Red Queen response #1

A few days ago, I threw down a gauntlet at Richard Dawkins’s fan club. I gave them a week to respond to the seven impossible things believed by Richard Dawkins, despite his claim to only believe in things for which there are evidence. As they spent some 1,669 posts discussing The Irrational Atheist, declaring it to be “the work of an unequivocal idiot” and “a piece of shit”, they can hardly pretend to be unaware of it.

They have four more days to collectively respond, but in the meantime, one Dawkins.Net reader, CrazyIvan, manfully takes his best shot at answering not one, but all seven impossible beliefs held by atheism’s Red Queen:

This is my response to the “challenge” put to to read Vox Day Atheism’s Red Queen section of his book. Vox’s first section deals with science inspired art and architecture. I have little knowledge of the fields and nothing to offer accept to say that I think that it is merely a side note by Dawkins. The debate of science inspired art and architecture has little to do with Dawkins main points of religion and atheism. Dawkins probably should not have brought it up because it adds little to the discussion. However that being said, Vox bringing this topic to challenge Dawkins on his point, doesn’t add anything either. I could care less who is right Vox or Dawkins regarding this topic. I think the above topic is meaningless to overall debate of religion and atheism and highly subjective because art by definition is subjective to the viewer.

The question isn’t Dawkins’s artistic aesthetic, but his claim to believe things based only on evidence. Moreover, he claims that science-inspired art is superior to religion-inspired art, despite the fact that I demonstrate that it barely even exists, and what little does exist is inferior.

For topic 2 I am confused to what point Vox is trying to make about how he thinks Dawkins thinks about soldiers and warfare. Quotation16-18 does not have any sources from any Dawkins books to refer back to. The section is very short compared to the other 7 and incomplete.

CrazyIvan admitted separately that he had not read the two chapters entitled Sam Tzu and the Art of War and The War Delusion. If he had, he would have understood the significance of this point better. The point is that Dawkins’s idea about the link between religion and military discipline, which echoes Machiavelli, is simply incorrect and reflects a complete ignorance of military history and strategy. Perhaps I should have made reference to the previous chapters, on the other hand, this is a good illustration of why it helps to read a book prior to criticizing it.

Topic 3 I can respond to very easily. When Dawkins infers that no atheists would bulldoze religious structures, he is referring to reasonable atheists. Stalin and other communists bulldozing churches were and are not reasonable atheists. Sam and Richard deal with the topic of Stalin and atheism at length in their works. Neither Sam nor Richard would say Stalin did a good thing buy bulldozing churches and in fact they would condone such acts. For Vox to use a largely semantic error is very intellectually dishonest in my opinion. He knows that Dawkins does not endorse the bulldozing of churches. Atheists have for years have been trying to separate the delusion that the negative consequences of communism are the results of atheism. Vox has used a semantic error to order to bring up an age old delusional point that communism and atheism is one in the same. It is just one of many ad homien attacks of Sam, Richard and atheism that I have read reading parts of his book.

This is an absurd No True Atheist defense. Dawkins writes: “I do not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca— or Chartres, York Minster or Notre Dame, the Shwe Dagon, the temples of Kyoto or, of course, the Buddhas of Bamiyan.” There not only is an atheist who would, there are many, many atheists who have demonstrated and are demonstrating that they would do precisely that.

In topic 4 Vox sites “Setting aside the fact that his most successful atheist counterpart, Michel Onfray, is arguing specifically for a philosophy of hedonism to replace Dawkins’s own compromise with Christian morality, the evidence suggests that this is exactly what should be expected.” Vox then does not state what this evidence is. I had no idea who Onfray’s was until Vox mentions him and I looked him up. Onfrays apparently believes in anarchy and hedonism and since Onfray is also an atheist it must also mean that all or most of atheists believe in anarchy and hedonism. Ah What? First atheism leads to bulldozing of churches and now atheism leads to anarchy and hedonism. There is no good evidence for this. Vox then quotes an article that tells us that in the year 2000 religious persons gave three times as much to charity than seculars. This might be true if you include contributions given to churches of course. I looked up the article and no methodology is given to how the study was conducted. I am not sure if this study is valid or not. Why not reference the actual study done in 2000 instead of an article quoting the study in 2006.

Michel Onfray is probably the second most-influential atheist in the world and he is arguing specifically for what Richard Dawkins finds hard to believe. (This is why Onfray despises Dawkins as a “christian atheist.”) The fact that many English speakers aren’t familiar with Onfray doesn’t make his arguments nonexistent or trivial; he is more influential in France than Dawkins is in England, much less the United States. As for the study, it merely offers an explanation for WHY Christians are more charitable, the fact that they are is not disputed by anyone with a modicum of awareness of the subject, it’s precisely why Richard Dawkins set up his atheist charity in the first place. CrazyIvan never addresses Dawkins’s erroneous claim that the same correct behavior can be of varying degrees of morality depending upon the motivation.

Topic 5 deals with this Dawkins quote “God’s commandments can only be called a Christian Fascist state”. This fact is debatable depending on how the Christian government develops. Dawkins point wasn’t talking about a moderate or liberal Christian state of government, in which most Christians live by. He was referring to hard line fundamentalists Christian regime. A Christian fundamentalist government that takes the bible literal word for word is intolerant of all other opposing view points and forces it’s viewpoint aggressively on the population is certainly fascist. In regards to Islam Vox simply states Islamist fascism does not and never has existed and calls the case closed. No explanation from Vox on this point. Islamist of the Taliban or other Islamist regimes that are aggressively intolerant of opposing viewpoints and force women to wear a head piece are fascist. These Islamist governments force their religious viewpoints on the population of people they control and disobedience to these religious laws leads to punishment as harsh has death. Please explain to me why this not fascism.

