of “atheist” we should discuss the meaning of “stupid.” Cleanhippie seems to think that stupid means “whatever cleanhippie doesn’t agree with.” He calls my letter stupid and makes no attempt whatsoever of justifying his claim. There is only the weak and addled train of thought: My letter to the editor says atheism is a religion; he does not agree; therefore my letter must be stupid. This doesn’t even rise to the dignity of an argument.

My definition of stupid, in contrast, is this: a stupid person is one who says that something is stupid simply because he doesn’t agree with it; reasons don’t matter.

To quote Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.” And no one does stupid like cleanhippie.

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