If there really was a God here, He would have raised a hand by now… the infantilism of atheist moaning

While I’m on a roll, check out The Barefoot Bum‘s post on The Infantilism of Religion.

The most important lesson we must learn as we mature and become adults is that reality just is what it is; our preferences, hopes, fears, dreams, and wishes have no effect on reality except through our actions. There’s nothing wrong with hope per se, but as adults we have to direct our hope towards changing the future in ways that are physically possible. And to change the world, we have to understand the world as it is, and how it actually works. Resisting this mature viewpoint is objectionable in several ways. (Source: The Barefoot Bum, ‘The Infantilism of Religion’)

It’s not just any lesson.  It’s the most important lesson.

Okay, let’s ignore the rhetorical flourishes and get to the meat.  TBB is making a case against religion which he believes means ignoring reality and concentrating more on our ‘preferences, hopes, fears, dreams, and wishes’ than on ‘reality’.

This is, of course, not what religion entails.  Let that pass.

Concentrate more on his assumption that he knows what reality is and religious people do not.

The specifically religious type of make-believe has an especially disturbing characteristic: Meaning and purpose come from without.  (Ibid.)

It’s a handy trick to assume that your opponent is incorrect and then demonstrate how their incorrectness follows from there.  The Barefoot Bum assumes that atheism entails that meaning and purpose are self legislated (‘Only you yourself determine your value as a human being. Others’ opinions matter only to the extent that you choose to value their opinions about yourself.’).  Because theists disagree with this position, they are incorrect (in an ‘especially disturbing’ way).

What’s weird is that I’m an atheist and I don’t think meaning and value are self legislated in this way.  It’s comparatively recent that we have focussed our attention so keenly on the individual in isolation from everybody else.  You determine your value as a human being and then you only listen to other people if you want to.

The position assumes that there is not an objective value landscape because, in the mind of the Barefoot Bum, only God could create an objective value landscape.  As he’s rejected the existence of God (rightly), he rejects a mind-independent moral landscape (incorrectly).  The one doesn’t flow from the other and to write off a group of people as ‘infantile’ and ‘especially disturbing’ is illogical.

Consider the parallel universe where the Barefoot Bum is a theist.  His post instead states:

The most important lesson we must learn as we mature and become adults is that reality just is what it is; our preferences, hopes, fears, dreams, and wishes have no effect on reality except through our actions. There’s nothing wrong with hope per se, but as adults we have to direct our hope towards changing the future in ways that are physically possible. And to change the world, we have to understand the world as it is, and how it actually works. Resisting this mature viewpoint is objectionable in several ways. (Source: The Barehand Bum, Earth 616, ‘The Infantilism of Atheism’)

Oh, wait.  That looks exactly the same.  Here’s a bit which would change:

The specifically atheist type of make-believe has an especially disturbing characteristic: Meaning and purpose come from within.  (Ibid.)

Quelle horreur!

Theists charge atheists with ignoring reality (that God exists).  Atheists charge theists with ignoring reality (that God does not exist).  The difference is that theists have an intellectually credible argument (bald naturalism is untenable) while atheists are correct (God doesn’t exist).

I ought to be more concise with my posts.  I could have just quoted the following and left it at that:

It would be nice to just be pluralistic, to say that well, we’re still going to need people to clean our toilets, and those who cannot consistently understand reality in a rational, adult manner will always be at a substantial disadvantage.  (Ibid.)

Stay classy, Barefoot Bum.

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Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

10 thoughts on “If there really was a God here, He would have raised a hand by now… the infantilism of atheist moaning”

  1. TBB is making a case against religion which he believes means ignoring reality and concentrating more on our ‘preferences, hopes, fears, dreams, and wishes’ than on ‘reality’.

    You do not appear to have actually read my post, or your reading comprehension skills are severely deficient. I hold that it is infantile to predicate our beliefs about reality on our preferences, etc.

    The position assumes that there is not an objective value landscape because, in the mind of the Barefoot Bum, only God could create an objective value landscape.

    This is not correct. If you are going to speculate on my philosophical positions, you might want to read a little of my actual work on the subject.

    I do hold that there is no “objective value landscape,” but I do not hold this because I believe only a God could create such a thing; I hold that there is no “objective value landscape,” because (depending on how it’s formulated) it is either not susceptible to evidentiary argument or is contradicted by the evidence. Furthermore, a personal God (the sort of God in which theists typically believe) could not create objective values; persons by definition have subjective values.

    What’s weird is that I’m an atheist and I don’t think meaning and value are self legislated in this way.

