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Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth

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Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth
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Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth

I read Coyne's blog on and off but a recent post got me thinking: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/an-increasingly-common-argument-of-religionists-and-faitheists/

Here Coyne summerises what he sees as the 'faitheist' argument -
The New Atheist accusation that religion rests on literal beliefs is bunk. Dawkins and all you miltant atheists are always oversimplying things, and assuming that, for a believer, literalism is important. It isn't. The faithful run the whole gamut from almost complete Biblical literalists who take scripture at its written word, to those whose belief in the divine is deistic-,indeed, almost atheist. But what you are too militant and blind to see is that religion plays an important role in people's lives,a role infinitely more important than just believing in some "truths" of scripture. The problem with New Atheists is that you think that by eradicating false beliefs, the problem is solved. But you can't improve human lives that way! The onus is on you atheists to first descry the real role that religion plays in the lives of believers, and then use that knowledge to show people how they can live without faith. Dispelling falsehood is not enough. The failure of New Atheism is that it doesn't provide a transition into secular humanism, and so is a failure. Making religion go away is not enough.

Although this is a little over the top for me, I find myself agreeing with the sentiment! My atheist phase began late in high-school when I looked around the world and saw so many people adopting some sort of religious faith. I wondered if there might be something to it that I was missing and so I set out on an intellectual search to see if there was any truth to the religious claims. The religions I spent the most time on were Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Daoism with a little Hinduism thrown in. In short, I found no convincing evidence that I should adopt any of these belief systems. Furthermore, forum discussions and debates with Christians as well as videos and blog posts have left me pretty well convinced that there is no God in the sense of a single all-powerful deity.

Once I came to the strong atheist position, I saw no further point in arguing or reading more in God-debates and that realisation has somewhat ended my new atheist phase. It's no longer a subject I spend a great deal of energy on - although I do keep and eye on it and return from time to time.

And so to Coyne's confection. I know from my time in the new atheist movement that there are plenty of believers who are literalists. This is an important segment of the population and the new atheists are right to address it with the vigour they do. However, I would also like to see more emphasis placed on advocating alternate ways of living. Other graceful-life philosophies that people can adopt that will impact the way they travel, communicate, view art, educate, and live life in a similar way that religions do for the believer. I don't think it is a failure of new atheism that it does not provide this - it is not meant to. But Coyne's post makes me think the emphasis on alternate ways to live is massively under-emphasised by the atheist, skeptical, and freethought communities. I would love to see a much larger focus on this issue, without all the ridicule from the new atheists if possible!
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:54 am
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LowproUser avatarPosts: 3Joined: Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:04 pm

Post Re: Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth

Hmm, the quote itself is his confecting of a bit of Alain de Botton (if the blog post as a whole means what it says) and for the most part I agree but I've never viewed the New Atheist Movement as a "remove and replace" strategy; just a position. What you do after that doesn't necessarily have to grow from the movement.

Myself I am an atheist and I work in Public Health, specifically in Biostatistics and Quantitative Epidemiology. I feel like I do a bit of good but this is not due to my atheism. I wouldn't expect humanism to be a part of the new atheist movement and I don't think we should demand it does. I could see humanism growing from religion just as much as a lack of it
Mon Mar 11, 2013 6:41 am
InfernoContributorUser avatarPosts: 2298Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:36 pmLocation: Vienna, Austria Gender: Cake

Post Re: Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth

Aught3 wrote:And so to Coyne's confection. I know from my time in the new atheist movement that there are plenty of believers who are literalists. This is an important segment of the population and the new atheists are right to address it with the vigour they do. However, I would also like to see more emphasis placed on advocating alternate ways of living. Other graceful-life philosophies that people can adopt that will impact the way they travel, communicate, view art, educate, and live life in a similar way that religions do for the believer. I don't think it is a failure of new atheism that it does not provide this - it is not meant to. But Coyne's post makes me think the emphasis on alternate ways to live is massively under-emphasised by the atheist, skeptical, and freethought communities. I would love to see a much larger focus on this issue, without all the ridicule from the new atheists if possible!


Interesting. I think exactly that (advocating alternatives to religion, especially when it comes to social issues) is currently done by a few in the atheist movement (some have always emphasised that approach, but A+ seems to be taking a move vigorous approach to it) and they're being chided for it.
"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." ― Friedrich Nietzsche

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Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:18 am
Gnug215ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 2681Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:31 pm

Post Re: Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth

Aught3 wrote:I read Coyne's blog on and off but a recent post got me thinking: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/an-increasingly-common-argument-of-religionists-and-faitheists/

Here Coyne summerises what he sees as the 'faitheist' argument -
The New Atheist accusation that religion rests on literal beliefs is bunk. Dawkins and all you miltant atheists are always oversimplying things, and assuming that, for a believer, literalism is important. It isn't. The faithful run the whole gamut from almost complete Biblical literalists who take scripture at its written word, to those whose belief in the divine is deistic-,indeed, almost atheist. But what you are too militant and blind to see is that religion plays an important role in people's lives,a role infinitely more important than just believing in some "truths" of scripture. The problem with New Atheists is that you think that by eradicating false beliefs, the problem is solved. But you can't improve human lives that way! The onus is on you atheists to first descry the real role that religion plays in the lives of believers, and then use that knowledge to show people how they can live without faith. Dispelling falsehood is not enough. The failure of New Atheism is that it doesn't provide a transition into secular humanism, and so is a failure. Making religion go away is not enough.

Although this is a little over the top for me, I find myself agreeing with the sentiment! My atheist phase began late in high-school when I looked around the world and saw so many people adopting some sort of religious faith. I wondered if there might be something to it that I was missing and so I set out on an intellectual search to see if there was any truth to the religious claims. The religions I spent the most time on were Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Daoism with a little Hinduism thrown in. In short, I found no convincing evidence that I should adopt any of these belief systems. Furthermore, forum discussions and debates with Christians as well as videos and blog posts have left me pretty well convinced that there is no God in the sense of a single all-powerful deity.

