Sketches on Atheism

The irreversible tide of rationalism: Pt. 2, the church response.

bwallThe numbers speak for themselves. People, en masse, are jettisoning dogma to the profit of a more rational approach to life, the planet and cosmology, and this exodus hasn’t gone unnoticed by apologists. To those with a vested interest in maintaining their scripturally inspired grip on certain segments of our societies it is an apocalypse. To the rest of us who inhabit the logical world it’s a much welcomed shift, albeit one that’s some ninety or so generations late.

To this perceived Armageddon there was always going to be an intransigent theological response, and over the last few years this has been delivered primarily in the form of the hilarious (although dangerously real) anti-science stances bull horned by evangelicals. Predictably, these acts of cognitive lunacy have backfired spectacularly on the larger public stage, although no one can deny that the well-deserved lambasting of fools like Ken Ham has only hardened the resolve of Christian fundamentalists in the more deeply superstitious pockets of the United States. Of late there has however come a second, seemingly more balanced response to this massive and increasingly fast-paced loss in religions respect, market share and influence. Paintbrush dabs of this new wave were seen late last year when Pope Benedict (through the Vatican’s communication chief, Monsignor Philip Whitmore) admitted the gospels were essentially fallacious and certain “details were added in later centuries.” A full brushstroke was spied when the craftily demented Pat Robertson fell on his scriptural sword and told his fellow moonstruck evangelicals to give up trying to prove dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark. “You go back in time,” he announced in a December 700 Club address, “[and] you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You’ve got the caucuses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas. They’re out there. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. If you fight science, you’re going to lose.” In his book, “10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe,” pastor Larry Osborne (North Coast Church, Vista, California) went even further in an attempt to dampen down religious fantasy. In this remarkably frank work Osborne boldly asserts that it is patently stupid for Christians to believe Faith can fix anything, Everything happens for a reason, God has a blueprint for my life, and the real blow the horns cracker of the top ten, Dead people go to a better place. It’s a startling admission for a ranking church officer and paid dispenser of religious bullshit. It won’t, however, stave off dogma’s steady retreat into obscurity… and Rev. Scott Lewis of the Jesuit-run Regis College at the University of Toronto not only knows it, he’s done something about it.

“Responding to 21st-Century Atheism,” a new 8-week course offered at Regis, is Lewis’s calculated response to what he calls “increasingly muscular secularism and atheism.” Tellingly, at the January 27th announcement Lewis was at pains to distance himself (and his still wet behind the ears student crusaders) from the anti-science absurdity that has made their fellow apologists the laughing stock of the world. “[The biblical book of Genesis] is not a science book and should not be read as one. We cannot continue thinking of god in traditional ways and still accept Darwinian science.” In case you missed it, here it is again, “We cannot continue thinking of god in traditional ways.” What this actually means I (a mere mortal) really can’t say and precisely how Lewis thinks he can shoehorn some new non-traditional Christian god into traditionally clueless Abrahamic dogma will be a trick worth waiting for… doubly so just to see how fundamentalist crazies react to these pesky new age Catholics messing around with their 6,000 year old G’awd.

The purpose of this course though is quite straightforward, and here Lewis inadvertently reveals that his outwardly looking liberal façade masks what is really nothing but another blinkered apologist looking out for No. 1. “What we will be focusing on is our response to individuals who have thrown down the gauntlet and say To believe in God is not to be believe in science, and to believe in science is not to believe in God… Atheists need to leave behind [the idea] that people who believe are stupid or naïve.” So says the man who’s only reference material includes such scientific gems like:

All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be detestable to you. (Leviticus 11:20)

All in all its quite clear the folk over at Regis College have no idea whatsoever as to why rational individuals are fleeing religion in droves. Lewis’s allusion to “muscular secularism” speaks volumes to that, and although I could bang out a 10,000 word essay to pulverize into this proselyting drill masters head what precisely its all about, I’ll instead simply leave it to my friend over at Random Thoughts, Noel Onyango Makagutu, to swing that explanatory club as only he can:

If theists stop their evangelism, then we atheists will have no need to show [them] that theism is based on myths, ghosts and underscored with a deficit of evidence.

Seriously, could anyone honestly sum it up better than that?


51 thoughts on “The irreversible tide of rationalism: Pt. 2, the church response.

  1. The more I read the more encouraged I get. Then I read something else and take a few steps backward.
    Chip away! Chip away! Each of us chips in our own way. lol And I do think many different approaches to showing religion is……..horrible… are needed. We need to speak to all kinds of intellect.
    You do the speaking. I’ll do the singing. 🙂


  2. I just found your blog and I’m glad I did. If God exists I’m sure He is as sick to his mighty brow as I am to mine from reading blogs where folk just bang on about their saviour. Get a f***ing life!
    People are scared of what they don’t understand and so they attribute what they don’t understand to a supernatural force who will be a father figure and keep them safe. I get that, but why do they feel such a need to shove it down everyone elses’ throats?
    Scared people are so easy to manipulate that religion is a perfect weapon for those who choose to wield it, so perfect that the victims don’t even realise that they are victims. It’s genius really if you think about it.
    Excuse my rant – take care.