    When I’m speaking about people, I hope the reader will make the charitable assumption that I am speaking in generalities, not absolute universals. Knowing quite a lot of atheists, I’ve found that the vast majority would assent (more-or-less) to the statement, “meaning, value and purpose come from within.”

    The difference is that theists have an intellectually credible argument (bald naturalism is untenable) while atheists are correct (God doesn’t exist).

    When I am speaking of atheists, I am typically speaking of skeptical atheists. I suspect on the basis of the above quotation that you are no more skeptical than any religious person; your delusions just follow a different path.

    Saying, that there’s an intellectually credible argument that X is true, but I believe X is false seems facially anti-skeptical; the farthest one could go is “true” agnosticism, but I would expect the assertion that there are intellectually credible arguments for and against X.

    While the idea that bald naturalism (as opposed to hairy naturalism) is untenable is at best highly controversial, the idea that the untenability of bald naturalism constitutes an “intellectually credible” argument for theism reveals nothing but profound stupidity.

    1. ‘I hold that it is infantile to predicate our beliefs about reality on our preferences, etc.’

      And you think ‘religion […] means ignoring reality and concentrating more on our ‘preferences, hopes, fears, dreams, and wishes’ than on ‘reality’’. Or was the rest of your article (including the title) an accident?

      ‘I do hold that there is no “objective value landscape,” but I do not hold this because I believe only a God could create such a thing; I hold that there is no “objective value landscape,” because (depending on how it’s formulated) it is either not susceptible to evidentiary argument or is contradicted by the evidence.’

      Sniping at me because you missed an important chunk of your argument out of your argument isn’t entirely reasonable.

      ‘Furthermore, a personal God (the sort of God in which theists typically believe) could not create objective values; persons by definition have subjective values.’

      The second part is a non sequitur to the first. Why couldn’t a God create objective values? Personal values would either be consistent or inconsistent with the objective values.

      ‘I hope the reader will make the charitable assumption that I am speaking in generalities, not absolute universals’

      Oh, so they’re just generally ‘especially disturbing’?

      ‘I suspect on the basis of the above quotation that you are no more skeptical than any religious person; your delusions just follow a different path.’

      No u. Seriously, are we going to play that game? For what it’s worth, I think you are no more skeptical than any religious person. So there.

      ‘Saying, that there’s an intellectually credible argument that X is true, but I believe X is false seems facially anti-skeptical’

      No it doesn’t. We have history books filled with intellectually credible ideas which turned out to be false. The difference between modern atheism and modern theism is that modern theism has done its homework and continues to present rational, sensible, and logical positions. Modern atheism (Dawkins, Harris, Myers, Dennett, &c.) doesn’t.

      ‘While the idea that bald naturalism (as opposed to hairy naturalism) is untenable is at best highly controversial’

      It’s been dead since the ’50s. It died with positivism (though you’d never guess from some of the statements you make). Get with the program.

      ‘the idea that the untenability of bald naturalism constitutes an “intellectually credible” argument for theism reveals nothing but profound stupidity.’

      Given that I didn’t say such a thing, ‘[y]ou do not appear to have actually read my post, or your reading comprehension skills are severely deficient’. Oh, snap.

  2. onlythesangfroid,

    Can you explain how you posit one determines “meaning and value” without self-legislation? And secondly, do you hold there is an objective value landscape, and if so, how do we determine what that is?

    Thanks.

  3. onlythesangfroid: … do you think that things exist if and only if we can determine that they exist?
    .
    No. However, I would say (just so we understand each other) the more one claims something cannot be determined to exist, the more speculative the claim, the less productive the conversation.

    In other words, if a person bases their claim on ”X” but then states, “’X’ cannot be determined to exist” it seems to me, one could easily responds, “It is therefore equally possible ”X” does not exist (since we cannot determine) and therefore the claim equally fails.”

    It has been my experience most argue using a position of “probability of existence” rather than determination of existence.

    I don’t know if that clarified it, or muddied the waters.

    1. It depends on what we mean by a suitable ‘X’.

      Consider the example of morality. Can we show that morality exists objectively (independent of the mind)? Yes. Can we show that any one moral is accurate? I’m not so sure.

      Probability functions for epistemic claims are annoying. You either know something or you don’t. It’s the fetishing of metrics that results in the weird suggestion that existence is probabilistic.

      Contra people like Dawkins, probability functions work against empiricists: we can be 100% sure of a priori claims but not so sure about a posteriori claims. That’s a bugger if you want to be a bald naturalist (which most atheists seem to desire).

  4. O.K. So can you explain how you posit one determines “meaning and value” without self-legislation? And secondly, do you hold there is an objective value landscape, and if so, how do we determine what that is?

    Thanks.

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