"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Anatomy of a Fundamentalist

It's been a while since I posted as PTET, and a recent comment I received from a visitor called Svensun reminded me why.

He is well-meaning but deluded, sanctimonious, bigoted, ignorant and frankly dishonest. Harsh words? Judge for yourself, as I give you an Anatomy of a Fundamentalist...

Svensun: Regarding Naturalism, in response to your statement that:
"the overwhelming majority of scientists who are recognised authorities in biology do not believe in a personal God. A much higher proportion are atheists and agnostics than the general population."
my answer would be: OF COURSE! These are people who by and large have abandoned whatever traditional beliefs they may have had or been raised with to follow their new GOD: materialistic Naturalism.
What, all of them? Who says? They don't themselves. These scientists are, as my statement says, simply people who don't believe in a personal God. Some, like Steven Hawking (and Einstein before him) believe in an impersonal God as described by Spinoza... Some are atheists, some are agnostics, and some simply don't or won't say. In general, these scientists will say that they do not know what the answers are... All they ask is that science is allowed to be limited to what it can and cannot say - and their general view is that theological questions are outside the scope of science...

But Svensun, like the fundamentalists criticised in my original post, lumps them together as godless (indeed anti-god) heretics who's diverse and complex views and opinions can simply be rejected and ridiculed. Who needs to understand, this implies, when you can simply pigeon-hole and condemn?

But for Svensun, it's a case of us-versus-them - and to the devil with what people might have to say for themselves...
Svensun: Obviously, to those in the thrall of such a faith, any challenge to it's basic assumptions is unacceptable, just as rejection of the basic tenets of Christianity are personally unthinkable to a fundamentalist like myself.
Here Svensun shows that it's not just non-Christians who his pernicious straw man arguments dishonestly misrepresent... It's Christians and other theists too... For even amongst those who believe in a personal God (and amongst Christians and even Fundamentalists themselves) there is a diverse range of opinions and beliefs.

Not all Christians think that evolution is wrong, or that the Bible is infallible or even inerrant... And not all people describing themselves as Fundamentalists share the same beliefs, about the age of the Earth, for example, or the primacy of certain versions of the Bible. I wonder what Svensun thinks the "basic tenants" of Christianity are. He doesn't say...

As Svensun demonstrates, Fundamentalism itself seems to have certain unspoken tenants... On no account let people of differing opinions speak for themselves; and it is, it seems, quite permissible to lie if you do it in God's name...
Svensun: I think Johnson's point is that, for those not worshipping at the altar of the Church of Materialistic Naturalism, otherwise known as Neo-Darwinism, it's promises and explanations ring hollow.
As I have to point out each and every time I answer a Fundamentalist, the majority of Christian scientists accept that neo-Darwinist evolutionary theory is overwhelmingly supported by over a century of evidence and research, and poses no threat to their faith.

And take the Discovery Institutes much-vaunted list of over 400 scientists who reject standard evolutionary theory... Compare that with the list of over 10,000 clergy in the USA who reject the non-scientific and purely political idiocy of intelligent design to support the standard understanding of evolution...

You will not read about these facts from Svensun or from any other Fundamentalist... To paraphrase Gould, "whether this is due to stupidity or ignorance, I do not know". One thing is for sure, it certainly is not honest.
Svensun: Regarding Morality, I will gladly and freely answer your question. If I ceased believing that that I was forgiven for my sins and didn't have to worry about whether I was saved or not because there was no eternal reward or punishment, and my body and physical experience was the sum total of what I am or ever will be, I might be tempted to commit more 'immoral' or criminal acts, depending upon whether or not I would face earthly punishment.
Notice how Svensun doesn't answer the question at all! Would he be less moral or more criminal, or wouldn't he? He doesn't say!
Svensun: But this begs the question. You are implicitly claiming that morality exists among humans independent of the existence or God, or even of the belief in God.
Yes I am - and that's the very point. Fundamentalists expressly claim that non-believers are less moral than believers... And they present no evidence whatsoever that this is the case.