Because it has nothing to do with Fascism. Fascism is pro-women’s rights – women’s suffrage is literally the first plank of the Manifesto of the Fascist Struggle. Another plank is the seizure of all the property of the religious organizations; Mussolini was an atheist and only reached the truce with the Catholic Church known as the Lateran Accords because the church was too powerful. Intolerance existed long before Fascism, as did the subjugation of women. CrazyIvan is attempting the conventional atheist Fighting Withdrawal defense here, but Dawkins’s words quite clearly apply to the very nation in which he is a subject of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Furthermore, even if we accept the clueless layman’s understanding of fascism as a definition for argument’s sake, how can the explicitly internationalist, all-inclusive message of fundamentalist Christianity be equated with the inherently nationalist, inherently racist component of “fascism”?

Topic 6 deals with Dawkins claiming that Catholicism is more damaging than child sexual abuse. This is Vox best topic and I agree with him to a point. The ad homien attack on Richard’s personal life is not necessary to make his point. Again this point is very subjective. How exactly do you measure what is “damaging” to a child. You can’t in these uncertain terms without being subjective. I agree with Richard that the manner in which some religious parents raise their children does constitute child abuse, however to be worse than sexual abuse is too much of stretch. I do feel that some children raised into fundamentalist Christian families who are subjected to intense beatings by their parents or send their child or children to one these “Jesus Camps” or Christian boot camp in which the child is starved and abused into believing in Jesus, are on par with the parents who sexual abuse their child. Jesus camp parents and sexual abusive parents both create similar sort of damage to children who are subjected to both experiences separately. This is a subjective statement, because I am not sure how to objectively define “damage”. I do belief that there is data to support that the suicide rates at Jesus camps and other such Christian boot camps are high. There is no question that physical, mental and emotional abuse occurs at these camps.

First a concession and then an attemped defense? Dawkins doesn’t provide a metric for the comparison he makes, in fact, he doesn’t even provide any anecdotes, much less data, on the one side to balance the silly and irrelevant anecdotes on the other. Suicide is only one possible measure, if you examine the evidence you will find that every indicator of psychological health, from drug abuse to depression and physical health, tends to favor those raised Catholic versus those sexually abused as children. Do Catholics even have Jesus boot camps? And since when do Protestants – whose childraising practices aren’t even included Dawkins’s explicit statement – starve their children in order to make them love Jesus? I got sent to a church camp two or three times as a child; I may not have found have particularly liked the food or bought into the campfire Jesus talk we had to endure for about 45 minutes per day, but I was hardly starved and there certainly wasn’t any more abuse than the cruelty entailed in sending a suburban boy to live in a cabin in the woods for a week.

Topic 7 deals with a short statement Dawkins makes at the beginning of Sam Harris “Letter to a Christian Nation”. Dawkins a makes a simple, which could be interpreted to mean that Sam Harris is some of sort infallible God genius. This is certainly not Dawkins intent to say that Sam Harris is infallible. Dawkins statement is really not meant to be taken literally as Vox as decided to portray. Vox is being intellectually dishonest once again. Vox knows that Dawkins does not think that Sam Harris is infallible. Sam and Richard are both humble enough to admit when they or science are wrong, though many of you probably won’t agree with me. Sam and Richard both are going to have some errors in their books, and some maybe even intellectually dishonest like I charge Vox with, however these errors do not detract from Richard or Sam’s central work. Also remember that no matter how hard we all debate these things, and despite all the errors made of both sides of the fence. We will never change reality based who wins or loses these debates.

Now, just who is being intellectually dishonest here? The ironic reference to “infallibility” is the section title, not the case itself. Dawkins writes: “If you are part of the target, I dare you to read this book. It will be a salutary test of your faith. Survive Sam Harris’s barrage, and you can take on the world with equanimity. But forgive my skepticism: Harris never misses, not with a single sentence, which is why his short book is so disproportionately devastating.”

“Harris never misses….” except for the five errors I point out right in this little section, to say nothing of the many more elucidated in the chapters on war and Sam Harris himself. Harris’s short book isn’t devastating at all, it is, however, disproportionately defective.

So there it is, as objective as I could be to the red queens challenge. I did not answer two of the Red Queen’s because I didn’t have the knowledge to do it. I actually agreed with Vox on one point. I pointed out the problems I had with the other four, which maily dealt with Vox misrepresenting Dakwins. I encourage rationale critique of the work above. Please keep in mind that I did not read the whole book yet, I wanted to go ahead and answer this challenge first. I also want to subjectively say that Vox does not accurately portray Sam and Richard from what I have read so far. I feel he uses ad homien attacks on both to try and destroy their credibility like a negative campaign ad for president. He uses half truths and incomplete data to make his 30 second commercial ad. If you want to know what Richard or Sam says about religion you must read their books and see for yourself.

The irony of accusing me of using incomplete data compared to the complete nonexistence of empirical data throughout The God Delusion is deep indeed. Obviously, I disagree with CrazyIvan’s charge that I have misrepresented Dawkins or Harris in any way, shape or form, nor has he shown how I have, but it’s worth noting that this charge of repeated misrepresentation is the best that he has been able to do; by his own admission he was unable to actually refute any of the seven points. Of course, if the gentlemen in question would care to make direct, unambiguous statements confirming that religion does not cause war, religious upbringings are not child abuse and so forth, I shall be happy to retract the relevant criticism.

I leave it to the reader to determine how many of my seven points about atheism’s Red Queen were successfully addressed by Dawkins’s champion.