Once I came to the strong atheist position, I saw no further point in arguing or reading more in God-debates and that realisation has somewhat ended my new atheist phase. It's no longer a subject I spend a great deal of energy on - although I do keep and eye on it and return from time to time.

And so to Coyne's confection. I know from my time in the new atheist movement that there are plenty of believers who are literalists. This is an important segment of the population and the new atheists are right to address it with the vigour they do. However, I would also like to see more emphasis placed on advocating alternate ways of living. Other graceful-life philosophies that people can adopt that will impact the way they travel, communicate, view art, educate, and live life in a similar way that religions do for the believer. I don't think it is a failure of new atheism that it does not provide this - it is not meant to. But Coyne's post makes me think the emphasis on alternate ways to live is massively under-emphasised by the atheist, skeptical, and freethought communities. I would love to see a much larger focus on this issue, without all the ridicule from the new atheists if possible!



Not to take credit for anything.... but didn't we (you and I specifically, Aught) have a discussion once that was sort of about this?

Well, maybe it was actually more about how religion does do some good for some people... but any way. I've always opted for pragmaticism, and I agree fully with Coyne.
Ridicule is fine when aimed at fundie nutjobs, but if we're shooting with spreadfire, everyone else is going to get upset, too, and I think this is happening.
The ridicule on our part should also be more about exposure (showing the nutters to the world), rather than the fingerpointing and name-calling (often very harsh) that I think many of "us" engage in.
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Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:46 pm
Gnug215ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 2681Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:31 pm

Post Re: Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth

Inferno wrote:
Interesting. I think exactly that (advocating alternatives to religion, especially when it comes to social issues) is currently done by a few in the atheist movement (some have always emphasised that approach, but A+ seems to be taking a move vigorous approach to it) and they're being chided for it.



This will always be problematic. Atheism isn't anything other than non-belief in gods, so attaching anything else to it will always be a redefinition or at the very least an imposition. And everyone who defines themselves as "atheist" will always be annoyed at such attempts (of attaching something to atheism.)
It's not just that it's hard to herd cats. It's that cats will be downright annoyed at anyone's attempt to do so. And you can't just throw a bunch of hats on them, either, and call them "cats in hats". I don't know exactly how that makes sense in the light of the analogy, but I just wanted to throw that out there.

With that in mind, I think A+ was rightfully chided. They should have had the damn sense to at least call themselves something else. And yes, there is a LOT to a name.
- Gnug215

YouTube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/Gnug215


The horse is a ferocious predator.
Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:52 pm
Aught3ModeratorUser avatarPosts: 4290Joined: Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:36 amLocation: New Zealand Gender: Male

Post Re: Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth

Lowpro wrote:Hmm, the quote itself is his confecting of a bit of Alain de Botton (if the blog post as a whole means what it says) and for the most part I agree but I've never viewed the New Atheist Movement as a "remove and replace" strategy; just a position. What you do after that doesn't necessarily have to grow from the movement.

Myself I am an atheist and I work in Public Health, specifically in Biostatistics and Quantitative Epidemiology. I feel like I do a bit of good but this is not due to my atheism. I wouldn't expect humanism to be a part of the new atheist movement and I don't think we should demand it does. I could see humanism growing from religion just as much as a lack of it
I agree completely. For me, as a personal journey, humanism did grow out of my interest in the new atheism. I'm not really asking for everybody or even anybody in the New Atheist movement to vigourously promote humanism. I would just like to see the same type of rationalist community build up around some kind of life replacements for religion.

Inferno wrote:Interesting. I think exactly that (advocating alternatives to religion, especially when it comes to social issues) is currently done by a few in the atheist movement (some have always emphasised that approach, but A+ seems to be taking a move vigorous approach to it) and they're being chided for it.
Yes a few do it and I'm enjoying their stuff more and more. I really dislike the push-back from the New Atheist community. I suppose they feel somewhat co-opted in the same way the skeptic community felt a bit co-opted by the atheist movement. In the end though there should be enough room for everyone to have their own ideas. There doesn't need to be agreement all around all the time.

Gnug215 wrote:Not to take credit for anything.... but didn't we (you and I specifically, Aught) have a discussion once that was sort of about this?
And you were totally wrong then too do-do head! Actually I don't remember this conversation. Sorry. I was probably arguing for nothing to replace religion but I can change my mind about things.
Wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking.
Tue Mar 12, 2013 6:43 am
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LaurensSocial EditorUser avatarPosts: 2995Joined: Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:24 pmLocation: Norwich UK Gender: Male

Post Re: Jerry Coyne's confection - an unexpected truth

I think the reason that theists have such a negative portrayal of atheists is because they most often encounter them on the internet.

In the context of the internet, the scope of interaction is much smaller, and usually limited to debates about theology, morality and science. Many of which may come across as confrontations in the mind of the theist, if their beliefs are ridiculed etc. In this context there is no accurate picture of how these atheists live and interact outside of that forum. So with the internet the theist might generate an image that atheists spend all their time trying to refute religion, which might make them seem bitter, angry and so on.

Perhaps its all about what we do in our presence outside of the internet. Not in any "religion for atheists" fashion, but to just show---by our own individual examples---that life is very fulfilling without God.

The internet skews people's perceptions of groups that they rarely encounter in the outside world, due to limited scope of interaction. I know this is true for me and my perception of theists. I rarely encounter theists in "real-life" and when I do, the way I interact with them is completely different to how I interact with them online.
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Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:06 am
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