    • Rant away, Danny… That’s why we’re here, right? I agree with your assessment. Fear is the driver, and quite frankly, religion holds the high ground in most people’s minds as to what is ‘comforting.’ It’s not their fault (in most cases) they don’t understand cosmology or can grasp the honest (factual) beauty in the on-going life of atoms which once called you and me ‘home.’ Still, baby steps when we can’t take great leaps… just as long as we’re all heading in the right direction: lifting our species, not drowning it in silly superstitions.


  3. Thanks, John, learned a few things I hadn’t and you put it very well. Sometimes the wanton unbelief in science exerts a drag but you have lifted my spirits, well like Spring. Ah, maybe this is the atheist’s Spring! The arab’s had theirs, maybe the next one is ours! (Hell, they are all ours; what was I thinking!) Good post! Keep up the good work. Oh, and nice fedora!


  4. Monkeying on Danny’s and Makagutu’s comments … the thought of no God forces one to face that our fates are in our own hands. Fundamentalist who, over the centuries, have demonized certain non-believers will be confronted then with these notions and that they either have to have such notions exorcised from their feeble minds are live in fear the rest of their life “knowing” that these demons will be coming after them.


  5. I also think its interesting that, compared to pre-Enlightenment days, religions have changed their beliefs and have become closer and closer to rationalism. I often think that’s what us atheists can be most proud of. Our criticisms may not cause most believers to cease believing in deities, but they can cause them to discard the more obvious examples of superstition and irrationality.


    • The vast majority of theists have discarded the more clinically insane parts of dogma, yes. The fundamentalists (regretfully) have chosen the opposite route. They’ve sprinted to the radical right and have embraced turbocharged Batshit Crazy with both hands. Think Christian suicide bombings aren’t possible in the US? Have a look at the kids the Good News Club are producing in Tennessee and Alabama. G’awd over everything!


      • Fundies certainly have. I had to suffer through that type of church for many years as a young person. Those people are just pure confirmation bias, and no amount of rationality can penetrate it. They have to realize it on their own. The nice thing is that fundamentalism is really, really hard to sustain in America. The turnover rate at my church was huge when compared to the Catholic church I attended as a child. Fundies are constantly recruiting and then losing people.

        Anyway, that has nothing to do with your post. Sorry for the tangent.


  6. Ah, John, I am grinning from ear to ear. What a cracking post. Well done , sir.
    So, it it a given,is it, that T-Rex was definitely not vegetarian before the fall ?
    ”Sharp pointy teeth? What sharp pointy teeth?”

    Again, great read.


  7. But they are very sneaky. For instance, I remember hearing about this last year, but I haven’t seen a repeal yet.

    Here is another article.

    And here is an Intelligent Design podcast (funded by the Discovery Institute). They’re essentially re-marketing creationism again; just like they did after losing Edwards v. Aguillard.

    Here are some other cases that they lost.

    Yet the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 still hasn’t been appealed, and neither has Tennessee’s SB 893.

    They just keep coming up with new stuff, and each time it’s a little more clever.


    • Excellent links, R.L. The sick part is they try and shove these bills through claiming they’re only promoting “critical thinking” skills. What a load of trollop!

      James Wall I think summed it up best: “Everyone has a right to individual ignorance, but when they try and spread their own absurdity to children through public policy, the rationalists must be called in to protect the youth.”

      He presented this great analogy: The mighty Crom commands that man must stay on earth. This is why when we jump, we don’t get very far. I find it very insulting that when science covers the theory of gravity, Cromism is never even mentioned. I went to the Board of Education demanding that my sacred religious beliefs be included in science. Not doing so was an infringement of my religious freedom. I was told that science requires empirical evidence, observation, experiment, the scientific method. I found this very confusing. Crom is the creator of the universe! It says so right here in the sacred scripture! You dare think that you have authority over the one who created you!”


      • Exactly! You don’t need a bill to promote critical thinking! Science does that on its own. They just created a loophole which allows Creationism and ID to be discussed and has the nerve to label it as “critical thinking.” What a load.

        James Wall’s analogy is excellent. I’ll have to remember that the next time I enter a “Teach the Controversy” debate – as will inevitably happen.

        On the larger public stage I think we’re making small advances, but I’m not sure if they cancel out the victories that creationists are achieving. Believe me, I can’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing about God. And I live in a progressive part of the country (San Diego). When I lived in Florida and North Carolina, things were one hundred times worse. I really hope things are going in the right direction, but as I look around, I see a theocracy in the making. Revisionists are twisting our founding father’s words and intents, religious symbols are still being erected with public funds, political groups are still gaining support by proclaiming religious intolerance, etc.

        Things are getting better, but I’m not ready to celebrate just yet. Of course, it’s important to point out these small victories, so don’t let my pessimism deter you – not that it would. 🙂


    • Seems he’s using African (and to some degree Asian) numbers to offset the general trend in industrialised nations. As for the US the numbers are pretty static but this has been shown to be the direct result of Mexican immigration. Within the under 35’s there’s been a massive increase in “Nons” (now 15% i think, up 7% in the last 5 years) but new arrivals (Catholic) Pedro and Maria are evening up the spreadsheet. These apologists like Unklee come across as being quite desperate to find a light in otherwise pretty ugly numbers. It’s like Republicans in the 2012 election… they saw what they wanted to see.


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