AN ATHEIST-BUT-NOT-NEW-ATHEIST MANIFESTO
About like-mindedness: there is so much more to people's minds -- well, to some minds -- than that one freaking issue of whether God exists. Over the past several years I've met so many atheists online whom I do not like at all. There's at least one, Richard Dawkins,
whom I used to like quite a lot, until I started to read what he had to say on religious topics. Well, there were warning signs already in his work on biology. Right there on p 1 of The Selfish Gene Dawkins announces,
"We no longer have to resort to superstition when faced with the deep problems: Is there a meaning to life? What are we for? What is man? After posing the last of these questions, the eminent zoologist G. G. Simpson put it thus: "The point I want to make now is that all attempts to answer that question before 1859 are worthless and that we will be better off if we ignore them completely."
Besides warning me that I probably wouldn't like G G Simpson either, Dawkins gave a big hint there that he might turn out to be the kind of moron who'd go around making sweeping statements about Islam while admitting that he hadn't read the Koran and didn't plan to.
There's so much worthwhile stuff which was written before 1859.
And it makes my head whirl that I need to point that out because somebody as brilliant in biology as Dawkins is so fucking stupid about so much else. And yet here we are. The fish which is New Atheism stinks from the head, which is Dawkins. I agree with them about atheism. I agree that humans invented God and not the other way around. But that's just one question. Answering it correctly doesn't necessarily mean you're a genius, and getting wrong doesn't necessarily mean you're not. Dismissing so much written before 1859 as glibly as Dawkins and Simpson is a pretty good sign (I saw it, I saw the sign, it's right there in black-and-white as big as day p 1 of The Selfish Gene) that they might have other remarkably stupid things to say.
And Dawkins has been saying and writing stupid things for a living for over a decade now, having given up what he was good at, biology. And he's been so hugely successful at it that millions of people are now following the 2nd part of it, saying stupid banal inaccurate uninformed things against religion, without having emulated the more honorable 1st part, having become brilliant at something else first, be it biology or what have you. Coyne and Myers are accomplished biologists like Dawkins, but Harris skipped straight to the stupid, banal, inaccurate and uninformed anti-religious part, and is probably the 2nd-most commercially successful New Atheist behind Dawkins.
I have no problem with them saying things against religion, I say things against religion myself all the time. It's the stupid banal inaccurate uninformed part that annoys me, and which should concern any atheist who wishes to see the influence of religion wane and die its natural death at long last. I don't think this stuff is helping. And I don't think that I'm being excessive when I say that what Dawkins and Coyne and Myers and Harris have to say about religion is stupid. Ignorance is one thing. It's simply not knowing, and it can be remedied. But stupidity is not knowing and not wanting to know, it's being ignorant and proud of it. And stupidity is tenacious.
If you want religion to go away you have to know what it is, you have to study it like an epidemiologist studies disease. Otherwise you're just jerking off and getting in the way, like Dawkins, Harris & Co.
I'd love to talk to Dawkins about biology. Sadly, he doesn't seem much interested in biology anymore. It's a waste and a shame.
So much for atheists whom I dislike. Now to religious people I love: I don't see the problem here, I don't know why it should surprise anyone that there are religious believers with whom I get along very well, with whom I love to talk about all sorts of things -- even religion, sometimes. The most interesting people to talk to on any subject tend to be the ones who know the most about that subject, duh. And on the subject of religion, those people aren't the New Atheists, big duh. You want to talk about the Council of Nicea or the Merovingians or the Templars or the origins of the Grail myth with someone who knows more about them than
Dan Freaking Brown, there's a good chance you're going to end up talking to some very interesting and well-educated Christians. (And enjoying yourself, perhaps to your shame, if you're used to hanging with New Atheists.)
If you want to talk to some experts about Tolkien and Harry Potter and
Spider-Man, a gathering of New Atheists might be an even better place to look for them than a Comic-Con. They'll probably be well-above average in their knowledge of biology and physics, too. Credit where credit's due.