Look at the evidence... Are atheists in the USA more likely to commit crime? Or go prison? Or be unemployed or uneducated? Of course they aren't. That doesn't stop Fundamentalists dishonestly (and without presenting a shred of evidence to support their libels) saying otherwise...
Svensun: I suppose you would argue, then, that morality has 'evolved' in some way, that there is some materialist explanation for why people, or at least most people, don't kill or steal or rob, at least openly (I think almost all of us are guilty of stealing in one form or another - think about it!). But if it's true that morality has 'evolved' whether by means of sociobiology or some other more intricate mechanism, then it must also be true that belief in God has also 'evolved', since isn't belief in God, or Gods, or the divine, a basic part of the human experience worldwide...
Hey! I could joke about hearing the cogs turn in Svensun's head - but at least he's thinking, so I applaud him for that...
Svensun: ...with the exception, perhaps, of certain university departments?
Clunk. Does Svensun really believe that only ivory-towered academics don't believe in God? Does he really not know that 8% of the US population and over a quarter of the UK population are atheists or agnotsics? If he doesn't, he is being deliberately and studiously ignorant. If he does (even if he pretends to himself otherwise), he is being dishonest.
Svensun: If so, then isn't it also possible to assume that these two separate behavioural 'morphologies', morality and belief in the divine, could have 'evolved' together, and that they are in some way interdependent upon one another? And just as certain morphologies vanish or become vestigial in certain species as conditions change, isn't it possible that as belief in the divine become a 'vestigial remnant' among humans, that morality itself will become a useless appendage, no longer necessary for human 'fitness'? After all, if you believe naturalism rules the world, how in the world can you exempt yourself from it's influences? What is insulting about that?
It is insulting, bozo, because this argument again implies that non-believers are or will be less moral than believers - with no evidence whatsoever to support it.
Svensun: Morality, in a naturalistic world, IS meaningless, apart from the 'fitness' it provides, right? Therefore, what if morality only increases fitness in an environment where belief in the divine is widespread? Once that vanishes from the environment, perhaps traditional morality, defined by you as an aversion to killing, raping and stealing, will become another useless appendage, so to speak, handicapping those individuals who retain it.
That is utter gibberish, of course. Society itself - all societies - have rules against killing, raping and stealing... And with good reason, for these behaviours are destructive to society... And again I ask, is Svensun really saying that he'd be more likely to do these things if he was a non-believer? Why won't he answer?

But wait - it get's better... Look at the Bible. It clearly states that God condones killing, raping and stealing when it suits "Him". So much for "Absolute Morality"...
KILLING: "And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. At God's instructions, the Israelites "utterly destroyed the men, women, and the little ones" leaving "none to remain. "And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain..." [Dt 2:33-34]

RAPING: "Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished." [Is 13:16]

STEALING: "And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: God encourages the Israelites to steal from the Egyptians. And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians." [Ex 12:36-36
Let's spell this out for the hard of thinking... Just because some people have argued that a nihilistic naturalistic view of nature could justify a rejection of all morality, it by no means follows that all non-theists end up being immoral or criminal. Perhaps Svensun should spend less time worrying about non-believers, and more time worrying about why his own belief system requires him to be actively ignorant and dishonest...

And let's look at Christianity. In the past, this has been used to justify genocide, slavery, the subjugation of women, beating children with sticks, bombing abortion clinics, and every other horror imaginable. Does this mean that Christianity inevitably leads to these things? Of course it doesn't. If anyone argued that, they would be rightly ridiculed.

So why do Fundamentalists get away with making the same ridiculous arguments about atheists? Why indeed...
Svensun: It's something to think about, anyway.
Not if you are a Fundamentalist like Svensun it's not. He's already checked his brains at the door.
Svensun: Regarding the Bible, that's exactly what Christians do, 'idolize' Scripture! Recall the opening words of the Gospel of John:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"
And yet even the most whack-job Fundie will accept that the Bible was not written until centuries after the creation of the Earth... And so my point remains - it is idolatry in direct violation of the First Commandment to place the authority of "Scripture" over all the over evidence that God, if God exists - has placed for us in the Universe to ponder.

So, if you want to know why I've not been posting much lately, read Svensun's post again, and weep...